Common Core the Movie: “Building the Machine”

In the documentary, both proponents and opponents will present their perspectives so that you can draw your own conclusions on this important educational issue. To learn more visit: http://www.commoncoremovie.com.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/zjxBClx01jc[/youtube]

 

EDITORS NOTE: A leaked email from the deputy executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the nonprofits that developed and owns the copyrights to the Common Core standards, indicates the group is mobilizing Common Core supporters in the face of the release of a documentary film from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) on Monday….

Missouri Education Watchdog provided the text of the email from Carissa Moffat Miller of CCSSO, the subject of which is “Anti Common Core Movie, embargoed materials.”

Many of you are likely aware of an anti-common core movie slated to be released in a few days. The Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia-based organization opposed to the Common Core, has produced a film called “Building the Machine.” The film’s anticipated online release date (which has changed several times), is currently set for March 31, 2014. The film implies that the Common Core was created through politics, misinformation and corruption. Using stark graphics and ominous music, the film features interviews with Common Core opponents arguing against the standards’ development and implementation—interspersed with misleading snippets of interviews from Common Core supporters…

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fordham have put together the attached two documents that can be used to clarify the vast amount of misinformation that will be circulated as a result of the movie. Please note – these are EMBARGOED until Monday, March 31st. Please do not distribute.

A Push Back – Billboard Asks, “Air Force Cadets, Are You Free to Say So Help Me God?”

In response to recent attacks on the religious freedom of Christian cadets at the Air Force Academy, the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, of which the Thomas More Law Center is a member, has posted a billboard near the Academy supporting the religious freedom of Christian cadets.

The billboard asks, Air Force cadets, “Are you free to say so help me God? They did” against a background of the four presidents carved on Mount Rushmore.

The sign’s message relates to the removal of the phrase “so help me God” from the official cadet handbook as well as the recent removal of a Bible verse from a cadet’s personal whiteboard.

Concerning the recent affronts to religious freedom, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council (FRC), stated: “Christian cadets at the Air Force Academy have the constitutional right to express their individual faith. If such faith scares faculty at the Academy, then it is unlikely they will be very effective when confronted by a committed enemy who is willing to die for his or her beliefs.”

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of The Thomas More Law Center added, “We’ve all heard the adage, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes.’  That’s because the history of our nation evidences the fact that in the end victory depends on the spirit of our soldiers, not on the sophistication of our war machines.  As General George S. Patton, one of America’s greatest battlefield generals once declared, ‘Wars might be fought with weapons, but they are won by men.  It is the spirit of the men who leads that gains the victory.’”

Other events at the Air Force Academy have also indicated a hostile attitude toward Christians in the Air Force Academy including preferred treatment of an event sponsored by an Academy Atheists club, which led conservative commentator Todd Starnes to wonder, “if those in charge of the Air Force Academy believe the only good cadets are godless cadets.”

Unfortunately, the anti-Christian hostilities at the Air Force Academy are part of what Rev. Franklin Graham called a move “to completely secularize our military.” The Family Research Council listed a series of affronts to Christian Religious Freedom in the Military in their report “A Clear and Present Danger.”

EDITORS NOTE: An earlier version of this news story incorrectly ascribed the report A Clear and Present Danger to the Restoring Military Religious Freedom Coalition.

A History of the Disastrous Global Warming Hoax

“It is the greatest deception in history and the extent of the damage has yet to be exposed and measured,” says Dr. Tim Ball in his new book, “The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science”.

Dr. Ball has been a climatologist for more than forty years and was one of the earliest critics of the global warming hoax that was initiated by the United Nations environmental program that was established in 1972 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established in 1988.

Several UN conferences set in motion the hoax that is based on the assertion that carbon dioxide (CO2) was causing a dramatic surge in heating the Earth. IPCC reports have continued to spread this lie through their summaries for policy makers that influenced policies that have caused nations worldwide to spend billions to reduce and restrict CO2 emissions. Manmade climate change—called anthropogenic global warming—continues to be the message though mankind plays no role whatever

There is no scientific support for the UN theory.

CO2, despite being a minor element of the Earth’s atmosphere, is essential for all life on Earth because it is the food that nourishes all vegetation. The Earth has passed through many periods of high levels of CO2 and many cycles of warming and cooling that are part of the life of the planet.

“Science works by creating theories based on assumptions,” Dr. Ball notes, “then other scientists—performing their skeptical role—test them. The structure and mandate of the IPCC was in direct contradiction of this scientific method. They set out to prove the theory rather than disprove it.”

Cover - Deliberate Corruption“The atmosphere,” Dr. Ball notes, “is three-dimensional and dynamic, so building a computer model that even approximates reality requires far more data than exists and much greater understanding of an extremely turbulent and complex system.” No computer model put forth by the IPCC in support of global warming has been accurate, nor ever could be.

Most of the reports were created by a small group of men working within the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia and all were members of the IPCC. The result was “a totally false picture supposedly based on science.”

The revelations of emails between the members of the CRU were made available in 2009 by an unknown source. Dr. Ball quotes Phil Jones, the Director of the CRU at the time of the leaks, and Tom Wigley, a former director addressing other CRU members admiting that “Many of the uncertainties surrounding the cause of climate change will never be resolved because the necessary data are lacking.”

The IPCC depended upon the public’s lack of knowledge regarding the science involved and the global warming hoax was greatly aided because the “mainstream media bought into and promoted the unproven theory. Scientists who challenged were denied funding and marginalized. National environmental policies were introduced based on the misleading information” of the IPCC summaries of their reports.

“By the time of the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report, the politics and hysteria about climate change had risen to a level that demanded clear evidence of a human signal,” notes Dr. Ball. “An entire industry had developed around massive funding from government. A large number of academic, political, and bureaucratic careers had evolved and depended on expansion of the evidence. Environmentalists were increasing pressure on the public and thereby politicians.”

The growing problem for the CRU and the entire global warming hoax was that no clear evidence existed to blame mankind for changes in the climate and still largely unknown to the public was the fact that the Earth has passed through many natural cycles of warmth and cooling. If humans were responsible, how could the CRU explain a succession of ice ages over millions of years?

The CRU emails revealed their growing concerns regarding a cooling cycle that had begun in the late 1990s and now, some seventeen years later, the Earth is in a widely recognized cooling cycle.

Moreover, the hoax was aimed at vast reductions in the use of coal, oil, and natural gas, as well as nuclear power to produce the electricity on which all modern life depends. There was advocacy of solar and wind power to replace them and nations undertook costly programs to bring about the reduction of the CO2 “fossil fuels” produced and spent billions on the “green” energy. That program is being abandoned.

At the heart of the hoax is a contempt for mankind and a belief that population worldwide should be reduced. The science advisor to President Obama, John Holdren, has advocated forced abortions, sterilization by introducing infertility drugs into the nation’s drinking water and food, and other totalitarian measures. “Overpopulation is still central to the use of climate change as a political vehicle,” warns Dr. Ball.

Given that the environmental movement has been around since the 1960s, it has taken decades for the public to grasp its intent and the torrents of lies that have been used to advance it. “More people,” notes Dr. Ball, “are starting to understand that what they’re told about climate change by academia, the mass media, and the government is wrong, especially the propaganda coming from the UN and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

“Ridiculous claims—like the science is settled or the debate is over—triggered a growing realization that something was wrong.” When the global warming advocates began to tell people that cooling is caused by warming, the public has realized how absurd the entire UN climate change argument has been.

Worse, however, has been “the deliberate deceptions, misinformation, manipulation of records and misapplying scientific method and research” to pursue a political objective. Much of this is clearly unlawful, but it is unlikely that any of those who perpetrated the hoax will ever be punished and, in the case of Al Gore and the IPCC, they shared a Nobel Peace Prize!

We are all in debt to Dr. Ball and a score of his fellow scientists who exposed the lies and debunked the hoax; their numbers are growing with thousands of scientists signing petitions and participating in international conferences to expose this massive global deception.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

How Obama Is Drowning the Economy in Red Tape

Kelsey Harris and Amy Payne from The Foundry write, “Regulation: It’s a mostly hidden drain on the economy—and a favorite of the Obama administration. It affects all of our lives—and wallets—yet rarely makes headlines. Why? It’s complex; it’s constant; and the sheer volume of regulations is stunning.”

Heritage experts James Gattuso and Diane Katz have just updated their one-of-a-kind report on the Obama administration’s unrelenting use of regulation to push its policy agenda. Check out our new infographic to see how this presidency compares to the previous one, and what it’s costing us.

Gattuso and Katz note, “In his January 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama vowed to wield his executive powers when faced with congressional resistance to his legislative agenda, stating: ‘America does not stand still—and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation … that’s what I am going to do.’” And he is doing it daily with red tape.

redtape2014_FINAL

Wildlife is Thriving Because of Guns and Hunting

Since the late 1930s, hunters, target shooters and the firearms industry have been the nation’s largest contributors to conservation, paying for programs that benefit America’s wildlife and all who love the outdoors.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Interior just announced that firearms and ammunition manufacturers contributed a record $760.9 million in excise taxes in 2013 through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program.

National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has created the below infographic, “How Wildlife is Thriving Because of Guns and Hunting,” to illustrate how “we as an industry and as sportsmen are the greatest contributors to wildlife conservation in America, providing nearly $9 billion over the past 76 years.”

HowWildlifeisThrivingBecauseofGuns_533323d3aa357_w1500

Effectively Irrational: 30 common fallacies used against libertarians by Max Borders

By now you have probably heard of Bryan Caplan’s “rational irrationality.” The idea is that if the cost of holding irrational beliefs is low enough, there may be more irrationality demanded. Indeed, if holding an irrational view makes someone feel better about himself or keep membership in some in-group—but holding the view doesn’t directly harm the holder—she may very well stick with that view.

Caplan contrasts this with the idea of “rational ignorance,” which is more familiar to our readers. That simply means the cost of acquiring enough information to have a truly informed opinion about some issue is generally high, so people remain ignorant.

Both of these behaviors certainly play a role in the preponderance of dumb policies and dumb views. But are there corollaries in debate tactics?

Most libertarians find they’re arguing in social media these days. So they’re not only finding new people on whom to test their ideas, they’re finding new fallacies in response. And sometimes these fallacies work, despite being fallacious, which is probably why they’re so commonplace. This is especially true on social media, where one can quickly learn that the real point of these exchanges is to play to the audience, to provide them with an excuse to withdraw into whatever biases they already hold. Still, maybe it’s possible to raise the costs of employing these fallacies—at least a little.

We’ve decided to offer you a fun list of them, which you can use as a handy guide in the process of engaging in well-mannered, reasoned discourse online.

  1. Argument ad KochBrotherium: This fallacy is a cousin to the genetic fallacy and guilt by association. The twist, of course, is that anything that the Koch Brothers ever say, said, fund, funded, might fund, came close to funding, could have funded, will fund, walked by, looked at, support, think about, or mention is invalid by virtue of, well, “Koch Brothers! Boo!”
  2. The Unicorn: You’ll recognize this fallacy from the question, “Why does no libertarian country exist anywhere in the world?” Embedded in the question is the assumption that libertarian countries don’t exist because they are fantastic creatures, like unicorns. Of course, just because something doesn’t exist yet does not mean it can’t exist. Indeed, the Internet in 1990 and the American Republic in 1775 beg to differ. And the unicorn fallacy fundamentally confuses the libertarian worldview with some “L”ibertarian platform that might be the product of some electoral processes—processes most libertarians reject. Michael Lind and E. J. Dionne have brandished this fallacy rather shamelessly, and have had it parried rather effectively by better minds.
  3. Nut-Picking: This fallacy has nothing to do with Jimmy Carter. In this style of argument, the arguer finds the kookiest or most insane person who self-identifies as libertarian and then ascribes all of that person’s beliefs or claims to all libertarians. (This one could also be called the Alex Jones fallacy.) This is a tough one to counter simply because there are plenty of nuts to pick from, and plenty of them use the L-word.
  4. Must Be Scared/Have No Answer: This one’s pretty simple really, and a unique creature of “debate” via social media. The libertarian leaves his computer or signs off for a while and the opponent accuses the libertarian of not being able to answer his or her Facebook claims, which the libertarian simply never saw or had no time to answer.
  5. The Tin Man: This fallacy was identified and named by Cole James Gentles (here), who inspired this article. With the tin man the arguer either concludes or falsely assumes that the libertarian “has no heart” because she argues against some favored policy. This cousin of the straw man (scarecrow) fallacy assumes a direct line between sympathies and outcomes. Any failure to support some means amounts to a failure to support the wished-for end.
    The tin man fallacy is rooted in the assumption that one’s opponent, often a libertarian, has no heart. Unlike the straw man fallacy, in which the debater needs to mischaracterize their opponent’s position, the tin man fallacy allows the debater to build a sturdy-looking, if hollow, general facsimile of their opponent’s position (“You are against state mandated universal health care?”), but not give him a heart (“Then you don’t care about poor people who don’t have access to affordable, quality insurance, or people with pre-existing conditions!! You heartless monster! WHY DO YOU HATE THE POOR?!” Heard that one before?)

    The frightening part of this fallacy is that its wielder usually thinks exitus acta probat.

  6. Availability Cascade: Something big and bloody happens on the news (or goes viral), so the arguer implies or concludes that it’s a widespread occurrence. Example: A mass shooting has occurred, which points to an epidemic of gun violence. It’s not clear that if gun violence is at a multidecadal low point, the incident reflects an “epidemic.” The ready availability of some story leads one to conclude that a problem is widespread and demands a drastic response. Cass Sunstein, known for his work on “nudging,” gets credit along with Timur Kuran for identifying this phenomenon. (An availability cascade doesn’t always have to involve specious reasoning, but it very often does.)
  7. Man on the Moon: Remember Rachel Maddow standing in front of the Hoover Dam? She’s trying to convince her viewers that the government (which she calls “the country”) must tax and build some major make-work project in order to revive the economy (or whatever). Maddow is employing a form of the man on the moon fallacy, which takes the form, “If we can put a man on the moon, we can do X.” But it misconstrues any reservations about big, awe-inspiring State projects as doubts about “America’s” ability to do big things. It’s just assumed that anything requiring extensive collaboration must be done via State power for it to count. Questions of the value, cost, or feasibility (or some combination thereof) of any particular project are sealed off from the word “if.” And of course “we” is never carefully unpacked.
  8. The Gap: I wrote a whole book about why the following involves fallacious thinking. The fallacy goes something like this: “The free market widens the gap between rich and poor.” Now, strictly speaking that claim might be correct. But so what? I’ll pass over the problem that the “free market” has probably already been attacked with the unicorn fallacy at some prior point in the same hypothetical conversation. In any case, because economies are dynamic, the “rich” and “poor” change from day to day, and measured in quintiles, we don’t know whether the “gap” will be greater or smaller from one day to the next, even assuming a free market. The real problem with such reasoning is the built-in assumption that a gap itself is a bad thing. Suppose a really tall man moves into my neighborhood. Apart from my suddenly wishing I were taller, does the presence of the tall man make me worse off somehow? Of course not. The existence of the rich person doesn’t make me worse off, either, unless he got rich by using political means to transfer money from my pocket to his. This happens all the time. But such transfers have nothing whatsoever to do with free markets.Measuring an asset gap in and of itself tells us little. Indeed, without the functional story of how any gap came to be—stories, not snapshots matter here—we can’t make any judgments about it whatsoever. “Gap” talk is just a fetish that ignores how much better off the poor are thanks to the existence of innovators and entrepreneurs who got rich by creating value. And the unstated assumption is that if any group of people has more wealth at any particular point, the people with less are somehow being wronged simply because the other group has more. The gap fallacy is also meant to preempt debate, usually in the service of another agenda (which is rarely more than reinforcing the opponent’s opinion of himself as a good guy).
  9. The Two-Step: Some opponents will simply change the subject in the middle of a discussion, leaving the original claim by the wayside. Usually neither party notices the two-step. For example, the opponent may refuse to answer the libertarian’s direct question and instead respond with another question. Or the debater may slide into one or another irrelevant point that has no bearing on the original point at issue. This process can go on for a while unless the libertarian rigorously brings the opponent back to the original point. The red herring, ad hoc, and non sequitur are similar enough fallacies, so the two-step may also be classified as an evasive tactic.
  10. Panglossian Fallacy: Because the military-industrial complex was somehow involved in developing aspects of what later became the commercialized Internet, it follows that government funding is indispensable for such wonderful things to appear—and that all the things that go along with the funding (and revenue-collection) apparatus are therefore also acceptable. This variation of the post hoc fallacy is seductive particularly because we can never know what would have happened in the counterfactual private sector. Form: If it happened, it must be the best of all possible worlds. (See also the “The Government R&D Canard.”)
  11. Your Side: Also known as tarring with the same brush, this fallacy has a couple of related forms (see No. 1 and No. 3). An opponent may accuse the libertarian of being a Republican or Tea Party conservative because he or she happens to agree with a majority of Republicans on some particular issue. One hears: “Your side thinks . . . ” when in actuality the libertarian doesn’t have a “side” per se. It works even better as a tactic if there is really no connection at all apart from being something the opponent’s “side” would never say. The “your side” fallacy allows the opponent to appeal directly to tribal biases, which are more immediate and powerful than any argument. When it’s intentional, this rhetorical maneuver is meant to appeal to others who may be watching—the hope being that they’ll swerve into the ditch that is their own biases.
  12. The We/Society Fallacy: This common form of hypostatization occurs when the user ascribes rational individual agency to “society” and conflates or confuses society with the State. Both usually happen immediately, or somewhere hidden, before the opponent even speaks. The opponent wants his moral position or emotional state to be reflected somehow in the organization of society. Although “we” or “society” is a useful ersatz word that appears to confer legitimacy on some aspect of the opponent’s claim, it is almost always an intellectual sleight-of-hand. Only individuals can act. Groups must work through processes of either collaboration or coercion. (Note: “The market” is often misused this way by both supporters and detractors.)
  13. Deus ex Machina/Market Failure: People is people. And yet opponents sometimes think that it’s enough to argue that governments, by dint of largess and force, have the power to fix certain kinds of problems, which they label “market failures” because they happened outside the purview of State action. Note that this only works in one direction: Problems in any area covered by the State are usually chalked up to being problems merely of execution, whereas “market failures” allegedly reflect an inherent deficiency. Even if one agrees that one set of people working in voluntary cooperation cannot solve some problem (or at least haven’t yet), it does not follow that another group of people—“the government”—can. Indeed, greats like James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock have given us very good reasons why government is not likely to solve problems and will likely make matters worse.
  14. The Organic Fallacy: Such arguments take the form, “It’s organic, therefore it’s good or good for you.” Or similarly, “It’s not organic, therefore it’s bad or bad for you.” One hears this rationale to demand regulations and food labeling. And while there may be independent reasons to justify such regulations or labeling, these are not justified by the organic fallacy. It’s not clear that Socrates would argue for the health benefits of natural hemlock, nor would people with thyroidectomies argue they should go without Synthroid. I would add that, until there is more evidence to the contrary, there are plenty of GMOs that are good for me. (Note: Plenty of libertarians commit this fallacy too. Just because Monsanto is a rent-seeker doesn’t mean all its products are bad.)
  15. Nobel Fallacy: You may recognize the form “X has a Nobel Prize in economics, who are you to argue against his claims?” I don’t care whether Krugman or Stiglitz has a Nobel Prize, they’re wrong about just about everything. And the truth or falsity of one’s claim doesn’t depend on his credentials. (Meanwhile Nobel Laureates James Buchanan, Vernon Smith, Elinor Ostrom, Douglass North, Milton Friedman, and Friedrich Hayek are mostly always right. I mean, that’s like 6–2 for the good guys. [*rimshot*])
  16. No Parks for You: Snarkier opponents of libertarianism rhetorically ask why libertarians avail themselves of all the goods and services government happens to provide. “If you’re going to live by your principles, you can’t use X or Y” (insert: state universities or public roads). Of course, it does not follow that one should not avail himself of some good or service he thinks should be provided by other means. Indeed, one could argue that he is more than justified in consuming some good or service he has been forced to pay for against his will.
  17. The Self-Exile Fallacy: Snarkier still is the opponent who argues that “If you don’t like it, why don’t you just leave?” Implicit in this question is the suggestion that there is some positive duty for one to leave a condition he doesn’t like and/or that by one’s staying, he his implicitly consenting to whatever the system is. By this “logic,” if you have just bought a house with an ‘80s bathroom, instead of improving, changing, or upgrading it, you should just take a bath in the kitchen sink.
  18. Somalia: Opponents love to tell you that Somalia must be a “libertarian paradise.” Everyone laughs. If you respond with a phrase like “comparative institutional analysis,” everyone’s eyes glaze over and you lose, despite being correct. Somalia has been better off on most dimensions without a central government than it was under a brutal, centralized regime—warlordism notwithstanding.
  19. Social Contract: Rousseau left a terrible intellectual legacy. And progressives use his “social contract” to justify anything under the statist’s sun. Of course, there could be a real social contract, but libertarian opponents prefer the one that allows them to justify anything under . . .
  20. Start Somewhere: You’ve slogged through the data. You’ve offered a completely rational response. You’ve explained the ins and outs of why your opponent’s policy X won’t work and why it may even make things worse. The response? “We’ve got to start somewhere.” The idea here is that it’s better to do, well, anything—even if it might result in calamity. And, of course, the State must do that potentially calamitous thing. (See also No. 23.)
  21. Social Darwinism: “The free market is just social Darwinism!” This is actually a pretty old meme. It was used by progressive academics in the 1940s to smear the work of Herbert Spencer. Spencer was a biological Darwinist to be sure. And he also thought the market and social phenomena like institutions and ideas would be subjected to analogous evolutionary forces. But the unit of survival in markets is the business, not the individual. In other words, businesses that fail to create value for customers die. But advocating for free people to engage in voluntary exchange is not advocating that people leave the weak, poor, or vulnerable to suffer. Quite the contrary. Most advocates of the free market believe a robust philanthropy sector is part and parcel to a system of voluntary exchange. Herbert Spencer thought so too. He writes: “Of course, in so far as the severity of this process is mitigated by the spontaneous sympathy of men for each other, it is proper that it should be mitigated.”
  22. Argumentum Ad Googlum: This fallacy proceeds when the libertarian makes a good point or builds a stellar case, or asks a question the opponent can’t answer. The opponent disappears for a while, frantically Googling away. The opponent comes back with a series of links that stand in for argument. To be fair, this isn’t always a fallacy, as some will use links to support their claims. But often the tactic is used to thrust the burden of debate back onto the libertarian who is expected to read through the links and infer some point. At best, it’s bad form.
  23. We’ve Got to Do Something!: Related to the “start somewhere” fallacy, “We’ve got to do something!” is an argument that really means (a) the State has to do something, and (b) State action is preferable to both no action or private action. Numerous examples of this fallacy appear when opponents think any action riding on good intentions is good enough, consequences be damned. Often, however, it can be demonstrated that it is better for government to do nothing and to stop doing what it’s already doing. (Examples include stimulus spending, regulation, and other forms of intervention.) For government to do nothing is rarely presented as premise subject to debate and evaluation. Someone genuinely open to ideas would ask, “What should be done about this?” and “Who should do it?” Someone genuinely interested in answers would have the courtesy to make explicit what they already believe: “The government has to do something, which is beyond debate. Here’s what I think that something should be.”
  24. Empirical Fallacy: A familiar opponents’ refrain of late is: How do we know X isn’t going to work until we try it? We have to wait and see the empirical evidence before calling X a failure. With such reasoning we should let monkeys go to Washington and type randomly into a big machine that spits out statutes at random. Well, we already do this in a manner of speaking, but it might be a good idea to look at some well-established economic theory and economic thinking before sallying forth into legislative adventures that could have both predictably perverse and unintended consequences. More importantly, the opponent presumes it is the prerogative of the State—and, by extension, any governmental group within the State apparatus—to experiment on those under its auspices, and that it is the duty of the subjects in that jurisdiction to submit to the experimentation. (Also called the Pelosi Fallacy.)
  25. No True Libertarian: Ever heard of the no true Scotsman fallacy? Usually it’s applied by someone in a group to question another’s membership in that same group in terms of their ideological purity. Libertarians are famous for saying to each other, “If you think X, you’re no libertarian.” But libertarians’ opponents use a variation of this too. They’ll say something like, “Libertarians believe in X. If you don’t, you’re no libertarian.” (X might be natural rights, collective non-State action, a social safety net, etc.) The no true Libertarian fallacy is a way of trying to force the libertarian to choose between a subtle variation in his argument and his own doctrine. It implies the libertarian lacks credibility: “This clown doesn’t know what he thinks!” Of course, such a tack has no bearing on the truth or falsity of either party’s claims, or the validity of their arguments. Libertarianism is a diverse school of thought. It is not a monolith. One need only demonstrate the consistency of his argument.
  26. Fascist Ignorance: This one should be familiar: Libertarian opponents were outraged—OUTRAGED—when John Mackey pointed out quite correctly on NPR that Obamacare is a fascist policy. Fascism is, of course, a doctrine that calls for significant State control over private industries, to be carried out in the service of State ends. So the fallacy of fascist ignorance is a form of ad hominem in which a libertarian opponent refers to the libertarian or his views as “fascist” despite, strictly speaking, holding fascist views herself. (One might also refer to this as the “chicken calling the cow ‘poultry’” fallacy.) In the interests of good discourse, however, it’s probably not wise for anyone to evoke the power of the “F” word at all, given how much baggage it carries.
  27. Just One Life: The emotional appeal, grounded in nothing substantive, is meant to be a moralistic shutdown card. It goes “I’m sorry, but if we can save just one life with this policy, it’s worth it.” What does that even mean? Does it mean that every life has infinite value? Does it mean that saving lives at the expense of others and all other considerations is the purpose of government? Or does it mean that “worth it” is completely vague, but you just care a lot? It’s a heroic-sounding sentiment, but it demonstrates only the speaker’s commitment and earnestness—not any analysis of the policy itself.
  28. Consensus: This hybrid of the bandwagon and appeal to authority fallacies infects lots of discourse. It takes the form, “Lots of really smart and educated people believe X, therefore it’s true.” From the USDA food pyramid dieticians to macroeconomists, authorities are not always right. There are limits to any individual’s ability to understand all the nuances of a given issue. Prediction and forecast are even more difficult. Political decision-makers must confront the same cognitive limitations as mere mortals, which is why they, like libertarian debate opponents, rely far too heavily on expert “consensus.”
  29. Logo-phallo-euro-centric: Opponents accuse libertarianism of being hostile to women, minorities, homosexuals, and other marginalized groups. The fallacy lies in the idea that if your doctrine doesn’t acknowledge that groups deserve special, State-sanctioned treatment at the expense of other groups or individuals, it’s tantamount to some ism. Some even go as far as to say that if you use certain language some construe as racist, sexist, or homophobic, it invalidates libertarian doctrine. While many libertarians act like idiots and should probably not overreact to collectivist PC victim narratives with foul language, libertarian doctrine is at root a doctrine of anything peaceful—voluntary cooperation, decentralized power, and radical community formation. The heroes of libertarianism (of all races, sexes, and ethnic backgrounds) know that collectivism and Statism are interdependent world views: It takes evoking collectivism and inventing group rights (or wrongs) to justify most State actions, and the State has historically had the power systematically to prop up or tear down people by group.
  30. Who Will Build the Roads?: This familiar duck has a thousand variations, but the idea is that because the opponent has never seen it nor can imagine it being done without the State, it follows that it can’t. But of course, it (roadsaideducation, and the rest of it) can. (See also No. 13.)

I encourage readers to add more to the comments section below.

Note: huge credit to Cole James Gentles, Jeff Ellis, Sarah Skwire, and Zach Spencer for their assistance in compiling these fallacies. Thanks also to Michael Nolan for help in fleshing these out.

Max Borders

Max Borders

ABOUT MAX BORDERS

Max Borders is the editor of The Freeman and director of content for FEE. He is also cofounder of the event experience Voice & Exit and author of Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor.

Keystone XL: Who benefits? Who loses?

Last Thursday, 20 March, the Washington Post published an amazing article by Juliet Eilperin, their Environment reporter, claiming the Koch brothers are the major owners of Canadian “tar sands” – the source of oil to be shipped through the Keystone XL . Specifically the article said:

“The biggest leaseholder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers.”

In doing so, Eilperin and the Post relied on a recently issued report from a far-left outfit called the International Forum on Globalization (IFG).

Ms. Eilperin is a longtime advocate of action to save the earth from “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming” (CAGW), the old name before it became “climate change” or “carbon pollution.” It is not terribly surprising that Eilperin opposes the pipeline, whoever is invested in it. The surprise is that Eilperin rushed so quickly and gullibly into an obvious hoax.

The recent IFG report is a supplement to one issued in October, 2013, which became a laughingstock when John Hinderaker of Powerline blog tore it apart, noting that even IFG admits Keystone XL would provide competition for Koch oil sales in the American Midwest, costing them about $120 billion. In addition, Koch Industries has never lobbied for the Keystone XL. Also, one does not just drive up to a Keystone XL terminal – assuming one ever exists – and pour in a truckload of oil. A would-be user has to pay, in advance, for a quota of oil to be shipped, an allowance of a portion to be used (of a total 830,000 bbl/day). Koch Industries hasn’t bought a quota. Needless to say, Hinderaker had a lot of fun ripping the WaPo and Eilperin.

A wise journalist – or, at least, an honest one – would have issued a retraction and an apology to the readers. Eilperin and the Post have done neither. Nor has the Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, the man who issues “Pinocchio” awards to liars, said anything about the article.

pinocchio_4

Pinocchios courtesy of the Washington Post.

This lie ought to get Eilperin four pinocchios.

So, what did Eilperin offer in response? She said:

The Powerline article itself, and its tone, is strong evidence that issues surrounding the Koch brothers’ political and business interests will stir and inflame public debate in this election year. That’s why we wrote the piece.

Oh. The fact that someone – not even Koch Industries – tried to rebut a complete lie is justification for printing the lie in the first place – since it “stirs and inflames public debate.”

But wait, as the TV salesmen say, there’s more.

Juliet Eilperin is married to Andrew Light, who formulates environmental policy for John Podesta’s Center for American Progress (CAP). Light is also a member of the Obama Administration, as a Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy on Climate Change in the State Department. As you remember, Climate Change is the most important issue facing the world – according to the Secretary of State, John “A Child Could Understand This” Kerry. Today President Obama is in Europe, discussing with NATO and the leaders of the European Union, what we can do to blunt the Russian control of the EU energy supply.

As you probably remember, John Podesta was recently made a “special advisor” to Obama – and specifically to advise on climate for the guy who once promised to make your electricity costs “skyrocket.” Mr. Podesta strongly and unequivocally opposes the construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals. He wants more study – as has been done for Keystone XL pipeline, for five years.

Who benefits if the Keystone pipeline goes ahead? Millions of Americans who will see gasoline prices decrease. Millions of Canadians who will see taxes flow into their national treasury. Thousands of Americans and Canadian workers. American energy independence, a priority since the 1970’s. Certainly not Koch Industries.

Who benefits if Keystone is not approved?

Tom Steyer, hedge fund billionaire and major Democratic Party contributor. Steyer is offering $100 million to Democrats in 2014 who oppose Keystone. Prior to the Democratic Senators’ talkathon, the leaders visited Steyer’s home in New York. Does anyone believe Mr. Steyer cares for the environment and global warming $100 million worth?

The feature image is a picture of Brad Johnson, a staff writer for Podesta’s Center for American Progress, admonishing the Washington Post against telling lies – when the Post dared print a column by Charles Krauthammer that suggested climate science is not “settled science.”

The American Physical Society (APS) recently appointed a panel of members, including three prominent sceptics, to review its previous endorsement of global warming as a matter of concern. Sounds pretty unsettled. I don’t often agree with Johnson or the rest of Podesta’s gang, but I also wish the Washington Post and its environment writer, Eilperin, would stop telling lies.

RELATED STORY: Keystone XL is Proof Obama Opposes U.S. Economic Growth

The Austrian Influences on Bitcoin by Jeffrey A. Tucker

There is a bit of Menger, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and Kirzner in every satoshi.

Bitcoin seemed to emerge out of the blue in early 2009 as a unified monetary and payment system, something anticipated by no one. It’s true that the people who saw its merits and viability early on were code slingers and hackers. They posted their masterworks in strange places, and they are not available at university libraries. It’s all a little much to get your mind around, and there’s no academic literature about it. But then, the beauty of bitcoin is that you can jump in, start using it, and learn from the ground up.

For my part, I was incredulous about Bitcoin for two years after I heard about it. It just seemed crazy that money could somehow be created by a computer without any external or physical foundation. In some ways, this seems contradictory to everything we know about money.

But now that the currency has taken hold, its infrastructure is being built, cash-to-Bitcoin machines are going up everywhere, and mainstream opinion is gradually coming around. Cryptocurrency is real and not going away.

It’s time for a retrospective on exactly who among economists anticipated such a radical idea that markets themselves could discover and sustain a money independent of the State. When looking for economists, we need to begin with those who regarded money as a market good, created through entrepreneurial experimentation.

That points directly to the Austrian School.

Carl Menger (1840–1921). “Money is not an invention of the state,” wrote the great founder of the Austrian School. “It is not the product of a legislative act. Even the sanction of political authority is not necessary for its existence. Certain commodities came to be money quite naturally, as the result of economic relationships that were independent of the power of the state.”

This runs against most of what we think we know. Money is produced by the State today and has been in most places in the world for the better part of one hundred years. This creates an illusion that the State is the reason for money’s existence.

This is untrue. Money was nationalized away from markets, just as the roads and schools were. None of the reasons for this development are good. Government likes to control the money because it can depreciate it and thereby have another revenue source besides taxes. It can guarantee its own debts to prevent markets from evaluating them realistically.

The banks oblige this wish. In exchange, they are protected from market competition and enjoy protection against bank runs. In essence, the government grants banks the right to counterfeit so long as government can enjoy the first fruits of the printing press.

Once you release yourself from the myth that government created money, new possibilities emerge. Menger describes the emergence of money in evolutionary terms. There is trial-and-error. There is innovation. There are fits and starts. Something can be money in one place and not in another. Its emergence is gradual and goes through many iterations. “This transition did not take place abruptly, nor did it take place in the same way among all peoples.” This is a good description of the emergence of Bitcoin.

Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973). In a book published in 1912, Mises deepened and broadened Menger’s original theory about the origin of money. He was seeking an answer to the question of money’s original price in terms of goods and services. He explained that at any one time, there are many goods competing for money status—that is, that the good would be acquired not just to consume but also to trade for other goods.

He explained that it is impossible for anything to just be labelled money and for it to obtain value. There must be more to it than that. Gold and silver, for example, obtained their money value by virtue of their prior use in barter. In this sense, money must extend from a living market experience.

How does this apply to Bitcoin? The underlying value of Bitcoin is connected to its incredibly innovative payment system. The technology combines a distributed network, a ledger updated and verified for each transaction, cryptography, and a direct peer-to-peer system of exchange to create the blockchain. Users played around with the results for fully 8 months before the attached currency (Bitcoin) obtained its first market value.

Giving value to this digital currency was not something that could be done by government or social contract. It takes real market experience with a value good—or, in the case of Bitcoin, a wonderful service that the whole world needs. Such is the origin of Bitcoin’s value. In fact, if there were no payment network bound up with the currency, the currency itself would have no value at all.

In my experience in explaining this to people, this is a real sticking point. Most people think of money and a payment system as different entities (dollars vs. Visa). With national money, this is entirely correct. But Bitcoin is different. It unites the two in one. That’s hard to think through.

Mises made two additional contributions. He said that central banking was not necessary and predicted that it would be detrimental to the soundness of money. History has proven him right. In his ideal, money would function entirely apart from the State—just as Bitcoin does. Also, Mises closely tied the cause of sound money to freedom itself. He compared sound money to constitutions that guarantee fundamental human rights.

F.A. Hayek (1899–1992). Hayek was Mises’s colleague in pushing for fundamental monetary reform for many decades. Together they warned of the dangers of central banking. They demonstrated how expansionary credit policy leads to price inflation and business cycle, and also fuels the growth of government. They begged and pleaded to reverse course. But they were doomed to be prophets of decline.

One year after Mises’s death, Hayek decided to take a different course. In 1974, he wrote “The Denationalization of Money.” He gave up on the idea of government involvement in money at any level and concluded that there had to be a complete separation, even at the level of reform. He suggested a revolution from below.

He once favored the gold standard, but with this book he said, in effect, “We certainly can do better than that, though not through government.” He explained that “we have always had bad money because private enterprise was not permitted to give us a better one.” He endorsed a system of privately created monies based on a variety of technologies, included indexes of commodity baskets. These monies would all compete for market dominance, same as with any other good.

This book seemed mind-blowing at the time. But with Bitcoin, it’s not so crazy. The technologies were not around during Hayek’s day but now we can see how much we’ve been missing in the age of nationalized money. Money has gotten worse rather than better—and this is different from other private commodities, like phones, cars, and computers. Money can indeed be a product of private enterprise. The right reform plan is to just forget about the government’s system and move onward to something more wonderful. In the competition for money and payment systems, the market system will win.

Murray Rothbard (1926–1995). The first I ever heard of the idea of private coinage, it was from Rothbard’s 1963 book, What Has Government Done to Our Money. The idea astonished me, though, again, the notion seems not entirely outlandish now. New research has emerged that has shown that private currency is a huge part of modern history, from England in the Industrial Revolution to the American nineteenth century.

This wasn’t his central contribution. Rothbard was a theorist of the idea of private property, spelling out its implications for the whole of the social order. It is private property that brings order, secures liberty, rationally allocates resources, keeps conflict at bay, allows for the adjudication of disputes, incentivizes production, and generally shores up human liberty. Rothbard firmly established that money is and must remain private property.

Why does that insight matter? It comes down to one word: banks. They first existed as warehouses, made necessary because of safety and the costs of transport. The function of banks as lenders is really something different. In either case, the rights to who owns what ought to remain clear. Alas, it was not to be the case. Banks love ambiguity over ownership. If they can warehouse your stuff and make money lending it out at the same time, that’s all the better for them. If they can get government backing for the practice, that’s even better.

Rothbard’s best idea of reform—spelled out at great length in his 1983 book The Mystery of Banking—was to re-institutionalize property rights in the realm of money. No more should there be confusion and uncertainty about the titles to money property. Just as in the rest of the world, there should be clear distinctions. You can warehouse your money or your can loan it to a lender at a risk but there should be no mixing of the two. In today’s world, no one has a clue who has a right to what.

Now consider Bitcoin. When I own it, you don’t. When you own it, I don’t. There are no intermediaries, no charge backs, no confusions about how many there are or to whom they belong. To pay is to transfer, not just on some fictional ledger that may or may not reflect. This is a Rothbardian dream come true.

To be sure, Mt. Gox muddied the situation substantially, but that is not intrinsic to Bitcoin itself. It was a result of one firm that was poorly run, and this firm was compromised by a hacking theft, a cover up, incompetence, or outright fraud (it’s still just starting to be sorted out—for instance, Mt. Gox just found 200,000 BTC it didn’t realize it had). But the beauty of the situation was that even with that institution’s obfuscation, users knew of the foul play. For years prior to bankruptcy, it was obvious that something was amiss. Bitcoin is still being traded. The newest firms are going the extra mile to make it clear that they hold all your property at all times. Plus, with paper wallets and cold storage, you don’t have to use third parties at all.

Unlike the gold that Rothbard favored as currency (he died in 1995, just as the web was privatized and began to mature), Bitcoins are both weightless and spaceless. This means that the warehousing function of Bitcoin is technically unnecessary. Every owner can be his or her own banker. This is a dream in many ways, since the the warehousing function is technologically contingent, not an eternal feature of the world.

Israel Kirzner (1930– ). Kirzner is a student of Mises’s who has dedicated his life’s work to understanding and expanding upon an insight of his teacher. Mises saw that economics resisted formal modelling for many reasons but a major factor was the presence of entrepreneurship. There is a reason that textbooks neglected this topic for decades. It contradicts the goal of perfect prediction and perfect control. Entrepreneurship introduces an element of chaos that defies every expectation. Kirzner elaborated.

This is the act of discerning unmet technologies and needs in a market setting and bringing them to life for consumption and production. Entrepreneurship means introducing something new that had previously been unknown. There is an element of surprise that is essential to entrepreneurship that drives forward the process of market development.

When we think of Bitcoin, how can we not think of entrepreneurial surprise? It was released not as a traditionally capitalist product but rather on a free forum. Anyone could download it and starting “mining” Bitcoin. But only those super-alert to the opportunity did so. One of those was the inventor himself, who is a very rich person today. This is what it means to be alert to and discover an opportunity.

Today there are many thousands of businesses that have grown up around Bitcoin. There are wallets, exchanges, retail and wholesale stores, service companies, and so much more. Each one represents a risk. Most will not make it. But some will. What determines their success or failure (leaving aside government regulations) is whether they meet the needs of the consuming public. No one can know the results in advance.

Kirzner is the master of describing this process, one that Menger said is at the heart of causing a new money to emerge. Thus have we come full circle: 120 years of scholarship that describes the very economic heart of cryptocurrency. To most people it is mystifying and amazing, and truly it seems that way. But there is a logic to it all, even if it is only obvious in retrospect.

How many years will it be before the economic science of the non-Austrian variety catches up? For now, most professionals in this field are politely ignoring the fact that Bitcoin has blown up nearly all conventional wisdom about monetary theory and monetary policy. (Konrad Graf, though, is already on the story). Indeed, Bitcoin was necessary in part because the current State-based system has utterly failed to keep up with the times. Had the market been allowed to work all along, instead of being restricted and truncated by state control, the system would likely be further along than it is.

Now is a good time to look back, dust off those neglected books, and rediscover the school of thought that anticipated all the core of what makes Bitcoin so incredible.

RELATED STORY: IRS Rules Bitcoin is ‘Property,’ Subject to Tax

20121129_JeffreyTuckeravatarABOUT JEFFREY A. TUCKER

Jeffrey Tucker is a distinguished fellow at FEE, CEO of the startup Liberty.me, and publisher at Laissez Faire Books. He will be speaking at the FEE summer seminar “Making Innovation Possible: The Role of Economics in Scientific Progress.”

The Plan for Police Nullification

“I [sic] give my left n** to bang down your door and come for your gun,” said the cop. This statement, made by Branford, Ct., police officer Joseph Peterson in a Facebook conversation earlier this month, created quite a blogosphere firestorm. Internet commenters from Sacramento to Saratoga struck a note of defiance and e-shouted the ancient words of Spartan King Leonidas, “Molon labe!” On the other side there’s Ct. governor Dannel Malloy (D), who said to a gun owner at a March 13 town-hall meeting that the anti-Second Amendment set won and “you lost.” But it occurs to me that in-your-face actions can go both ways.

Pondering this brings to mind yet another type of response to the (anti) Constitution State door-banger: from law-enforcement officers (LEOs) vowing not to enforce unconstitutional gun laws. One of them, a retired career detective responding to Officer Peterson’s statement that his job is only to enforce the law — and that he must do so no matter what form it takes — called Peterson a “fool” and wrote, “Part of the filtering process in criminal justice IS the police choosing whether or not to enforce a law at a particular point in time on a particular person.” This gets at an important point: the “good soldier” cop argument is bunk. No LEO tickets everyone driving 31 in a 30 zone, many laws are on the books but not enforced at all, and no moral cop would obey a command to round up all members of a certain ethnic group for extermination. Police use discretion all the time.

And, if our constitutional rights are to be secure, we need fewer Officer Petersons in the world and more, let’s say, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. We don’t need good-soldier cops — we need good-citizen cops.

The solution to this problem lies in the LEO selection process. If your area is electing a sheriff, there must be an explicit litmus test:

  • Will you protect constitutional rights?
  • And will you disobey unconstitutional orders, no matter their origin?

Any waffling or hesitation should disqualify the candidate. We need LEOs who won’t just yes us to death, for electoral ambitions have a way of greasing the tongue. We need LEOs who are passionate about the issue, stout-hearted cultural and constitutional warriors. And while we can’t read minds, remember this: if you want to know what a person wants you to believe he believes, listen to what he says. If you want to know what he really believes, listen to how he says it. While some people are A-list actors, it’s hard to fake true passion.

But even this isn’t enough. The candidate must also agree to incorporate as part of regular deputy training a comprehensive course on the U.S. Constitution. This course must reflect what is called a strict “originalist” view of the document, but what is really just the only lawful, correct view. (It would be silly to call someone who follows the rules of poker an originalist and someone who doesn’t a “pragmatist.” The latter is called a cheater.) It must emphasize that an unconstitutional law is no law at all.

This brings us to something else Gov. Malloy said to the gun owner at the town hall: “[W]e have courts. Courts are where the constitutionality of things are [sic] decided.”

Actually, no, they’re not.

Courts are where the courts’ position on constitutionality is decided.

As for actual constitutionality, that’s an objective reality that cannot be changed by cheaters who rationalize that rules can be “living” (which is convenient when you‘ve assumed the power of life and death over them).

And “assumed” is the operative word. Nothing in the Constitution grants the courts the power to be the ultimate arbiter of the document’s meaning. So who did grant the courts this power?

The courts themselves!

Chief Justice John Marshall took it upon himself to assert this right in the 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision. This started the transition from the rule of law to the rule of lawyers.

This is why the LEO Constitution course must also incorporate Thomas Jefferson’s correct position on the courts’ role. Our third president wrote in 1819 that he denied “the right they [the courts] usurp of exclusively explaining the constitution…,” saying that if that right became status quo, “then indeed is our constitution a complete felo de se.” That’s Latin, of course.

It means “suicide pact.”

And no American has an obligation to be party to a suicide pact.

Jefferson went on to explain, “For intending to establish three departments, co-ordinate and independent, that they might check and balance one another, it has given, according to this [judicial review] opinion, to one of them alone, the right to prescribe rules for the government of the others, and to that one too, which is unelected by, and independent of the nation.” Quite right. And if the courts can unilaterally decide that they have ultimate-arbiter power, guess what?

We can unilaterally decide they don’t.

Yes, in-your-face actions can go both ways.

As for law enforcement, what if you can’t vote for your head LEO because you live in a city in which the mayor appoints a police chief? Then the litmus test a sheriff would have to pass must be applied to a mayoral candidate. If he’s a Bolshevik Bill unwilling to appoint a Constitution-loving-and-fearing chief who will institute the aforementioned Constitution course, tell him sorry, but only true Americans need apply.

As first responders, LEOs can also be first persecutors or first protectors. What they actually will be is up to us.

RELATED STORY: Rep. Keith Ellison: I Wish Democrats Would Come Out Against the Second Amendment

Why Government Does Not Function

Do you have the feeling that we no longer have government from the federal to the local level that is able to function because of vast volumes of laws and regulations that have made it impossible to do anything from build a bridge to run a nursing home? If so, you’re right. The nation is falling behind others who do a better job by permitting elected and appointed officials to actually make decisions. We are living in a nation where lawsuits follow every decision to accomplish anything.

Cover - The Rule of NobodyThis is the message of Philip K. Howard in a book that everyone concerned for the future of America should read; “The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government”.

It explains why we can elect a Representative or Senator, send him or her to Washington, D.C. and still see no progress. Instead, we get the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—that began as a 2,700-page law that has already metastasized into regulations that, stacked up, stand seven feet tall! And more on the way. It has destroyed the healthcare insurance industry and is destroying the U.S. healthcare system.

“The missing element in American government could hardly be more basic. No official has authority to make a decision. Law has crowded out the ability to be practical or fair,” says Howard. “It’s a progressive disease. As law grows to fill the vacuum, the wheels of government go slower every year.”

Howard points to a variety of problems that nation is encountering. “America’s electrical grid is out of date—transformers, on average, are about forty years old, and not digitized.” As vital and essential as the grid is to all life in America, “there’s no active plan to rebuild America’s electrical grid. The main reason is that government cannot make the decisions needed to approve it.”

Citing proposals that would allow the Bayonne Bridge to permit the new generation of large container ships clearance that would enable the Port of Newark to remain competitive, it took three years for environmental reviews to clear the project, but as Howard notes, “the average length of environmental review for highway projects, according to a study by the Regional Plan Association, is over eight years.” Eight years!

“Government on legal autopilot,” says Howard, “doesn’t have a chance of achieving solvency. In 2010, 70 percent of federal tax revenue was consumed by three entitlement programs—Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—that don’t even come up for annual congressional authorization.”

Americans are in general agreement that Big Government is a big problem, but did you know that more than twenty million people work for federal, state and local government—or one in seven workers in America. Their salaries and benefits total more than $1.5 trillion of taxpayer funding each year or about ten percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Cities in America are declaring bankruptcy because they cannot afford the retirement and other benefits that their employees receive. State budgets are comparably weighed down.

We read about the often incomprehensible results and costs of the legal system affecting all levels of government. “Up and down the chain of social responsibility, responsible people do not feel free to make sensible decisions,” says Howard. “Everything is too complicated: rules in the workplace, rights in the classroom, and machinations in government. We’re bogged down in bureaucracy, pushed around by lawsuits, and unable to steer out of economic and cultural storms.”

“The point of regulation, we seem to have forgotten, is to make sure things work in a crowded society.”

What is forgotten or never learned is that there are elements of risk in everything we do. Trying to legislate risk out of our lives only leaves us with millions of rules that make it impossible to function intelligently in business, in schools, in hospitals and nursing homes, and everywhere else. It eliminates swings and seesaws from playgrounds out of fear of lawsuits.

“America is losing its soul,” says Howard. “Instead of creating legal structures that support our values, Americans are abandoning our values in deference to the bureaucratic structures.” Too often, decisions made by elected officials or reflected referendums voted upon by the public have been taken over by the court system in which judges now feel free to decide these matters. The response was a growing objection to “judicial activism.” Now even the judges are distrusted.

Howard’s book explains why America is in trouble and offers recommendations to put it on the right path again. If it is ignored, the America into which I was born more than seven decades ago will not be around or livable for the next generation or two of Americans.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

The Economist Who Said Maybe by Michael Clark

The answer to most economic questions begins with “I don’t know”!

Is microfinance in the developing world a beneficial strategy? Is bitcoin a good idea? Will 3-D printing substantially change our way of living? Imagine a panel of economists being asked questions like these. What kind of answer do you expect from them? Plenty of economic and techie jargon will get thrown around by those who have done their homework. Many of their answers will contain substantial merit, but I think the best answer is a simple “I don’t know.”

It’s not a complete reply and should be followed by some reasoned response. But “I don’t know” should be a prelude to more responses to economic questions, even pivotal ones about the future of our currency or the development of impoverished nations.

It might not look like a good answer for a trained economist to give. But humility is the most important lesson that training in economics yields. From Adam Smith to F. A. Hayek and many in between, a sound approach to economics involves understanding our limited capacity to answer such questions.

The essence of this humility is the respect for spontaneous order; market-based institutions answer questions like the ones above in ways no individual could. This yields phenomena, as Adam Ferguson puts it, of “human action, but not of human design.” The deep appreciation of the phenomenon of spontaneous order leads one to humility; we never know exactly what the market solutions will be.

The Evolution of Music

Consider a blunt history of music as entertainment. The trend of big bands was replaced in 1948 by LP vinyl records and moved individuals out of the dance halls and into their own homes. After vinyl came the 8-track in the late 1960s, the cassette tape in the late 1970s, and then the CD started to gain popularity in the late 1980s. The big band, vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD progression is a bit of a simplification because radio had come into play as a separate market and multiple platforms had alternate sizes and models. However, the general popular-use trend was quite clear: About every decade, a better platform was developed.

It was not weird for people in the early 1990s to think that their CD collection was only temporary; most people thought something better would come along. More than a few thought they knew exactly what it was. The common thought was that popular music would be widely used on a disc similar to a CD, but the disc would be much smaller. If you watch the 1997 film Men in Black, the two characters have a discussion about the future technology. One complains that he’s going to have to buy the Beatles’ White Album again soon to replace his CD with the mini-CD.

But just about everyone was wrong. Mini-CDs never supplanted the original CD. But a new market did emerge as the format of choice right around the year 2000. When answering the question, “What will be the next thing to hold our popular music,” the actual answer was, “Well, nothing!” What followed the CD was a digital file that could be transported via the Internet. Imagine an individual trying to convince you in 1992 that the next step beyond a CD is in fact nothing. You wouldn’t have anything physical on you. You’d have nothing to search for underneath the passenger seat of your car, nothing to put into binders or towers for storage, and nothing to worry about getting scratched, mangled, or tangled. You’d have this file called an MP3. You would essentially have nothing physical to replace the CD. Convincing someone of this invention before its existence would seem fairly absurd.

So What?

In a market society the answers to questions like “Is X a good idea?” are often conclusions that exceed what most people originally considered possible. The market system often moves beyond what we were capable of seeing. How is the market so effective at progress? It is the same reason why I think the answer “I don’t know” is often a great answer for an economist.

The true benefit of freedom is that the institution or the market system (not any one individual or expert) bears the cognitive burden of figuring out what is a good idea. The profit and loss system, where consumers voice their opinions, quickly guides entrepreneurs. What serves consumers’ needs best? Do we value using titanium for the current design of a tennis racquet or would it be better used in a new design of a toaster oven? With so many consumers having so many preferences for so many products, it is no easy task to figure out what the best use of a resource is. That is, unless you have the profit and loss system.

Many entrepreneurs play their role in helping us to figure out little parts of what works and, perhaps even more importantly, what doesn’t work. Entrepreneurial actions bring disjointed, disparate, and detailed local knowledge to the forefront. When filtered through the market mechanism of profit and loss, the gathering of knowledge from the many will exceed the foresight of most, if not all, experts. Markets bring together the best from many and help us discover together instead of in isolation. When determining what works and what doesn’t, it is the market setting that allows a spontaneous order to do the heavy lifting that individual planners and experts simply cannot manage.

So is bitcoin a good idea? Is microfinance a path to prosperity for the impoverished? We have some grasp of the beneficial aspects of those ideas, and we can try to push forward some lines of argumentation to help the process. But it is a large part of our responsibility to remember our humility when it comes to questions of economics. F. A. Hayek put the context of discussing economics best when he stated, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

ABOUT MICHAEL CLARK

Michael Clark holds the Reemelin Chair in Free Market Economics at Hillsdale College.

Intimidation from the U.S. Patent Office: They Want Our Name!

fair tax april 15 is comingIt is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That is, unless that imitation runs afoul with federal trademark law.

Since the mid-90’s, Americans For Fair Taxation® has owned and utilizes several FairTax® trademarks registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

These trademarks have been an integral part of our public awareness campaign on the need for tax reform, and in our educational efforts to provide information regarding taxation, tax reform and HR 25 / SR 122, “The FairTax Act of 2013.”

Currently, in the state of Illinois, the “A Better Illinois” coalition and others are conducting a high-profile public awareness campaign themed, “A Fair Tax.” This tax reform plan promotes a differentiated tax system that subjects citizens to varying levels of income taxes.

This is in stark contrast to the FairTax®, which eliminates federal income taxes in their entirety, and replaces them with a single rate, national consumption tax.

Americans For Fair Taxation (AFFT) fully respects the right of individuals and organizations to advocate for the tax reform plan of their choice, using all lawful means.  We reject, however, any notion that advocacy initiatives may be conducted using any of (AFFT’s) federally protected marks, most especially when that advocacy causes confusion among consumers as is currently happening in the state of Illinois.

AFFT has spent nearly two decades building goodwill in and national recognition of the FairTax marks.

We will not allow that goodwill to be destroyed through any unauthorized usage of the same or confusingly similar marks for any tax reform plan except The FairTax – HR 25/S 122, and FairTax inspired and modeled state tax reform initiatives supported by state FairTax organizations.

We will always seek first to amicably resolve infringement situations while respecting AFFT’s exclusive right to use the FairTax marks; and when required, will initiate legal action to enforce our rights.

RELATED VIDEO: What is the FairTax legislation?

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views of the Patent Office, Washington, D.C. circa 1860-1895.

Obamacare Victims: 50 States, 50 Stories

David Rutz from the Washington Free Beacon reports, “Whether it’s been soaring premiums, insurance cancellations, frustrations with the state and federal exchanges, cutting employee hours or even day care centers closing down, the Affordable Care Act’s negative effects have touched all 50 states. Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.) saw it a different way in a strange outburst on the floor Feb. 26, calling all Obamacare horror stories ‘lies’ and ‘stories made up from whole cloth.’”

Here are 50 states worth of Harry Reid’s liars.

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RELATED STORY: John Goodman: ObamaCare’s Fourth Anniversary—A Costly Failed Experiment – Wall Street Journal

Florida TV Station Exposes Voter Fraud, DOJ Sues State to Stop Purging Rolls

“While the Obama Justice Department mounts a legal challenge against Florida for purging ineligible voters from its rolls, a television news station broadcasts an unbelievable segment that proves non U.S. citizens living in the Sunshine State vote regularly in elections,” reports Judicial Watch.

The investigative piece was aired this week by an NBC affiliate in southwest Florida that actually tracked down and interviewed non U.S. citizens who are registered to vote and have cast ballots in numerous elections. The segment focused on Lee County, which has a population of about 620,000 and Collier County with a population of around 322,000. The reporter spent about two months digging around the voter rolls in the two counties and the discoveries are dumbfounding.

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In that short time, more than 100 people registered to vote in those two areas were proven to be ineligible by the reporter. A Cape Coral woman, eligible to vote in elections, was tracked down through jury excusal forms that verify she’s not a U.S. citizen. A Naples woman, who is not a U.S. citizen either, voted six times in 11 years without being detected by authorities. A Jamaican man is also registered to vote though he’s not eligible. The reporter obtained his 2007 voter registration form, which shows the Jamaican man claims to be a U.S. citizen. Problem is, no one bothers checking to see if applicants are being truthful.

Incredibly, election supervisors confirmed on camera that there’s no way for them to verify the citizenship of people who register to vote. The only way to detect fraud is if the county offices that oversee elections receive a tip, they say, and only then can they follow up.  As inconceivable as this may seem, it appears to be true. Election supervisors in counties across the United States have their hands tied when it comes to this sort of voter registration fraud. They neither have the resources nor the authority to take action without knowledge of specific wrongdoing.

In an effort to remedy the situation, Florida Governor Rick Scott launched a program a few years ago to purge ineligible voters from registration rolls. The Department of Justice (DOJ) was quick to sue the state to stop the purging because the agency claims it discriminates against minorities. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has colluded with the DOJ in Florida and the head of the group’s local chapter says purging voter rolls disproportionately affects the state’s most vulnerable groups, namely minorities.

ABOUT JUDICIAL WATCH

Judicial Watch has been a leader in investigating voter fraud and in 2012 launched a special Election Integrity Project. As part of the initiative JW has examined publicly available data that indicates that voter rolls in a number of states—including Florida, Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, California, Colorado and Ohio—contain the names of individuals who are ineligible to vote. The JW investigation has shown that there appear to be more individuals on voter registration lists in these states than there are individuals eligible to vote, including dead people.

Solar and Wind Power Losing Worldwide Support

In his state of the union speech in January President Obama claimed that the U.S. was closer to “energy independence” than ever. He was referring to solar energy while ignoring that his administration has been the most anti-fossil fuel energy than any previous one.

The U.S. has the greatest energy reserves, coal, oil and natural gas, of any nation in the world, but Obama has been waging a “war on coal”, delaying the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, and slow to issue permits to explore for new sources of energy reserves on federal lands. The impact on the economy is incalculable, but it is driving up the cost of energy for everyone and every industry.

Meanwhile, Obama keeps talking about “green jobs” and doubling the nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years.” This another fantasy to which he clings.

As Taylor Smith, a senior policy analyst for The Heartland Institute, points out “Despite years of favorable public policy, including renewable power mandates and billions in subsidies, solar power still produces only about 0.2 percent of the nation’s electricity. The National Conference of State Legislatures says power from most large, utility-scaled solar installations still costs about 35 percent more than electricity from natural gas plants; many other experts estimate the levelized cost is even higher.”

U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the United States is producing less electricity now than it did when Obama took office even with the inclusion of wind energy.

From 2008 to 2012, U.S. electricity production declined by 1.7 percent. That’s what happens when Environmental Protection Agency regulations force coal mines to close along with coal-fired plants that previously produced 50 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Suffice to say, Obama is the enemy of fossil fuel production and the energy it provides for electricity production and our transportation needs. That makes him the enemy of the American people.

In February, the National Review had an article, “Europe’s Green Collapse”, by Stephen Moore in which he noted that “Not long ago nearly all the nations of Europe bought into this same dream of a green energy free lunch as they legislated tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for solar and wind power while directly and indirectly taxing and capping carbon-based energy.”

That policy was set in motion by the United Nations Kyoto treaty in 1997. It was based on the global warming hoax that called for a reduction in so-called “greenhouse gas” emissions. The U.S. did not sign onto the treaty and Canada withdrew from it in 2012.

The Earth, however, has been in a natural cooling cycle for going on seventeen years, the result not of any manmade gases, but because of the Sun has been producing lower levels of solar radiation. The hoax is based largely on the utterly false claim that carbon dioxide warms the Earth when, in fact, it plays virtually no role whatever in the Earth’s climate. The Earth is likely to remain cooler for decades.

That fact has been brutally clear in Europe where the cold has been comparable to the temperatures the U.S. has been encountering. Moore reported that “In January Brussels announced with little media fanfare that the European Union is ditching their renewable-energy standards.” It is a matter of economic survival for Europe.

What is astonishing is the way both the U.S. and Europe adopted renewable energy production because it is unpredictable and mindlessly expensive. A major factor why the global warming hoax is collapsing, it has cost everyone here and in Europe billions in loans and subsidies. Both solar and wind require a backup from traditional power sources that utilize coal, oil and natural gas.

“Thanks to about $33 billion a year in government subsidies, Germany currently gets 25 percent of its electricity from wind and solar power, and that is scheduled to rise 40 to 45 percent by 2025.” Watch Germany abandon its plans. “The EU admits that the cost of electric power in member nations is often 50 to 100 percent higher than in the U.S,” noted Moore. “Manufacturers are starting to move plants out of the EU and even to, of all places, the U.S.”

“Here is a textbook case of how centralized industrial planning—or ‘government investment’ as we now say—usually leads to catastrophically wrong bets.” In the U.S. it began in the 1970s when President Carter spent billions on renewable energy and projects like the Synthetic Fuels Corporation, a predecessor of Solyndra and other companies that went bankrupt shortly after receiving loans during the Obama administration’s first term in office.

Under Obama’s “stimulus” program, 83 percent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Acts Section 1705 loans went to solar energy projects with wind receiving 11 percent of the funds.

“What saved the U.S. economy from replicating the Euro-industrial malaise was the entirely spontaneous oil-and-gas boom driven by technology and billions in investment by wildcat entrepreneurs…” That’s called capitalism. The sooner we get the U.S. government out of “investing” in such nonsense, the better.

As with everything else Obama has to say, his advocacy of renewable energy, like Carter’s, has proven to be a massive, costly failure.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is of a wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains of California, taken July 2001 by Stan Shebs. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.