Somewhat Reasonable

Syndicate content Somewhat Reasonable | Somewhat Reasonable
The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
Updated: 51 min 52 sec ago

Böhm-Bawerk: Austrian Economist Who Said “No” to Big Government

August 13, 2014, 10:47 AM

We live at a time when politicians and bureaucrats only know one public policy: more and bigger government. Yet, there was a time when even those who served in government defended limited and smaller government. One of the greatest of these died one hundred years ago on August 27, 1914, the Austrian economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk.

Böhm-Bawerk is most famous as one of the leading critics of Marxism and socialism in the years before the First World War. He is equally famous as one of the developers of “marginal utility” theory as the basis of showing the logic and workings of the competitive market price system.

But he also served three times as the finance minister of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, during which he staunchly fought for lower government spending and taxing, balanced budgets, and a sound monetary system based on the gold standard.

Danger of Out-of-Control Government Spending

Even after Böhm-Bawerk had left public office he continued to warn of the dangers of uncontrolled government spending and borrowing as the road to ruin in his native Austria-Hungary, and in words that ring as true today as when he wrote them a century ago.

In January 1914, just a little more than a half a year before the start of the First World War, Böhm-Bawerk said in a series of articles in one of the most prominent Vienna newspapers that the Austrian government was following a policy of fiscal irresponsibility. During the preceding three years, government expenditures had increased by 60 percent, and for each of these years the government’s deficit had equaled approximately 15 percent of total spending.

The reason, Böhm-Bawerk said, was that the Austrian parliament and government were enveloped in a spider’s web of special-interest politics. Made up of a large number of different linguistic and national groups, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was being corrupted through abuse of the democratic process, with each interest group using the political system to gain privileges and favors at the expense of others.

Böhm-Bawerk explained:

“We have seen innumerable variations of the vexing game of trying to generate political contentment through material concessions. If formerly the Parliaments were the guardians of thrift, they are today far more like its sworn enemies.

“Nowadays the political and nationalist parties . . . are in the habit of cultivating a greed of all kinds of benefits for their co-nationals or constituencies that they regard as a veritable duty, and should the political situation be correspondingly favorable, that is to say correspondingly unfavorable for the Government, then political pressure will produce what is wanted. Often enough, though, because of the carefully calculated rivalry and jealousy between parties, what has been granted to one [group] has also to be conceded to others—from a single costly concession springs a whole bundle of costly concessions.”

He accused the Austrian government of having “squandered amidst our good fortune [of economic prosperity] everything, but everything, down to the last penny, that could be grabbed by tightening the tax-screw and anticipating future sources of income to the upper limit” by borrowing in the present at the expense of the future.

For some time, he said, “a very large number of our public authorities have been living beyond their means.” Such a fiscal policy, Böhm-Bawerk feared, was threatening the long-run financial stability and soundness of the entire country.

Eight months later, in August 1914, Austria-Hungary and the rest of Europe stumbled into the cataclysm that became World War I. And far more than merely the finances of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were in ruins when that war ended four years later, since the Empire itself disappeared from the map of Europe.

A Man of Honesty and Integrity                                                                                          

Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk was born on February 12, 1851 in Brno, capital of the Austrian province of Moravia (now the eastern portion of the Czech Republic). He died on August 27, 1914, at the age of 63, just as the First World War was beginning.

Ten years after Böhm-Bawerk’s death, one of his students, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, wrote a memorial essay about his teacher. Mises said:

“Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk will remain unforgettable to all who have known him. The students who were fortunate enough to be members of his seminar [at the University of Vienna] will never lose what they have gained from the contact with this great mind. To the politicians who have come into contact with the statesman, his extreme honesty, selflessness and dedication to duty will forever remain a shining example.

“And no citizen of this country [Austria] should ever forget the last Austrian minister of finance who, in spite of all obstacles, was seriously trying to maintain order of the public finances and to prevent the approaching financial catastrophe. Even when all those who have been personally close to Böhm-Bawerk will have left this life, his scientific work will continue to live and bear fruit.”

Another of Böhm-Bawerk’s students, Joseph A. Schumpeter, spoke in the same glowing terms of his teacher, saying, “he was not only one of the most brilliant figures in the scientific life of his time, but also an example of that rarest of statesmen, a great minister of finance . . . As a public servant, he stood up to the most difficult and thankless task of politics, the task of defending sound financial principles.”

The scientific contributions to which both Mises and Schumpeter referred were Böhm-Bawerk’s writings on what has become known as the Austrian theory of capital and interest, and his equally insightful formulation of the Austrian theory of value and price.

The Austrian Theory of Subjective Value

The Austrian school of economics began 1871 with the publication of Carl Menger’sPrinciples of Economics. In this work, Menger challenged the fundamental premises of the classical economists, from Adam Smith through David Ricardo to John Stuart Mill. Menger argued that the labor theory of value was flawed in presuming that the value of goods was determined by the relative quantities of labor that had been expended in their manufacture.

Instead, Menger formulated a subjective theory of value, reasoning that value originates in the mind of an evaluator. The value of means reflects the value of the ends they might enable the evaluator to obtain. Labor, therefore, like raw materials and other resources, derives value from the value of the goods it can produce. From this starting point Menger outlined a theory of the value of goods and factors of production, and a theory of the limits of exchange and the formation of prices.

Böhm-Bawerk and his future brother-in-law and also later-to-be-famous contributor to the Austrian school, Friedrich von Wieser, came across Menger’s book shortly after its publication. Both immediately saw the significance of the new subjective approach for the development of economic theory.

In the mid-1870s, Böhm-Bawerk entered the Austrian civil service, soon rising in rank in the Ministry of Finance working on reforming the Austrian tax system. But in 1880, with Menger’s assistance, Böhm-Bawerk was appointed a professor at the University of Innsbruck, a position he held until 1889.

Böhm-Bawerk’s Writings on Value and Price                                                            

During this period he wrote the two books that were to establish his reputation as one of the leading economists of his time, Capital and Interest, Vol. I: History and Critique of Interest Theories (1884) and Vol. II: Positive Theory of Capital (1889). A third volume,Further Essays on Capital and Interest, appeared in 1914 shortly before his death.

In the first volume of Capital and Interest, Böhm-Bawerk presented a wide and detailed critical study of theories of the origin of and basis for interest from the ancient world to his own time.  But it was in the second work, in which he offered a Positive Theory of Capital, that Böhm-Bawerk’s major contribution to the body of Austrian economics may be found. In the middle of the volume is a 135-page digression in which he presents a refined statement of the Austrian subjective theory of value and price. He develops in meticulous detail the theory of marginal utility, showing the logic of how individuals come to evaluate and weigh alternatives among which they may choose and the process that leads to decisions to select certain preferred combinations guided by the marginal principle. And he shows how the same concept of marginal utility explains the origin and significance of cost and the assigned valuations to the factors of production.

In the section on price formation, Böhm-Bawerk develops a theory of how the subjective valuations of buyers and sellers create incentives for the parties on both sides of the market to initiate pricing bids and offers. He explains how the logic of price creation by the market participants also determines the range in which any market-clearing, or equilibrium, price must finally settle, given the maximum demand prices and the minimum supply prices, respectively, of the competing buyers and sellers.

Capital and Time Investment as the Sources of Prosperity

It is impossible to do full justice to Böhm-Bawerk’s theory of capital and interest. But in the barest of outlines, he argued that for man to attain his various desired ends he must discover the causal processes through which labor and resources at his disposal may be used for his purposes. Central to this discovery process is the insight that often the most effective path to a desired goal is through “roundabout” methods of production. A man will be able to catch more fish in a shorter amount of time if he first devotes the time to constructing a fishing net out of vines, hollowing out a tree trunk as a canoe, and carving a tree branch into a paddle.

Greater productivity will often be forthcoming in the future if the individual is willing to undertake, therefore, a certain “period of production,” during which resources and labor are set to work to manufacture the capital—the fishing net, canoe, and paddle—that is then employed to paddle out into the lagoon where larger and more fish may be available.

But the time involved to undertake and implement these more roundabout methods of production involve a cost. The individual must be willing to forgo (often less productive) production activities in the more immediate future (wading into the lagoon using a tree branch as a spear) because that labor and those resources are tied up in a more time-consuming method of production, the more productive results from which will only be forthcoming later.

Interest on a Loan Reflects the Value of Time

This led Böhm-Bawerk to his theory of interest. Obviously, individuals evaluating the production possibilities just discussed must weigh ends available sooner versus other (perhaps more productive) ends that might be obtainable later. As a rule, Böhm-Bawerk argued, individuals prefer goods sooner rather than later.

Each individual places a premium on goods available in the present and discounts to some degree goods that can only be achieved further in the future. Since individuals have different premiums and discounts (time-preferences), there are potential mutual gains from trade. That is the source of the rate of interest: it is the price of trading consumption and production goods across time.

Böhm-Bawerk Refutes Marx’s Critique of Capitalism

One of Böhm-Bawerk’s most important applications of his theory was the refutation of the Marxian exploitation theory that employers make profits by depriving workers of the full value of what their labor produces. He presented his critique of Marx’s theory in the first volume of Capital and Interest and in a long essay originally published in 1896 on the “Unresolved Contradictions in the Marxian Economic System.” In essence, Böhm-Bawerk argued that Marx had confused interest with profit. In the long run no profits can continue to be earned in a competitive market because entrepreneurs will bid up the prices of factors of production and compete down the prices of consumer goods.

But all production takes time. If that period is of any significant length, the workers must be able to sustain themselves until the product is ready for sale. If they are unwilling or unable to sustain themselves, someone else must advance the money (wages) to enable them to consume in the meantime.

This, Böhm-Bawerk explained, is what the capitalist does. He saves, forgoing consumption or other uses of his wealth, and those savings are the source of the workers’ wages during the production process. What Marx called the capitalists’ “exploitative profits” Böhm-Bawerk showed to be the implicit interest payment for advancing money to workers during the time-consuming, roundabout processes of production.

Defending Fiscal Restraint in the Austrian Finance Ministry

In 1889, Böhm-Bawerk was called back from the academic world to the Austrian Ministry of Finance, where he worked on reforming the systems of direct and indirect taxation. He was promoted to head of the tax department in 1891. A year later he was vice president of the national commission that proposed putting Austria-Hungary on a gold standard as a means of establishing a sound monetary system free from direct government manipulation of the monetary printing press.

Three times he served as minister of finance, briefly in 1895, again in 1896-1897, and then from 1900 to 1904. During the last four-year term Böhm-Bawerk demonstrated his commitment to fiscal conservatism, with government spending and taxing kept strictly under control.

However, Ernest von Koerber, the Austrian prime minister in whose government Böhm-Bawerk served, devised a grandiose and vastly expensive public works scheme in the name of economic development. An extensive network of railway lines and canals were to be constructed to connect various parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—subsidizing in the process a wide variety of special-interest groups in what today would be described as a “stimulus” program for supposed “jobs-creation.”

Böhm-Bawerk tirelessly fought against what he considered fiscal extravagance that would require higher taxes and greater debt when there was no persuasive evidence that the industrial benefits would justify the expense. At Council of Ministers meetings Böhm-Bawerk even boldly argued against spending proposals presented by the Austrian Emperor, Franz Josef, who presided over the sessions.

When finally he resigned from the Ministry of Finance in October 1904, Böhm-Bawerk had succeeded in preventing most of Prime Minister Koerber’s giant spending project. But he chose to step down because of what he considered to be corrupt financial “irregularities” in the defense budget of the Austrian military.

However, Böhm-Bawerk’s 1914 articles on government finance indicate that the wave of government spending he had battled so hard against broke through once he was no longer there to fight it.

Political Control or Economic Law

A few months after his passing, in December 1914, his last essay appeared in print, a lengthy piece on “Control or Economic Law?” He explained that various interest groups in society, most especially trade unions, suffer from a false conception that through their use or the threat of force, they are able to raise wages permanently above the market’s estimate of the value of various types of labor.

Arbitrarily setting wages and prices higher than what employers and buyers think labor and goods are worth – such as with a government-mandated minimum wage law – merely prices some labor and goods out of the market.

Furthermore, when unions impose high nonmarket wages on the employers in an industry, the unions succeed only in temporarily eating into the employers’ profit margins and creating the incentive for those employers to leave that sector of the economy and take with them those workers’ jobs.

What makes the real wages of workers rise in the long run, Böhm-Bawerk argued, was capital formation and investment in those more roundabout methods of production that increase the productivity of workers and therefore make their labor services more valuable in the long run, while also increasing the quantity of goods and services they can buy with their market wages.

To his last, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk defended reason and the logic of the market against the emotional appeals and faulty reasoning of those who wished to use power and the government to acquire from others what they could not obtain through free competition.  His contributions to economic theory and economic policy show him as one of the greatest economists of all time, as well as his example as a principled man of uncompromising integrity who in the political arena unswervingly fought for the free market and limited government.

 

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

Will Radical Universities Dominated by Radical Professors Doom this Nation?

August 12, 2014, 2:12 PM

By Nancy Thorner & Elizabeth Clarke - 

Co-author Elizabeth Clarke remembers attending a speech in Waukegan, IL with her late husband in the summer of 1967, at which Senator Everett Dirksen (Senator Dirksen represented Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1933 – 1939 and the U.S. Senate from 1951 until his death in 1969.) spoke passionately against the then-pending Supreme Court case of Keyishian et al v Board of Regents that ruled against loyalty oaths.

Dinsh D’Souza, star and director of the movie, “America:  Imagine the World without Her,” engaged in a recent one-on-one debate with Bill Ayers on Friday, January 31, at Dartmouth in which Ayers began by celebrating what he considered to be great about America. Ayers made no reference to the Founding Fathers, nor did Ayers mention Abraham Lincoln. Instead, Ayers spoke of a protest tradition in America, going back to the 19th-century socialists and continuing through the 20th-cntury progressives, right up to himself.

It is evident that Bill and Bernardine Dohrn, as unrepentant radicals of the sixties, figured out that by becoming professors they would be able to change the system to achieve their same revolutionary goals through the classroom where they could shape young minds. Listen here to the Dinesh D’Souza/Bill Ayers debate at Dartmouth College.

Expansiveness of Ayers/Obama relationship

Regarding Ayers’ radical background and his connection to Obama, which Ayers denies and which Senator Obama dismissed when running for president in 2008 as “just a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” reporter Stanley Kurtz relates how Obama’s first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at the Ayers’ Chicago home.  Moreover, Bill Ayers has ties to at least ten people in the White House Administration.

Kurtz also links Obama in a big way to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.  Founded by Ayers in 1995, Obama was appointed the first chairman of the CAC board in 1995. In archives reviewed by Kurtz housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Kurtz uncovered information showing how Barack Obama and Bill Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda patterned after Bill Ayers’ radical educational philosophy which “called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment.” Achievement tests were downplayed in favor of activism.

According to a lengthy article, titled, They’re all Together, appearing in the September 2011 issue of the “American Spectator” and written by Alfred S. Regnery, a former publisher of The American Spectator who served in the Justice Department during the Reagan Administration, “They’re all together” refers to Mr. and Mrs. Bill Ayers and their friend, the president.  Four factors were related in Mr. Regnery’s article as to why the importance of Bill and Bernadine Ayers’ long friendship with President Obama.

1. It is important, first, because Obama along with Ayers and Dohrn, went to great lengths to mislead voters during the fall of 2008.  They “just lived in the same neighborhood” and had little contact, they pretended.  On the contrary, The American Spectator’s investigation has concluded that Obama and his campaign staff, with the help of the mainstream media, lied outright about his relationship with Ayers.  It has also concluded that Ayers lied about it as well.

2. The relationship is important, second, because Ayers and Dohrn are not reformed former radicals who have abandoned their old habits. Indeed, they are unrepentant violent radicals. . . who may have adopted new tactics to upend the U.S. and what it stands for, but whose goals remain just what they were in 1970.

3. Furthermore, the relationship is important because of the policies and issues that both Ayers and, to a lesser degree, Dohrn worked on with Obama during the 20 years preceding his election to the presidency and to the extent to which these hard-core left-wingers influenced today’s president of the United States.

4. Finally, it is important because of Ayers’ relationship, through his powerful businessman father, with Chicago’s Daley family, who happens to be among the most ardent Obama supporters and promoters.  Interesting is that Richard M. Daley as Chicago’s states’s attorney presided over the plea bargain of Bernadine Dohrn when she surfaced from the underground.

If you still doubt the close and 20-plus-year-relationship between Bill and Bernardine Dohrn and President Obama, read this riveting and all-telling comprehensive article titled, “The Obama File, Bill Ayers”. In that the two menshared an office, Obama knew very well who he was associating with. In 1989, Bernadine Dohrn and Michelle Obama were associates at the Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin, when Obama joined the firm as a summer intern. Claims by Ayers and Obama that they have encountered each other occasionally in pubic or in the neighborhood, is dead wrong.  Ayers had a part in bringing the 24-year old Obama to Chicago when Obama was hired by the Woods Fund in 1985 as an organizer on Chicago’s economically depressed South Side.”

Is this nation already The United Socialist States of America?

The liberal college campus professors who helped reelect Barack Obama are now hard at work indoctrinating a new generation of students to turn into radical leftists.  Radical liberal professors, such as Ayers now retired, and Dohrn are entrenched at America’s universities and have tenure with scores of allies in the media and at academic institutions throughout the world. They despise America and are working to turn out yet another generation of American students who don’t understand why our country is unique and our freedom so precious.

An interesting perspective of this nation was presented by Jeffrey T. Kuhner in his published article in March of 2010, titled, The United Socialist State of America.  Kuhner believed four years ago that President Obama was close to completing his socialist revolution to transform America. In Kuhner’s words:

From his days as a student radical, Mr. Obama has been obsessed with smashing the traditional free-market system.  Like most leftists, he thinks capitalism is the enemy.  ‘He was a Marxist-socialist in college,’ according to John C. Drew who knew Mr. Obama as a university student.  In an interview Drew told Kuhner that ‘He [Obama] kept talking about the need to overthrow capitalism in favor of a working-class revolution.’

It is not by chance that both Standley Kurtz and Jeffrey Kuhner linked Obama with his longtime associates William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, who along with Obama’s minister, Jeremiah Wright — all supporters of Marxist liberation, — expressed deep hatred for the United States, further believing that “only fundamental, sweeping change can redeem America.”

The claim Kuhner made in 2010 that President Obama is giving birth to a new nation, the United Socialist States of America (USSA) is not far-fetched.  Obama learned his lessons well as a student of activism in “Rules for Radicals” by neo-Trotskyite Saul Alinsky, which Obama applied when he worked with Bill Ayes as a Chicago community organizer in association with the Annenberg Challenge. Jeffrey Kuhner’s article is a must read in its entirety.

Fast forward to today when Obama continues to undermine the traditional system of checks and balances established by the Founding Fathers.  Much quoted is what was said in 1887 by Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years before:

 A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. . . From that moment on the majority always vote for the candidates who promises the most benefits from the public treasury. . . every democracy will finally collapse . . . always followed by a dictatorship.  The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been about 200 years.

Common Core as the final nail in the coffin

As a final thought, radical progressive educators, enabled by massive funding from left-leaning Bill Gates, concocted Common Core.  States bought into it in 2010, sight unseen, as Obama’s new and improved education program. Common Core History standards, which reflect the thinking of progressive educators like Bill and Bernadine Ayers and President Obama, are already being taught to our children. Are you fine with this as parents?

  • A relentlessly negative view of American history, which emphasizes every problem and failing of our ancestors while ignoring or minimizing their achievements.
  • Almost total silence about the Founding Fathers, including no mention of Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Adams, and almost none of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Omission of military history, battles, commanders, and heroes.
  • A biased and inaccurate view of many important facets of American history, including the motivations and actions of 17th-19th-century settlers, American involvement in World War II, and the conduct of and victory in the Cold War.

If allowed to continue unchecked in the public schools, the progressive Common Core standards will be the final nail in the coffin that will complete the transition from a once proud, prosperous and strong Republic to the United Socialist States of America, without a shot being fired, through the indoctrination of impressionable children with socialist ideas and doctrine.

This is not the time to sit back and do nothing. Time is running out. Take an active role in what your children are learning in school. Furthermore, become involved in promoting candidates who will, if elected, follow constitutional principles and fight for what is right and just.

******

Other articles by Nancy Thorner and Elizabeth Clarke on the radicalization of colleges where nontenured, radical  professors indoctrinate young people with ideas and policies akin to Socialism.

1.  Cloward and Piven’s Marxist-based radicalism alive today:  http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/07/thorner-clarke-cloward-and-pivens-marxist-based-radicalism-alive-today.html#more

2. Past time for Ayers to confess past terrorism acts and Obama ties:http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/08/thorner-clarke-past-time-for-ayers-to-confess-past-terrorism-acts-and-obama-ties.html#more

3. Terrorists Bill and Bernadine Ayers slip unchallenged into roles as disinguished prfessors:http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/08/thorner-clarke-terrorists-bill-and-bernadine-ayers-slip-unchallenged-into-roles-as-distinguished-pro.html#comments

 

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Colorado Dems Frack Backtrack is all about November

August 12, 2014, 1:55 PM

In June, in a sparsely populated county in northern New Mexico, a primary electionsurprisingly unseated an incumbent County Commissioner. No one seemed to notice. But, apparently, high-ranking Democrats to the north were paying attention.

The northern New Mexico county is Mora. The high-ranking Democrats: from Colorado. The election upset was about Mora County’s oil-and-gas drilling ban.

In April 2013, the Mora County Commission voted, 2 to 1, and passed the first-in-the-nation county-wide ban on all oil-and-gas drilling. It was spearheaded by Commission Chairman John Olivas—who also served as northern director for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. Since then, two lawsuits have been filed against the little county because of the anti-drilling ordinance.

A little more than a year after Olivas’ pet project, the Mora County Water Rights and Self-Governance Ordinance, was passed, he was ousted. Olivas didn’t just lose in the Democrat primary election, he was, according to the Albuquerque Journal, “soundly beaten” by George Trujillo—59.8% to 34.2%. Both Olivas and Trujillo acknowledged that the ban had an impact on the outcome, with Olivas saying: “In my opinion, it was a referendum on oil and gas.” Trujillo campaigned on a repeal of the ordinance (which, due to the language of the ordinance will be difficult to do) and has said he is open to a limited amount of drilling in the eastern edge of the county.

Mora County’s ban on all drilling for hydro-carbons, not just fracking, was incited by an out-of-state group: the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF),which has also been active in Colorado.

CEDLF holds Democracy Schools around the country where attendees are taught the “secrets” of peoples’ movements focusing on the rights of communities, people, and the earth. In Mora, CELDF’s Democracy School was organized by Olivas’ mother—who, along with his friends, also chaired subcommitteesbelieved to have been organized to monitor Olivas’ interests.

In Colorado, a Boulder-based Democrat Congressman and environmental activist, Jared Polis, has worked hard to collect thousands of signatures—spending, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “millions of dollars of his own cash to promote the measures”—to get two anti-oil-and-gas initiatives on November’s ballot. His blue-haired mother (No, I am not elder-bashing. She has it dyed blue and purple.) has campaigned with him.

Polis’ proposed initiative 89 would have given local governments control over environmental regulations under an “environmental bill of rights”—which mirrors language promoted by CELDF and used in Mora County. Polis also backed ballot measure 88 that would have limited where hydraulic fracturing could be conducted.

The presence of 88 and 89 on the ballot, sparked two opposing measures: 121 and 137.  121 would have blocked any oil-or-gas revenue from any local government that limits or bans that industry—an idea also proposed, but not passed, in the New Mexico legislature. 137 would have required proponents of initiatives to submit fiscal impact estimates.

Much to the horror of environmental activists, the battle of ballot initiatives ended before anyone ever got to vote on them.

On Monday, August 4, Polis and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper held a news conference where they pushed for a compromise to avoid a “messy ballot fight.” Instead, they are proposing an18-member task force to issue recommendations to the Colorado Legislature next year on how to minimize conflicts between residents and the energy industry. Later in the day, an agreement was reached and both sides pulled the opposing measures.

Backers of proposed initiatives 88 and 89 are outraged. They feel Polis sold out.

Hickenlooper said the suggested restrictions, if passed, posed “a significant threat to Colorado’s economy”—which they would. However, given the history of the lowly New Mexico county commissioner, the compromise may be more about “a significant threat to Colorado’s” Democrat party.

A November 2013 Quinnipiac poll found that most Coloradans support fracking—only 34 percent oppose it. Noteworthy is the political divide: 80 percent of Republicans support fracking, only 9 percent oppose it. More Democrats oppose fracking, 54 percent, while only 26 percent support it. But the numbers indicate that Republicans are most likely to come to the polls in November to insure the economically advantageous activity is not curtailed—and this scares Democrats such as Hickenlohooper and Senator Mark Udall, who are both up for reelection in November. Udall, according to the WSJ, “ran in 2008 as a full-throated green-energy champion.” His 2014 Republican opponent Congressman Cory Gardner points to the economic benefits of fracking, as seen in North Dakota and Texas.

Had the measures not been pulled, the WSJ reports: “the issue would have been at the center of the fall debate.”

In addition to driving Republicans to the polls, the anti-fracking measures didn’t have a high probability of survival. While Colorado communities have previously passed anti-drilling initiatives—Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins, Lafayette, and Longmont—the most recent attempt in Loveland failed after an organized industry effort to educate voters on the safe track record of fracking and its economic benefits. Additionally, in late July, a Boulder County District Court judge struck down Longmont’s fracking ban. The Denver Post reported: “Under Colorado law, cities cannot ban drilling entirely but can regulate aspects of it that don’t cause an ‘operational conflict’ with state law.”

In New Mexico, the lawsuits have not yet made their way into court, but it is expected that, like Colorado, the courts will rule in favor of state statutes. Constitutionally protected private property rightsshould triumph.

Polis, who made his millions from the sale of the Blue Mountain Arts greeting card website, presented his initiatives as a “national referendum on fracking.” As the WSJ states: “In that sense he was right.” Colorado Democrats realize that allowing an anti-fracking fervor to drive an election is a dangerous decision. The Democrats support for banning fracking—while killing jobs, hurting the local and national economy, damaging America’s energy security, and threatening private property rights—should unseat two top Democrats by driving Republicans to the polls. And, this could become the national referendum on fracking.

 

[Originally published at RedState]

 

Categories: On the Blog

It’s Not Warming: The Global Warming Movement is Dying

August 12, 2014, 1:42 PM

The man who brought the world the “I Love NY” sensation of the 1970s has a new mission: To get the words “It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying” to roll off the tongue. He has come up with a new logo for this mission, at right.

According to The Weather Channel:

The logo represents Earth, with the bright green symbolizing life and the smoky black showing the deadly effects of climate change, according to an interview with the logo’s creator, Milton Glaser, in the architecture and design magazine Dezeen. A giant poster featuring the logo has been hung outside of New York’s School of Visual Arts, where Glaser is chairman. It’s also being distributed on pins, five of which can be purchased for $5.

Heartalnd Institute Policy Advisor and occassional Somewhat Reasonable contributor Rich Trzupek was not impressed. He wrote me the following email (and created these graphics):

Wow – I wonder how much he charged to come up with a logo that a fifth grader could have produced in two minutes using the gradient functionality in MS-WORD. Consider what I imagine were some of Glaser’s earlier attempts:

First there’s the “Turn Green Into Gold” earth, representing the riches to be had by going along with climate change orthodoxy.

 

That wasn’t quite what they had in mind, so we come to the “Another Ice Age Will Happen Whether We Like It Or Not” symbolism.

 

Frustrated at having THAT one rejected as well, we progress to the “The Environmental Movement Is Going To Crap” design.

 

Then there’s Craid Idso’s favorite: “More CO2 Makes The World Greener.”

And finally, we have the “Maybe That Big Ball Of Fire In The Sky Has Something To Do With It” design.

Categories: On the Blog

Aesop Knew: A Regulator Regulates – It’s His Nature

August 12, 2014, 10:37 AM

Aesop was a seventh century, B.C. Greek philosopher - mere “storyteller” doesn’t do him justice.  The best storytellers are philosophers – because they tap into truths of human nature.  Aesop certainly did that.

His famous Fables revealed these truths through simple animal allegories.  There are (at least) several that apply to the creatures in the world of politics.  Of late one especially leaps to mind.

The Scorpion and the Frog

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream,the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”

Replies the scorpion: “Its my nature…”

Far too many government officials (and civilian Leftists) are Aesop scorpions.  It’s in their nature to regulate.  And regulate again.  And then regulate some more.  In Baby Boomer Radical parlance, they are willing – even eager - to destroy the village in order to save it.

For them, ideology imposition is paramount.  They are regulators – thus they must regulate.  They remain steadfastly impervious to facts – or find them utterly irrelevant.  No matter how much damage they do and are doing, they relentlessly push forward to ever further foisting.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama repeatedly said he was going to “fundamentally transform” America.  Filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza rightly points out that before you can remake it - you must unmake it.  Burn, baby, burn.

The Internet has been a place of blissful respite from this governmental destruction. Because the relevant law – the 1996 Telecommunications Act - specifically tells the government to leave the Web alone.

But leaving something alone is no way to fundamentally transform it.  So the Obama Administration has spent its entire tenure trying to commandeer control.

President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – and its Obama-appointee Chairman Tom Wheeler -are contemplating fundamentally transforming how the government regulates the Web.  It’s called Title II Reclassification.

Title II is the uber-regulatory superstructure with which we have strangled landline phones – you know, that bastion of technological and economic innovation. Which do you find more impressive – your desktop dialer or your iPhone?

Title II regulations date back to the 1930s – so you know they’ll be a perfect fit for the ultra-modern, incredibly dynamic, expanding-like-the-universe World Wide Web. 

This would be the most detrimental of all Information Superhighway road blocks. Rather than the omni-directional, on-the-fly innovation that now constantly occurs, Title II is a Mother-May-I-Innovate, top-down traffic congest-er. Imagine taking a 16-lane Autobahn down to just a grass shoulder.

But fret not, the regulators tell us.  They will wield just some – and not all – of their massive new powers.  They will practice “forbearance.”

“(F)orbearance” refers to  a special magic power that Congress gave the FCC…which gives the FCC the power to say “you know that specific provision of law that Congress passed? We decide it really doesn’t make sense for us to enforce it in some particular case, so we will forbear” (hence the term forbearance’) from enforcing it.

But a scorpion is going to be a scorpion – a regulator, a regulator.  How confident are we frogs that every single government scorpion will – in perpetuity and for always – leave these new powers on the table?  And not use them to sting us – again?  And again?  And…?

When they have set themselves up to do so – by vastly overreaching their existing authority with their illegal imposition of Title II Reclassification?  The huge sting that makes all the subsequent others possible?

When the very nature of Title II itself “doesn’t make sense for us to enforce” on the Internet?

Aesop knew the answer.  We should too.

[Originally published at Human Events]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Internet Peering Doesn’t Need Fixing – NetComp CommActUpdate Submission

August 12, 2014, 9:51 AM

The old adage is true here; “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

The Internet peering marketplace works exceptionally well and it has for its entire twenty year history. The unparalleled success, growth, and resiliency of the unregulated model for the Internet backbone peering marketplace has been nothing short of phenomenal in enabling and ensuring everyone reasonable access to the Internet.

Inter-networked computer networks are effectively the opposite of railroad, electricity, and telephone networks; trying to impose telephone interconnection rules on IP inter-networking is akin to forcing a square peg into a round hole. It predictably breaks both the peg and the hole.

Please see NetCompetition’s House CommActUpdate submission on interconnection – here. (3 pages)

Summary of What Congress Needs to Know

As Congress considers modernizing communications legislation concerning Internet peering and interconnection issues, it is imperative to understand how Internet peering and voice interconnection are fundamentally different from two key policymaking perspectives.

How Internet networks are completely different from railroad and electricity networks.

  1. Place-independent vs. place-dependent
  2. Software-dependent vs. hardware dependent
  3. Digital vs. analog

How IP packet networking fundamentally differs from legacy voice interconnection.

  1. Circuit technology vs. packet-switching technology
  2. Continuous vs. discontinuous transmission
  3. Predictable vs. unpredictable transmission
  4. Unitary service vs. multiple services
  5. Centralized vs. decentralized architectures
  6. Location-driven vs. location-agnostic
  7. Best efforts vs. guarantees
  8. Accounting simplicity vs. complexity
  9. Access vs. connection

To see the full three page analysis submitted to the House CommActUpdate click here.

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

“Climate-Smart” Policies for Africa are Stupid, and Immoral

August 12, 2014, 9:36 AM

The 2014 US-Africa Leaders Summit hosted by President Obama this past week brought together the largest-ever gathering of African government officials in Washington, DC. They discussed ways to bolster trade and investment by American companies on a continent where a billion people – including 200 million aged 15 to 24 – are becoming wealthier and better educated.

They have steadily rising expectations and recognize the pressing need to create jobs, improve security, reduce corruption, and control diseases like Ebola, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. They also understand that better roads and air transportation, improved agriculture and nutrition, and far more energy – especially electricity – are the sine qua non to achieving their aspirations. Indeed, nearly 700 million Africans still do not have electricity or get it only sporadically, a few hours a day or week.

“The bottom line is, the United States is making a major and long-term investment in Africa’s progress,” Mr. Obama stated. One has to wonder whether his rhetoric matches his policy agenda – and whether Africans would do well to remember the president’s assurances that Americans could keep their doctors, hospitals and insurance, when they hear his fine words and lofty promises for Africa.

The fact is, no modern economies, healthcare systems or wealth-building technologies can function in the absence of abundant, reliable, affordable electricity and motor fuels. They require far more than can possibly come from “climate-smart” wind, solar and biofuel sources. Adequate food and nutrition require modern agriculture. Eradicating malaria requires chemical insecticides, DDT and ACT drugs.

Obama Administration policies on all these matters are likely to hold Africa back for decades.

For President Obama, everything revolves around fears of “dangerous manmade climate change” and a determination to slash or end fossil fuel use. He has said electricity rates must “necessarily skyrocket.” His former Energy Secretary wanted gasoline prices to reach European levels: $8-10 per gallon. His EPA is waging a war on coal. And his own requirements would prevent Africa from modernizing.

In 2009, the president told Africans they should focus on their “bountiful” wind, solar, geothermal and biofuel resources, and refrain from using “dirty” fossil fuels.  He signed an executive order, directing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to ensure that any projects it finances reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020. He launched a number of domestic and international climate initiatives.

Afterward, when Ghana asked OPIC to support a $185 million gas-fired electrical generator (that would utilize natural gas being flared and wasted at its oil production operations), OPIC refused to help. When South Africa sought a World Bank loan for its state-of-the-art Medupi coal-fired power plant (which will reduce dangerous pollutants 90% below what 1970s-era plants emitted), the White House ”abstained” from supporting the loan. Thankfully, approval squeaked by anyway, and Medupi will soon be a reality.

Even more absurd and unethical, the White House announced last October that it will now oppose any public financing for coal-based power projects, except in the world’s poorest nations, unless they meet the draconian carbon dioxide emission standards now imposed on new coal-fired generators in the USA.

These policies prolong reliance on open fires fueled by wood and dung. They mean families are denied lights, refrigeration and other benefits of electricity, and millions die every year from lung and intestinal diseases, and other effects of rampant poverty. With hydrocarbons still providing 82% of the world’s energy – and China, India and other rapidly developing countries building numerous coal-fired generating plants – retarding Africa’s development in the name of preventing climate chaos is useless and immoral.

Meanwhile, President Obama is still guided by science advisor John Holdren, a fervent opponent of fossil fuels who infamously said the United States should support only the “ecologically feasible” development of poor countries, in line with his perceived “realities” of ecology and rapid energy resource depletion. How that translates into official policy can be seen from Mr. Obama’s 2013 remark: “Here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car, and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over.”

Secretary of State John Kerry’s inane recent statements are equally problematical for Africa. His fixation on “climate-smart” energy and agriculture suggests that he lives on another planet and cannot imagine life outside a $5-million mansion – and certainly not life for destitute families in sub-Saharan Africa.

For proof of manmade climate change, Kerry told US-Africa Summit attendees, one need only look at the “hotter temperatures, longer droughts and unpredictable rainfall patterns” that farmers must now deal with. Not only are global temperature trends flat for the past 18 years; actual records show clearly that drought and rainfall fluctuations are no different from what North American, African and other farmers have had to deal with for centuries. Moreover, increasing evidence suggests that the sun’s ongoing “quiet” period may portend several decades of markedly colder global temperatures.

Even more absurd, Kerry told attendees that “carbon pollution” is making food “less nutritious.” First, it’s not carbon (soot). It’s carbon dioxide, which makes food crops, trees and other plants grow faster and better, and survive better under adverse conditions like droughts. Second, hothouses routinely increase their CO2 levels to two or more times what is in Earth’s atmosphere, to spur crop growth. Are these German, Israeli and American tomatoes and cucumbers less nutritious than field-grown varieties? In fact,recent studies have found increased nutrient concentrations in food crops, thanks to higher CO2.

To the extent that “research” supports any of these ridiculous claims, it merely underscores what scientists will concoct when tempted by billions in government grants – or intimidated by activists and colleagues who attack them as climate change “deniers” if they do not play the Climate Armageddon game.

Secretary Kerry did suggest that the best way to help farmers is through “climate-smart agriculture” and “creative solutions that increase food production.” But it’s a virtual certainty he did not mean any of the things that really would help: biotechnology, modern mechanized farming and chemical fertilizers.

Genetically engineered Golden Rice and bananas are rich in beta-carotene, which humans can convert to Vitamin A, to prevent childhood blindness and save lives. New Bt corn varieties both kill insect pests, dramatically reducing the need for pesticides, and enable corn (maize) plants to survive droughts. New rice varieties can survive prolonged submergence during monsoons and floods. These crops, modern hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers multiply traditional yields many times over. Other developments let farmers practice no-till farming, which protects vital soil organisms and nutrients and reduces erosion.

These solutions won’t just improve adaptation to whatever climates might confront us in the future. They will also enable us to feed billions of people – including some 250 million malnourished Africans – without having to plow under millions of acres of wildlife habitat. However, Big Green activists in and out of government oppose GMO crops, fossil fuels and modern farming, whatever their benefits to humanity – and regardless of the death and destruction that result when people are denied access to them.

Africa is blessed with abundant oil, gas and coal. Turning food into fuel would squander those resources and divert land, water, fertilizers and energy from feeding people – to produce expensive fuels and leave people malnourished. This is not “climate-smart” energy or agriculture. It’s just plain stupid.

Wind and solar will let people in remote areas have light bulbs, tiny refrigerators and cell phone chargers, until they can be connected to an electrical grid. They cannot support modern economies, factories, shops, schools, hospitals or families. Coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydro-based electricity are essential.

Here is the real bottom line: Africans should not do what the United States is doing now that it is rich. It should do what the United States did to become rich.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

Categories: On the Blog

A Musing on the Price of Gold

August 11, 2014, 9:24 AM

During the first three weeks of July 1944 more than 700 delegates representing 44 Allied nations — the major economic powers of the world dawning as, a month after D-Day, the end of World War II seemed to come into view – met at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to formalize arrangements for the postwar global economic order.

The United States dollar, operating on a gold standard, redeemable by non-American dollar-holders for a fixed amount of gold, was to serve as the international reserve currency;  currency convertibility principles were confirmed;  and new institutions, including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (“the World Bank”) and the International Monetary Fund were brought into existence.

The leader of the American delegation at that conference was Harry Dexter White.  The leader of the British delegation was John Maynard Keynes.  Remarkably, given the at-least-nominally pro-capitalist objectives of the conference, a delegation from Russia, then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, also attended.

The overall goal of the conference was to establish an international regime promoting a stable monetary system that would serve the needs of a future world characterized by free enterprise, free markets, free trade, and stable and interconvertible currencies.

Some arrangements agreed upon at Bretton Woods came into effect immediately;  others were achieved in later years;  and some were never realized at all.  Whether or not what has come to be called the “Bretton Woods system” has met all or part of its objectives remains subject to debate.

Many features of the Bretton Woods system, including use of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency, and the World Bank and the IMF, survive bearing some recognizable relation to the picture painted at Bretton Woods.  Other aspects of the system, including the maintenance of the dollar on a gold standard, have receded into history.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Bretton Woods conference, a major conference will be held at the original venue in New Hampshire on September 2, 3, and 4 of this year — in less than a month.  Conferees from all over the world will gather to recall the 1944 conference and the system that was ordained there, and to debate and discuss their history and consequences.

All aspects of the Bretton Woods system, including the on-going use of the dollar as the global reserve currency, and the questions of whether or not a gold standard should be re-established or some modern replacement for it found, remain controversial.  At the heart of these discussions is the perennial conversation over whether and how market mechanisms may be substituted for political choices and coercive measures, to regulate the world’s monetary, banking, and trade activities.

Against that background, I offer the following microscopic musing on the price of gold and the value of the dollar. The price of an ounce of gold in London on Friday afternoon (the “P.M. fix” of August 8, 2014) was $1,309.75. The price of an ounce of gold in London one year ago Friday afternoon (the “P.M. fix” of August 8, 2013) was $1,309.00. If all one knew about the price of gold were those two data points, one might assume that the price of gold has been comfortably and reassuringly stable, changing in value against a similarly stable United States dollar by a mere six bits over an entire year.

That would be a lot like walking into Wrigley Field in the bottom of the ninth inning, seeing that the score was tied 0-0, knowing nothing about pitchers’ duels or the finesse that goes into fielding, and saying to oneself, “Oh,  I haven’t missed anything.”

In fact, gold had been on a steep dive downward before arriving at that $1,309.00 price per ounce a year ago.  For example, just seven months earlier, on January 8, 2013, the price of an ounce at the London afternoon fixing had been $1,657.75.  The price dropped $348.75, or a little more than 21 percent, in those seven months.

Meanwhile, in the first seven months of this year, gold has risen from a price per ounce in London on the afternoon of January 8, 2014, of $1,221.00. In short, prior to 2014, gold had been diving and the dollar soaring;  during this year gold has risen slightly while the dollar has been on a gildepath downward. The volatility has been remarkable.  Seven months ago the year-to-year price differential was nearly $350.00.  Yesterday the year-to-year differential was just under a buck.

Whether the price of gold is seen as a measurement of the value of a precious metal or as a report card on the economic, monetary, and fiscal policies that go into determining the value of the dollar, it’s interesting to think about what the trends, short-term and long-term, may mean.

When I was a university student — that is, looking back at a point in my adult lifetime when many memories still seem quite fresh — prior to the time when Richard Nixon, abandoning conservative principle and traditional Republican orientations, imposed wage and price controls and closed the gold window, the fixed price of an ounce of gold was $35.00.

I note, as well, that the standard unit in which the world measures the value of gold, more than 40 years after the demise of “Bretton Woods”, is still the U.S. dollar.  One wonders whether or not, and when, that is destined to change, too.

[Note:  At the time of the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, Joseph A. Morris was several years from being born.  In 1971, when President Nixon "closed" the "gold window", Morris was an undergraduate at The University of Chicago and Chairman of Students for Capitalism and Freedom (whose faculty advisor was Milton Friedman).  Today Morris consults on a variety of legal, economic, and policy matters and observes that, as Gresham said of money, bad advice drives out good.]
Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: How to Opt Out of Obamacare

August 11, 2014, 7:29 AM

On August 6, author and health care policy expert Sean Parnell took part in Heartland’s Author Series to discusses his new book The Self-Pay Patient: Affordable Healthcare Choices in the Age of Obamacare.

The Self-Pay Patient reveals secrets to taking control of both your healthcare and your health costs, explaining how to find affordable care outside of conventional insurance, how to escape bureaucratic medicine, and how to opt-out of Obamacare. It was one of the most lively audience discussions in recent memory for our author series.

After his presenation, Sean sat down with Heartland Institute Director or Communications Jim Lakely for a podcast to discuss his book. In this podcast, Sean and Jim discussed:

* How one could opt out of Obamacare, with practical tips about how to make it happen

* How to find health care providers who have also opted out of Obamacare

* Why this is a better option than participating in government health care.

And much more. Listen via the player above.

Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.

Categories: On the Blog

DONT MISS THIS: Michelle Malkin, Joe Walsh Headlining Heartland’s Benefit Dinner Sept. 12

August 10, 2014, 11:10 AM

The Heartland Institute is proud to announce Michelle Malkin as the keynote speaker at our 30th Anniversary Benefit on September 12, 2014. Save the date — and reserve your table or tickets now so you don’t miss out on this exciting evening for liberty!

Michelle is a New York Times best-selling author, nationally syndicated columnist, wildly successful digital entrepreneur, and Tea Party champion. She was there at the beginning, amplifying what the mainstream media still doesn’t understand about the Tea Party — that it began and remains the most patriotic, bottom-up, truly grassroots movement to restore Constitutional principles our country has seen in generations.

She will be joined at Heartland’s 30th anniversary gala by our Master of Ceremonies, The Hon. Joe Walsh. Joe was the greatest champion the Tea Party ever had in Congress. He lived his small-government principles by refusing to accept his taxpayer-funded Congressional health benefits and sleeping in his office. Joe will bring to Heartland’s event the same energy and enthusiasm for liberty he displays every night on the radio in Chicago at AM 560 The Answer.

The Heartland Institute is most honored by the opportunity to award its 2014 Liberty Prize to M. Stanton Evans — the legendary conservative journalist and global champion of liberty. He studied under Ludwig von Mises at New York University, and went on to join the staff of William F. Buckley’s fledgling National Review (where he served as associate editor from 1960 to 1973). He later became managing editor of Human Events, where he is currently a contributing editor.

Evans was present at Great Elm, the Buckley family home, at the founding of Young Americans for Freedom — where on September 11, 1960, he drafted YAF’s charter, the Sharon Statement. Many conservatives still revere this document as a concise statement of their principles. He became a proponent of National Review co-editor Frank Meyer’s “fusionism,” a political philosophy reconciling the traditionalist and libertarian tendencies of the conservative movement.

You won’t want to miss this night of good food and drink, great speakers, and excellent fellowship and networking opportunities with fellow lovers of liberty — especially as the 2014 midterm elections draw near. Individual tickets are just $49, but it is best to purchase a table for your Tea Party or non-profit group at a an early-bird discount rate. Visit Heartland’s Benefit Site for more information.

See you there!

Categories: On the Blog

Welcome to the New Space Age

August 10, 2014, 9:00 AM

Penn Jillette, the world-famous magician (and fellow of the Cato Institute), has a saying: “Everybody got a gris-gris.” By that, Jillette means everyone has some irrational belief or superstition, something one believes even when knowing it is an unreasonable. We carry these superstitions through life like talismans, and we defend them when confronted with the cold light of reason. My gris-gris is NASA.

I love space exploration and the agency that has been at the forefront of it. NASA holds a deep romantic appeal to me. But I know I really shouldn’t love NASA.

NASA is a bloated, outdated, inefficient, and often incompetent organization, an atavism of 1960s government “big science” that served to balloon federal spending for what has been comparatively minor benefits. NASA has been on something of a downward spiral since the great triumph of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Sure, we’ve launched more satellites and we have a working space station, but all of our progress in the field of manned space flight has been chronically slow and disappointingly ineffectual.

George W. Bush tried to get America interested in space again by promising a manned Mars mission by 2020. Unfortunately, neither he nor NASA had a clear plan for how to accomplish the feat. President Obama has continued, somewhat inattentively, to support the plan. However, the chances of NASA sending humans to Mars seem dim, as The Economist reported this week:

“In June a non-partisan committee heaving with experts—among them astrophysicists, a space-shuttle commander and Mitch Daniels, a former White House budget chief and Republican governor of Indiana—issued a crushing verdict on NASA’s plans to put humans on Mars. After 18 months of study, their National Research Council (NRC) report found the project unsafe, underfunded and doomed to fail in its current form.”

It is really hard to continue to love NASA when reports like the NRC’s come out. Apparently the agency was just going to continue to chug along with its doomed plan until someone told them to stop. That blind momentum represents all that is wrong with big government projects of all stripes. It is tragic that our space program, and America’s (and the world’s) dreams of voyaging out into our solar system, should be held hostage by the incompetence of bureaucracy and institutional rot.

There has been some good news in the last few years, however: We may not even need NASA to reach for the stars. For decades, NASA had a special place because the technical expertise and funding requirements made a private sector alternative virtually impossible. That has begun to change. A number of visionary firms have begun investing heavily in private space flight. Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of eccentric entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has been testing their commercial spaceflight vessels since 2012 and plans to begin service this year. The Orbital Science Corp. has already begun unmanned deliveries of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX, the brainchild of businessman and futurist Elon Musk, is also developing private spaceflight, having already had a successful rendezvous with the ISS. SpaceX announced this week that it will be building a new launch facility in Brownsville, Texas.

NASA has already partnered with some of these businesses to replace purely government-run space travel. That is a very promising turn of affairs. As it seems like the American government (and the governments of the other wealthy nations) will be unable to lead humanity into space, it is probably a good thing that it favors the private sector picking up the slack.

There is a real majesty in space exploration. We live on a small world in a corner of the Milky Way. There is so much more out there to see and discover. I think Carl Sagan offers one of the most moving descriptions of that sentiment:

“In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.”

Truly, there can be no nobler endeavor than expanding not only human understanding, but also the potential for humanity’s very survival. We live in a dangerous universe, one that has occasionally treated our Earth cruelly. It seems unthinkable that our species could allow itself to be trapped on this one world, the fate of which could be determined by a single cosmic event, be it a solar flare or massive asteroid impact. Our universe is a beautiful and mysterious place, but it is also a dangerous one. We must as a species look outward to secure our future. For all we know, ours may be the only species to have attained sentience. Certainly it must be a rare occurrence, given the inhospitableness of so much of the universe. That sentience is what makes us so special; to borrow from Sagan once more, humanity is “a way to know itself.”

Space exploration, whether private or state-run, remains a crude enterprise. But the advent of private firms competing to reach the heavens is a positive step toward attaining the stars. The endeavor is a critical one, one that has been ill-served by NASA.

I may be able to shake my love of NASA, but I will never lose my love of spaceflight.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute E-Cigarette Experts Submit Comments to Food and Drug Administration

August 09, 2014, 11:15 PM

Friday, August 8 marked the end of the comment period for a proposed rulemaking by the Food and Drug Administration to classify electronic cigarettes as the equivalent of combustible tobacco cigarettes. The proposed rule would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, require FDA approval of the products, and require manufacturers to disclose the chemicals used in the nicotine delivery devices – which replace cigarette smoke with vapor – and note on product labels that nicotine can be addictive.

The following statements from tobacco and e-cigarette policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution.

“The FDA’s proposed regulation would decimate the small businesses that make up America’s independent e-cigarette industry and remove a powerful tool smokers are using to kick the habit. Congress never intended for the regulations it crafted for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to apply to innovative tobacco-free products. The FDA has the authority to propose alternate regulation for e-cigarettes that wouldn’t ban 99 percent of the products. They should do so for the betterment of public health.”

Greg Conley
Research Fellow, Tobacco Policy
The Heartland Institute
gconley@heartland.org

 

“In my submission, I explain why the FDA should use its statutorily granted discretion in setting a grandfather date for e-cigarettes to the effective date of the proposed rule, or, at earliest, as the date the proposed rule was published.

“The agency’s attempt to incorrectly set the grandfather date for newly deemed e-cigarettes to February 15, 2007 is a failure to exercise its statutorily granted flexible enforcement authority, as well as a failure to implement the statute’s call for appropriate regulatory controls. As a result of the agency’s misapplication of the statute, the FDA’s proposed rule would have the unintended consequence of harming public health by failing to provide effective oversight of industry’s effort to develop, introduce, and promote less harmful tobacco products.

“Ironically, in claiming to implement the statute by adhering to the wrong grandfather date, the agency would be failing to enforce the statute and would harm public health in the process.”

Jeff Stier
Senior Fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
jeffstier@gmail.com 

Categories: On the Blog

Iron Man: The Ultimate Capitalist Fantasy

August 09, 2014, 9:00 AM

It is a rare occurrence when Hollywood produces a film that neither glorifies the welfare-warfare state, nor vilifies capitalists and businessmen. Yet that is exactly what Marvel Studios has managed with the Iron Man series. In the character of Tony Stark we see the pinnacle of the capitalist fantasy: an ingenious businessman who values property rights and self-defense, and who does not compromise those fundamental rights in the face of government intimidation and force.

Iron Man is the ultimate superhero for the advocates of the free market.

Intellectual Property

In the second film in the series, Tony Stark is forced to appear before a Senate committee seeking to confiscate the Iron Man suit for the sake of national security. Stark rejects the edicts of the government, walking out on the committee while claiming to have “privatized world peace” (more on that later).

The character of Tony Stark is an intractable opponent of government overreach. He demands that he be left alone with his own invention, without the meddling of the state. The beauty of the film is that it creates a remarkably sympathetic portrayal of Stark’s position, something very rarely done in films of this kind. It is a testament to Marvel’s willingness to push boundaries that they would approve a storyline that tears down the government and the misguided notion that property rights are optional when the government is involved.

The power of the free market is further defended in the film by comparing Tony Stark’s Iron Man technology to the government subsidized Hammer Industries. Hammer’s armor is buggy, grotesque, and ineffective. The comparison between it and Stark’s Iron Man armor offers a potent parable on the wastefulness and worthlessness of government intervention into business.

Armed Society, Free Society

Iron Man does not blanch from the twin topics of the right to bear arms and the disparity of arms between citizens and government. On the issue of armament itself, the films are unequivocally in favor of people’s right to defend themselves with weapons. The Iron Man suit represents the ultimate advancement of individual protective and defensive technology: virtually indestructible and capable of going toe-to-toe with most conventional military forces and equipment. It is that access to a new kind of “great equalizer” that will usher in the era of privatized world peace of which Stark speaks.

Imagine a world in which the government is unable to enact its will through force and physical coercion, a world in which all citizens have the capacity to defend themselves from any harm that might confront them. That would represent a fundamental shift in the relationship between citizen and state, one perhaps more akin to the power relationship that persisted in the early American republic when armaments between citizen and military were virtually at parity.

The future implied by Iron Man is a pleasantly optimistic one. It is one that respects property, individual freedom, and a more reasonable relationship between citizen and state.

Waiting for Tomorrow

Unfortunately, technology like the Iron Man suit appears to be a long way off yet. The federal government still wields a massively disparate military power relative to the citizenry. But it is valuable to imagine the future we want to see and to visualize ways we might get there.

It has become a matter of conventional wisdom that citizens, whether armed or not, are no match for the government (which, perversely, has been used from time to time as a justification for greater restrictions on owning weapons). Whether true or not, the status quo need not be static. The free market usually finds a way to meet demand. There is reason to be optimistic it will do so here, though the solution may not be as cool as Iron Man armor.

Categories: On the Blog

Extraordinary Irresponsibility

August 09, 2014, 8:13 AM

In yet another uninspiring performance by our unengaged and unengaging president, this time a press conference at the end of a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama discussed, among other things, the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas which, according to The One, “we” have achieved.

It’s not entirely clear just how “we,” meaning the president, his feckless Secretary of State John Kerry, and his utterly incompetent foreign policy team (but at least they’re loyal — the most important characteristic for employees of any petty dictator), helped achieve anything other than the emboldening of Hamas, which led to the death of many more of Hamas’ human shields. Obama further asked how “we build on this temporary cessation of violence.”

It is unclear whether Hamas will go along with Israel’s offer to extend the ceasefire beyond its original 72 hours, which will determine how they who are actually fighting might or might not “build on” anything. As for what “we” might do, well, Martha’s Vineyard is very nice this time of year.

Showing his further detachment from reality on the subject — or more likely his ingrained anti-Israeli bias — Obama claimed (twice!) “I have no sympathy for Hamas.”

Well, isn’t that special?

The nominal leader of the free world needs to tell us (twice!) that he doesn’t feel sympathy toward a universally-acknowledged terrorist organization that is bringing intentional death and mayhem on the citizens who gullibly elected them. (We Americans, suffering through a second Obama term, know how gullible voters can be.)

But wait, there’s more! The president also generously offered that Hamas has acted “extraordinarily irresponsibly.” As Ron Fournier, no right-winger he, put it, “Frat boys are extraordinarily irresponsible. Hamas is a terrorist organization that’s killing people. Words matter when you’re trying to lead a country and trying to lead a world. I’m stunned by how poorly he uses them.”

The president, about to head off to another extended vacation in another multi-million dollar home (because the $7 million home he stayed in on Martha’s Vineyard last summer wasn’t fancy enough), made one thing extraordinarily clear: Vladimir Putin, Hamas, even the Ebola virus, are annoying little distractions against the real enemy: the Republican Party. And therefore, it is an unmistakable sign to Putin, to fanatical Islamists, and would be to Ebola if it were smarter than Rep. Hank “Guam Might Tip Over” Johnson (D-CA) — normally an easy hurdle for almost any life form — that bad behavior will go unpunished, at least unless that bad behavior involves sneaking across our border.

Speaking of sneaking across the border, Walgreens, the well-known pharmacy and retailer, announced Tuesday that it would buy the rest of the Swiss company Alliance Boots — which is in substantially the same business — but that, unlike many other recent “tax inversions,” Walgreens would keep their corporate headquarters and therefore their tax jurisdiction in the United States.

Walgreens caved in to two things: Fear that the left would stoke backlash against the company if it moved its tax domicile and fear that politicians would allow and instruct the IRS to move aggressively to disallow tax benefits from these completely legal transactions.

Those tax benefits, which many investors were anticipating, were estimated at a few hundred million dollars a year, or nearly 15 percent of the company’s current gross profit. And thus, markets often demonstrating a rather mathematical nature, Walgreens’ stock plunged by just over 14 percent on Wednesday, showing not just investor dissatisfaction with the decision but perhaps also concern about the quality of the company’s management.

One can’t entirely blame WAG’s directors for not wanting to take on a lawless administration that has proven itself willing and able to use the power of government to attack its political enemies.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has demanded a “new sense of economic patriotism,” terminology that the president has also used. And loyal leftist lapdog Jonathan Alter recently penned a truly disturbing piece entitled, “The United States Needs Corporate ‘Loyalty Oaths.’”

Alter, who admits that “oaths and pledges are a little creepy,” nevertheless urges companies to sign “non-desertion agreements” that they must honor if they are to be eligible for federal contracts, not to mention the tremendous reward of “a tiny American flag or some other Good Housekeeping-type seal in their corporate insignia for all to see.”

I wonder if Alter realizes the many thousands of American jobs that would disappear along with all of that income tax, sales tax, and property tax revenue, if his moronic and un-American idea were to take hold. Actually, I don’t wonder. Alter is the poster child for Bastiat’s paradigm of the bad economist who is completely unable to conceive of the secondary impacts of a policy. But among liberal pundits, that doesn’t make him unusual.

Speaking of bad ideas, Colorado Democrats are just full of them. Vulnerable Senator Mark Udall (D-War on Women) released an ad saying that his Republican challenger, Congressman Cory Gardner, “would ban birth control.” I predicted last month that due to the demise of immigration (and tangentially of race) as a trump card for Democrats in 2014, the “War on Women” is all they have left — especially for someone like Mark Udall who has accomplished precisely nothing during his time in the U.S. Senate (though I did appreciate his standing up against NSA spying on Americans). Udall is proving me right very quickly. Watch the ad and consider my July prediction: “And that’s why this campaign will be all contraception all the time, with sprinkles of rape thrown in for added spice.”

One wonders whether Colorado’s women are stupid enough to believe a claim as outlandish as Udall’s. Frankly, I’m unsure of the answer, not least because many “low information voters” remember the at least superficially “anti-woman” and undoubtedly ignorant gaffes of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock that ended those men’s quests for higher office.

And then there’s Congressman Jared Polis (a friend of mine despite his being a liberal Democrat from Bouder) who really stepped in it with an effort to fund ballot initiatives that would have had the impact of limiting, and in many cases banning, fracking across the state of Colorado. His efforts ended earlier this week in what can only be considered a political disaster for Polis.

My guess — Jared hasn’t told me — is that he massively miscalculated, thinking he could boost his street cred among the wacky green left without having any “equal and opposite reaction.” When the energy industry went into full gear to stop the madness, that was bad enough, but when Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper opposed the measures, it turned the whole thing into a Democratic circular firing squad — a formation usually reserved for Republicans.

Polis understands the economic benefits of fracking yet supported measures that he knew were intended to be used to ban it. The initiatives’ supporters offered protestations that they were basically minor tweaks for safety and moves toward “local control.” (Q: How do you know if a liberal is lying about local control? A: If he says he’s for it — because liberals want government as large and far away as possible.)

It was not just bad policy, potentially sacrificing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of tax revenue at the altar of virginal Gaia, and not just base-pandering politics of the worst sort; for a smart man — which Polis certainly is — it was very poorly thought out and executed and ended up hurting just about everybody Jared normally supports or is supported by.

The “compromise” worked out between Rep. Polis and Gov. Hickenlooper — the latter roughly tied in polls against former Congressman Bob Beauprez who is taking a second shot at the governor’s race — demonstrates that “Hick” was scared to death that Polis’s ballot measures would even further energize disgusted Republicans and moderates in November. And so they have been put on ice, but not killed, with Polis suggesting that 2016 will offer a better electoral environment for harmful liberal policies.

What the compromise really does, and whether it’s binding on pro-fracking groups that have their own ballot measures ready to go, remains somewhat murky. A New York Timesreporter tweeted about the Polis-Hickenlooper presser that it was a “thing where you leave a press conference with more questions than you had before it.”

The part of the deal that is most troublesome is that Hick agreed to drop a lawsuit against the City of Longmont for passing a local fracking ban even though a judge already ruled that the ban is illegal because it conflicts with and harms the whole state’s economic and regulatory interests. The judge stayed her ruling pending appeal. One wonders where the case goes if the governor caves in on pursuing it — and whether the Republican Attorney General could proceed to defend the state even if the governor won’t, much the same way that a Republican governor in Texas is defending the state even if the president won’t.

From President Obama on down, the parade of liberals’ “extraordinary irresponsibility” is a marvel to behold. Given their total lack of accomplishment and the real harm from their many failures, despite pleas of how much “we have achieved” (or at least would have achieved without those obstructionist Republicans), in November I expect Democrats to learn from voters what the real meaning of “I have no sympathy” is.

 

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Was it Something I Said, Melissa Johnson?

August 08, 2014, 3:39 PM

Apparently I offended an administrative staffer for the Booker T. Washington National Monument. Sorry!

In a recent article for Environment & Climate News, Heartland Senior Fellow James M. Taylor reports how global warming apparently is causing angry, profane outbursts among high-profile members of the media.

I’m here to report the plague affects administrative staffers for our National Monuments, as well.

Heartland recently mailed a copy of Environment & Climate News to Ms. Melissa Johnson at the Booker T. Washington National Monument. She had been added to our temporary comp mailing list as a “friend” – not sure why, but I’m looking into that. She clearly wants to be no friend of Heartland!

Here’s an exchange of email:

From: Johnson, Melissa [mailto:melissa_johnson@nps.gov]

Sent: Thursday, August 07, 2014 9:30 AM

To: Diane Bast

Subject: STOP SENDING MAIL!!

Stop sending mail to this address. This is a federal site.

Booker T. Washington NM

12130 Booker T. Washington Hwy

Hardy, VA 24101

Melissa Johnson

Administrative Support Assistant

Booker T. Washington NM

12130 Booker T. Washington Hwy

Hardy, VA 24101

Phone: (540)721-2094

Fax: (540)721-8311

From: Diane Bast [dbast@heartland.org]

Sent: 8/7/2014 9:35 am

To: Melissa Johnson

Re: STOP SENDING MAIL!!

Ummm, I would not have thought that “a federal site” cannot accept mail from a federal agency, the U.S. Postal Service.

Nevertheless, we will search our database for that address and stop sending any mail to that address.

Diane Carol Bast

Executive Editor

The Heartland Institute

One South Wacker Drive #2740

Chicago, IL 60606

Phone: 312/377-4000

Fax: 312/377-5000

www.heartland.org

From: Johnson, Melissa [melissa_johnson@nps.gov]

Sent: 8/7/2014 10:13 am

To: Diane Bast

Re: STOP SENDING MAIL!!

I do not appreciate your tone or stupidity. Why is the Executive Editor handling inquires about their mailing lists? Your unprofessionalism is clearly a reflection on the garbage you peddle. THIS IS A NATIONAL MONUMENT NOT A PERSONAL ADDRESS! See the attached document below on how the label was made out.

The address is:

Booker T. Washington NM

12130 Booker T. Washington Hwy

Hardy, VA 24101

Your mailings are considered junk mail. I will be keeping these emails for further evidence of your harassment. I know who you people are. You might want to read the following:
http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2013/09/09/heartland-institute-nipcc-fail-the-credibility-test/

Now, I’ll admit I was a tad snarky in my original reply to Ms. Johnson. But come on: She’s the one who sent me an email with an ALL CAPS subject line! And then she complains about MY “unprofessionalism,” “tone,” and “stupidity”?

As tempting as it might be to keep Ms. Johnson on the mailing list, we’re not into wasting money at The Heartland Institute … and sending her anything presenting environment and climate issues from a sound science, common-sense perspective clearly would be a waste of money.

Categories: On the Blog

Cuomo’s Corrupted Corruption Commission

August 08, 2014, 11:43 AM

When Andrew Cuomo was elected governor of New York in 2010, he promised to root out corruption in the New York state government. He began belatedly to act on that promise in 2013 when he set up the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. The commission quickly set about investigating corruption and government malfeasance. In one year, they had discovered evidence of potentially criminal actions by as many as 12 state lawmakers. The commission made a number of criminal referrals to federal prosecutors.

The commission’s efforts were brought to an abrupt end in March 2014, leaving many investigations unresolved. Since then it has been revealed that members of the Cuomo administration sought to influence the direction of the independent commission. This has resulted in a federal investigation into the fate of the Moreland Commission and whether Cuomo or his people acted unethically toward their own ethics commission.

Cuomo insists that his office did not put any pressure on the commission and only offered advice. However, it appears that members of his staff did indeed seek to influence the commission’s decisions. Cuomo has tried to spin the commission’s refusal to succumb to his grubby behavior as “demonstrable proof of independence.”

To add a degree of surreal comedy to the proceedings, prosecutors are also now investigating whether the Cuomo administration put pressure on former members of the Moreland Commission to issue statements that the Cuomo administration did not pressure or interfere with the commission’s investigations. Let’s get this straight then: Federal prosecutors are investigating corrupt actions by the Cuomo administration toward the corruption commission the Cuomo administration set up, as well as pressure from the Cuomo administration toward former commissioners to say that they had not been pressured. Only in New York!

Cuomo’s opponents have tried to make hay with these accusations of corruption. The likely Republican challenger for the governor’s office, Rob Astorino, has certainly tried to leverage the situation in his favor. Astorino’s spokesperson has said, “To have a sitting governor being investigated by federal prosecutors for corrupting an anti-corruption commission has certainly changed the dynamic of the race.”

Yet despite Astorino’s claims, and the growing smell of sleaze, Cuomo will likely not pay an electoral price, at least in the short term. New York’s voting public remains largely unaware of, or apathetic about, the scandal. It is fairly easy to understand public apathy when their governor shows the same level of corruption they come to expect in all their leaders. Cuomo may have been hoist with his own petard, but he continues to be the frontrunner for another term as governor. He has incumbency and advantages in organization and money that his primary and general election challengers will have a tough time to overcome.

But while he may not pay a price at the ballot box, he may pay a legal one. A federal investigation is no laughing matter, and Cuomo’s administration could be hampered by subpoenas and even criminal prosecutions. That would certainly be a dramatic fate to an administration that swept into office promising to overhaul the venal and corrupt nature of New York politics. If anything, Cuomo has succeeded only in reinforcing the perception that politicians consider themselves above the law and only pursue corruption investigations when they will damage their enemies.

Cuomo may face some longer-term political consequences. Just as Chris Christie’s 2016 hopes were dented by Bridgegate, so too will an ongoing federal investigation into corruption likely scupper any hopes Cuomo might have had for making a dash for the White House. The utter shamelessness of Cuomo’s behavior may be just too much for even the jaded American public to stomach.

Categories: On the Blog

It’s about the Money, Not the Climate

August 08, 2014, 9:27 AM

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), the Irish poet and dramatist, wrote “Pray don’t talk to me about the weather. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else.”

These days, when some world leader or politician speaks of the climate—the weather is what is happening right now wherever you are—they are not talking about sunshine or rain. They are talking about a devilishly obscene way of raising money by claiming that it is humans that are threatening the climate with everything they do, from turning on the lights to driving anywhere.

That’s why “global warming” was invented in the late 1980s as an immense threat to the Earth and to mankind. Never mind that Earth has routinely passed through warmer and cooler cycles for billions of years; much of which occurred before mankind emerged. And never mind that the Earth has been a distinct cooling cycle for the past seventeen years and likely to stay in it for a while. If the history of ice ages is any guide, we could literally be on the cusp of a new one.

If, however, a government can tax the use of energy, it stands to make a lot of money. That is why carbon taxes have been introduced in some nations and why the nearly useless “clean energy” options of wind and solar have been introduced even though they both require the backup of traditional coal, natural gas and nuclear energy plants because they cannot produce electricity if the wind isn’t blowing and the sun is obscured by clouds.

Taxing energy use means taxing “greenhouse gas” emissions; primarily carbon dioxide (C02) so that every ton of it added to the atmosphere by a power plant and any other commercial activity becomes a source of income for the nation. The Australians went through this and rapidly discovered it drove up their cost of electricity and negatively affected their economy so much that they rid themselves of a prime minister and the tax within the past year.

Fortunately, every effort to introduce a carbon tax has been defeated by the U.S. Congress, but that it has shelled out billions for “climate research” over the years. That doesn’t mean, however, that 41 demented Democrats in the House of Representatives haven’t gotten together in a “Safe Climate Caucus” led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman. The Washington Post reported that when it was launched in February 2013, the members promised to talk every day on the House floor about “the urgent need to address climate change.”

Check out the caucus and, if your Representative is a member, vote to replace him or her with someone less idiotic.

When you hear the President or a member of Congress talk about the climate, they are really talking about the scheme to generate revenue from it through taxation or to raise money from those who will personally benefit from any scheme related to the climate such as “clean energy.”

The need of governments to frighten their citizens about the climate in order to raise money is international in scope. A United States that has a $17 trillion debt is a prime example, much of it due to a government grown so large it wastes taxpayer’s money in the millions with every passing day whether it is sunny or rainy, warm or cold.

In late July, Reuters reported that Christine Lagarde, the chair of theInternational Monetary Fund, (IMF) opined in her new book that “energy taxes in much of the world are far below what they should be to reflect the harmful environmental and health impact of fossil fuels use.”

Please pay no attention to the billions of dollars that coal, oil and natural gas already generate for the nations in which they are found. Nations such as India and China are building coal-fired plants as fast as possible to provide the electricity every modern nation needs to expand its economy, provide more employment, and improve their citizen’s lives in every way imaginable.

“For the first time,” Reuters reported, “the IMF laid out exactly what it views as appropriate taxes on coal, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel in 156 countries to factor in the fuel’s overall costs, which include carbon dioxide emissions, air pollution, congestion and traffic accidents.” The problem with this is that the costs cited are bogus.

“Nations,” said Lagarde, “are now working on a United Nations deal for late 2015 to rein in greenhouse gas emissions that have hit repeated highs this century, but progress has been slow as nations fret about the impact any measures may have on economic growth.” As in bad impacts!

Ignore the claims that carbon dioxide affects the climate. Its role is so small it can barely be measured because CO2 represents 380 parts per million. When our primate ancestors began to climb down out of the trees, CO2 levels were about 1,000 parts per million. More CO2 means more crops, healthy growing forests, and all the other benefits that every form of vegetation provides. The breath we humans exhale contains about 4% of CO2.

The fact is that the United States and other nations are being run by politicians who are incapable of reducing spending or borrowing more in order to spend more. Venezuela just defaulted again on the payment of bonds it issued to raise money. They did this in 2001 and one must wonder why any financial institution purchases them.

There are eleven other nations whose credit ratings are flirting with big trouble. They include Greece, Ukraine, Pakistan, Cypress, and in the Americas Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Belize. Borrowing by such nations is very expensive. A U.S. Treasury Note pays an annual coupon of just 2.5%, but the yields on 10-year bonds issue by Greece reached 29% in early 2012, just before it defaulted.

Adding to problems in the U.S. is the Obama agenda being acted upon by the Environmental Protection Agency whose “war on coal” has shuttered several hundred plants that produce the electricity needed to maintain the economy. In coal producing states this is playing havoc and it is driving up the cost of electricity in others.

The growth of oil and natural gas production in the U.S. is almost entirely on privately owned land as opposed to that controlled by the government. Supporting the attack on energy are the multi-million dollar environmental organizations like Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club.

There is no “global warming” and the climate is determined by the Sun, the oceans, clouds, and volcanic activity. Nothing any government does, here and worldwide, has any impact on it, but if nations can demonize the use of energy and tax the CO2 it produces, they can generate more money to spend and waste.

The lies that governments, the United Nations, and the International Monetary Fund tell about the climate are about the money they can extract from citizens who must be kept frightened enough to pay taxes on their use of energy.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

 

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s “Most Transparent White House” Lambasted by Independent Watchdogs

August 08, 2014, 9:00 AM

President Obama came into office promising the most open White House in American history. He went back on that promise almost immediately, refusing to cooperate with oversight organizations and stonewalling the press. Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary from 2011 to 2014, dodged questions nearly 10 thousand times during his tenure. Brianna Keilar, a CNN reporter, as said of the White House that “anyone here can tell there’s less access than under the Bush administration.” When even Obama’s fawning press corps is fed up, you know something is going on.

This week, Obama’s lack of transparency received some of its most vocal criticism to date.  In an open letter to congressional leaders, 47 of the government’s 73 inspectors-general (independent watchdogs) stated that they were unable to effectively perform their duties due to obstructive behavior and lack of cooperation in many federal agencies. Agencies from the EPA to the Peace Corps have dragged their feet or been unwilling to comply with requests for documents, claiming the contents of documents to be “privileged.” This has resulted in frustration among the independent watchdogs, which have been prevented from fulfilling their legally mandated duty.

The letter stated:

“Agency actions that limit, condition, or delay access thus have profoundly negative consequences for our work: they make us less effective, encourage other agencies to take similar actions in the future, and erode the morale of the dedicated professionals that make up our staffs.”

This sordid tale is just the latest chapter in the story of the Obama administration’s contempt for the rules that circumscribe and constrain executive power. It seems to be the chief belief of Obama that he and his people have all the answers and the need to compromise with Congress or to comply with laws and regulations are simply a nuisance to be gotten around. It is that attitude and the dangerous behavior that grows out of it that has made the Obama administration so much more onerous than past administrations.

It is that attitude and the above-the-law behavior springing from it that Obama’s critics are concerned about. It is not a matter of the mere number of executive orders he issues (as much as the left would like to conflate the exercise of executive power with quantity of executive orders), nor even what the orders he does issue entail. It is a matter of the broader application of contempt for the process of government and government oversight that has made Obama’s presidency so caustic to the republican traditions of the United States.

The open letter from the inspectors-general is a heartening development. It shows that, despite the administration’s obfuscating and impeding, the watchdogs still have some bite. It is high time Obama and his cronies were brought to heel.

Categories: On the Blog

Government “Help” Makes Nutrition Worse: Fats

August 08, 2014, 8:51 AM

For a half century the idea that saturated fat in foods raises cholesterol and, consequently, causes heart attacks was dogma ostensibly justifying government regulation.  The attacks on dietary fat have increased in recent years due to the “war on obesity.”  But a new book based on nearly ten years of research has fired a devastating salvo in defense of this designated dietary enemy.  The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz traces the origin of the fat myth from its faulty scientific beginning to its discrediting.

Teicholz notes the Inuit people in the Arctic, who got 70 – 80% of their calories from fat and ate no plants, showed no signs of cancer, diabetes, heart disease or hypertension.  In another intriguing study   Maasai warriors in Kenya, who ate only blood, meat and milk when they were studied in early the 1960s, had no heart disease or high cholesterol.

The alarming myth about fat was originated by Dr. Ancel Keys, for which he was even honored by being on the cover of Time magazine in 1961.  That was the year he landed a position on the nutrition committee of the American Heart Association, the same year the AHA issued the first guidelines targeting saturated fats.  Keys violated several scientific norms in his research, but some of these weren’t revealed until 2002 by later researchers.  It turns out that from the 655 men he originally selected as a representative sample, he used just 33 from Crete and 34 from Corfu as the basis for the entire revolution of our diet.  He also kept to himself for 16 years the results of a 9,000-patient coronary survey because it failed to find cutting saturated fat reduced the risk of heart disease.  Though advocating limiting a diet to 7% saturated fat, Keys ate chops, roasts and steaks three time a week and lived to be 100.

While our ingestion of saturated fats has dropped 11% since the early 1970s, we eat at least 25% more carbohydrates—including 50% more grains.  Teicholz explains:

Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we’re eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables…The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat.  Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news.  Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease

In 1961 the AHA advised switching to vegetable oils for a “healthy heart.” Today these oils are 7% to 8% of our daily calories, compared to nearly zero in 1900.  But these were found to create not only higher cancer rates but gallstones.  It was also known since the 1940s that when heated, vegetable oils create oxidation products that lead to cirrhosis of the liver and early death in animal experiments.  To counter these concerns, vegetable oils were hydrogenated, a process of adding hydrogen that turns the oils from liquids into solids and also retards spoilage.

Unfortunately, hydrogenation also produced trans fats, which were condemned by the FDA and many European countries for raising the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.  This led some restaurants and food manufacturers to return to using liquid oils, which had long-standing problems with oxidation.  Worse, more recent research had implicated oxidation in a “sizable body of evidence…to heart disease and other illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.”

In addition to Teicholz’s work, researchers at Purdue University studied the relationship between fats and absorption of carotenoids, such as lutein, lycopene and beta-carotene.  These are disease-fighting nutrients that slash the risk of cancer and heart disease, safeguard bone density, prevent macular degeneration, and soak up damaging compounds.  The researchers served veggie salads topped with various types of salad dressing to participants who were then tested for absorption of carotenoids.  Result: salads with the most fat—20 grams—yielded the highest absorption of these nutrients.  This study was not just of saturated fats but included monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.  Canola oil (a monounsaturated oil) had the best absorption rates of lutein and beta-carotene, but the researchers said the type of oil “had less impact on the absorption of carotenoids than amount .”

So it’s about time for the myths about fats, particularly saturated fats, to die—and also the myths about government regulation of our foods being necessary and effective.  How could the U.S. government be so wrong about such a major issue for a half century? Teicholz notes that problems with vegetable oils were known back in the 1940s; that Keys’ research had major errors; that a half-dozen large important trials from the 1970s had major methodological problems and were “unreliable at best;” and “even back then, other scientists were warning about the [Keys] diet’s potential unintended consequences.”

After the American Heart Association targeted saturated fats, the USDA apparently accepted the AHA’s recommendation without examining the validity of Keys’ research—for which he had received a massive grant from the U.S. government—or other dubious research.  It also ignored skeptics’ warnings from, among others, the National Academy of Sciences.

Keys himself was likely instrumental in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approval in 1980 because of his governmental connections.  Teicholz notes he had quickly developed important alliances with the National Institutes of Health, politicians on Capitol Hill, and the USDA itself.  Harvard professor Mark Hegsted successfully persuaded the U.S. Senate to recommend Keys’ diet to the entire nation.  In 1977 he said the question wasn’t whether Americans should change their diet, but why not?  He told the Senate no risks could be identified.  In a nutshell, that’s how bad science became bad federal policy for a half century.

Obviously, the American people would have been better off if the government had never gotten into this issue.  And it never should have because there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that gives the  federal government any authority over food.  Franklin Roosevelt’s administration attempted to control agriculture with its Agricultural Adjustment Act, under the Constitution’s “general welfare” clause, but the Supreme Court struck that down.  A second attempt was made under the federal power to regulate interstate commerce.  In Wickard v. Filburn, a farmer had planted 23 acres of wheat although the government had allotted him only eleven.  He was fined for growing the excess even though the grain was never marketed.  It was consumed by livestock on his own property.  There was no commerce, much less interstate commerce.  Yet the Supreme Court ruled that if he had not fed the wheat to his stock, he might had bought feed, and that feed, even if locally produced, might have affected the price of other wheat in interstate commerce.  Therefore, the federal government’s intervention in agriculture here was “justified” by its authority to regulate interstate commerce.

That farfetched, contorted decision was the basis for subsequent expansion of the USDA into food and nutrition programs, such as school lunches and food stamps.  Furthermore, that empowerment was not limited to the USDA but extended to other federal agencies.  According to the Government Accountability Office, the federal government in 2009 had six different agencies operating “about” 26 separate food and nutrition programs in the U.S.

In our next posting we shall discuss how, just as with fats, government policies on school lunches are based on bad science and have led to inferior nutrition.  The nation would have been healthier without these programs, but the myth still persists that they are necessary and generally effective.  Major mistakes—even those enduring for decades—are dismissed as rare or inconsequential when policies and programs are determined by good intentions rather than principles or actual results.  As Milton Friedman pointed out, “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”  It always seems to be a winning argument—though unjustified by results—that somehow government coercion in the economy will be more effective than its absence.  And if that doesn’t work, just try more of the same: bigger programs, more government-sponsored research, larger penalties for violations, etc., all in the name of “better” regulation.  In truth, the solution is not a “better” government economic program but none at all.  The best outcome results from people freely exercising their rights to life, liberty and property and not being forced by government to do anything.  It’s where all interactions are by mutual consent to mutual benefit.  That is the only economic principle appropriate for a nation of free people.  It is the only system consistent with the principle of liberty.  That’s why when our Founders wrote the Constitution, they did not delegate any economic authority to the federal government.

Categories: On the Blog

Maryland Rules Uber is a Common Carrier – Will FCC Agree?

August 08, 2014, 8:41 AM

The Daily Record reports that the Maryland Public Service Commission ruled that Uber is a common carrier subject to its regulatory jurisdiction.

The PSC stated:

“[W]hen viewed in their totality, the undisputed facts and circumstances in this case make it clear that Uber is engaged in the public transportation of persons for hire. Thus, Uber is a common carrier and a public service company over whom the Commission has jurisdiction…

In 60 days, PSC will draft “new regulations that protect the public interest,but also reflect the evolving nature of transportation services like Uber.”

Uber has threatened to leave the state if Uber is treated the same as their regulated taxi and transportation-for-hire competitors are under Maryland law.

Relevance to FCC Open Internet Order

This PSC precedent has big relevance and implications for the FCC’s high-profile redo of its Open Internet Order.

Both Uber and Lyft are online transportation network companies and members of the Internet Association, which recently filed comments with the FCC in the Open Internet order proceeding.

The Internet Association opposes the current FCC proposal to use the “commercially reasonable” standard that the DC Court of Appeals indicated would pass legal muster. Itrecommends that the FCC’s Open Internet “Rules Should Prohibit Broadband Internet Access Providers from Charging For Enhanced or Prioritized Access.”

This means Uber and Lyft are recommending to the FCC that it treat ISPs like common carriers in direct contravention of the D.C. Court of Appeals decision in Verizon v. FCC.

That decision explicitly said:

In other words, but for the Open Internet Order, broadband providers could freely impose conditions on the nature and quality of the service they furnish edge providers, potentially turning certain edge providers—currently able to “hire” their service for free—into paying customers. The Commission may not claim that the Open Internet Order imposes no common carrier obligations simply because it compels an entity to continue furnishing service at no cost.”

Uber, Lyft and the Internet Association are advocating that the FCC should regulate the ISPs like what the Court views as common carriers, by discriminating against ISP information-service-providers in favor of edge information-service-provider networks.

To date the Internet Association and its members have imagined that they provide no services that could be ruled by state, Federal or foreign regulators to be common carrier regulated services. This Maryland PSC ruling is stark evidence that their core political assumption of perfect immunity from common carrier regulation is fantasy.

Let me be crystal clear, I am not advocating Uber and Lyft be subject to common carrier regulation. What I am advocating for is equal treatment under the law and a level playing field, where public policy treats every business in the Internet ecosystem in a consistent manner, so every business participant has the freedom to innovate and invest without ex ante regulation.

The Internet Association’s implicit current call for aggressive regulatory discrimination — to discriminate in favor of their “edge” business models and against ISPs’ models, not on the basis of market power or any evidence of market or consumer harm– is wrong and obviously self-serving. It is classic regulatory hypocrisy and the double standard enshrined in the well-known phrase: “Regulate thee but not me.”

While the Internet Association claims their approach is ‘light touch’ that is deceptive and inaccurate. The Internet Association is calling for a permanent zero-price for all Internet downstream traffic so their business gets free Internet service at the direct expense of Internet users that must implicitly pay most all of the Big Internet companies’ big bandwidth bill.

No matter how much the Internet Association aristechracy imagines that they are special, and that they enjoy a special political exemption from the Constitution, law and regulations, that remains fantasy and wishful thinking… at least for now.

The Maryland PSC decision that Uber is a common carrier is a real world reminder that outside of the Big Internet’s powerful aristechratic sphere-of-influence, there can be equal treatment under the law.

In closing, will the FCC want to open the Title II can-of-worms, and threaten the entire Internet ecosystem with the potential virus of common-carrier obligations, when they know they cannot control how an FCC title II broadband decision would ultimately apply, because the courts, states, and foreign regulators will all have their legal say in what the boundaries of the FCC’s determination ultimately turn out to be?

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog