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.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/gFDm0mGhcdg[/youtube]

 

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.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/2hjmKBfrycQ[/youtube]

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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The Further Withering Of Wind Power
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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.

Nationwide “War on Common Core” rallies planned on Booker T. Washington’s birthday 04/05/2014

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Booker T. Washington, author, educator, Republican.

On April 5th, 2014 rallies against Common Core will be staged across Florida and America organized by Eye On US Education (EUSE). The rallies will be under the banner “War on Common Core.” This date was chosen because it is the birthdate of Booker T. Washington. According to the Booker T. Washington Society there are forty-five schools across America named after him. Schools in Florida named after Booker T. Washington are located in Miami and Pensacola.

Booker T. Washington was a Black educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Blacks were solidly Republican in this period, having gained emancipation and suffrage with their support.

Washington was on close terms with national Republican Party leaders, and often was asked for political advice by presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Washington, as the guest of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901, was the first Black ever invited to the White House.

Washington’s long-term goal was to build the community’s economic strength and pride by focusing on self-help and schooling.  He believed that education, black owned businesses, and hard work were the keys to success.

Washington raised funds to establish and operate thousands of small community schools and institutions of higher education for the betterment of blacks throughout the South.  The schools which Washington supported were founded primarily to produce teachers – as literacy and education are the keys to their future.

Quotes:

I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.

No greater injury can be done to any youth than to let him feel that because he belongs to this or that race he will be advanced in life regardless of his own merits or efforts.

If you can’t read, it’s going to be hard to realize dreams.

Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.

Booker T Washington Quote

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is of Booker T. Washington holding a Carnegie Hall audience spellbound during his Tuskegee Institute Silver Anniversary lecture,  in 1906.

Common Core As “Technologically Necessary”: A Looming Shift In Sales Pitch?

The term Common Core is so negatively charged that Common Core State Standards (CCSS) proponents are trying their hardest to ditch the term– not ditch CCSS– just the term. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee suggested that states “rebrand” the CCSS product– give it a shiny new name in order to fool the public into thinking its gone.

In my own district, neither CCSS nor its PARCC test were mentioned by name in the letter home to parents regarding the upcoming PARCC pilot test.

In my remarks on March 2, 2014, as a member of the Common Core panel at the first annual Network for Public Education (NPE) conference, I advised that CCSS must die and that if it doesn’t, it could morph into another classroom standardizer.

Today (Sunday, March 16), I received this comment to my post on Bill Gates’ rallying teachers to support CCSS:

Just this last Thursday we had a rainmaker (“expert educator” and CEO) come to our town, Willard Daggett, who was brought here by our award-winning (NY State) superintendent, Luvelle Brown to speak to the “benefits” of Common Core and other areas of “college preparedness.”

In his hours of bloviating what you got from this was essentially that the “industry” is fast forward on technology at all costs. All of the new “techno-learning tools” were being lauded and at least w/Willard Common Core was scarcely mentioned and when done so he backed off his full-on support of CC. That I think in large part due to the firestorm surrounding it.

I believe we will at the least see a restructuring of CC and a repackaging of it and a greater emphasis on shoving technology down the throats of every district. That certainly seems to be where the money is going at the moment. And from the capitalists point of view it makes sense as the schools will increase their debt burdens through the years w/this technological imperative meaning a constant revenue stream for all sorts of suppliers (Gates being only the obvious and largest financier) and the shutdown of even more schools who can’t keep up with the debt which of course then means even more transfer of public funds to private institutions. [Emphasis added.]

Technology in order to accommodate PARCC testing is indeed “where the money is going” in my district. On the same day that I found out that the class I teach for students who wish to become teachers (called STAR Teaching Academy) is to be cut next year due to budget issues, out computer labs are getting a complete upgrade in order to accommodate the testing tied to CCSS. Slowly but surely, all that is not “core related” is being choked out of the school budget.

At the same time that the “consequences” of PARCC are being “delayed” in Louisiana (not removed; not erased; just delayed), the pilot testing is still required. And that means money spent on the PARCC-required technology.

It makes sense, then, to “rebrand” CCSS into a technological savior. Turn the public’s attention away from the spending of so many millions on CCSS-assessment technology while programs and staff are being cut.

So, one of the ways that CCSS can morph and can make the money spent on technology appear tied to the “standards” (whatever they might be called in an effort tonot call them CCSS) is to refocus on how useful untested CCSS will certainly be (tongue in cheek) for Promoting Technological Prowess Necessary to Compete in the Global Economy.

To this end, several web pages already exist in an attempt to sell CCSS (insert new name here) as a Technological Pal. Here is one from Fresno, California, and from the now-infamous Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) (infamous for its $1 billion iPad purchase), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Staff Development for Educators (SDE), Common Core and Ed Tech (CCEDTECH)– CCEDTECH is promoted by Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Monterey, California, Office of Education (MCOE).

The list goes on.

In order for CCSS (or whatever it is called) to survive, its sales people (not the least of whom are Bill Gates and Arne Duncan– more on the Gates-Duncan-CCSS triangle in my next post) must reshape CCSS into That Which Is Necessary.

Districts are blowing amazing amounts of increasingly scare funding to meet CCSS technology requirements.

Let’s just tell them that it wasn’t only for the tests.

Let’s tell them that it was for the sake of meeting the *technological rigor* of CCSS (insert more fashionable name here).

Advice to Young, Unemployed Workers by Jeffrey A. Tucker

We are now in the fifth year of very choppy hiring markets for young workers. The latest unemployment numbers once again leave them out from posted gains. Not even the boom in temporary employment included them.

The United States has one of the highest rates of unemployment among 20-to-26-year-olds in the world. Nearly half of the U.S. army of unemployed is under the age of 34. As for those who are hired, there is a huge gap between wage expectations and paycheck realities, which is exactly what you would expect in a post-boom world. A survey by Accenture finds that more than 41 percent of recent U.S. college graduates are disillusioned, underemployed, and not using their college degrees in their work.

The young generation faces challenges unlike any that most people alive have seen. This situation requires new adaptive strategies.

What follows, then, is my letter of advice to young workers.

Dear Young Workers:

Even if it weren’t for the economic stagnation, you would already be facing a tough market. That’s because you are showing up at the job marketplace nearly empty-handed. Our society long ago decided it was better for you to sit in desks for 16 years than to gain any real work experience in the marketplace that is likely to hire you later.

Even if it were legal for you to work when you are capable of doing so—from the age of maybe 12 or 13—the government has imposed these wage-floor laws that price your services out of the market. Then you are told that if you stay in school, you will get a great, high-paying job right out of college. Then it turns out that employers aren’t interested in you. You are beginning to sense that employers think you have few marketable skills and have no demonstrated predisposition to produce.

Here’s the root of the problem: People have been lying to you all your life.

As a young child you were repeatedly fed slogans about the equality of everyone. The urges to compete and win were suppressed in your childhood games, while sharing and caring for others were exalted above all other values.

Then at some point—somewhere between the ages of 7 and 10—something changed. All that caring/sharing stuff ended and a world of dog-eat-dog began. You were expected to get perfect grades, to excel at math and science, to be perfectly obedient, to stay in school for as long as possible. You were told that if you did that, everything would work out for you.

It does work out for some. But only a small minority of people are disposed to both compliance and rote learning. And even for those people, not everyone gets what he’s been promised. As for the rest, there is no plan in place. Those who fall through the cracks are expected to make it on their own somehow.

How do you make it? It all comes down to remunerative work. And there’s the barrier you face right now. You have the desire and you are looking for some institution that values what you have to contribute. But you can’t find the match.

Consider: Why does any business hire an employee? It happens based on the belief that the business will make more money with the employee than without it. The business pays you, you do work, and, as a result, there are greater returns coming in than there would otherwise be.

But think through what this means. It means you have to add more value than you take out. For every dollar you earn, you have to make it possible for the business to earn a dollar plus something extra. This task is not easy. Businesses have costs to cover in addition to your salary. For example, government mandates that businesses be insured. You have to be trained. There could be healthcare costs, too. There are uncertainties to deal with. All of these add to the burden that you place on the business, which adds to the costs of hiring you.

What this means is you have to be more valuable than you think. Why are minimum wage jobs so hard? Because it’s difficult for an inexperienced worker to be worth paying that much. The employer has to extract as much value as possible from the relationship with you just to make that relationship happen at all. That can’t happen right away because odds are you are losing the company money in the first months of employment simply because you are untrained. You end up scrambling like crazy just to earn your keep.

If you already understand this rule—that you must add more value than you take out—you now know more than vast numbers of young workers. And this gives you an advantage. While everyone else is grumbling about the workload and low pay, you can know why you are having to hustle so much and be happier for it. You are producing more for the company than you take out. Doing that consistently is the way to get ahead. In fact, it’s the key to life.

But in order to get ahead, you have to be a player in the first place. It does little good to sit around and wait for the right job at the right pay. Forget all your expectations. If something, anything, comes along, you should jump on it immediately. No job is too menial, despite what you have been told. The goal is just to get in the game. Yes, you have much higher salary expectations, and those might be met someday. But not yet.

The first step is to get into the game at some wage, just something, somewhere. The fear that such work, whatever it is, is somehow beneath you is a serious source of personal undoing. Those who are willing to perform the most “menial” of jobs are the people who can make a good life for themselves. Just because you perceive the job as “menial” does not mean it is not valuable to others and especially, ultimately, to you.

You learn from every job you have. You learn how to interact with others, how a business runs, how people think, how bosses think, and how those who succeed get ahead versus those who fail. Working is a time for learning, as much as or more than school.

People’s number-one fear is that their job will somehow define their lives. Hence, they conclude that a job stocking shelves at Walmart will redefine or dumb down who they are. This notion is absolutely untrue. That job is a brick in your foundation.

In order to get any job, you have to do more than drop off a resume or file one online. You have to emerge from the pack. That means that you have to sell yourself like a commodity. You have to market yourself (and marketing is the least-appreciated and yet most-crucial feature of all commercial acts). That is not degrading; it is an opportunity. Find out everything you can about the company and its products. After you apply, you need to go back and back, meet the managers, meet the owners, all with the goal of showing them how much value you will add to their enterprise.

In this new job, success is not hard, but it requires discipline. Just follow a few simple rules. Never be late. Do first whatever your immediate supervisor tells you to do. Do it much more quickly and thoroughly than he or she expects. When that is done, do some unexpected things that add value to the environment. Never complain. Never gossip. Never partake in office politics. Be a model employee. That’s the path toward thriving.

It’s not just about adding value to the company. It’s about adding value to yourself. The digital age has given us all amazing tools for accumulating personal capital. Get a LinkedIn account and attach your job to your personal identity. Start putting together that essential network. This network is something that will grow throughout your life, starting now and lasting until the end. It could be the most valuable commodity you have outside your own character and skills. Take possession of your work experience and make it your own.

While doing all this excellent work, you need to be thinking about two possible paths forward, each of them equally viable: advance within this one firm or move to another firm. You should go with whichever is to your best advantage. Never stop looking for your next job. This is true now and always throughout your life.

A huge mistake people make is to embed themselves emotionally in one institution. The law encourages this attitude by tying all sorts of advantages to the status-quo job you currently hold. You get health benefits, time off, scheduled raises, and it is always easier to stick with what you know. To do so is a mistake. Progress comes through disruption, and sometimes you have to disrupt yourself to make that progress happen.

To be willing to forgo the security of one job for the uncertainty of another gives you an edge. Average people around you will sacrifice every principle and every truth for the sake of security. People, with very few exceptions, fear the uncertainty of an unknown future more than the seeming security of a known status quo. They will give up every right and every bit of their souls for the promise of security (whether it be through a paycheck or an armed police officer), even to the point of personal misery or obeying a wicked despot (whether it be a boss or a dictator). You can break free of this tendency, but it takes courage, risk-taking, and a conscious act of defying convention.

You should always think of yourself as a productive unit that is always on the job market. You can go from institution to institution, always upgrading your skills and hence your wages. Never be afraid to try something new or to plunge into a new work environment.

Clever finance management here is crucial. Never live at the level that matches your income. Your standard of living, instead, should match your next-best employment opportunity, the one you have forgone or the one you might take next. If you stick with this practice—and it requires discipline—you will be free to choose where you work and to take greater risks. You will also develop a cushion should something go wrong.

At the same time, there could be advantages to sticking around one place, even as everyone else around you is moving from here to there. Even if that happens, you should still think of yourself as being on the market. You are governing yourself. Don’t let yourself be beholden to anyone, but understand also that no one owes you a living. That’s the only way to make clear judgments about your career path.

At every job, you are going to learn so much about human ethics, psychology, emotions, and behavior. Most of what you will learn will be enlightening and encouraging. Some of it, however, is not pretty and might come as a shock.

First, you will discover that people in general are extremely reluctant to admit error. People will defend an opinion or an action until the end, even if every bit of logic and evidence runs contrary. Sincere apologies and genuine admissions of error and wrongdoing are the rarest things in this world. There is no point at all in demanding apologies or in becoming resentful when they fail to appear. Just move on. Neither should you expect to always be rewarded for being right. On the contrary, people will often resent you and try to take you down.

How do you deal with this problem? Don’t get frustrated. Don’t seek justice. Accept the reality for what it is. If a job isn’t working out, move on. If you get fired, don’t seek vengeance. Anger and resentment accomplish absolutely nothing. Keep your eye on the goal of personal and professional advancement, and think of anything that interrupts your path as a diversion and a distraction.

Second, we all want to believe that doing a great job and becoming excellent at something will lead to personal reward. This is not always or even often true. Excellence makes you a target of envy from those around you who have failed by comparison. Excellence can often harm your prospects for success. Meritocracy exists, and even prevails, but it is realized through your own initiative, and it is never just granted freely by some individual or institution. All personal and social progress comes about because you alone push through the attempts of everyone around you to stop it.

Third, people tend to possess a status-quo bias and prefer to follow orders and instructions; most people cannot imagine how the world around them might be different through initiative and change. If you can train yourself to imagine a world that doesn’t yet exist—to exercise the use of imagination and creativity in a commercial framework—you can become the most valuable person around. You might be among those who can be real entrepreneurs. You might even change the world.

As you develop and use these talents, and as they become ever more valuable to those around you, remember that you are not infallible. The commercial marketplace punishes pride and arrogance and it rewards humility and the teachable spirit. Be happy for your successes, but never stop learning. There is always more to know because the world is ever-changing, and none of us can know all things. The key to thriving in this life is to be prepared to not only change with it but to get in front of the change and drive it.

From where you are now, unemployed with few seeming prospects, your future might look hopeless. This perception is not true. There are barriers, to be sure, but they are there to be overcome by you and you alone. The world does not work like you were told it works when you were a kid. Deal with it and start engaging the reality around you right now just as it is, using intelligence, cunning, and charm. You are the decision-maker, and whether you succeed or fail ultimately depends on the decisions you make.

In many ways, you are a victim of a system that has conspired against you. But you get nowhere by acting like a victim. You don’t need to be a victim. You have free will and the capacity for self-governance; indeed, you possess the human right to choose. Today is the day to start exercising it.

Find a Portuguese translation of this article here.

20121129_JeffreyTuckeravatar (1)ABOUT 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.”

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

Common Core’s End Game: Redistributing Grades

Ending inequities in academic outcomes drives much of the decision-making for bureaucrats who run our schools. Ultimately, the education bureaucrats, who are beholden to Washington, express much anxiety over losing federal aid. The message from Washington is that outcomes will be equalized.  It’s in the President’s proposed education budget and new guidelines to eliminate “disparate punishment” on the basis of race. Merit and fairness are cast aside, as both rewards and punishments are redistributed.

When I teach college English, the topic of communism comes up because many writers, such as Richard Wright, were at one time communists. But I inevitably get students who think redistribution of wealth is nice-sounding.  Karl Marx’s dictum, “To each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” resonates with young adults who have been raised on tolerance and social justice.  But then I challenge them on the reality of this precept.  Would you share your cars, I ask.  How about your electronics?  How about your grades?  What if I redistribute the grades, so everyone gets the class average?  That’s when there is an objection!

Of course, they mind. It turns out that there is some resentment about similar efforts at redistribution they had been forced into when they did group projects in school.  Inevitably, there were one or two students in the group who did most of the work.  But the slackers still got the benefit in terms of their grade.

The Common Core standards are intended to replicate such redistribution on a national scale.

The main impetus behind Common Core is closing the achievement gap because it’s the main objective of school boards, superintendents, principals, and many teachers.  The way to close the achievement gap is by redistributing grades.

This may sound far-fetched or conspiratorial.  But the language is there even in the many reports produced by commissions and committees promoting Common Core. For example, the report by the Gordon Commission, “To Assess, to Teach, to Learn: A Vision for the Future of Assessment,” calls for recognizing “collective knowledge” in the Common Core assessments for the “21st century.” This report, authored by 30 “scholars, policymakers, and practitioners” (including Bill Ayers ally Linda Darling-Hammond who is in charge of one of two national Common Core tests) and 50 consultants, was commissioned by the Educational Testing Service, the company that puts out the SAT, which was changed on March 5, 2014, to align with Common Core.

Common Core redistributes grades in three ways, primarily:

  1. By lowering standards.
  2. By assigning points for behaviors and attitudes instead of academics.
  3. By grading students as a group instead of individually.

It does this in the areas of Math, English, and Science.

Lowering Standards in Math

Algebra is delayed until ninth grade (from eighth grade).  Here in Atlanta, the president of Georgia Institute of Technology said a student who had not had algebra in eighth grade and calculus by senior year wouldn’t be qualified for admission.

As in the other disciplines, Common Core math emphasizes “process.”  So, those students who arrive at the correct answer through the straightforward old-fashioned methods suffer when they fail to explain the process through convoluted diagrams, drawings, and explanations.  A student who comes up with the wrong answer but performs the required task of demonstrating process may get more points than the student who arrives at the correct answer.  But if we really look at the boxes and visual representations of math problems, we see that Common Core math speaks to those who do not grasp the concepts abstractly, but need visual representations.  It’s like using fingers and toes to do calculations.  Those who are able to memorize, work the calculations, or even do the math in their heads, will be punished.  Those who need the pictures will be rewarded.

Lowering Standards in English Language Arts (ELA)

Reading experts, like Maryanne Wolf, describe various levels of literacy or reading ability.  Beginning readers “decode” words, moving along slowly on the page.  “Fluent” readers read effortlessly and quickly.  They read with such ease that they are able to spend most of their mental energy analyzing what they are reading, bringing in prior knowledge, and adding new ideas.  Fluent readers read with pleasure; decoding readers struggle.

Under the pretext of “close reading” of short excerpts, Common Core forces the fluent readers to stay on a short passage until the entire class or group understands the content.

Section B of the Publishers Criteria reinforces reading as decoding by demanding that “All students (including those who are behind) have extensive opportunities to encounter grade-level complex text.”

Curiously, this section insists that rather than improving their own reading skills, struggling students be pulled along: “Far too often, students who have fallen behind are only given less complex texts rather than the support they need to read texts at the appropriate level of complexity.”  More opportunities for catch-up are embedded in the charge to “build progressions of texts of increasing complexity within grade-level bands that overlap to a limited degree with earlier bands (e.g., grades 4-5 and grades 6-8).”

Common Core discourages teachers from using any information beyond the text at hand.  For example, the sample teaching instructions for the Gettysburg Address bewildered teachers who were told to teach this seminal, historically and literarily important document “cold.”  Students in such class discussion are discouraged from bringing in outside information to the class discussion so as to level the playing field.

Common Core’s emphasis on “visual literacy” and speaking and listening skills also redistributes grades from fluent readers to struggling readers.  Students up through grade 12 are evaluated on “Speaking and Listening Standards” – abilities formerly mastered by first grade. Under Common Core, 11th and 12th graders have to demonstrate their ability to “Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions . . . with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics.  . . .”

So, much of class time is spent on group reading of very short passages, watching videos, playing educational computer games, and then having discussions among groups of students.  Students are graded on their ability to collaborate and accept diverse views. Thus, we jump ahead to another means of redistributing grades: rewarding compliant behavior.

Assessments Based on Attitudes and Behaviors

Another lengthy report, on assessments, sponsored by the Department of Education and titled “Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century” on new assessments, encourages following the KIPP charter school character report card, where students are graded on behaviors and attitudes. Sample measurements go beyond the simple “citizenship” segment of report cards of yore. Teachers evaluate the student on 24 characteristics, under the categories of “Zest,” (“Invigorates others”) “Grit,” “Self Control – School Work,” “Self Control Interpersonal,” “Optimism” (e.g., “Believes that effort will improve his or her future”), “Gratitude,” “Social Intelligence” (e.g., “Knows when and how to include others”), and “Curiosity.” The report also encourages the use of biometric computer measurements.

The evaluation of such “noncognitive” skills indicates a violation of personal boundaries between teachers and students, and between data companies and students.  And why should a student be graded on his ability to “invigorate others”?  This places the burden of other students’ performance on the student.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS):

NGSS are not technically Common Core standards, but they are standards developed by the same group, Achieve, a consortium of corporations and some governors, that developed the other Common Core standards.  Many, however, fear that they are the next phase in the imposition of federal standards.  Ten states have already adopted them.

During a March 5, 2014, hearing on Georgia SB 167, an anti-Common Core bill, opponents objected to the fact that the bill precludes the implementation of NGSS.

As in the standards for ELA and math, the NGSS are intended to be transformative, or as Appendix A states, “to reflect a new vision for American science education.”  They call for new “performance expectations” that “focus on understanding and applications as opposed to memorization of facts devoid of context.”

It is precisely such short shrift to knowledge (dismissively referred to as “memorization”) to which science professors Lawrence S. Lerner and Paul Gross object.  Writing at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation blog, they charge that standards “slight” essential math skills and effectively eliminate high school physics.  They claim that the “practices” strategy of NGSS is an extension of the failing “inquiry learning” of the early 1990s.

As in ELA and math, “knowledge” in NGSS is shirked, while attitude is assigned high importance.  Students are given ideological lessons on such things as “Human impacts on Earth systems.” According to section ESS3.C, in grades K-2, students should understand, “Things people do can affect the environment but they can make choices to reduce their impact.” In grades 3 through 5, students should learn “Societal activities have had major effects on the land, ocean, atmosphere, and even outer space. Societal activities can also help protect Earth’s resources and environments.”

As I learned from attending the hearing on SB 167, ending inequities in academic outcomes drives much of the decision-making for bureaucrats who run our schools.  Philip Lanoue, superintendant of Clarke County Schools, one of the many state employees testifying against the Common Core withdrawal bill, praised Common Core for “equaling the playing field” and “closing the achievement gap.” Principals, teachers, and superintendants spoke about how Common Core “engages” students and involves “critical thinking.” (Teachers opposed to Common Core risk their jobs if they speak out.)

Sure, students are engaged when they work on fun projects.  Most would rather do that than read, write, or solve math problems.   Pretending to be pundits, or “critical thinkers,” as they repeat politically correct pieties, appeals to students’ vanity.  Common Core makes lagging students feel good about themselves, and it makes administrators look good.

Ultimately, the education bureaucrats are beholden to Washington.  Much anxiety was expressed at the hearing about losing federal aid were SB 167 to pass.

The message from Washington is that outcomes will be equalized.  It’s in the President’s proposed education budget and new guidelines to eliminate “disparate punishment” on the basis of race.  Merit and fairness are cast aside, as both rewards and punishments are redistributed.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.