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Judicial Secularists Attack Religious Freedom

On June 7, the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida dealt the latest blow to religious freedom in our country.

The case arose from a request by Cambridge Christian High School, which had earned the opportunity to compete in the 2A division playoffs finals, to use the stadium’s public announcement system in prayer prior to the beginning of the game. The team’s opponent was another Christian school equally devoted to serving God and to conducting itself in His image with every activity it undertakes.

Citing issues of potential coercion and fearing that such prayer might be offensive to others, Dr. Roger Dearing, the executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA), declined the request.

Of course, in so doing, Dr. Dearing dismissed the fact that the same FHSAA had approved such a request in 2012. He also dismissed the national tradition of engaging in prayer prior to the start of a football game. And most astoundingly he ignored that both teams, meaning all parties involved, wished to engage in a unified prayer as one community under Christ.

Following the denial, Cambridge Christian brought the case to the judiciary for consideration. After all, they weren’t asking for the announcer to lead everyone in prayer. They weren’t asking for the FHSAA to buy new equipment. They weren’t even asking for the game to be delayed for one moment because, in point of fact, the two teams were going to pray on the field and in front of the fans anyway.

No. The only question they were asking was, “Hey, man, can I borrow your microphone?”

Court predictably quashed religious freedom

But almost predictably, the court ruled against religious freedom citing issues of perceived endorsement of religion by government and of the infringement praying might have on the rights of others (yes, this is not a misprint).

Every time I learn of a case like this, I am baffled at the extent to which the state squashes the public’s ability to pray in an open forum merely because of government’s presence. This catastrophic road upon which the Supreme Court of the United States has placed us suppresses our right to worship and to pay reverence to God — in direct violation of the original intent First Amendment.  It ignores the spiritual aspects of human existence, and most importantly, casts aside the foundational roles of religion and religious worship in our nation’s birth.

Repeatedly, I am told that the reason for following this road is the wall of separation between church and state espoused by Thomas Jefferson in his letter written on the first day of 1802 to the members of the Danbury Baptist Church.

But there is so much that runs counter to this assertion.

First, President Jefferson’s comment was completely extrajudicial in nature.

Second, the concept of a wall of separation between church and state has been tainted by the agenda-driven nature of the Supreme Court’s 20th-century opinions. Following the 19th-century Court’s introduction of Jefferson’s wall into the legal corpus, the first two 20th-century cases invoking it did so in an effort to keep the government from interfering with state-based, religious-supporting programs.

But in 1947, the Court changed direction to one that would inhibit, rather than support, religious worship. With its McCollum decision, the court prohibited Bible verses from being recited in public schools, and later, it struck down prayer in schools as well as the observance of even a bland and neutral moment of silence.

The subsequent deterioration in the nation’s moral posture and the breakdown in the family as a central societal unit are the predictable consequences of these actions.

An alternative route ensuring freedoms

But lost in these recitations is the overt bias the Court displayed in selecting Jefferson’s wall of separation in its interpretation of the First Amendment.

Let’s consider a few similarly applicable observations made by some of the nation’s foundational greats in equally extrajudicial fashion.  George Mason, in writing the Virginia Bill of Rights, wrote, “all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and. . . it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.” His proposed amendment was subsequently approved by the Virginia legislature, the same legislature Madison and Jefferson inhabited — a far greater weight of influence than one man’s personal letter.

Based on Mason’s language, would it not have been more appropriate for a 20th century court to hold that in interpreting the First Amendment we should recognize that our nation was created with the purpose of guaranteeing that all men be able to engage in Christian forbearance? If so, wouldn’t using a public microphone for spontaneously requested prayer be not only allowed, but encouraged?

Or how about using John Marshall, the most prolific justice in the history of the Supreme Court? When asked about the nexus of Christianity and the nation’s government, he wrote in a letter, just like Jefferson did, that, “The American population. . . is entirely Christian, and with us, Christianity and religion are identified. It would be strange indeed, if with such a people, our institution did not presuppose Christianity.”

Consequently, wouldn’t a more appropriate truism for the Supreme Court to follow in its interpretation of the First Amendment be that the United States of America, through its foundation and its culture, presupposes Christianity?

Or consider the observation made by Justice Joseph Story, one of the early members of the Supreme Court, who extra-judicially wrote, “My own private judgment has long been (and every day’s experience more and more confirms me in it) that government cannot long exist without an alliance with religion to some extent; and that Christianity is indispensable to the true interests and solid foundations of free government.”

From this, wouldn’t a more appropriate guide for the interpretation of the First Amendment be that Christianity is indispensable to the true interests, foundations, and existence of these United States of America?

Back the need for a legislative override

If any of these guides had been adopted instead of, or perhaps in addition to, Jefferson’s wall of separation, imagine how different American jurisprudence would be as it relates to religious liberty and our freedom to worship! Sharia law would be an impossible legal threat, and the concepts of love for one’s neighbor and respect for the dignity of man would be freely taught in our schools under the direct supervision of the community’s parents.

From this analysis a few conclusions may be reached.

First, there is no inherent reason for Jefferson’s wall of separation, at least as the courts apply it today, to be the only compass in interpreting the First Amendment of the Constitution. So long as all religious views are respected, the government can peacefully cohabitate with worshipers be they Christian, Jewish, or any peace-loving faith.

Second, neither the people of this great nation nor its elected representatives selected the road our nation has traversed regarding religious liberty. Instead, it was embraced by an oligarchy of legalists unaccountable to the will of the people.

Consequently, if it is true that the Courts have interpreted the Constitution in a manner inconsistent with the will of the people, then isn’t it up to We The People, as the true purveyors of the Constitution, to override an opinion of such a Court and reverse an ill-conceived opinion? We know, through their writings, that at least Jefferson and Madison would think so.

Truly, the road we are following regarding our religious freedom is nothing short of harrowing. It has diminished our sense of morality and has curtailed our abilities to teach our children that there are things bigger than themselves.

It is time for our country to navigate back to the road built upon Christian forbearance; the same road that would lead us to the shining city on the hill.

RELATED ARTICLE: 2 Cases Threaten to Shut Down Public Prayer. Why the Supreme Court May Need to Act.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The Revolutionary Act.

The Average American Today Is Richer than John D. Rockefeller by Donald J. Boudreaux

This Atlantic story reveals how Americans lived 100 years ago. By the standards of a middle-class American today, that lifestyle was poor, inconvenient, dreary, and dangerous. (Only a few years later — in 1924 — the 16-year-old son of a sitting US president would die of an infected blister that the boy got on his toe while playing tennis on the White House grounds.)

So here’s a question that I’ve asked in one form or another on earlier occasions, but that is so probing that I ask it again: What is the minimum amount of money that you would demand in exchange for your going back to live even as John D. Rockefeller lived in 1916?

21.7 million 2016 dollars (which are about one million 1916 dollars)? Would that do it? What about a billion 2016 — or 1916 — dollars? Would this sizable sum of dollars be enough to enable you to purchase a quantity of high-quality 1916 goods and services that would at least make you indifferent between living in 1916 America and living (on your current income) in 2016 America?

Think about it. Hard. Carefully.

If you were a 1916 American billionaire you could, of course, afford prime real-estate. You could afford a home on 5th Avenue or one overlooking the Pacific Ocean or one on your own tropical island somewhere (or all three). But when you traveled from your Manhattan digs to your west-coast palace, it would take a few days, and if you made that trip during the summer months, you’d likely not have air-conditioning in your private railroad car.

And while you might have air-conditioning in your New York home, many of the friends’ homes that you visit — as well as restaurants and business offices that you frequent — were not air-conditioned. In the winter, many were also poorly heated by today’s standards.

To travel to Europe took you several days. To get to foreign lands beyond Europe took you even longer.

Might you want to deliver a package or letter overnight from New York City to someone in Los Angeles? Sorry. Impossible.

You could neither listen to radio (the first commercial radio broadcast occurred in 1920) nor watch television. You could, however, afford the state-of-the-art phonograph of the era. (It wasn’t stereo, though. And — I feel certain — even today’s vinylphiles would prefer listening to music played off of a modern compact disc to listening to music played off of a 1916 phonograph record.) Obviously, you could not download music.

There really wasn’t very much in the way of movies for you to watch, even though you could afford to build your own home movie theater.

Your telephone was attached to a wall. You could not use it to Skype.

Your luxury limo was far more likely to break down while you were being chauffeured about town than is your car today to break down while you are driving yourself to your yoga class. While broken down and waiting patiently in the back seat for your chauffeur to finish fixing your limo, you could not telephone anyone to inform that person that you’ll be late for your meeting.

Even when in residence at your Manhattan home, if you had a hankering for some Thai red curry or Vindaloo chicken or Vietnamese Pho or a falafel, you were out of luck: even in the unlikely event that you even knew of such exquisite dishes, your chef likely had no idea how to prepare them, and New York’s restaurant scene had yet to feature such exotic fare. And while you might have had the money in 1916 to afford to supply yourself with a daily bowlful of blueberries at your New York home in January, even for mighty-rich you the expense was likely not worthwhile.

Your wi-fi connection was painfully slow — oh, wait, right: it didn’t exist. No matter, because you had neither computer nor access to the Internet. (My gosh, there weren’t even any blogs for you to read!)

Even the best medical care back then was horrid by today’s standards: it was much more painful and much less effective. (Remember young Coolidge.) Antibiotics weren’t available. Erectile dysfunction? Bipolar disorder? Live with ailments such as these. That was your only option.

You (if you are a woman) or (if you are a man) your wife and, in either case, your daughter and your sister had a much higher chance of dying as a result of giving birth than is the case today. The child herself or himself was much less likely to survive infancy than is the typical American newborn today.

Dental care wasn’t any better. Your money didn’t buy you a toothbrush with vibrating bristles. (You could, however, afford the very finest dentures.)

Despite your vanity, you couldn’t have purchased contact lenses, reliable hair restoration, or modern, safe breast augmentation. And forget about liposuction to vacuum away the results of your having dined on far too many cream-sauce-covered terrapin.

Birth control was primitive: it was less reliable and far more disruptive of pleasure than are any of the many inexpensive and widely available birth-control methods of today.

Of course, you adore precious-weacious little Rover, but your riches probably could not buy for Rover veterinary care of the sort that is routine in every burgh throughout the land today.

You were completely cut off from the cultural richness that globalization has spawned over the past century. There was no American-inspired, British-generated rock’n’roll played on electric guitars. And no reggae. Jazz was still a toddler, with only few recordings of it.

You could afford to buy the finest Swiss watches and clocks, but even they couldn’t keep time as accurately as does a cheap Timex today (not to mention the accuracy of the time kept by your smartphone).

Honestly, I wouldn’t be remotely tempted to quit the 2016 me so that I could be a one-billion-dollar-richer me in 1916. This fact means that, by 1916 standards, I am today more than a billionaire. It means, at least given my preferences, I am today materially richer than was John D. Rockefeller in 1916. And if, as I think is true, my preferences here are not unusual, then nearly every middle-class American today is richer than was America’s richest man a mere 100 years ago.

This post first appeared at Cafe Hayek.

Donald J. BoudreauxDonald J. Boudreaux

Donald Boudreaux is asenior fellow with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a Mercatus Center Board Member, a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University and, a former FEE president.

Don’t Believe The Bigots

Despite the ongoing onslaught of lies the progressives promote against the truth concerning anything, including American history, the United States of America was founded upon Judeo/Christian Ethics.  In many circles, there was a heavy emphasis on the blessed leadership, protection, wisdom and mercy of God almighty, through his son Christ Jesus.  Great men of adventure, dating all the way back to Christopher Columbus dedicated land in this hemisphere to the God of Abraham, Isaic and Jacob.  As time progressed, there came to the fore a series of events that would build toward what would later become the United States of America.

Such a venture was an almost non-stop cascade of herculean actions which took an unlimited amount of faith, grit and intelligence to accomplish.  There were also the horrendously scorched summers that the Europeans were not accustomed to.  In addition, many of the first wave of early pilgrim settlers were wiped out through disease, starvation and bad decisions until wisdom finally prevailed and changed their fortunes and halted their demise.

Sometime later, 56 men gathered in Independence Hall in Philadelphia and said “no more” of the boot heel of tyranny under Britain’s King George and declared independence.  As a result, there was a collective wave of laughter throughout the British Empire.  After all, Great Britain was the world’s super power at the time.  So it was unfathomable to those in England that those colonial rabble rousers could present much of a challenge to the mighty Brits.

However there were four things the Founding Fathers of the United States possessed that the proud red coats did not seem to poses or exhibit.

  • Faith
  • Sense of purpose
  • Destiny
  • Mission of Liberty

For just as during the time of the prophet Nehemiah, there were those lousy skeptics and discouragers who sought to prevail against what some might describe as a rendezvous with destiny.  As the men focused more on the job at hand than the irritant discouragers, they prevailed, setting yet another example of not giving in to those who oppose what you are destined to achieve.  You can refer to Nehemiah 2: 17 to 20 in the Amplified or King James version.

Of course, Nehemiah and his friends rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem.  They clearly were victorious.  But eventually, the glory of their victory faded into a defeat for their nation.  Primarily, because the people turned away from God, who was their source of success.  In addition to that mistake, the parents and others including national leaders did not properly pass on the concept of victorious living to the succeeding generations.  Throughout the annals of history, mankind has either experienced or caused revival then fell away to defeat or decline, followed by revival again, then yet another tumbling away from the greatness of victorious living.  Yet we were meant to be continuously victorious in living all aspects of greatness, victory and positive achievement, not just a partial life of existence.

For example there is more to salvation than simply being saved from Satan’s vow of damnation with him.  Much like the founding fathers did, I believe God wants us to live complete lives of continuous advancement, vitality, victory and liberty, which they understood comes from our creator.  Our liberty and unalienable rights do not come from government or bastardized rights called civil rights either, no matter what certain people may say.

The United States was and is still meant to be the beacon of light to the world.  The light of true liberty should be so bright that rest of the world would desire to emulate the concept in their respective nations.  Through true liberty, America was once known as the envy of the world do to almost unlimited opportunities and even her cities were world renowned for their civility.  I believe America will experience a soon to come revival.  But before that can really occur there may be some sort of setback, possibly on the scale of the 9.11 attacks in 2001.  Why? Because many stupid and detrimental decisions (like the Iran deal and speeding up the growth of immorality) have been made by the current regime that has America vulnerable to possible enemy attacks or economic collapse.

Also, unfortunately our nation has become stuck in a quagmire of declining greatness because the good aspects of our past are purposely not taught to most students.  So as a result, the foundations of individual and societal greatness based upon God’s principles have not been built upon, and now our republic is in a heap of hurt.

But despite the mangled mess of today, I believe our republic will arise from her current moral, economic, political, educational and spiritual stupor.  Even though America is currently in a seemingly bottomless pit of decline, believe it or not there is much hope.  First of all, God wants us to do away with the curse of mediocrity that breeds stagnation for both individuals and the nation as a whole.

We don’t have to hold on to the brokenness that has led to the prevailing scourge of mediocrity that has led to stagnation, decline and pervasive misery.  Just as the Founding Fathers and the people of ancient Israel turned to God, especially after making wrong decisions and paying for them, let us humble ourselves and seek God’s forgiveness, wisdom, guidance and mercy.  He will then hear from heaven and forgive our national sin and heal our land.  It can’t hurt to give it a faith filled try. I believe our future generations and the republic itself is worth the effort.

God Bless You, God Bless America and May America Bless God.

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The Barbarianism of Paternalism by Aaron Ross Powell

Lots of people do lots of things I wish they wouldn’t. And lots of people don’t do lots of things I wish they would. In fact, I’m rather certain the world would be a better place for me and people just like me if more people were willing to go along with my desires and tastes, instead of stubbornly pursuing their own thing.

Take drinking tons of soda. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why people consider sugar water a multiple-times-a-day beverage. It’s like wanting to pour chocolate sauce on everything, or eat brownies with every meal. In short, to my sensibilities, it’s gross. And it’s way less healthy than drinking water — which tastes a whole lot better, too.

Part of being civilized — arguably most of being civilized — is recognizing that different people do things differently and that such differences deserve respect. Respecting difference means allowing behaviors we find disagreeable, provided those behaviors don’t cause us harm. This covers big stuff like religious toleration — those people of other faiths sure do eat weird things and have a funny way of talking, but that’s their business — to, yes, even the dreadful behavior of drinking half-a-dozen Cokes a day.

Of course, civilized people aren’t prevented from making their opinions known. I just did, with my quips about soda, and if I happen to see you drinking one, I’m free to tell you what I think. (Though I risk coming across as an officious jerk if I’m not careful.) What civilized people don’t do is hit each other with clubs over such differences.

That’s why the paternalism Sarah Conly offers three cheers for in the pages of the New York Times amounts to a rah-rah for barbarism. Conly, an assistant professor of philosophy at Bowdoin College and author of Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, wants those upstanding chaps of the NYPD to flex their might to stop Americans from getting so fat.

To support her preference for state interference, Conly turns to the great classical liberal John Stuart Mill.

In his great work, On Liberty, Mill advances the “harm principle” as a crucial limit on the authority of the state:

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right.

Which sounds pretty bad for the soda ban. But not so fast, Conly says. She tells us Mill endorsed preventing our freely chosen actions “when we are acting out of ignorance and doing something we’ll pretty definitely regret. You can stop someone from crossing a bridge that is broken, he said, because you can be sure no one wants to plummet into the river.”

From that, she gets to the idea that, because people underestimate the dangers of drinking lots of soda, they’re (often/usually) acting out of ignorance when they drink it, and so we’re justified in at the very least making it much more difficult for them to consume the stuff in bulk.

But read the full passage from Mill:

If either a public officer or any one else saw a person attempting to cross a bridge which had been ascertained to be unsafe, and there were no time to warn him of his danger, they might seize him and turn him back, without any real infringement of his liberty; for liberty consists in doing what one desires, and he does not desire to fall into the river.

Nevertheless, when there is not a certainty, but only a danger of mischief, no one but the person himself can judge of the sufficiency of the motive which may prompt him to incur the risk: in this case, therefore (unless he is a child, or delirious, or in some state of excitement or absorption incompatible with the full use of the reflecting faculty), he ought, I conceive, to be only warned of the danger; not forcibly prevented from exposing himself to it.

It seems Conly left out the bit about such interference requiring first “no time to warn him of his danger.” Nor does she seem at all bothered by the important limit that, “when there is not a certainty, but only a danger of mischief, no one but the person himself can judge of the sufficiency of the motive which may prompt him to incur the risk.”

Even accounting for the cognitive biases — which Conly says, if only he’d known about them, would’ve led Mill to support soda nannyism — it’s difficult to square the harm caused by a large Coke with the imminent danger and certainty of effect needed to override the harm principle.

In fact, a great deal of On Liberty seems perfectly aimed at exposing the immorality of Conly’s paternalism. She should’ve read not only the rest of that passage, but also the rest of On Liberty. Mill warns of an increasing inclination to stretch unduly the powers of society over the individual, both by the force of opinion and even by that of legislation: and as the tendency of all the changes taking place in the world is to strengthen society, and diminish the power of the individual, this encroachment is not one of the evils which tend spontaneously to disappear, but, on the contrary, to grow more and more formidable.

The disposition of mankind, whether as rulers or as fellow-citizens to impose their own opinions and inclinations as a rule of conduct on others, is so energetically supported by some of the best and by some of the worst feelings incident to human nature, that it is hardly ever kept under restraint by anything but want of power; and as the power is not declining, but growing, unless a strong barrier of moral conviction can be raised against the mischief, we must expect, in the present circumstances of the world, to see it increase.

This “mischief” results from that urge to have others prefer the same thing we prefer, to have others behave the way we behave. But, like I said above and like Conly seems to forget, civilization means recognizing the primacy of individual choice, even choices we think silly.

There is no reason that all human existences should be constructed on some one, or some small number of patterns. If a person possesses any tolerable amount of common-sense and experience, his own mode of laying out his existence is the best, not because it is the best in itself, but because it is his own mode.

Human beings are not like sheep; and even sheep are not undistinguishably alike. A man cannot get a coat or a pair of boots to fit him, unless they are either made to his measure, or he has a whole warehouseful to choose from: and is it easier to fit him with a life than with a coat, or are human beings more like one another in their whole physical and spiritual conformation than in the shape of their feet?

If it were only that people have diversities of taste, that is reason enough for not attempting to shape them all after one model. But different persons also require different conditions for their spiritual development; and can no more exist healthily in the same moral, than all the variety of plants can in the same physical, atmosphere and climate.

The same things which are helps to one person towards the cultivation of his higher nature, are hindrances to another. The same mode of life is a healthy excitement to one, keeping all his faculties of action and enjoyment in their best order, while to another it is a distracting burthen, which suspends or crushes all internal life.

Such are the differences among human beings in their sources of pleasure, their susceptibilities of pain, and the operation on them of different physical and moral agencies, that unless there is a corresponding diversity in their modes of life, they neither obtain their fair share of happiness, nor grow up to the mental, moral, and aesthetic stature of which their nature is capable.

Is drinking large sodas a way of life, though? Conly mocks the idea: “Large cups of soda as symbols of human dignity? Really?” But consider that if you drink 32 ounces of Coca-Cola, you’ll rack up 388 calories. A 20-ounce Iced White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks has 500. Both aren’t good for you, but the Mocha’s worse. The difference is that the kinds of people who want to use government to save ignorant Americans from the harms of soft drinks are the kinds of people who prefer an Iced White Chocolate Mocha to a Coca-Cola.

That Conly calls for a ban on Cokes and not Mochas indicates that what really bothers her is the behavior of those low-brow folks who slam giant soft drinks, but not so much the worse behavior of the middle-class and educated who just can’t start the day without a latte. About this tendency to use ourselves as the moral yardstick, Mill noted, “our idea of improvement chiefly consists in persuading or forcing other people to be as good as ourselves.”

So the real trouble is people aren’t acting like Conly — or the majority Conly imagines agrees with her — would like them to. Thus it’s time to call in the law. To which Mill says this:

A theory of “social rights,” the like of which probably never before found its way into distinct language — being nothing short of this — that it is the absolute social right of every individual, that every other individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance.

So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty which it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatever, except perhaps to that of holding opinions in secret, without ever disclosing them: for the moment an opinion which I consider noxious, passes any one’s lips, it invades all the “social rights” attributed to me by the Alliance.

The doctrine ascribes to all mankind a vested interest in each other’s moral, intellectual, and even physical perfection, to be defined by each claimant according to his own standard.

To which Conly likely offers another three cheers. Especially when the individual rights she wants violated in the name of social rights are so, well,dumb. “As irritating as it may initially feel, the soda regulation is a good idea,” she writes. “It’s hard to give up the idea of ourselves as completely rational. We feel as if we lose some dignity. But that’s the way it is, and there’s no dignity in clinging to an illusion.”

Writing in The Subjection of Women — regarding a different group then burdened with the charge of irrationality — Mill had this to say about a Conly-style disregard for personal choice: “The yoke is naturally and necessarily humiliating to all persons, except the one who is on the throne, together with, at most, the one who expects to succeed to it.”

Conly may cheer the power of the throne, but the civilized among us should not.

This essay first appeared at Libertarianism.org.

Aaron Ross PowellAaron Ross Powell

Aaron Ross Powell is a research fellow and editor of Libertarianism.org.

“We All Declare for Liberty, But We Do Not All Mean the Same Thing” by Eugene Volokh

A comment on my freedom and hypocrisy post reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, from Abraham Lincoln, in his Address at a Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Apr. 18, 1864:

The world has never had a good definition of liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in need of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.

With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name — liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names — liberty and tyranny.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty.

I’ve long found this to be a thought-provoking piece, and a useful reminder that “liberty” in the abstract is not self-defining. Most rhetoric that simply refers to “liberty” — whether in the context of slavery, where Lincoln said this, or abortion rights, or national sovereignty, and so on — rests on the assertion about the proper definition of people’s or institutions’ rights; and it’s that definition that should often be at the heart of the debate.

Of course, this analysis doesn’t itself tell us what the proper result is in any debate (such as the debate about abortion). But it should remind us that many questions can’t be resolved by just talking about “liberty” in the abstract, or “not imposing one’s beliefs on others” in the abstract.

If liberty means freedom to do things that don’t violate the rights of others, the important questions are (1) what constitutes those “rights,” (2) what counts as violation, and (3) in some contexts (e.g., abortion, animal rights, slavery), who counts as “others.”

This post first appeared at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Eugene VolokhEugene Volokh

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.

Precarity

Precarity is a neoliberal term that was unfamiliar until I researched the theme of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) conference. It means precarious, hazardous, risky, and it focuses mainly on the supposed “evils” of capitalism. Although life’s uncertainties have existed since the beginning of time, these women had come together to discuss the insecurities of living, focusing on the drawbacks of being ill prepared for functioning in today’s workforce. Where previous generations sometimes stayed with a company from hiring to retiring, today’s employees change jobs frequently and must keep up with the ever-changing technology. Thus these women fear the difficulties that arise with a free society, changing economy, other unreliable coworkers, and all that free enterprise has to offer.

Risk is the very essence of freedom and of life, and yet this is their anxiety.

They spurn those gifts bestowed upon us by our Creator and cited in our Declaration of Independence – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness, all of which involve risk. It is the freedom to pursue our own happiness along our chosen path that helps us to accept failures and overcome hindrances, and to continue chasing our personal dream. Instead these women are overwhelmed by responsibility, regarding the challenge as simply “misery” generated by capitalism, since they view that the sale of one’s abilities for profit may also result in failure and unemployment. Resistant to change and diversity, they yearn for their vision of a more secure and simpler life of the past, which, of course, is remembered without the discomforts, diseases, poverty and squalor.

Their dreams of the Utopian past erase the men’s long hours of hard labor, the women who were bound to a life of raising more children than they could manage, illnesses that have since been eradicated, few kitchen appliances to ease daily chores, and a labor force of children to help families make ends meet. Blaming capitalism for their current difficulties, the NWSA members want more entitlements and government intervention in exchange for the joys of innovation, growth, and the dignity of achievement. Taught by today’s academia to rely on their feelings and to redefine right and wrong, they wallow in comfortable discomfort and, significantly, decide to boycott Israel, her harvest, inventions and medical innovations. Could it be because Israelis treasure life and produce advantages and benefits not previously known, while the Palestinians desire to acquire Israel without the labor? Arab leaders allowed the barren, sparsely populated, impoverished land to become malaria-ridden over centuries before the Diaspora Jews returned to their historic homeland to cultivate the soil and recreate a flourishing democracy.

Precarity is the cost of living! It is the cost of charting one’s own course with all the possibilities of turning the unsure into opportunities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that “all human beings are endowed with reason and conscience and shall act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood,” but the new liberalism distorts the vision of brotherhood into a nightmare of sameness, none better or worse; the goal of certainty, no triumphs or failures; and a less educated population reduced by chaos, abortion, sterilization, euthanasia, and incurable diseases. And for political correctness, with their minds distorted and freedom of speech eradicated, these souls will no longer recognize friend from foe, good from evil, excellence from mediocrity, or even female from male.

Amazingly, although we know that eight-one percent of mosques in America advocate violence, and Germany appears to be losing its autonomy to the invaders, and Sweden is losing its heritage, and Belgium went on lock-down, and France is actively closing mosques and eliminating militant imams, the NWSA denounced Israel. Despite the legal documents to verify that Jews, not Arabs, hold rightful title to the land, and under whose direction diverse people within flourish, these women choose Islamo-fascism, where a clear majority of its people favor severe Sharia law and terrorism.

As technology (much of it from Israel) provides us with a front seat to the world, we have seen Muslims destroy 3,000 people in the World Trade Center; Muslims behead or burn Christians alive; Muslims turn their young children into knife-wielding murderers; Muslims kill groups of revelers in arenas and weddings and schoolchildren in classrooms and school buses; Muslims car-attack or knife Jewish pedestrians, but these women are boycotting Israel. Muslims are harming girls with Female Genital Mutilation, followed by enslaving, torturing, and imprisoning women in lifelong domestic/sexual servitude in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, but the NWSA women ignore where they could be truly useful. Islam is overtaking and creating havoc in Europe, and our national intelligence-gathering agencies (FBI and DHS) have long terror-watch lists of dangerous Islamic jihadists, but the NWSA is boycotting Israel.

What the NWSA should know is that the Jewish people have moral, historical, religious and legal claims to the disputed lands in Israel, yet Israel has been willing to forego some claims for the sake of peace. The State of Israel was built on land purchased by Jews, and Jews have been a presence in Jerusalem for 3,000 years, with a majority-Jewish population for more than 250 years.  Israel already ceded land to the Palestinians, who, in turn, destroyed prospering businesses and use the land for launching rockets. In truth, the Arabs who took the name “Palestinians” are the occupiers.

Morally, Israelis are first responders who have helped numerous countries, from Albania to Turkey, after floods, fires, earthquakes, bombings, tropical storms, hurricanes and cyclones, providing emergency humanitarian and medical personnel and assistance. Israelis helped Boston after the Marathon Bombing and California with its fires and water shortages. America benefits from this valuable partnership, including intelligence; the UK benefits from Israeli technology in protection, jobs, medicines and more. Israel is a global leader in bio-technology and defense, agriculture, water innovation, medicine, book publishing, and more.  Increasingly, Israeli entrepreneurs are attracting more foreign banks’ investments in their innovative technology.

IsraAid, which, in cooperation with Israeli NGOs FIRST and Operation Blessing-Israel, launched a social-worker training program in the new African state of South Sudan, one of the most undeveloped in the world. They are addressing the country’s violent misogynistic culture of rape and forced marriage. The women of NWSA could be involved, but do absolutely nothing.

How will these work-shy, incompetent women defend themselves when the soldiers of Allah fill our streets and execute their many forms of violent jihad on our citizens? Will they crumble into submission when the young Muslim males wreak havoc on the most vulnerable? Will they merely stand by and watch the migrants join forces with their brethren in the terror mosques to create battalions beyond the control of our diminished police and armed forces? These women are either terribly ignorant or filled with a fanatical evil – how else to explain this mindset?

Perhaps it is then that the National Women’s Studies Association will finally achieve its goal.

Their insecurities will be gone because their future will be spelled out to the letter. All the laws of Islam are clearly defined for women in the Qur’an. Independence and security will be as amputated as the limbs of Islam’s thieves. They will be guaranteed of being equal to all other women (devalued by men), and their tomorrow will be precisely as today – that is, of course, unless they are accused of some minor Mohammedan infraction. Then the morrow will not even come into question.

Final note: With all the ignorance shown by NWSA, they also appear to be unaware that Israel boycotts are Illegal. Under corporate law, an organization, including nonprofit, can do only what is permitted under the purposes specified in its charter.  Boycott resolutions that are beyond the powers of an organization are void, and individuals can be sued and board members liable for damages.

We Need YOU to Protest this Unfair Boycott!

  1. Call NWSA:(410) 528-0355
  2. Email NWSA at: nwsaoffice@nwsa.org
  3. Click here to protest on the NWSA Facebook page.

King Canute vs. the Climate Planners by Jeffrey A. Tucker

“With a small hammer you can achieve great things.”

Oh really?

This claim comes from French foreign minister Laurent Fabius as he banged his gavel at the close of the Paris climate summit. To the cheers of bureaucrats and cronies the world over, Fabius announced the deal that the press has been crowing about for days, the one in which “humanity” has united to stop increases in global temperature through the transfer of trillions of dollars from the rich to the poor, combined with the eventual (coercive) elimination of fossil fuels.

And thus did he bang his gavel. To his way of thinking, and that of the thousands gathered, that’s all you have to do to control the global climate, cause the world to stop relying on fossil fuels, and dramatically change the structure of all global industry, and do so with absolute conviction that benefits will outweigh the costs.

One bang of a gavel to dismantle industrial civilization by force, replace it with a vague and imagined new way of doing things, and have taxpayers pay for it.

Markets Yawn

Interestingly, the news on the Paris agreement had no notable impact on global markets at all. No prices rose or fell, no stocks soared or collapsed, and no futures responded with confidence that governments would win this one. The climate deal didn’t even make the business pages.

Investors and speculators are perhaps acculturated to ignoring such grand pronouncements. “The Paris climate conference delivered more of the same — lots of promises and lots of issues still left unresolved,” the US Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. And maybe that’s the right way to think, given that the world is ever less controlled by pieces of paper issued by government.

Still, breathless journalists wrote about the “historic agreement” and government officials paraded around as planet savers. Meanwhile, the oil price continues to fall even as demand rises, and the Energy Information Administration announced the discovery of more reserves than anyone believed possible. As for alternatives to fossil fuels, they are coming about through private sector innovation, not through government programs, and successful only when adopted voluntarily by consumers.

It’s a heck of a time to announce a new global central plan affecting the way 7 billion people use energy for the next century. Anyone schooled in the liberal tradition, or even slightly familiar with Hayek’s warning against the pretensions of the “scientific” government elites, shakes his or her head in knowing despair.

The entire scene looks like the apotheosis of the planning mentally — complete with five-year plans to monitor how well governments are doing in controlling the climate for the whole world and do so in a way that affects temperature 10-100 years from now.

King Canute?

The scene prompted many commentators to compare these people celebrating in Paris to King Canute, who ruled Denmark, England, and Norway a millennium ago. According to popular legend, as a way of demonstrating his awesome power, he rolled his throne up to the sea and commanded it to stop rising.

It didn’t work. Still, the image appears in many works of art. Even Lego offers a King Canute scene from its historical set.

Historians have challenged the point of the story. The only account with have of this incident, if it occurred at all, is from Henry of Huntingdon. He reports that after the sea rose despite his command, the King declared: “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.”

He did and said this, say modern experts, to demonstrate to his courtiers and flatterers that he is not as wonderful and powerful as they were proclaiming him to be. Instead of subservience to his own person, he was urging all citizens to save their adoration for God.

His point was that power — even the absolute power of kings — has limits. During his rule, King Canute was enormously popular and evidently benefitted from the common tendency of people to credit authority for the achievements of the spontaneous evolution of the social order itself. His sea trick, if it happened at all, was designed to show people that he is not the man they thought he was.

The Pretensions of the Planners

Lacking a Canute to give us a wake-up call, we might revisit the extraordinary speech F.A. Hayek gave when he received his Nobel Prize. He was speaking before scientists of the world, having been awarded one of the most prestigious awards on the planet.

Rather than flattering the scientific establishment, particularly as it existed in economics, he went to the heart of what he considered the greatest intellectual danger that was arising at the time. He blew apart the planning mindset, the presumption that humankind can do anything if only the right people are given enough power and resources.

If the planning elite possessed omniscience of all facts, flawless understanding of cause and effect, perfect foresight to know all relevant changes that could affect the future, and the ability to control all variables, perhaps their pretensions would be justified.

But this is not the case. Hayek called the assumption the harshest possible word: “charlatanism.”

In the climate case, consider that we can’t know with certainty whether, to what extent, and how climate change (especially not 50-100 years from now) will affect life on earth. We don’t know the precise causal factors and their weight relative to the noise in our models, much less the kinds of coercive solutions to apply and whether they have been applied correctly and with what outcomes, much less the costs and benefits of attempting such a far-flung policy.

We can’t know any of that before or after such possible solutions have been applied. Science requires a process and unrelenting trial and error, learning and experimentation, the humility to admit error and the driving passion to discover truth.

In other words, science requires freedom, not central planning. The idea that any panel of global experts, working with appointed diplomats and bureaucrats, can have the requisite knowledge to make such grand and final decisions for the globe is outlandish and contrary to pretty much everything we know.

Throw the reality of politics into the mix and matters get worse. Fear over climate change (the ultimate market failure “problem”) is the last best hope for those who long to control the world by force. The entire nightmare scenario of rising tides and flooded cities — one that posits that our high standard of living is causing the world to heat up and burn — is just the latest excuse. That fact remains whether or not everything they claim is all true or all nonsense.

Pretensions Everywhere

Hayek explains further: “To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.”

Why? Because planning overrides the spontaneous discovery process that is an inherent part of the market structures.

We are only beginning to understand on how subtle a communication system the functioning of an advanced industrial society is based — a communications system which we call the market and which turns out to be a more efficient mechanism for digesting dispersed information than any that man has deliberately designed.

He went further. The planning fallacy doesn’t just affect economics. It is a tendency we see in all intellectual realms, including climatology and its use by governments to justify the desire to manage the world from on high.

Hayek’s conclusion is so epic that it deserves to be quoted in full.

If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible.

He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants.

There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, “dizzy with success”, to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will.

The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society — a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.

Or we could just quote King Canute after the tides failed to respect his edict: “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name.”

Jeffrey A. TuckerJeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

Why Is Liberty So Important? by Lawrence W. Reed

At this time of the year, all of us at the Foundation for Economic Education take special note of our many friends, both new and old. Though our work is vitally important, we never want to be so absorbed in it that we neglect the people like you who make it possible.

So allow me this moment to express a collective thanks from all of us at FEE to all of you who partner with us as trustees, donors, seminar attendees and alumni, faculty network members, readers of the Freeman and FEE.org, and ambassadors for liberty.

If you’ve never financially supported FEE in the past, I invite you to do so today.

If you’re a past supporter of FEE, I thank you for your generosity and invite you to consider renewing your support.

When you invest in FEE, you invest in life-changing events and publications that will pay dividends for decades.

FEE is focused on cultivating an understanding of the principles of freedom in the minds of young “newcomers” to liberty — particularly those of high school and college age.

Every time I hear a student exclaim “I never heard this before FEE told me about it!” I know we’ve made a difference for the rest of that person’s life.

Why is liberty so important?

  • Liberty is precious, rare, never guaranteed, and always threatened. It can be lost in a single generation if it’s not advanced and defended.
  • Liberty follows from human nature: We are unique individuals, not a blob or an army of robots to be programmed by those with power.
  • To be fully human, all of us must be free to exercise our choices and govern our lives so long as we permit the same of others.
  • Liberty works. Over and over again, it produces a degree of interpersonal cooperation, innovation, and wealth creation that allows human beings to flourish — nothing else even comes close.
  • Liberty is the only social, political, or economic arrangement that requires that we live to high standards of conduct and character and rewards us when we do so. This is a crucial difference between liberty and the soul-crushing, paternalistic snares that are offered as alternatives.
  • Life without liberty is unthinkable. Who wants to live at the end of another’s leash, fearing at every turn what those armed with force and power might do to us, even if they have good intentions?

We wouldn’t expect, even if it were possible, that everyone who supports us will agree with everything they ever see or hear from FEE. We have our own core beliefs, of course, but to a considerable degree we are a forum for differing views among those who broadly share an affinity for liberty.

We don’t take for granted that we’ll earn your support every day, every month or every year. We know we have to earn it all the time. So we are engaged in a non-stop, self-improvement program. We experiment and innovate. Seminar themes, technology, content, and speakers change and improve. We expand and grow what works and drop what doesn’t. We do it all in an effort to be the best-known, most effective “first encounter” for young people with the economic, ethical, and legal principles of a free society.

I hope this cause in general — and our work at FEE, in particular — excites you as much as it does every member of the team we’ve assembled. We go to work every day with passion for what we do, and with appreciation for you who support us.

Thank you, too, for being an ambassador for liberty. Because of your sharing on social media and your own engagement with our content, FEE is reaching a wider audience than at any time in our 69-year history.

We are experiencing record levels of applications for our seminars. FEE voices are appearing in the international press. And FEE.org itself is being read by over 500,000 people per month (and rising fast!). This is a level of reach that would have delighted FEE’s founders, and the champions of freedom from time immemorial.

However, without the generosity of individuals like you, FEE would not be able to deliver life-changing moments for countless young people. We need your financial support to continue our work for liberty.

Whether you give a little or become a continuing benefactor in substantial amounts, we appreciate it deeply as a vote of confidence in FEE’s message, mission, and work.

Thank you for thinking of FEE in your year-end giving. And, thank you for all that you do to advance liberty in any way!

Best wishes to you and your families for this holiday season and for a blessed and prosperous New Year.

Lawrence W. ReedLawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of FEE in 2008 after serving as chairman of its board of trustees in the 1990s and both writing and speaking for FEE since the late 1970s. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

Your Liberty Receipt

Here at Conservative Review we recently launched a new feature called the Taxpayer’s Monthly Government Receipt where we detail for you a receipt documenting the extraordinary financial burdens the cost of government is placing on your life. Whether taking the form of taxes paid, future taxes owed, government debts incurred, or future government obligations, these financial burdens are YOURS. There is no money fairy to rescue us. There are not enough wealthy people to pay a “fair share” high enough to get us out of this debt hole. These are our debts and they WILL be paid off by the sweat of your brow and the labor of your children and grandchildren.

After reading through the Taxpayer’s Monthly Government Receipt I decided to write this piece to call attention to the burden on your freedom, as well as your wallet.

The Liberty Receipt:

Healthcare 

Prior to the passing of Obamacare, using questionable legislative tactics, you were free to purchase health insurance or not, and to tailor it to your family’s needs. Many self-employed, or young and healthy individuals who felt it was more cost effective to pay their medical bills themselves took advantage of their freedom and liberty and didn’t purchase expensive health insurance. After Obamacare, you lost the ability to make those decisions for yourself. The government makes these decisions for you now, using the power of the IRS to ensure that you comply.

In short, liberty was lost.

The Economy

President Obama’s tax increases on income, capital gains, healthcare, payroll, and more, have taken record amounts of money from the wallets of hard working Americans, reducing their economic liberty with each additional dollar removed from their wallets. Your hard-earned money cannot belong to you and the government at the same time, and as the burden of government grows, your ability to economically support yourself and your family recedes. In short, liberty was lost.

Regulations

In 2014 alone, the Obama administration added over $180 billion in new regulations costing YOU over $500 per capita. This tidal wave of additional government red tape has not only stolen your economic liberty, it has also countermanded personal control of your private property, local control of your neighborhood and your business. Either way, decisions about your home, business and neighborhood which you were free to make prior to the Obama presidency, are no longer available to you. The government has already made those decisions for you. In short, liberty was lost.

Education

The Obama administration insists on standing in the way of educational liberty, and standing in the way of lower-income, minority children and a quality education. After suing, and then requesting a federal review of Louisiana’s school voucher program, followed by the administration’s refusal to fund the Washington D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, it’s clear that the Obama administration has stolen away the ability for struggling parents to freely choose where their children attend school. This life-changing decision was once just a school voucher away from changing the lives of lower income children just looking for a shot at the American Dream. That decision is no longer yours, the government made it for you. In short, liberty was lost.

Once liberty is lost it’s a difficult two-step process to get it back. First we have to raise awareness to what happened. President Obama has a gift for stealing your liberty and making you believe that he left you with a gift. We must all become Paul and Paulette Reveres and make every effort to sound the alarm as to what is going on. Second, we must elect and support fearless leaders who fear the loss of liberty and freedom more than the fear of losing an election. In short, liberty was lost and here’s your receipt. Use it to organize and fight back.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review. The featured image of the Twin Towers and Statue of Liberty is courtesy of the Associated Press.

Because of You and Your Destructive Policies, We the People want our Nation Back

Back in 2009, when I started my radio talk show, I knew that President Obama would be one of the worst presidents this nation has ever had.  I also took to heart what Rush Limbaugh said back then about the President.  Rush said “I hope he fails.” Lots of people on the left and in the ‘lame stream’ media blasted Rush for that.  They took him out of context on purpose so they could label Rush and others who agreed with him as racists.

I, of course, knew exactly what Rush meant back then.  I knew if this man succeeded then he would indeed fulfill a promise he made in one of his speeches “To Fundamentally Transform this Nation”. Fast forward some 7 years now and I can honestly say that what Rush wanted, what all true conservatives wanted, did not happen.  In fact the complete opposite happened.

President Obama did not fail he has succeeded.  In fact, I say that President Obama is the most successful president in our nation’s history at getting his agenda passed and implemented.  However, that success has meant failure and decline for this nation.  Obama wanted to punish those who were successful and did not tow his line.  Indeed we now have the longest high level unemployment rate since the Great Depression.

We have the lowest labor participation rate in nearly 40 years.  We have the fewest number of jobs in total compared to the total work force population since the Great Depression.  We have had the longest period of the Federal Reserve leaving the base interest rate at 0% in our history. We have the highest number of people on Food Stamp assistance in history.  We have nearly 50 million Americans now living at or below the poverty line and that is the highest it has been since the Great Depression.

We have a military that is smaller than what we had at the start of World War II and in some cases; it’s smaller than what we had at the start of World War I and Obama wants to cut it even further. Our influence and respect has declined all over the world and even our allies no longer take us seriously.

We have a government bureaucracy that is bigger than it has ever been and more costly than it has ever been.  We have more national debt than we have ever had and that debt as a percentage of our total GDP is the highest it has ever been.  We have police officers being targeted for assassination for the first time in our nation and the President is responsible for a good portion of this ill-will.  He refuses to stand up for law enforcement, yet he often condones and even congratulates those who challenge authority and even threaten our society and its peace.

In fact, things are so bad in this country today that even the Democratic candidates for President are distancing themselves from Obama.  They claim they will not follow in his footsteps yet we know each and every one of them would do so and in fact at least one of them would go even further.

But there is hope because Conservatives are gathering and speaking out.  They are voting in larger numbers and they are making an impact on local politics all over the nation.  They are turning out liberals, Democrats and Socialists almost everywhere. Even in some of our most liberal of cities, there is an air of conservatism that is creeping in.

People are beginning to understand what President John F Kennedy meant when he said.  “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country”. We are spreading the word from coast to coast that conservatism, the rule of law, small government, efficient government, low taxes, and strong national defense has always meant a great America.

Yes, we are starting to re-energize our grass roots.  We are starting to believe that America can be great again.  We have given our acceptance to the strong, outsider voices for the GOP Presidential nomination race.  The polished, well-rehearsed, typical politicians are languishing at the bottom of the polls and at the bottom of the voters’ heart

We are demanding that our President represent what is best about our nation.  We want leaders that are not afraid to stand up for what is right no matter how bad the odds of winning may seem and most of all WE WANT OUR FREEDOM BACK. In short, Americans have seen what it is like to be a second rate nation in decline and we don’t like it because we want to be that shining beacon of hope for the world.

With the help of God and the American people, we will be that shining, gleaming city of light and hope on the mountain top because that is where the United States of America belongs forever.

6 Things Paul Krugman Gets Wrong on Medicare by Charles Blahous

My usual custom when writing about Medicare and Social Security finances is to simply present the relevant data instead of discussing others’ commentaries about the programs.

After this year’s Medicare trustees’ report was released, however, a subsequent Paul Krugman column prompted a number of questions from his readers, suggesting it would be helpful to address Dr. Krugman’s specific assertions.

The essence of Dr. Krugman’s column was to cite the latest Medicare report as evidence that “there never was an entitlements crisis.”

Dr. Krugman’s view of the Medicare financing outlook differs with the trustees’ perspective as reflected in our joint message, which states, “Medicare still faces a substantial financial shortfall that will need to be addressed with further legislation.” The difference between these two perspectives derives in part from problems of incomplete information and analysis.

Problem #1: Conflating expectations with reality.

Dr. Krugman’s piece points to long-term Medicare cost projections that now look less daunting than they did in 2009, and asserts that the entitlement cost problem is therefore “disappearing.”

That characterization, however, is incorrect. Comparing to prior projections is in this context a distraction, irrelevant to whether Medicare is now on a stable financial course (it is not).

The mistake is one of so-called “anchoring,” a behavioral economics concept referring to the powerful cognitive illusion whereby our perception of events is distorted by previous expectations.

Whether things are actually getting better or getting worse is not a function of the trend of expectations but of real-world data evolving in time. Medicare cost burdens are mounting, not easing, as the accompanying graph shows. Total program costs have been rising faster than our economic output, and are currently projected to continue to do so.

As many readers will intuit, it is highly problematic for any major spending program to grow significantly faster than the economy that must support it, as this can only lead to continually rising tax burdens, escalating debt, and/or crowding out other priorities.

Problem #2: Inconsistently measuring GDP

The graphs that Dr. Krugman reproduces to make his argument present projected Medicare spending as a percentage of GDP, contrasting this year’s projections with those of 2009. But in 2013 BEA redefined how GDP is measured, both historically and going forward. Adjusting the 2009 projections for this definitional change, one sees that a good portion of the apparent improvement to date is illusory.

Dr. Krugman’s piece does not as far as I can tell disclose this inconsistency. Correcting for it, the recent picture looks only slightly better than 2009 projections, and has actually been worse in some years.

Problem #3: The large apparent improvements are mostly projections that haven’t yet borne fruit.

As shown above, to date the Medicare cost picture is not greatly different than projected in 2009. All that’s really different are the future projections, especially over the long term. These anticipated improvements are due primarily to aggressive cost-containment provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or so-called “Obamacare”) as well as, to a lesser extent, the MACRA legislation passed earlier this year.

The ACA provisions involve ambitious reductions in the rate of growth of Medicare provider payments, while MACRA’s involve reductions in the long-term growth of physician payments. Similar past efforts have not been adhered to, and some experts are skeptical that these new measures will be. This is why the CMS Medicare actuary has prepared an alternative projection scenario showing much higher future costs.

We should all hope, whether we supported or opposed these laws, that their cost-containment provisions prove successful and sustainable. Were they to be abandoned, other provisions would need to be enacted in their place to achieve equal or greater savings – otherwise taxes and/or premiums must be raised.

That said, we cannot declare victory unless and until these provisions produce the savings now projected from them.

Problem #4: We haven’t fixed the entitlement growth problem, only changed the mix of entitlements.

Dr. Krugman’s graphs show 2015’s Medicare cost projections well below 2009’s, prompting the conclusion that any supposed spending crisis has been solved or never existed. But this leaves out a defining part of the overall picture.

True, the ACA reduced projected Medicare growth — but it also expanded Medicaid as well as created a whole new system of health insurance exchange subsidies.

If the thesis is that changes in spending projections since 2009 illuminate whether we really have an entitlement spending problem, one can’t simply show the one large entitlement where projected spending has gone down, and omit the ones where projected spending has gone up. Unfortunately, we cannot analyze the whole picture using the trustees’ methodology because the trustees do not issue projections for the ACA’s health exchange subsidies.

But earlier this year CBO estimated that by 2025, the ACA would add roughly $210 billion a year in new Medicaid and exchange subsidy spending, or roughly 0.8% of GDP. As it happens, 0.8% of GDP (adjusted for the changed definition of GDP) is roughly the amount by which the trustees have lowered (between 2009 and 2015) our projections for Medicare spending through 2025.

Given that these two effects almost net each other out over the next decade it seems inappropriate to state, as Dr. Krugman does, that “most of that projected (spending) rise has gone away.”

Problem #5: Crediting the ACA For Effects It Didn’t Cause.

Dr. Krugman’s column states in one place, “health spending began moderating after the passage of the ACA.” This is incorrect. The health spending slowdown began several years prior to the ACA’s 2010 passage (see CRFB’s “Exhibit 2”).

Dr. Krugman’s phrasing also lends itself to the misreading that the ACA is a primary reason for recent spending moderation. The CMS actuaries find, to the contrary, that the ACA’s effect has been on balance to slightly increase national health spending.

Problem #6: Not Reflecting Current Law.

Less egregious because it involves a relatively arcane aspect of budgetary scoring, the graphs shown by Dr. Krugman reflect the trustees’ estimates of the costs of paying scheduled Medicare benefits, which is not the same thing as would occur under current law (because, over the long term, current law does not provide for the financing of these benefits).

The distinction does not by itself undermine and indeed could be said to support Dr. Krugman’s argument that the entitlement crisis is overstated. It is, however, another reason why it is incorrect to credit the ACA for fiscal improvements, because on a literal law basis the ACA added on balance to federal entitlement spending, as CBOCRFB and others including myself have explained.

Conclusion

Dr. Krugman’s piece reaches incorrect conclusions about entitlement spending challenges “disappearing” based on incomplete information and analysis. When critical missing information is taken into account, it is more readily seen that lawmakers still face a substantial challenge to address unsustainable spending growth in federal entitlement programs.

This post first appeared at e21.

Charles Blahous
Charles Blahous

Charles Blahous is a senior research fellow for the Mercatus Center, a research fellow for the Hoover Institution, a public trustee for Social Security and Medicare, and a contributor to e21.

Government Can’t Censor Content — Even If It’s ‘For Your Own Good’ by Evan Bernick

Will a recent Supreme Court decision unleash more speech than Americans can handle?

In a recent New York Times article, reporter Adam Liptak (rightly) refers to Reed v. Town of Gilbert as “the sleeper case of the last Supreme Court term.” Liptak spoke with Robert Post, First Amendment scholar and dean of Yale Law School, and Floyd Abrams, constitutional lawyer and free-speech advocate.

In Reed, the Court invalidated a town sign code that treated signs promoting church services more harshly than signs promoting other messages, and made plain that such content-based restrictions on speech must undergo strict judicial scrutiny.

Abrams praised the decision; Dean Post, according to Liptak, predicted that it will “endanger[] all sorts of laws,” “roll consumer protection back to the 19th century,” and “destabilize First Amendment law.”

Those, like Abrams, who believe that “the First Amendment is about liberty” and that “we all lose by reading it narrowly” should welcome the ruling in Reed and pay no heed to Post’s parade of horribles.

Reed resolved an ambiguity that had confused lower courts for decades and rendered many Americans’ freedom to speak uncertain in important areas. In so doing, Reed honored the broad mandate of the First Amendment, which prohibits any law “abridging the freedom of speech,” making no exception for certain messages, ideas, or subject matters — regardless of whether the government promises that curbing speech is for our own good.

How did we get to Reed? The first major case to focus on content-based speech restrictions was Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley (1972), which concerned a Chicago ordinance that barred picketing within 150 feet of schools during the school day — except for picketing related to labor disputes.

The Court invalidated the ordinance because the government provided no credible evidence that labor picketing was less likely to be disruptive than other forms of picketing.

To selectively proscribe speech on the basis of its subject matter, said the Court, is to “completely undercut the ‘profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide open.’”

Subsequent cases would make clear that intent to censor is not essential to a determination that a restriction on speech is content-based; if the government had to inspect the content of speech to determine how it could be regulated, that was sufficient to trigger strict scrutiny.

But the nature of the Court’s content-based jurisprudence became muddled as it began to review First Amendment challenges to local zoning rules concerning adult businesses. These zoning rules clearly regulated speech based on its subject matter — they only applied to businesses whose expression was sexually explicit.

However, in City of Renton v. Playtime Theaters, Inc. (1986), the Court concluded that an ordinance targeting theaters that specialize in sexually explicit films was content-neutral and, thus, not subject to strict scrutiny, because it was “justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech” — specifically, because “the Renton ordinance is aimed not at the content of the films… but rather at the secondary effects of such theaters on the surrounding community.”

Renton was hotly debated by First Amendment scholars at the time, and scholar Laurence Tribe expressed concern that the newly-minted secondary effects doctrine would “undermine the very foundation of the content-based/content neutral distinction.”

In Ward v. Rock Against Racism (1989), Tribe’s concern was validated. Ward involved a content-neutral rule that required the use of city-provided sound equipment at concerts in Central Park, regardless of what was being performed.

Drawing upon Renton, the Court stated that the “[t]he principal inquiry in determining content neutrality… is whether the government has adopted a regulation of speech because of disagreement with the message it conveys.”

Some lower courts understood Ward to stand for the proposition that facially discriminatory laws — that is, laws that identify regulated speech based on its content — could be treated as content-neutral for purposes of the First Amendment, so long as the courts believed that those laws were enacted for public-spirited reasons.

But since government officials always profess benign intentions, proving censorial intent proved difficult. The result: the proliferation of speech restrictions, including licensing schemes restricting occupational speech (such as that of tour guides, interior designers, and veterinarians), panhandling bans, and noise ordinances that exempt certain noises from regulation depending on either their message or who is speaking.

Reed v. Town of Gilbert was a perfect example of this trend. In the decision below in Reed, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Gilbert’s sign code was “content-neutral” because of the town’s assurances that it had no intention to discriminate.

To combat this censorial trend, when the Supreme Court granted certiorari inReed, the Institute for Justice filed an amicus brief urging the Court to clarify that strict scrutiny applies:

  1. If a law expressly requires the government to look at the content of speech in determining whether or not it is subject to regulation, or
  2. When a law’s purpose is to censor messages with certain subject matters or viewpoints.

And thankfully, to the benefit of speakers across the country, the Supreme Court did exactly that.

Writing for the Court, Justice Thomas explained,

A law that is content based on its face is subject to strict scrutiny regardless of the government’s benign motive, content-neutral justification, or lack of ‘animus’ toward the ideas contained in the regulated speech.

The Court easily concluded that the sign code at issue classified signs on the basis of their content because whether or not the restrictions applied to any given sign “depend[ed] entirely on the communicative content of the sign.”

Having done so, the Court went on to perform the kind of truth-seeking judicial engagement that is required to ensure that the government does not act as a censor, insisting that the government demonstrate, with reliable evidence, that it was pursuing a compelling interest through means narrowly tailored to that end.

The town failed to carry its burden. Although the town claimed that the sign code “preserv[ed] the Town’s aesthetic appeal” and protected “traffic safety,” the town “allow[ed] unlimited numbers of other types of signs that create the same problem[s]” and did not demonstrate that “directional signs pose a greater threat to safety than do ideological or political signs.”

Even assuming that the town’s stated interests were compelling, the Court concluded that the sign code was insufficiently narrowly tailored to pass constitutional muster.

Which brings us to the present where, as Liptak observes, Reed is already having an impact.

In the wake of Reed, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals revisited an ordinance barring panhandling in the “downtown historic district” of Springfield, Illinois.

Last year, the Seventh Circuit had upheld the ordinance as content-neutral, even though an officer enforcing the ordinance would have to listen to the content of the speaker’s message in order to determine whether the ordinance had been violated. (A request for a charitable donation might be impermissible, but a request for a commercial transaction would not.)

Following Reed, the Seventh Circuit accepted a petition for rehearing and a unanimous panel invalidated the Springfield ordinance. Judge Easterbrook, writing for the panel, recognized the broad scope of Reed’s holding: “Any law distinguishing one kind of speech from another by reference to its meaning now requires a compelling justification.”

Although Reed reaffirmed the Court’s historical (and highly critical) view of content-based regulation, not everyone sees the ruling as cause for celebration. But Dean Post’s specific criticisms are unwarranted.

Although Post argues that the decision could undermine restrictions on misleading advertising and professional malpractice, such laws have coexisted with the First Amendment for over 200 years, and there is no reason to believe that the Court’s decision will change that. Nor will Reed destabilize our First Amendment law; it stabilizes that law by providing much-needed guidance to lower courts.

Dean Post’s real complaint is that, for over a quarter century, the Court has gradually shifted away from his preferred theory of the First Amendment — one that would allow the government to privilege certain favored categories of speech — towards a more libertarian view, which leaves such judgments about the value of speech to the free choices of Americans. Reed v. Town of Gilbert is simply the most recent step in that evolution, and it is nothing to be afraid of.

In Reed, the Court affirmed that the government is not free to pick and choose what topics it would prefer Americans speak about or what information they can be trusted with, even if the government earnestly professes that it has our best interests at heart. Reed will help to ensure that speech remains uninhibited, robust, and wide open.

A version of this article first appeared at the Huffington Post.

Evan Bernick
Evan Bernick

Evan is the Assistant Director of the Center for Judicial Engagement at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm.

A Deadly Caution: How the FDA’s Precautionary Principle Is Killing Patients by Alexander Tabarrok

I have long argued that the FDA has an incentive to delay the introduction of new drugs because approving a bad drug (Type I error) has more severe consequences for the FDA than does failing to approve a good drug (Type II error).

In the former case, at least some victims are identifiable and the New York Times writes stories about them and how they died because the FDA failed. In the latter case, when the FDA fails to approve a good drug, people die but the bodies are buried in an invisible graveyard.

In an excellent new paper (also here), Vahid Montazerhodjat and Andrew Lo use a Bayesian analysis to model the optimal tradeoff in clinical trials between sample size, Type I and Type II error.

Failing to approve a good drug is more costly, for example, the more severe the disease. Thus, for a very serious disease, we might be willing to accept a greater Type I error in return for a lower Type II error. The number of people with the disease also matters. Holding severity constant, for example, the more people with the disease the more you want to increase sample size to reduce Type I error. All of these variables interact.

In an innovation, the authors use the US Burden of Disease Study to find the number of deaths and the disability severity caused by each major disease. Using this data, they estimate the costs of failing to approve a good drug. Similarly, using data on the costs of adverse medical treatment, they estimate the cost of approving a bad drug.

Putting all this together the authors find that the FDA is often dramatically too conservative:

We show that the current standards of drug-approval are weighted more on avoiding a Type I error (approving ineffective therapies) rather than a Type II error (rejecting effective therapies).

For example, the standard Type I error of 2.5% is too conservative for clinical trials of therapies for pancreatic cancer — a disease with a 5-year survival rate of 1% for stage IV patients (American Cancer Society estimate, last updated 3 February 2013).

The BDA-optimal size for these clinical trials is 27.9%, reflecting the fact that, for these desperate patients, the cost of trying an ineffective drug is considerably less than the cost of not trying an effective one.

(The authors also find that the FDA is occasionally a little too aggressive, but these errors are much smaller: for example, the authors find that for prostate cancer therapies the optimal significance level is 1.2% compared to a standard rule of 2.5%.)

The result is important especially because, in a number of respects, the authors underestimate the costs of FDA conservatism.

Most importantly, the authors are optimizing at the clinical trial stage assuming that the supply of drugs available to be tested is fixed. Larger trials, however, are more expensive, and the greater the expense of FDA trials, the fewer new drugs will be developed. Thus, a conservative FDA reduces the flow of new drugs to be tested.

In a sense, failing to approve a good drug has two costs: the opportunity cost oflives that could have been saved and the cost of reducing the incentive to invest in R&D.

In contrast, approving a bad drug, while still an error, at least has the advantage of helping to incentivize R&D (similarly, a subsidy to research incentivizes R&D in a sense mostly by covering the costs of failed ventures).

The Montazerhodjat and Lo framework is also static: there is one test and then the story ends.

In reality, drug approval has an interesting asymmetric dynamic. When a drug is approved for sale, testing doesn’t stop but moves into another stage, a combination of observational testing and sometimes more RCTs — this, after all, is how adverse events are discovered. Thus, Type I errors are corrected.

On the other hand, for a drug that isn’t approved, the story does end. With rare exceptions, Type II errors are never corrected.

The Montazerhodjat and Lo framework could be interpreted as the reduced form of this dynamic process, but it’s better to think about the dynamism explicitly because it suggests that approval can come in a range for forms — for example, approval with a black label warning, approval with evidence grading, and so forth. As these procedures tend to reduce the costs of Type I errors, they tend to increase the costs of FDA conservatism.

Montazerhodjat and Lo also don’t examine the implications of heterogeneity of preferences or diseases morbidity and mortality. Some people, for example, are severely disabled by diseases that on average aren’t very severe — the optimal tradeoff for these patients will be different than for the average patient. One size doesn’t fit all.

In the standard framework, it’s tough luck for these patients. But if the non-FDA reviewing apparatus (patients/physicians/hospitals/HMOs/USP/Consumer Reports, and so forth) works relatively well — and this is debatable, but my work on off-label prescribing suggests that it does — this weighs heavily in favor of relatively large samples but low thresholds for approval.

What the FDA is really providing is information, and we don’t need product bans to convey information. Thus, heterogeneity (plus a reasonable effective post-testing choice process) mediates in favor of a Consumer Reports model for the FDA.

The bottom line, however, is that even without taking into account these further points, Montazerhodjat and Lo find that the FDA is far too conservative, especially for severe diseases. FDA regulations may appear to be creating safe and effective drugs, but they are also creating a deadly caution.

Hat tip: David Balan.

A version of this post first appeared at the Marginal Revolution blog.

Alex Tabarrok
Alex Tabarrok

Alex Tabarrok is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at Marginal Revolution with Tyler Cowen.

Washington’s Convenient Relationships with Dictators by Ted Galen Carpenter

US leaders routinely emphasize that America’s foreign policy is based on support for the expansion of freedom around the world. But as I point out in a recent article in the National Interest Online, Washington’s behavior frequently does not match the idealistic rhetoric. Too often, US policymakers seem to favor even brutal and corrupt authoritarian allies over boisterous, unpredictable democratic regimes.

During the Cold War, US administrations enthusiastically embraced “friendly” autocratic governments in such places as South Korea and the Philippines—even when there were viable democratic alternatives. Because it was uncertain whether democratic governments would be as cooperative with US foreign policy aims, officials preferred dealing with more compliant autocrats. Worse, US leaders repeatedly misrepresented such allies to the American people as noble members of the “free world.”

The tendency was especially pronounced in the Middle East, and that cynical policy has persisted longer there than in other regions. It began early, as the US Central Intelligence Agency helped overthrow Iran’s elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, in 1953 and restore the Shah to power as an unconstrained monarch. The Shah became America’s chosen Persian Gulf gendarme for the next quarter century, despite the regime’s appalling human rights record and pervasive corruption. Elsewhere in the region, Washington developed a cozy relationship with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak that lasted three decades, even as he and his military cronies looted and brutalized that unhappy country.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration seems just as hypocritical as its predecessors when it comes to relations with Egypt and other Middle East countries. US leaders were reluctant to cut Mubarak loose even as pro-democracy demonstrations surged throughout Egypt in 2011.  In a PBS interview, Vice President Joe Biden even objected to describing Mubarak as a dictator and rejected calls for him to step down. 

Similar sentiments were evident after General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi led a coup against Egypt’s first elected president, Mohammed Morsi. Obama administration officials steadfastly refused even to describe the action as a coup. Not only has Washington continued to lavish weaponry on Egypt’s military, it has ignored mounting evidence of egregious human rights abuses by the Sisi regime. And as with respect to Mubarak, US officials pretend that Sisi is not a dictator, even though he became “president” through a blatantly rigged election that gave him more than 96 percent of the vote. American leaders used to scorn the results of such phony elections in communist countries, but they chose to view the farce in Egypt as progress toward a mature democratic system.

Hatred of hypocrisy is an emotion that tends to occur throughout very different cultures. US leaders do not help America’s reputation when they profess a commitment to freedom and democracy while they fawn over such allies as thuggish Egyptian dictators and the odious Saudi royal family. Victims of oppression were unlikely to take Washington’s alleged dedication to liberty seriously when they saw President George W. Bush strolling through the fields of his Texas ranch hand in hand with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah as though they were intimate friends.

Washington needs to walk the walk as well as talk the talk when it comes to supporting freedom as a key component of its foreign policy. It should at least stop undermining balky democratic regimes and embracing thuggish autocracies.

This post first appeared at Cato.org.

VIDEO: Why Wouldn’t You Save a Drowning Child? by Matt Zwolinski

Would you lose $500 to save a drowning child? We explore a thought experiment that just may save someone’s life.

Imagine you’re walking to work in the morning down a quiet rural road to the side of the road there’s a pond and pass by every day. Only today, something is different. Today you see a small child in that pond.

He is alone, he’s flailing his arms, and if you don’t act quickly it looks like he is going to drown. Luckily, the pond is shallow. You can wade in, grab the child, and bring him to safety without putting yourself in any danger at all.

Unluckily, you’re wearing a very expensive set of clothes, and there just isn’t enough time to take them off. So even though saving the child is perfectly safe, it is going to cost you at least $500 to replace your suit and shoes. There’s no one else around, so the decision is yours alone to make.

Do you wade in, save the child, and ruin your expensive clothes? Or do you decide that $500 just too high a price to pay for the life of someone you don’t even know and walk on by.

If you’re like most people, the answer is obvious. Of course you save the child. Anyone that would would let us small child die just to keep their nice clothes from getting wet would be a moral monster. As peter singer, the philosopher who originated this drowning child thought experiment argued, if you had the power to prevent something really bad from happening to someone else just by suffering something merely slightly bad yourself, then “taking the hit” is the right thing to do.

Now of course most of us will never come across a drowning child on her way to work but all of us do find ourselves living in a world where over six million children die each year from preventable causes. And while none of us have the power to help all of those children, almost all of us have the power to help some of them. By donating a small amount of money much less than $500 to an effective charity through a site like GiveWell.org, you could literally save someone’s life. But that brings up another question.

How do we make sure aid efforts do the most good and the least harm?

Matt Zwolinski
Matt Zwolinski

Matt Zwolinski is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Diego. He is also a co-director of USD’s Institute for Law and Philosophy, a member of the editorial board of Business Ethics Quarterly, and a blogger for Bleeding Heart Libertarians.