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Oakley on Pathological Altruism

June 19, 2013 in Economics

By David Gordon

Barbara Oakley, an engineering professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, has just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, a brilliant article on “pathological altruism.” People often act out of a desire to help others, but this by no means ensures that what they do will have good consequences, whether for the intended beneficiaries or for others. Sometimes these bad consequences cannot reasonably be foreseen; but all too often action proceeds in blithe disregard of them. It is this sort of misguided action that Oakley characterizes as pathological.

Several of her examples deal with public policy and are likely to be of great interest to readers of this blog. The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans aimed to promote better access to housing for those unable to meet prevailing standards to obtain mortgages. This misguided attempt to assist the disadvantaged helped to bring on a severe financial crisis. Foreign aid to Africa has served to entrench tyrants in power. More generally, various altruistic measures have led to a massive government deficit with dire consequences to come.

Oakley also gives examples of the baneful effects of pathological altruism in personal conduct. These effects are not confined to the intended beneficiaries or to third parties; the altruist may also in certain cases suffer personality damage. Oakley’s discussion of these various effects  is informed by an extensive knowledge of the literature of evolutionary psychology and other relevant disciplines. She calls for more research on pathological altruism but suggests that such research will confront obstacles. Researchers tend to be sympathetic to altruistically motivated conduct, even if it has bad effects,and as a result studies that challenge such conduct tend to be viewed with disfavor. People who criticize accepted ideas tend to have great difficulty in gaining an audience for their views. This suppression of research into the malign effects of altruism is itself an expression of pathological altruism. Oakley calls for a new research paradigm that will put an end to the harmful taboos that constrain the study of altruism.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Senate Votes on Sen. Paul’s ‘Trust but Verify’

June 19, 2013 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate voted on Sen. Rand Paul’s amendment to S. 744, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, known as the ‘Trust but Verify Act of 2013.’ Sen. Paul’s amendment, introduced earlier this month, would make immigration reform conditional on Congress voting on whether the border is secure, requiring completion of a border fence in five years and a protection against the federal government establishing a national identification card system for citizens. Click HERE for more details on the ‘Trust but Verify’ amendment.
The motion was tabled with a vote of 37-61.
‘I am disappointed that the Senate rejected my amendment to fix one of the fundamental flaws of the bill. My amendment would have added real, verified border security, and made the promises of the bill’s authors credible to the American people. I hope Congress can produce immigration reform that actually solves the problems in our current system. Unfortunately, now, the Senate bill does not. I will continue to work to solve our immigration problems. I hope I am able to support a good bill, but it is now clear the House will have to lead the way,’ Sen. Paul said.

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Paul Urges Passage of ‘Trust but Verify’

June 19, 2013 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul spoke on the Senate floor today to urge his colleagues to support his amendment, ‘Trust but Verify,’ currently being offered to the Gang of Eight’s Immigration Reform Bill. Sen. Paul’s amendment, introduced earlier this month, would make immigration reform conditional on Congress voting on whether the border is secure, requiring completion of a border fence in five years and a protection against the federal government establishing a national identification card system for citizens. Click HERE for more details on the ‘Trust but Verify’ amendment. Below is the video and transcript of Sen. Paul’s floor speech.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. PAUL’S FLOOR SPEECH ON ‘TRUST BUT VERIFY

TRANSCRIPT:

Mr. President, I rise to speak today about my amendment No. 1200, ‘Trust but Verify’ to the comprehensive immigration reform bill pending before the Senate.

I’m in full support of immigration reform, as are most of the Members of this body and most Americans. But part of that reform is that we insist on border security.

Recently, the authors of this bill made clear that legalization will not be made contingent on border security.

Most conservatives believe just the opposite: That legalization absolutely must depend on securing the border first.

‘Trust but Verify’ does exactly that. It makes documentation of undocumented workers contingent on border security.

I believe that the American people should not rely on bureaucrats or a Commission to enforce border security. We’ve been promised security in the past and it never happens.

My amendment is different than other amendments because I want Congress to institute border security, not wait for a plan from the administration.

With ‘Trust but Verify’, Congress will vote every year, for five years, on whether or not the border is secure. The power to enforce border security will be in our hands, and it is Congress that will be held accountable if we fail.

If Congress believes that the border is not secure, then the processing of undocumented immigrants stops until it is secure.

To be clear, my amendment does not replace any triggers in the underlying bill – it adds new conditions to build on the border security measures already in the bill.

The only way to put real pressure on the Department of Homeland Security is to have tough triggers …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Rand Paul on Fox & Friends with Brian Kilmeade – 6/19/13

June 19, 2013 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Rand Paul on Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren – 6/18/13

June 19, 2013 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Paul Appears on CNN's The Situation Room- 6/18/2013

June 19, 2013 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Feds' Excuse for Laggardly Lawsuits: There's a War On!

June 19, 2013 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

“War is the health of the state,” wrote Randolph Bourne a century ago—from the special war taxes that can linger for a century, to the mohair subsidy program from the Korean War days, to New York City’s wartime emergency rent controls, to the many incursions on civil liberties that don’t get rolled back afterward. War, it now turns out, can even give a boost the lawyers who represent the federal government in civil litigation, magically transmuting losing cases into winners.

If truth is the first casualty of war, perhaps the fairness of dispute resolution is the next.”

Every major legal system embraces the concept of the statutes of limitations. In the US, statutes of limitations contribute to both our litigation system’s fairness and its practicality. The great majority of civil claims must be filed within a time-frame ranging from one to five years, the exact length depending on the kind of claim and under which law it arises.

In 1942, not long after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Congress passed the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA), providing that the statute of limitations would be suspended (or “tolled”) on claims of defrauding the federal government until hostilities had ended. When the Japanese surrendered three years later, Congress left WSLA on the books, where nearly everyone forgot about it.

Last year, however, in a case that gave business lawyers chills [PDF], the US Department of Justice(DOJ) managed to rouse WSLA, long presumed dead, from its proverbial grave. The government had filed a lawsuit claiming that French bank BNP Paribas had improperly enrolled ineligible Mexican clients in a US trade promotion program six years earlier. Under the ordinary federal fraud statute, the claim was too stale to go forward, since the bank’s alleged misconduct had occurred a bit too far in the past to satisfy the statute of limitations. Deadline, schmeadline, DOJ argued: the country is at war! There is one war in Afghanistan and another in Iraq, and both require that the ordinary statute of limitations be suspended, the argument goes. A Texas federal court agreed. Never mind that BNP’s misconduct (which it denies; the litigation is still pending) had nothing whatever to do with national defense or war or Afghanistan or Iraq. Never mind either that WSLA is part of the federal criminal code and refers in its text to an offense, ordinarily language that refers to criminal prosecution as …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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To Grow the Welfare State, Keep It Small

June 19, 2013 in Economics

By Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

Libertarians have been having a bit of a love affair with Nordic countries. Notwithstanding their high levels of redistribution, Nordic economies rank among of the world’s freest—mostly due to their light-touch regulation and a legacy of large-scale pro-market reforms in the 1990s.

The assumption that the “nation-state” is the only possible node of redistribution is unwarranted.”

One of the things that make Nordic countries tick are their civic virtues. Scott Sumner, an economist at Bentley University, cites data from the World Values Survey, which indicate that Danes are more likely than any other nationality to find it unacceptable to claim government/state benefits to which they have no rights.

High levels of trust and willingness to cooperate make it easier to sustain redistribution. But how to explain these cultural traits? Two factors seem relevant: homogeneity and size. Clearly, homogeneity along different margins—cultural, ethnic, religious—reduces social distance and makes people more prone to cooperate, for example, to provide public goods.

It’s not difficult to see where that idea can lead. In his forthcoming book on immigration, Paul Collier, a development economist at Oxford University, blames increased cultural diversity for an alleged decrease in support for redistribution in the West:

Despite the growing need for redistributive policies, actual policies have shifted in the opposite direction. Not only has there been a drift to lower taxation of incomes. More subtly, many goods and services which used to be supplied through the government are now supplied through the market. Michael Sandel has brilliantly anatomized this process, which since the 1960 has shrunk the role of the state and thereby contributed to rising inequality.

Many influences contributed to the policies of reduced taxation and increased reliance on the market, not least that of the economics profession. But the pronounced increase in cultural diversity brought about by immigration my have been one of them.

Among other sources, Collier cites a paper by Harvard economists Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote, who find that higher level of racial heterogeneity in the United States may explain its lower level of redistribution compared to European countries. That leads him to conclude that immigration restrictions are desirable:

At minimum, the task for migration policy is to prevent its acceleration to rates which would become damaging, both for those left behind in poor countries of origin, and for the indigenous people of host countries.

A couple of things seem odd …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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What Frederick Douglass Stood For

June 19, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Wednesday, Congress will dedicate a statue of Frederick Douglass in the Capitol Rotunda. The dedication ceremony has unfortunately become wrapped up in the politics surrounding the District of Columbia’s lack of representation in Congress, but that controversy aside, it is hard to think of a man more deserving of the honor.

An escaped slave and leading abolitionist, orator and newspaper publisher, diplomat and adviser to presidents, Douglass was without a doubt one of the great voices for human freedom. Going far beyond opposition to slavery, Douglass was a relentless advocate for individual rights, whether speaking of blacks, women, Native Americans, or immigrants. Equally important, Douglass knew that government power posed a threat to those rights.

Douglass understood that the proper role of government was to protect individual rights and guarantee equality before the law, not to dispense favors to this group or that. For example, in his famous April 1865 speech, “What the Black Man Wants,” Douglass declared, “The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. … I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! If the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!”

Congress is erecting a monument to him, but they’d be better off remembering his ideals.”

Douglass’s message was not just about African Americans. Rather, it offers a stinging rebuke to all those who believe that men and women cannot be the masters of their own fates.

The freedom that Douglass agitated for was not the freedom of the welfare state. Simply providing for people’s material needs was not a substitute for giving them their freedom. Besides, “doing for” all too easily morphed into “doing to,” an opportunity to do “mischief,” as he put it. He knew that, as President Gerald Ford once said (in a quote often misattributed to Barry Goldwater), “a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”

He strongly believed in limited government, claiming there was no “governmental authority to pass laws, nor compel obedience to any laws that are against the natural rights and happiness of men.”

Moreover, Douglass understood that economic liberty was a crucial component of liberty more generally. He believed in private property and the accumulation of wealth. When a speaker from …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Is Big Brother Obama Having His Way with Us?

June 19, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Recently, this urgent headline from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the leading organization defending our rights — specifically in the digital world — caught my attention: “In Response to the NSA, We Need a New Church Committee and We Need it Now” (Cindy Cohn and Trevor Timm, June 7).

During the 1970s, like many Americans, I was shocked and alarmed to learn that the National Security Agency even existed. Exposing it and the FBI’s shredding of our Bill of Rights was Democratic Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, chairman of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities, known as the Church Committee. The committee released reports on its investigations of American intelligence in 1975 and 1976.

A courageous constitutionalist, Church probed the FBI and the CIA for secretly digging into our lives; he especially focused on the NSA. The Cato Institute’s Vice President Gene Healy reports on one example of the Church Committee’s findings:

“Under ‘Project Minaret,’ from the early 1960s until 1973, the NSA compiled watch lists of potentially subversive Americans, monitored their overseas calls and telegrams, sharing the results with other federal agencies” (“ ‘It can’t happen here’ just did,” Healy, Washington Examiner, June 10).

Citing the Church Committee’s findings, Healy writes that “ordinary citizens involved in protests” were among those being monitored.

And in a direct warning to We The People, Healy quotes Church, who in 1976 told us “such is the (NSA’s) capability to monitor everything — telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

And, as I wrote in my book, The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance (Seven Stories Press, 2003), Church pledged: “The American people need to be assured that never again will an agency of the government be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers threats to the established order.”

Church, among other civil libertarians at the time, worked hard to ensure that pledge. So what happened?

To begin, few Americans — including school kids — probably know Frank Church’s name today. And though the senator was the first to expose the NSA in its bastion of Orwellian secrecy, we know his dire warnings of its continually expansive scope were ignored.

As Glenn Greenwald reported a few weeks ago in the U.K.’s Guardian: “The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon … under a top …read more

Source: OP-EDS