As early as 2004, various medical journals published articles claiming that small-community smoking bans resulted in nearly immediate reductions in heart disease. For example, the high-profile BMJ reported that hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) declined 40%, from 40 to 24, in Helena, Montana, after implementation of a smoke-free ordinance (here). Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, reported that AMI admissions dropped 27% “within months” in Pueblo, Colorado (here). Similar reports came from Bowling Green, Ohio (here), Monroe County, Indiana (here) and beyond.
The striking implication was: Eliminating second-hand smoke saves lives by reducing heart disease.
There were two problems with these claims. First, the declines, based on small numbers of observations, were actually consistent with random variation (here). Second, none of the reports accounted for the long-term downward trend in heart disease in the U.S.; they credited no-smoking intervention with the lower number of AMIs at a time when rates were declining nationwide.
In 2011, I documented that state-wide smoking bans in California, Utah, Delaware, South Dakota, New York and Florida had little or no immediate measurable effect on AMI deaths. The study, published in the Journal of Community Health (here), eliminated the “tiny-number” problem and factored in the national downward trend in AMI deaths.
I discussed these findings in my blog (here), but the work was largely ignored, until now.
Recently, researchers from three Colorado institutions reported AMI rates before and after a statewide smoking ban there; their work appears in the American Journal of Medicine (here). (Thanks to Chris Snowdon, who also blogged about it here).
Paul Basel and colleagues found that “No signiﬁcant reduction in [AMI] rates was observed” after the Colorado ban was implemented. They also referred to our study:
“[The Rodu et al.] study compared the decline in [AMI] mortality in 6 states with smoke-free ordinances, with the average decline among 44 states unaffected by smoke-free policy. No state with a smoke-free ordinance had a signiﬁcantly lower observed [AMI] mortality compared with that expected by the nationwide secular decrease in states without the ordinance. This emerging evidence highlights the importance of accounting for secular trends in [AMI] incidence before deﬁnitive attribution to smoke-free ordinances can be made.”
It is comforting to see unfounded second-hand smoke claims corrected, particularly in the pages of a prestigious journal.
[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]
Heartland Institute writer Paula Bolyard joins The Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News managing editor, Jesse Hathaway, to discuss a lawsuit filed by former Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer against the city of Cleveland, Ohio.
Hillenmeyer is challenging the constitutionality of the city’s “jock tax,” a tax targeted at taxing high-earning specialized professionals such as celebrities and professional athletes. Despite the economic evidence against such tax schemes, many cities and states levy jock taxes, in order to obtain revenue from visiting high-level professionals.
Progressives just can’t seem to accept that, when put to an honest test, their ideas consistently lose at the ballot box as well as in the marketplace of ideas. Sure, a lot of people drank that “hopey-changey” Kool-Aid back in 2008, but how’s that working out for ya?
Not so well, judging by the results of, and the run-up to, the 2014 midterm elections. Democratic candidates went to comically extreme lengths to distance themselves from Barack Obama, and Republican candidates significantly out-performed their polling. So self-styled progressives keep trying to change the ground rules.
George W. Bush’s Electoral College victory over Al Gore in 2000 spawned a lot of proposals for a direct popular vote for the President, even though the Framers recognized it could lead to mob rule. (Gore’s entire 500,000 popular vote margin, for example, could be explained by the twenty most lopsided of Chicago’s 50 wards, some of which went 99-1 or 98-2 for Gore. Is that any way to pick a President?)
So it’s little surprise that a second bad idea has come forward in the past four days concerning how to “reform” the electoral process to keep Republicans from winning.
On Monday, November 3, Duke Professor David Schanzer argued with undergraduate assistance for abolishing those pesky mid-terms entirely. And on Thursday, November 6, 2014, Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg, a Kerry-Edwards supporter in 2004, advanced the idea that 16- and 17-year olds are “perfectly capable of making informed and reasoned political decisions” and should therefore be allowed to vote in national elections.
To put it plainly, this is bunk. Voters ought to have both some experience with and understanding of the Constitution and some skin in the game.
Invoking the language of “science” – the academy’s preferred term to social “studies” – Professor Steinberg admits that “[s]cience does not point to an obvious chronological age at which a bright-line legal boundary between adolescents and adults should be drawn for all purposes,” but insists that “most aspects of emotional and intellectual maturity reach adult levels sometime between 15 and 22.” (To be somewhat reasonable, this would call for raising the minimum voting age to 22.)
But Steinberg distinguishes between what he calls “cold” and “hot” cognition. (“Cold” cognition is when you engage in measured decision-making in consultation with others, he says; “hot” cognition applies to “situations in which their emotions are aroused, time pressure is a factor and they are in groups.”) So what’s the difference between “consultation with others” and deciding things in groups? And which one applies to choice of public officials and which one to where to go and what (and how much) to drink on spring break?
Professor Steinberg insists that teenagers are just as good at the former as “adults,” although not so good at the latter. Because he believes that “cold cognition” is more relevant to voting, though, he favors lowering the voting age to 16.
Even by the professor’s own criteria, 16- and 17- year old voting is a bad idea.
Let’s see, now: in an election, emotions are aroused (remember that hopey-changey stuff?), time pressure is a factor (voting ends at a time and date certain), and teens tend to hang out in groups and decide things based on peer pressure (“All my friends are voting for Obama ‘cause it’s cool”). Check, check, and check; therefore no voting for you until you’re at least 21.
Teen-aged voting is also bad from the common sense perspective, informed by Constitutional history. In 1789, when the Constitution was drafted, the average life expectancy of an American white male was 35 years and the minimum voting age was 21. In 1971, the comparable life expectancy was 67.4, and a Constitutional Amendment permitted voting at age 18, but that was largely because 18 was the eligible draft age for males. (Then, as now, females got a free pass.)
No comparable circumstances exist today. Sixteen- and seventeen-year olds don’t register for the draft, most of them are still in high school, and all of them can be carried as children on their parents’ health-insurance policies until they’re twenty-six.
Self-styled progressives who want to get back to winning elections should come up with better ideas than simply how to stuff the ballot box. But that would mean recognizing that the national government is intended to be one of limited and separated powers, that socialism never works no matter who is in charge, and that the ability to read TelePromTed speeches is no substitute for leadership and executive experience.
Lower the voting age to 16? Better to raise it a few years to, say, 26.
Apparently Google hopes to convince the new European Commission to buy into the same market predicate that it convinced Mr. Almunia to accept — that the fast and ever-changing Internet marketplace has rendered lasting market dominance and antitrust enforcement obsolete.
Like a magician or illusionist, one can make another believe anything if they can misdirect their attention from what is really going on.
Google’s latest misdirection ploy is to focus the media and the new EC on its new “peak” PR narrative that its search and Android dominance is at a “peak” — with the implication that Google’s market position is fleeting and will only go down from here because fast-changing innovation and competition will naturally supplant it.
And by extension, if people accept that Google’s dominance is “peaking” then they can more easily be convinced that Google’s dominance could decrease naturally without any government intervention.
This “peak” market frame is clever misdirection because it distracts people from focusing on how Google is broadly abusing its market dominance to extend its market power into additional, adjacent, and nascent markets.
However, a new competitor or innovation can only have a chance to supplant Google, if Google does not neutralize or dominate the new competitor or innovation first.
And that is unlikely because Google’s unique data dominance ensures that Google can spot new market demand, or an emerging competitive threat, very early so it can buy the nascent competitor, hire their key people, or just copy/steal the new product or service innovation.
Consider how Google already has leveraged its search and index data dominance to head off or neutralize several potential emerging competitive threats to its dominance, e.g. Apple’s iPhone, iPad, & App Store via Android, Maps, Play, Chromecast, & YouTube; Facebook’s social network & sharing via Google+, YouTube, Hangouts, & Photos; Amazon’s store & Web Servicesvia Shopping, Drive, & Compute Engine; and Microsoft’s software and Bing via Chrome, Toolbar, Docs, Apps for Work/Education, Gmail, Android, etc.
Google’s “Peak” narrative
Stratechery posited “Peak Google” because “native advertising” could eclipse search advertising like Microsoft’s PC software eclipsed IBM’s mainframes. Business Insider echoed Stratechery: “People are beginning to talk seriously about Google’s search business becoming irrelevant.” Quartz echoed again “Google’s dominance in search is nearing its peak.”MarketingLand echoed it for Android “Have We Reached ‘Peak Android’?” WSJ echoed it again on Android “Google’s Android Begins to Top Out.” And from the FT’s Lex subscription product: “Google: soul searching; Search is losing share in digital advertising.”
John Battelle spotted the “Peak” narrative and the common sense hole in Google’s PR misdirection: “A number of “Peak Google” pieces are in the air. But let’s not forget that Google has multi-billion dollar businesses in Android, YouTube, Ventures, and Apps/Drive et al. And it’s making plays in auto, healthcare, and energy. I don’t think Page is resting.”
Expect more on this “Peak Google” PR narrative in the weeks ahead as Google tries to quickly persuade Ms. Vestager, like it convinced Mr. Almunia, that Google’s dominance has peaked and that any antitrust enforcement of search, Android, etc. would be unnecessary and wasted effort.
However, the evidence shows Google’s market power is not declining, but actually proliferating virally.
Google even admits it.
In the case of its social network Google+, Google boasted in a December 2012 blog post: “Today Google+ is the fastest-growing network thingy ever.” About the same time Google Chairman Eric Schmidt boasted: “Almost nothing short of a biological virus, can scale as quickly, efficiently or aggressively as these technology platforms and this makes the people who build, control and use them powerful too.”
Consider the facts that Google’s dominance is proliferating.
It is no coincidence that Google now dominates four additional search-related markets: video-YouTube, mobile-Android, location-Maps, and browser-Chrome. Tellingly, Google controls 5 of the 6, billion-user, universal web platforms: search, video, mobile, maps, and browser. That’s not peaking dominance; that is proliferating dominance.
Google also leads in 13 of the top 14 commercial web functions of the Internet data economy and is #2 in the 14th: #1 in data collection, search, tracking-analytics, digital advertising, mobile, video, location, browser, Internet Infrastructure, consumer-Internet of Things, Apps store, translation, & email; Google is #2 & #3 in social with YouTube & Google+.
In short, the European Commission needs to guard against getting distracted by Google’s misdirection in the “Google peaking” narrative.
What matters is how Google is abusing its dominance to maintain its overwhelming dominance in data, search, and search advertising, and to extend virally its dominance into a plethora of additional, adjacent and emerging markets.
And remember that Google’s data, search and search advertising dominance is lasting, precisely because Google is the only ecosystem in the world where: users and buyers can go for ~all information; publishers can go for ~all advertisers, readers, and viewers; and advertisers and sellers can go for ~all users and buyers.
No other entity can match Google’s data, search, and search advertising scale, scope, reach and capabilities.[Note: For the detailed analysis of why Google’s data, search, and search advertising dominance are vast, purposeful, lasting and harmful, be sure to see: Google’s WorldWideWatch of the WorldWideWeb.]
Google Unaccountability Series
Part 0: Google’s Poor & Defiant Settlement Record [5-1-12]
Part 1: Why Google Thinks It Is Above the Law [4-17-12]
Part 2: Top Ten Untrue Google Stories [5-8-12]
Part 3: Google’s Growing Record of Obstruction of Justice [6-21-12]
Part 4: Why FTC’s $22.5m Privacy Fine is Faux Accountability [7-12-12]
Part 5: Google’s Culture of Unaccountability: In Their Own Words [8-1-12]
Part 6: Google Mocks the FTC’s Ineffectual Privacy & Antitrust Enforcement [8-10-12]
Part 7: An FTC Googleopoly Get Out of Jail Free Card? [8-30-12]
Part 8: Top Lessons to Learn for Google Antitrust Enforcers [9-14-12]
Part 9: Google Mocks EU and FTC in Courting Yahoo Again [9-26-12]
Part 10: FTC-Google Antitrust: The Obvious Case of Consumer Harm [11-25-12]
Part 11: Why FTC Can’t Responsibly End Google Search Bias Antitrust Investigation [11-27-12]
Part 12: Oversight Questions for FTC’s Handling of Google Antitrust Probe [11-30-12]
Part 13: Courts Not FTC Should Decide on Google Practices (The Hill Op-ed) [12-10-12]
Part 14: Troubling Irregularities Mount in FTC Handling of Google Investigation [12-17-12]
Part 15: Top Ten Unanswered Questions on FTC-Google Outcome [1-3-14]
Part 16: Top Takeaways from FTC’s Google Antitrust Decisions [1-7-13]
Part 17: Google’s Global Antitrust Rap Sheet [1-31-13]
Part 18: Google’s Privacy Words vs. its Anti-privacy Deeds [3-8-13]
Part 19: Google’s Privacy Rap Sheet Updated – Fact-checking Google’s Privacy Claims [3-13-13]
Part 20: DOJ & FTC Report Cards [4-12-13]
Part 21: The Evidence Google Bamboozled EU Competition Authorities [4-19-13]
Part 22: EU-Google: Too Powerful to Prosecute? Problems with Enabling Google [5-1-13]
Part 23: Google’s proposed EU Search Bias Remedies: a Satire [5-17-14]
Part 24: Google’s Antitrust Rap Sheet Updated [5-27-13]
Part 25: Is This the Track Record of a Trustworthy Company? See Google’s Rap Sheet [6-6-13]
Part 26: Top Questions as DOJ-Google Criminal Prosecution Deadline Approaches [7-12-13]
Part 27: The Evidence Google Violated the DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement [8-8-13]
Part 28: Implications of EU Ruling Google Abused its Search Dominance [9-27-13]
Part 29: Google-YouAd is a Deceptive and Unfair Business Practice [10-24-13]
Part 30: EU’s Google Antitrust Problems Not Going Away [12-16-13]
Part 31: How the Google-EC Competition Deal Harms Europe [2-10-14]
Part 32: Open Letter to European Commissioners to Reject EC-Google Settlement [2-16-14]
Part 33: Google’s Extensive Cover-up [2-25-14]
Part 34: An Open Letter on Google’s Opposition to Distracted Driving Legislation [2-27-14]
Part 35: Google’s Widespread Wiretapping [3-20-14]
Part 36: The Growing EC-Google Competition Settlement Scandal – an Open Letter [3-31-14]
Part 37: Google’s Glass House [4-14-14]
Part 38: Google’s Titan Spy-Drones Mimic Military Spy Planes [4-17-14]
Part 39: Google’s Anti-Competitive Rap Sheet Warrants Prosecution not Leniency [4-30-14]
Part 40: Google Apps for Education Dangers [5-17-14]
Part 41: Google AdSense Lawsuit Spotlights the Corruption of Unaccountability [5-23-14]
Part 42: Six Ways the FTC is AWOL on Google [7-16-14]
Part 43: Fact-checking Google’s Public EC Competition Defense [9-21-14]
Part 44: Top 10 Reasons Why Google is Causing EU More Problems than Microsoft Did [10-1-14]
Part 45: Google Profiting from Hacked Celebrity Women Photos is “How Google Works” [10-6-14]
Part 46: Fact-checking Google Schmidt’s “Ich bin ein Big-fibber” Berlin Speech [10-14-14]
[Originally published at PrecursorBlog]
Gordon Tullock, one of the truly great economists of the 20th century, passed away on Monday. He was 92.
Tullock is best known for the role he played in founding the “public choice” school of economics, which subjects political decisions and programs to rigorous economic analysis, and for promoting the idea of “rent seeking,” whereby the origins of many regulations are tracked back to the self-serving efforts of corporations and interest groups.
The Calculus of Consent, coauthored with the late James Buchanan in 1962, was a seminal work on public choice theory and my first introduction to Tullock’s work. Parts of the book are difficult to understand, but much of it is accessible and well worth the time to understand. He wrote many smaller books and essays, a complete list of which can be found here.
A neat thing about Tullock is that even though he never took a course in economics, he served variously as a professor of economics and law and was widely viewed as a candidate to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. His only earned degree was a JD from the University of Chicago, his undergraduate studies having been interrupted by military service. His academic career and considerable contributions to economics are a tribute to the fact that you don’t need a license, or even a college degree, to practice economics and do it well.
Many of you probably already know that one of my all-time favorite essays is “The Transitional Gains Trap,” which Tullock wrote in 1975. I came across it while doing research for one of Heartland’s first policy studies, on taxicab deregulation. Tullock observed (as Mike Rappaport accurately summarizes the argument at the link above):
The government takes an action that initially benefits a particular group, although at the expense of imposing an inefficient policy on the public. But over time, even that special interest group will not benefit from the government program. Yet that group will fight hard to prevent the program from being eliminated, since eliminating it will make that group worse off.
So taxicab companies insist on imposing common carrier laws on ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft even though those laws have crippled their own ability to innovate and profit, and the public certainly would be better off if existing laws were repealed. It’s a great insight, and it can be applied widely.[SPOILER ALERT! Regrets follow.]
I met Tullock on only a couple occasions, and talked at length with him only once at a meeting of the Association of Private Enterprise Education some years ago. He was gracious and generous with his time and advice, and it was easy to see why he was one of the most popular people at that event. I failed to take advantage of opportunities after that to get to know him, much to my regret and loss. I didn’t realize until reading an obituary that he was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, and passed away in Iowa. We’re practically neighbors.
So pick up and read anything you can find by Gordon Tullock. Remember that public choice theory and “rent-seeking” are important parts of our intellectual approach to the world. And don’t fail to correspond and meet with the people you admire, because they won’t live forever… and neither will you.
It is doubtful that most Americans and others around the world know how vast the organizational structure of the environmental movement is and how much wealth it generates for those engaged in an agenda that would drag humanity back to the Stone Age.
If that sounds extreme, consider a world without access to and use of energy or any of the technological and scientific advances that have extended and enhanced our lives, from pesticides that kill insect and rodent disease vectors to genetically modified seeds that yield greater crop volumes.
Two of my colleagues in the effort to get the truth out are Paul Driessen and Ron Arnold, both of whom are affiliated with a free market think tank, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, CFACT, They have done the research necessary to expose the wealth and the power structure of the environmental movement. They have joined together to write “Cracking Big Green: To Save the World from the Save-the-Earth Money Machine.” ($4.99, available from Amazon.com)
The Greens are forever claiming that anyone who disputes their lies is receiving money from big energy companies, but my experience is that it is think tanks like CFACT, small by any comparison with any major environmental organization, that support the search for the truth and its dissemination.
“Big Green” was formerly known as the Iron Triangle, “a mutually supportive relationship between power elites” so-named by Mark Tapscott, the Washington Examiner’s executive editor. It consisted of “government agencies, special interest lobbying organizations, and legislators with jurisdiction over their interests.” Today, it includes major environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. To these add wealthy foundations and corporations that fund them.
It will no doubt astound many readers to learn that there are more than 26,500 American environmental groups. They collected total revenues of more than $81 billion from 2000 to 2012, according to Giving USA Institute, with only a small part of that coming from membership dues and individual contributions.
“Cracking Big Green” examined the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 reports of non-profit organizations. Driessen and Arnold discovered that, among the 2012 incomes of better-known environmental groups, the Sierra Club took in $97,757,678 and its Foundation took in $47,163,599. The Environmental Defense Fund listed $111,915,138 in earnings, the Natural Resources Defense Council took in $98,701,707 and the National Audubon Society took in $96,206,883. These four groups accounted for more than $353 million in one year.
That pays for a lot of lobbying at the state and federal level. It pays for a lot of propaganda that the Earth needs saving because of global warming or climate change. Now add in Greenpeace USA at $32,791,149, the Greenpeace Fund at $12,878,777; the National Wildlife Federation at $84,725,518; the National Parks Conservation Association at $25,782,975; and The Wilderness Society at $24,862,909. Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection took in $19,150,215. That’s a lot of money to protect something that cannot be “protected”, but small in comparison to other Green organizations.
“If that sounds too intimidating to confront,” say Driessen and Arnold, “it gets worse. Our research found a truly shocking blind spot; many major environmental groups get nearly half their revenue from private foundations like the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Wal-Mart’s Walton Family Foundation. Just the top 50 foundation donors (out of 81,777) gave green groups $812,639,999 (2010 figures), according to the Foundation Center’s vast database.”
If you wonder why you have been hearing and reading endless doomsday scenarios about the warming of the Earth, the rise of the seas, and the disappearance of species and forests, for decades, the reason is that a huge propaganda machine is financed at levels that are mind boggling.
Allied with politicians in high places, Big Green can count on them to maintain the lies. When the Earth ceased to warming nineteen years ago, it changed its doomsday campaign to “climate change” but the objective is the same, keep people so scared they will accept all manner of restrictions on their lives at the same time the availability of the energy on which they depend is reduced by a “war on coal” and other measures to keep oil and natural gas in the ground where it cannot be used.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” said President Obama on January 21, 2013, in his second inaugural address. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and powerful storms.”
This may appeal to those who do not or cannot examine these claims, but the reality is that the climate is always in a state of change, is largely determined by the Sun and other factors such as the oceans and volcanic activity. Humans play virtually no role whatever and Big Green’s Big Lie, that carbon dioxide (C02) emissions influence the weather and/or the climate has long been disproved and debunked. The problem is that that the news and other media continue to tell the Big Lie.
For Big Green, science is not about irrefutable truth. It is an instrument of propaganda to be distorted to advance their lies.
The impact on their lives and on our economy can be seen in “higher energy bills, disappearing jobs, diminished family incomes, and fewer opportunities for better living standards for their children”, all factors that played into the outcome of the recent midterm elections.
For a short, powerful insight to Big Green power and agenda, I heartily recommend you read “Cracking Big Green.”
After years of rising gasoline prices, people are puzzled by the recent drop that has the national average for a gallon of gas at $3. I believe the price will tick up in the days ahead (post-election)—which will make it economic for producers to continue to develop—but the increases will not be so dramatic, as to take away the economic stimulus the low prices provide. The low cost equals a tax cut averaging almost $600 for every household in the U.S.As gasoline prices have made headlines, several narratives are repeated. Generally the explanations revolve around two basic truths—but, as we’ll explore, there is more.The reasons offered for the drop in prices at the pump (which reflects the price of a barrel of oil) are 1) increased North American oil production and, 2) sluggish economic growth in Europe and Asia—which together result in a surplus of oil. U.S. oil output now stands at a 28-year high—up 80 percent since 2008. Thanks to the combined technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, experts predict the U.S. will become the world’s top producer by 2015. CNN Money reports: “The U.S. isn’t addicted to foreign oil anymore. The shale gas boom in the U.S. is a game changer for oil prices.” The U.S. has changed global oil markets, but so has ISIS. Several months ago, when ISIS first emerged as a threat to Iraq’s oil production, oil prices experienced the usual pike. However, when Iraqis and Kurds thwarted its southern movement and it did not take over Basra’s oil fields, prices eased. ISIS has become a real player in the global oil markets. The territory controlled by ISIS has a pre-war capacity of 350,000 barrels per day (bpd). Estimates vary, but it is widely believed that ISIS produces 50-80,000 bpd—most of which it sells on the black market at prices assumed to be $25-60 per barrel. The terror group’s most frequently cited oil revenue figure is $2 million a day. ISIS doesn’t abide by any international agreements or price regulations. This is a “black market.” There are no tangible income or production numbers. We don’t definitively know all of ISIS’ customers.The region’s long-established smuggling routes make it easy for the oil to be trafficked out of the territory where someone buys it.Some of ISIS’ heavily discounted oil reportedly ends up in Pakistan. Legitimate traders won’t deal in it, so it likely goes to nations that care little about the rule of law—perhaps, North Korea and China. The outlets that are soaking up the discounted oil, are not buying the full-price oil, which leaves millions of dollars, 50-80,000 barrels, a day of full-price oil, on the table, looking for a buyer. So, U.S. oil and ISIS oil continue to put a lot of supply into the market, keeping the price low. Unless coalition forces successfully bomb the oil fields in ISIS control, the black market oil supply will grow. If Republicans, who support developing our resources, take control of the U.S. Senate, our production could well increase. Both will help keep supply high, and prices low. The last piece in the low-priced oil puzzle is Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom reportedly needs oil at $83.60 a barrel to balance its national budget. Yet, in September, with prices already down, due to a global oil glut, the Saudis boosted production. Then, in October, it lowered prices by increasing the discount offered to its Asian customers. Saudi Arabia’s government is 85 percent dependent on its oil revenues and, therefore, needs to protect its turf as the dominant force in oil. Most experts agree that keeping prices low hurts higher-cost production such as that from U.S. shale oil and Canadian tar sands, while higher prices encourage more discovery and development. A report from Aljazeerah claims: “OPEC leader Saudi Arabia hopes to claw share from U.S. producers.”Two years ago, Saudi Arabia did much the same thing—increasing production and dropping oil/gasoline prices. At that time, the U.S. faced an important presidential election where one candidate loudly supported America’s new energy abundance and the other’s energy agenda was all about “green.” Had gasoline still been in the range of $4.00 on November 6, 2012, the party in power could have faced harsh consequences. The Saudis came in, and with their unique ability to throttle production up or down, took some heat off of the Obama Administration. In the midst of this election cycle—one that is very important to the future of oil production in America, the Saudis, once again, appear to be orchestrating geopolitical outcomes. OPEC’s oil output is close to a two-year high.It seems clear that OPEC does not want U.S. production to increase, and Saudi Arabia is in a position to try influence American politics. Lower prices favor the party in power. The shift in control of the Senate will mean a change in America’s energy policy—one that favors our homegrown energy resources; one that Saudi Arabia doesn’t want. In spite of possible Saudi meddling, the Senate leadership has shifted. Now that American voters have made that decision, the OPEC leader will no longer have the incentive to inflict short-term pain on its own economic climate for long-term gain. Saudi Arabia will likely dial back production and the intentionally low price will stabilize—but not so much that it hurts the American economy.
That’s what agency “creatures of Congress” do when their original legal authorities have obsolesced and need modernization to remain functional. It’s Congress’ constitutional role to set American communications/Internet policy; it’s the FCC’s role to implement and adjudicate it. That’s basically why the U.S. D.C. Court of Appeals overturned the FCC in 2010 in Comcast v. FCCand again in 2014 in Verizon v. FCC.
The FCC is floating the prospect of regulating the Internet backbone as a “Title II” common carrier utility for the first time. The proposal would bifurcate the Internet into a lightly-regulated, “retail,” Internet-tier, and a heavily-regulated, “wholesale,” common-carrier Internet-tier.
Let’s try a medical analogy to simplify this complicated FCC proposal in order to better understand it and its risks.
Think of the Internet as the information circulatory system of the world’s body, where Internet users are the world’s heart, edge providers are the body’s other organs and extremities, and the Internet’s American doctor is the FCC set on trying to prevent the potential discrimination diseases of “fast-lane-itis” and “paid-prioritization-itis.”
The FCC “doctor” is proposing to treat these potential diseases by experimentally treating some of the bloodstream very differently from the rest of the bloodstream.
First, the FCC doctor will continue to treat the blood cells leaving the heart via arteries (i.e. Internet users’ “retail” upstream traffic) with no new medical treatment (i.e. no new heavy utility-regulation.)
Second, however, to prevent potential blood inequality diseases that have not occurred yet, the FCC doctor proposes to treat the blood flowing through veins back to the heart(i.e. edge providers “wholesale” downstream traffic to Internet users), with the most potent medicine available (i.e. Title II common carrier utility price regulation.)
Then Dr. FCC promises that the harshest medicine and most invasive monitoring of only the blood cells (traffic bits) flowing (downstream) through veins and not the blood cells (traffic bits) flowing (upstream) through arteries, will have no side effects or bring any harm to the behavior, capabilities, strength or vitality of any part of the experimentally-treated body.
In addition, Dr. FCC professes confidence and reassures the patient, families and communities (i.e. the guinea pigs here) that this time the medical review boards (i.e. the Courts and Congress) will not reject and stop Dr. FCC’s harshest medical experimentation like they have previously, in ruling illegal previous FCC experimental treatments in 2010 and 2014.
If this sounds like a painful, complicated, and risky experimental procedure — it is.
When one analogizes what the FCC wants to do with the Internet ecosystem to what a doctor would do to a patient’s body, it becomes more clear that the FCC’s proposed treatment is more about making the FCC more important and necessary, and less about the health and best interests of the Internet and Internet users, and even less about what the medical review boards have already decided is best to not harm patients.
The FCC doesn’t need to make this so complicated and risky.
The choice should be simple – “do no harm” – doctors’ well-known Hippocratic Oath.
The FCC can “do no harm” legally by treating 90% of the perceived potential net neutrality problem under its court-approved Section 706 authority, with the assent and cooperation of the Internet infrastructure industry that would be so regulated, and then ask Congress for the 10% of legal authority that the FCC does not have, but believes it needs in order to protect the free and open Internet.
Or the FCC can cause incalculable harm by using a Rube Goldberg hybrid-approach to address 10,000% of the perceived potential net neutrality problem by changing the legal foundational status of the Internet to utility regulation with predictably strong opposition from the affected Internet infrastructure industry, the Courts and Congress.
Choose wisely, FCC. Do what’s legal and right. Respect the Constitution, Congress, the Courts, and the law.
And do no harm!
FCC Open Internet Order Series
Part 1: The Many Vulnerabilities of an Open Internet [9-24-09]
Part 2: Why FCC proposed net neutrality regs unconstitutional, NPR Online Op-ed [9-24-09]
Part 3: Takeaways from FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regs [10-22-09]
Part 4: How FCC Regulation Would Change the Internet [10-30-09]
Part 5: Is FCC Declaring ‘Open Season’ on Internet Freedom? [11-17-09]
Part 6: Critical Gaps in FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regulations [11-30-09]
Part 7: Takeaways from the FCC’s Open Internet Further Inquiry [9-2-10]
Part 8: An FCC “Data-Driven” Double Standard? [10-27-10]
Part 9: Election Takeaways for the FCC [11-3-10]
Part 10: Irony of Little Openness in FCC Open Internet Reg-making [11-19-10]
Part 11: FCC Regulating Internet to Prevent Companies from Regulating Internet [11-22-10]
Part 12: Where is the FCC’s Legitimacy? [11-22-14]
Part 13: Will FCC Preserve or Change the Internet? [12-17-10]
Part 14: FCC Internet Price Regulation & Micro-management? [12-20-10]
Part 15: FCC Open Internet Decision Take-aways [12-21-10]
Part 16: FCC Defines Broadband Service as “BIAS”-ed [12-22-10]
Part 17: Why FCC’s Net Regs Need Administration/Congressional Regulatory Review [1-3-11]
Part 18: Welcome to the FCC-Centric Internet [1-25-11]
Part 19: FCC’s Net Regs in Conflict with President’s Pledges [1-26-11]
Part 20: Will FCC Respect President’s Call for “Least Burdensome” Regulation? [2-3-11]
Part 21: FCC’s In Search of Relevance in 706 Report [5-23-11]
Part 22: The FCC’s public wireless network blocks lawful Internet traffic [6-13-11]
Part 23: Why FCC Net Neutrality Regs Are So Vulnerable [9-8-11]
Part 24: Why Verizon Wins Appeal of FCC’s Net Regs [9-30-11]
Part 25: Supreme Court likely to leash FCC to the law [10-10-12]
Part 26: What Court Data Roaming Decision Means for FCC Open Internet Order [12-4-12]
Part 27: Oops! Crawford’s Model Broadband Nation, Korea, Opposes Net Neutrality [2-26-13]
Part 28: Little Impact on FCC Open Internet Order from SCOTUS Chevron Decision [5-21-13]
Part 29: More Legal Trouble for FCC’s Open Internet Order & Net Neutrality [6-2-13]
Part 30: U.S. Competition Beats EU Regulation in Broadband Race [6-21-13]
Part 31: Defending Google Fiber’s Reasonable Network Management [7-30-13]
Part 32: Capricious Net Neutrality Charges [8-7-13]
Part 33: Why FCC won’t pass Appeals Court’s oral exam [9-2-13]
Part 34: 5 BIG Implications from Court Signals on Net Neutrality – A Special Report [9-13-13]
Part 35: Dial-up Rules for the Broadband Age? My Daily Caller Op-ed Rebutting Marvin Ammori’s [11-6-13]
Part 36: Nattering Net Neutrality Nonsense Over AT&T’s Sponsored Data Offering [1-6-14]
Part 37: Is Net Neutrality Trying to Mutate into an Economic Entitlement? [1-12-14]
Part 38: Why Professor Crawford Has Title II Reclassification All Wrong [1-16-14]
Part 39: Title II Reclassification Would Violate President’s Executive Order [1-22-14]
Part 40: The Narrowing Net Neutrality Dispute [2-24-14]
Part 41: FCC’s Open Internet Order Do-over – Key Going Forward Takeaways [3-5-14]
Part 42: Net Neutrality is about Consumer Benefit not Corporate Welfare for Netflix [3-21-14]
Part 43: The Multi-speed Internet is Getting More Faster Speeds [4-28-14]
Part 44: Reality Check on the Electoral Politics of Net Neutrality [5-2-14]
Part 45: The “Aristechracy” Demands Consumers Subsidize Their Net Neutrality Free Lunch [5-8-14]
Part 46: Read AT&T’s Filing that Totally Debunks Title II Reclassification [5-9-14]
Part 47: Statement on FCC Open Internet NPRM [5-15-14]
Part 48: Net Neutrality Rhetoric: “Believe it or not!” [5-16-14]
Part 49: Top Ten Reasons Broadband Internet is not a Public Utility [5-20-14]
Part 50: Top Ten Reasons to Oppose Broadband Utility Regulation [5-28-14]
Part 51: Google’s Title II Broadband Utility Regulation Risks [6-3-14]
Part 52: Exposing Netflix’ Biggest Net Neutrality Deceptions [6-5-14]
Part 53: Silicon Valley Naïve on Broadband Regulation (3 min video) [6-15-14]
Part 54: FCC’s Netflix Internet Peering Inquiry – Top Ten Questions [6-17-14]
Part 55: Interconnection is Different for Internet than Railroads or Electricity [6-26-14]
Part 56: Top Ten Failures of FCC Title II Utility Regulation [7-7-14]
Part 57: NetCompetition Statement & Comments on FCC Open Internet Order Remand [7-11-14]
Part 58: MD Rules Uber is a Common Carrier – Will FCC Agree? [8-6-14]
Part 59: Internet Peering Doesn’t Need Fixing – NetComp CommActUpdate Submission [8-11-14]
Part 60: Why is Silicon Valley Rebranding/Redefining Net Neutrality? [9-2-14]
Part 61: the FCC’s Redefinition of Broadband Competition [9-4-14]
Part 62: NetCompetition Comments to FCC Opposing Title II Utility Regulation of Broadband [9-9-14]
Part 63: De-competition De-competition De-competition [9-14-14]
Part 64: The Forgotten Consumer in the Fast Lane Net Neutrality Debate [9-18-14]
Part 65: FTC Implicitly Urges FCC to Not Reclassify Broadband as a Utility [9-23-14]
Part 66: Evaluating the Title II Rainbow of Proposals for the FCC to Go Nuclear [9-29-14]
Part 67: Why Waxman’s FCC Internet Utility Regulation Plan Would Be Unlawful [10-5-14]
Part 68: Silicon Valley’s Biggest Internet Mistake [10-15-14]
Part 69: Will the FCC Break the Internet? [10-22-14]
Part 70: Net Neutrality Has Become an Industrial Policy [10-31-14]
[Originally published at PrecursorBlog]
A few years ago, the satirical publication, The Onion ran an article under the headline “98 Percent of US Commuters Favor Public Transit for Others.” The spoof cited a mythical press release by the American Public Transit Association (APTA), in which Lance Holland of Anaheim, California said “Expanding mass transit isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessity,” Holland said. “My drive to work is unbelievable. I spend more than two hours stuck in 12 lanes of traffic. It’s about time somebody did something to get some of these other cars off the road.” The Onion spoof said that APTA would be kicking off a new promotional campaign using the slogan “Take the Bus… I’ll be Glad You Did.” The Onionspoof singled out Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials as saying that public support for mass transit will lead to its expansion and improvement.”
“Transit for Others” characterizes three decades of transit in Los Angeles County. Despite its massive $10 billion plus rail program, MTA bus and rail services carried fewer riders in 2012 (latest Federal Transit Administration data) than were carried by the buses in 1985 (MTA was formed in the early 1990s from a merger between the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and the Southern California Rapid Transit District).
The Birth of Modern Rail
The history of the modern Los Angeles rail revival began with a special meeting of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission on August 20, 1980. I was to play a principal role.
I had the honor of being appointed to LACTC by Mayor Tom Bradley to three terms and was the only principal commissioner who was not an elected official. The other members, under state law, were the Mayor of Los Angeles, a Los Angeles City Council Member, the Mayor of Long Beach, two city council members from other cities, the five county supervisors and an additional member appointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles (which was me).
The special meeting had been requested by legendary county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who proposed a 5-year reduction of the bus fare to $0.50 to be financed by a sales tax increase, which would be submitted to the voters at the November election. Any money not needed for the bus fare reduction would be used for unspecified transit purposes.
The original motion by Supervisor Hahn was amended by Gardena Mayor Edmund Russ, who proposed a “local return program,” which would dedicate 25 percent of the funding to municipalities (and Los Angeles County for unincorporated areas) on a population basis, to be used for transit services. At that time, local operators provided less than 20% of the bus service, with the overwhelming majority of services provided by the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD).
I was concerned that the proposal by Supervisor Hahn failed to provide funding for a rail system. I believed at the time that a rail system would reduce the intractable traffic congestion in Los Angeles. I was also concerned at the rapidly rising unit costs of bus operations and was convinced that unless there was a “firewall,” no money would be available for rail.
As a result, on the spur of the moment, I introduced an amendment to direct 35 percent of the proceeds to rail. This motion was seconded by Supervisor Baxter Ward and was incorporated into the final package Supervisor Hahn accepted a shortening of the reduced fare period to three years. The measure, Proposition A was placed on the ballot and was passed by the voters in November.
Transit Since Proposition A
The impacts of the three programs approved in 1980 had varying results on transit in Los Angeles.
Three Year Fare Reduction (1982-1985): Between 1982 and 1985, there was a flat $0.50 fare for transit services in the county. SCRTD experienced an increase from 354 million to 497 million annual passengers. At 40%, this may be the largest three year relative increase in any large transit agency’s ridership in decades. Ridership fell after subsequent fare increases.
Further, the fare reduction was cost effective. The cost per new rider was less than $1.00 (2012$), a small fraction of typical projected costs per new riders on proposed rail transit systems around the country. By comparison, the cost per new rider on the east extension of the Gold light rail line was projected at more than $30 (2012$, $24.19 in 2003). This is more than 30 times the cost per new rider of the low fare program.
The strong ridership increase in response to the low fare program is consistent with the relatively low incomes of Los Angeles transit commuters. In 2013, the median income of Los Angeles County transit commuters was approximately one-half that of the national, 60 percent below that of the six metropolitan areas with transit legacy cities (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Washington) and even lower than the other 45 metropolitan areas over 1,000,000 population (Figure 1)
Local Return Program: Since 1985, when the bus fare reduction program ended, by far the greatest impact on ridership was from the Local Return program. In 1985, the existing local bus operators carried approximately 55 million annual passengers, a figure that rose to more than 130 million in 2012 (a nearly 140 percent increase). This ridership increase is more passengers that were carried on all the bus and rail systems of Dallas (DART), Salt Lake City and St. Louis in 2012, according to Federal Transit Administration data.
Urban Rail Program: Many miles of urban rail have been built in Los Angeles County, including two subways and five light rail lines (determined by route termini from downtown). But the hope that others would leave their cars for transit, as expressed in The Onion has not occurred. By 2012, Federal Transit Administration data indicates that MTA (formed by a merger of LACTC and the Southern California Rapid Transit District, which operated the system before) bus and rail system was carrying 475 million annual riders, down from the 497 million carried on buses alone in 1985.
This is despite constructing billions in subway lines, light rail lines, and rapid busways and the addition of approximately 2 million residents to Los Angeles County.
The “Return” on Local Return: The big surprise was the “return” on the local return program. A number of new systems were established, such as Foothill Transit and the Antelope Valley Transportation Authority. Many cities established new bus and paratransit systems. The city of Los Angeles now operates a number of commuter express bus services and local circulation bus services throughout the city. Many of the new systems used competitive tendering, under which services are awarded to competing private companies, with fares, routes, and schedules dictated by the public agencies. One important advantage of competitive tendering is lower costs, which makes it possible to provide more service. This service approach has been used extensively in Denver and San Diego. Further, virtually all of London’s largest public bus system in the high income world is competitively tendered as are all of the bus, subway, commuter rail and light rail services in Stockholm.
Overall, the Los Angeles County transit system, including MTA and the local operators experienced a ridership increase of 55 million between 1985 and 2012 (This excludes Metrolink, the five county commuter rail system established in the 1990s). Virtually all of the ridership increase is attributable to the local bus services operated by cities and by new sub-regional agencies (Figure 2).
Overall Transit Work Trip Share
Census Bureau data indicates that the employment access share of transit in Los Angeles County has declined modestly, from 7.0 percent in 1980 to 6.9 percent in 2013 (including Metrolink). Driving alone increased from 68.7 percent to 72.7 percent, while car pool commuting dropped from 16.8 percent to 10.0 percent. Outside of driving alone, the largest increase occurred in working at home rising from 1.5 percent to 5.2 percent (Figure 3). Unlike transit, working at home requires virtually no expenditures of public funds. Transit one-way work trips increased 77,000 daily, while driving along increased 947,000 and working at home increased 182,000. Car pools suffered a large loss (Figure 4).
Thus, despite rave reviews about its rail system, Los Angeles relies on cars to an even greater extent than before. Los Angeles qualifies as the next great transit city only if the standard is spending and construction, rather than ridership.
Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council to fill the unexpired term of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.
Note: Part of the MTA/SCRTD ridership loss was due to the transfer of services to Foothill Transit and the city of Los Angeles in the late 1980s.
Photo: Los Angeles County Transportation Commission logo from 1980s
[Originally published at New Geography]
The federal Dodd-Frank Act is considered by many to be the most significant financial legislation in modern history. Its purpose was to create a sound Economic Foundation to grow jobs, protect consumers, rein in Wall Street and big bonuses, end bailouts,and “too big to fail,” as well as prevent another financial crisis. Years without accountability for Wall Street and big banks had ushered in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression that resulted in the loss of 8 million jobs, failed businesses, a drop in housing prices, and wiped out personal savings.
It was in response to this 2008 crisis, that the Obama administration urged prompt and full implementation of the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” meant also to serve as an inoculation against future crisis. Dodd-Frank was signed into federal law by President Barack Obama on July 21, 2010 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.
Because of policy decisions made early on in the implementation process, it became nearly impossible for regulators to enact smart and well-coordinated regulations. Furthermore, the process of rolling out the regulations became extremely political.
As part of its Liberty Speaker’s Series, the Illinois Policy Institute, CEO and President John Tillman, hosted a discussion of Dodd Frank and its fallout on Tuesday, October 28, at its headquarters in Chicago, 190 S. LaSalle Street, 40th Floor Library.
On the panel to discuss Dodd-Frank were three individuals who had been appointed to various government commissions to assist in the drafting, implementation, and oversight of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Paul Atkins, chief executive of Patomak Global Partners, LLC, was appointed by Congress and served from 2009 to 2010 as a member of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Atkins was then asked to serve on FSOCK, a creation of the Dodd-Frank Act and a uniquely powerful body within the executive branch of the US government.
It consists of 15 members, of which 9 are the chairs of other federal financial regulatory agencies charged with identifying and responding to emerging risks throughout the financial system (to prick the financial bubbles before they happen). The Secretary of the Treasury serves as the Chairperson of the Council.
In discussing Dodd-Frank, Mr. Atkins warned that whenever a bill has “consumer” and “protection” in it, watch your wallets. Atkins called the 2,319 page bill basically rubbish. Not unlike Obamacare, Dodd-Frank was pushed through Congress with no one knowing what was in the bill until after it had passed. While Dodd-Frank created thirteen new offices and agencies, the government only got rid of one agency. Dodd-Frank conveys the message that government knows best under the assumption that if enough smart people are assembled in the same room with enough information, they can do better than the free market.
Speaking about SIFI (Systemically Important Financial Institution) Institution), the $50 billion in consolidated assets threshold at which bank holding companies are subject to enhanced prudential supervision was called science fiction by Atkns. The $50 billion SIFI threshold sweeps in too many small banks that don’t pose a systemic threat, thus diluting attention from the big banks that do.
Jill E. Sommers served as a CFTC commissioner (U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission) for five years, from 2008 to 2013, one of only two Republicans. The mission of the CFTC is to protect market participants and the public from fraud, manipulation, abusive practices and systemic risk related to derivatives — both future and swaps — and to foster transparent, open competitive and financially sound markets.
Ms. Sommers, as one five CFTC members, spent more than two years writing the Dodd-Frank Act rules to bolster oversight of the $639 trillion swaps market and the futures industry following a shortfall in customer funds at the failed brokerage MF Global Holdings Ltd. Criminal or civil charges have yet to be filed against MF Global after the company left a $l.6 billion shortfall in customer funds when it filed for bankruptcy in October of 2010.
Sommers expressed concern over the agency’s approach to completing Dodd-Frank rules, citing a lack of coordination with the SEC and oversea regulators, that the agency hadn’t adequately considered public comments on proposed rules, and that an analysis of regulatory costs and benefits was lacking. Industry needed relief from rules that were impossible to employ when first instigated.
Jill Sommers vented her frustration as to the role of the oversight and regulation of swap markets in a speech delivered before the Cadwalader Energy Conference in October of 2012, the day before the definition of “swap” became effective and compliance rules for swap deals kicked in. According to Sommers, if dozens of requests weren’t granted for relief, the market could be damaged and irreparable harm could follow for market participants. Sommers bemoans the fact that many of the rules finalized were vague and subject to legal challenges, which has resulted in real, unintended and very costly consequences. Sommers has little confidence that the rules already in place have a chance of withstanding the test of times. She instead believes that the commission will be consumed over the next few years using valuable resources to rewrite the rules we knew or should have known would not work in the first place.
Christopher Giancarlo was confirmed by unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate on June 3, 2014. On June 16 he was sworn in as a CFTC Commissioner whose purpose is to protect market participants and the public from fraud, manipulation, abusive practices and systemic risk related to derivatives (both futures and swaps) and to foster transparent, open, competitive and financially sound markets. Giancarlo’s term expires in April 2019. Giancarlo took the place vacated by Jill Sommers on the CFTC. His work on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission might be defined as the clean-up phase. Giancarlo considers the Futures and Swap markets important to a thriving economy. Of importance is that the government doesn’t interfere. Food and energy prices are low because we don’t have government setting the price.
Mr. Giancarlo defined the Swap Market as looking more like the bond market, and the Futures Market more like the stock market. The Swap Market, in comparison to the Futures Market, operates as controlled over-the-counter growth. The Swap Market is now a global market.
On Sept. 9 Giancarlo gave the Keynote Address to the Global Forum for Derivatives Markets (35th Annual Burgenstock Conference) in Geneva, Switzerland. He began his remarks by indicating that they would be his own and did not necessarily constitute the views of his fellow CFTC Commissioners or its staff.
Giancarlo posed three questions, although he realized that many in attendance already knew the answers and that they didn’t inspire confidence in the future.
- Are we fully honoring the commitment to coordinate our efforts to reform the derivatives market?
- Are we avoiding protectionism?
- Or are we building new 21th century protectionism around regional financial markets, especially in swaps and futures?
Giancarlo further indicated that “this lack of coordination in swaps clearing does not exist in a vacuum. It is preceded by an uncoordinated approach in formulating the regulations of swap trading.”
The fourth anniversary of the signing of the Dodd-Frank was noted this summer on July 21. Most Americans think more regulation is the answer and that Dodd-Frank solved the problems causing the crisis, even believing that the law didn’t go far enough to punish private firms responsible for the crisis. If anything, Dodd-Frank has made the financial system even more fragile than it was prior to the 2008 crisis.
As concluded in a committee staff report titled, “Failing to End Too Big to Fail: An Assessment of the Dodd-Frank Act Four Years Later’, released just days before the fourth anniversary signing of the Dodd-Frank Act by President Obama in 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act did not end “too big to fail” as the law’s supporters claim, but actually had the opposite effect of further entrenching “too big to fail” as official government policy. According to Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Committee Chairman Rep. McHenry, “Rather than institute market discipline and a clear rules-based regime, four years later Dodd-Frank’s failed policies have only worsened the risks within the financial system and recklessly handed financial regulators a blank check for taxpayer-funded bailouts.” The report is available here.
Another article worth reading by Calomiris and Meltzer was published on Feb. 12, 2014 in the WSJ: How Dodd-Frank Doubles Down on ‘Big to Fail’. It relates how Dodd-Frank doesn’t address problems that led to the financial crisis of 2008.
It remains to be seen if Mitch McConnell does controls the U.S. Senate in 2015, whether the Republican Party will push for full or partial repeal of Dodd-Frank. In the meantime, Commission J. Christopher Giancarlo has his work cut out for him as a CFTC Commissioner.
Decades of disappointment should have taught us that the Republican Party’s big wins Tuesday will change little or nothing that comes out of Washington, DC in a substantive way.
The federal government and national debt grew under Republican Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. Republicans have repeatedly used limited-government rhetoric to get elected and then have embraced big government when they have controlled it.
Going all the way back to Nixon, remember that Medicare and Lyndon Johnson’s other “Great Society” programs were barely off the ground when he took office. They could have been ended then because they were still small. Nixon instead let them grow and gave us a host of new regulations and government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, certainly one of the government’s most abusive and renegade agencies.
Nixon also unilaterally shredded the international Bretton Woods system that was created near the end of World War II to establish fixed foreign exchange rates, with the dollar pegged at $35 for an ounce of gold. This made the US dollar a purely paper currency and set the stage for massive money printing and inflation. Nixon also imposed national wage and price controls because of the economic shock his policies caused. Imagine the howling we’d hear if Barack Obama were to impose wage and price controls!
Skipping ahead to the last time Republicans had control of the House and at least half the Senate, with a Republican president to back it up — during the George W. Bush (Bush II) administration that began in 2001 — they gave us huge increases in federal involvement in education with No Child Left Behind, and huge increases in entitlement spending by introducing Medicare prescription drug coverage. They let the national debt soar. They expanded business subsidy programs. They expanded the surveillance state and poured military hardware into local police departments. They enthusiastically backed military spending for attacks against countries whose governments had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. They gave us thousands of budget “earmarks” that were just billions of dollars of slush fund spending.
Those Republicans did give us tax cuts, but they made them temporary, and the tax cuts actually concentrated the tax burden onto fewer households.
George Bush the Elder gave us the infamous, “Read my lips, no new taxes” broken pledge; George Bush the Younger gave us the infamous, “I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system” excuse for bailing out financial institutions, insurers and automakers.
Even if Republicans this time do try to substantially shrink the size and power of government, President Obama would veto the moves, and there is little chance the vetoes would be overridden. As several Heartland Institute advisers today note in a press statement on the election results, some Republicans are already softening their pledges to fight the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
At the state level, the Republicans might have more impact, because true believers in limited government have a better chance of being elected at state and local levels, and turning a state is easier than turning the national government, just as turning a rowboat is easier than turning a battleship. In recent years we’ve seen big improvements in tax and regulatory policies in a number of states, including Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
On the other hand, Virginia recently went downhill under Republican leadership, and in Democrat-dominated Illinois, where Republican challenger Bruce Rauner this week defeated the Democrat incumbent, the General Assembly remains overwhelmingly in Democrat control. And who knows where Rauner really stands? He’s been all over the map on the minimum wage. He has declared his desire for big increases in education and infrastructure spending, even though Illinois has huge debts and budget deficits and the nation’s worst credit rating. He has declared a desire to expand the sales tax to services and to close “tax loopholes.” It’s possible Illinois could end up with a net tax increase even with a rollback in the state income tax rate that is scheduled to happen in 2015.
Furthermore, Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who used to be President Obama’s chief of staff after having been a Democratic Party Congressman — are great friends. I doubt Rauner will reduce the flow of tax dollars collected from across the state to Chicago.
“Be humble in victory, Republicans – and don’t screw this up by returning to your old ways.” Those are the words of Ben Domenech, Heartland’s senior fellow for health care policy.
It’s good advice — advice the Republicans repeatedly have rejected over the years.
I know past performance is no guarantee of future performance, but it is a good indicator.
After a sweeping Republican win in the 2014 midterms, some at The Heartland Institute are reluctant to take a sigh of relief. With the Republican party in firm control of congress, many new challenges and concerns face those who advocate limited government.
If recent history has taught us anything, it is that both major parties in the United States increase the size and scope of the federal government. While this time it may be different, small-government proponents are not holding their breath.
In a press release by The Heartland Institute, many contributors expressed their concerns. Research Fellow Steve Stanek states:
“The federal government and national debt grew under Republican Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. Republicans have repeatedly used limited-government rhetoric to get elected and then have embraced big government when they have controlled it. I expect the same thing to happen this time.”
Recently, Republicans have held themselves as being the small-government party when competing with the Democratic party. So far however, they have yet to prove themselves as such. Senior Fellow Benjamin Domenech highlights this when he says, “Now they have an opportunity to prove they’re not going to make the same mistakes. Be humble in victory, Republicans – and don’t screw this up by returning to your old way.” Some are only slightly more hopeful.
You can tell Policy Advisor William Briggs isn’t sold when he states, “Congratulations to the Republicans, the party of slightly smaller government. Now, at least for the next two years, the rate at which regulations increase, taxes become more burdensome, and government intrudes into our lives will be marginally slower.”
The capturing of congress by Republicans also raises another issue. The potential for President Obama to use executive orders has increased. Director of Government Relations John Nothdurft states, “The president is likely to spend the next two years ruling by executive order rather than choosing to work with Congress.” With the past several years resembling a battle between Obama and the Republicans, it is unlikely the president will pursue bipartisan legislation.
Policy Advisor David L. Applegate highlights a major worry of republicans when he states, “Obama will double-down on his Constitutionally suspect practice of ruling by executive order and will try to legalize some six million-plus ‘undocumented immigrants’ in time to have them eligible to vote in the 2016 elections.”
While many are still wary of the Republican victory, most are still hopeful for the future. Multiple staffers from The Heartland Institute listed goals for the new congress. Senior Advisor Larry Kaufmann states, “If they really want to be bold, Republicans should begin to tackle entitlement reform, even though it will remain a political football.”
Those that support the ideas of limited government and free markets should take these election results as only a move in the right direction. A lot more work needs to be done. The newly elected Republicans have to be reminded that those who voted them in can easily vote them back out.
[Link to Official Press Release]
With recent news about Burger King and medical device manufacturer Medtronic relocating their headquarters outside of the United States to avoid high corporate taxes, the subject of corporate inversions has been a big topic of discussion in the media. While President Obama and the Treasury Department condemn these moves and construct roadblocks to prevent inversions, they fail to see the reasons that drive these corporations overseas.
As Bernard L. Weinstein writes in a piece published by The Hill, “Inversions should be viewed as a reaction to our famously dysfunctional tax system, especially as it applies to corporations.” Simply put, our far-reaching and complex tax code is pushing business out. And who benefits from these moves? The countries that are now collecting the tax revenue by offering an overall smaller tax rate. Weinstein continues:
“Besides being notoriously complicated, inefficient and riddled with special interest provisions, the system leaves U.S. companies with by far the highest tax burdens in the industrialized world.
“The federal tax rate for corporations is 35 percent. But when you include state taxes as well, according to the Tax Foundation, the rate is more like 39.1 percent. Compare that to a net corporate tax rate of 15 percent just across the border in Canada.”
When just looking at the numbers, it is an obvious choice for these companies to move their headquarters out of the country. This is a case of people voting with their feet.
What is worse is when the tax code is used as a weapon against a specific company or industry. Weinstein elaborates on this concept as well:
“We’re seeing a shameless example of that right now in the federal government’s tax assault on America’s domestic oil and natural gas producers.
“President Obama has never shown much love for this industry. Now he and certain allies in Congress from both parties are trying to engineer a massive new energy tax aimed at these companies and dressing it up in the language of tax reform.”
When the tax code is used in this manner, it is seen as unpredictable and troubling. While today it may be the oil and gas industry, tomorrow fast food chains or convenience stores may be the target. This idea gives more incentive for businesses to avoid the U.S. tax system.
Instead of making it harder for companies to move their headquarters out of the country, the government should work to make the tax code more appealing. The goal of tax reform should be to get foreign companies to pull a corporate inversion and relocate their headquarters here in America.[Segments of this article originally published in The Hill]
Nothing has changed my mind that it would be “unthinkable” for the FCC to classify Internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, the part of the 1934 communications law derived directly from the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The purpose of the Interstate Commerce Act was to constrain what was then seen as the monopolistic power of the railroads. The railroads were deregulated in the 1980s – long before the emergence today’s broadband Internet providers.
In the first paper in this series, “Thinking the Unthinkable: Imposing a ‘Utility Model’ on Internet Providers,” I explained why, as a matter of domestic policy, it would be wrong to regulate Internet providers under Title II. In the second,“Thinking the Unthinkable – Part II,” I explained why classification of Internet providers as common carriers here in the U.S. likely would have substantial adverse consequences abroad as other countries use the FCC’s pro-regulatory action to justify their own Internet regulation designs.
In this third piece, I wish to focus further attention on the real-world impact of Title II regulation (or even rigid, inflexible non-Title II regulation) by taking the Title II advocates at their word regarding what they demand. In doing so, I hope to encourage those inclined to align themselves with the Title II advocates to understand the import of such alignment. And I hope to get the general press to ask each FCC commissioner whether he or she agrees with the Title II advocates that particular service offerings that the Title II advocates say should be banned as discriminatory and inconsistent an Open Internet should, in fact, be banned.
As the time for a potential FCC votes nears, it’s time to talk about real cases with real consumer impacts, rather than simply regurgitating open-ended mantras concerning preservation of an “Open Internet.”
For this purpose, here I’m going to copy in this excerpt from my August 26 FSF Perspectives titled “Net Neutrality v. Consumers”:
In the cause of furthering such consumer understanding, let’s begin by reviewing excerpts from recent Wall Street Journal stories about new wireless pricing plans offered by Sprint and T-Mobile.
- “For about $12, Sprint Corp. will soon let subscribers buy a wireless plan that only connects to Facebook. For that same price, they could choose instead to connect only with Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest—or for $10 more, enjoy unlimited use of all four. Another $5 gets them unlimited streaming of a music app of their choice.” “Sprint Tries a Facebook-Only Plan,”Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2014.
- “T-Mobile US Inc. will let customers listen to several popular music services without counting it toward their data use, giving up a potential revenue source to bolster its subscriber base. The country’s fourth-largest wireless carrier said it is going to waive data charges when subscribers use services like Spotify, Pandora and Rhapsody.” “T-Mobile Will Waive Data Fees For Music Services,”Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2014.
Each of the plans announced by Sprint and T-Mobile would appear to be attractive to consumers. In one way or another, they all offer subscribers additional choices for accessing services the subscribers wish to enjoy at a price lower than otherwise would be available or, alternatively, without incurring data usage charges that otherwise would be incurred. In the latter instance, such as the T-Mobile’s “Music Freedom” plan, this feature has become known as “zero-rating” because data usage charges do not apply when subscribers access sites covered by the plans.
I do not know whether these new wireless plans ultimately will prove successful in the marketplace, which continues to evolve at a rapid pace. But I have not heard of any meaningful consumer discontent with the plans. To the contrary, I surmise that consumers welcome the additional options, especially low-income or budget-conscious consumers who either are unable or unwilling to pay for wireless plans that are not limited in some fashion.
Leading Title II advocates are opposed to these plans on the basis that they discriminate by picking and choosing certain “edge providers” to favor, say Facebook over the “next-Facebook,” or certain music sites over others, or music sites over poetry sites.
In my “Net Neutrality v. Consumers” essay, you can see for yourself the statements by Free Press’s Matt Wood and Public Knowledge’s Michael Weinberg opposing these T-Mobile and Sprint wireless plans as inconsistent with their understanding of an Open Internet. And in the FCC’s Open Internet Roundtable (“Tailoring Policy to Harms”) in which I participated, Julie Veach, FCC Common Carrier Bureau Chief, very perceptively zeroed in on this issue right after the opening statements. You can view my exchanges with Mr. Weinberg and also with Stanford law professor Barbara van Schewick regarding the so-called “zero-rated” plans here beginning at the 33 and 93 minute marks. You’ll see they object to the plans.
It is possible, of course, to imagine other “zero-rated” or “sponsored data” plans, or other hypothetical offerings of a different variety, that similarly would run up against the Title II advocates’ claim that they are discriminatory and, therefore, should be banned. But we don’t need to imagine other hypothetical examples because we have real-world offerings to which they object.
To be clear, in my view, in light of the competitive environment, spectrum constraints, and unique technical requirements, the Commission should not extend any new net neutrality mandates to wireless providers. The costs of doing so very likely will exceed the benefits to consumers.
In thinking about imposing new net neutrality mandates, the current Commission Democratic majority appears to have a pronounced proclivity to elevate supposed potential harms to edge providers (especially non-existent ones, such as the “next Google or next [fill in the blank”]) above real-world consumer welfare benefits. So, Chairman Wheeler and each commissioner should consider whether they too, like the stringent Title II advocates, think that plans like those of T-Mobile and Sprint described above should be banned as discriminatory – despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, they may be attractive to consumers, especially low income consumers. (I am not suggesting that these particular plans will ultimately succeed in the marketplace, only that consumers will not be harmed by the providers’ seeking to meet perceived consumer demands.)
If the three Democratic commissioners think such apparently consumer-friendly plans should be banned, then perhaps, David Farragut-like, they should just proclaim, “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” But make no mistake: In actuality, they will not be moving ahead, but retreating into last century’s world of legacy regulation, confining Internet providers into the strictures of a common carrier public utility-like regime.
If, on the other hand, the commissioners see the merit of allowing Internet providers to experiment in the marketplace by making available innovative, consumer-friendly service options such as the T-Mobile and Sprint offerings discussed here, perhaps they will slow down and think twice about the wrong direction the net neutrality proceeding seems to be headed.
PS – Oh yes, and perhaps some enterprising member of the press will actually ask the commissioners whether they agree or disagree that plans like T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s should be banned.
[Originally published at The Free State Foundation]
The Democratic Party that supported President Obama’s agenda for the past six years was dramatically rejected in the midterm elections and the message for the new Republican-controlled Senate and House is to aggressively take action on stalled legislation to improve the economy and address other issues that have suffered neglect.
The GOP is going to be up against the revenge Obama will take on America in the remaining two years. The midterms will not generate any humility in Obama; only anger and resentment.
Republicans were not elected to “work with” Obama. They were elected to stop his agenda and actions that have been harmful to the nation. The big question coming out of this electoral mandate is whether the inside-the-beltway Republicans in Washington will do what the voters want.
Obama promised a “transformation” of America, a nation dedicated to individual freedom and liberty, and it has taken this long for many to realize that his definition of transformation was an ever-increasing Big Government to control every aspect of our lives:
# the education of our youth who lack knowledge of civics, math, and science,
# the deprivation and reduction of access to vital sources of energy,
# the refusal to protect U.S. sovereignty by ignoring our immigration laws and border security,
# the reduction of our military power to levels rivaling pre-World War Two,
# the failure to resist the growth of Islamic fanaticism,
# the historic and dangerous increase of our national debt,
# the failure to take fundamental steps to revive the economy by cutting taxes and reducing regulations,
# the destruction of our market-based healthcare system.
Obama will take the electoral rejection very personally and, as we have seen in his contempt for working with Congress and his smears of the Republican Party, no one should doubt he will use the remainder of his term in office to wreak as much damage as possible; to prove he is right and the rest of the nation is wrong.
Much of what he will do was put off until after the midterm elections because he knew the level of rejection would be even greater. Now he is free to misuse “executive orders” unless the new Congress takes steps to defund and legislatively stop them. Investigations into the scandals that have become synonymous with his administration must be vigorously pursued.
What can we anticipate?
Obama will do everything he can to leave American vulnerable to increased illegal immigration including a rumored amnesty that would provide work permits and green cards to millions who would compete with jobless natural born and naturalized Americans. He has already refused to spend funds that have been allocated to secure our borders.
When Attorney General Eric Holder exits the Department of Justice expect Obama to nominate someone even more radical and divisive.
In the next two years you can expect the Environmental Protection Agency, already producing more regulations than any other element of the government, to go into overdrive to shut down as many power plants as possible, reducing the production of electricity on which the nation depends.
Obama has done little to respond to the growing global Islamist movement, showing favor to terrorist groups such as Hamas, but his greatest effort has been to provide Iran with the approval to advance its nuclear weapons capability by opening negotiations that, if agreed to, would put it within mere months of being able to put nuclear warheads on missiles and in bombs. It would change the balance of power in the Middle East and threaten the rest of the world.
Expect Obama to try to close Guantanamo despite legislation forbidding this action. In keeping with his tilt toward Islam, he has already released five Taliban leaders in exchange for an alleged U.S. Army deserter. Others who were released rejoined the Islamic holy war.
He will, of course, do everything he can to protect his namesake legislation, the Affordable Patient Care Act otherwise known as ObamaCare. It must be dismantled before it does even more harm to the nation’s healthcare system. He has waited until after the midterms for Americans to learn that their ACA premiums will rise dramatically. Ultimately, it must be repealed.
In these and many other ways, he can continue to harm our national interests. The one prediction that can be made with certainty is that he will spend even more time playing golf and indulging the many perks of the office.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
[Originally published at Warning Signs]
Just in time for Halloween, director Ivan Reitman’s classic film “Ghostbusters” marks its 30th year in the American zeitgeist. A rags-to-riches tale of a band of plucky ghost-hunters saving the world from a pagan god resembling David Bowie and an oversized confectionary mascot, “Ghostbusters” has inspired a cinematic sequel, two animated cartoon spinoffs, and at least three video games.
Perhaps one reason “Ghostbusters” has become a classic film is that it exemplifies and glorifies the American entrepreneurial spirit, something few Hollywood movies do these days.
After the parapsychology department’s academic funding is ended, professors Peter Venkman, Raymond Stanz, and Egon Spengler decide to forge a path in the private sector, mortgaging Stantz’s home to raise seed capital.
Contrasting their academic lives to their proposed new path as businessmen, Stantz notes the university “gave us money and facilities. We didn’t have to produce anything!”
To make money and survive in “the real world,” the trio has to produce services and goods that meet real needs and desires in the marketplace.
In one scene, the Sedgewick Hotel’s manager balks at the price the protagonists quote for removing a ghost, but when the ghostbusters threaten to return it to his hotel ballroom, he quickly realizes the removal of the “class-5 free-roaming vapor” is worth at least as much to him as the price quoted. The scene exemplifies the free negotiation of values that is at the heart of the market system and is missing.
The manager benefits from the ghost’s removal, as do the ghostbusters, check in hand—a classic example of Adam Smith’s observation, “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
Demand for the team’s services increases, and they realize they need to invest in additional human capital to be able to continue to trade their skills for money. Without asking for tax abatements from city council or corporate welfare from the New York General Assembly, the ghostbusters create a job, hiring Winston Zeddemore.
Led by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bureaucrat Walter Peck, however, the government ransacks the ghostbusters’ private property and shutters their operation, claiming violations of environmental regulations. Peck, however, does not have any evidence they are actually off-loading negative externalities—evil spirits and the like—onto their neighbors. In fact, the ghostbusters have been doing nothing but good.
Ordering the deactivation of the containment unit, Peck ironically creates major negative externalities himself, in the form of an innumerable horde of spooks set free to terrorize the people of New York City. Even worse, the EPA’s actions summon Gozer the Gozerian, a terrifying spiritual being bent on destroying the environment Peck is supposed to protect.
As Milton Friedman said, “one of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” Peck’s actions, not his intentions, cast the overbearing regulatory state as the film’s antagonist, over whom the plucky heroes eventually triumph.
As we go about our daily lives, we interact with an uncounted number of small businesses, all seeking to fill a niche through free exchange, just as the ghostbusters did in this American film classic. If only our—and their—interactions with government were so beneficial.
British journalist Tim Montgomerie wrote October 18, 2014 for The Times “Our energy policy is insane: this the inconvenient truth”. The article described the plight of those in the United Kingdom saddled with energy policies that takes money from poor pensioners and gives it to wealthy landowners who profit from wind farms. The nation is left with an unreliable energy system that produces no reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and leaves the country with a reliance on odious oil and coal exporting regimes. He also said, “There’s always been a lot of money to be made from exaggerating danger and selling fear.”
A portion of his article applying to the United States read, “The real casualties of the West’s green policies aren’t the poor in this country but in the developing world. Aid money that could be going to tackle malaria or to build a health infrastructure capable of containing Ebola often goes to dubious green projects. Barack Obama has stopped US aid from helping build any new coal-fired power plants. This policy will literally kill people. The alternative to fossil fuels for many poor nations isn’t expensive renewable energy but no fuel at all. And no fuel at all means no refrigeration for medicines in health clinics and no warmth for very poor families on freezing nights.”
A June 29, 2014, article in Forbes “Electrify African and Save Hundreds of Millions of Lives” by Jude Clemente quantifies the tragedies of life living in Sub-Sahara Africa because of electricity shortages. One factor for shortages is the environmental movement’s demands electricity generation fossil-fuel free. Of particular interest is the table Africa’s Forgotten Calamity: Electricity Deprivation which shows President Obama, Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry, and former Vice President Gore making speeches in Africa referencing global warming and failing to mention problems of electricity shortages.
Seventy percent of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa are without electricity and thus denied access to clean water and sewage treatment, refrigeration, lighting, healthy cooking, enclosed homes with heat and air conditioning, etc. that follows from adequate electricity supply. The banning of DDT in Africa allows the spread of malaria throughout Africa with hundreds of millions sickened and annual deaths estimated at over 600,000.
CAUSE FOR INSANITY
Environmentalists within the Democrat Party like Al Gore and Tim Wirth subscribed to catastrophic anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (CAGW) in the late 1980s. CAGW is caused by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide coming from the burning of fossil fuels oil, natural gas, and coal. They gained further support after the United Nations formed the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) which produced a series of 5 Assessment Reports released since 1990 with the most recent in 2014. These documents are accepted without question. CAGW proponents argue increased atmospheric carbon dioxide has caused increased heat waves, record high temperatures, flooding, drought, wildfires, reduced snowfall, tornadoes, hurricanes, sea level rise, Artic ice melting, etc.
PROOF IT IS INSANE
A host of data shows all catastrophic events allegedly caused by CAGW occurred in the past when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were lower and constant. For many weather events, rates of occurrences recently declined. The U. S. government provides data on various climate events CAGW proponents claim are increased– heat waves, record high temperatures, flooding, drought, wildfires, reduced snowfall, tornadoes, hurricanes, sea level rise, and Arctic ice melting. Inspection of data shows CAGW claims are false or exaggerated. Omitted from the data released by climate alarmists is satellite global temperature data show there has been no global warming since the super El Nino in the Spring1998. Some may protest global temperature data from NOAA and NASA GISS claim 2014 monthly temperatures were highest in recorded history. Their data has had adjustments producing higher temperatures that are shown false. Another factor omitted is Antarctic sea ice in September 2014 is at the highest level since satellite measurements started in 1979.
Due to the lack of global warming since 1998, those pushing this insanity have changed CAGW to catastrophic anthropogenic climate change (CACC). Along with this mislabeling, carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are now labeled by the EPA and President Obama as “carbon pollution”. Carbon pollution conjures up images prior to the 1960s when coal was burned without environmental controls in electric power generation, train transportation, city-operated district heating systems, and home heating and cooking with vast amounts of soot strewn over snow in the winter, laundry dried outside, and cars parked outside. In reality carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels is a positive benefit to society as explained by Princeton University Emeritus Professor William Happer in his October 15, 2014 lecture “The Myth of Carbon Pollution”. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is an airborne fertilizer that causes increased plant growth, larger plant root systems that decrease plant water demands, and decreases in plant water expiration which also decreases plant water demands. The slight increase in global warming by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is a positive benefit producing longer growing seasons.
A report on social benefits of carbon dioxide for agriculture alone is estimated at $3.2 trillion from 1961 to 2011. Benefits from 2012 to 2050 are estimated $9.8 trillion. These economic benefits from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide make any suggested economic benefits from carbon dioxide curtailment by the EPA, President Obama, or others irrelevant.
Carbon dioxide measurements show increasing amplitude of annual changes over the four seasons with increasing carbon dioxide levels. This indicates annual increasing global plant material. The ‘greening’ of the planet allows less land area required for human subsistence and more space returned to ‘Nature’. The 90 part per million increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1950 may have enabled the planet to feed the huge population growth from 2.5 billion in 1950 to over 7 billion in 2013.
U.S. RESPONSE TO INSANITY
Books are written on responses to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. A few examples follow.
The first major response to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide may be traced back to the 1989 presidential initiative U. S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) which evolved into one of the largest programs pursued by U. S. government. Thirteen departments and agencies participate in USGCRP. The original program sponsored research on global warming and has now evolved into research supporting proof of CACC, pursuit of renewable energy programs, and eliminating fossil fuel energy use.
Renewable energy programs started in the U. S. after the 1973 Oil Embargo threatened the nation with severed overseas oil supply and fears of running out of fossil fuel energy sources. This led to development of solar and wind for electricity generation, solar heating, biomass (wood or waste materials) as fuels for electricity generation and heating, and renewable fuels chiefly ethanol from corn called “gasohol”. The EIA estimates U. S. coal reserves are 481 billion tons which would last hundreds of years. After implementation of hydraulic fracturing, directional and horizontal drilling, and improved oil and natural gas exploration techniques, oil and natural gas reserves are estimated as high as 6.268 trillion barrels of oil. Even if this estimate is reduced by an order of magnitude, U. S. oil reserves will lasts hundreds of years. Thus renewable energy demand due to fossil fuel depletion has completely disappeared.
Proponents of renewable energy sources have seized CAGW (or CACC) as reasons to pursue these resources because of alleged reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. Solar and wind eliminate fossil fuel use for electricity production. Biomass and biofuels require atmospheric carbon dioxide for their creation; so their use is alleged to not contribute to further increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide due to carbon dioxide requirements for their replication. On an energy comparison (Btu of fossil fuel vs. Btu of renewable energy source), renewable energy sources don’t reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide as great an amount as claimed. Large amounts of fossil fuel energy are required to produce renewable energy sources—Cornell University Prof. Pimentel writes it takes 1.29 Btu of energy to produce 1 Btu of energy from ethanol from corn.
The U. S. Energy Information Administration’s “Annual Energy Review” gives data for 2013 renewable energy production with the following percentages: wood and waste(28), hydroelectric (27.5), biofuels (21.5), wind (17.1), and solar (3.3). Renewable energy accounted for 9 % total energy production.
From preceding statements, carbon dioxide causes insignificant CAGW and is an asset in furthering plant growth. This eliminates arguments for renewable energy sources based on carbon dioxide reductions. Renewable energy sources should be as economical as fossil fuel energy sources they replace. Sadly this requirement is not being met.
Due to lack of economic competitiveness, renewable energy sources are subsidized on state and federal level by grants (direct cash payments), tax credits, favorable tax depreciation treatments, mandates for use (renewable portfolio standards), and above value payments by utilities for excess electricity returned to utilities for sale to others (feed-in-tariffs).
Since 1990, the cost to U. S. taxpayers from research attempting to prove CAGW, propaganda promoting CAGW, and carbon dioxide emissions reduction programs like renewable energy sources have to exceed one trillion dollars. Annual costs today must exceed $100 billion. One example of spending is EPA’s grants to a variety of organizations such as governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations called non-government organizations (NGOs). Their database shows grants for the past ten years, including earlier grants that started before that time and still continuing, are 34,208 for a total cost of $58.724 billion. Some information about state subsidies is found in the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy & Efficiency (DSIRE) established in 1995. One example is California’s Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) designed to fund innovations in clean energy. Since 2001 SGIP has dispersed $977 million.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was passed to reduce energy consumption, imported oil, and carbon dioxide emission. The act called for increased Corporate Average Fuel Economy (average mile per gallon for vehicles), improved vehicle technology (electric cars), increased production of biofuels(more ethanol from corn, ethanol from cellulosic sources, and other biofuels), increased efficiency for appliances and lighting(phasing out incandescent light bulbs), energy savings in buildings and industry, and miscellaneous. The portion due to biofuels contained a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) which mandates annual increases in biofuel use from 4.7 billion gallons in 2007 to 36 billion gallons in 2022. 21 billion gallons of the 36 billion gallons must come from sources other than ethanol from corn, i.e. cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel. For 2014, the RFS is 18.15 billion gallons.
The RFS was based on assumptions of continued increases in use of gasoline and diesel fuels by more vehicles driving more miles as time progressed. This assumption was erroneous due to fewer miles being driven due to higher cost fuels and, more importantly, new vehicles with substantial better miles per gallon replacing discarded used vehicles. Annual fuel use is constant. An April 20, 2014 Forbes article “It’s Final—Corn Ethanol Is Of No Use” stated in 2014 the U. S. will produce 130 billion gallons of gasoline and 13 billion gallons of ethanol which when blended will make the ten percent ethanol fuel mixture E-10. This is a mixture all cars and two-cycle engines can safely operate. Higher ethanol mixtures may damage cars before 2003 and all two-cycle engines. This mixture is called the Blend Wall because of lack of public demand or need for higher ethanol mixtures. Due to the Blend Wall, EPA reduced the RPS for 2014 to 13 billion gallons of corn ethanol and a total of 15.15 billion gallons. The Forbes article also shows the use of ethanol from corn does not reduce carbon dioxide emissions as a transportation fuel.
The RFS from EISA has built in requirements for unneeded ethanol that demands immediate change. Last December Senators Feinstein and Colburn introduced a bill to repeal ethanol mandates without action. Tax credits have been stopped for 2014 that may slow down unneeded production. This problem deserves immediate Congressional action to stop unnecessary capital investments for unnecessary biofuel facilities that once built may be impossible to close.
It is instructional to look at land requirements of biofuels compared to nuclear, solar, and wind energy on annual energy outputs. Nuclear energy requires 0.61 acres per Megawatt, solar energy requires 7.4 acres per Megawatt, wind energy requires 60 acres per Megawatt, one acre produces 400 gallons of ethanol from corn, and one acre produces 56 gallons of biodiesel from soy beans. The annual energy output for a one acre nuclear plant is 13,000 Megawatt-hours, a one acre solar plant is 240 Megawatt-hours, a one acre wind farm is 44 Megawatt-hours, a one acre corn field is 10 Megawatt-hours, and a one acre soy bean field is 2.3 Megawatt-hours. Thus it may be more practical to devote land to solar farms when producing renewable energy.
Other means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions were imposed by President Obama. Campaigning in San Francisco during the Democrat Party primaries in January 2008, Presidential Candidate Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
Upon election, President Obama tried to keep his promise with the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill. Among many features of this bill is Cap-and-Trade on carbon dioxide emissions. This put a price on carbon dioxide emissions and gradually reduced allowed emissions until they were 17 percent the 2005 level by 2050. After the November 2010 elections, the Democrats lost control of the House and at an after-election press conference President Obama said, “Cap and Trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means not an end. And I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.”
President Obama found the means for skinning the cat by using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promulgate rulings to achieve his aims. The last four years, EPA posted four rulings that severely restrict use of coal, oil, and natural gas for power plants. In 2011 there is the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) and Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). On March 27, 2012 there is the First Carbon Pollution Standards for Future Power Plants. On June 2, 2014, EPA issued proposed Carbon Pollution Standards or Clean Power Plan (CPP) for existing power plants that is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by thirty percent below the 2005 level by 2030.
The first three EPA rulings have been implemented with billions spent adding more pollution controls or shutting down coal plants. The fourth proposed ruling is under study. A National Economic Research Associates report gave potential economic consequences of CCP of retirements of 169,000 Megawatts of coal plants, 29 % increase in natural gas prices, and an average 17 % increase in delivered electricity prices. A Bloomberg News report “Clean air’s cost: utility bill surge projected” stated loss of cheaper coal units will boost power prices by as much as 25 % on grids serving about a third of the nation.
Not to be outdone, the Department of Defense established renewable energy goals of 25 % of Army’s total energy from renewable by 2025, Air Force’s electricity from renewables of 25 % by 2025, and 50 % of Navy’s total energy from renewables by 2020.
With all the turmoil in the world in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa, off-shore China, etc.; the Department of Defense released its 2014 Climate Change Adaption Roadmap September 12 introduced with the following remarks:
“Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe. In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today –from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.” One could imagine the outcome of the Revolutionary War if the Continental Congress saddled General Georgia Washington with a Climate Change Adaption Roadmap while spending the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge.
ESCAPING THE ASYLUM
The United States could establish true energy independence and the world’s leading fossil fuel exporter by allowing the private sector to responsibly exploit our vast fossil fuel reserves.
An April 17, 2014 Forbes article “Obama Stymies Oil and Natural Gas Production on Federal Lands” reported oil production on federal lands fell 6 percent between 2009 and 2013. Over the same period of time, oil production increased by an astounding 61 percent on state and private lands. Natural gas production on federal lands decreased by 28 percent from 2009 to 2013; while natural gas production on non-federal lands increased by 33 percent. An Energy & Commerce Committee report cited excessive red-tape on drilling applications was a main reason for the decline of oil and gas production on federal lands.
Federal lands are administered by the Bureau of Land Management which controls 656,000 square miles of land and 1.73 million square miles of mineral estate. Federal lands are estimated to contain 68 percent of undiscovered oil reserves and 74 percent of undiscovered natural gas reserves.
On October 10, 2014, President Obama issued an Executive Order designating the San Gabriel Mountains a National Monument and issued this statement, “With this designation, President Obama has now protected more than 260 million acres (406,000 square miles) of land and water, nearly three times more than any other president since the Antiquities Act became law in 1906.” These designations stop drilling, mining, or logging on their lands.
For years the Republican House has passed bills to increase energy supply that have been stalled in the Senate. Eliminating this grid lock would open Federal lands for exploitation.
A Heritage Foundation paper “10 Ways the Expand Act Would Take the Energy Market in the Right Direction” read, “The federal government’s intrusions with onerous regulations, taxpayer-funded subsidies, and mandates have resulted in economic inefficiencies in the energy marketplace. Congressman Jeff Duncan’s (R–SC) Energy Exploration and Production to Achieve National Demand (EXPAND) Act would remove or prevent many of the federal government’s interferences and allow the energy sector to operate more freely.” Details of accomplishments of the EXPAND Act are given.
With increased fossil fuel energy supply and low electricity rates, the Unites States would be an oasis for outside investors to take advantage of lower energy costs and expanded raw materials.
An October 24, 2014, New York Times article “BASF an Industrial Pillar in Germany Leads Abroad” describes how high energy prices in Germany is driving its giant chemical producer BASF to locate plants in the United States due to availability of cheaper electricity and natural gas prices. The U. S. is in an enviable position of having abundant energy sources that needs exploitation.
More effective use of energy would produce jobs and lower energy costs. Hawaii should import liquefied natural gas to replace oil use for electric power generation and convert transportation to compressed natural gas. Compressed natural gas is practical for fleet transportation systems like city buses that don’t travel long distances from region of operation. A significant amount of oil is used for heating and this should be replaced by natural gas by running natural gas pipelines in all areas practical. Natural gas should replace electricity for heating, hot water, and cooking because it requires about three times the amount of energy to produce electricity’s equivalent heating value. All of these factors could reduce oil use by over one million barrels per day and total energy use by approximately one percent.
On Sunday, November 2, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its “Synthesis Report,” which completed the organization’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on Earth’s climate. The report claims “Human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, with impacts observed on all continents.”
The following statements from environmental science and policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely firstname.lastname@example.org and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.
“As one who speaks before many thousands of folks across America each year, it is clear that the shrill panic of the global warmers has worn thin on the common people in this nation. They no longer take it seriously and see it for what it is: the last death rattle of a delusion that never impacted Earth, its environment, or its citizens.”
“Are these United Nations IPCC people really serious about alarming the world, yet again, that we will all die if we do not stop emitting CO2 immediately? They are not entitled to their own facts, no matter how many times they continue to cry wolf about our common future.
“The fact is that the IPCC’s climate models have failed to predict the lack of global warming while atmospheric CO2 continues to increase. The natural experiment for the last 18 to 20 years has provided us a confident answer that atmospheric CO2 is not an important player for controlling the globe temperature. So the IPCC would do everyone a great favor by telling us what they propose: To achieve their aims, the world must have zero emissions of CO2 by 2100.
“When will IPCC admit that their scare mongering is simply not working anymore? Our wonderful planet is not IPCC’s private casino parlor.”
“The IPCC and the world’s press seem to be in a unique co-dependent relationship. It has been about a year since the IPCC’s first press event on AR5. That report was old news long ago. Few other bodies employing repeated lavish junkets could garner this much press attention for recycled announcements of dire conclusions at odds with their own facts.
“The probabilities cited by them aren’t scientific; they aren’t actual probabilities. They are just the opinions of fallible human beings dressed up to look scientific. They become even more meaningless when they are raised from nearly 100 percent to even more nearly 100 percent. It is remarkable that this number swill is accepted as science in the first place. But it is even more remarkable that its ludicrous echoes make the news again and again as fresh as spring flowers.
“Fortunately, the IPCC is self-limiting. It cannot draw out the drama too long on the Fifth Assessment Report without interfering with the next report, which no doubt is in deep planning even now. I wonder if this so-called settled science ever will be so truly settled that a future assessment report (say, the 42nd assessment report) will conclude that there is no need for another.”
“As evidence increasingly mounts that climate alarmists’ claims are full of hot air, the more shrill their cries become that the end is near, absent quick conversion, a climate apocalypse is in the offing. Nothing brings out the ire and panicked response of end-time prophets more than evidence that their faith has been misplaced and science is proving them wrong.
“Fewer severe storms, an 18 -year stall in temperature rise, more polar bears, more Antarctic ice – all the facts are aligning against long-time promoters of the theory of human-caused warming. Millions of dollars have been spent and their reputations are on the line, thus the IPCC fights a rear-guard action.
“Regardless of the level of CO2, the fact remains temperatures are stalled. Forests, grasslands, and fields are expanding, and life spans are increasing. The only way to draw attention away from the good news is through hyperbole and by desperately clinging to flawed predictions.”
“United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon exemplified the childish and deceptive nature of the UN’s approach to climate change when he told reporters at this week’s launch of the Synthesis Report in Copenhagen: ‘Human influence on the climate system is clear – and clearly growing. … The atmosphere and oceans have warmed. … Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message.’
“In reality, human influence on global climate is not even detectable. It is lost in the noise of natural variability. Neither the oceans nor the atmosphere have warmed of late (the atmosphere since 1998, the oceans since 2003). There is massive ambiguity in the science. Only in the speculative climate models and the minds of UN bureaucrats is dangerous human-caused climate change ‘unequivocal.’”
“It is hard to fathom yet another IPCC report attempting to crank up climate fears. This latest UN IPCC climate report confirms that ‘global warming’ is being run like a partisan campaign issue ‒ full of urgency, a grand bargain of ‘act now or else,’ and carefully crafted messaging to persuade the public.
“The new report is boring, boring, boring. Even though climate coverage is my mission, I am having extreme difficulty covering the latest IPCC report. Please give us something new and different! The same partisan figures like Michael Oppenheimer (funded by Big Hollywood’s Barbara Streisand and EDF) and the same media articles have to be tedious even to the warmists themselves at this point.
“I predict that no matter the obstacles, the Obama administration, led by Sec. of State John Kerry, will sign ‘something’ in Paris in 2015. Obama and Kerry will seek a climate ‘legacy’ and will have a big symbolic moment signing a climate treaty. It remains to be seen what the GOP or the next president will do with the climate change issue.”
Morano is the producer and host of the upcoming documentary Climate Hustle.
“The first four words of the report are very important: ‘Climate change is happening.’ You bet it is. The climate of planet Earth has been constantly changing for 4.5 billion years. Earth has been frozen into a sort of ice ball on at least four occasions (the ice ages) and has been as warm or warmer than it is today at least three times (Interglacial Periods) during its history. Smaller changes such as the Medieval Warm Spell and the Little Ice Age come more often, and smaller swings in climate occur almost constantly.
“It seems to me that climate scientists, the media, environmentalists, bureaucrats, and politicians have all been thinking about climate in a wrong way for a couple of decades now. They seem to have been thinking that there is a normal climate and it is what the climate was when mankind began to use fossil fuels. They have been positioning the climate debate to tell us that it is our responsibility to maintain the climate exactly as it was then. But natural changes in the climate have been continuing since that time.
“There is no reasonable way to conclude that, at this time, important, meaningful, or significant ‘climate change is happening.’ Yes, we are altering the climate at spots and in minor ways through our activities, but the bottom line is that it is not changing very much and no significant climate change is occurring or likely in the future. There is no climate crisis.”
“The latest ‘Synthesis Report’ released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that the panel is more certain than ever the planet is warming and humans are the cause.
“Despite the fact half of all the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial age has been produced since 1990, the peer-reviewed, scientific literature has concluded there has been no significant increase in average global temperature since 1998, the year Seinfeld aired its final episode.
“How exactly the IPCC can be more certain than ever that human activity will have severe, ‘pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems’ when their temperature predictions have been woefully inaccurate may well be the biggest mystery of the entire climate debate. Perhaps this report has been called a ‘synthesis report’ because it is based on ‘synthetic science.’”
“Everything you need to know about how perverse and dangerous the IPCC is can be summed up in its latest report. It is the same tired, old, and untrue claims of ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.’ The IPCC wants the world to stop using coal, oil, and natural gas, saying that they must be ‘phased out almost entirely’ by the end of the century. The report reeks of the IPCC’s contempt for humanity.
“Losing electricity, no matter where you live, is losing every technology that enhances, preserves, and extends your life. You lose the ability to cool or warm your home, apartment, or workplace. You lose the ability to keep food safe in your refrigerator and freezer. You most certainly lose lighting. You lose the ability to turn on your computer or television. Indeed, you lose everything you take for granted.
“Eighty-seven percent of the energy mankind uses everyday comes from burning one of the fossil fuels: coal, oil, or natural gas. That has not stopped environmentalists from denouncing coal and oil as ‘dirty’ because their use generates carbon dioxide emissions. What they never tell you is how small those emissions are, that they play an infinitesimal role in Earth’s weather and climate, and are essential to the growth of all vegetation. They never tell you that Earth has centuries more of untapped reserves. The modern world could not exist without them. “To recommend ending their use is to declare their disdain for humanity, all seven-billion-plus of us.”
“It’s ironic the IPCC releases its final draft of the global warming Assessment Report 5 on November 2 when an arctic blast hits the Eastern U. S. with freezing temperatures in Georgia and record snowfall in the North. The report increases its dire predictions in spite of no global warming the past 18 years during a period of highest atmospheric carbon dioxide increases in millennia. A panic must possess those involved preparing the reports, worried they may lose their tax-payer funded jobs with generous travel benefits.
“Data is readily available on the Internet for a century or more on events prophesized to be disasters – such as sea level rise, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, flooding, wildfires, reduced snowfall, etc. The data show the same changes took place in times prior to 1950 when carbon dioxide changes were negligible, as have happened after 1950 when carbon dioxide increases took place. Some data show decreased numbers and severity of events, such as hurricanes the past three decades.”
The Lakely family received in its mailbox today a postcard titled “Illinois Voter Audit,” helpfully letting me know “which of your neighbors voted, and who didn’t.” (Pardon the fact that the picture of the postcard is in pieces. My wife tore it up in disgust before I got home.)
On the back of the postcard was the following text:
One of the worst problems with our democratic system is that people fail to vote.
Voting is a public record and we’ve conducted an audit of voters in your neighborhood. This is a chart showing their vote histories.
Do you want your neighbors to know you didn’t vote?
This data comes directly from the Illinois State Board of Elections
DO YOUR CIVIC DUTY — VOTE!
A project of the Illinois Voter Program
The chart, which allegedly includes the names of my neighbors (which I’ve removed) says I did not vote in 2010. (See the pic below.) Well, I did vote in 2010, my first in Illinois. I was excited to be a part of the Tea Party wave that year. So … either the Illinois Voter Program is lying, or the most corrupt state in the union didn’t accept my ballot. That’s a real toss-up.
It is also interesting to note that the “Illinois Voter Audit” comes to me from a P.O. Box in Overland Park, Kansas, and one can not find a website for this shadowy organization. WIFR-TV in Rockford, Illinois did a story on this mailing, and it was also covered at ChicagoNow.
I don’t know whether this mailing is creepy, outrageous, or pathetic. I’ll go with a bit of all three. I was not initimidated, and I’d guess it’s tame by Chicago-area standards.
Speaking of Chicago-area election standards, when I voted today, the poll worker gave me two ballots. I guess that’s the standard Chicagoland voting starter kit. This is only my third election here.
October 25th marked the 247th birthday of one of the greatest voices of liberty, the French political philosopher of freedom, Benjamin Constant. He may not be a household name to friends of freedom today, but he should be. He wrote one of the most principled and consistent defenses of individual liberty and freedom of enterprise to appear in the last two hundred years, the Principles of Politics Applied to All Governments (1815).
Benjamin Constant was born on October 25, 1767. He had an unusual childhood being brought up by tutors who introduced him at an early age to gambling dens and “houses of ill-repute.” He had a long and tempestuous relationships with one of the leading French female voices of classical liberalism, Madame de Stahl, for whose affection he more than once threatened suicide.
But intellectually, he was a very public outspoken critic of the violence and tyranny of the “reign of terror” during the French Revolution, and a sharp-tongued opponent of Napoleon Bonaparte, especially in his 1814 essay, “The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation.”
Constant also served as a deputy in the French Parliament and led a group of classical liberal members in opposing much that the government attempted to impose on the society. Benjamin Constant died on December 8, 1830.
Constant’s Defense of Individual Rights
But his masterwork was Principles of Politics, written in the immediate aftermath of Napoleon’s rule over France and much of Europe. It is a defense of all forms of freedom against despotism. Constant considered natural rights to be a superior foundation for liberty than Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism. “Right is a principle; utility is only a result,” Constant said. “Say to a man: you have the right not to be put to death or arbitrarily plundered. You will give him quite another feeling of security and protection than you will by telling him: it is not useful for you to be put to death or arbitrarily plundered.”
Yet, in fact, Constant’s arguments for freedom and limitations on government are both rights-based and utilitarian, or consequentialist. He asks us to think not only of the inherent rightness of freedom, but also of its positive effects and the harm from its abridgment. It is not possible to summarize and do justice to all of his analysis. But some of his themes can at least be touched on.
Dangers from Arbitrary and Controlling Government
He warned of the “proliferation of laws” that go far beyond the protection of life, liberty, and property. This proliferation generates disrespect, avoidance, and corruption, which undermine the legitimacy of and obedience to all law, including those meant to secure freedom. Similarly, Constant warned of laws passed to prevent potential crimes, which can lead to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment without due process of law, and brutal treatment simply because some bureaucratic enforcer might conjure up suspicions in his own mind.
This led Constant to point out the dangers from all government restrictions on freedom of speech, written expression, and religion. Censorship creates a society of hypocrites who utter what the government wants, while their minds harbor different thoughts and beliefs. Furthermore, the very ideas that the government wishes to repress become the focal point of underground fascination for those wanting to read the forbidden words.
The government’s banning of some religious faiths, while sponsoring or subsidizing others, results in a growing number of people revolting against all religious belief under the compulsion of having to give allegiance to a theology not of their own choosing. Thus, it can throw all religion into disrepute—the opposite of what the proponents of a state-sponsored faith want to achieve.
What is required is establishment of an impartial rule of law. This means an independent judiciary, due process for all, and elimination of cruel and unusual punishments. Constant also emphasized the need for securing and protecting private property rights, which not only guarantee freedom, but also foster a peace of mind that enables a spirit of savings and investment, and supports a society of voluntary, mutual consent in all human associations.
The Delusions and Damages from Government Regulation
Inconsistent, therefore, with protecting private property and freedom of individual decision-making are all privileges, protections, and subsidies that benefit some at the expense of others. Central to Constant’s criticism of all government interventionism is his awareness that no regulator has the wisdom, ability, or disinterestedness to succeed at it.
“How will the government judge, for each province, at a huge distance, and remote from others, circumstances which can change before knowledge of them get to it?” he asked. “How will it stop fraud by its agents? How will it guard itself against the danger of taking momentary blockage for a real dearth, or a local difficulty for a universal disaster? . . . The men most lively in recommending this versatile legislation do not know how to go about it when it comes to the means of carrying it out.”
Constant also pointed out that such interventions in the market “create artificial crimes [that] encourage the committing of these crimes by the profit which they attach to the fraud which is successful in deceiving them.” It also corrupts the whole political process and undermines the spirit of enterprise and the desire for freedom.
“In a country where government hands out assistance and compensation, many hopes are awakened,” Constant warned. “Until such time as they have been disappointed, men are bound to be unhappy with a system which replaces favoritism only by freedom. Freedom creates, so to speak, a negative good, although a gradual and general one. Favoritism brings positive, immediate, personal advantages. Selfishness and short-term views will always be against freedom and for favoritism.”
Foreign Wars and Loss of Freedom
Constant was also fearful of war, and the rationales for it, as a threat to freedom. In the wake of revolutionary France’s wars of “liberation” throughout Europe, he explained that such foreign interventionism undermines the very cause for which it is undertaken.
“To give a people freedom in spite of itself is only to give it slavery. Conquered nations can contract neither free spirits nor habits. Every society must repossess for itself rights that have been invaded, if it is worthy of owning them. Masters cannot impose freedom.”
“For nations that enjoy political freedom,” Benjamin Constant continued, “conquests have furthermore, beyond anything else we might hypothesize, this most clearly insane feature, that if these nations stay faithful to their principles, their triumphs cannot help but lead to their depriving themselves of a portion of their rights in order to communicate them to the conquered.”
Liberty for the Ancients vs. the Moderns
Finally, attention should be drawn to one of Constant’s most famous and important pieces, a lecture delivered in Paris in 1819 devoted to “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns.” He drew his audience’s attention to the fact that in the world of ancient Greece:
“The aim of the ancients was the sharing of [political] power among the citizens of the fatherland: this is what they called liberty. [But] the citizen, almost always sovereign in public affairs, was a slave in all his private relations.
“As a citizen, he decided peace and war, as a private individual, he was constrained, watched and repressed in all his movements; as a member of the collective body, he interrogated, dismissed, condemned, beggared, exiled, or sentenced to death his magistrates and superiors; as a subject of the collective body he could be deprived of his status, stripped of his privileges, banished, put to death, by the discretionary will of the whole to which he belonged . . .
“The ancients, as Condorcet says, had no notion of individual rights. Men were, so to speak, merely machines, whose gears and cog-wheels were regulated by the law . . . The individual was in some way lost in the nation, the citizen in the city.”
Constant then asked his listeners to compare this ancient notion of the meaning of liberty with that of his own “modern” time in the early decades of the 19th century,
“ . . . what an Englishman, a Frenchman, and a citizen of the United States of America understand today by the word ‘liberty.’ For each of them it is the right to be subjected to the laws, and to be neither wrested, detained, put to death or maltreated in any way by the arbitrary will of one or more individuals.
“It is the right of everyone to express their opinion, choose a profession and practice it, to dispose of property, and even to abuse it; to come and go without permission, and without having to account for their motives or undertakings. It is everyone’s right to associate with other individuals, either to discuss their interests, or to profess the religion which they and their associates prefer, or even simply to occupy their days or hours in a way which is most compatible with their inclinations and whims.”
For the moderns, Constant said, liberty consisted of “peaceful pleasures and private independence.” Modern men wished, Constant explained, “each to enjoy our own rights, each to develop our own faculties as we like best, without harming anyone . . . Individual liberty, I repeat, is the true modern liberty.”
As a consequence, while a concern for the preservation of political liberty was essential to the preservation of individual liberty, Constant believed that politics was a distraction from the proper affairs of free men, and these proper affairs were the peaceful pursuit and cultivation of their personal, family, commercial and voluntary societal relationships.
In the ancient world, the personal and the private were subordinate and subjugated to the political. Each individual’s life revolved around and was defined by his relationship to and – and standing within – the political order. But in Benjamin Constant’s “modern world” of the early 19th century, the political order was relegated to an increasingly unimportant corner of social life. The individual was liberated from political subordination, and he attached himself to an expanding web of voluntary relationships of diverse and personal interest.
Returning to the Collectivism of the Ancients
The tragedy of our own time, two hundred years after Benjamin Constant delivered his lecture on, “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns,” is that our “post-modern” era has been slowly but surely returning to the false conception of freedom as understood and practiced by the “ancients.”
The “collective” has become increasingly everything, and the individual almost nothing. With a diminished or, indeed, nearly non-existent belief in or understanding of the “natural rights” of the individual human being to his life, liberty and honestly acquired property, he is a sacrificial slave to the presumed interests of the social and political group of which he is declared to be an inseparable and inescapable part.
The individual’s spoken and written words can be curtailed; his freedom of movement is constrained by government border controls and prohibitions; his choice of work, occupation and profession is regulated and restricted by bureaucracies serving special interest groups as well as their own narrow purposes; his earned income and accumulated wealth is politically redistributed by politicians buying votes and enhancing their own power; and his personal safety is made precarious due to the uncertainties resulting from foreign interventions and wars that drag him and his society into conflicts in faraway countries in the names of “national interest,” “nation-building” in other places, and altruistic global “social welfare” adventures.
We need the wisdom and principled defense of individual rights and liberty that Benjamin Constant displayed in his writings and lectures, without which we may easily continue down the road that leads even more to the collectivism of the ancients of three thousand years ago.
[Originally published at EpicTimes]