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Pence: ‘Socialism Has Failed … Freedom Works’ [Video]

Vice President Mike Pence warned a gathering of conservative activists Thursday about the perils of socialism and its historical record of failure.

“Socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried, in every era in every continent. Freedom works,” Pence told a cheering crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. “It was freedom and not socialism that ended slavery, ended two world wars, [and] has made America a beacon of hope.”

The vice president, tasked with leading the government’s response to the coronavirus, also said Americans “expect us to work together” to keep the public safe.

Pence repeated President Donald Trump’s vow that “America will never be a socialist country” as he noted that the ideology has gained in popularity among lawmakers on the left in Congress as well as on college campuses.


In these trying times, we must turn to the greatest document in the history of the world to promise freedom and opportunity to its citizens for guidance. Find out more now >>


Socialism is being sold as a promise of better health care and a cleaner environment, Pence said.

“The reality of socialism is different,” the vice president said. “The truth is, citizens in the most free countries in the world earn seven times more than citizens in the least free countries.”

Pence noted Venezuela’s grave problems and shortages as the country is in the midst of a struggle for freedom against what the Trump administration considers dictator Nicolas Maduro’s illegitimate government.

“Venezuela was once the second-wealthiest country in our hemisphere,” Pence said. “Then we wake up after a decade of a socialist dictatorship. Almost 5 million people in that country have fled to neighboring lands.”

Pence spoke about a woman from Venezuela who said her grandchildren had to rise at 4 a.m. to get a ticket to stand in line to buy a piece of bread in the afternoon.

“This president and this administration will continue to stand with the people of Venezuela,” Pence said.

The vice president also said the Democratic Party has embraced socialism.

“Whether it’s called ‘Medicare for All’ or a ‘Green New Deal,’ Democrats have embraced socialism,” he said. “History tells us it has literally impoverished millions of people and robbed the liberty of generations.”

Pence began by speaking about the coronavirus one day after Trump put the vice president in charge of the federal government’s response. The vice president said:

We’re all in this together. This is not the time for partisanship. The American people expect us to work together. … I promise you this administration will work with leaders in both parties, on the state and local level. This president will always put the health and safety of America first.

Pence said the White House’s coronavirus task force has met daily and that as of Thursday, 15 known cases of the disease have been detected in the United States.

“The risk to the American public remains low,” Pence said. “We are ready for anything.”

CPAC, the largest annual national gathering of conservative activists, runs Thursday through Saturday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington.

COLUMN BY

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast. Lucas is also the author of “Tainted by Suspicion: The Secret Deals and Electoral Chaos of Disputed Presidential Elections.” Send an email to Fred. Twitter: @FredLucasWH.

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A Note for our Readers:

This is a critical year in the history of our country. With the country polarized and divided on a number of issues and with roughly half of the country clamoring for increased government control—over health care, socialism, increased regulations, and open borders—we must turn to America’s founding for the answers on how best to proceed into the future.

The Heritage Foundation has compiled input from more than 100 constitutional scholars and legal experts into the country’s most thorough and compelling review of the freedoms promised to us within the United States Constitution into a free digital guide called Heritage’s Guide to the Constitution.

They’re making this guide available to all readers of The Daily Signal for free today!

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EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column is republished with permission. All rights reserved.

3 Kinds of Economic Ignorance by Steven Horwitz

Nothing gets me going more than overt economic ignorance.

I know I’m not alone. Consider the justified roasting that Bernie Sanders got on social media for wondering why student loans come with interest rates of 6 or 8 or 10 percent while a mortgage can be taken out for only 3 percent. (The answer, of course, is that a mortgage has collateral in the form of a house, so it is a lower-risk loan to the lender than a student loan, which has no collateral and therefore requires a higher interest rate to cover the higher risk.)

When it comes to economic ignorance, libertarians are quick to repeat Murray Rothbard’s famous observation on the subject:

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a “dismal science.” But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.

Economic ignorance comes in different forms, and some types of economic ignorance are less excusable than others. But the most important implication of Rothbard’s point is that the worst sort of economic ignorance is ignorance about your economic ignorance. There are varying degrees of blameworthiness for not knowing certain things about economics, but what is always unacceptable is not to recognize that you may not know enough to be speaking with authority, nor to understand the limits of economic knowledge.

Let’s explore three different types of economic ignorance before we return to the pervasive problem of not knowing what you don’t know.

1. What Isn’t Debated

Let’s start with the least excusable type of economic ignorance: not knowing agreed-upon theories or results in economics. There may not be a lot of these, but there are more than nonspecialists sometimes believe. Bernie Sanders’s inability to understand why uncollateralized loans have higher interest rates would fall into this category, as this is an agreed-upon claim in financial economics. Donald Trump’s bashing of free trade (and Sanders’s, too) would be another example, as the idea that free trade benefits the trading countries on the whole and over time is another strongly agreed-upon result in economics.

Trump and Sanders, and plenty of others, who make claims about economics, but who remain ignorant of basic teachings such as these, should be seen as highly blameworthy for that ignorance. But the deeper failing of many who make such errors is that they are ignorant of their ignorance. Often, they don’t even know that there are agreed-upon results in economics of which they are unaware.

2. Interpreting the Data

A second type of economic ignorance that is, in my view, less blameworthy is ignorance of economic data. As Rothbard observed, economics is a specialized discipline, and nonspecialists can’t be expected to know all the relevant theories and facts. There are a lot of economic data out there to be searched through, and often those data require careful statistical interpretation to be easily applied to questions of public policy. Economic data sources also requiretheoretical interpretation. Data do not speak for themselves — they must be integrated into a story of cause and effect through the framework of economic theory.

That said, in the world of the Internet, a lot of basic economic data are available and not that hard to find. The problem is that many people believe that certain empirical facts are true and don’t see the need to verify them by actually checking the data. For example, Bernie Sanders recently claimed that Americans are routinely working 50- and 60-hour workweeks. No doubt some Americans are, but the long-term direction of the average workweek is down, with the current average being about 34 hours per week. Longer lives and fewer working years between school and retirement have also meant a reduction in lifetime working hours and an increase in leisure time for the average American. These data are easily available at a variety of websites.

The problem of statistical interpretation can be seen with data on economic inequality, where people wrongly take static snapshots of the shares of national income held by the rich and poor to be evidence of the decline of the poor’s standard of living or their ability to move up and out of poverty.

People who wish to opine on such matters can, again, be forgiven for not knowing all the data in a specialized discipline, but if they choose to engage with the topic, they should be aware of their own limitations, including their ability to interpret the data they are discussing.

3. Different Schools of Thought

The third type of economic ignorance, and the least blameworthy, is ignorance of the multiple perspectives within the discipline of economics. There are multiple schools of thought in economics, and many empirical questions and historical facts have a variety of explanations. So a movie like The Big Short that clearly suggests that the financial crisis and Great Recession were caused by a lack of regulation might be persuasive to people who have never heard an alternative explanation that blames the combination of Federal Reserve policy and misguided government intervention in the housing market for the problems. One can make similar points about the Great Depression and the difference between Hayekian and Keynesian explanations of business cycles more generally.

These issues involving schools of thought are excellent examples of Rothbard’s point about the specialized nature of economics and what the nonspecialist can and cannot be expected to know. It is, in fact, unrealistic to expect nonexperts to know all of the arguments by the various schools of thought.

Combining Ignorance and Arrogance

What is missing from all of these types of economic ignorance — and what is often missing from knowledgeable economists themselves — is what we might call “epistemic humility,” or a willingness to admit how little we know. Noneconomists are often unable to recognize how little they know about economics, and economists are often unable to admit how little they know about the economy.

Real economic “expertise” is not just mastery of theories and facts. It is a deeper understanding of the variety of interpretations of those theories and facts and humility in the face of our limits in applying that knowledge in attempting to manage an economy. The smartest economists are the ones who know the limits of economic expertise.

Commentators with opinions on economic matters, whether presidential candidates or Facebook friends, could, at the very least, indicate that they may have biases or blind spots that lead to uses of data or interpretive frameworks with which experts might disagree.

The worst type of economic ignorance is the type of ignorance that is the worst in all fields: being ignorant of your own ignorance.

Steven HorwitzSteven Horwitz

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions.

He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

What does Rep. Eric Cantor’s Primary Loss in Virginia Really Signify?

Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s hopes to replace House Speaker John Boehner were crushed with his defeat by Randolph Macon Economics Professor David Brat by 11 points, 56% to 45% in Virginia’s Tuesday primary. After the stunning upset victory in suburban Richmond, Virginia’s 7th Congressional District by Republican challenger David Brat, a self-styled Tea Party libertarian, Republican Party leaders are confounded about future prospects. They are concerned about House contests and national mid-term and Presidential elections in both 2014 and 2016. Long term Virginia 7th C.D. incumbent Republican and US House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor has no choice but to resign forcing the House GOP majority to elect a new leader. Because of the immigration issue raised in this defeat of Cantor by Tea Party upstart Brat this could be a further warning to House Speaker John Boehner that he might face similar prospects in his home district in Ohio this November. The Wall Street Journal in its report on Cantor’s upset loss to ‘underfunded’ Brat commented:

Mr. Cantor’s defeat marked an unexpected and staggering turn in this year’s primary-election season, overturning the building narrative that Republican Party leaders and allied business groups had trampled the GOP’s tea-party wing, which has fought to push the party to the political right.

Mr. Cantor’s defeat could reshape many areas of policy in Congress, foremost the prospects for immigration legislation. Many Republican leaders say the GOP won’t make gains with the fast-growing Hispanic population unless it helps to liberalize immigration laws and grant legal status to some illegal immigrants. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) has said he wants to take up the issue, but opposition from conservatives in his ranks has stalled the effort.

In his largely under-the-radar campaign, Mr. Brat, 49 years old, primarily sought to cast himself as more conservative than Mr. Cantor on immigration policy. He also criticized the GOP leader’s alliance with business groups and his record on fiscal issues, particularly his votes to raise the federal borrowing limit, casting Mr. Cantor as part of a leadership team that he argued had grown disconnected from its constituents.

While many are shocked about the Brat primary victory that dethroned House Majority leader Eric Cantor, we do not believe it was because he is Jewish. Rather, it is reflective of the extreme polarization of both parties. Democrats who recently were polled to determine if they were moderate versus liberal, skewed towards liberals. In January 2014 the Gallup organization released findings of self-identification in more than 13 polls taken in 2013 of 18,000 Americans. Their report confirmed this trend:

Americans continue to be more likely to identify as conservatives (38%) than as liberals (23%). But the conservative advantage is down to 15 percentage points as liberal identification edged up to its highest level since Gallup began regularly measuring ideology in the current format in 1992.

On the GOP side, the traditional country club business moderates that we were occasioned to see in prominence as party leaders over the period from the 1940’s through the Reagan, Bush I and II eras have been diminished by the rise of the Tea Party and libertarian grass roots movements.  That is reflected in the ironic confrontation in the November Henrico Virginia Congressional District race which is now between two professors at Randolph Macon University., Brat, a self styled tea Party libertarian, versus Democrat candidate, Jack Trammell, who styles himself as “liberal progressive”. Given the 7th CD voting preferences heavily skewed to conservative Brat might represent the district in the next Congress. As to why Cantor lost, look no further than the comments of David Wasserman of the Cooke Report quoted in this USA Today article on Cantor’s defeat:

Cantor’s leadership position, unwillingness to prolong last October’s government shutdown, far-fetched attacks on Brat, and stylistic clash with Virginia’s gun-owning, very conservative 7th (district) all played a role in the ‘perfect storm’ of base anger that engulfed him.

In a warning sign of Tea Party discontent in Cantor’s Richmond-based district, activists booed and heckled Cantor during a party convention in May. Cantor had invested nearly $1 million into the primary, running television ads and sending mailers attacking the underfunded and little known Brat.

Former Connecticut US Senator Joe Lieberman was upended in a highly partisan primary in August 2006 in the Nutmeg state.  As a Connecticut resident then, many of us were appalled to find that a minority of registered Democrat voters nominated Ned Lamont, scion of a wealthy Greenwich family; many were progressives, virulently anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. That energized involvement of a number of us in the Lieberman Independent campaign and resulting victory in November 2006.  A majority of those who elected him were Republicans and a distinct minority were union members, what pollsters called conservative lunch bucket Democrats.  That was an indication that the progressives had taken over local Democratic politics.  See my Israpundit post, August 10, 2006.

Unlike the Lieberman example, Cantor can’t run as a ‘sore loser’ Independent candidate in Virginia. And even if he could, he would lose because of the polarized Conservative electorate who didn’t appreciate his moderate views on immigration and other issues.  The defeat of Cantor may possibly lead in the next Congress to overturning current House Speaker John Boehner.  Polarization at the extremes of both parties has vaporized bi-partisan resolution of major public policy issues perhaps reflected in the low approval ratings of Congress. More ominously it may presage the emergence of an autocratic executive branch of our government relying on executive orders.   That could translate to a majority of Independents and moderates in the country being turned off, not voting and both Congressional and Presidential race outcomes determined by activist minorities.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review. The featured photo is courtesy of the Associated Press.

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