Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Make America Great By Resurrecting Failed Policies

June 17, 2017

While not the complete reversal it’s made about to be, President Trump changes the terms of former President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba.

The move doesn’t help Cubans. From Matt Welch’s article:

As Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a supporter of Obama’s approach, told Reason in Havana 18 months ago, “These aren’t sanctions on Cubans, these are sanctions on Americans….It’s not a concession to allow your own population to travel. That’s an expression of freedom.”

To support this crackdown on Americans, Trump claimed that “The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade do not help the Cuban people—they only enrich the Cuban regime.” But that claim does not survive contact with reality. American tourists give money directly to Cuban Airbnb operators, street musicians, private restaurant owners, and artists, many of whom now own their own property. Sure, those entrepreneurial Cubans have to cough up various tributes to the state, but there is no doubt that their own personal lot has improved. As Flake told us, “You have about 25 percent of Cubans who work fully in the private sector….The big change [since 2001, when he started visiting there] is the number of Cubans being able to not have to rely on government and therefore can hold their government more accountable.”

Trump attempts a “tear down this wall” moment with this quote: “We will not lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled.”

Insert your own joke here.

Trump Vs. Immigrants

June 9, 2017

I find the political intrigue with Donald Trump, Russia, and James Comey tiresome. I’m more concerned when this administration carries out policies that hurt people. From Brian Doherty at Reason:

Trump’s immigration enforcement authorities are reopening cases of “hundreds of illegal immigrants who…had been given a reprieve from deportation,” Reuters says, under Obama-era policies designed to focus only on those undocumented immigrants who had committed other serious crimes.

Reuters reports that 1,329 immigration cases have been reopened, relying on data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). For comparison, “The Obama administration filed 430 similar motions during the same period in 2016.”

One of the “criminals” the authorities are targeting include “a woman who had her case reopened because immigration officials discovered her criminal history from back home in El Salvador. She had been arrested for selling pumpkin seeds on the street without the proper license.”

More here.

Trump’s “Threat” To Democracy: A Contrarian Take

May 13, 2017

Dan Rather posted that Donald Trump is attempting to “destroy or disable much of the government.” Retired admiral William McRaven said Trump’s hostility to the press “may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.” Headlines from the New York Times and NPR both ask if Donald Trump is a threat to democracy. The Washington Post editorial board unequivocally declares he is a “unique threat.” As does this writer. And this writer. And so on.

All of these individuals seem to have a religious devotion to democracy, and any “attack” on their god is heresy.

I daresay Donald Trump’s presidency is not a threat to democracy; his presidency is a natural by-product OF democracy.

American democracy is voting for people who want to use the levers of power to make other people do things they don’t want to do. Sometimes those levers are used with benevolence. Often its use is corrupt and malevolent. Should it be a surprise that when we hand over the power to act with corruption and malevolence (which we do as we increase the scope of human interaction subject to the dictates of democracy), democracy attracts corrupt and malevolent people? Who then act with corruption and malevolence? And so on.

Donald Trump is a threat to liberty. As was Barack Obama. As was George W. Bush. And so on.

These men have one thing in common: they came to power thanks to America’s democracy.

You reap what you sow.

The United Airlines Incident

April 12, 2017

Here’s the most thoughtful piece I’ve read on this debacle:

Here’s how it usually works: the airline starts offering monetary incentives (could be flight vouchers or cash or other considerations) to get enough customers to voluntarily give up their seat, increasing the offered price until the market for seats has cleared, that is, you’ve found enough people to give up the seat they paid for.

That way everyone is happy, either with their seat or with payment that the person considers sufficient to make up for losing the seat.

My criticisms of United and the police in this incident are not based on general hostility to overbooking, which both makes great economic sense for the airlines, almost certainly makes ticket prices less than they otherwise would be for customers, and creates win-win scenarios for airlines and passengers when the airline is smart enough to actually carry through the Simon policy to a market-clearing result.

In the case of this United flight from which Dao was violently ejected, by all accounts United tried two rounds of offers, and after $800 decided to start busting heads.

There is zero reason to believe that quick increases in the price offered to voluntarily abandon your seat would not have resolved this situation far more quickly and justly than calling the cops on Dao. (And, almost certainly after all the dings in the market and possibly the courts ahead for United, it all would have been far less costly for United as well.)

More here.

The Threat Of Trumpism

February 19, 2017

Brian Doherty has written a long, thoughtful piece on the threat posed by the Trump presidency:

Given the nature of human beings’ productive powers, the best way to ensure the collective “we” gets richer faster is to ensure the individual freedom to exchange with others as we choose, and by doing so build long and complex chains of production and exchange that benefit us all (or even just some/many of us), irrespective of accidents like national boundaries.

Free trade and free migration are, then, the core of the true classical liberal (libertarian) vision as it developed in America in the 20th century: if you don’t understand and embrace them, you don’t understand liberty, and you are not trying to further it.

The Trump administration may not in every specific policy area do the wrong thing in libertarian terms. But whatever it gets right is more an epiphenomenon of certain alliances within the Republican Party power structure or the business interests he’s surrounding himself with. Trump and his administration can’t be trusted to have any principled and reliable approach to shrinking government or widening liberty, since Trumpism at its core is an enemy of libertarianism.

Today’s Dose Of Trump Authoritarianism

February 8, 2017

After being told by a sheriff about a policy that would require people to have been convicted of a crime before police take their assets, Mr Trump encouraged law enforcement to make the name of the politician public.

“Who is the state senator? Do you want to give his name?” Mr Trump asked during a meeting at the White House. “We’ll destroy his career.”

Because heaven forbid we introduce a little due process in America.

Full story here.

A Libertarian Look At Neil Gorsuch

February 2, 2017

Amen

February 1, 2017

Trump Strikes Out Defining American Greatness

January 20, 2017

American greatness is defined by one word: liberty.

Generally, liberty is the right to live our lives as we see fit, as long as we don’t violate the rights of others. Government’s job is to protect those inalienable rights (not grant them). Government, through our system of checks and balances, is not supposed to act in an arbitrary manner and do what it wants just because. This is the rule of law.

Liberty means individuals:

-Have the right to speak out.
-Have the right to worship whatever deity they wish, or abstain from worship altogether.
-Are free from arbitrary searches and seizures of their persons or property.
-Are free from punishment without due process.
-Are free to defend themselves.
-Are free to pursue their dreams and (if successful) make a profit from that pursuit.

To paraphrase the 9th Amendment, the list above is not meant to deny or disparage other freedoms.

The United States has struggled to live up to these ideals in the course of its history, but it has done better than any other country to allow liberty to flourish.

Which leads us to Donald Trump’s inauguration.

President Trump said he would use today’s speech to define American greatness. Sadly, the components of liberty were missing from his speech.

Instead, we got the fallacy of protectionism. Some key quotes:

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never ever let you down.

We will follow two simple rules; buy American and hire American.

This demagogue is clueless. These facts have been stated before on this blog, but they bear repeating again if protectionism is going to be our governing policy for the next 4 years:

-Free trade makes us wealthier. According to Daniel Griswold’s excellent book Mad About Trade (reviewed here), an American family of four is $5000.00 richer because of trade. Internationally, countries with open trade are significantly wealthier, have lower hunger indexes, and even have stronger environmental standards.

-“Buy American” provisions are job losers, depending on the level of export losses we endure due to trade retaliation. From the book Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America, economists Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallaway estimate 20% of the increased unemployment from 1929 to 1932 was a result of the notorious Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.

-While the job creation aspect is sometimes overstated by free trade proponents, there is a benefit.

-Protectionism that benefits certain industries always comes at the expense of other parties.

There is no morality in forcing one party to essentially pay a ransom to a second party because the second party has special political connections. If a business wants my money, than make a superior product. Provide superior service. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be in business.

If this is what the Republican Party stands for now, it’s a disgrace. I hope they fail.

We need a Milton Friedman now more than ever.

**UPDATE 1/20/17: Here’s a study showing the impact of withdrawing from NAFTA. Not too good for Trump’s vaunted manufacturing sector. Also, Radley Balko ponders the ramifications of Trump’s vow to end the country’s “anti-police atmosphere.” Not too good if value your civil liberties.

Nat Hentoff, RIP

January 14, 2017

In early 2009, I wrote an article for a now-defunct website on the so-called “Fairness Doctrine.” In it, I cited the views of famed columnist Nat Hentoff. A few days after the article was published, I received an e-mail from Mr. Hentoff to call him, because “I admire your reporting.”

To have one of your heroes tell you of their admiration for your work is something, nearly 8 years later, I’m still humbled over.

It took me a couple weeks to muster the courage to make the call. When we spoke, our conversation was brief. I told him of my admiration for his work, he asked where he could find my work, and we both expressed our dismay over the offerings of the 2008 presidential election. The call probably wasn’t more than 3 minutes, and it was the only time we ever spoke.

My blogging is now, just as it was in 2009, a hobby and not a vocation. But this hobby was spurred by a passion to speak truth to power, regardless of political affiliation. There was nobody more formative in influencing me to take up this hobby than Nat Hentoff.

The self-professed “Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, left-wing pro-lifer” spoke the truth as he saw it, no matter the consequences. No president went unscathed: Reagan was pro-life “up to the moment of birth,” Bill Clinton “dishonored his office,” George W. Bush had a “hole in the soul,” and Barack Obama is “possibly the most dangerous and destructive president we have ever had.” Rest assured, Donald Trump’s pending presidency would not have been spared, either.

When it came to human rights, nobody wrote with more passion and persuasion than Nat Hentoff. His columns on Bush-era torture gave us a righteous anger. Hentoff’s articles about abortion gave blunt clarity to its barbaric features. And nobody was a greater champion for free speech.

Hentoff’s politics almost guaranteed you would never be in complete agreement with him. I find his favorite president to be vastly overrated, for example. But a powerful thinker will make you stop and reconsider your views. Nat Hentoff was most certainly that.

Now more than ever, we need voices that aren’t afraid to be a “pain in the ass” to those in power. Here’s hoping there are other contrarians ready to take the mantle Hentoff leaves behind. RIP.