Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bye bye free speech (2)

Here is a comment from Jonathan Turley's blog.  JT is on target.

If you think that regulating "fake news" is an answer to a problem - you are the problem.

------------------------------------------------------------------

I recently wrote about the growing threat of government regulation of speech on the Internet under the guise of combatting “fake news.” Germany has been ground zero for civil libertarians for the rollback of free speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel long ago established herself as a menace to free speech, particularly in her decision to first apologize to authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan for a satirical poem and then approve the prosecution of the comedian is a shocking and chilling disgrace. Now, Germany is considering imposing a legal regime that would allow fining social networks such as Facebook up to 500,000 euros ($522,000) for each day the platform leaves a “fake news” story up without deleting it. Governments have finally found a vehicle to get citizens to allow them to curtail or chill speech — ironically in the name of facilitating “real news” or “truth.” It is perfectly Orwellian and Merkel’s latest contribution to the erosion of free speech in the West. I recently discussed the issue as part of an interesting segment with Ted Koppel.

Few companies will risk such crippling fines, resulting in self-censorship from the chilling effect of the law. The bill would require companies to flag “fake news” and impose civil liability on companies. Germany’s parliamentary chief of the Social Democrat party, Thomas Oppermann is quoted as saying “If after the relevant checks Facebook does not immediately, within 24 hours, delete the offending post then [it] must reckon with severe penalties of up to 500,000 euros.”

Other lawmakers are reportedly moving toward criminalizing anything the government deems to be “fake news.”

So government officials will now be allowed to simply proclaim certain postings as untrue and either fine the networks or even criminally charge individuals — all in the name of protecting “the truth.” What is astonishing is that many in the public are supporting this rollback on the critical protection of free speech. The left appears to be leading this crusade for greater government censorship in both Europe and the United States. Fake news is simply proclaimed to be a threat to democracy and citizens support the limitation of free speech to protect “freedom”? It is precisely the moment described by Benjamin Franklin when he said “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.”

Bye bye free speech

Here is a column by John Lott, a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of nine books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies (August 1, 2016). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.

Concern about "fake news" is leading to attempts to regulate it out of existence.  What is forgotten is that the regulators will, at best, impose their own view of truth.  More likely, if history and the current behavior of those who advocate such regulation are any guide, truth will be sacrificed to agenda.  The real result will be the loss of free speech.

To put things in perspective - when, ever, has there not been fake news?  Personally, I have never read an article in the news media about a topic I knew something about that was accurate.

Here is John's column.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

To protect Americans against “fake” news, Facebook will now use filters so that only “reputable” articles can appear at the top of users’ trending news stories. And Facebook is going to media fact checkers for help (initially ABC News, The Associated Press, FactCheck.org, Politifact and Snopes). But guess what? These fact checkers have their own biases — usually the same liberal biases that we see in the rest of the mainstream media.

Before the 1990s, the mainstream media had a monopoly on the news. Then came the rise of talk radio, Fox News, and the internet. This was a wonderful thing for freedom of information.

Facebook has already faced a scandal for having “filtered out stories on conservative topics from conservative sites.”

But to get an idea of how bias also affects fact checkers, just consider a few evaluations from Politifact.

— "We’re the highest taxed nation in the world. Our businesses pay more taxes than any businesses in the world. That’s why companies are leaving.” Donald Trump on "Meet the Press" on May 8, 2016

Donald Trump was clearly talking about tax rates for businesses. But in rating the claim as “False,” Politifact focuses on total federal tax burden as a share of GDP. Trump was correct that the U.S. has the world's highest corporate income tax rate (combined federal and state). In 2016, that rate was 38.9 percent France came in second with 34.4 percent. But Politifact conveniently overlooks state taxes, which are really what put the U.S. over the top compared to so many other countries.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ultimate Aptitude Test

HISTORY

Describe the history of the Papacy from its origins to the present.  Concentrate, but not exclusively, on its social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America, and Africa.  Be brief, concise, and specific.

PUBLIC SPEAKING

2,500 crazed aborigines are storming the classroom.  Calm them.  You may use any ancient language except Latin and Greek.

BIOLOGY

Create life.  Estimate the difference in subsequent human culture if this form had dev eloped 500 million years earlier.  Focus especially to its possible effect on the English parliamentary system.  Prove your thesis.

MUSIC

Write a piano concerto.  Orchestrate and perform it with flute and drum.  You will find a piano under your seat.

PSYCHOLOGY

Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodisias, Rameses II, Gregory of Nicea, and Hammurabi.  Support your thesis with quotations from each man's work, making appropriate references.  It is not necessary to translate.

SOCIOLOGY

Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world.  Construct an experiment to test your theory.

ENGINEERING

The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed on your desk.  You will find an instruction manual priinted in Swahili.  In three minutes, a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room.  Take whatever action you feel is appropriate.  Be prepared to justify your decision.

ECONOMICS

Develop a realistic plan for retiring the national debt.  Trace the effects of your plan in the following areas:  Cubism, the Donatist controversy, and the wave theory of light.  Outline a method for preventing these effects.  Criticize this method from all possible points of view.  Point out the deficiencies in your point of view, as demonstrated by your answer to the last question.

POLITICAL SCIENCE

There is a red telephone on the desk beside you.  Start World War III.  Report at length on its socio-political effets, if any.

EPISTEMOLOGY

Take a stand for or against Truth.  Prove the validity of your position.

PHYSICS

Explain the nature of matter.

PHILOSOPHY

Sketch the development of human thought.  Estimate its significance.  Compare to the development of any other kind of thought.

GENERAL KNOWLEDGE

Describe in detail.  Be objective and specific.

BONUS QUESTION

Define the Universe and cite three examples.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Good advice and an example

Advice:  It is good to be open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brains fall out.

Example:  A higher minimum wage does not destroy any jobs - too open-minded.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Decisions and information

More information leads to better decisions.

Do you trust a used car salesman when you are buying a used car?  Probably not, because there is an appreciable probability that he knows something negative about the car that he is not telling you.

Wouldn't it be much better for you if you had access to the salesman's information about the car?  Of course it would.

Suppose someone stole his information and made it available to you.  It would be good for you - you would strike a better deal.  The fact that it is illegal to steal the information and that it is bad for the salesman are two separate issues.

So, in terms of improved decision making, you should be happy about the hacked DNC emails.  They provided previously unavailable and important information about the Candidates and Parties. Hence, they made possible better voting decisions.  It is unreasonable to believe that the hacked DNC emails adversely effected the election.  If they had any effect, it was most likely positive.

A point about free trade

Here is an excerpt from Russ Roberts's "The Human Side of Trade".

The connection between the excerpt and free trade may not be obvious to you.  If it isn't, here is a hint.  Unemployed U.S. steel workers correspond to health care workers in the excerpt.

It is true that free trade has the potential to make everyone better off, vs. restricted trade.  However, that does not guarantee that everyone will be better off under free trade.

------------------------------------------------------------

Suppose a scientist invents a pill that once you take it lets you live until 120 with no health issues whatsoever. Once you turn 120, you die a peaceful death on your birthday. Suppose the scientist, in a gesture of good will, charges $10 for the pill.

Should we let the scientist sell the pill? Is it good for the country? It’s good for almost everyone. But it’s going to be very hard on a very large group of people immediately:

Doctors. Nurses. Health Care administrators. People who build hospitals. People in medical school. People who teach in medical schools. People in health insurance companies. Pharmaceutical companies. Researchers. You get the idea. It’s millions of people. This is a very disruptive technology.

What’s going to happen to all those people?

Mass unemployment. All of the skills of all of those people are no longer valued. The past investments made in those skills are now wasted. Incomes of those workers will inevitably plummet overnight. . . .

Most people would argue that the millions of health care workers have no right to stop people from living until 120. And on the surface, that’s the whole story—long life and a very tough transition for millions of people from lives of financial well-being and deep satisfaction to a much bleaker future.

But that’s not the whole story. We’re missing a huge part of the story.

The other important part of the story is that everyone is suddenly a lot wealthier. All the money we once poured into health care will now be able to be spent on other things. What are those other things?

We can’t know. No one can. But a whole bunch of areas are going to expand and some of those are going to soak up the time, talents and energy of former doctors, health care administrators and so on. .

And young people who planned to go to medical school or become chemists in the pharmaceutical industry or nurses or data analysts in the insurance business will now turn elsewhere. What will they do instead? There is no way of knowing but they will try to find skills to invest in that lead to financially and psychologically rewarding lives. The dreams of those young people have been shattered. They will have to find something else to do. But their opportunities will now be much wider than just something other than health care. The areas outside of health care are now much wider because the increased wealth we all have can now go into new areas and opportunities.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Why Pilots Should Use Checklists

Here is an article from Aviation Week and Space Technology.
-------------------------------------------------------------

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Evaluation of Creativity

I forget what publication I found this in.
---------------------------------------------------------------
I know a systems analyst (in those days he was called a management engineer).  He almost had a nervous breakdown trying to apply scientific management principles to the Manhattan Project during World War II. He tried to functionalize and standardize and specialize the work of mathematical physicists.  He tried to set up standards.  He tried to develop an appropriate appraisal form.

His first difficulty, the most traumatic, was that he found it impossible to describe the work.  He couldn't even produce a job description.  He went into the cubicle of a theoretical mathematician and said, "All right, what are your tasks, duties, and elements?"  The fellow said, "What's that?"  He went through it again. The fellow finally answered, "Well, what I am trying to prove is that locally compact sets are not dense in themselves in Hilbert space."  The engineer asked, "That's a duty?  Show me these things."  The fellow said, "I can't because they don't really exist,  They are just abstract ideas which we invent."  The systems analyst exploded.  "You are working with something that doesn't exist?  Com on now, tell me your tasks, duties, and elements."

Eventually, the engineer went to the second page in a book, published by the U.S. Employment Service, which tells how to analyze a job.  It says, "If you don't make any sense of what the incumbent says, watch what he does."  So he began to observe.

Well, the mathematical physicist did only three things.  He drank coffee in the office, he looked at books, and he wrote on the blackboard.  That's all he did.  Obviously, my analyst was getting nowhere.

He went to the man's boss, who really wasn't his boss because it turned out that the man really didn't have a boss.  "What's this fellow doing?" he asked.  The boss said, "We don't know shat he is doing.  If we knew what he was doing, we wouldn't have him doing it."  Astonished, the analyst asked, "Do you mean to tell me that you don;t know the tasks, duties, and elements of this subordinate?"  The bos responded, "Hell, no.  That's why we've got him doing it.  He's the only man in the country who understands this sort of thing."

So the analyst went on to the next part of the interview form.  "now tell me," he asked the boss, "how do you know when he is oint the job well?  What are the criteria?"  The boss answered, " I haven't the slightest idea."  When the analyst persisted, he finally said, "Well, I guess he is doing it well when he tells me so."  "Do you mean to tell me," shouted the analyst, "that you depend on a subordinate to tell you when he is doing a job right?"  The boss stood his ground.  "That's absolutely true.  He's the only person in the country who can understand the proof of these theorems.  If he says he's doing it rihgt, he's doing it right.  That's why we have him doing it."

Don Boudreaux's letter to Barry Ritholtz at Bloomberg

Here is Don Boudreaux's comment on a Bloomberg column by Barry Ritholtz.

The notion that a higher minimum wage will not cost any jobs is ridiculous.  Those who point to "academic" studies that do not find job losses from minimum wage laws fail to understand the limitations of statistics or statistical concepts.  For example, the failure to find a statistically significant negative impact from a higher minimum wage does not imply that there is none.  It does not even imply that there is a high probability that there is none. Furthermore, these non-believers fail to understand the importance of theory vs. statistics.

For the techies, consider a statistical analysis that finds that estimated job losses are positive, but with a p-value of only 25% under the null hypothesis of no job losses.  This result is declared not statistically significant, and the null hypothesis is accepted - leading to widespread belief that a higher minimum wage does not destroy jobs.  However, a maximum likelihood approach suggests that a better bet is that it is more likely that jobs are lost than that they are not.

Here is Don's letter.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mr. Ritholtz:

Writing at Bloomberg, you assert that it is “well-established” that modest increases in the minimum wage cast no low-skilled workers into the ranks of the unemployed (“Minimum-Wage Foes Tripped Up by Facts,” Dec. 7). With respect, you are obviously quite unfamiliar with modern research on the employment effects of minimum wages. Here’s a list only of some of the more prominent, recent scholarly empirical studies whose authors that find that even modest hikes in minimum wages destroy some jobs:

– Jeffrey Clemens and Michael Wither, “The Minimum Wage and the Great Recession: Evidence of Effects on the Employment and Income Trajectories of Low-Skilled Workers” (2014) (finding that “minimum wage increases reduced the national employment-to-population ratio by 0.7 percentage point”);

– Jeffrey Clemens, “The Minimum Wage and the Great Recession: Evidence from the Current Population Survey” (2015) (finding that minimum-wage increases during the Great Recession “reduced employment among individuals ages 16 to 30 with less than a high school education by 5.6 percentage points”);

– Jonathan Meer and Jeremy West, “Effects of the Minimum Wage on Employment Dynamics” (2013) (finding that “the minimum wage reduces job growth over a period of several years. These effects are most pronounced for younger workers and in industries with a higher proportion of low-wage workers”);

– David Neumark, J.M. Ian Salas, and William Wascher, “More on recent evidence on the effects of minimum wages in the United States” (2014) (finding that “the best evidence still points to job loss from minimum wages for very low-skilled workers – in particular, for teens”);

– Yusuf Soner Baskaya and Yona Rubinstein, “Using Federal Minimum Wages to Identify the Impact of Minimum Wages on Employment and Earnings across the U.S. States” (2012) (finding that “[m]inimum wage increases boost teenage wage rates and reduce teenage employment”).

Indeed, you can read a whole book on the matter by David Neumark and William Wascher, Minimum Wages (2008), published by the MIT Press, that concludes that minimum wages do indeed destroy some jobs.

You can dispute the accuracy of all of the above findings, but you cannot dispute that these findings, along with many others that reach similar conclusions, are part of the scholarly record – a record that belies your assertion that it is “well-established” that modest minimum-wage hikes destroy no jobs

Your readers deserve better from you.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Military Wisdom

Never fly with someone braver than you.

There are bold pilots and old pilots, but no bold old pilots.

Try to look unimportant, they may be low on ammunition.

A good landing is when you can walk away from the airplane.  A great landing is when you can reuse the airplane.

The only time you have too much fuel is when you are on fire.

Aim toward the enemy.

If you see a bomb technician running, try to keep up with him.

Whoever said that the pen is mightier than the sword never encountered automatic weapons.

If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn't plan your mission properly.

You've never been lost until you've been lost at mach 3 (SR-71 pilot).

You don't win a war by dying for your country.  You win a war by making the other son-of-a-bitch die for his (Patton).

The purpose of a second engine is to get you to the site of the crash.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Puns & Stuff

Ants are healthy because they have little antibodies.

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

I went to the Air & Space Museum, but there was nothing there.

Hold the door open for a clown, it's a nice jester.

The second mouse gets the cheese.

My reality check bounced.

All those who believe in psychokinesis, raise my hand.

Ban pre-shredded cheese - make America Grate Again.

If you are attacked by a mob of clowns, go for the juggler.

The past, present, and future walked into a bar - it was tense.

A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.

Does seven days without meat make one weak?


Saturday, November 19, 2016

On Behavior

Here is a link to a New York Post article describing what happened when Mike Pence went to see "Hamilton".

Friday, November 18, 2016

Point to ponder about the relevance of unacceptable behavior

What is or is not relevant for judging Senator Sessions’s (yes, it is "s's") likely performance as Attorney General?  Presumably, his current behavioral characteristics and abilities.  What if some of his past behavioral characteristics and abilities were not suitable for an Attorney General?  They are relevant only if they are current.

Example: Some people claim that Sessions is a racist, based on remarks made long ago.  Has he exhibited any behavior that would suggest that he is a racist now?  If not, his past remarks are irrelevant.  Are the people who say Sessions is a racist failing to distinguish the present tense from the past tense or are they irrational?

Presumably, it is a good idea to have people learn new good behavior that replaces bad behavior.  New good behavior is established by positive reinforcement.  Punishing past bad behavior after it has disappeared from a person’s repertoire is counterproductive.


A point to ponder:  Consider a person who commits a heinous crime and is sentenced to death.  Suppose, by magic if you wish, the person is transformed into an ordinary person with no tendency to unacceptable behavior.  What is the rational course of action, to execute him or release him?  The latter, of course.

The Democrats real agenda: Make low income, low skill people worse off

Here is a comment by John Cochrane.  John is a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford. He was formerly a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is also an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute.

Beware apparent do-gooders.  Even if they are intending good, they often make things worse.  As John points out, they also often do not intend to do good.
-----------------------------------------------------
From Chris Kirkham in today's Wall Street Journal, department of you can't make this stuff up:

Nearly two-thirds of Los Angeles voters last week approved a citywide affordable-housing requirement....
The rule requires that up to 25% of units in rental properties and up to 40% in for-sale projects meet affordability guidelines. Alternatively, developers can pay a fee to the city.
New York City and Seattle passed similar requirements earlier this year.
The Los Angeles initiative goes a step further, however. It also sets wage standards for the projects.
Developers must pay construction wages on par with those required for public-works projects, hire 30% of the workforce from within city limits, set aside 10% of jobs for certain disadvantaged workers living within 5 miles of the project and ensure 60% of workers have experience on par with graduates of a union apprenticeship program.
The mandates could double the hourly wage for some construction trades compared with state median wages. The pay for a carpenter, for example, could rise to $55.77 an hour from $26.16, according to an economic analysis sponsored by opponents of the initiative.

I wonder what that will do to the cost of housing? Notice also that by restricting who can do construction jobs and forcing up wages, there will be lots of new unemployment among lower-skilled or new entrants to construction, often a first step up the ladder for less educated people.

... some developers will be less affected by the change. Those who build primarily affordable housing, using government subsidies, already must pay higher wages. Developers of large high-rise projects, meantime, often use union work crews.
The measure was backed in part by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, a union group,


A union group delighted to eliminate low-wage competition. Let them eat tacos?

“There’s a huge shortage of housing in L.A., and a huge shortage of low-income housing,” he [Shawn Evenhaim, chief executive of Los Angeles developer California Home Builders] said. “They took that problem and made it worse.”
Left out of the article, and a big question I have if anyone knows the answer: who gets "affordable" or "below market rate" housing. Rather obviously more people want subsidized housing than can get it. So who wins the lottery?

"Affordable" housing is parceled out by income limits. So what happens if you get a better job? Are you kicked out of your house? That sounds like a great recipe for perpetuating income inequality. What happens if you get a job offer somewhere far away? Can you trade one "affordable" house for another? I bet not. One more nail in the coffin of advancement.

More deeply, if these things work the way I suspect, there is a long waiting list and a lottery. Once in, you're in so long as you don't get more income. Thus, they entrench and benefit people who have been in one place a long time. And the people really hurt by "affordable" housing -- which restricts supply and raises costs of all other housing -- are newcomers, especially low-income newcomers who would like to come for better jobs. And new businesses who would like to hire ambitious low-income newcomers and give them better incomes.

So the effects are not just to raise house prices -- they are to increase inequality, reduce opportunity, especially for low skill and low income people, and reduce the economic vitality of the region.

Thomas Sowell: What Now?: Part II

Here is Thomas Sowell's follow up column to "What Now?"
----------------------------------------------------

As the post-election shock of some, and the euphoria of others, both begin to wear off, the country and the new administration will have some very serious problems to face, at home and abroad. How those problems are faced — or evaded — will tell us a lot about the next four years, and about the longer-run future as well.

As the multiple disasters of ObamaCare become ever more painfully visible with the passage of time, the big question is whether to repeal it or to start tinkering with it, in hopes of being able to "save" it.

This dilemma is not accidental. ObamaCare was clearly so structured that it would be hard to get rid of politically. In that sense, it was a political masterpiece, even though a social disaster.

One big test of the new Republican administration that takes office in January will be whether it falls into the trap of trying to rescue this monstrosity created by the Democrats, and succumbs to the siren song of bipartisanship that is sure to be heard from the media.

Whatever the new administration hopes to accomplish, on this issue and many others, it needs to accomplish early on, if it expects to get things done and establish its credibility. For that it needs unity within a party that has fragmented too often in the past

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has been preparing various policy positions, so that there will be a program already in place that Republicans can unite behind and hit the ground running when they take control in January.

But there is one other thing that they will need, and which they have seldom had in the past. That is some well thought out, and clearly articulated, explanation to the American public as to what they are doing and why.

What was called "the Reagan revolution" of the 1980s took place without President Reagan's ever having had Republican control of both Houses of Congress, and despite a hostile media. What Reagan had instead was a rare ability to persuasively articulate to the public what he was doing and why.

When President Reagan got the voters on his side, even Congressional Democrats knew that it was politically risky to try to block what he had convinced the public needed to be done.

Without effective articulation to the public, control of both Houses of Congress can lead to futility and the collapse of political support by frustrated voters who feel betrayed. That has been the recent history of Republicans.

Articulation is not just a gift of nature. It takes hard work, work that Ronald Reagan had done for years before he ever got to Washington. More fundamentally, effective articulation requires a recognition of the great importance of articulation, so that it gets all the time and effort it requires.

Another very high priority for the new administration should be trying to fill the great void on the Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. It is not just a quantitative void but, above all, a qualitative void.

This is one of those situations where caution may be the most dangerous course. Too many Republican Supreme Court nominees in the past have been chosen to avoid a confirmation fight in the Senate — and the country has paid a huge price in bad Supreme Court decisions for decades thereafter.

If you wanted to pick someone whose nomination to the Supreme Court would send a clear and unmistakable signal that the Constitutional values so well represented by the late Justice Scalia were paramount, you could not do that more convincingly than by nominating Senator Ted Cruz.

Whatever one thinks of Senator Cruz's political career and tactics — both of which have been criticized in this column more than once — no one can question his commitment to Constitutional principles that are in jeopardy today.

His uncompromising refusal to go along to get along, which has made him controversial in politics, is desperately needed in the Supreme Court, where too many "conservative" justices, over the years, have wilted like delicate flowers in the Washington heat.

Senator Cruz's unpopularity among more moderate Republican Senators can even be an asset in gaining Senate confirmation, since they would be unlikely to be sorry to see him leave the Senate.

Thomas Sowell: What Now?

Here is an on target column by Thomas Sowell.

Thomas Sowell, a National Humanities Medal winner, is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher and author. He is currently Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
-----------------------------------------------------------------

The good news is that we dodged a bullet in this election. The bad news is that we don't know how many other bullets are coming, or from what direction.

A Hillary Clinton victory would have meant a third consecutive administration dedicated to dismantling the institutions that have kept America free, and imposing instead the social vision of the smug elites. That could have been the ultimate catastrophe — not just for our time, but for generations yet unborn.

In one sense, Donald Trump's victory was a unique American event. But, in a larger sense, it represents the biggest backlash among many elsewhere, against smug elites in Western nations, where increasing numbers of ordinary people are showing their anger at where those elites are leading their countries.

There, as here, mindlessly flinging the doors open to peoples from societies whose fundamental values clash with those of the countries they enter, has been a hallmark of arrogant blindness and disregard of negative consequences suffered by ordinary people — consequences from which the elites themselves are insulated.

Nor is this the only issue on which the blindness of elites has set the stage for a political backlash. The anti-law enforcement fetish among the insulated elites has even more tragically sacrificed the safety of the general public. This too has been common on both sides of the Atlantic.

Riots in London, Manchester and other cities in England in 2011 were incredibly similar to 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, 2015 riots in Baltimore and similar riots in other American cities.

The fact that the rioters in England were mostly white, while those in America were mostly black, gives the lie to the facile excuse that such riots are due to racial oppression, rather than being a result of appeasing mobs and restricting the police.

Nor is the election of Donald Trump likely to lead the elites to having second thoughts about the prevailing dogmas of their groupthink. On the morning after Mr. Trump's upset victory over Mrs. Clinton, a newswoman at CNN mentioned the disappointment of some women that "the glass ceiling" was not shattered as expected.

What an insult to everyone's intelligence is that catch phrase, "glass ceiling." What does "glass" mean, if not that you cannot see the ceiling, but somehow you just know that it is there? And how do you know? Because it has been repeated so often.

It is like the fable of the emperor's new clothes, but a fable for adults.

Demagogues like Hillary Clinton can point to the fact that women as a group do not receive as much income as men as a group. But, factual studies over the past 40 years have shown repeatedly that, when you compare women who work as many hours a year as men, and as many continuous years in the same occupations as men, the income differences shrink to the vanishing point, and sometimes even reverse.

But how many politicians or media people care about facts, when the facts go against their preconceptions?

Donald Trump's unexpected victory should send a lot of people back to the drawing board to rethink their assumptions about many things. That includes not only the political left but also the Republican establishment. But don't count on it.

The Republican establishment has been called many things, but introspective is not one of them. One thing they might reconsider is their assumption that they alone know just what kind of presidential candidate is needed to win elections.

But the two most surprisingly successful Republican candidates of the past half century — Ronald Reagan and now Donald Trump — bore no resemblance to the candidates who epitomized the Republican establishment's model, such as Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Among others who could also use some rethinking is Donald Trump himself. When he acted like a petulant adolescent, he may have gotten the adulation of his core constituents. But it was only toward the end, when he began to act like a responsible adult seeking the highest office in the land, that he began to overtake Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump is a wild card. We don't know whether he was play-acting when he carried on like a juvenile lout or when he played the role of a mature adult. But he and the country could both benefit from some serious introspection on his part.

Three Seconds, Three Choices

Here is a link to an aviation video about one pilot's close call with death.  This kind of experience teaches you that a pilot without an instrument rating can get into real trouble real fast.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

John Lott: points to ponder on gun control

Here is John Lott's column in the Washington Post.
----------------------------------------------------------------
It seems obvious: Restrict gun access, and people will be safer.

Indeed, in all four presidential debates, Hillary Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine have pushed for background checks on private transfers of guns. Clinton says this will “keep guns out of the hands of those who will do harm.” But theory and practice don’t always match. Too often, gun bans or background checks don’t stop criminals and instead disarm law-abiding citizens, particularly poor minorities. This only makes life easier for criminals.

There are already 300 million guns in circulation, and more than 12 million enter the market each year. With 3-D metal printers, more people will be able to make weapons that are indistinguishable from those purchased in stores. It would be almost impossible to remove those weapons from circulation. Getting rid of these weapons would require a door-to-door campaign by law enforcement officials, and even that would be of only limited effectiveness.

It’s also not clear that it would help. When countries like England, Wales, Ireland and Jamaica banned guns and handguns, they saw a subsequent increase in murder rates. Even these island nations, which have relatively easily monitored and defendable borders, have faced fivefold or sixfold increases in murder rates after guns were banned. Some of the biggest spikes in murder rates corresponded with increases in drug gang violence.

Some think that background checks are the answer. Indeed, after each mass public shooting, President Obama calls for background checks on the selling of guns through private transfers. But these new rules wouldn’t have stopped the attackers. Since at least 2000, all of America’s mass shooters obtained guns without going through private transfers. Some of the attacks occurred in states that already have these background check laws.

As I show in my book, “The War on Guns,” there is no evidence that expanded background checks reduce rates of violent crime including mass public shootings, suicide, murder of police officers or domestic violence against women. (Gun-control groups contest this claim.)



Meanwhile, other law-abiding citizens are left in a lurch. People who have been mistakenly stopped from buying guns are forced into a costly appeals process that frequently requires them to hire lawyers. These “initial denials” affect certain racial groups more than others. Hispanics are more likely to share names with other Hispanics, and the same is true of blacks. Because 30 percent of black males are forbidden to buy guns because of their criminal records, law-abiding black males are especially likely to have their names confused with those of prohibited people.

And these background checks are costly. In D.C., checks on private transfers add $125 to the cost of a gun. That fee can put guns out of reach for the most likely victims of violent crime: poor blacks living in high-crime, urban areas.

Other gun laws, like gun-free zones, can create targets for mass shooters. One need only listen to the wiretapped recording of an Islamic State supporter who was planning an attack this spring. His target was one of the biggest churches in Detroit. In the recording, Khalil Abu-Rayyan explains: “A lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church. Plus it would make the news.” Fortunately, the man’s father alerted the FBI. Mass public shooters often perpetrate violence in public places where permitted concealed handguns are banned.

Since at least 1950, every single one of Europe’s public mass shootings has occurred in a place where general citizens are banned from carrying guns. In America, there have been four exceptions to that rule.

In late 2013, the secretary general of Interpol — essentially a global version of the FBI — proposed two ways of preventing mass shootings: “One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves [should be] so secure that in order to get into the soft target, you’re going to have to pass through extraordinary security.”

But Noble warned, “You can’t have armed police forces everywhere.” He also suggested that it is essentially impossible to stop killers from getting weapons into these “secure” areas. He concluded by posing the question, “Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past, with an evolving threat of terrorism?” The answer is an emphatic yes.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Logical Fallacies

Here is a link to a website that lists a large number of logical fallacies.  Have fun with it.

Some examples follow.
----------------------------------------------------
Affirmative Conclusion from a Negative Premise

No people under the age of 66 are senior citizens.
No senior citizens are children.
Therefore, all people under the age of 66 are children.

Gambler's Fallacy

I have flipped heads five times in a row.  As a result, the next flip will probably be tails.

Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle

All lions are animals.
All cats are animals.
Therefore, all lions are cats.

Negative Conclusion from Affirmative Premises

All cats are animals.
Some pets are cats.
Therefore, some pets are not animals.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

You can't trust Bloomberg on guns

Here is John Lott's column in the Reno Gazette.   As usual, JL is on target.
-------------------------------------------------
Let’s say a stalker is threatening a female friend of yours. She asks you if she can borrow your handgun. She is trained and has no criminal record. Should you loan her your gun?

If you live in Nevada, loaning her your gun may soon land you in prison. Exception is made only for cases of “imminent” danger — where her stalker is literally right in front of her at that very moment.

And forget about Boy Scout shooting trips, where adults lend troops shotguns and rifles so the scouts can earn their firearm merit badges. Stick with this annual ritual and those adult leaders may soon find themselves in prison.

Those are just a couple of the hidden consequences if Nevada voters pass Question 1 on Tuesday, Nov. 8th.

Everyone wants to keep criminals from getting guns. But the current background check system is a mess. It primarily disarms our most vulnerable citizens, particularly law-abiding minorities. Virtually every time the government stops someone from buying a gun, it is done mistakenly. We're not talking here about preventing guns from falling into the wrong hands — these are people who are legally eligible to buy a gun.

Gun control advocates constantly claim nationwide background checks have stopped 2.4 million prohibited people from buying a gun. But what they should really say is there were 2.4 million "initial denials." And over 96 percent of "initial denials" are errors that are dropped during just the first two stages of review. More cases are dropped later.

It is one thing to stop a felon from buying a gun. It is quite another to stop a law-abiding citizen from buying a gun simply because his name is similar to that of a felon.

That massive error rate occurs because government background checks focus only on two pieces of information: names and birth dates, ignoring social security numbers and addresses. The government looks for phonetically similar names (e.g., “Smith” and “Smythe” are assumed to be the same) and even ignores different middle names.

These mistakes affect certain racial groups more than others. Hispanics are more likely to share names with other Hispanics; the same is true of blacks. Because 30 percent of black males are forbidden from buying guns because of their criminal records, law-abiding African-American men more often have their names confused with those of prohibited people.

The problem could be easily fixed if the government simply did what it requires of private companies. When businesses perform criminal background checks on employees, they have to use all of the information that is already available to the government: name, social security number, address and birthdate.

Background checks on private transfers have another problem: they make gun buyers and sellers pay for the costs of conducting them. This includes state fees and the costs of paying licensed dealers to perform the checks.

In Washington, D.C., the total cost is at least $125. In Washington State and Oregon, it is about $60 and $50, respectively.

These costs can present a very real obstacle to poor people living in high-crime, urban areas. The most likely, law-abiding victims of violent crimes are usually least able to afford these costs. It isn’t like gang members are going to pay these fees.

Democrats claim requiring free voter IDs imposes too much on poor minorities who want to vote. But they see no irony in requiring IDs (not free ones) and much more of those who purchase guns.

But the Democrats keep showing their true colors. When Colorado passed its private transfer background checks in 2013, Republicans proposed an amendment to exempt people below the poverty line from having to pay the new state tax on transfers. In the state house, all but two Democrats voted against the amendment. Don't Democrats normally believe in tax exemptions for people below the poverty line?

As I show in my new book, “The War on Guns,” states with these background checks experienced a post-2000 increase of 15 percent in per capita rates of mass public shooting fatalities. They also saw a 38 percent increase in the rate of injury. Nor is there evidence that expanded background checks reduce rates of any type of violent crime, including: mass public shootings, suicide, murder of police officers and domestic violence against women. Other academic research by economists and criminologists consistently confirms this.

Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown — the source of glowing praise for these laws — never actually examines how crime rates change before and after the law is adopted.

The poorly-written and confusing initiative is going to turn a lot of well-intentioned Nevadans into criminals. Furthermore, the fees and regulations attached to the initiative will make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns for self-protection.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ladies: Be willing to defend yourself


Thomas Sowell: Three columns on The Left and the Masses

Here are links to three columns by Thomas Sowell.  TS is on target.  The Left's world view produces change that hurts those they claim to be helping.

Column 1

Column 2

Column 3

Here are some excerpts.
----------------------------------------------------------------
Excerpts from Column 1

The greatest moral claim of the political left is that they are for the masses in general and the poor in particular. That is also their greatest fraud. It even fools many leftists themselves.

One of the most recent efforts of the left is the spread of laws and policies that forbid employers from asking job applicants whether they have been arrested or imprisoned. This is said to be to help ex-cons get a job after they have served their time, and ex-cons are often either poor or black, or both.

An empirical study some years ago examined the hiring practices of companies that did a background check on all the employees they hired. It found that such companies hired more blacks than companies which did not follow that unusual practice.

Why? This goes back to decision-making by human beings in general, with many kinds of decisions in general. Since we seldom have all the facts, we are often forced to rely on generalizing when making our decisions.

Many employers, aware of higher rates of imprisonment among blacks, are less likely to hire blacks whose individual backgrounds are unknown to them. But those particular employers who investigate everyone's background before hiring them do not have to rely on such generalizations.

The fact that these latter kinds of employers hired more blacks suggests that racial animosity is not the key factor, since blacks are still blacks, whether they have a criminal past or not. But the political left is so heavily invested in blaming racism that mere facts are unlikely to change their minds.

Just as those on the left were not moved by hard evidence before they promoted laws and policies that forbad employers to ask about job applicants' criminal records, so they have remained unmoved by more recent studies showing that the hiring of blacks has been reduced in the wake of such laws and policies.

The left's infatuation with minimum wage laws has likewise been impervious to factual evidence that the spread and escalation of minimum wages have been followed by far higher rates of unemployment among young blacks, to levels some multiple of what they were before — and to a racial gap in unemployment among the young that is likewise some multiple of what it was before.

Excerpts from Column 2

It is never easy to tell what people's motives are. But, when the political left proclaims their devotion to improving the lives of others in general, and of the poor in particular, we can at least get some clues from the way they go about it.

One of the first things the left does is take away the right of other people to make their own choices.

For example, under current California law, Hispanic school children cannot be taught in Spanish if their parents want them taught in English. Like parents in other immigrant groups before them, Hispanic parents tend to want their children to learn English, so that those children will have more opportunities when they become adults in an English-speaking country.

But the left never gives up on their pet notions. This year there is a new proposition on the California ballot — Proposition 58, very misleadingly phrased — that would take that choice away from parents, and let schools impose teaching in Spanish to Hispanic children, whether the parents want it or not.

There is the same dogged resistance on the left to allowing black parents to choose to have their children educated in charter schools that are part of the public school system, but are not subject to all the bureaucratic rules that lead to such bad results in other public schools.

When it comes to crime and violence, the political left, including much of the media, are having a great time demonizing the police. Blacks are the biggest victims of the sharp upturn in murders that has followed. But, yet again, hard evidence carries very little weight when the left is feeling good about themselves, while leaving havoc in their wake.

Excerpts from Column 3

Like so much that is claimed by the left, their compassion for the masses has seldom been subjected to any factual test. Both their words and their deeds reveal their low opinion of the people they claim to be championing.

When Barack Obama referred to ordinary working people as people who are "bitter," and who "cling to guns or religion," that was not just a peculiarity of Obama. He was part of a centuries-long tradition on the left.

What role is there for the masses in the vision of the left?

One role is to provide a moral basis for the left to claim power, as defenders of the downtrodden. No secular doctrine has so swept across the world so swiftly, and with such widespread political impact as Marxism in the 20th century. Its central premise is that the workers are poor because their employers have exploited them.

That was not a hypothesis to be tested but an axiom to be accepted as sacred dogma. Nowhere in the three volumes of Marx's classic "Capital" was there the slightest attempt to test that belief empirically.

It would not be difficult to put the Marxian exploitation thesis to a test. If capitalists' exploitation of the workers is what makes them poor, then in countries run by Marxists, the workers should have a higher standard of living than in countries with a capitalist economic system.

But among the many Communist countries that emerged around the world in the 20th century, there has not been a single one where the workers' standard of living has been as high as that of working people in the United States.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Armed Citizen


Even the Washington Post is beginning to see the light

Here is Josh Rogin's column in the Washington Post.

General Cartwright is paying the price for Hillary Clinton’s sins

The Obama administration Justice Department has investigated three senior officials for mishandling classified information over the past two years but only one faces a felony conviction, possible jail time and a humiliation that will ruin his career: former Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman General James E. Cartwright. The FBI’s handling of the case stands in stark contrast to its treatment of Hillary Clinton and retired General David Petraeus — and it reeks of political considerations.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Don Boudreaux on Trade

Here is Don Boudreaux's excellent comment on trade.  Don is on target, but misses one important fact.  Although free trade makes it possible to produce more of everything, hence possible for everyone to be made better off, it does not follow that everyone is made better off.
-------------------------------------------------------
I.

The positive economic case for free trade is straightforward. Here I distill it into ten – well, as you’ll see, really eleven – elemental points.

First, nothing about political borders justifies treating trades that cross those borders differently than trades that don’t. Whatever benefits result from you trading with someone in Kentucky are no less available when you trade with someone in Korea. Whatever economic problems – real or imaginary – are caused by you trading with someone in Korea are no less likely when you trade with someone in Kentucky.

Second, all economic activity is ultimately justified by how much it enables us to expand our consumption, not by how much it enables us to expand our production. Consumption is the end; production is the means. Of course, production is an essential means; we cannot expand consumption without expanding production. But production is not the ultimate purpose of economic activity. If you disbelieve me, ask yourself how much you’d pay for a sawdust-nail-‘n’-cardboard pie that took its well-meaning baker several days to produce. If you answer “nothing,” then you get this point.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A test of your economic literacy

From Don Boudreaux's website.  No explanation needed - or if there is - reread microeconomics 101.

The World Health Organization recently endorsed a global hike in the tax on sugary drinks. The stated goal, of course, is to improve people’s health by raising their costs of consuming high-calorie drinks. (Ignore here the officiousness of bureaucrats who arrogantly fancy themselves to be entitled to recommend the forcible extraction of money from people who act in ways that those bureaucrats have divined are ‘bad’ for those people. [I’m not one to propose taxes, but if – as is often asserted – we ‘must’ have taxes, I propose that stiff taxes be levied on all proposals to butt into the private affairs of others, and that stiff X 10 taxes be levied on all actual acts of butting into the private affairs of others.])

Credit the WHO staff at least for correctly understanding basic economics: artificially raising the cost to buyers of acquiring drinks of kind X and Y will reduce (at least in above-ground markets) the number of drinks of kind X and Y that are purchased.

Yet I wonder how many are the pundits, professors, politicians, and preachers who will favorably and self-righteously wave the WHO’s recent proposal as they support hiking taxes on sugary drinks because they predict that such taxes will reduce the quantity of such drinks demanded and who also self-righteously support hiking minimum wages because they predict that such minimum-wage hikes will not reduce the quantity of low-skilled labor demanded.

I’ll bet that the number of such inconsistent people is large.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Words versus actions

Here is Thomas Sowell's column on Trump and Clinton.  TS is on target.
----------------------------------------------------
Donald Trump's gutter talk about women shows yet again that he is bad news. The problem is that Hillary Clinton is far worse.

Trump's talk is indefensible. But Hillary Clinton's actions as Secretary of State, carrying out the Obama administration's foreign policies, have cost many lives in many places, including the American ambassador and others killed in Benghazi.

Women have a right to be offended by Trump's words. But women have suffered a far worse fate from Secretary Clinton's and President Obama's actions. Pulling American troops out of Iraq, despite military advice to the contrary, led to the sudden rise of ISIS and their seizing of many women and young girls as sex slaves.

A message from one of these women urged the bombing of ISIS. She said she would rather be dead than live the life of a sex slave. Some women who tried to commit suicide and failed have been tortured for trying.

Meanwhile, President Obama tried to downplay ISIS with flippant words, by calling them the junior varsity. His half-hearted, foot-dragging military response has allowed ISIS to parade before the world as triumphant conquerors, appealing to disgruntled people in Western countries to carry out terrorist attacks in support of their cause.

That is a lot worse than some stupid and gross words by Donald Trump, which even he has had to repudiate. Make no mistake about it. Neither party has a good candidate for President. The choice is between bad and disastrous.

Are women more in danger from Trump's words or Hillary's actions? Are Americans in general more in danger from Trump's shallowness on issues or Hillary's ruthless grabs for money and power — a track record that goes all the way back to the days when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas?

Mrs. Clinton's own announced agenda attacks the very foundation of American Constitutional government, on which Americans' own freedom depends. She has already said that she will appoint Supreme Court justices who will specifically overturn a recent Supreme Court decision, "Citizens United versus FEC."

That decision said that both corporations and labor unions have freedom of speech, including the right to contribute money toward political campaigns.

Hillary Clinton's determination to pick judicial appointees on the basis of their willingness to overturn that decision is a more brazen extension of the political left's other attempts to stifle the free speech of those who oppose their agenda.

Demands that various advocacy organizations reveal the names of all their donors are an obvious attempt to scare off those donors, with harassment by everyone from vandals to rioters to the Internal Revenue Service and other government bureaucrats.

Without the right to free speech, none of the other rights is safe. Government officials can get away with all sorts of abuses, if others are not free to talk about those abuses.

Despite Hillary Clinton's claims to be a champion for black people, her political agenda threatens the education of black children, the employment of black adults and the physical safety of black communities.

Mrs. Clinton is on the side of the teachers' unions that want to stop the expansion of charter schools, even though these are among the very few places where black children can get a quality education to prepare them for a better future. Here, as with other issues, her public statements are contradicted by her actions.

No law has done more damage to the employment prospects of young blacks than the federal minimum wage law. But nothing is easier, or more popular, than for some politician to raise the minimum wage — despite the fact that unemployment rates among black young people have skyrocketed to several times what they were before.

You don't get any wage at all when you are unemployed. And if you are young and unemployed, you don't get any job experience to help you rise up the ladder, when you don't get on the ladder.

As for safety in the black community, Hillary Clinton has allied herself with those who demonize the police. The net result has been a sharp increase in the number of blacks killed by other blacks, as criminal elements take control of the streets when the police are not allowed to.

Do you choose a President by talk — or by actions and consequences?

Well, this is no surprise

Go here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Whatever Happened to Adam Smith

Here is a link to an article by Matt Ridley.  MR is on target.

Here are some excerpts.
----------------------------------------------------------
Last week both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump set out their economic policies in set-piece speeches. Mr Trump’s, delivered in Detroit, so far as one could tell from the fractured syntax and the digressions into invective, involves a trade policy designed to punish consumers and protect producers, a recipe for recession. But Mrs Clinton’s, also delivered in Michigan, was even worse. She too wants to pursue the old mercantilist fallacy of restricting imports and helping exports, but while spending more money, unleashing a blizzard of new regulations and doubling the minimum wage.

“Laissez faire, laissez passer” is the most tolerant of all creeds. As Smith insisted, it’s the very opposite of “pro-business” or pro-inequality; the market loves to disrupt complacent cartels. Yet to listen to most of the intelligentsia, you would think that freedom to exchange goods and services – which they prefer to call by the Marxist word “capitalism” – has done terrible harm in the world and needs taming by virtuous government. Further, that small-government philosophy has been terminally discredited, not least by the financial crisis of 2008.

But the financial markets were heavily regulated cartels in the run-up to the crisis. The Insurance giant AIG, whose credit default swaps went belly up, had been, in George Gilder’s words, “supervised and pettifogged by federal, state, local, and global beadles galore, in fifty states and more than a hundred countries”. The explosion in sub-prime lending, far from being the product of deregulation, was the direct result of mandates passed by Congress to increase mortgage lending to low-income and minority people. These mandates were imposed on government–sponsored enterprises (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), enforced by law and encouraged by two presidents. George W. Bush added regulations to the US economy at the rate of up to 78,000 pages a year.

Why is economic libertarianism out of favour? Unlike welfare-socialism and crony-capitalism, it fails to create vested interests dependent on its subsidies. The whole point of running for president is to be able to hand other people’s money to your favourite causes and generate grateful patronage.Laissez-faire robs you of that treat.

The Purpose of the News Media in the United States

Here is a great comment by Robert Higgs.  RH is on target.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Constitution as a Living Document

The purpose of providing a mechanism for changing a law is so that it can be interpreted strictly, until such time as it makes sense to change it. Changes are the purview of the Legislature, not the Courts or the President. Courts that interpret laws as “living documents” turn a system of laws into rule by fad and whim. Either contracts are contracts, or they cannot be counted on. A society founded on living law is no more sound than a bridge built of putty.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Richard Epstein: Clinton's Tax Conceit

Richard A. Epstein, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University Law School, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago.

Here is RE's assessment of Hillary's tax plan.  He points out, correctly, how destructive it is.
---------------------------------------------------
Hillary Clinton has revealed further details of her plan for the fiscal future of the United States. Her vision addresses both sides of the equation: how and from whom taxes should be raised; and how and for whom they should be spent. Her plan is squarely within the progressive tradition. She insists that “The middle class needs a raise,” and that the federal government will pay for the raise by increasing taxes on the top one percent, who once again must be made to pay their “fair share.”

The notion of diminishing returns from higher taxes at no point informs the key features of the Clinton plan: a four percent income tax surcharge on those earning over $5,000,000 per year; the imposition of the “Buffett rule” that requires an alternative minimum tax of at least 30 percent on those earning more than a million dollars per year; an increased capital gains rate for investments held for less than six years; a hefty increase in the estate tax, by reducing its base to $3.5 million per person from the present $5.45 million per person; an increase in the top rate from 40 percent to 45 percent; and capping the charitable deduction at 28 percent, even for people in a higher individual tax bracket.

Clinton plans to funnel many of these tax dollars into an aggressive form of industrial policy that gives public officials under her guidance the power to decide which businesses in which locations—chiefly inner-cities and depressed neighborhoods—will move to the head of the queue. In addition, she wants to spend more on infrastructure, but has said very little about how to insulate essential improvements and repairs from political intrigue. Clinton’s fatal conceit is that she will be able to manipulate the political levers to give targeted benefits to her preferred constituents, without reducing overall levels of growth.

But her plan will crater. The selective government interventions that she proposes will perversely distort key private decisions on consumption and investment. In a hypothetical tax-free world, investment and consumption decisions are made by individuals seeking out the highest rate of return for their various efforts. At the same time, there is always the impulse for charitable behavior among those individuals—whether to help the poor or to provide educational, artistic, or medical benefits to the community. In general, a legal system that enforces contracts, curtails aggression, and restrains monopolies and cartels will have resources flow to their best use. Secure property rights and voluntary exchange are the foundations for any sound social policy. Within this framework, private actors can establish through repeated interactions the correct relative prices for the goods and services needed for both production and consumption.

Obviously, this ideal system of private property and voluntary exchange does not run on vapors. Someone has to enforce the rights and duties it creates, which requires the collection of tax revenues in order to discharge these key government functions. Ideally, that system of taxation should have two constraints, one distributional and the other aggregate. First, a sound system of taxation should not change the relative prices attached to various alternatives from what they were in a tax-free world. If A prefers X to Y in that hypothetical tax-free world, A should prefer X to Y in a world with taxation. Otherwise, the collective intervention will subsidize inefficient choices. Second, the aggregate levels of expenditure should be set to produce outcomes that give back to each citizen a package of goods and services worth more than the taxes he or she pays to create them. Over-taxation chokes off productive private labor.

There is no perfect way to reach these dual objectives. But in our imperfect world, classical liberal theory offers a good way forward. It favors flat taxes on a broad base of income, or more preferably consumption, to achieve these two ends. The flat tax reduces political discretion in determining who should be taxed, and since no one is exempt from its reach, it gives each person an incentive to search for a uniform tax rate that maximizes the net benefits from funding all public goods. That tax reduces the factional gains from forming political blocs, and it cuts down on the uncertainty that private parties face when making long-term investment decisions.

On the expenditure side, a similar degree of stabilization is achieved by funding public, i.e. nonexclusive, goods that are shared by all alike. This is why the original Constitution limited the objects of taxation to paying the public debt, providing for the common defense, and securing the general welfare of the United States—which excluded all transfer payments between private parties. By securing a stable framework, this system gives the poorest members of society greater opportunities to find gainful employment and other opportunities—at least if not blocked by entry restrictions, including minimum wage laws and strong unions. The challenge of redistribution, intended to redress inequalities in wealth, is not fully addressed by these devices. But charitable deductions create an implicit public subsidy in which a diverse set of private donors, not government officials, make the key policy and management decisions.

The Clinton program rests on an exaggerated sense of the good that government can do. But her plan will backfire in a number of ways. First, by raising the capital gains rate she reduces capital mobility and thus locks people into inferior investments. The higher rates will depress the collection of the capital gains tax, by encouraging people to delay unloading bad investments. Second, by imposing the higher taxation rates on the richest individuals, her program further tamps down on investments made by people whose investment and management skills can best create new jobs for ordinary people. She wrongly thinks that governments can expand opportunities, when its level of entrepreneurial expertise is negligible at best. Unfortunately, we can expect her program to fail just as other government programs have in everything from solar energy to neighborhood cooperatives. Government officials work best when they have focused goals of the type that define a system of limited government. Going further by managing private businesses exponentially increases the risk of cronyism and other forms of misbehavior.

Precisely that will happen, moreover, with her misguided proposal to eliminate capital gains taxation for money invested into depressed areas, which is likely to reproduce the colossal waste that came from overspending in places like Baltimore, where massive federal investment has done nothing to stop crime or the population exodus. The right strategy is the exact opposite: encourage people to move to safer and more prosperous communities, which might jolt the political and civic leaders of places like Baltimore to get off life support. Programs that reward failure only create more failure. No private party would spend its money on such a fruitless mission—and the federal government should not create a useless bureaucracy to decide which supplicants should receive what forms of aid. Nor should it give tax breaks that favor unproductive investments over sensible ones.

Today, ordinary workers are leaving their home states in search of jobs and a better standard of living. They are moving to places like Texas where taxes are lower and labor markets are freer. But these business-friendly environments—and the people living and working there—will suffer if Clinton’s plan to strengthen unions and raise minimum wages is implemented on a national scale.

Similarly, her proposal to cap charitable deductions at 28 percent operates as a tax not only on donors, but also on the individuals who receive these benefits in relatively efficient form. The net effect is to reduce the flow of private support for charitable activities, which will increase the scope of badly run public programs. It would be a national tragedy to reduce the amount of private sharing of wealth. It is not the case that only the rich get hurt by the limitation on charitable deductions. After all, if the wealthy stop making gifts, that improves their own financial position. The real harm, then, is to the recipients of charity, who will receive less. Virtually every charitable entity in the United States should be up in arms at this crude effort to tax them out of existence.

It is equally unwise to impose an alternative minimum tax. That program is only necessary in order to backstop our progressive system of taxation, which is riddled with loopholes. But rather than add complexity, we should simplify and rationalize our basic tax system in ways that make a back-up tax unnecessary. In this regard, taxing capital gains is often a mistake. Even if we do not move to a consumption tax, it makes sense to exempt from immediate taxation receipts that are reinvested in other capital assets.

By this standard, the estate tax is the worst of all possible taxes, because it is a lump sum tax on wealth that distorts decisions on investments and consumption. There is no equity in imposing this tax on those people who die at 60, while deferring the same tax for 30 years for those who die at 90, especially when they may have consumed or given away their wealth tax-free in the interim. The standard argument in favor of the consumption tax is that it reduces the excess tax on savings, in ways that improve intertemporal wealth management. Raising the tax and reducing the exemption will have negative effects on resource management that will reduce taxes that could otherwise be received on dividends and salaries. Yet nothing in the Clinton plan addresses the interplay between tax systems.

There is little doubt that the middle class has suffered from a regime of slow growth. But Clinton’s crude efforts to use new targeted tax revenues to fund industrial policy will only complicate the tax code while frustrating private activities that could grow the economy. A far better approach toward growth is to reduce the barriers to entry in industry after industry. The combination of lower administrative costs, higher legal certainty, and greater private initiative will work far better than any set of progressive gimmicks with their perverse incentives and heightened political intrigue.

Don Boudreaux asks Hillary some questions

Donald J. Boudreaux is a professor of economics and Getchell Chair at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.  Here is his column in the Pittsburgh Tribune.

Don is on target.
----------------------------------------------
Here are some questions for Hillary Clinton:

Your running mate, Tim Kaine, says that you are not to blame for what we now know was your erroneous denial that you, as secretary of State, used your private email server to send classified documents. According to Sen. Kaine, the amount of information that routinely crosses the desks of high government officials makes it “difficult to know” if some materials are classified or not.

If you couldn't figure out how to prudently use an email server, why should the American people trust you to know all that you will need to know in order to reliably oversee the massive economic interventions that you promise will be a hallmark of your administration?

In 2008 you mistakenly described receiving flowers and friendly handshakes in 1996 on a tarmac in Bosnia as, instead, coming “under sniper fire.” No one's 12-year-old memories are perfectly accurate, but shouldn't we be deeply worried about a U.S. president who recalls warm greetings and smiles as having instead been gunmen and bullets?

You often laud your years of experience in Washington as one of the major advantages you have over your political opponent. Yet you have also said that, because you are a woman, “you cannot imagine anyone being more of an outsider” than you would be if you become the first woman president in U.S. history.

How do you reconcile your assurances that your many years in Washington have supplied you with enormous amounts of valuable governing experience with your insistence that you are a Washington “outsider”?

You rightly ridicule Donald Trump for claiming that imports damage the American economy while, as a profit-seeking businessman, importing into America much of what his companies sell here. So how do you explain, for example, your Giorgio Armani jacket? Aren't you — a buyer of imports — also a hypocrite for campaigning against imports?

Speaking of trade, you say that if domestic pharmaceutical prices rise too high, you would arrange for “emergency importation” of drugs. Why is it OK to rely on foreign competition to keep drug prices in check but not to keep the prices of clothing, furniture and food in check?

If imports keep domestic prices in check, why should we Americans have to wait for the president to issue an emergency order before we're allowed to buy less costly imported pharmaceuticals?

In 2005 as a U.S. senator, you introduced the Flag Protection Act, which would have, had it been enacted, made burning the American flag illegal. Each violator of this legislation would have been subject to one year in prison and a fine of $100,000. How do you justify caging and fining someone merely for burning a striped and starred cloth? It's true that many people are offended by flag burning. But an open and free society requires freedom of peaceful expression — and freedom of peaceful expression inevitably offends many people. Do you believe that merely being offended by someone else's peaceful actions is sufficient reason for the state to protect sensitive souls from having to experience such offense? Do you think that freedom of expression is so unimportant that we Americans can discard it and remain a free people?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Peggy Noonan nails Hillary

Here is Peggy Noonan's column about Hillary Clinton, in the Wall Street Journal.  PN reminds us of the sordid Clinton history that bespeaks of not just lack of ethics, but just plain evil.

Hillary is unsuited to be President.
--------------------------------------------------------
The question came up this week at a political panel: Why don’t people like Hillary Clinton?

Why do they always believe the worst? Why, when some supposed scandal breaks and someone says she’s hiding something, do people, including many of her supporters, assume it’s true?

The answer is that Mrs. Clinton has been in America’s national life for a quarter-century, and in that time people watched, observed and got an impression of her character.

If you give the prompt “Clinton scandal” to someone under 30, they might say “emails,” or Benghazi” or “Clinton Foundation,” or now “health questions.” But for those who are older, whose memories encompass the Clinton era, the scandals stretch back further, all the way to her beginnings as a national figure.

Seventeen years ago, when word first came that Mrs. Clinton might come to New York, a state where she’d never lived, and seek its open U.S. Senate seat, I wrote a book called “The Case Against Hillary Clinton.” It asserted that she would win and use the Senate to run for president, likely in 2008. That, I argued, was a bad thing. In the previous eight years she’d done little to elevate our politics and much to lower it. So I laid out the case as best I could, starting with the first significant scandal of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

It is worth revisiting to make a point about why her poll numbers on trustworthiness are so bad.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

John Cochrane's testimony before the House Committee on Budget

JC's testimony is very interesting - with lots of good ideas about how to increase the economy's growth rate.  Here is the link.

Here are some excerpts.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Sclerotic growth is our country's most fundamental economic problem.2 From 1950 to 2000, our economy grew at 3.6% per year.3 Since 2000, it has grown at barely half that rate, 1.8% per year. Even starting at the bottom of the recession in 2009, usually a period of super-fast catch-up growth, it has grown at just over 2% per year. Growth per person fell from 2.3% to 0.9%, and since the recession has been 1.3%. 

I'm here to tell you the most plausible answer is simple, clear, sensible, and much more difficult. Our legal and regulatory system is slowly strangling the golden goose of growth. There is no single Big Fix. Each market, industry, law, and agency is screwed up in its own particular way, and needs patient reform. 

Economic regulation, law and policy all slow growth by their nature. Growth comes from new ideas, new products, new processes, new ways of doing things, and most of these embodied in new companies. And these upend old companies, and displace their workers, both of whom come to Washington pleading that you save them and their jobs. It is a painful process. It is natural that the administration, regulatory agencies, and you, listen and try to protect them. But every time we protect an old company, an old industry, or an old job, from innovation and competition, we slow down growth. 

Regulation is too discretionary --you can't read the rules and know what to do, you have to ask for permission granted on regulators' whim. No wonder that the revolving door revolves faster and faster, oiled by more and more money.

Regulatory decisions take forever. Just deciding on the Keystone Pipeline or California's high speed train --I pick examples from left and right on purpose --takes longer than it did to build the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. By hand.

Regulation has lost rule-of-law protections. You often can't see the evidence, challenge witnesses, or appeal. The agency is cop, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner all rolled in to one. [And, a Congressman pointed out during the discussion, recipient of collected fines.]

Most dangerous of all, regulation and associated legal action are becoming more politicized. Each week brings a new scandal. Last week10, we learned how the Government shut down ITT tech, but not the well-connected Laureate International. The IRS still targets conservative groups11. The week before, we learned how the company that makes Epi-pens, headed by the daughter of a Senator, got the FDA to block its competitors, Congress to mandate its products, and jacked up the price of an item that costs a few bucks to $600. This is a bi-partisan danger. For example, presidential candidate Donald Trump has already threatened to use the power of the government against people who donate to opponents' campaigns.12

Congress can take back its control of the regulatory process. Write no more thousand-page bills with vague authorizations. Fight back hard when agencies exceed their authorization. Insist on objective and retrospective cost benefit analysis. Put in rule-of law protections, including discovery of how agencies make decisions. Insist on strict timelines --if an agency takes more than a year to rule on a request, it's granted.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Does Hillary have Parkinson's disease?

Here are links to two videos that try to make the case that Hillary has Parkinson's disease.  I do not have the medical expertise to evaluate them, nor do I know the speaker's credentials - but the videos are thought provoking.

Link 1

Link 2

An opposing position, at Snopes, can be found here.

Impressive Model Airplanes

Here is a link to a video that shows impressive model airplanes.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Charles Krauthammer has Obama's number

Here is a column by Charles Krauthammer.  CK is on target,  sadly.
-----------------------------------------------------------

Incident in Hangzhou: Obama's humiliation in China is a sign --- and the world is paying attention

The president of the United States lands with all the majesty of Air Force One, waiting to exit the front door and stride down the rolling staircase to the red-carpeted tarmac. Except that there is no rolling staircase. He is forced to exit - as one China expert put it rather undiplomatically - through "the ass" of the plane.

This happened Saturday at Hangzhou airport. Yes, in China. If the Chinese didn't invent diplomatic protocol, they surely are its most venerable and experienced practitioners. They've been at it for 4,000 years. They are the masters of every tributary gesture, every nuance of hierarchical ritual. In a land so exquisitely sensitive to protocol, rolling staircases don't just disappear at arrival ceremonies. Indeed, not one of the other G-20 world leaders was left stranded on his plane upon arrival.

Did President Xi Jinping directly order airport personnel and diplomatic functionaries to deny Barack Obama a proper welcome? Who knows? But the message, whether intentional or not, wasn't very subtle. The authorities expressed no regret, no remorse, and certainly no apology. On the contrary, they scolded the press for even reporting the snub.

No surprise. China's ostentatious rudeness was perfectly reflective of the world's general disdain for President Obama. His high-minded lectures about global norms and demands that others live up to their "international obligations" are no longer amusing. They're irritating.

Foreign leaders have reciprocated by taking this administration down a notch knowing they pay no price. In May 2013, Vladimir Putin reportedly kept the U.S. secretary of state cooling his heels for three hours outside his office before deigning to receive him. Even as Obama was hailing the nuclear deal with Iran as a great breakthrough, the ayatollah vowed "no change" in his policy, which remained diametrically opposed to the "U.S. arrogant system." The mullahs followed by openly conducting illegal ballistic-missile tests - calculating, correctly, that Obama would do nothing. And when Iran took prisoner ten American sailors in the Persian Gulf, made them kneel, and broadcast the video, what was the U.S. response? Upon their release, John Kerry publicly thanked Iran for its good conduct.

Why should Xi treat Obama with any greater deference? Beijing illegally expands into the South China Sea, meeting only the most perfunctory pushback from the United States. Obama told CNN that he warned Xi to desist or "there will be consequences." Is there a threat less credible?

Putin annexes Crimea and Obama crows about the isolation he has imposed on Russia. Look around. Moscow has become Grand Central Station for Middle East leaders seeking outside help in their various conflicts. As for Ukraine, both the French president and the German chancellor have hastened to Moscow to plead with Putin to make peace. Some isolation.

Iran regularly harasses our vessels in the Persian Gulf. Russian fighters buzzed a U.S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea. And just Wednesday, a Russian fighter flew within ten feet of an American military jet. The price they paid? Being admonished that such provocations are unsafe and unprofessional. An OSHA citation is more ominous.

Add to that American acquiescence not only to ransoming hostages held by Iran but also to delivering the loot by unmarked plane filled with stacks of cold (untraceable) cash, like a desert drug deal. Why the stealth? Obviously to conceal the manner of the transaction from Congress and the American public. Some humiliations are so grotesque that even the Obama team can't miss it.

Now the latest. At the G-20, Obama said he spoke to Putin about cyberwarfare, amid revelations that Russian hackers have been interfering in our political campaigns. We are more technologically advanced, both offensively and defensively, in this arena than any of our adversaries, said Obama, but we really don't want another Cold War-style arms race.

Instead, we must all adhere to norms of international behavior.

It makes you want to weep. This KGB thug adhering to norms? He invades Ukraine, annexes Crimea, bombs hospitals in Aleppo - and we expect him to observe cyber-code etiquette? Rather than exploit our technological lead - with countermeasures and deterrent threats - to ensure our own cyber safety?

We're back to 1929 when Secretary of State Henry Stimson shut down a U.S. code-breaking operation after it gave him decoded Japanese telegrams. He famously explained that "gentlemen do not read each other's mail."

Well, comrade, Putin is no gentleman. And he's reading our mail.