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InsiderOnline Blog: May 2014

To Do: Remember the Victims of Tiananmen Square, Examine China’s Human Rights Practices

Learn about the human rights situation in China on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng will talk with American Enterprise Institute president Arthur C. Brooks. The conversation will begin at 1:45 p.m. at the American Enterprise Institute on June 3.

Examine the connection between liberty and character. The Beacon Center of Tennessee will host a talk by Lawrence Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education. Reed will speak at the Nashville City Club on June 3 at 6 p.m.

Show what a great communicator for liberty you are by entering Think Freely’s Great Communicators Tournament. All you have to do is make a one- to three-minute video in which you take the moral high ground while making an argument for liberty. Submissions are due by July 15. Twelve finalists will be selected to compete in the Great Communicators Tournament at the State Policy Network’s Annual Meeting in Denver in September.

Discover whether administrative law is even lawful. Philip Hamburger, Professor of Law at Columbia University, thinks it is not, and he’ll explain why at the Cato Institute at noon on June 5.

Find out how sex education courses have become caught in the crosshairs of the “war on women” debate. Valerie Huber, President of the National Abstinence Education Association, will speak at the Family Research Council at noon on June 4.

Learn how the Left want to amend the First Amendment so they can stifle criticism of elected officials. The Heritage Foundation will host a panel discussion featuring Bobby Burchfield, who argued the recent and important McCutcheon case before the Supreme Court; Don McGahn, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission; and Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. The discussion will begin at 2 p.m. on June 2.

Cartoonists, get your submissions in for the Center for International Private Enterprise’s 2014 Global Editorial Cartoon Competition. Hurry—the submission deadline is June 2.

• Check out The Daily Signal, The Heritage Foundation’s new media platform, launching June 3.

Posted on 05/30/14 09:54 PM by Alex Adrianson

Image of the Week: Federal Regulations Now Contain Over 1 Million Restrictions

How many of those regulations are beneficial on net? How would anybody know? As Patrick McLaughlin and Richard Williams point out: “The American regulatory system has no working, systematic process for reviewing regulations for obsolescence or poor performance […] .” [Mercatus Center, May 27]

Maybe the federal government should take a cue from Minnesota and hold an “unsession”:

It’s no longer a crime in Minnesota to carry fruit in an illegally sized container. The state’s telegraph regulations are gone. And it’s now legal to drive a car in neutral – if you can figure out how to do it.

Those were among the 1,175 obsolete, unnecessary and incomprehensible laws that Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature repealed this year as part of the governor’s “unsession” initiative. His goal was to make state government work better, faster and smarter.

“I think we’re off to a very good start,” Dayton said Tuesday at a Capitol news conference.

In addition to getting rid of outdated laws, the project made taxes simpler, cut bureaucratic red tape, speeded up business permits and required state agencies to communicate in plain language. [St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 27]

As the governor said: A very good start.

Posted on 05/30/14 08:34 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Dose of Rachel Carson Makes the Poison

May 27 was the 107th birthday of Rachel Carson, and Google decided to devote a doodle to celebrating the environmentalist on its homepage. Carson is most famous for her 1962 book Silent Spring, which warned of the detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment. Carson’s warnings were particularly influential in curbing the use of DDT, an insecticide that had been widely used in agriculture and to control mosquito-spread malaria and typhus. The book is not without its critics, including Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institute. In 2012, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring, Miller wrote that the book was “an emotionally charged but deeply flawed denunciation of the widespread spraying of chemical pesticides for the control of insects.” Miller continued:

In the words of Professor Robert H. White-Stevens, an agriculturist and biology professor at Rutgers University, “If man were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth.”

In 1992, San Jose State University entomologist J. Gordon Edwards, a long-time member of the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society and a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, offered a persuasive and comprehensive rebuttal of “Silent Spring.” As he explained in “The Lies of Rachel Carson,” a stunning, point by point refutation, “it simply dawned on me that that Rachel Carson was not interested in the truth about [pesticides] and that I was being duped along with millions of other Americans.” He demolished Carson’s arguments and assertions, calling attention to critical omissions, faulty assumptions, and outright fabrications.

Consider, for example, this passage from Edwards’ article: “This implication that DDT is horribly deadly is completely false. Human volunteers have ingested as much as 35 milligrams of it a day for nearly two years and suffered no adverse effects. Millions of people have lived with DDT intimately during the mosquito spray programs and nobody even got sick as a result. The National Academy of Sciences concluded in 1965 that ‘in a little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million [human] deaths that would otherwise have been inevitable.’ The World Health Organization stated that DDT had ‘killed more insects and saved more people than any other substance.’”

In addition, DDT was used with dramatic effect to shorten and prevent typhus epidemics during and after WWII when people were dusted with large amounts of it but suffered no ill effects, which is perhaps the most persuasive evidence that the chemical is harmless to humans. The product was such a boon to public health that in 1948 the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Dr. Paul Müller for his discovery of the “contact insecticidal action” of DDT. [Forbes, September 5, 2012]

Also in 2012, Roger Meiners and Andrew Morris examined the book in some detail, highlighting the book’s impact on the mindset of the environmental movement. They noted that Carson was inconsistent in claiming on the one hand that she was against only the overzealous application of pesticides while also suggesting that policy should strive to reduce chemical residues to zero. Meiners and Morris:

The problem is that a “no-residue” policy is tantamount to a no-use policy. As Larry Katzenstein explains‚ Carson’s rhetorical question is an articulation of the present-day environmentalists’ version of the precautionary principle. Carson’s view that policy regarding synthetic chemicals should be “no risk” was not uncommon in her time‚ as exemplified in the Delaney Amendment. The policy is not only unrealistic but poses significant harm […] .

The contradiction could be reconciled by striving to balance the risks and benefits of not using pesticides against those of using them. Many of Carson’s disciples‚ however‚ do not favor such balancing of the risks of using DDT versus the risk of abandoning its use. This is evident from their support of a global ban on all DDT uses prior to the signing of the Stockholm Convention’s ban on persistent organic pesticides and the continuing efforts to phase out DDT despite its public health benefits. [“Silent Spring at 50: Reflections on an Environmental Classic,” by Roger Meiners and Andrew Morris, Property and Environment Research Center, April 2012]

See also: “Rachel Was Wrong: Agrochemicals’ Benefit to Human Health and the Environment,” by Angela Logomasini, Competitive Enterprise Institute, November 2012.

Posted on 05/30/14 08:14 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Insider: Why the Obama Foreign Policy Has Been a Disaster

Making the world safe for classical liberal values like individual liberty, free trade, and constitutionally constrained government requires a foreign policy that does more than just not start wars. Our cover story for the Spring 2014 issue takes up that theme. The editor’s note:

If you follow the news, you probably know that a Select Committee of the House of Representatives is investigating whether the Obama administration has been sufficiently forthcoming about the security situation in Benghazi in the fall of 2012 and about how it responded to terrorist attacks on U.S. government facilities there on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. In particular, investigators are trying to determine why the administration downplayed terrorism and insisted that the attack had been merely a spontaneous protest against an Internet video that got out of hand.

Indeed, there are unanswered questions about Benghazi, but one thing we do know is that Islamist terrorism has not gone away. That was clear enough when we learned that the supposed spontaneous demonstration in Benghazi consisted entirely of men bearing rocket launchers driving trucks displaying Ansar al-Sharia logos. Two years later, foreign policy failures abound. Russia is in the Crimea, democratic reformers have been marginalized in the Middle East, and nobody takes our “red lines” seriously, to name just a few.

The problem, as Mackubin Thomas Owens explains, is that the Obama administrations thinks peace and order are the natural conditions of world affairs, and that military force is only an alternative to diplomacy not an integral part of an overall diplomatic strategy. These confusions leave the administration unable to meet the challenges of maintaining a world order based on liberal democracy and open trade. And that is a tragedy for the whole world, not merely the United States.

Also in this issue, we have Bob Moffit and Nina Owcharenko reminding us that fixing health care doesn’t mean just repealing ObamaCare; it means implementing the consumer-oriented reforms that conservatives have been championing for decades. Nathaniel Ward and Tim McGovern show how a culture of testing can help you improve your marketing. Mike Gonzalez reveals the Left’s complaints about partisan commentary to be rather, well, partisan. And finally, if you’ve ever wondered what studies actually show about which policies lead to economic growth, then you should read John Hood’s summary of the literature.

Posted on 05/30/14 04:36 PM by Alex Adrianson

There’s No Theory in That Theory

There’s something missing from Thomas Piketty’s argument (contained in his bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century) that year-in and year-out the returns to capital exceed the growth rate of the economy as a whole. As Don Boudreaux points out, Piketty offers no explanation for why that must be so:

The entire tenor of Piketty’s volume suggests that he thinks capital reproduces itself, both from the perspective of its individual owners and from the perspective of society at large.

The creativity and fortitude of entrepreneurs, the skillful risk-taking by investors and the insight and effort of managers are all strangely absent throughout Piketty’s performance. These very fonts of modern prosperity are at best assumed to play uninterestingly routine and unseen roles backstage. Onstage, capital—the stuff that is in fact created and skillfully steered by flesh-and-blood entrepreneurs, investors and managers—appears to grow spontaneously, without human involvement. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 27]

Of course, when you attempt to explain economic conditions—like inequality—you run the risk of discovering that capitalism might not be the problem. For example, here is this point from Robert Murphy:

[…] Mother Jones loved this chart showing income inequality soaring in the late 1920s and in the mid-2000s: Look everyone, if we let the 1% earn too much, it sets the world up for a giant financial crash! But actually what happened is that loose monetary policy drove down interest rates, thereby fueling asset price booms, which showed up as huge income (in the form of capital gains) accruing disproportionately in the hands of the wealthy. It’s not surprising that these Fed-fueled asset bubbles eventually collapsed, leading to the Great Depression and Great Recession. To prevent a repeat, the government doesn’t need to confiscate property from the super-rich; instead the Fed needs to stop inflating asset bubbles. [Rare, May 29]

Posted on 05/30/14 03:53 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Contradictions of European Union

A report on Greece, from Alexander Skouras:

Golden Dawn’s rise from a tiny group of radical Hitler-sympathizers to the third largest party in Greece occurred when the Greek economy was collapsing. The origins of this crisis are well-known and well-documented: excessive borrowing, low productivity, corruption, and a profligate welfare state. At the height of the crisis the entire nation was angry; the people felt betrayed by their political elites. The Nazi party arose from the need to blame outsiders and to feel special. […]

In this political climate Golden Dawn rose from 0.3 percent of the vote in 2009 to approximately 7 percent in the 2012 national elections. For the last year many analysts thought that the prosecution of Golden Dawn members on charges of organized crime and the imprisonment of many of its elected leaders, including General Secretary Nikos Michaloliakos, would keep the party from further electoral success. But the May 18 municipal and gubernatorial elections and the May 25 European ones told a different story. Golden Dawn received 9.4 percent of the European parliamentary vote, enough to elect three members. Among them there are two former high-ranking army officers. The week before that, in Athens, the country’s capital and largest city, Golden Dawn’s municipal candidate and MP, Ilias Kassidiaris, who made global headlines when he slapped a female communist MP on live television, gathered 16 percent of the vote, securing him fourth place in a close election. Ilias Panagiotaros, Golden Dawn’s gubernatorial candidate in Attica, the region that includes Athens and its suburbs, won 11 percent and also finished fourth.

From these results it is safe to assume that Golden Dawn is no longer merely the beneficiary of a protest vote. The Greek electorate has been fully informed of the party’s Nazi affiliation, Holocaust denial, anti-immigrant slurs, and raw violence in the streets of Athens. We can now safely conclude that Greece has a viable, robust, and dangerous national socialist political force. [AtlasOne, May 28]

Wasn’t preventing a rebirth of nationalist parties the point of a united Europe?

Posted on 05/30/14 03:52 PM by Alex Adrianson

Beth March, Scarlet Fever, and Thomas Piketty

One secret to Thomas Piketty’s success in selling Americans his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century is his embrace of great literature. Piketty retells key moments in Honore de Balzac’s Pere Goriot to illustrate the importance of inheritance in the 19th century and draws on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park when he discusses the value and the vexation of overseas investments. Piketty’s insight is that books capture the sense and flavor of their era—and occasionally report typical prices and incomes.

The writers of the past are equally valuable for illuminating the astounding progress of economic growth in the past two hundred years, a fact Piketty acknowledges but to which he devotes little ink. Reading Capital, one comes away with the impression that the distribution of wealth and income is the central fact of each era: He reports most statistics as percentages of national income. But when per-person national income was doubling every generation, it was surely a more noticeable phenomenon than a few percentage points of national wealth more or less in the portfolios of the top centile.

Long-term comparisons of income levels are tricky: How many buggy whips is an iPhone worth? Stories of human life under different conditions can help us appreciate the immensity of growth.

In One Thousand and One Nights, hilarity ensues when characters meet in the dark and fail to recognize one another. Artificial light was expensive. Roger Fouquet and Peter J. G. Pearson estimate that a dollar’s worth of lighting in the year 2000 would have cost $3,000 two centuries before. Like all long-term economic growth, the cheapness of modern light comes from applying free enterprise to technological innovation. At times, the British government stood athwart history, taxing windows and Dutch whale oil. [“Seven Centuries of Energy Services: The Price and Use of Light in the United Kingdom (1300-2000)“ by Roger Fouquet and Peter J.G. Pearson, The Energy Journal, Vol. 27, No. 1 (2006)]

In Little Women, Beth March dies of strep throat (scarlet fever) despite being an affluent New Englander. Today, an antibiotic would have cured her quickly, and the entire episode might warrant a few Facebook status updates. Oliver Twist is thrown into a life of poverty and loneliness by the death of his mother in childbirth, a common occurrence in 19th-century London. The advances in medicine alone make the era of enterprise and innovation a success.

Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days celebrates the breakneck speed of an era of dynamic growth and technological progress. Steam, rail, and telegraphy remade the world in a generation.

Although Piketty has introduced some new data on the distribution of income and wealth in different eras, we should not lose sight of the great progress that has lifted all standards of living since the times of Charles Dickens and Jules Verne.

—by Salim Furth

Posted on 05/29/14 12:15 PM by Alex Adrianson

A Note from Martin Feldstein

A couple of weeks ago, we pointed to some analysis by Martin Feldstein on the inequality argument put forth by Thomas Piketty in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Feldstein had pointed out that Piketty was looking at U.S. income tax return data, which is misleading because the tax reforms of 1986 encouraged high earners to increase the amount of income reported on individual income tax returns. The income didn’t change so much as how it was counted on tax forms.

Dr. Feldstein has let us know that his article, originally published behind a paywall at Wall Street Journal, is now available ungated at www.nber.org/feldstein/wsj05152014.pdf.

Piketty’s book, we see, is still in the news—perhaps more so this week than in previous weeks—because of some questions about his data. Those who are following the argument should be sure to read Dr. Feldstein’s contribution.

Posted on 05/28/14 05:53 PM by Alex Adrianson

Reasons an Article V Convention Would Not Give Conservatives What They Want

The main problem with the country’s constitutional set-up, says Trent England, is not the words of the Constitution but a lack of fidelity to what those words mean. Amending the Constitution will just give liberals different words to ignore. England is the Executive Vice President of the Freedom Foundation, Washington State’s free-market think tank. Talking with the Daily Caller’s Ginny Thomas, England outlines some other reasons conservatives should be wary of an Article V constitutional convention.

For one thing, says England, the convention would not necessarily work the way conservatives imagine it would work. Convention delegates would have their own constitutional standing, and their work could not simply be constrained by an act of Congress. Furthermore, says England, sitting federal judges—most of whom are not conservatives—would likely play a bigger role than Congress in shaping any convention.

Also, it’s not easy to amend the Constitution and conservatives might be wiser to invest their resources pushing other levers of change (e.g., the Senate). And England notes that it’s probably a good thing that the Constitution is hard to amend because the Left has bigger dreams of changing the Constitution that conservatives do; there’s a lot of freedom that could be lost at an Article V convention, too.

Posted on 05/28/14 05:36 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Point of Federalism Is to Protect the Rights of the People, Not the Rights of States

Noting the rash of stories about new federal requirements for school lunches, David Corbin and Matt Parks point out how inadequate is the Republican waiver-based defense of federalism, which they say “simply shovels a little less dirt on [federalism’s] grave”:

Approximately one out of every fourteen Americans is a government employee today, compared to one in twenty-two Americans in 1955. The greatest part of the total increase of government employees amounts to the enlargement of state and local government employment. It matters little if the lunch lady pouring chocolate milk down the sink and serving fruits and vegetables is a local government employee if her job ultimately depends on monies slopped out by federal bureaucrats wielding carrot sticks.

Which brings us to the third part of Madison’s argument as to why the proposed federal republic was a great improvement over the earlier confederation; namely, its powers would be “few,” “defined,” and “exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” Madison likely never could have imagined the Federal government adding management of sodium intake to this list as the American people sat listless on the political sidelines.

As troubling as the death of federalism is, we need more fundamental reform, as the Republican response to the school lunch mandates makes clear. There is, after all, an even more important third leg to the governing stool, implicit in Madison’s argument, but made explicit in the 10th Amendment: the people. Often conservatives read that Amendment as if it is meant to protect the rights of the states. But it is much better understood, both textually and historically, as an attempt to protect the people’s distribution of powers among themselves, the states and the national government. If we really want to restore 10th Amendment government, we’ll need to work much harder at removing power from both state and federal hands than at replacing the divine right of the Washington King with the divine right of state Barons. [The Federalist, May 26]

Michael Greve made a similar argument in a recent issue of The Insider:

The balance question isn’t just beside the point; it is an assault on the foundations of the republic. To quote Madison’s impassioned language in Federalist 45:

Was ... the American revolution effected, was the American Confederacy formed, was the precious blood of thousands spilt, and the hard-earned substance of millions lavished, not that the people of America should enjoy peace, liberty, and safety, but that the government of the individual states, that particular municipal establishments, might enjoy a certain extent of power, and be arrayed with certain dignities and attributes of sovereignty?

The answer he is trying to evoke is: Hell, no. […]

States are Purely Instrumental. If they can advance the “real welfare of the great body of the people,” good for them. If they stand as a hindrance, ignore them or get rid of them. That is the fundamental calculus and the irreducible premise of the United States Constitution. The cartel federalism we have is profoundly state-friendly: It serves the interests of the political class. The constitutional, competitive federalism we need is citizen-friendly: It would discipline government, not help it grow. [“But What Kind of Federalism?“ by Michael S. Greve, The Insider, Winter 2013.]

Posted on 05/28/14 02:46 PM by Alex Adrianson

A Teeth-Cleaning Cartel

Low-income people in Arkansas used to be able to get their teeth cleaned cheaply, thanks to Dr. Ben Burris. Now, instead of paying $99 (or $69 for children), they have to pay hundreds of dollars for a cleaning. Burris, who is a dentist, had to stop offering the cleanings because the state board of dental examiners told him that he couldn’t offer basic dental services.

According to the board, Arkansas law says dentists can’t offer dental services if they are also licensed as a specialist. Burris is a licensed orthodontist. Orthodontists, by the way, normally employ dental hygienists who clean teeth, and that’s all perfectly legal as long as the teeth getting cleaned also get fitted for braces later.

Of course, the restriction on specialists offering services outside their specialty has nothing to do with protecting consumers and everything to do with limiting competition in basic dental services—so that dentists can charge more. No patients had complained about Burris’s service. At a hearing of the dental board, notes the Institute for Justice, “Board members and general dentists condemned Ben for offering the cleanings. There was no allegation that Ben had endangered, much less harmed, anyone.”

On behalf of Burris and his colleague Elizabeth Grohl, IJ filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the board of dental examiners. The lawsuit contends that the restriction against specialists offering basic dental services serves no purpose except to protect general dentists from competition, and that the restriction thus violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection, Due Process and Privileges or Immunities Clauses.

Posted on 05/27/14 05:54 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Remember Those Who Sacrificed

• Monday is Memorial Day, so take a moment to remember those men and women, soldiers and sailors and airmen, who sacrificed so that we could be free. [Photo at right from The Official Website of Arlington National Cemetery]

Consider whether the Senate needs a little more gridlock. James Wallner will discuss his book The Death of Deliberation: Partisanship and Polarization in the United States Senate. Wallner’s talk will begin at noon on May 28 at The Heritage Foundation.

Examine the state of religious liberty in the military. Rep. John Fleming (R - La.) will speak at the Family Research Council at noon on May 28.

Hear the evidence that tax levels do indeed matter. The Heritage Foundation will host Arthur Laffer, Rex Sinquefield, and Stephen Moore discussing their book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States: How Taxes, Energy, and Worker Freedom will Change the Balance of Power Among States. The discussion will begin at noon on May 29.

Learn about the escalating costs and challenges of Medicaid under ObamaCare. The Cato Institute will host a discussion of what state policymakers can do to get Medicaid under control. The discussion will begin at noon on May 27.

Get out your nice clothes and have a ball at the Annual America’s Future Foundation Gala. The fun will begin at 7 p.m. on May 28 at the Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.

Examine the connection between economic liberty and human flourishing. The American Enterprise Institute will host a panel discussing the importance of economic liberty in the moral philosophies of the West’s great thinkers. The event will begin at 5:15 p.m. on May 27 at the American Enterprise Institute.

Confab with your tax reform allies from 54 countries at the World Taxpayers Conference in Vancouver Canada. The conference will run from May 29 to May 31.

Posted on 05/23/14 10:59 PM by Alex Adrianson

Two-thirds of Climate Scientists Are Not Part of the Climate Consensus

If you take the time to look into it and then read carefully, you’ll discover that the claim that 97 percent of climate scientists believe in climate change is “self-serving political tommyrot,” says Steve Hayward. Hayward observes that “[t]he most prominent form of [the claim] comes from Prof. John Cook of the University of Queensland in a paper published last year that purported to have reviewed over 11,000 climate science articles.” The key passage from Cook’s research:

We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on [Anthropogenic Global Warming], 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.

In other words, says Hayward, “[m]any of these articles do not take a position on the magnitude of possible future warming, and fewer still embrace giving the car keys over to Al Gore.” And then:

The plot thickens. Prof. Cook refused to share his data with anyone. Shades of the East Anglia mob and their tree ring data. But also like the East Anglia mob, someone at the University of Queensland left the data in the ether of the internet, and blogger Brandon Shollenberger came across it and starting noting its weaknesses. Then the predictable thing happened: the University of Queensland claims that the data was hacked, and sent Shollenbeger a cease-and-desist letter. That just speaks lots of confidence and transparency, doesn’t it? [Powerline, May 18]

Posted on 05/23/14 10:13 PM by Alex Adrianson

A Free Market Hero

On Wednesday, the Cato Institute awarded Leszek Balcerowitz with its biennial Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty for his role in freeing the post-Communist Polish economy. Michael Tanner details the magnitude of Balcerowitz’s accomplishment:

When Balcerowicz became deputy prime minister and minister of finance in 1989, Poland’s economy, like those of most Eastern European countries, was a basket case. The country’s debt exceeded two-thirds of its GDP. Inflation ran as high as 250 percent per year. Both national income and productivity were declining, while basic consumer goods were often in short supply.

Balcerowicz rejected Keynesianism, choosing instead policies dubbed by both supporters and opponents as “shock therapy.” Prices were deregulated, and Balcerowicz balanced the budget by slashing government spending. State-owned enterprises (SOEs) were sold off: Almost 1,900 were directly privatized in the first half of the decade, and many more were liquidated or had to declare bankruptcy because they were inefficient and unable to compete in a market economy. The sales and closings removed these distortions from the economy.

Balcerowicz vigorously pursued a free-trade agenda, cutting tariffs and other import barriers. He was an early advocate of social-security privatization and helped set the stage for the introduction of privately invested personal accounts as part of Poland’s national pension system.

It was not a painless process, of course. Initially, unemployment spiked. Economic output continued to decline, driven in part by former state enterprises that failed to adapt to market competition. There were protests. Political opponents both inside and outside Poland attacked him. The EU and other institutions told him to alter his policies. His political popularity plummeted. Yet Balcerowicz refused to change course.

Within a few years, Poland was on the road to recovery. By 1992, just two years into the Balcerowicz plan, inflation had been largely tamed. Shortly thereafter, the economy began to grow again. Foreign investment has poured into the country, with some 6,000 foreign firms opening operations since 1990. In the years since Balcerowicz implemented his reforms, Poland’s real GDP has doubled, and today the average Polish income is roughly equivalent to that of Portugal. [National Review, May 21]

Posted on 05/23/14 09:42 PM by Alex Adrianson

How to Support Marriage and Freedom

Is it “game over” on marriage? No, says Ryan Anderson, who offers a detailed strategy for protecting and promoting marriage. Here are, paraphrased, the six elements of Anderson’s plan:

• Defend the right of the states to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. After all, in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court said that the prerogative to define marriage belongs to the states.

• Advance the argument for the classically liberal form of limited government so as to protect the rights of individuals to follow their own conscience about marriage—including the right to not participate in same-sex weddings or recognize same-sex relationships as marriages.

• Continue to make the intellectual case for defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Anderson: “There is something perverse in conservatives thinking that ideas have consequences but that good ideas can’t persuade.”

• Emulate free market supporters success in building a movement. Winning on marriage will require a more diverse network of socially conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, media outlets, and university programs.

• And don’t forget the role of the church: “No matter what, the church will play a central role in shaping opinions on marriage. If it chooses to remain rather silent, it will shape opinion by default. On the other hand, it can rise to the occasion in developing a compelling response to the sexual revolution. And it possesses the only fully satisfying response.”

• Learn how to take the long view of the fight, as the pro-life movement has done in the battle for life.

Read the whole thing: “Six Things You Can Do to Support Marriage and Freedom,” by Ryan T. Anderson, May 23, The Foundry.

Posted on 05/23/14 09:29 PM by Alex Adrianson

Image of the Week: How Maritime Protectionism Makes Things More Expensive

Here’s an image that shows the absurdity of the Jones Act, which requires “that any goods shipped by water between two points in the United States must be transported on a U.S.-built, U.S.-flagged, and at least 75 percent U.S.-crewed vessel.”

[“Sink the Jones Act: Restoring America’s Competitive Advantage in Maritime-Related Industries,” by Brian Slattery, Bryan Riley, and Nicolas Loris, The Heritage Foundation, May 22.]

Posted on 05/23/14 09:00 PM by Alex Adrianson

ObamaCare—Now with Less Transparency

According to PoliticoPro, there will be no more monthly reports on ObamaCare enrollment. Even though the open enrollment period has ended, people can still drop out and re-enroll. Without regular enrollment reports, we can’t be sure an insurance death spiral isn’t happening, explains Michael Cannon:

I have written at some length about the huge incentives ObamaCare creates to drop one’s coverage and wait until sick to re-enroll, and how those incentives threaten the stability of the law’s health insurance Exchanges. Basically, if you drop your coverage, (1) avoiding the penalty is fairly straightforward, (2) you can get re-enroll the following January no matter how sick you get, and (3) in many cases, ObamaCare lets you enroll in coverage before January, again no matter how sick you get. If healthy enrollees become aware of and act on this perverse incentive, the Exchange pools will grow sicker, premiums will rise further, and the Exchanges could collapse.

[…] [I]f attrition overwhelms new enrollment, it could mean that consumers find Exchange plans too expensive relative to job-based coverage, or that the poor quality of Exchange coverage is causing people to flee, or that people are gaming the system in the above manner. You would think this is something worth monitoring. And it is. HHS just doesn’t want you monitoring it. [Forbes, May 22]

Posted on 05/23/14 08:52 PM by Alex Adrianson

The IRS’s Threat to Free Speech Has Been Delayed

The Internal Revenue Service announced on Thursday that it would scrap its proposed rules that sought to limit political activity by tax exempt non-profits. The agency said it would rewrite them next year. The IRS had received an unprecedented number of comments about the rules—150,000—and many of those comments were negative. Both liberal and conservative nonprofits had criticized the proposed rules for proposing to define candidate-related political activity so broadly as to chill a significant amount of discourse about public policy issues. [Politico, May 22]

Attorney Cleta Mitchell, who has done more than just about anyone to educate the public about the threat posed to free speech rights by the IRS’s rules, told Newsmax that she expects the fight to resume next year:

“I wish they would have said that ‘if we do decide that we need regulations, we’re going to have hearings first and hear what people have to say, and we’re not going to continue this process in secret behind closed doors,’” she said. “So that’s the part that worries me, is what are they going to do next?”

“Every agency, every federal agency is supposed to publish online and you’re supposed to be able to look and see what regulations they’re working on,” she explained. “Except, they didn’t do that. They didn’t add this rule making to their plans until two days before they issued it.”

The Washington attorney said that the reason the IRS must function in such secrecy is because “the things that they do and the things that they’re trying to do cannot withstand the scrutiny in the light of day.” [Newsmax, May 23]

Posted on 05/23/14 08:32 PM by Alex Adrianson

Veterans Hospitals Show How Successful Government-Run Health Care Is, Said Liberals

Of course, that was before the Arizona Republic reported last month that at least 40 veterans had died while waiting for appointments at the Phoenix VA hospital and before CNN reported last month that the hospital’s managers had created a secret wait list and shredded documents in an attempt to hide the fact that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a primary care physician. [“Deaths at Phoenix VA Hospital May Be Tied to Delayed Care,” by Dennis Wagner, Arizona Republic, April 10; and “A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital's secret list,” by Scott Bronstein and Drew Griffin, CNN, April 30]

Since then other problems have come to light at veterans hospitals around the country, including those in Fort Collins, Colo.; Austin and San Antonio; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Durham, N.C.; St. Louis; and Chicago. [See Avik Roy’s rundown of the problems in his article “No, the VA Isn’t a Preview of Obamacare—It’s Much Worse,” Forbes, May 23, 2014]

Back in 2011, Paul Krugman wanted us to think the Veterans Health Administration offered lessons for health care policy:

Multiple surveys have found the V.H.A. providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers. Furthermore, the V.H.A. has led the way in cost-saving innovation, especially the use of electronic medical records.

What’s behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense. And because V.H.A. patients are in it for the long term, the agency has a stronger incentive to invest in prevention than private insurers, many of whose customers move on after a few years.

And yes, this is “socialized medicine”—although some private systems, like Kaiser Permanente, share many of the V.H.A.’s virtues. But it works—and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of U.S. health care more broadly. [New York Times, November 13, 2011]

And in 2009 Ezra Klein wanted to let everyone go to Veterans Hospitals:

If you crudely ordered America’s different health-care systems from least government control to most, it would look something like this: individual insurance market, employer-based insurance market, Medicare, Veterans Health Administration (Medicare is single-payer, but VA is actually socialized medicine, where the government owns the hospitals and employs the doctors).

If you ordered America’s different health systems worst-functioning to best, it would look like this: individual insurance market, employer-based insurance market, Medicare, Veterans Health Administration.

That symmetry should get more attention in the health-care discussion than it does. [Washington Post, June 3, 2009]

Posted on 05/23/14 07:47 PM by Alex Adrianson

We’re Still Counting the Votes from 1964

George Will on the most consequential loser in American politics, Barry Goldwater:

Posted on 05/22/14 06:04 PM by Alex Adrianson

Why Does the Left Want Full Employment for Machines?

Rising labor costs—whether caused by higher minimum wages or ObamaCare mandates—run the risk of inducing employers to cut jobs and use more machines instead. How easy is it for businesses to substitute capital for labor? When it comes to low-skill, manual labor in restaurants—the kind of work most likely to pay the minimum wage—employers are already moving ahead with automation. Just a few examples from a report by Ira Stoll:

McDonald’s announced this month that it will deploy computer kiosks at 7,000 restaurants in Europe, allowing customers to place their own orders and pay by swiping their own credit card.

Another restaurant chain, Panera, is deploying the computer kiosks for customers in the U.S., a development that Bloomberg News reported under the headline, “More Kiosks, Fewer Cashiers Coming Soon to Panera.”

The fast-food trade publication QSR reports that a McDonald’s in Laguna Niguel, Calif., is experimenting with iPads that let customers customize their hamburgers. A White Castle in Columbus, Ohio, has deployed computer kiosks that let customers place their own orders, unassisted by a paid human being.

“Both Chili’s and Applebee’s recently announced that they are adding tablets throughout their restaurants, allowing customers to order and pay at their tables,” the QSR story says.

Nextep Systems, a Troy, Michigan-based firm that specializes in touch-screen self-order systems, says its sales for 2013 were up 50 percent from the prior year. At some point, you won’t even need the kiosk—you’ll be able to order from an app on your smartphone, maybe even before you arrive at the restaurant. [Newsmax, May 19]

When machines can do work more efficiently than humans, then it makes sense for employers to use them. That’s just creative destruction: Innovations that economize on the need for labor make us all more productive—and wealthy. But when minimum wage laws and other regulations artificially raise the price of labor relative to capital, then low-skilled workers lose jobs that would have benefitted both them and their employers.

By the way, the CEO of Panera has stated publicly that he supports raising the minimum wage. But given his company’s plans to use more automated kiosks, why wouldn’t he? It’s a way of raising the costs of Panera’s competitors for whom automated kiosks don’t make economic sense.

Posted on 05/21/14 01:50 PM by Alex Adrianson

Toolkit Tuesday: Does Your Nonprofit Need a Social Media Policy and How Do You Create One?

SparkFreedom had a webinar recently on what a social media policy is and why your non-profit might want to consider having one. Dave Buer of the Sutherland Institute and Sara Johnson of SparkFreedom discuss:

Posted on 05/20/14 05:27 PM by Alex Adrianson

ObamaCare Has a Real Constitutional Problem

One of the bad arguments peddled in defense of ObamaCare these days has to do with the lawsuit claiming that the Senate violated the constitutional requirement for revenue raising bills to start out as House bills (the Origination Clause). For example, according to the editors of the New York Times in the paper’s May 18 edition, there’s no problem on that front because: (1) ObamaCare was not primarily a revenue-raising measure; and (2) even if it was, the bill that became ObamaCare satisfies the Origination Clause because it “started out as a House bill to modify tax credits for certain first-time home buyers and increase the estimated tax payments owed by corporations.”

Would you believe that the facts are exactly contrary to the New York Times on both points—i.e., ObamaCare was a revenue-raising measure but the House “shell bill” was not? Randy Barnett explains:

[T]he House bill raised no revenue at all. It increased tax credits (thereby lowering revenue) and changed the timing and amount of certain estimated tax payments and penalties for nonpayment, which the courts have ruled are not the same thing as the underlying taxes themselves. So like most everything else surrounding the adoption and implementation of the ACA, the Senate messed up and chose a non-revenue raising House bill to “amend” so as to comply with the Origination Clause. […]

The very fact that the Senate went to the trouble of “amending” this House bill shows that the Democrats in the Senate believed — correctly — that the ACA was indeed a revenue bill. Of course it was, as it contained 20 or so new taxes, on a variety of things and activities, the revenue from which goes into the treasury’s general coffers. […]

If a gigantic bill containing numerous taxes raising revenue to pay for other measures is not a “bill for raising revenue” because it also includes many other non revenue provisions, then the Origination Clause is a mere drafting rule, rather than a constitutional requirement that taxes be originated in the House of Representatives and not in the Senate. [Washington Post, May 19]

Among the taxes in ObamaCare as originally passed were surtaxes on investment income, a hike in the Medicare payroll tax, an excise tax on so-called “Cadillac” health insurance plans, and taxes on both medical device manufacturers and innovator drug companies. Those taxes, at least when passed, were expected to raise $500 billion over the first 10 years of the law. Now that the 10-year estimating window includes more years in which the tax provisions are actually in effect, the tax take is more like $1 trillion and rising. [See, for example, the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate for the 2013-2022 period. Also see: “Full List of Obamacare Tax Hikes: Listed by Size of Tax Hike,” Americans for Tax Reform, June 29, 2012.]

Posted on 05/20/14 04:49 PM by Alex Adrianson

What’s the Problem with U.S. Foreign Policy?

Eliot Cohen sees a pattern:

Clues may be found in the president’s selfie with the attractive Danish prime minister at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in December; in State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki in March cheerily holding up a sign with the Twitter hashtag #UnitedForUkraine while giving a thumbs up; or Michelle Obama looking glum last week, holding up another Twitter sign: #BringBackOurGirls. It can be found in the president’s petulance in recently saying that if you do not support his (in)action in Ukraine you must want to go to war with Russia—when there are plenty of potentially effective steps available that stop well short of violence. It can be heard in the former NSC spokesman, Thomas Vietor, responding on May 1 to a question on Fox News about the deaths of an American ambassador and three other Americans with the line, “Dude, this was like two years ago.”

Often, members of the Obama administration speak and, worse, think and act, like a bunch of teenagers. When officials roll their eyes at Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea with the line that this is “19th-century behavior,” the tone is not that different from a disdainful remark about a hairstyle being “so 1980s.” […]

If the United States today looks weak, hesitant and in retreat, it is in part because its leaders and their staff do not carry themselves like adults. They may be charming, bright and attractive; they may have the best of intentions; but they do not look serious. They act as though Twitter and clenched teeth or a pout could stop invasions or rescue kidnapped children in Nigeria. They do not sound as if, when saying that some outrage is “unacceptable” or that a dictator “must go,” that they represent a government capable of doing something substantial—and, if necessary, violent—if its expectations are not met. [Wall Street Journal, May 12]

Posted on 05/16/14 08:08 PM by Alex Adrianson

IRS Headquarters Was Directing the Tea Party Review

When the Internal Revenue Service admitted, in May 2013, that it had improperly given special scrutiny to the tax-exempt status applications of conservative nonprofits, the agency pinned the blame on its field agents in Cincinnati. Judicial Watch (of course!) has obtained emails that show IRS headquarters telling the IRS agents in Cincinnati how to handle Tea Party cases as early as July of 2010. Here is the key part of Judicial Watch’s latest revelations:

One key email string from July 2012 confirms that IRS Tea Party scrutiny was directed from Washington, DC. On July 6, 2010, Holly Paz (the former Director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements Division and current Manager of Exempt Organizations Guidance) asks IRS lawyer Steven Grodnitzky “to let Cindy and Sharon know how we have been handling Tea Party applications in the last few months.” Cindy Thomas is the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati and Sharon Camarillo was a Senior Manager in their Los Angeles office. Grodnitzky, a top lawyer in the Exempt Organization Technical unit (EOT) in Washington, DC, responds:

EOT is working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in DC and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases. Chip Hull [another lawyer in IRS headquarters] is working these cases in EOT and working with the agent in Cincy, so any communication should include him as well. Because the Tea party applications are the subject of an SCR [Sensitive Case Report], we cannot resolve any of the cases without coordinating with Rob.

The reference to Rob is believed to be Rob Choi, then-Director of Rulings and Agreements in IRS’s Washington, DC, headquarters. [Judicial Watch, May 14]

Posted on 05/16/14 07:38 PM by Alex Adrianson

Image of the Week: Houston Is Building More New Homes than the Entire State of California

This chart comes from Mark Perry, who points to land-use regulations as the likely culprit:

The religion of “open space” in California probably helps explain why there’s more new construction of single-family homes in Houston than in the entire state of California. And those “open space”-driven housing restrictions in California help explain the high cost of housing there relative to Houston. During the month of March, the median sales price of homes sold in California at $376,000 was almost exactly double the median sales price of homes sold in Houston at $189,000. The median sales price in the SF Bay area in March was $579,000, more than three times the median sales price in Houston. And those huge differences in housing prices probably help explain why firms like Toyota and Occidental Petroleum are moving from California to Texas, joining other firms including Industrial Brush, General Motors, DHF Technical Products and Sony Pictures that have relocated operations this year to Utah, Michigan, New Mexico and British Columbia respectively. Expect more out-migration of people, jobs, businesses and one-way U-Haul trucks from California in the future…. [AEIdeas, May 10]

Posted on 05/16/14 06:42 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Raise a Glass to Leszek Balcerowicz

Celebrate the work of Leszek Balcerowicz, who, as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, liberalized Poland’s economy in the 1990s. The Balcerowicz Plan helped Poland achieve one of the highest growth rates of the former communist regimes. The Cato Institute will award Balcerowicz with its 2014 Milton Friedman Prize on May 21 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.

Assess how much of a threat al Qaeda is to the United States today. The terrorist organization’s transformations in recent years will be the subject of a Foreign Policy Research Institute lecture by Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation. Jones will speak at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia at 5:30 p.m. on May 20.

Learn how to use Twitter to be the most effectively advocate for liberty you can be. American Majority will host a Twitter Activism Webinar on May 20.

Find out what the Tea Party can learn from Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. George Will will speak at The Heritage Foundation at noon on May 20.

Examine the consequences of the “Great Society.” The American Enterprise Institute will host a discussion on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” speech that marked a vast expansion in the scale and scope of the welfare state. AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt and Robert Doar, along with Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution and Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute will speak. The event will begin at 1:45 p.m. on May 22.

Discover how student governments can protect freedom. That’s the theme of a webinar that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education will host at 3 p.m. on May 22.

Posted on 05/16/14 05:24 PM by Alex Adrianson

Piketty’s Inequality Story Is Based on Bad Data

Looking at U.S. income tax return data, as Thomas Piketty has done, gives a misleading picture of sharply rising income inequality after 1980. That’s because, as Martin Feldstein explains, tax rule changes increased what was counted as personal income:

In 1981 the top tax rate on interest, dividends and other investment income was reduced to 50% from 70%, nearly doubling the after-tax share that owners of taxable capital income could keep. That rate reduction thus provided a strong incentive to shift assets from low-yielding, tax-exempt investments like municipal bonds to higher yielding taxable investments. The tax data therefore signaled an increase in measured income inequality even though there was no change in real inequality.

The Tax Reform Act of 1986 lowered the top rate on all income to 28% from 50%. That reinforced the incentive to raise the taxable yield on portfolio investments. It also increased other forms of taxable income by encouraging more work, by causing more income to be paid as taxable salaries rather than as fringe benefits and deferred compensation, and by reducing the use of deductions and exclusions.

The 1986 tax reform also repealed the General Utilities doctrine, a provision that had encouraged high-income individuals to run their business and professional activities as Subchapter C corporations, which were taxed at a lower rate than their personal income. This corporate income of professionals and small businesses did not appear in the income-tax data that Mr. Piketty studied.

The repeal of the General Utilities doctrine and the decline in the top personal tax rate to less than the corporate rate caused high-income taxpayers to shift their business income out of taxable corporations and onto their personal tax returns. […]

These changes in taxpayer behavior substantially increased the amount of income included on the returns of high-income individuals. This creates the false impression of a sharp rise in the incomes of high-income taxpayers even though there was only a change in the legal form of that income. This transformation occurred gradually over many years as taxpayers changed their behavior and their accounting practices to reflect the new rules. The business income of Subchapter S corporations alone rose from $500 billion in 1986 to $1.8 trillion by 1992. [Wall Street Journal, May 14]

Posted on 05/16/14 01:10 PM by Alex Adrianson

Video of the Week: The Problem with Trigger Warning Mandates

Are trigger warnings on college campuses merely a solution to a mental health problem or are they just are a way of saying “shut up” to those with politically heterodox views? ReasonTV investigates:

Posted on 05/16/14 12:24 PM by Alex Adrianson

Is Capitalism Really an Inequality-Generating Machine?

That’s how Thomas Piketty portrays it in his widely acclaimed, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Lawrence Summers points to some problems with the story:

Economists universally believe in the law of diminishing returns. As capital accumulates, the incremental return on an additional unit of capital declines. […]

Piketty argues that the economic literature supports his assumption that returns diminish slowly (in technical parlance, that the elasticity of substitution is greater than 1), and so capital’s share rises with capital accumulation. But I think he misreads the literature by conflating gross and net returns to capital. It is plausible that as the capital stock grows, the increment of output produced declines slowly, but there can be no question that depreciation increases proportionally. And it is the return net of depreciation that is relevant for capital accumulation. I know of no study suggesting that measuring output in net terms, the elasticity of substitution is greater than 1, and I know of quite a few suggesting the contrary. […]

There is also the question of whether the returns to wealth are largely reinvested. […]

[C]onsider a family with current income of 100 and wealth of 100 as opposed to a family with current income of 100 and wealth of 500. One would expect the former family to have a considerably higher saving ratio. In other words, there is a self-correcting tendency Piketty abstracts from whereby rising wealth leads to declining saving.

The largest single component of capital in the United States is owner-occupied housing. Its return comes in the form of the services enjoyed by the owners—what economists call “imputed rent”—which are all consumed rather than reinvested since they do not take a financial form. The phenomenon is broader. The determinants of levels of consumer spending have been much studied by macroeconomists. The general conclusion of the research is that an increase of $1 in wealth leads to an additional $.05 in spending. This is just enough to offset the accumulation of returns that is central to Piketty’s analysis.

A brief look at the Forbes 400 list also provides only limited support for Piketty’s ideas that fortunes are patiently accumulated through reinvestment. When Forbes compared its list of the wealthiest Americans in 1982 and 2012, it found that less than one tenth of the 1982 list was still on the list in 2012, despite the fact that a significant majority of members of the 1982 list would have qualified for the 2012 list if they had accumulated wealth at a real rate of even 4 percent a year. They did not, given pressures to spend, donate, or misinvest their wealth. In a similar vein, the data also indicate, contra Piketty, that the share of the Forbes 400 who inherited their wealth is in sharp decline. […]

Piketty, being a meticulous scholar, recognizes that at this point the gains in income of the top 1 percent substantially represent labor rather than capital income, so they are really a separate issue from processes of wealth accumulation. The official data probably underestimate this aspect—for example, some large part of Bill Gates’s reported capital income is really best thought of as a return to his entrepreneurial labor. […]

[T]hose like Piketty who dismiss the idea that productivity has anything to do with compensation should be given a little pause by the choices made in firms where a single hard-nosed owner is in control. The executives who make the most money are not for most part the ones running public companies who can pack their boards with friends. Rather, they are the executives chosen by private equity firms to run the companies they control. [Democracy, May 14]

Posted on 05/15/14 12:21 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Obama Administration’s Dire Climate Predictions Assume Humans Don’t Adapt

A failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will bring more heat waves and more heat-related deaths, says the Obama administration in its just-released National Climate Assessment. The report’s authors, however, forgot about air-conditioning and other adaptations that are made possible by economic growth. Chip Knappenberger:

The report recognizes that “[s]ome of the risks of heat-related sickness and death have diminished in recent decades, possibly due to better forecasting, heat-health early warning systems, and/or increased access to air conditioning for the U.S. population.” It ignores those findings, though, to conclude “increasingly frequent and intense heat events lead to more heat-related illnesses and deaths.” This is not only a non sequitur but it is also completely wrong.

Scientific literature is chock full of studies that demonstrate that the population’s sensitivity to extreme heat is decreasing, resulting in lower rates of people dying during heat waves. This is true across the United States and in major cities around the world. A new paper by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health examined trends in heat-related mortality across the United States and concluded “[t]his study provides strong evidence that acute (e.g., same-day) heat-related mortality risk has declined over time in the U.S., even in more recent years.” Another recent look into heat-related mortality published in the prominent science journal Nature Climate Change concluded that “climate change itself leads to adaptation” a finding that “highlights one of the many often overlooked intricacies of the human response to climate change.”

Also: “Research has shown that eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the United States now and forever only mitigates less than two-tenths of a one degree of warming by the end of the century—but the cost to do so would hurt our economy dearly.” [Washington Times, May 7]

Posted on 05/13/14 05:51 PM by Alex Adrianson

Oil Production Is Up, but It Could Be Higher Still

Nick Loris:

While production on state and private lands has grown by almost 65 percent in the past seven years, production on federal lands has increased by about 27 percent, less than half the rate. In total, federal lands now account for only 5 percent of oil production. Daily federal onshore oil production is equal to about one-third of what is produced every day at the Bakken formation alone.

The problem?

As with offshore drilling, long processes resulting from government inefficiencies create an unnecessary burden on industry. In some cases, waiting for a federal permit can take 10 times longer than it does at the state level. In 2013, the average wait for the federal government to approve a request was 194 days, compared to 27 days in North Dakota, 11 days in Texas, and 45 in Pennsylvania.

The solution?

The federal government owns nearly one-third of U.S. territory. Congress should consider privatizing some of that land, but in the meantime, transferring the management of federal lands to state regulators would encourage energy resource development on the federal estate while maintaining strong environmental protections. The Federal Land Freedom Act of 2013 (S. 1233 and H.R. 2511), introduced by Senator James Inhofe (R–OK) and Representative Diane Black (R–TN), would do just that by allocating more authority to the states to control their energy future. [Internal citations omitted.] [The Heritage Foundation, May 7]

Posted on 05/12/14 06:08 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Find out Why the Left Is So Indifferent to Poor People

Learn why the Left is so indifferent to the ravages their ideas bring. Theodore Dalrymple will deliver a talk at The Heritage Foundation on the topic of “Life at the Top: The Worldview that Makes the Elites,” Dalrymple’s lecture will begin at noon on May 16.

Help Ann McElhinney, Phelim McAleer, and Magdalena Segieda make the best movie they can about abortionist/serial killer Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Their Indiegogo campaign has hit their target of $2.1 million with three days left, so the movie will get made. However, the more funding they have, the better talent they can hire. So please consider contributing if you haven’t already.

Examine the state of health care policy at the Washington Policy Center’s 12th Annual Health Care Conference. The conference will be held on Tuesday, May 13, at the Hilton Bellevue Hotel in Bellevue Washington.

Learn again why James Madison was so essential to the founding of the republic. Lynn Cheney will speak at the American Enterprise Institute about her new book James Madison:  A Life Reconsidered. Cheney’s talk will begin at 5:30 p.m. on May 12.

Posted on 05/09/14 06:58 PM by Alex Adrianson

Why Does the Left Not Want a Free Marketplace in Ideas?

Have you’ve noticed that college commissars on the Left are cracking down on conservative voices again? Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice wasn’t welcome to speak at Rutgers; ditto Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis and Charles Murray at Azusa. In the Harvard Crimson, a student opined that conservative scholarship—such as Harvey Mansfield’s—should be suppressed in order to achieve (her idea of) justice. Then there is the movement that wants trigger warnings in all college course material, ostensibly to protect students from content that might traumatize them. What’s going on?

“The answer,” writes Daniel Henninger, “is that the Obama administration let the dogs out.”:

The trigger event was an agreement signed last May between the federal government and the University of Montana to resolve a Title IX dispute over a sexual-assault case.

Every college administrator in the U.S. knows about this agreement. Indeed, there are three separate, detailed “Montana” documents that were signed jointly—and this is unusual—by the civil-rights divisions of the Justice and Education Departments. Remarked DOJ’s Jocelyn Samuels, “The government is stronger when we speak with one voice.”

That’s real muscle. But read the agreement. It is Orwellian.

The agreement orders the school to retain an “Equity Consultant” (yes, there is such a thing) to advise it indefinitely on compliance. The school must, with the equity consultant, conduct “annual climate surveys.” It will submit the results “to the United States.”

The agreement describes compliance in mind-numbing detail, but in fact the actual definitional world it creates is vague. It says: “The term ‘sexual harassment’ means unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” But there are also definitions for sexual assault and gender-based harassment. All of this detailed writ is called “guidance.” As in missile. […]

Make no mistake, universities under constant pressure from the Obama administration and the most driven members of their “communities” will comply and define due process downward. If the liability choice falls between the lawyer brigades at the Holder Justice Department or some 19-year-old student or an assistant professor who didn’t post the course’s “trigger warning,” guess who will get tossed to the Marcusian mobs at Harvard and Vassar? [Wall Street Journal, May 7]

Then we have this item from Paul Bedard:

Government officials, reacting to the growing voice of conservative news outlets, especially on the internet, are angling to curtail the media’s exemption from federal election laws governing political organizations, a potentially chilling intervention that the chairman of the Federal Election Commission is vowing to fight.

“I think that there are impulses in the government every day to second guess and look into the editorial decisions of conservative publishers,” warned Federal Election Commission Chairman Lee E. Goodman in an interview.

“The right has begun to break the left’s media monopoly, particularly through new media outlets like the internet, and I sense that some on the left are starting to rethink the breadth of the media exemption and internet communications,” he added. […]

Goodman cited several examples where the FEC has considered regulating conservative media, including Sean Hannity‘s radio show and Citizens United’s movie division. Those efforts to lift the media exemption died in split votes at the politically evenly divided board, often with Democrats seeking regulation. [Washington Examiner, May 7]

Finally, consider the news from Wisconsin, where a “federal judge has ordered a halt to a wide-ranging secret prosecutorial probe aimed at groups supporting Gov. Scott Walker.” As written up by Walter Olson, the judge’s opinion details the abuses committed in an effort to criminalize participation in politics by conservatives:

 “Defendants instigated a secret John Doe investigation replete with armed raids on homes to collect evidence that would support their criminal prosecution.” Judge Rudolph Randa goes on to cite stunningly abusive conduct by the secret prosecutors and law enforcers under their command. […]

“The subpoenas’ list of advocacy groups indicates that all or nearly all right-of-center groups and individuals in Wisconsin who engaged in issue advocacy from 2010 to the present are targets of the investigation,” the judge writes. At the homes of targets across the state in the predawn hours of Oct. 3, 2013, “Sheriff deputy vehicles used bright floodlights to illuminate the targets’ homes. Deputies executed the search warrants, seizing business papers, computer equipment, phones, and other devices, while their targets were restrained under police supervision and denied the ability to contact their attorneys.” Target groups were also ordered to turn over essentially their entire records of public advocacy activity over a period of years. [Cato Institute, May 7]

To borrow a few more words from Henninger: “If it’s possible for the left to have its John Birch moment, we’re in it. Wave goodbye to cardboard civility.” [Wall Street Journal, May 7]

Posted on 05/09/14 05:29 PM by Alex Adrianson

Gary Becker, R.I.P.

Economist Gary Becker died on Saturday, May 3. Becker’s great contribution, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1992, was to extend economic analysis into areas that were not normally considered economics. Becker applied the economic way of thinking to the study of crime, family, education, and racial discrimination. He showed that in these areas, too, incentives matter. The Library of Economics and Liberty’s Concise Encyclopedia on Economics describes Becker’s work on racial discrimination—a topic much in the news lately—this way:

Among other things, Becker successfully challenged the Marxist view that discrimination helps the person who discriminates. Becker pointed out that if an employer refuses to hire a productive worker simply because of skin color, that employer loses out on a valuable opportunity. In short, discrimination is costly to the person who discriminates.

Becker showed that discrimination will be less pervasive in more competitive industries because companies that discriminate will lose market share to companies that do not. He also presented evidence that discrimination is more pervasive in more-regulated, and therefore less-competitive, industries. The idea that discrimination is costly to the discriminator is common sense among economists today, and that is due to Becker. [“Gary Stanley Becker,” in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics]

Posted on 05/09/14 04:32 PM by Alex Adrianson

Video of the Week: Triaging Defense

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) talks about the challenges of writing a defense budget that meets America’s security needs:

Posted on 05/09/14 11:54 AM by Alex Adrianson

Cutting Taxes and Cutting Spending Helps the Economy

John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation in North Carolina, has conducted an extensive review of the literature on economic growth. So far he’s found 681 scholarly journal articles published since 1990 that examine the strength of competing explanations of economic growth. The bottom line, he reports, is that “the policy preferences of fiscal conservatives have strong empirical support.”

As the chart below shows, economic freedom is the factor that researchers most often find linked to growth:

[“Lower Taxes, Higher Growth: Scholarly Research Reveals Economic Benefits of Fiscal Restraint,” by John Hood, John Locke Foundation, April 15]

Posted on 05/09/14 11:51 AM by Alex Adrianson

Throwback Thursday: Gary Becker from 2010

Gary Becker, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics for extending the economic way of thinking into areas normally thought of as sociology, died earlier this week at the age of 83. A few years ago he sat down with Peter Robinson to talk about the big issues of the day—what’s wrong with ObamaCare, misguided ideas about financial regulations, the advantages of tax cuts over stimulus spending, and how to deal with political gridlock. We’re still talking about all those issues today. Enjoy:

Posted on 05/08/14 06:43 PM by Alex Adrianson

Toolkit Tuesday: Six Secrets of Direct Mail

Paraphrased from Shana Davidson’s article “Six Secrets of Direct Mail” from SPN News, September/October 2013:

1. Use the word “you” a lot in your letter.

2. Make your letter skimmable by using short paragraphs and underline key phrases.

3. Use a unique envelope size or color or put a photo on it to catch the recipient’s attention.

4. Make sure you hold the reader’s attention by making the first few lines engaging—almost shocking.

5. Keep your readers turning pages by making sure that paragraphs never end at the bottom of a page.

6. Limit the number of people who get to review your letter copy to two or three (plus a proofreader).

Posted on 05/06/14 05:37 PM by Alex Adrianson

Higher Minimum Wages Do Cost Jobs—and Many, Many Studies Prove It

When proponents say studies show that raising the minimum wage does not cost jobs, they’re talking only about the studies they agree with, explains Michael Saltsman: “In a comprehensive, 182-page summary of the research on this subject from the last two decades, economists David Neumark (UC-Irvine) and William Wascher (Federal Reserve Board) determined that 85 percent of the best research points to a loss of jobs following a minimum wage increase.”

Another problem:

Twenty-eight states raised minimum wages in the four years prior to passage of the last federal minimum wage increase. Economists from Cornell and American Universities, writing in the Southern Economic Journal, found no associated reduction in poverty rates.

One reason is poor targeting. According to the Census Bureau, roughly 60 percent of people living in poverty don’t currently work, and thus can’t benefit from a raise. Of those who do work and would be covered by the President’s $9 proposal, Census Bureau data show that the majority live in families far above the poverty line. Across all covered minimum wage earners, the average family income is $50,789. [Forbes, April 17]

Posted on 05/05/14 05:55 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Take Another Look at the Family

Assess the state of the family in the world today by seeing the new documentary, Irreplaceable. This Focus on the Family feature film will be in theaters around the country for one night only: May 6.

Learn how the executive branch has become the most dangerous threat to liberty in American. Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center will host a talk on “Administrative Edicts or the Rule of Law: How Shall We Be Governed?” by Prof. Philip Hamburger of Columbia Law School. Hamburger’s talk will beging at noon on May 6.

Find out how development experts often end up serving the interests of authoritarian governments rather than the poor in developing countries. William Easterly will talk about his new book The Tyranny of Experts at 4 p.m. on May 6 at the Cato Institute.

Discover how to take your online fundraising to the next level. Nat Ward, Associate Director for Online Member Programs at The Heritage Foundation, will speak at the America’s Future Foundation’s next Cultivation Crew event. Ward’s talk will begin at noon on May 7 at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Learn how to tell the true Reaganites from the fakers. Paul Kengor will talk about his new book 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative at 10:30 a.m. on May 8 at The Heritage Foundation.

Examine how developments in Asia affect our freedoms and our economy. The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii will host a talk by Walter Lohman, Director of The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. Lohman’s talk will begin at noon on May 8 at the Pacific Club of Honolulu.

Posted on 05/02/14 10:09 PM by Alex Adrianson

What Happens When You Give Workers a Choice?

Now that Michigan’s dues skim on home-based caregivers has been ended, membership in the SEIU Healthcare Michigan has collapsed. Jack Spencer reports:

The workers previously were forced to pay dues or fees to the SEIU after the union orchestrated a scheme that took money from the Medicaid checks of the people the workers were caring for in homes across the state. The “dues skim“ ended in 2013, but not before the SEIU took more than $34 million from the elderly and disabled across the state.

According to the union’s LM-2 report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, 44,347 home-based caregivers have opted to stay out of the union.

That number represents virtually all of the long-term home-based caregivers affected by the dues skim. It also is more than 80 percent of the 55,265 members the union claimed to have at the end on 2012. Most of those who have remained in the union are workers employed at private medical facilities and joined the union in traditional organizing drives. The SEIU health care workers were organized in a mail-in effort that most did not participate in nor did they know a vote was even taking place. [Michigan Capital Confidential, April 30]

If the union was actually providing value to the workers instead of just taking their money, it probably would still have most of those workers as members.

Posted on 05/02/14 08:38 PM by Alex Adrianson

How Do You Sum the Social Cost of Carbon? How Do You Catch a Cloud and Pin It Down?

Depending on the assumptions one makes, the social cost of carbon could be negative. If you translate that sentence into regular English, it means that burning fossil fuels—supposedly the root of all global warming evil—might actually be so beneficial to humanity that we would be better off paying people to burn more fossil fuels than they would otherwise choose to burn on their own. That’s what Kevin Dayaratna and David W. Kreutzer found when they examined the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Framework for Uncertainty, Negotiation and Distribution (FUND) model. That’s the computer model the agency uses to justify costly regulations on emissions. Dayaratna and Kreutzer don’t advocate a policy of subsidizing carbon emissions, but merely a policy of regulators being honest about what they don’t know. Here’s the conclusion of their recent paper:

[T]he FUND model is extremely sensitive to many assumptions. Altering the discount rate to 7 percent as recommended by the OMB and employing more recent peer-reviewed ECS distributions delivers drastically lower estimates of the SCC. Furthermore, changes in the assumptions suggest large probabilities of a negative SCC. Other potential changes, such as altering the end year to something less than the model’s unrealistically distant projections of economic damages (which extend nearly 300 years into the future) as well as alterations to the model’s loss function, have the potential to change the model’s results drastically.

As a result of this sensitivity we conclude, as we did with the DICE model, that the FUND model, although an interesting academic exercise, is at least at this point completely unfit as a tool to justify trillions of dollars of economic regulations. [The Heritage Foundation, April 29]

Posted on 05/02/14 08:19 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Benghazi Story Came from the White House Before It Came from the CIA

The false narrative about the Benghazi attack evolving out of a spontaneous demonstration against an Internet video—which then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice would deliver on national television on September 16, 2012—was being disseminated by White House aides prior to the editing of the Central Intelligence Agency’s talking points that originally said otherwise. That’s what we learn this week thanks to the ever-dogged Judicial Watch, which received a trove of documents released by the White House under court order. From the write-up of the also ever-dogged Sharyl Attkisson:

Newly-released documents reveal direct White House involvement in steering the public narrative about the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, toward that of a spontaneous protest that never happened.

One of the operative documents, which the government had withheld from Congress and reporters for a year and a half, is an internal September 14, 2012 email to White House press officials from Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s Assistant and Deputy National Security Advisor. (Disclosure: Ben Rhodes is the brother of David Rhodes, the President of CBS News, where I was employed until March.)

In the email, Ben Rhodes lists as a “goal” the White House desire “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”

The email is entitled, “RE: PREP CALL with Susan, Saturday at 4:00 pm ET” and refers to White House involvement in preparing then-U.S.Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice for her upcoming appearance on Sunday television network political talk shows.

The memo goes on to mention protests of an Internet video several more times, including: “[…] we’ve made our views on this video clear. The United States government had nothing to do with it. We reject its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible. But there is absolutely no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence”

Attkisson notes that Rhodes composed this email on the same day that he was involved in the creation of an interagency working group to edit the Central Intelligence Agency’s talking points. That group also included Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morell, who later testified that he alone was responsible for removing references to terrorism and adding references to protests in the talking points. Those edits, in any case, happened the next day. Attkisson further reports: “Morell has since gone to work as counsel for Beacon Global Strategies, a strategic relations PR firm dominated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officials and Obama administration officials. (Disclosure: In January, Morell was hired as an analyst for CBS News where I was previously employed.)” [sharylattkisson.com, April 29]

Posted on 05/02/14 06:27 PM by Alex Adrianson

Death Spiral Update

Eight million nineteen thousand seven hundred and sixty-three people have enrolled in a health care plan through the ObamaCare exchanges, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health and Human Services. Those sign-up totals are now the measure of ObamaCare success for liberals. Not whether people actually like the plan they were forced to buy. Not whether they’ll be able to get the care they need. Not how fast premiums will now go up.

HHS also tells us that 3.8 million of those enrollees signed up in the last month of the enrollment period. That means 48 percent of those in the program love it so much that they waited until the last moment to sign up. David Hogberg breaks down the numbers further:

Sign-ups of the crucial 18-34-year-old cohort jumped from 25% in early March to 28% at the end of the enrollment period. That’s not a surprise given that young people are likely to be disporportionately represented among people who do things at the last minute. But the fact that over half of that age group chose their plan during the last month should worry ObamaCare supporters. People who are flakey enough to wait until the last minute are probably also flakey when it comes to paying premiums. Thus, that 28 percent number will decline and it will, of course, be no where near the 38 percent the Obama Administration says is needed to keep the risk pools stable. […]

While the 18-34-year-old cohort has been dubbed the “young and healthy,” a more accurate moniker might be “young and somewhat healthy.” 68 percent of 18-34-year-olds on the federal exchanges chose a silver plan. [Amy Ridenour’s National Center Blog, May 1]

As Hogberg goes on to explain, Bronze plans are cheaper. You only come out ahead from buying the Silver plan if you expect to need health care during the coming year. What group of people expect to need health care in the coming year? Those who have a pre-existing condition or are currently sick. If the insurance pool is sicker than expected, premiums will have to go up next year. That, in turn means insurance will become an uneconomical proposition for even more people. Where this process leads is the collapse of health insurance for everybody—sick and healthy.

Posted on 05/02/14 04:55 PM by Alex Adrianson

Why Are Some State Governments Trusted More than Others?

In April, the Gallup organization released a survey of citizen trust in state governments. Some states are trusted much more than others. Why is that, we wondered?

Could it be that states earn citizens’ trust by sticking to doing the things that governments are supposed to be competent at doing—like putting thieves and murderers in jail, and building basic infrastructure—and otherwise letting free citizens pursue their interests? Could it be that states that tax more and regulate more in order to favor particular types of economic activities (e.g., green energy) are not as good at spending other people’s money as well as the people themselves—and thus earn more distrust by doing things at which they are not competent?

That’s a theory. Is it true?

We checked the trust results against the Mercatus Center’s economic freedom rankings from its 2013 Freedom in the 50 States index. We also checked the results against the ALEC-Laffer Economic Outlook Rankings from its 2014 Rich States, Poor States study. The ALEC-Laffer index looks at 15 variables including tax burdens, the progressivity of income taxes, the number of public employees, and whether a state has a right-to-work law on the books.

Our comparisons of the rankings are shown in the table below. It certainly looks like states earn more trust by imposing fewer tax and regulatory burdens on their citizens. The seven most-trusted states have an average ranking of 11.9 in the ALEC-Laffer Economic Outlook measurement and an average ranking of 15.3 in the Mercatus Center’s economic freedom index.  The corresponding average rankings for the seven least-trusted states are 38.9 and 39.6. (A ranking of 1, for example, means the state achieved a better score than each of the other 49 states; while a ranking of 50 means the state achieved a worse score than each of the other 49 states.) And as you can see from the right-most column, the policies that garner trust also seem to lead to a better employment picture, too.

 

 

Gallup: % Great deal/fair amount of trust in state gov't

ALEC-Laffer Economic Outlook Rankings 2014

Mercatus Center Economic Freedom Ranking  2013

Unemployment
Rate March 2014

North Dakota

77

4

2

2.6

Wyoming

76

10

39

4

Utah

75

1

8

4.1

South Dakota

74

2

1

3.7

Nebraska

73

35

19

3.7

Texas

72

13

14

5.5

Alaska

71

18

24

6.6

Top Seven

74.0

11.9

15.3

4.3

         

Illinois

28

48

37

8.4

Rhode Island

40

41

44

8.7

Maine

40

40

43

5.9

Pennsylvania

46

33

30

6

Louisiana

48

29

34

4.5

California

49

47

49

8.1

Maryland

49

34

40

5.6

Bottom Seven

42.9

38.9

39.6

6.7

Sources: “Illinois Residents Least Trusting of Their State Government,” by Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup, April 4, 2014; Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, 2014, by Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore, and Jonathan Williams; “Freedom in the 50 States 2013,” Mercatus Center; Unemployment Rates for States, March 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Posted on 05/02/14 02:42 PM by Alex Adrianson

What Is a Family?

Tim Sisarich is the director and narrator of Irreplaceable, a new documentary examining the state of the family in the world today. The film, produced by Focus on the Family, will be screened in movie theaters around the country on May 6. We had the opportunity to talk with Sisarich about the film.

Insider Online: Why do we need a documentary about the family?

Tim Sisarich: When families thrive, individuals and society thrive. Few would argue that families are thriving, and we need to know why. The state of the family affects every person on this planet.

Over the past 40 to 50 years, we’ve seen a great deal of change in the world. A lot of it has been good, especially in terms of medical and technological advancements. But nearly all of the changes in how families are formed—or not formed—have been harmful to human thriving, especially for children. We wanted to take people on a journey to understand why families are so important for individuals and society.

IO: Why should we care what the culture has to say about the family?

TS: What the culture says about family is simply a reflection of our collective worldview. If we don’t understand just how vital the family—and especially God’s design for it—is to holding society together, our nation will crumble.

The statistics related to fatherlessness drive this powerfully home. When children grow up without a dad in the home, they’re two to three times more likely to do poorly in school and drop out, become a victim of domestic violence, be arrested for criminal behavior, get pregnant outside marriage, and be involved in drug use. They’re also nearly guaranteed to live some part of their childhood in poverty.

Family structure matters. Because we care about the people involved, we can’t ignore what culture has to say about families when it leads to brokenness.

IO: What do we learn about the family from studying different cultures?

TS: It’s interesting looking at this from a laymen’s perspective. I’m not an expert on culture. I’m a dad and a filmmaker who genuinely wanted to take a look at the state of the family today. And what I saw as I traveled the globe and spoke to people all over the world, was that family is the most central part of every single culture and society.

And while there are so many different cultures—with distinct ways of living, eating, and working—there are not different kinds of families. All cultures through all times have been centered around a husband and wife and their children. All human associations extend out from this nucleus and the extended families these human triads create. It’s a human universal, and no society or people group can live in any manner of safety, thriving and health without strong families. It was remarkable to see firsthand how true that is. Family isn’t just a developed or developing country issue; it’s a human issue.

IO: Did anything surprise you in your investigation?

TS: I knew family was important, but it surprised me was how pragmatically vital it is. It’s not just a matter of the heart, but really drives the wellbeing and health of a nation like nothing else. I saw this again and again in my travels and from all the experts we talked to.

I was struck by how deeply the breakdown of the family hurts people. We talked to tough men in prison who spoke tenderly about the pain and problems fatherlessness has brought to their lives. As you can imagine, these guys aren’t known for their tenderness, so this was one of the things that left the biggest impression on me.

And perhaps this wasn’t surprising, but as I traveled around the world, I loved seeing the hearts of mothers. Everywhere you go, you find mothers with a deep and loving heart for their children and their family. We saw all around the world—from moms raising children in brownstones in Manhattan to moms raising children in huts in Nigeria—that moms are always oriented toward their children. It was wonderful to see that.

IO: What would you tell someone who isn’t sure family is important to him about your film?

TS: This film will cause you to look at how your own family and choices shape your view of culture and values. At the end of it, you can’t help but ask questions about what it is you actually believe and why it is you believe it.

I’d also suggest it’s valuable to join us in learning about the various ways that family is changing today and what those changes mean for each person’s own wellbeing, their loved ones, and their communities. If we say we really care for those around us, but act as though family doesn’t matter, we’ve got some re-thinking to do. This film helps us understand that more deeply.

Posted on 05/02/14 11:41 AM by Alex Adrianson

One Percent of History Has 99 Percent of the Wealth

Deirdre McCloskey:

Posted on 05/01/14 03:39 PM by Alex Adrianson

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