Monday, March 13, 2017

Socialism: Force or Fantasy?


An interesting article on a subject that should have died in 1991 was published by Lawrence W. Reed on the Foundation for Economic Education website.  Where are some highlights:

"Some socialists say that they are simply advocating “sharing,” and since socialism’s advocates have good intentions, it must be voluntary and beneficial, too. Except that it never is. If it were voluntary, it wouldn’t be socialism, and if it were beneficial, you wouldn’t need force to create it and sustain it."

"Today’s socialist dreamers think and act as if they just arrived from an alternate universe. A $19 trillion national debt means that the federal government hasn’t spent enough to solve our problems. Stealing money that belongs to others through taxation is perfectly alright if you spend it on good things. People become much more honest, fair, competent, and compassionate once they get elected to office. If you force employers to pay someone more than their services are worth, they will hire them anyway and just eat the difference. Regulations always do good because their advocates mean well. Civilizations rise and become great because they punish success and subsidize failure, then they collapse when they embrace freedom and free enterprise. Each person is entitled to whatever he wants other people to pay for, like free college and birth control."

The article is at this link:


This is the list of recommended reading at the end of the article:
·         TheWelfare State Has Slowly but Surely Eroded Nordic Character by Daniel J. Mitchell
·         “NordicSocialism Isn't the Answer for America” by Nima Sanandaji
·         “The Mythof Scandinavian Socialism” by Corey Iacono
·         “ScandinavianMyths: High Taxes and Big Spending are Popular” by Nima Sanandaji
·         “How LaissezFaire Made Sweden Rich” by Johan Norberg
·         “The Denmark Delusion” by Scott Sumner
·         “’DemocraticSocialism’ Is a Contradiction in Terms” by Sandy Ikeda
·         “DoesDemocracy Lead to Socialism?” by B.K. Marcus
·         “Socialism’sPrescient Critics” by Philip Vander Elst
·         “RenderingUnto Caesar: Was Jesus a Socialist?” by Lawrence W. Reed
·         “MillennialsReject Capitalism in Name but Socialism in Fact” by B.K. Marcus
·         “ActuallyBernie, Markets, Not Socialism, Promote Kindness” by Julian Adorney
·         “SocialismIs War and War Is Socialism” by Steven Horwitz
·         “VenezuelaRuns Out of Toilet Paper, Achieves True Socialism” by David Boaz

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Five key reasons to pull plug on wind subsidies

Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) published an article by Larry Bell which can be viewed at this link:


The five reasons are listed below, and more details for each are in the article linked above:

1. First, consider that even gargantuan wind installations covering thousands of acres generate only small amounts of unreliable power.

2. Those intermittent outputs require access to a “shadow capacity” which enables utilities to balance power grids when wind conditions aren’t optimum . . . which is most of the time. Anti-fossil energy promoters aren’t eager to mention that those “spinning reserves” (which must equal the total wind capacity) are fueled by the same sort of coal or natural gas turbines that those friendly breezes were touted to replace.

3. A major study of nearly 3,000 on-shore British wind farms found that the turbines have a very short –12- to 15-year– operating life, not the 20- to 25-year lifespans applied in politicized government and industry projections.

4. Along with high life-cycle investment and operations costs, let’s also add environmental costs to the mix. A Sierra Club official described them as giant “Cuisinarts in the sky” for bird and bat slaughters. Other local wind critics have legitimate health concerns about land-based installations. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, and ringing in ears resulting from prolonged exposure to inaudibly low “infrasound” frequencies that even penetrate walls.

5. The existence of the entire wind power industry depends upon federal subsidies.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

ObamaCare-Lite

Michael F. Cannon of The Cato Institute published an article today that evaluates the House of Representatives ObamaCare reform legislation.  The entire article can be read at this link:

https://www.cato.org/blog/house-gop-leaderships-health-care-bill-obamacare-lite-or-worse


Below are some highlights from the conclusion of this article:

The House Republican leadership bill does not replace ObamaCare. It merely applies a new coat of paint to a building that Republicans themselves have already condemned. Since the most important asset health reformers have is unified Republican opposition to ObamaCare, at least in theory, it would set the cause of affordable health care back a decade or more if Republicans end up coalescing around this bill and putting a Republican imprimatur on ObamaCare’s core features. If this is the choice, it would be better if Congress simply did nothing.

Making health care better, more affordable, and more secure requires first repealing all of ObamaCare’s regulations, mandates, subsidies, and taxes. Next, Congress should block-grant the Medicaid program, giving each state a fixed sum of money that does not change from year to year, combined with full flexibility to target those funds to the truly needy.

Finally, and crucially, Congress needs to enact reforms that make health care more affordable, rather than just subsidize unaffordable care. To make health insurance more affordable, Congress should free consumers and employers to purchase health insurance licensed by states other than their own. To drive down health care prices, Congress should expand existing tax-free health savings accounts into “large” HSAs. Large HSAs would be a larger effective tax cut than the Reagan and Bush tax cuts combined, adding $13,000 to the wages of a typical worker with family coverage. Large HSAs would drive down prices by making consumers cost-conscious at every margin, and would reduce the problem of preexisting conditions by freeing consumers to buy portable coverage that stays with them between jobs. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) have introduced legislation to create Large HSAs.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Protectionism

Tariffs and trade sanctions are experiencing a resurgence in popularity.  Mark J. Perry has recently published an article in TheAmerican Enterprise Institute blog AEIdeas that examines how this is possible given the stark economic reality of the damage that protectionism causes to the host nation.  The following excerpt from this article describes the damage caused by tariffs:

"It’s a scientifically and mathematically provable fact that all tariffs, at any time and in any country, will harm economic growth, eliminate net jobs, destroy prosperity, and lower the standard of living of the protectionist country because tariffs are guaranteed by the ironclad laws of economics to generate costs to consumers that outweigh the benefits to producers, i.e. tariffs will always impose deadweight losses on the protectionist country..."  

The full article can be viewed at this link:

25 reasons why protectionism is taken seriously when its actually a form of economic suicide
 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Decline of Violence

In February 2012 Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared, “I can’t impress upon you [enough] that in my personal military judgment, formed over 38 years, we are living in the most dangerous time in my lifetime, right now.”

One year later, he upped the ante: “I will personally attest to the fact that [the world is] more dangerous than it has ever been.” But General Dempsey is hardly alone. Dire warnings about our uniquely dangerous world are ubiquitous. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified in early 2014 that he had “not experienced a time when we’ve been beset by more crises and threats around the globe.”

This seems to be an opinion shared by many.  We are constantly bombarded by images of violence in the media.  We are warned about threats by politicians and other actors on the political stage.  Do these media reports and political narratives have a basis in fact?  Is the hypothesis that the world is a more violent and dangerous place in fact correct?

Fortunately the data is available to analyze the current state of violence in the world.  The results of the analysis is that the world is unequivocally less violent today than at any time in history.  This may be surprising and difficult to believe, but the facts are clear.

Reason Magazine published an interview with Steven Pinker author of the book  The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.  The complete interview can be viewed at this link:


The message delivered in this interview is:

You are less likely to die a violent death today than at any other time in human history. In fact, violence has been declining for centuries.

Steven Pinker wrote an article titled The World Is Not Falling Apart that was published in Slate Magazine and can be read at this link:


Some of the highlights of this article are:

  • It’s hard to believe we are in greater danger today than we were during the two world wars, or during other perils such as the periodic nuclear confrontations during the Cold War, the numerous conflicts in Africa and Asia that each claimed millions of lives, or the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq that threatened to choke the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf and cripple the world’s economy.

  • As long as violence has not vanished from the world, there will always be enough incidents to fill the evening news. And since the human mind estimates probability by the ease with which it can recall examples, newsreaders will always perceive that they live in dangerous times. All the more so when billions of smartphones turn a fifth of the world’s population into crime reporters and war correspondents.

  • The only sound way to appraise the state of the world is to count. How many violent acts has the world seen compared with the number of opportunities? And is that number going up or down? 

It is important to note that these studies include violence of all types, not just wars and terrorist acts.  The facts are very clear that even violent crime is less prevalent today.  The following Reuters article describes the most recent FBI "annual Crime in the United States report":


According to the FBI the United States had an estimated 1.16 million violent crimes last year, the lowest number since 1.09 million were recorded in 1978.  All types of violent crimes were lower, with murder and non-negligent manslaughter off 4.4 percent to 14,196, the lowest figure since 1968. Rape was down 6.3 percent and robbery fell 2.8

Finally for those who prefer visual data Max Roser has a very interesting website Our World in Data 

There is a visual presentation about the history of world violence at this webpage:



Christopher A. Preble of the Cato Institute discusses the consequences of the over estimation of dangers in a recent policy report:


This policy report reaches these conclusions:

  • Individual liberty is often threatened during periods of heightened fear and anxiety, a fact that informed the very structure of the U.S. government. James Madison, in making the case for restraining the new government’s war-making powers, warned the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia: “The means of defense against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.”

  • He went on: “Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.” A decade later, Madison returned to this theme in a letter to Thomas Jefferson. Madison knew that there was already some demand for a standing military, and that a few would use fear of foreign threats to whip up public sentiment in favor of a more powerful state. Indeed, Madison postulated “a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger real or pretended from abroad.”

  • Others since then have stumbled upon similar ideas about popular notions of threats, and of how the fear of threats has been used to grow the power of government. For example, the noted writer, social critic and satirist H.L. Mencken declared “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

  • Madison and Mencken’s warnings remain relevant today. Recall how in November 2008 incoming Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called for swift government action to deal with what he said was an urgent threat. “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste,” Emanuel explained in an interview, “it’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid.”

  • While Emanuel was talking about an economic crisis, an increasingly powerful state can be used in many different ways, regardless of whether it was precipitated by fears of foreign or domestic threats. The same sorts of powers that allowed the Justice Department to go after suspected terrorists allowed the IRS to harass suspected tea partiers.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice

A recent article from The Objective Standard, Vol. 7, No. 1 by Craig Biddle is a very well written and detailed examination of the basic political issue of our time.  I have copied the introduction and conclusion to this article below but there is so much depth to this article that I can not provide an adequate summary.  Please take the time and effort required to read the entire article at the following link:


Introduction

The fundamental political conflict in America today is, as it has been for a century, individualism vs. collectivism. Does the individual’s life belong to him—or does it belong to the group, the community, society, or the state? With government expanding ever more rapidly—seizing and spending more and more of our money on “entitlement” programs and corporate bailouts, and intruding on our businesses and lives in increasingly onerous ways—the need for clarity on this issue has never been greater.

Individualism is the idea that the individual’s life belongs to him and that he has an inalienable right to live it as he sees fit, to act on his own judgment, to keep and use the product of his effort, and to pursue the values of his choosing. It’s the idea that the individual is sovereign, an end in himself, and the fundamental unit of moral concern. This is the ideal that the American Founders set forth and sought to establish when they drafted the Declaration and the Constitution and created a country in which the individual’s rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness were to be recognized and protected.

Collectivism is the idea that the individual’s life belongs not to him but to the group or society of which he is merely a part, that he has no rights, and that he must sacrifice his values and goals for the group’s “greater good.” According to collectivism, the group or society is the basic unit of moral concern, and the individual is of value only insofar as he serves the group. As one advocate of this idea puts it: “Man has no rights except those which society permits him to enjoy. From the day of his birth until the day of his death society allows him to enjoy certain so-called rights and deprives him of others; not . . . because society desires especially to favor or oppress the individual, but because its own preservation, welfare, and happiness are the prime considerations.”1

Individualism or collectivism—which of these ideas is correct? Which has the facts on its side?

Conclusion

Such is the state of politics in America today, and this is the choice we face: Americans can either continue to ignore the fact that collectivism is utterly corrupt from the ground up, and thus continue down the road to statism and tyranny—or we can look at reality, use our minds, acknowledge the absurdities of collectivism and the atrocities that follow from it, and shout the truth from the rooftops and across the Internet.

What would happen if we did the latter? As Ayn Rand said, “You would be surprised how quickly the ideologists of collectivism retreat when they encounter a confident, intellectual adversary. Their case rests on appealing to human confusion, ignorance, dishonesty, cowardice, despair. Take the side they dare not approach; appeal to human intelligence.”




Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence in 1776; Dependence in 2014

The following article was published by Chris Edwards  in the Cato Institute's blog "Cato at Liberty":

Since the 1960s, the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) has provided a list of all federal subsidy programs. That includes subsidies to individuals, businesses, nonprofit groups, and state and local governments. The CFDA includes subsidies for farmers, retirees, school lunches, rural utilities, the energy industry, rental housing, public broadcasting, job training, foreign aid, urban transit, and much more.

The chart below shows that the number of federal subsidy programs has almost doubled since 1990, reaching 2,282 today. The genesis of the CFDA was the explosion of hand-out programs under President Lyndon Johnson. Members of Congress needed a handy guide to inform their constituents about all the new freebies.


The growth in subsidies may be good for the politicians, but it is terribly corrosive for American society. Each subsidy program costs money and creates economic distortions. Each program generates a bureaucracy, spawns lobby groups, and encourages more people to demand further benefits from the government.

Individuals, businesses, and nonprofit groups that become hooked on subsidies essentially become tools of the state. They have less incentive to innovate, and they shy away from criticizing the hand that feeds them. Government subsidies are like an addictive drug, undermining American traditions of individual reliance, voluntary charity, and entrepreneurialism.

The rise in the size and scope of federal subsidies means that Americans are steadily losing their independence. That is something sobering to think about on July 4.

Which subsidies should we cut? We should start with these.