You are browsing the archive for 2014 April 22.

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The Rise and Fall of Earth Day, a Day No One Notices Anymore

April 22, 2014 in Economics

By Patrick J. Michaels

Patrick J. Michaels

Ah, April 22, when environmentalists celebrate Earth Day, and communists celebrate Lenin’s birthday, and no one really bothers to notice either any more.

What happened? The decline and fall of communism was a mathematical certainty, but what explains the profound disinterest that Americans have in the environmental movement? Just ask Gallup—where you will find environmental concerns pretty much at the bottom of what activates people’s neurons, and, within that diminishing category, the iconic specter of dreaded global warming ranks near the bottom of environmental concerns.

In the 1970s, Earth Day brought out millions of the eager, prompted dozens of quaint college “teach-ins,” and usually bagged the number one story on the three legacy TV networks. This year, bet that several of the major outlets won’t even notice, the exception being the tattered spinoffs of NBC, i.e. CNBC and MSNBC, which paint their peacocks green for a week.

Where it was once both useful and noble, the environmental machine has now become a tool of common oppression, legally empowered to do things that no Congress would dream of.”

The decline of Earth Day is in part an unintended consequence of its success. The older among us remember the stinging ozone-laden smog of southern California and the opaque air of Pittsburgh. These, along with countless other environmental horrors, were pretty much everywhere, and everyone agreed we had tremendous problems. The EPA was started not by lefty democrats but by Richard Nixon. People were literally sick and very tired of the obvious pollution of so many of the nation’s urban airsheds.

This was back in the day when Californians were proud to say that they led the nation to its ultimate future (such an attitude today, unfortunately, predicts national bankruptcy and one-party rule). The Los Angeles Basin is one of the worst locations on earth to place a city thanks to the combination of stable air from the Pacific maritime layer, and trapped air, thanks to the surrounding steep mountains. But somehow California cleaned it up. Similar regulations governing automobile emissions spread across the country. City air became breathable.

State and federal bureaucracies charged with maintaining environmental quality grew like mushrooms in the compost of lousy air. Like unions, once their work was done, did they decline into irrelevancy? Hardly.

Which is why Earth Day isn’t so popular any more. As problems were solved, rather than qo quietly into the night, the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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National Review Op-Ed: Buckley’s Realist Foreign Policy

April 22, 2014 in Politics & Elections

The knives are out for conservatives who dare question unlimited involvement in foreign wars.
Foreign policy, the interventionist critics claim, has no place for nuance or realism. You are either for us or against us. No middle ground is acceptable. The Wilsonian ideologues must have democracy worldwide now and damn all obstacles to that utopia. I say sharpen your knives, because the battle once begun will not end easily.
Conservatives who want to read libertarian conservatives out of the movement should reread some old copies of National Review first.
From Frank Meyer to William F. Buckley Jr. to George Will — indeed, to Ronald Reagan — there is a strain of libertarianism endemic to conservatism.
Meyer, in fact, averred that conservatism needed a dose of libertarianism. He argued that traditional conservatism actually comes out a bit stale without a twist of freedom. Virtue needs a dash of liberty to refresh and excite the populace.
On foreign policy, even National Review’s founder, William F. Buckley Jr., occasionally expressed views that today’s NRO writers might find heretical.
With regard to the Iraq War, Buckley came to believe not only that it was a mistake but that it was not a “conservative” approach to foreign policy. In fact, in discussing foreign policy Buckley sounded quite the realist.
In an interview with George Will on This Week in October 2005, Buckley was asked the following question: “Today we have a different kind of foreign policy. It’s called Wilsonian. And the premise of the Bush doctrine is that America must spread democracy because our national security depends on it. And America can spread democracy. It knows how. It can engage in nation building. This is conservative or not?”
Buckley responded: “It’s not at all conservative. It’s anything but conservative. It’s not conservative at all, inasmuch as conservatism doesn’t invite unnecessary challenges. It insists on coming to terms with the world as it is, and the notion that merely by affirming these high ideals we can affect highly entrenched systems.”
In a 2005 interview with Joseph Rago for the Wall Street Journal, Buckley said of conservatives who want to spread democracy, “The reality of the situation is that missions abroad to effect regime change in countries without a bill of rights or democratic tradition are terribly arduous.”
In fact, according to …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Class Begins Thursday: How the Government Wrecks the Economy

April 22, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

Register here. 

Writes Robert Murphy:

The fall of the Soviet Union should have spelled the demise of central planning, yet the socialist mentality thrives — albeit in a diluted form — in all governments in the so-called “free world.” No one explained the failures of pure socialism and of (the more moderate) interventionism better than Ludwig von Mises. Whether we want to understand why people are starving in North Korea, why minimum wage laws lead to teen unemployment, or what caused the boom and then crash in the U.S. housing market, the answer is in the Austrian School of economics. As the Obamacare disaster unfolds before our very eyes, it is critical for the average person — both adults and young people alike — to understand how economic science makes sense of these heartbreaking outcomes, and shows the way to solve them.

In this context, I am pleased to announce that on April 24, we will begin a six-week Mises Academy course that offers an introduction to the Austrian understanding of both pure socialism and of interventionism (or what is often called “the mixed economy” though Mises himself didn’t use that term). This course, titled “How Government Wrecks the Economy,” is the final installment of a three-part series that uses my Lessons for the Young Economist as the main textbook. (The first installment, “Action and Exchange,” gave an introduction to economic science and studied isolated individuals as well as a simple barter economy. The second course in the series, “Introduction to the Free Market,” explained money, comparative advantage, savings and investment, profit and loss, the stock market, and other topics in the setting of a pure market economy free from government interference. Both are available as independent study courses at the links provided, but they are not necessary to take the present course.) Specifically, in “How Government Wrecks the Economy” we will cover chapters 15 through 23 of Lessons for the Young Economist, finishing our coverage of the book.

Murphy is interviewed on this topic here:

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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ACA Exchanges at Risk

April 22, 2014 in Economics

By Michael F. Cannon

Michael F. Cannon

President Barack Obama says he has enrolled 7.1 million Americans through his new health insurance exchanges. If so, that may prove to be the easy part: the Affordable Care Act creates so many incentives for enrollees to drop their coverage that maintaining those enrollment numbers may start to resemble something like pushing millions of people up a greased poll.

For Obamacare to work, people must enroll and stay enrolled. An estimated 20 percent of those who signed up have yet to pay their first premium, and as many as 5 percent stopped paying after the first month. If too many drop out, premiums could climb until the exchanges collapse.

Obamacare creates financial incentives for healthy people to drop their coverage, save their money and wait until they get sick to re-enroll.”

Unfortunately, those numbers may rise as Americans learn about the financial incentives Obamacare creates for healthy people to drop their coverage, save their money and wait until they get sick to re-enroll.

For most healthy people, going uninsured before Obamacare, at least for a time, was already a safe bet. They saved thousands of dollars per year. The odds that they would have to deal with unmet medical needs or unpaid medical bills were low.

Obamacare makes going uninsured an even safer bet. It increases premiums for healthy people and the penalty for not buying health insurance is largely toothless. So if you earn too much to qualify for subsidies or you take steps to avoid paying the penalty, going uninsured will save you even more money than before.

Obamacare even more dramatically reduces the downside of going uninsured. For example, suppose the day after you cancel your health insurance, you receive a serious diagnosis like diabetes, or cancer. Pre-Obamacare, you would not be able to buy coverage for that illness. Under Obamacare, however, insurers are required to cover you at the same premium they charged when you were healthy. You may have to wait until January for that coverage to take effect, but even so the downside risk of going uninsured is much smaller.

And in many cases, you can get coverage before January.

There are even ways to enroll in Obamacare coverage immediately:

  • If you live in one of the 25 or so states implementing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, you can get coverage immediately by reducing your income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,102 for …read more

    Source: OP-EDS

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New eBook: ‘The Gold Standard: Perspectives in the Austrian School’

April 22, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

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Now in ebook format or paperback: The Gold Standard: Perspectives in the Austrian School

The world’s financial system is in a precarious state, and everywhere the cry is heard for reform. But a reform to what? More government created fiat money under a new name? The contributors to this notable anthology think not and argue for one particular sort of reform, a return to the gold standard. They all agree that a genuine free market would gravitate toward a gold standard.

Murray Rothard states that any commodity used as money must have value in a non-monetary use. Roger Garrison dismantles the objection that a paper money is cheaper, and less wasteful, than a gold standard. Joe Salerno untangles the web of international finance . By far the most effective political advocate of the gold standard has been Ron Paul, and here he summarizes his proposals for monetary reform. Other contributors include Richard Ebeling on Mises and the gold standard, Hans Sennholz on Carl Menger’s monetary writings, and Lawrence White on free banking and money.

The Gold Standard presents cutting-edge scholarship on the best and most effective monetary system. If you want to understand the gold standard, you need to read this book.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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We Can't Save the Environment without Freedom

April 22, 2014 in Economics

By Randal O'Toole

Randal O'Toole

The first Earth Day took place in 1970, when I was a high school senior, and that day set the course of my life for the next 25 years. Convinced of the need to protect the environment and realizing that forests were a key part of the environment in my home state of Oregon, I elected to attend forestry school, graduating in 1974.

Over the next two decades, I helped almost every major environmental group in their efforts to save public forests from what we thought were the rapacious hands of timber companies. But I soon realized that the real problem was that Congress had inadvertently given public land agencies budgetary incentives to lose money harming the environment, and disincentives to either make money or do environmental good.

This insight helped me see that creating markets for all resources would allow them to compete on a level playing field. Recreation fees, for example, could reward public land managers for protecting things that recreationists care about, such as scenery, diverse wildlife habitat, and clean water. Though economists estimated that recreation was worth more than any other public land resource, Congress didn’t allow managers to charge for most recreation.

Many environmentalists in the 1970s and 1980s were receptive to my ideas of reform. Our common goal was to protect the environment, and they happily accepted any tools that would solve a particular environmental problem best. Soon, Congress passed a law allowing federal land agencies to charge recreation fees and to keep those fees.

Giving government power to solve a problem is not the same as actually solving the problem.”

Unfortunately, things changed in the early 1990s because of two events: the fall of the Soviet Union and the election of Bill Clinton to the White House.

Polls showed that the fall of the Soviet Union persuaded most Americans that government was a poor solution to most problems. One of the few exceptions was environmental protection, which many Americans still believed needed government regulation. This led many self-described “progressives,” who believe in more government control, to push their agenda by joining the environmental movement.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s election changed the financing of the environmental movement. From 1981 through 1992, environmental groups raised much of their money by charging that Republicans in the White House threatened the environment. With a Democrat as president, grassroots funding for environmental groups plummeted.

To make up the difference, most groups …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Imagine if We Had Free Prices!

April 22, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

Free-prices-now

If you were asked how we should go about achieving real economic growth throughout the economy rather than just certain sectors of it, what would you suggest?  Would you revisit the Keynesian toolbox and call for a really, really big stimulus instead of just another really big one?  Would you impose more controls on business, especially the financial sector?  Some people want to revive Glass-Steagall, the gem from the Depression era that was abandoned in 1999 — sound good to you?.  How about officially merging the Fed and the Treasury — i.e., turn “monetary policy” over to the government?  Perhaps you’d break out Sheila Bair’s plan to allow each American household to “borrow $10 million from the Fed at zero interest”? Her proposal was tongue-in-cheek, you say? Ms. Bair, the former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, proposed a plan that in its essentials would be received enthusiastically by those in the know —  provided it was confined to special interests. But if it’s good for some, why not everyone?

“Look out 1 percent, here we come,” Ms. Bair trumpeted.

Many readers are familiar with the anecdote about a 1681 meeting between French finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert and a group of businessmen that included one M. Le Gendre.  Colbert, a mercantilist, was eager for industry to prosper because it would boost tax revenue . . . sort of a fatten-the-goose approach to economics.  When he asked how their government could be of service to the business community, Le Gendre famously replied, “Laissez-nous faire” — “Let us be.”

What?  Tell government to get out of the way?  Who today would even joke about such a proposal?  After all the lessons we’ve learned about markets — that they’re ultimately governed by mysterious “animal spirits” that can only be counterbalanced with deft fiscal policy, that market predators would run riot over the innocent if not restrained, that we need a central bank to keep prices from falling, to ensure the big players don’t go under, and to protect Uncle’s bond market —  keeping government out of the picture is the one proposal that is off the table.

It’s also the reason we’re on course for more and bigger crises.

Free prices would mean falling prices

Hunter Lewis is today’s M. Le Gendre.  His message is found in the title of his most recent book: Free Prices Now! Fixing the Economy by Abolishing the Fed.  He presents an iron-clad case.

Why the focus on …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Tolstoy’s Remarkable Manifesto on Christian Anarchy and Pacifism

April 22, 2014 in Economics

By Robert Higgs

225px-L.N.Tolstoy_Prokudin-Gorsky

I’ve just finished reading Leo Tolstoy’s remarkable book The Kingdom of God Is Within You. This was written in Russian and completed in 1893, but the Russian censors forbade its publication. It circulated in unpublished form in Russia, however, and was soon translated into other languages and published abroad. It had substantial influence on the course of history, perhaps most of all because of its influence on Gandhi.

The book is odd in several respects. In a purely literary sense, it is by no means a masterpiece, as Tolstoy’s great novels, written earlier in his life, were. In places it reads more like a set of notes for a book than as a polished work. For example, it contains many very long block quotations and much unnecessary repetition. However, Tolstoy’s mastery as a writer still shines in the brilliance of some of his formulations, especially in the second half of the book.

Odd, too, is Tolstoy’s own curiously uneven command of different aspects of his subject. In regard to the nature and operation of the state and the sociology of human interrelations in the socio-political order, Tolstoy’s clear-eyed insights cut to the quick. He makes even an analyst such as James Buchanan, who complained about people’s “romantic” views of politics and the state, seem utterly romantic. In contrast, Tolstoy’s understanding of economics was abysmal and leads him into foolish notions of the equivalence between state acts and capitalist acts. He seems also to have given no thought to what the consequences would be if his communistic preferences about the distribution of property were adopted in practice. Although he had excellent insights into the role of (what I call) ideology in the maintenance of the state-dominated social order, he entertained a view of how the dominant ideology was changing and would continue to change that seems to me completely lacking in contemporary evidence and utterly at variance with everything we now know about how ideology did change during the past century or so. He greatly overestimated the hold that Christian morality had on the souls of people in the West at the time he was writing, not to speak of later, even less Christian times.

Tolstoy is one of the most important Christian anarchists in history, yet his views on Christianity were anything but typical. For example, he regarded the various Christian churches as totally corrupt and as the propagators of false and spurious …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The Most [REDACTED] Administration in History

April 22, 2014 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

Good news: thanks to a ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Monday, the “most transparent administration in history” is going to have to tell American citizens when it believes it’s legally entitled to kill them.

The lawsuit arose out of Freedom of Information Act requests by two New York Times reporters for Office of Legal Counsel memoranda exploring the circumstances under which it would be legal for U.S. personnel to target American citizens. The administration stonewalled, asserting that “the very fact of the existence or nonexistence of such documents is itself classified,” and a federal district judge upheld the refusal in January 2013.

A month later, however, someone leaked a Justice Department “white paper” on the subject to NBC News, forcing a re-examination of the question in light of changed circumstances. On Monday, the three-judge panel held “it is no longer either ‘logical’ or ‘plausible’ to maintain that disclosure of the legal analysis in the OLC-DOD Memorandum risks disclosing any aspect” of sensitive sources and methods.

In matters of transparency, the Obama Team can always be counted on to do the right thing — after exhausting all other legal options and being forced into it by the federal courts.

In matters of transparency, the Obama Team can always be counted on to do the right thing — after exhausting all other legal options and being forced into it by the federal courts.”

When “peals of laughter broke out in the briefing room” after then-press secretary Robert Gibbs floated the “most transparent administration” line at an April 2010 presser, the administration should have taken the hint. But it’s one soundbite they just can’t quit. Gibbs’ successor Jay Carney repeated it just last week, as did the president himself in a Google Hangout last year: “This is the most transparent administration in history … . I can document that this is the case.”

Actually, any number of journalists and open government advocates have documented that it’s not. As the Associated Press reported last month: “More often than ever, the [Obama] administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In the hope-infused afterglow of his first inauguration, President Obama declared, “for a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city,” and ordered his attorney general to issue newly restrictive …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Business of Earth Day

April 22, 2014 in Economics

Earth Day is traditionally a day for the Left — a celebration of government’s ability to deliver the environmental goods and for threats about the parade of horribles that will descend upon us lest we rededicate ourselves to federal regulators and public land managers. This is unfortunate because it’s businessmen — not bureaucrats or environmental activists — who deserve most of the credit for the environmental gains over the past century and who represent the best hope for a Greener tomorrow. Cato’s energy and environment research promotes policies that would help protect the environment without sacrificing economic liberty, goals that are mutually supporting, not mutually exclusive.

…read more

Source: CATO HEADLINES