Donald Trump continues to baffle. Never Trump Republicans still struggle to square the circle of quietly agreeing so far with most of his policies, as they loudly insist that his record is already nullified by its supposedly odious author. Or surely it soon will be discredited by the next Trumpian outrage. Or his successes belong to congressional and Cabinet members, while his failures are all his own. Rarely do they seriously reflect on what otherwise over the last year might have been the trajectory of a Clinton administration.
Contrary to popular supposition, the Left loathes Trump not just for what he has done. (It is often too consumed with fury to calibrate carefully the particulars of the Trump agenda.) Rather, it despises him mostly for what he superficially represents.
To many progressives and indeed elites of all persuasions, Trump is also the Prince of Anti-culture: mindlessly naïve American boosterism; conspicuous, 1950s-style unapologetic consumption; repetitive and limited vocabulary; fast-food culinary tastes; Queens accent; herky-jerky mannerisms; ostentatious dress; bulging appearance; poorly disguised facial expressions; embracing rather than sneering at middle-class appetites; a lack of subtlety, nuance, and ambiguity.
In short Trump’s very essence wars with everything that long ago was proven to be noble, just, and correct by Vanity Fair, NPR, The New Yorker, Google, the Upper West Side, and The Daily Show. There is not even a smidgeon of a concession that some of Trump’s policies might offer tens of thousands of forgotten inner-city youth good jobs or revitalize a dead and written-off town in the Midwest, or make the petroleum of the war-torn Persian Gulf strategically irrelevant to an oil-rich United States.
Yet one way of understanding Trump — particularly the momentum of his first year — is through recollection of the last eight years of the Obama administration. In reductionist terms, Trump is the un-Obama. Surprisingly, that is saying quite a lot more than simple reductive negativism. Republicans have not seriously attempted to roll back the administrative state since Reagan. On key issues of climate change, entitlements, illegal immigration, government spending, and globalization, it was sometimes hard to distinguish a Bush initiative from a Clinton policy or a McCain bill from a Biden proposal. There was often a reluctant acceptance of the seemingly inevitable march to the European-style socialist administrative state.
Of course, there were sometimes differences between the two parties, such as the George W. Bush’s tax cuts or the Republicans’ opposition to Obamacare. Yet for the most part, since 1989, we’ve had lots of rhetoric but otherwise no serious effort to prune back the autonomous bureaucracy that grew ever larger. Few Republicans in the executive branch sought to reduce government employment, deregulate, sanction radical expansion of fossil-fuel production, question the economic effects of globalization on Americans between the coasts, address deindustrialization, recalibrate the tax code, rein in the EPA, secure the border, reduce illegal immigration, or question transnational organizations. To do all that would require a president to be largely hated by the Left, demonized by the media, and caricatured in popular culture — and few were willing to endure the commensurate ostracism.
Trump has done all that in a manner perhaps more Reaganesque than Reagan himself. In part, he has been able to make such moves because of the Republican majority (though thin) in Congress and also because of, not despite, his politically incorrect bluntness, his in-your-face talk, innate cunning, reality-TV celebrity status, animalistic energy, and his cynical appraisal that tangible success wins more support than ideology. And, yes, in part the wheeler-dealer Manhattan billionaire developed real sympathy for the forgotten losers of globalization.
Even his critics sometimes concede that his economic and foreign-policy agendas are bringing dividends. In some sense, it is not so much because of innovative policy, but rather that he is simply bullying his way back to basics we’ve forgotten over the past decades.
The wonder was never how to grow the economy at 3 percent (all presidents prior to 2009 had at one time or another done just that), but rather, contrary to “expert” economic opinion, how to discover ways to prevent that organic occurrence.
Obama was the first modern president who apparently figured out how. It took the efforts of a 24/7 redistributionist agenda of tax increases, federalizing health care, massive new debt, layers of more regulation, zero-interest rates, neo-socialist regulatory appointments, expansionary eligibility for entitlements, and constant anti-free-market jawboning that created a psychological atmosphere conducive to real retrenchment, mental holding patterns, and legitimate fears over discernable success. Obama weaponized federal agencies including the IRS, DOJ, and EPA in such a manner as to worry anyone successful, prominent, and conservative enough to come under the federal radar of a vindictive Lois Lerner, Eric Holder, or a FISA court.
The loud fight over what will happen to America’s “Dreamers” isn’t what it seems. For both sides, it’s a fig leaf used to mask their true intentions.
In his first term, Barack Obama admitted that he had no constitutional authority (“I’m president, I’m not king”) to grant amnesties. Yet during his campaign for reelection in 2012 he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which conferred a temporary reprieve from deportation to young people brought to this country as minors.
Now Democrats are demanding the preservation and institutionalization of the DACA program. One day soon, they will likely demand its expansion. They do not control either house of Congress or the presidency. They do not enjoy a majority of state legislatures and governorships. To get their way, they are counting on either favorable public opinion or threats to shut down the government.
Democrats are so focused on the 800,000 Dreamers — less than 10% of the undocumented population — because they’re politically photogenic and for now seen as the easiest group to exempt from efforts to control illegal immigration. In blanket fashion, the media consistently report that they are model youth, fulfilling their proverbial “dreams” of finishing college and achieving upward mobility.
That narrative lacks subtlety, if it’s not outright deceptive. The average age of DACA participants is now 24. Few after entering adulthood sought to address their known illegal status. Surveys suggest that most are not in school; fewer than 5% have graduated from college. Those employed earn a median hourly wage of $15.34, which means they are forced to compete on the lower end of the wage ladder. Only about a tenth of 1% of DACA youth serve in the U.S. military — fewer than 900 total.
Setting aside the reality of the Dreamer pool, the Democrats’ method of fighting for DACA suggests that they are broadly in favor of letting immigration dysfunction continue apace. Why else would they refuse to give President Trump any significant concessions in the DACA negotiations — no wall, no end to chain migration, no cessation of visa lotteries?
They know that if this generation of Dreamers gets a pass without broader reform, it will be followed by another and another, all expecting the same eventual exemptions.
Democrats once used to talk about ending outright illegal immigration. They worried that it put downward pressure on wages. They thought it eroded union efforts and sapped political support among Democrats’ blue-collar base, while overtaxing finite social services to the detriment of the American underclass.
In the current age of identity politics, a new generation of progressive Democrats has recalibrated mass illegal immigration as a godsend. Over the last 20 years, it has vastly expanded the Latino vote as well as empowered ethnic tribunes. Immigration has galvanized minority registration in general and encouraged bloc voting. One tangible result is that the American Southwest is slowly turning blue, or at least purple.
The feminist website Babe published an account of a date gone bad. The pushback has been swift and sharp. I share some of the concerns of the critics, but I also think young women are sending a message that is being missed.
The account by the anonymous "Grace" about a bad date with comedian Aziz Ansari was, if not "3,000 words of revenge porn" (Caitlin Flanagan's phrase), certainly a low journalistic blow. To permit an anonymous accuser to assassinate the character of a famous man is a sucker punch. He may have behaved badly, but even assuming that her entire account is true, nothing she describes seems remotely awful enough to justify the public humiliation to which she has subjected him.
There is no way to know who is behind this. It could be someone with a grudge against Ansari. It could be someone who routinely makes accusations against people. Babe.net was grossly irresponsible to publish it.
But the cultural chord it struck is revealing. There were countless "attagirl" responses to Grace on social media. A recent New Yorker short story, "Cat Person," about a creepy sexual encounter generated a similar buzz. And sympathetic takes on Grace from sites such as Vox and Salon suggest that the #MeToo movement is fast becoming not just a protest of workplace sexual harassment but a broader uprising among young women against today's sexual culture.
To be clear, the critics, including Flanagan, Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan and even Catherine Deneuve, make two essential points. One, it is crucial to make distinctions between behavior that is boorish or uncouth and conduct that is abusive or criminal. Two, women must be forceful and direct in speaking up for themselves, or in Weiss' words, "claiming agency."
But I think we are seeing something much larger than pushback against male predation. What we are seeing in the broader culture now is something that has been evident on college campuses for some time: Women are unhappy about the state of sex and romance. They feel pressured, they feel disrespected, and they are fighting back. Sadly, our culture has so exalted sexual license that the only form of sexual conduct women are permitted to protest is coercion. It should not be surprising, then, that the terms "assault" and "rape" have been expanded beyond reasonable bounds.
Caitlin Flanagan says that Grace "wanted affection, kindness, attention. Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man's girlfriend." Isn't that what many people want when they embark on a date? What does it say about dating in our time that those are unrealistic expectations? Perhaps Ansari's particular reputation for sensitivity had led Grace to hope. Yet she found in this case, as apparently on many other dates in her life ("I hate men," she texted a friend on her way home), that she "had to say no a lot": "He wanted sex. He wanted to get me drunk and then f—- me."
Grace was bitter and hurt. Yet in our unbuttoned age, her only weapon, as she sees it, is to claim that a crime was committed. "It took a really long time for me to validate this as sexual assault. ... And that's why I confronted so many of my friends and listened to what they had to say, because I wanted validation that it was actually bad."
If you feel used, abused or any of a hundred other negative emotions about a sexual encounter, you are made to feel that you've failed in some way, because everyone else seems to be loving it. But coercion, that's the one Get Out of Jail Free card. If you were "coerced," your bad feelings are validated. He really did do something terrible to you.
Those who chide Grace by insisting that her experience was just "bad sex" are missing the point. It wasn't that the sex was bad — though it was — it was that the date was only about sex, and she had hoped for more. In this, I think Grace speaks for many, many women and also some men.
Feminists hate to seem to pine for love and romance, yet their responses to Grace seem to hint at the disappointment the sexual revolution has delivered. Jessica Valenti tweeted, "A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers 'normal' sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful." Meghan Murphy commented, "The Aziz Ansari stuff is a perfect demonstration of how rape culture works and how men are socialized to feel entitled to sex. No, there was no rape, but this thing where men pester women for sex and don't let up, even when it's clear she isn't into it, IS RAPE CULTURE."
Is it? Or is it the sexual free-for-all they hate? Perhaps the new feminist slogan should be "Down with the sexual revolution!"
Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist and political analyst living in the Washington, D.C., area.
Mona received her undergraduate degree at Barnard College, Columbia University, with honors. She also holds a degree in law from George Washington University.
There’s a great scene in the wonderful 1982 movie “My Favorite Year,” which is set in 1954. Peter O'Toole plays a semi-washed-up actor named Alan Swann, famous for swashbuckling roles. For reasons too complicated to explain here, Swann tries to shimmy down the side of a building using a fire hose. He ends up dangling just below a cocktail party on a balcony. Two stockbrokers are chatting when one of them notices Swann swinging below them. “I think Alan Swann is beneath us!” he exclaims.
The second stockbroker replies: “Of course he’s beneath us. He’s an actor.”
It may be hard for some people to get the joke these days, but for most of human history, actors were considered low-class. They were akin to carnies, grifters, hookers and other riffraff.
In ancient Rome, actors were often slaves. In feudal Japan, Kabuki actors were sometimes available to the theatergoers as prostitutes — a practice not uncommon among theater troupes in the American Wild West. In 17th century England, France and America, theaters were widely considered dens of iniquity, turpitude and crapulence. Under Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan dictatorship, the theaters were forced to close to improve moral hygiene. The Puritans of New England did likewise. A ban on theaters in Connecticut imposed in 1800 stayed on the books until 1952.
Partly out of a desire develop a wartime economy, partly out of disdain for the grubbiness of the stage, the first Continental Congress in 1774 proclaimed, “We will, in our several stations … discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially all horse-racing, and all kinds of gaming, cock-fighting, exhibitions of shews [sic], plays, and other expensive diversions and entertainments …”
Needless to say, times have changed. And I suppose I have to say they’ve changed for the better. But that’s a pretty low bar. I don’t think acting is a dishonorable profession, and I’m steadfastly opposed to banning plays, musicals, movies and TV shows.
But in our collective effort to correct the social stigmas of the past, can anyone deny that we’ve overshot the mark?
Watch the TV series “Inside the Actors Studio” sometime. It’s an almost religious spectacle of ecstatic obsequiousness and shameless sycophancy. Host James Lipton acts like some ancient Greek priest given an audience with Zeus, coming up just shy of washing the feet of actors with tears of orgiastic joy. I mean, I like Tom Hanks, too. But I’m not sure starring in “Turner & Hooch” (one of my favorite movies) bestows oracular moral authority.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is that the novel’s protagonists actually have great wealth and thus the power to really change the world. It was precisely this wealth, born of value creation, that allowed Rand’s heroes to leave behind their booming industries and establish Galt’s Gulch. And by doing so, our heroes instigated the formation of a new society, one that valued individualism, entrepreneurship, and decentralization.
There is something deeply significant about this newfound Bitcoin wealth.
While Atlas Shrugged may be a work of fiction, the rise of cryptocurrency has presented a new opportunity for real-life heroes to truly enact change.
Crazy Libertarians and Their Bitcoin
Over the last several years, and especially over the last few weeks, I have watched some of my closest friends become abundantly wealthy as a result of crypto investments. And while I could not be happier for their financial success, there is something deeply significant about this newfound wealth.
As Bitcoin grew to become a household name over the years, articles were written cautioning against this burgeoning cryptocurrency. But the concern was not necessarily with Bitcoin itself, or even blockchain; it was about the people who are naturally attracted to such technology.
In 2013, Forbes
And while it may be true that your friend who just made a million dollars from Bitcoin also frequently dons an “End the Fed” t-shirt, this is hardly a cause for concern. On the contrary, it is a cause for celebration
For decades, many liberty enthusiasts have dedicated themselves to academia, think tanks, or grassroots activism. And while each of these roles is essential to spreading the precepts of liberty, they do not often come with outrageously high salaries.
As a prosperous venture capitalist, Thiel has been able to use his vast wealth to fund projects he believes in
There is absolutely no shame in choosing to pursue your passions rather than to seek only financial gain. But there is also no shame in choosing to do both
A Plethora of Peter Thiels
When Paypal founder Peter Thiel donated $500,000 in seed money to start the Seasteading Institute, he was able to do so without batting an eyelash. Coming in at number 12 on Forbes’s 2017 “Midas List,” Thiel has been the poster boy for libertarian success.
As a prosperous venture capitalist, Thiel has been able to use his vast wealth to fund projects he believes in. Many libertarians advocate political decentralization and seasteading allows individuals to voluntarily choose to live in permanent dwellings in the middle of the ocean, free from government interference
And while the non-libertarian reader might think this idea crazy, what really matters is that because of his net worth of $2.5 billion, he was able to give a total of $1.7 million to the Seasteading Institute
But thanks to Bitcoin and other cryptoassets, Thiel is no longer one of the few libertarians with the means to fund decentralization projects
Brittany Hunter is an Associate Editor at the Foundation for Economic Education. She studied political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in Constitutional studies. Feeling as though there was something missing from her college education, Brittany stumbled into the world of free market economics online, and has taken a vested interest in the subject.
Technological innovations have brought us many new words. We need new words not only to identify new things, but also to rename some of the old things in order to avoid confusion. For example, people have been playing the guitar for centuries without calling it "acoustic" until the electric guitar entered the stage; that's when the old guitar was retroactively renamed into acoustic. Traditional clocks with a face and rotating hands were retroactively renamed "analog" to distinguish them from "digital," along with displays, signals, recordings, and so on. The new words for such retro-naming are called retronyms.
Innovations in social engineering affect our language in much the same way.
When Karl Marx laid out his blueprint for communism and socialist ideas began to engulf Europe, the normal way of doing business was retroactively renamed "capitalism." Rational behavior became "oppressive" and people who preferred normalcy to "isms" became apologists for a reactionary socio-economic ideology. The advent of communist propaganda caused any non-communist discourse (e.g., Adam Smith) to be retroactively known as "capitalist propaganda."
In the U.S., the advent of progressivism in the 1930s caused a retroactive renaming of mainstream believers in the American Revolution into "conservatives." When the progressives decided to call themselves "liberals," the real liberals renamed themselves "classical liberals."
The general rule is that when new things become mainstream, the existing things have to give way and move to the margins, sometimes under new names. This is a natural order of things. But here's the kicker: what if this change can be induced artificially, with a trick of the eye, by pretending there is a vibrant new mainstream when there really isn't? Can we retro-name and marginalize the undesirable people and things ahead of time, pending a viable alternative? Can we popularize a futuristic media illusion that there is a better progressive reality, and retro-name the existing reality into something old-fashioned and not worth saving? Yes we can!
This wouldn't be a fraud because, thanks to Marx's blueprint, we are experts in knowing the future. We know it's inevitable. We know what's on the right side of history and what isn't. We know where its arc bends. We have seen the future and it works. So there's nothing wrong with a little futuristic retro-naming to speed up the process. Marxist morality teaches us that "good" is anything that advances our cause and "evil" is anything that stands in its way. Whatever we do, we can never go wrong. So there.
An example of such futuristic retro-naming is "fossil fuels." Previously known as simply "fuels," they received a stigmatizing retronym when we expected a massive arrival of renewable alternatives to replace the "fossils." Decades later, the use of renewables remains marginal and "fossils" take center stage. People still burn the same fuels, only now they feel guilty about it. Which is just as well, since a guilty electorate is a pliable electorate, and the heavier the guilt, the more willingly they donate to progressive causes.
As we get set to break out the champagne bottles to usher in a New Year, we can look back and say with certainty that 2017 was the Year of Bitcoin. Sitting at just under US $1,000 at the beginning of 2017, the price for a single Bitcoin escalated rapidly to sit just over $19,000 in mid-December. At the time of writing, the unit Bitcoin pricehas eased back considerably to roughly $13,50.
An important, even if somewhat underappreciated, side-issue is that the reverberating financial interest in Bitcoin has played a hand in bolstering the value of the broader cryptocurrency market, whose aggregate value has risen from $18 billion at the beginning of 2017 to over $500 billion..
An even less appreciated point is that the exponential Bitcoin trend-price increase parallels the emergence of cryptocurrency. Additionally, the distributed public data ledger known as blockchain that cryptocurrencies have become cultural and political phenomena. This is reflected in the exuberant level of mainstream and social media interest in cryptocurrency. And the heightened attention given to Bitcoin by central bankers, tax authorities, and other political actors.
For financial analysts, policymakers, and cryptoconomists the key question remains: is Bitcoin a bubble? Cryptocurrency detractors have wasted little time in proclaiming the pre-Christmas fall in Bitcoin’s price as the definitive end of the bubble.
As with most other experiences reflecting the actions of innumerable people – or, as one might say, “the result of human action, but not design” – there are basically two schools of thought about how Bitcoin prices should be interpreted. At the risk of simplification, these can be divided into the stasist (neoclassical economic) and dynamist (Austrian/evolutionary economics) perspectives.
The Neoclassical View
The stasist, neoclassical view is that asset markets can experience relative price fluctuations. This happens as sellers and buyers of different asset classes accommodate changing economic, political, and other conditions impinging on asset values. But generally speaking, asset prices should reflect the “fundamental” value of the asset (being the present value of all future cash flows from the asset).
From the stasist perspective, a sustained asset-price increase over a period of time raises suspicions that the asset price is departing from its fundamental value. This is because of “mispricing,” “excessive speculation,” “herding behavior,” and therefore, the observed actual price for Bitcoin is anomalous – a veritable “bubble” that is ready to burst as asset-market participants rationally come back to their senses.
The alternative perspective concerning Bitcoin’s recent astronomical price rise comes from a loose alliance of thought in the Austrian and evolutionary economics traditions. We call this perspective the dynamist view.
The Dynamist Perspective
Under the dynamist interpretation asset prices adjust to economic and other conditions. But the notion of a singular, fundamental value is not, and cannot be, the subject of consensus amongst the heterogeneous sellers and buyers of cryptocurrency.
Instead, the fundamental value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies need not be fully known to all the participants in crypto-asset markets but is, rather, the subject of continuous, unceasing discovery that is apparent on multiple levels.What we are seeing with the Bitcoin price, according to the dynamist interpretation, is not an irrational bubble, but a reflection of price discovery overlaid with, and in no small part driven by, a rapid adoption phase in the form of a growing population of sellers and buyers in the market.
The best representation of this view is provided by Jason Potts of RMIT University’s [Australia] Blockchain Innovation Hub who explains that bubbles, insofar as they are not the product of government intervention, are what energetically elicits interest in the short-term growth and ultimately long-term maturation of asset (and many other) markets.
Therefore, worrying about whether Bitcoin is or isn’t a bubble is somewhat wasted energy. It seems to be a question with an indeterminable answer: what is the fundamental value of assets in the cryptocurrency market that is presently experiencing a rapid adoption phase in its evolutionary life.
Cryptocurrencies and the blockchain can potentially lay a path for new and previously unforeseen paths, of value-added activity.
A Hayekian Discovery Procedure, before Our Very Eyes
It is true that bubbles can be “creatively destructive” of previously conceived notions of economic activity but, just like mass transportation infrastructure, wholesale and retaining services, home computing, and the Internet, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain can potentially lay a path for new, previously unforeseen paths, of value-added activity.
Fixating upon the Bitcoin bubble question misses the fundamental point that the people flocking into cryptocurrency markets are proactively engaging in an experimentation and social learning process. From this, we can all potentially benefit (even in the worst-case, but unlikely scenario that the crypto economy entirely comes to naught).
Can cryptocurrency become a medium of exchange challenging fiat currencies issued by government? Can Bitcoin and its cryptocurrency compatriots become a useful store of value? May Bitcoin and its rivals even serve as a unit of account? These are the kinds of questions that experiments and learnings from the trading of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will uncover in due course.
Mikayla Novak is a senior researcher for the Institute of Public Affairs, an Australian free market think tank, and holds a doctorate in economics. She specializes in public finance, economic history, and the history of classical liberal thought.
After Bitcoin hit $10,000, it, at last, seemed to dawn on the mainstream financial press that this thing matters. There has been a panic rush to catch up on the meaning of it all. Some have doubled down on the claim that the whole thing is a hoax. Others dismiss it as a bubble (indeed, all financial models would suggest that a correction is needed). Some bigshots have called for it to be banned as if it is even possible to ban a mathematical protocol.
So much confusion out there! Having followed this technology from 2010, here are the ten points I find most salient about Bitcoin and the entire cryptoasset sector.
Good money emerges from exchange and entrepreneurship.
1. It was not invented by government. From the ancient world, it has been claimed that money (right and proper money) is the domain of government, at the very least to guard but also to invent, impose, and manage. In the late 19th century, an entire school of economic thought grew up around it: the State Theory of Money. Georg Friedrich Knapp’s treatise by that name came out in 1905 (English translation 1924) and helped entrench the nationalization of money in central banks. Bitcoin shows that the theory is wrong. Good money emerges from exchange and entrepreneurship, as Carl Menger said.
2. It was not invented by academia. The Bitcoin protocol was released by an anonymous programmer on a small email list and then put into the commons. Economists – to say nothing of political scientists and sociologists – were entirely out of the loop. This is fascinating because mainstream intellectual hierarchy puts academia at the top and everyone else underneath. The black robes rule the course of history and everyone else is their benefactor, it is said, as if there were a structure of production for ideas. The problem with this theory emerged in the age of capitalism, when the practitioners, not the theorists, starting getting all the good ideas. Then the backlash came in the 20th century: the experts would manage society. Now we are finding out something amazing: the best ideas come from those with boots on the ground.
3. It’s not all about Bitcoin. In some ways, the high-flying returns on the headline cryptocurrency are a distraction from the genius of the underlying technology: the distributed ledger called the Blockchain. This technology has spawned a financial sector just as large as Bitcoin itself, with thousands of applications, including every form of contracting. Blockchain could even lead to an upheaval in the relationship between the individual and the state. The critical thing to understand about the technology is this: it is a better way than we’ve ever had to document and enforce ownership claims. If you do not understand what this sentence means, I’m sorry but you do not understand the value of this technology.
Governments are an annoyance, not the authors of history.
4. The old regulations won’t work. This technology is completely new, whereas all existing financial and regulatory machinery is based on muscling legacy technology to perform in a certain way. Retooling the regulations to fit simply won’t work. It is only going to create messes, slowing down but not stopping, progress. Legacy bureaucracies and stakeholders will fight and fight but nothing can stop this revolution, which is borderless and digital, making it impossible to control. Moreover, every regulation reduces competitiveness and entrenches incumbent firms. Do you think if government had banned, for example, horseshoes, electricity, internal combustion, or flight that this would have actually stopped these ideas from becoming reality? Governments are an annoyance, not the authors of history.
5. Money will be competitive. Many people see the current goings-on as a struggle between the dollar and Bitcoin. That is too simplified. The real struggle is between national money monopolies and a newly competitive system. That competition occurs between cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets. People want to know who the winner will be. This too is old-world thinking. The competitive process will never stop. Winning will be temporary, and a new challenger will rise up and take the top spot. This is a new world. No living person knows what this is like because money has been protected from market pressure for so long. In particular, Americans are going to have to get used to a world in which the dollar is no longer king.
At over two million young people, the number of US homeschoolers is comparable to the number of US students enrolled in public charter schools, and it is now considered a worthwhile education option for many families.
According to the Department of Education, a top motivator for homeschooling parents is “concern about the environment of other schools.” While their homeschooling approaches and educational philosophies vary widely, most homeschooling parents value the freedom, flexibility, and focus on family and community that a homeschooling lifestyle offers. In many ways, this freedom, flexibility, and family-centered learning are terrifying to the state. Despite the fact that homeschooling has been legally recognized in all 50 states since 1993, attempts to limit homeschooling freedoms are ongoing.
US students are lagging far behind their peers in other nations on international comparison tests.
Recent efforts to tighten homeschooling regulations have been spotlighted in New Hampshire and Iowa, and homeschoolers in the United Kingdom are now dealing with mounting pressure to make their homeschooling laws more restrictive.
An underlying theme in these calls for regulating homeschoolers is that parents can’t be trusted and government knows best. Considering the fact that US students are lagging far behind their peers in other nations on international comparison tests, and the National Center for Education Statistics reports that only 14% of African-American eighth graders are proficient readers – while homeschooling students continue to outrank their schooled peers in academic performance – we should wonder who really knows best how to educate kids.
Homeschooling opponents will often cite rare examples of abuse or neglect of parents who claimed to be homeschooling, and who were often already known to social services agencies, as a rationale for restricting homeschoolers’ freedoms. The vast majority of homeschooling parents are overly attentive to their children’s education and well-being, which may be a primary reason they chose to homeschool in the first place. Sending their kids to school would be the easy path.
The biggest problem with the often-cavalier way citizens and lawmakers suggest regulating homeschoolers – who receive no public money but still pay local property taxes to fund schools – is that it is an invasion of privacy and a violation of due process. It assumes parents must be monitored for the good of others, and that they are guilty unless proven otherwise. Deep down, these efforts to restrict homeschooling freedoms are driven by fear. There is fear of the unfamiliar and fear for others’ safety and well-being.
Calls to regulate homeschoolers originate from fear of who they are and what they do.
Fear of the unfamiliar and fear for others’ safety have previously led us down disturbing paths as a nation. We fear what we don’t know and can’t control. Calls to regulate homeschoolers – often by tying them to a standardized schooled framework with frequent monitoring – originate from fear of who they are and what they do. Eroding the liberties of an entire group out of an unfounded fear of a few bad apples steadily chips away at the fabric of a free society.
“If the homeschoolers are doing everything right, then they won’t mind some oversight,” is a common refrain from regulation advocates. But that is like saying, if I have nothing to hide it’s okay for the government to listen to my phone calls and read my emails. It’s a breach of privacy and an inappropriate use of state power.
We can’t always protect all of our citizens from harm, but we can be aware when trying to protect them may do more harm than good. A free society depends on liberty and choice and freedom from government intervention. Instead of regulating the unfamiliar, we should seek to understand, tolerate, and perhaps learn from what it may teach us.
Kerry McDonald has a B.A. in Economics from Bowdoin and an M.Ed. in education policy from Harvard. She lives in Cambridge, Mass. with her husband and four never-been-schooled children. Follow her writing at Whole Family Learning.
Conservatives tend to regard the growing trend of single-parent families as an issue of personal responsibility, but what if the liberals who blame society are partly right? What if they can point their finger to a bill sponsored by two Republicans and signed into law by a Republican president?
Prior to the 1930s, the labor force participation rate for black Americans was roughly equal to that of whites. Following passage of the first federal minimum wage in 1931, these rates started to diverge, and from the 1950s to the present, national black unemployment has remained at double the rate for whites. This is not surprising: Minimum wage restrictions discourage businesses from hiring workers who are regarded as “less marketable” due to either their lack of experience or societal prejudice.
The impact of minimum wage on worker participation depends on how much it exceeds market-based wages. This in turn varies from state to state. Since information on the size of this gap is not easily available, the state “regulatory environment” as determined by Forbes magazine can serve a more comprehensive means for estimating of overall administrative barriers to job growth (including minimum wage).
To detect the effect of the regulatory environment on black Americans I limited the data to states with significant black populations because these states are more likely to provide a representative sample for this group. Based on this sub-sample the line representing blacks is noticeably steeper than the line representing whites (Fig. 1). This means that the “employment gap” between blacks and whites widens as state regulations become less conducive to business.Fig. 1: Based on data from Forbes (2016), the U.S. Census Bureau (2015), and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015) as cited by Thomas C. Frohlich in 24/7 Wall Street. 24/7 Wall Street
Federal expenditures to states obscure the effect of overregulation because federal jobs and grants can make up for the lack of private investment. For example, despite having one of the worst regulatory environments in the U.S. (ranks 48 out of 50), the state of Hawaii has one of the lowest unemployment rates. Does this mean that federal “investments” are a good strategy for narrowing the employment gap? Not really: Large federal expenditures are justified in regions with an extensive military infrastructure (like Hawaii or Guam), but spending for the sole purpose of “economic stimulus” is a zero-sum game that worsens the national debt while adding nothing to the national economy. Hence, to more accurately detect the effect of regulatory environment on states, it is necessary to limit the sample to states with less federal land because these states rely less on federal employment and control more of their own resources.
When the sample is limited to states with minimal federal land, the line representing black unemployment becomes much steeper (Fig. 2). On the right side of the graph the average employment gap between blacks and whites is 8 points. On the left side the gap is only 3.5 percentage points (Fig. 3). For the state of Indiana, the gap is a mere 2.5 points. During this time the governor of Indiana was Mike Pence.Fig. 2: ibid. Fig. 3: ibid.
If equality is so important to progressives, why is the right side of the graph dominated by states that have [elected] Democrats since 1992?
Where are the Einstein's of today is a lament we hear often, or an Alexander Graham Bell or a Thomas Edison? No such individuals are visible today...at least that is the thinking of most. Anyone looking for such geniuses would of course be seeking a man who might fit the bill.
But how about a woman?? Yes, a woman! Why not a woman?
We have discovered just such a genius woman, a skilled engineer who designed and built a power monitor for the space shuttles' computer power supply. This became part of the shuttles' test platform. It automatically detected the sleep mode from the operating mode and adjusted the overload point accordingly, it was also self-testing which was a big plus to NASA.
After that Ms. Hart worked for a company as a contractor developing test system hardware and software for testing the radiation detectors used by the NASA deep space probe. She was then recruited by the Army Corps of Engineers. They sent her to Washington, D.C. to work on one of their projects, which was a vital machine that nobody …nobody… could fix. Liza could and did. Within six months the machine was up and running. She designed a completely new control system and built it.
At the time, the company [that] the Army Corps of Engineers sent her to, said the machine was looking at variable densities for detection of Contraband. Liza, the female Einstein of our time, figured that machine might also work for explosives detection.
Her new idea combined spectroscopy, broad spectrum and x-rays, which was an entirely new idea. The company who had the machine brought in the bomb squad who tested it with live explosives. It worked.
There had also been a problem with the X-ray tubes that could not handle the high voltage (160.000 volts) which caused some of the tubes to blow up. Yet that high voltage was needed to produce the X-rays needed. A catch 22 if there ever was one. Instead of throwing up her hands, Ms. Hart simply shifted her genius brain in gear and went at it.
She came up with a new X-ray Tube Assembly Design. This resulted in a patent and that design is still used to this day and machines that came from that are in place at international airports.
This is only a small part of the various inventions created by Liza Hart who holds patents on them, many which have saved lives including medical devices while working with a heart doctor. Her inventions have been so significant to the world that she is now a part of history.
Greece has confirmed that a nation can spend itself into a fiscal crisis.
And the Greek experience also has confirmed that bailouts exacerbate a fiscal crisis by enabling more bad policy, while also rewarding spendthrift politicians and reckless lenders (as I predicted when Greece’s finances first began to unravel).
So now let’s look at a third question: Can a country tax itself to death? Greek politicians are doing their best to see if this is possible, with a seemingly endless parade of tax increases (so many that even the tax-loving folks at the IMF have balked).
At the very least, they’ve pushed the private sector into hospice care.
Let’s peruse a couple of recent stories from Ekathimerini, an English-language Greek news outlet. We’ll start with a rather grim look at a very punitive tax regime that is aggressively grabbing money from taxpayers with arrears.
Tax authorities have confiscated the salaries, pensions and assets of more that 180,000 taxpayers since the start of the year, but expired debts to the state have continued to rise, reaching almost 100 billion euros, as the taxpaying capacity of the Greeks is all but exhausted. In the month of October, authorities made almost 1,000 confiscations a day from people with debts to the state of more than 500 euros. In the first 10 months of the year, the state confiscated some 4 billion euros.
But the Greek government is losing a race. The more it raises taxes, the more people fall behind.
in October alone, the unpaid tax obligations of households and enterprises came to 1.2 billion euros. Unpaid taxes from January to October amounted to 10.44 billion euros, which brings the total including unpaid debts from previous years to almost 100 billion euros (99.8 billion), or about 55 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The inability of citizens and businesses to meet their obligations is also confirmed by the course of public revenues, which this year have declined by more than 2.5 billion euros. The same situation is expected to continue into next year, as the new tax burdens and increased social security contributions look set to send debts to the state soaring.
The fact that revenues have declined should be a glaring signal to politicians that they are past the revenue-maximizing point on the Laffer Curve.
But the government probably won’t be satisfied until everyone in the private sector is in debt to the state.
In this holiday season, we constantly see appeals to “give back.” Google indicates that there are 154 million mentions of “giving back.” While many of these are self-serving requests for contributions, a sampling of these listings indicates that giving to charity helps create a “purpose” in life. The assumption (sometimes explicit, but always implicit) is that what we do in the workplace to earn our money is somehow selfish, but we can help others by giving to charity.
I have no difficulty with charity; my wife and I donate to several charities, and this website is itself funded by donors. Moreover, someone with the wealth of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or any of the other multi-billionaires (or even multimillionaires) cannot really spend all of their wealth, nor can their descendants. Once one becomes sufficiently wealthy, there is no option but to give money to charity. Moreover, Mr. Gates is apparently doing a commendable job through his Foundation of allocating his (and Mr. Buffett’s) contributions to the most efficient causes.
The social benefits of Gates Foundation pale in comparison to Microsoft and the computer revolution he helped to create.
But what is not socially useful is to call these or any other contributions “giving back.” The implication of the term is that the donor has taken something from society by earning money and that this has created an obligation to return something through charity.
This view of charity is very counterproductive and leads to the general demonization of markets which has become rife in our society. The important point is that the act of creating wealth is itself productive. In a market economy, the only way to become wealthy is to create some good or service that others find valuable. The wealthy may contribute to social good by giving to charity, but before that, they created even more social good through the very behaviors that created their wealth.
However much good Mr. Gates may do through his Foundation, the social benefits pale in comparison to his contribution through Microsoft and the computer revolution he helped to create. Mr. Gates was able to gather for himself only a small portion of these benefits; the rest went to all of us in the form of consumer surplus. Mr. Buffett is a highly skilled investor, which means that he created huge amounts of social wealth by contribution to the efficient allocation of capital. In an earlier era, John D. Rockefeller made his money by rationalizing the production and distribution of petroleum, first for kerosene lighting and then for automobiles.
The Ugly Side of Charity
Henry Ford (a vicious anti-Semite) nonetheless created huge amounts of social wealth (which also benefited Jews) by developing methods of producing automobiles at low cost. In fact, when Henry Ford “gave back” he did it in part by publishing an anti-Semitic newsletter, the Dearborn Independent, and contributing to other hateful causes. Hitler borrowed heavily from Ford’s newspaper.
>Giving to charity is meritorious, but the benefits of charity are secondary.
This perhaps illustrates that in producing wealth it is necessary to benefit people by satisfying their desires, but in giving back it is possible to do harm as well as good, depending on the targets of giving. For example, the Koch Brothers and George Soros both give back by contributing large sums to political action, but it is impossible that they are both contributing to social good since the causes they advocate are diametrically opposed.
Giving to charity is meritorious, but the benefits of charity are secondary to the benefits created by earning the wealth that can be contributed.
Paul H. Rubin is a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Economics at Emory University, and Editor in Chief of Managerial and Decision Economics.
What gives some people the right to rule others? At least since John Locke’s time, the most common and seemingly compelling answer has been “the consent of the governed.”
Political legitimacy presents a multitude of difficulties when we move from the realm of theoretical abstraction to that of practical realization.
When the North American revolutionaries set out to justify their secession from the British Empire, they declared, among other things: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” This sounds good, especially if one doesn’t think about it very hard or very long, but the harder and longer one thinks about it, the more problematic it becomes.
One question after another comes to mind. Must every person consent? If not, how many must, and what options do those who do not consent have? What form must the consent take—verbal, written, explicit, implicit? If implicit, how is it to be registered? Given that the composition of society is constantly changing, owing to births, deaths, and international migration, how often must the rulers confirm that they retain the consent of the governed? And so on and on. Political legitimacy, it would appear, presents a multitude of difficulties when we move from the realm of theoretical abstraction to that of practical realization.
I raise this question because in regard to the so-called social contract, I have often had occasion to protest that I haven’t even seen the contract, much less been asked to consent to it. A valid contract requires voluntary offer, acceptance, and consideration.
I’ve never received an offer from my rulers, so I certainly have not accepted one; and rather than consideration, I have received nothing but contempt from the rulers, who, notwithstanding the absence of any agreement, have indubitably threatened me with grave harm in the event that I fail to comply with their edicts. What monumental effrontery these people exhibit! What gives them the right to rob me and push me around? It certainly is not my desire to be a sheep for them to shear or slaughter as they deem expedient for the attainment of their own ends.
Consent of the Governed
Moreover, when we flesh out the idea of “consent of the governed” in realistic detail, the whole notion quickly becomes utterly preposterous. Just consider how it would work. A would-be ruler approaches you and offers a contract for your approval. Here, says he, is the deal.
I, the party of the first part (“the ruler”), promise:
(1) To stipulate how much of your money you will hand over to me, as well as how, when, and where the transfer will be made. You will have no effective say in the matter, aside from pleading for my mercy, and if you should fail to comply, my agents will punish you with fines, imprisonment, and (in the event of your persistent resistance) death.
(2) To make thousands upon thousands of rules for you to obey without question, again on pain of punishment by my agents. You will have no effective say in determining the content of these rules, which will be so numerous, complex, and in many cases beyond comprehension that no human being could conceivably know about more than a handful of them, much less their specific character, yet if you should fail to comply with any of them, I will feel free to punish you to the extent of a law made by me and my confederates.
(3) To provide for your use, on terms stipulated by me and my agents, so-called public goods and services. Although you may actually place some value on a few of these goods and services, most will have little or no value to you, and some you will find utterly abhorrent, and in no event will you as an individual have any effective say over the goods and services I provide, notwithstanding any economist’s cock-and-bull story to the effect that you “demand” all this stuff and value it at whatever amount of money I choose to expend for its provision.
(4) In the event of a dispute between us, judges beholden to me for their appointment and salaries will decide how to settle the dispute. You can expect to lose in these settlements if your case is heard at all.
In exchange for the foregoing government “benefits,” you, the party of the second part (“the subject”), promise:
Upon sober reflection, the whole idea of consent of the governed is as fanciful as the unicorn.
(5) To shut up, make no waves, obey all orders issued by the ruler and his agents, kowtow to them as if they were important, honorable people, and when they say “jump,” ask only “how high?”
Such a deal! Can we really imagine that any sane person would consent to it?
Social Contracts and Unicorns
Yet the foregoing description of the true social contract into which individuals are said to have entered is much too abstract to capture the raw realities of being governed. In enumerating the actual details, no one has ever surpassed Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who wrote:
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a French politician and the founder of mutualist philo-sophy. He was the first per- son to declare himself an anarchist and is widely re- garded as one of the ideology's most influential theorists.To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality. (P.-J. Proudhon,
Nowadays, of course, we would have to supplement Proudhon’s admirably precise account by noting that our being governed also entails our being electronically monitored, tracked by orbiting satellites, tased more or less at random, and invaded in our premises by SWAT teams of police, often under the pretext of their overriding our natural right to decide what substances we will ingest, inject, or inhale into what used to be known as “our own bodies.”
So, to return to the question of political legitimacy as determined by the consent of the governed, it appears upon sober reflection that the whole idea is as fanciful as the unicorn. No one in his right mind, save perhaps an incurable masochist, would voluntarily consent to be treated as governments actually treat their subjects.
Nevertheless, very few of us in this country at present are actively engaged in armed rebellion against our rulers. And it is precisely this absence of outright violent revolt that, strange to say, some commentators take as evidence of our consent to the outrageous manner in which the government treats us. Grudging, prudential acquiescence, however, is not the same thing as consent, especially when the people acquiesce, as I do, only in simmering, indignant resignation.
For the record, I can state in complete candor that I do not approve of the manner in which I am being treated by the liars, thieves, and murderers who style themselves the Government of the United States of America or by those who constitute the tyrannical pyramid of state, local, and hybrid governments with which this country is massively infested. My sincere wish is that all of these individuals would, for once in their lives, do the honorable thing. In this regard, I suggest that they resign their positions immediately and seek honest employment.
Addendum one: “Love it or leave it”: Whenever I write along the foregoing lines, I always receive messages from Neanderthals who, imagining that I “hate America,” demand that I get the hell out of this country and go back to wherever I came from. Such reactions evince not only bad manners, but a fundamental misunderstanding of my grievance.
I most emphatically do not hate America. I was not born in some foreign despotism, but in a domestic one known as Oklahoma, which I understand to be the very heart and soul of this country so far as culture and refinement are concerned. I yield to no one in my affection for the Statue of Liberty, the Rocky Mountains, and the amber waves of grain, not to mention the celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County.
So when I am invited to get out of the country, I feel like someone living in a town taken over by the James Gang who has been told that if he doesn’t like being robbed and bullied by uninvited thugs, he should move to another town. To me, it seems much more fitting that the criminals get out.
Second addendum: The foregoing (along with a few ill-considered sentences that I have now deleted) was first posted by The Beacon blog in June 2010. I stand by it except for the small revisions just mentioned. However, ultimately, in recognition of the zero probability that the U.S. government would ever treat me decently and would almost certainly only demand greater abasement from me over time, I emigrated from the USA in October 2015. I did not go to a free country; no such country exists. But I did escape some of the more menacing and humiliating aspects of life under the U.S. government as well as the state and local tyrannies that hold the American people hostage.
Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for the Independent Institute and Editor at Large of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, the University of Economics, Prague, and George Mason University. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation