For several years the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has placed an undue burden on the consumers and producers of transportation fuel. It became clear early in the implementation of the RFS it had significant flaws, but special interests have fought reform for fear of losing their gravy train. The RFS has turned nothing more than a government subsidy for the farmers. It is time to return competition to the transportation fuel market and repeal the RFS.
In 2005, Congress passed, and President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Among the many new regulations created in the legislation, the RFS was birthed. The RFS mandated a certain amount of renewable fuels, mostly corn ethanol, be blended with gasoline. The amount was 4 billion gallons in 2006 with a rise to 7.5 billion in 2012.
In 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was passed. The bill increased the amount of renewable fuel to be blended. It required 9 billion gallons be blended in 2008 with an increase to 36 billion gallons in 2022. The increase amounted to a massive government ordered subsidy to be paid to biofuel producers.
Each refiner has a Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) that is given to them by the EPA. A Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) is a tracking number used for biofuels. To ensure every refiner is following the laws outlined in the 2005 and 2007 acts the EPA devised a way to track each batch of biofuel. Refiners must have a certain amount of RINs to meet its RVO. If a refiner does not have the capability to blend biofuel, it must purchase a RIN from another refiner that can produce RINs. A government mandate forcing a private company to buy a product it doesn’t need or want, where have we heard this before?
The largest refinery on the East Coast was just bankrupted by the RFS. The refinery belonging to Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) was forced to declare bankruptcy in January. The 335,000 barrel per day refinery was over $600 million in debt, much of that due to the RFS. PES stated it spent $218 million in 2017 for RINs, more than it spent on personnel.
Even the U.S. Energy Information Agency knows the RFS isn’t worth it, stating, “The energy content of ethanol is about 33 percent less than pure gasoline. The impact of fuel ethanol on vehicle fuel economy varies depending on the amount of denaturant that is added to the ethanol. The energy content of denaturant is about equal to the energy content of pure gasoline. In general, vehicle fuel economy may decrease by about 3 percent when using E10 relative to gasoline that does not contain fuel ethanol.” [Emphasis mine — ed.]
This begs the question, why is the U.S. government mandating consumers purchase a less efficient fuel?
Not only is ethanol less fuel efficient, but it also acts as yet another tax on the consumer. A 2014 study by the Congressional Budget Office found the RFS adds between $0.13 and $0.26 per gallon of regular gasoline and $0.30 to $0.51 for diesel.
Now the environmental lobby is turning against the RFS. Writing for The Hill, David DeGennaro of the National Wildlife Federation, noted the carbon pollution released by farmers plowing more than 7 million acres between 2008 and 2012 released emissions equal to 20 million cars.
The renewable fuel standard is a complete failure. It did not reduce dependence on foreign oil, fracking did. So are electric cars that don’t use fuel. The RFS did not help the environment; it made it worse. If it did nothing that it was supposed to do, then why is the Obamacare mandate of energy still around? If the special interests are unwilling to reform it, the RFS must be repealed. At this point, it is nothing more than a tax on the consumer and a subsidy for big business.
“Creative destruction.” When I first heard the term in school, I thought it must have been a mistake. How can creation destroy? And how can destruction be creative?
The phrase seemed so at odds with itself as to sound like a contradiction.
Thank God for teachers. Mine explained the term, and everything became clear. Creation can destroy, and destruction can be creative.
The laptop on which I write this is a great example. Personal computers do many marvelous things–and they also banished typewriters from existence. (When was the last time you even saw one?) Typewriters were the target of the computer’s destruction, and all of us are the beneficiaries of its creation.
Every time this happens–and, fortunately, it happens a lot–innovation results. New efficiencies are realized. And more and more people, here and around the world, see their standard of living improve.
And yet, not everyone gets it. Like the confused schoolgirl I once was, the government seems to have no idea that creative destruction is a good thing. Right now, government officials at all levels, domestic and international, are working on a plan to shackle the internet with an unprecedented tax burden.
Here in America, state governments have long sought to overturn constitutional limits that prevent them from exporting their sales tax regimes to even the smallest online retailers working beyond their borders.
The issue already has been heard by the Supreme Court twice, in 1967 and 1992. And each time, the court told tax-hungry state governments that their power to force retailers to abide by local sales tax laws stopped at their borders.
South Dakota is the latest to take up this unholy tax crusade and is doing so under the banner “The internet changes everything.” Their claim is that if a South Dakota resident buys something from an online retailer, that retailer essentially has a store in South Dakota and therefore should be taxed as if the store really was in South Dakota. Except it’s not.
Making matters even worse, South Dakota’s idea is to expose anyone daring to sell things to its residents via the internet with a harsh mix of tax filings, audits, and the potential for having to travel to South Dakota for a date in court with government prosecutors.
What is this really all about? Governments standing in the way of creative destruction. In the interest of collecting more tax revenue and protecting local brick-and-mortar businesses from competition, government officials want to saddle online businesses–large and small–with high tax and compliance costs.
If they succeed, prices will rise. Innovation will suffer. Efficiency will be lost. And the cost and quality of our lives will be directly impacted.
Kay Coles James is president of The Heritage Foundation. James formerly served as director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and as Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources. She is also the founder and president of The Gloucester Institute.
In a Q&A session on Reddit last week, Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates accused cryptocurrencies of causing “deaths in a fairly direct way,” leading to headlines such as this: "Bill Gates says crypto-currencies cause deaths."
Gates was, of course, referring to the fact that cryptocurrencies facilitate the purchase of illegal substances on the black market which sometimes leads to drug-related deaths. He also raised concerns about the negative consequences of the anonymity feature of cryptocurrencies, namely money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorism funding.
As the creator of the most successful operating system in history, Bill Gates should know better than anyone that a piece of software (or, in the case of cryptocurrencies, a payment system based on a new technology) cannot be blamed for the use someone makes of it. Charging cryptocurrencies with drug-related deaths is comparable to accusing Windows of causing terrorism because terrorists are using Microsoft’s operating system to store documents on how to make bombs.
Let us take the case of drugs. In the U.S., the War on Drugs initiated by President Nixon in the 1970s appears to have resulted in more harm than good. Besides a clear violation of personal freedom, prohibition has contributed to an increase in drug overdoses, strengthening at the same time the role of violent cartels in drug-producing countries.
From an economic perspective, the War on Drugs costs taxpayers around $51 billion annually. Since the onset of the War on Drugs in 1971, the U.S. government alone (excluding state and local government spending) has spent more than $1 trillion.
The drug war has also had a tremendous impact on prison policies. In the period of 1974–2014, the prison population grew by about 600 percent. Even though it is difficult to measure the exact impact of the War on Drugs on this spectacular growth, we can state with certainty that a large part of this increase is due to the drug war. To justify this assertion, here is a number: in 1974, 41,000 went to prison due to drug offenses; in 2014, multiply the previous number by 10. (These policies had a severe impact on minorities, particularly black and Hispanic Americans.)
If drug-trading using cryptocurrencies continues to grow, it could end up making government efforts to stop the consumption of illegal substances useless, leading to the end of the War on Drugs and paving the way for an eventual legalization. This might sound utopian, but legalization of marijuana also seemed unreachable a few years ago. Today, the sale and possession are legal in eight states and counting.
Cryptocurrencies possess all the characteristics to become perfect tax havens: earnings are not taxed; anonymity is preserved; and operating with them doesn’t involve third parties, which implies that there is no intermediary through which government can address tax evasion issues in foreign countries.
Faced with the impossibility of collecting as much in taxes as they do today due to a potential widespread use of cryptocurrencies, governments might be compelled to reduce the heavy tax burden they currently impose on their citizens. This, in turn, would reduce the size of governments, expanding the scope of personal and economic freedom.
It is true that in other areas — terrorism, say — the ethics get even trickier. Cryptocurrencies could become a useful tool for those seeking to fund terrorist activities. On the other hand, they could also inhibit governmental mass surveillance programs (at least in relation to economic transactions), pushing governments to be more respectful towards privacy and efficient when it comes to targeting and dismantling security threats.
In any case, a cost-benefit analysis of the impact of cryptocurrencies should be undertaken. Perhaps then opponents of the technology would be forced to concede the potential benefits of cryptocurrencies.
In any academic discipline, one can find two types of experts: those who are incapable of explaining complex ideas in a simple manner; and those capable of making the difficult look easy. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the death Henry Hazlitt, one of the few economists who belongs to the second group.
Born in Philadelphia in 1894, Hazlitt developed his career as a journalist in the most influential newspapers and magazines of the country, starting at The Wall Street Journal as a typographer in 1914. During the 1920s, he wrote for several printed media outlets, including The New York Evening Post and The Nation, of which he was appointed literary director.
Hazlitt pointed out that short-sighted economic policies aimed at satisfying the claims of particular groups end up reducing the welfare of the majority.
In 1934, Hazlitt became the chief editorial writer of The New York Times, where he gained a reputation for writing about economics and finance from a free-market perspective. His outspoken opposition to the Bretton Woods Agreement had him fired after 12 successful years at the most important newspaper of the Big Apple. Yet he continued to be dedicated to his passion for writing until his death in 1993.
Despite his lack of formal academic training, Hazlitt showed a deep interest in the field of economics, which led him to write several books on the topic. In 1946, he published one of the best introductory texts on economics ever written: Economics in One Lesson.
Following the steps of the 19th-century French economist Frédéric Bastiat, Hazlitt pointed out that short-sighted economic policies aimed at satisfying the claims of particular groups inevitably end up reducing the welfare of the majority of the population. In his own words,
“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”Economics in One Lesson is a magnificent rebuttal of popular economic fallacies deeply embedded in the political discourse of his time. By means of a very accessible language aimed at the general public, Hazlitt discusses, dissects, and debunks 22 economic sophisms like the idea that technological advances destroy employment or the myth that price ceilings are beneficial for consumers. All fallacies examined in Economics in One Lesson are still present in today’s political debate. Yet there are some that are especially relevant for their implications on the long-term welfare of societies. Here are three of them:
Since at least Adam Smith, it is a well-known fact that free trade is one of the keys to prosperity. Yet the case for tariffs keeps coming back like a bad penny. In a few pages, Hazlitt provides a concise and yet comprehensive account of the detrimental effects of tariffs on real wages, consumers, and productivity. According to Hazlitt, this fallacy stems from looking merely at the short-term benefits of tariffs for specific groups disregarding their long-term impact on the economy as a whole.
Since we’ve now been living with the global warming story for 30 years, it might seem hard to believe that science could now come up with anything that would enable us to see that story in a wholly new light.
But that is what I am suggesting in a new paper, just published in the UK by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, thanks to a book called Groupthink, written more than 40 years ago by a professor of psychology at Yale, Irving Janis.
What Janis did was to define scientifically just how what he called groupthink operates, according to three basic rules. And what my paper tries to show is the astonishing degree to which they explain so much that many have long found puzzling about the global warming story.
Janis’s first rule is that a group of people come to share a particular way of looking at the world which may seem hugely important to them but which turns out not to have been based on looking properly at all the evidence. It is therefore just a shared, untested belief.
Anyone holding a contrary view must simply be ignored.
Rule two is that, because they have shut their minds to any evidence which might contradict their belief, they like to insist that it is supported by a “consensus.” The one thing those caught up in groupthink cannot tolerate is that anyone should question it.
This leads on to the third rule, which is that they cannot properly debate the matter with those who disagree with their belief. Anyone holding a contrary view must simply be ignored, ridiculed, and dismissed as not worth listening to.
What my paper does is look again at the entire global warming story in the light of Janis’s rules, and to show how consistently they explain so much of the way it has unfolded all the way through.
Christopher Booker is a columnist for The Sunday Telegraph.
Frederick Douglass, the greatest of all American abolitionists, possibly the greatest American champion of the cause of equal rights, was born 200 years ago in February 1818.
Perhaps the infant Douglass arrived on Feb. 14, as he liked to think, remembering a morning in his boyhood when his mother, enslaved as he was, walked miles to bring him a modest cake and called him her “little valentine.”
By this now-customary dating, we commemorate Douglass’ 200th birthday Feb. 14 as an opportune moment to reflect on his life, thoughts, and legacy.
Raised in what Booker T. Washington would call “the school of slavery,” Douglass was a battler.
“To live is to battle,” he believed, according to his writings. “Contest is itself ennobling.”
It was not by means of physical force that Douglass chose to do battle over the course of his great career.In particular, the age-old contest for liberty against the forces of tyranny. He presented his own physical battle, as a teen, against the cruel slave master Edward Covey as a great turning point of his life.
“I was a changed being after that fight,” Douglass wrote. “I was nothing before; I was a man now.”
He called his act of resistance to tyranny a “resurrection.”
It was not, however, by means of physical force that Douglass chose to do battle over the course of his great career. The battle with Covey was not the only battle, nor the only moment of rebirth, that he recounted in his autobiographies. No less profoundly formative was his battle for literacy and education.
When another of his slave masters, Hugh Auld, scolded his young wife Sophia for beginning to teach young Frederick how to read — such learning, Auld said, “would forever unfit him for the duties of a slave” — the alert boy received this lesson as “a new and special revelation.”
From this unwitting instruction, he learned that “‘knowledge unfits a child to be a slave’ … and from that moment I understood the direct pathway from slavery to freedom.”
It is by the possession and exercise of those faculties that we are, and know ourselves to be, free and equal by nature. It was a lesson he never forgot. In the last major speech of his life, delivered in 1894 at the dedication of an industrial school for the children of former slaves, Douglass advised his audience: “Education … means emancipation. It means light and liberty.”
Peter C. Myers, a former visiting fellow in American political thought in The Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics, is a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is the author of “
Imagine you own a modest house in the countryside. You go there with your family on the weekends, fleeing the noisy and congested atmosphere of the city. Your husband and you are still paying back the mortgage you took a few years ago to purchase the house, working hard to make ends meet.
Now imagine that one day you find that the facade of your beautiful dwelling has been graffitied by a renowned artist whose paintings are considered art treasures by experts. Because it’s your property, you don’t hesitate for a second and immediately start cleaning the front of your house. A few days later, you find out you have been sued for breaking a law that protects public art of “recognized stature.” You are finally condemned to pay a large fine to the artist for erasing his work of art.
It is essential for society to have a legal framework that doesn’t undermine private property rights. If you are thinking this could never happen in the U.S., where private property rights are allegedly protected by the
Some will say that this is just an anecdote that doesn’t deserve a great deal of attention. After all, that a person isn’t permitted to whitewash the facade of his building under certain specific circumstances doesn’t seem a terrible infringement of his rights.
Personally, I see this case as an excellent opportunity to show why it is essential for a society aimed at achieving economic prosperity to have a legal framework that doesn’t undermine private property rights. Or put differently, private property rights are a condition sine qua non for a society to thrive; protecting them is, thus, of the utmost importance.
An incentive is a potential pecuniary reward that moves someone to do something.
Let’s start from the beginning. What do I mean by private property rights?
The right to private property contains
What differentiates news from propaganda? Quite simply, news informs about an event while propaganda drum beats a certain dogma. With this in mind, today, what masquerades as the former is nothing more than a crafty version of the latter.
Aside from the terrible loss of life from the recent mass killings, haven’t we all gotten our fill of replaying the same film footage? The latest being the student’s mad dash for safety? Also, what purpose does it serve when asking those heartless questions of family members? What happened to our sensitivity and compassion?
Now consider the disturbing FBI commonalities to previous killing sprees? In just about every instance, prior knowledge existed yet follow up didn’t. So while the anti-gunsters now concentrate upon inciting students en masse, with the intent of attracting the political ear, what remains unprintable are the trails of alarming signals which were and continue to be ignored. Certainly makes one wonder as to this consistency for fumbling the investigative ball. At some point, this should demand it’s own inquiry.
So here, five days later, and with the news of thirteen Russians being indicted, our media organizations saw fit to continue with another episode of Trump bashing through this horrific deed. How did that advise to President Clinton go? Something about “never letting a crisis go to waste?”
But what of this media transformation? Well, the previously mentioned paints a sorry picture of an industry which has scuttled their former investigative reporting talents. Instead, they have turned their front page news into a continuation of the opinion section. Especially since the 2016 election results, this penchant for redundancy and other assorted fakeries, has had a withering effect upon the reporting of “breaking news.”
Take for instance today’s assortment of Trump pounding propaganda. Top billing featured the headline, “Indictment: Social media got played by Russians.” Positioned in the third paragraph, “…Russian conspiracy aimed, in part, to help Republican Donald Trump and harm the prospects of his Democrat opponent, Hillary Clinton.” Earth shattering news, this is not! Just how long can our media elites push this mournful election re-run?
Along with this attack against the “social media,” our next headline criticizes with “It’s all about himself.” Before even reading the article, a bold printed secondary caption states, “Trump rages about Russian investigation on Twitter as nation mourns Fla. shooting.” Could the term “rage” be just a little over the top, even incendiary?
Deeper into the first section, we feast our eyes on another biased effort from E. J. Dionne, which no further comment is required since he toes the redundant anti-Trump, anti-gun mantra.
Further on, we read in bold print, “School survivors: Trump is off-base.” On the heels of the opening paragraph, comes a quote from a 17 year old who no doubt has embraced the words and/or thoughts of those he heard when aping, “You’re the president. You’re supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us.” Just how has Trump accomplished this division?
And finally, this ‘newspaper” branches into another Trump diatribe with, “Trump once again wants to cut energy assistance to poor.” Why that “once again” if not for emphasis? And just to round out this breaking news item, what would it be without a Bernie Sanders comment? He refers to “a situation where people will go cold, some may freeze to death.” Should I begin to hate my President or just discontinue my subscription?
This just about sums up the “Trump news” for today. For me, the clincher can be found in this newspaper’s “Today in History” column which has routinely ignored the birthdays of both Abe Lincoln and George Washington, the Father of our Country and the one who refused an offer of kingship. Funny, but isn’t the choice to ignore our first and sixteenth but never miss a day for pummeling our forty-fifth President a perfect testament to their preference for anti-American propaganda rather than the total news package?
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com
James Bowman's Background: Movie critic, The American Spectator (1990 to date) and The New York Sun (2002 to date) ; American editor, The Times Literary Supplement of London (1991 to 2002) media critic, The New Criterion (1993 to date); Washington correspondent, The Spectator of London (1989-1991); teacher of English and Head of General Studies, Portsmouth Grammar School, Portsmouth, England (1980-1989); assistant master Westminster School, London (1980).
Jerry, we’re not just going to
give you seven hundred and fifty
What the heck were you thinkin’?
Heck, if I’m only gettin’ bank
interest, I’d look for complete
security. Heck, FDIC. I don’t
see nothin’ like that here.
Yah, but I - okay, I would, I’d
guarantee ya your money back.
I’m not talkin’ about your damn
Fargo is primarily a movie about promises, implicit and explicit. It asks whether we will keep our promises to others, even against our own self-interest. What makes the movie fascinating is that many of the promises aren’t backed by the court system, for very good reason — the deals are illegal.Fargoasks if we can trust each other even if there is no government force making us comply. In other words, can we make contracts in the state of nature? In 1651, Hobbes argued that we couldn’t:
“If a covenant be made wherein neither of the parties perform presently, but trust one another, in the condition of mere nature (which is a condition of war of every man against every man) upon any reasonable suspicion, it is void: but if there be a common power set over them both, with right and force sufficient to compel performance, it is not void. For he that performeth first has no assurance the other will perform after, because the bonds of words are too weak to bridle men’s ambition, avarice, anger, and other passions, without the fear of some coercive power…”In other words, we need some external mechanism to enforce our promises, to make it so that other people can depend on our commitment. Making credible commitments is the foundation of business and society in general. Like Hobbes, we tend to assume that the government’s coercive power is the only way to create contracts. Nobel Prize-winning economist Oliver Williamson called this viewlegal centralism, the assumption that “the legal system enforces promises in a knowledgeable, sophisticated, and low-cost way” (Williamson, 1996, 121).
Williamson and other Nobel laureates, such as Elinor Ostrom, built their careers on proving this assumption wrong. In many instances, the court system is costly and time-consuming, and sometimes corrupt. Moreover, people are often surprisingly able to enforce promises and maintain order in their own communities without government.
Now that the FISA memo has been out long enough for us to be familiar with its contents, it’s time to start thinking more seriously about its many serious implications. We know one thing, at very least, it’s a damning referendum on the behavior of the entire Democratic Party over the past two years. It shows that the Democrats turned the FBI into a political weapon for use against Republican opposition in the 2018 election and that they doubled down on their crimes all year long in 2017, lying and lying and lying at every given opportunity.
While the real evidence that backs the memo might be difficult for the average person to verify the fact that the Democrats so vehemently opposed its release shows how much they fear it. Not only that but the fact that despite their vehement opposition to its release they all said it was a nothing burger after it was released.
Not only do they not care about the truth, they don’t care about having logically coherent and consistent positions. They just rally for what they want no matter what the facts are.
As we have argued before, the memo does not tell us anything that we have not been saying for months now, other than a few new details. The memo confirmed that Fusion GPS was paid off by Hillary Clinton and the DNC to generate opposition research on Donald Trump. It tells us that Fusion GPS then went on to hire the former MI6 spy Christopher Steele to create the dossier and that he quotes Russian agents as Trump’s points of contact.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past year, it’s that anything the Democrats accuse others of doing they themselves are guilty of that very thing. The memo tells us that it was the DNC who conspired to rig the election. But we knew this prior to election night in November of 2016!
What the memo does tell us that is new is the number of times the FBI went before the FISA court to ask for a warrant based on the Steele document. Permission to spy on Trump’s campaign team was denied three times. Since the 1970s, when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was set into law, the secret FISA courts have turned down only 12 out of thousands of such requests. That means this one request was denied a number of times equal to 25% of the FISA court’s total rejection rate in over 40 years.
That makes the FBI look bad. It makes the FISA court look bad. It makes the FISA judge look like a ranking simpleton and it reveals the Patriot Act (which provided the methods by which the spying was done) to be carte blanche for intel agents who want to spy on American citizens.
There is a lot of abstract talk these days on American college campuses about free speech and the values of free inquiry, with plenty of lip service being paid to expansive notions of free expression and the marketplace of ideas. What I’ve learned through my recent experience of writing a controversial op-ed is that most of this talk is not worth much. It is only when people are confronted with speech they don’t like that we see whether these abstractions are real to them.
The op-ed, which I co-authored with Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego Law School, appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 9 under the title, “Paying the Price for the Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture.” It began by listing some of the ills afflicting American society:
We then discussed the “cultural script”—a list of behavioral norms—that was almost universally endorsed between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s:
Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.
These norms defined a concept of adult responsibility that was, we wrote, “a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.” The fact that the “bourgeois culture” these norms embodied has broken down since the 1960s, we argued, largely explains today’s social pathologies—and re-embracing that culture would go a long way toward addressing those pathologies.
Amy L. Wax is the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she has received the Harvey Levin Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence. She has a B.S. from Yale College, an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. She is a former assistant to the United States Solicitor General, and her most recent book is Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century.
The narrative gained momentum after Citizens United and
Justice Sotomayor contended that exercises of certain liberties do not extend into commerce. She explained that once someone enters commerce, the right to refuse services is subject to oversight by the government. Or in other words, once you enter into commerce your rights to association, speech, and exercise of religion among others take a back seat to the interests of the state.
What Is It about Commerce?
Those who are often considered civil libertarians appear unduly hesitant to extend traditionally cherished liberties to those engaged in commerce. The concern — applied often asymmetrically, as it largely targets one side of the commercial activity — is likely animated by a belief that commercial activity alters the exercise of those rights. Consumers are hardly required to abandon free speech, matters of conscience, or association in order to purchase, barter, or trade — and in these discrimination actions hold all the cards — and use those rights in the commercial arena.
Alas, antagonism to commercial activity, even as it pertains to civil liberties, has been common among some commentators and jurists. This skepticism has long played a part in jurisprudence. Free speech is quite well-protected unless it is
Some of the animosity stems from what some view as special legal privileges granted to some in the commercial realm — primarily limited liability and specialized tax treatment. This rationale runs against two major problems, however. First, the variety of business structures makes it difficult to parse out when special legal privileges prevent civil liberties from extending and when they do not.
Hillary Clinton blamed the Electoral College for her stunning defeat in the 2016 presidential election in her latest memoirs, “What Happened.”
Some have claimed that the Electoral College is one of the most dangerous institutions in American politics.
Why? They say the Electoral College system, as opposed to a simple majority vote, distorts the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy because electoral votes are not distributed according to population.
To back up their claim, they point out that the Electoral College gives, for example, Wyoming citizens disproportionate weight in a presidential election.
Put another way, Wyoming, a state with a population of about 600,000, has one member in the House of Representatives and two members in the U.S. Senate, which gives the citizens of Wyoming three electoral votes, or one electoral vote per 200,000 people.
California, our most populous state, has more than 39 million people and 55 electoral votes, or approximately one vote per 715,000 people.
Comparatively, individuals in Wyoming have nearly four times the power in the Electoral College as Californians.
Many people whine that using the Electoral College instead of the popular vote and majority rule is undemocratic. I’d say that they are absolutely right. Not deciding who will be the president by majority rule is not democracy.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.
Sometimes we look back a decade or so and reconsider our word choice. For instance, I used to call General Electric — with its heavy lobbying, its intimate ties to the White House, all its bets on green energy, on embryonic stem cells, on Obamacare, on industrial policy — the “for-profit arm of the Obama administration.”
Those words were ill-chosen. Specifically, in describing GE, it was a mistake to use the word “profit.”
No company has spent as much on U.S. lobbying since 2000 as General Electric. And no component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average has performed worse since 2000 than General Electric.
The company’s stock is tanking. Its profit margins range from sclerotic to negative. Its recent big bets on Europe and green energy are proving to be duds. GE has already sold off its appliance business and is trying to find a buyer for its light bulb business.
That’s not enough, according to some major investors, one of whom has
It’s a sad state for a company that has represented industrial strength for more than a century. It’s also a telling epigraph for Obamanomics.
GE CEO Jeff Immelt kicked off the start of former President Barack Obama's administration with a letter prophesying a golden era of American industrial planning, ushered in by the bailouts and a new president who promised a “remaking” of America.
In a letter praising the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Treasury, “and global governments,” plus “stimulus programs being implemented around the world [that] will provide trillions in new investments,” Immelt foresaw that the “global economy, and capitalism, will be 'reset' in several important ways.” Specifically, “In a reset economy, the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner.”
The letter bragged, “We have gained access to government funding programs that put us on equal footing with banks,” and described GE as “ a natural partner” with federal agencies, “as the role of government increases in the current crisis.” GE is “a particularly desirable partner for governments,” Immelt assured shareholders.
Whenever the Obama administration introduced a major policy initiative, GE was there hopping on board, looking to be the government’s partner.
When Obama created a “Jobs Council,” his jobs czar was Immelt.
When Obama in Spring 2009 announced big money for “Building a new system of high-speed rail in America,” GE hopped on board the train. “We are ready to partner with the federal government and Amtrak to make high-speed rail a reality,” GE declared at an event in May 2009. GE’s top rail lobbyist was Linda Daschle, wife of Obama mentor and former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
In July 2009, Obama opened the spigots of federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells. That same week, GE had announced that GE Healthcare and embryonic stem-cell giant Geron "have entered into a global exclusive license and alliance agreement to develop and commercialize cellular assay products derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) for use in drug discovery, development and toxicity screening."
Two months later, Obama announced a concession to Russia: He would scrap U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe. Reuters reported, "Shortly after the pullback on the shield programme was announced, Russia's government said Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would meet several U.S. executives on Friday from firms including General Electric.”
Obama had campaigned on outlawing the incandescent light bulb, and he implemented regulations that effectively did that (under a law signed by former President George W. Bush). GE had lobbied for that law, supported Obama’s implementation of it, and expected to profit by forcing consumers to buy high-tech, higher-margin bulbs.
GE lobbied for and was expected to profit from Obama’s green-energy subsidies and regulations, which would enrich the conglomerate's many renewable products, including wind turbines. Obama was a tireless champion of export subsidies, of which GE was a top recipient.
Heck, in 2013, GE actually became officially “Too Big to Fail,” designated by the Financial Stability Oversight Council as TBTF. “Material financial distress at GECC could pose a threat to U.S. financial stability,” FSOC determined.
And yet, here we are. GE opened at $29.37 a share on Election Day, when the Dow was at 18,332.43. On Tuesday Jan. 23, GE closed at $16.30 (down about 45 percent), whereas the Dow closed at 26,210.81, up about 42 percent. The new CEO, John Flannery, has said he’s open to a breakup.
There are countless explanations for GE’s collapse, but here’s one: GE spent a decade chasing the shiniest new winner picked by government, instead of looking for lasting value as dictated by the market. Government can provide billions in stimulus and maybe even some regulatory protection from your competition, but it can’t create wealth or provide lasting value.
For all the hopeful talk of a post-bailout reset of capitalism in favor of the politically connected, it turns out that basic economics trumped Obamanomics after all.
Timothy P. Carney is the commentary editor at the Washington Examiner and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money and Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses.
Talk is cheap. People are unlikely to believe this old taunt if they have ever experienced a regime of totalitarian repression, where "free speech" is a criminal offense, or ever looked into the lives of people like
Here in the United States, the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution is supposed to preclude laws that abridge freedom of speech, including its publication in written form. But a specious understanding of rights is being applied by usurping judges and justices in our courts. They have developed it to provide a pretext for suppressing, in speech and action, any views that effectively counter the agenda aimed at destroying the God-endowed rights of marriage and human family life. People who seek to secure and conserve those rights are being censured, ostracized, and attacked in ways intended to discourage others from following their example, or even hearing what they have to say.
Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – one featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004.
During the Reagan years, Keyes was the highest-ranking black appointee in the Reagan Administration, serving as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations and as Ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Many anti-immigrationists display a remarkable confidence in their ability to forecast how immigrants will act for many years into the future. So, for example, the nativists often allege that if, say, Mexicans are permitted to enter the USA, they will sooner or later vote for governmental measures to plunder the current residents and redistribute the loot to themselves. What gives the nativists such powers of divining the future, especially when they have no special knowledge of social science or ethnic history?
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,
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
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
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.
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
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.