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‘The Butterfly Effect’ – Obama, Climate Change, and Islam’s War against the World by Ralph Sidway

If even the wings of a butterfly have weight and shared causality, then what of the teachings and example of a seventh century desert prophet?

President Obama, during his recent address at the Coast Guard Commencement ceremonies, again offered his profound views on the myriad vectors shaping global unrest and chaos. Ranking high among the primal forces threatening us — high enough to be emphasized by the President of the most powerful nation on the planet — is that bane of mankind, “climate change.”  Lest there be any doubt of the gravity of the situation, or of his authority in such matters, Mr. Obama predicates his mission with a great “I am” statement:

“I am here to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and make no mistake, will impact how our military defends our country.”

The Obama Administration is consistent and adamant on this topic. This past February, Vice-President Biden told college students in Iowa that “global warming is the greatest threat of anything at all, across the board,” and Secretary of State Kerry has likewise been beating the same drum. (Never mind that the data shows we have been in a “global warming pause” for nearly two decades, and that climate-change IPCC scientists resorted to manipulating the data in order to create the fraudulent “hockey-stick graph” and advance their agenda.)

Curiously, the Administration’s emphasis on the threat from “climate change” seems to roughly balance its insistence that the Islamic State Caliphate is “not Islamic” and is not much of a threat anyway.  One might be tempted to think that the “war against climate change” is being used as a tool to deflect attention away from Islam’s war against us.

But let’s allow, for the sake of argument (and in deference to the great Ray Bradbury’s short story,“A Sound of Thunder”), that there is some validity to “The Butterfly Effect,” the chaos theory corollary which postulates that events of great consequence may be set in motion by much smaller events separated by vast scales of time and distance. “Change one thing — Change everything,” says the tag for the 2004 Ashton Kutcher film of the same name.

So, in the Obama narrative, chaotic weather shifts are contributing to drought, floods, poverty, inequity, and a host of other effects, all triggers generating global violent extremism, as disenfranchised groups duke it out for dwindling resources — or something like that.

But no matter how you dress it up with fancy words and phony analysis, the Obama narrative of “Blame it on the weather” is not only incorrect, it is downright deceitful.

Let’s rather explore “the Butterfly Effect” and take a quick ride in Ray Bradbury’s time machine back to the early 7th century. Let’s set the dials for shortly after Muhammad makes his hijra to Medina (Year 1, in the Islamic calendar). Let’s listen to the prophet and watch his actions. But take care not to step off the path.

The first thing we might hear would be recitations of early, Meccan-period, Quran verses such as these:

50:45. We know of best what they say; and you (O Muhammad) are not a tyrant over them (to force them to Belief). But warn by the Qur’an, him who fears My Threat.

109:1. Say: “O Al-Kafirun (disbelievers)!

109:2. “I worship not that which you worship,

109:3. “Nor will you worship that which I worship.

109:4. “And I shall not worship that which you are worshipping.

109:5. “Nor will you worship that which I worship.

109:6. “To you be your religion, and to me my religion (Islam).”

That sounds reasonable enough. Muhammad was not a tyrant – the Quran tells us so! Islam is a “live and let live” religion.  Yes, this is what the experts and the president say Islam is.

We might even be around to hear Muhammad share this verse, from early in the Medinan period:

2:256. There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut {idolatry} and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.

I remember those Islam experts telling us this, yes! Here is the religion of peace in its formative years… How wonderful!

But let’s stay on the path and keep watching and listening.

Wait… What’s this? This sounds totally at odds with what we heard after first arriving in the Way-Back machine:

9:5. Then when the Sacred Months have passed, then kill the Mushrikun {unbelievers} wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush…

8:39. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone…

8:12 I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.

9:29. Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

9:33. It is He {Allah} Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), to make it superior over all religions even though the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it).

What? This isn’t the Islam I was told about by Obama and the experts at all! Fighting, killing and domination, supposedly the literal commands of God!?  Why, that would mean the words are eternal, unchanging…

But stay on the path… Let’s keep watching, it’s not just about the words. Surely they were taken out of context…

Wait… What’s this? Raids on caravans? A battle at Badr? More raids on different tribes? Battle after battle… And new revelations endorsing this, killing the vanquished, deceit and treachery, taking sex slaves and booty!

We saw other tribes exiled by Muhammad, but now, after his victory at Medina, we can hardly believe our eyes!  Muhammad ordering the beheading of hundreds of men from the Bani Quraiza! The Muslims cheering and beheading them in huge groups. Muhammad himself setting the chief example! All the blood and carnage… Unbelievable! It’s like ISIS times twenty!

Returning to our own time, we look around at the Islamic State, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, the Taliban. We see the beheadings, the taking of captives, the slavery, the booty. We see thousands of Muslims from Europe and North America, Australia and Central Asia, flocking to join the Islamic State. We see the persecution of non-Muslims in Indonesia (which President Obama told us is modern and moderate!), Malaysia (another moderate Islamic country!), Egypt, Turkey…

And we hear and read of them justifying what they’re doing using the Quran itself…

Why, this is exactly what we saw and heard being commanded in our time travel back to Muhammad’s day. This is exactly what Muhammad did and preached!  The Islamic State ISIslamic!

No matter how often we check our boots, there is no dead butterfly crushed in the treads, no alternate blame to be laid on some shift in the timeline, nor on the forces of nature or even “human-caused global warming.”

The causes of “violent extremism” — Alas! — are now clear to us after seeing it with our own eyes. It is Muhammad himself who set all this in motion, fourteen centuries ago. It is Muhammad’s own example and the words he claimed were from God which devout Muslims today are following.

Of course, there is no time travel in the literal sense of the word. But our hypothetical journey to the seventh century in search of the Butterfly Effect was based entirely upon the Quran and the life of Muhammad as collected by his followers and as set down by his earliest biographer, Ibn Ishaq. Islam’s own revered texts provide the Way-Back machine, the lens into the past, which reveals to us the prophet and what he was like.

Sorry, Mr. Obama, you almost had us fooled, but no more. Sure, maybe the weather can impact human societies, but now we have seen with our own eyes the real cause of Islam’s war against the world.

And now we know it is Muhammad and the Quran.

And the sound we hear all around us… a sound of thunder.

ABOUT RALPH SIDWAY:

Ralph Sidway is an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad. He operates the Facing Islam blog.

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Venezuela Hits 510% Inflation by Steve Hanke

Venezuela’s bolivar is collapsing. And as night follows day, Venezuela’s annual implied inflation rate is soaring. Last week, the annual inflation rate broke through the 500% level. It now stands at 510%.

With free market exchange-rate data (usually black-market data), the real inflation rate can be calculated. The principle of purchasing power parity (PPP), which links changes in exchange rates and changes in prices, allows for a reliable inflation estimate.

Using black-market exchange rate data that The Johns Hopkins-Cato Institute Troubled Currencies Project has collected over the past year, I estimate Venezuela’s current annual implied inflation rate to be 510%. This is the highest rate in the world. It’s well above the second-highest rate: Syria’s, which stands at 84%.

Venezuela has not always experienced punishing inflation rates. From 1950 through 1979, Venezuela’s average annual inflation rate remained in the single digits.

It was not until the 1980s that Venezuela witnessed a double-digit average, and it was not until the 1990s that Venezuela’s average inflation rate exceeded that of the Latin American region.

Today, Venezuela’s inflation rate is over the top.

A version of this post first appeared at Cato.org.

More on the Venezuelan Collapse


Steve H. Hanke

Steve H. Hanke is a Professor of Applied Economics and Co-Director of the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

How Government Turned Baltimore into Pottersville by James Bovard

Baltimore’s recent riots are not surprising in a city that has long been plagued by both police brutality and one of the nation’s highest murder rates. Though numerous government policies and the rampaging looters deserve blame for the carnage, federal housing subsidies have long destabilized Baltimore neighborhoods and helped create a culture of violence with impunity.

Yet just last week, Baltimore officials were in Washington asking for more. Given the history, it defies understanding.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was created in 1965, and Baltimore received massive subsidies to build housing projects in the following years. Baltimore’s projects, like those in many other cities, became cornucopias of crime.

One 202-unit sprawling Baltimore subsidized housing project (recently slated for razing) is known as “Murder Mall.” A 1979 HUD report noted that the robbery rate in one Baltimore public housing project was almost 20 times higher than the national average. The area in and around public housing often becomes “the territory of those who do not have to be afraid — the criminals,” the report said. Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke in 1993 blamed maintenance problems at one public housing projects on drug dealers who refused to let city workers enter the buildings.

In the 1990s, the Baltimore Housing Authority began collecting lavish HUD subsidies to demolish public housing projects. But critics complained that HUD was merely replacing “vertical ghettos with horizontal ones.” Baltimore was among the first cities targeted for using Section 8 vouchers to disperse public housing residents.

HUD and the city housing agency presumed that simply moving people out of the projects was all that was necessary to end the criminal behavior of the residents. Baltimore was one of five cities chosen for a HUD demonstration project — Moving to Opportunity (MTO) — to show how Section 8 could solve the problems of the underclass.

But the relocations had “tripled the rate of arrests for property crimes” among boys who moved to new locales via Section 8. A study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that boys in Section 8 households who moved to new neighborhoods were three times more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and behavioral problems than boys in the control group.

A 2009 research project on Section 8 published in Homicide Studies noted that in the one city studied, “Crime, specifically homicide, became displaced to where the low-income residents were relocated. Homicide was simply moved to a new location, not eliminated.”

Ed Rutkowski, head of a community development corporation in one marginal Baltimore neighborhood, labeled Section 8 “a catalyst in neighborhood deterioration and ghetto expansion” in 2003.

Regardless of its collateral damage, Section 8 defines Valhalla for many Baltimoreans. Receiving a Section 8 voucher can enable some recipients to live rent-free in perpetuity. Because recipients must pay up to a third of their income for rent under the program, collecting Section 8 sharply decreases work effort, according to numerous economic studies.

Last October, when the local housing agency briefly allowed people to register for the program, it was deluged with 73,509 applications. Most of the applications were from families — which means that a third of Baltimore’s 241,455 households sought housing welfare. (Almost 10% of Baltimoreans are already on the housing dole.) Section 8 is not an entitlement, so the city will select fewer than 10,000“winners” from the list.

HUD’s Federal Housing Administration also has a long history of destabilizing neighborhoods in Baltimore and other big cities. A HUD subsidized mortgage program for low-income borrowers launched in 1968 spurred so many defaults and devastation that Carl Levin, then Detroit City Council president and later a long-term U.S. senator, derided the program in 1976 as “Hurricane HUD.

In the late 1990s, more than 20% of FHA mortgages in some Baltimore neighborhoods were in default — leading one activist to label Baltimore “the foreclosure capital of the world.” HUD Inspector General Susan Gaffney warned in 2000: “Vacant, boarded-up HUD-owned homes have a negative effect on neighborhoods, and the negative effect magnifies the longer the properties remain in HUD’s inventory.”

The feds continued massive negligent mortgage lending in Baltimore after that crisis, creating fresh havoc in recent years. In late 2013, more than 40% of homes in the low-income Carrollton Ridge neighborhood were underwater. Reckless subsidized lending in Baltimore and other low-income areas helped saddle Maryland with the highest foreclosure rate in the nation by the end of last year. One in every 435 housing units in Baltimore was in foreclosure last October, according to RealtyTrac.

President Obama said the Baltimore riots showed the need for new “massive investments in urban communities.” What Baltimore needs is an investment in new thinking. The highest property taxes in the state and oppressive local regulation often make investing in jobs and businesses in Baltimore unprofitable. Only fixing that will produce a stable community. Shoveling more federal money into the city is the triumph of hope over experience.

James Bovard

James Bovard is the author of Public Policy Hooligan. His work has appeared in USA Today, where this article was first published.

LA Unions Demand Exemption from $15 Minimum Wage They Created by Daniel Bier

If there was ever any doubt that LA’s minimum wage hike was meant to help the labor unions at the expense of everyone else, I hope we can now put that idea to bed.

The LA Times reports,

Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces. . . .

Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.

“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them,” Hicks said in a statement. “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”

Unions want to give workers and business the option — the freedom! — to prioritize what’s important to them and negotiate their own pay! Isn’t that nice. But only if those workers are paying union dues, and only if those businesses are using union labor.

The minimum wage hike was always meant to make independent workers more expensive and make unions look better by comparison. But it’s a bold move for the unions to simply say, in one breath, “Everyone deserves a living wage! It’ll be good for everyone! Except us, thank you. We’ll set our own pay — and also, give a break to any businesses who agree to go back to union labor.”

More on this transparently corrupt policy of the minimum wage by FEE’s Jeffrey Tucker.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

A Simple Question for Minimum Wage Advocates by Donald J. Boudreaux

I will return in a later post to the topic of my previous post, namely, the validity or (as I see it) invalidity of the argument that proposes a tolerance of locally set minimum-wage rates if not of nationally or super-nationally set rates.

I state, however, here and again my conclusion: Legislating minimum wages – that is, enacting a policy of caging people who insist on entering voluntarily into employment contracts on terms that political elites find objectionable – is no more attractive or justified or likely to succeed at helping low-skilled workers if the particular caging policy in question is enacted locally than if it is enacted nationally or globally.

In this short post, I ask a simple question of all advocates of minimum wages:

If enforcement of minimum-wage policies were carried out in practice by policing low-skilled workers rather than employers – if these policies were enforced by police officers monitoring workers and fining those workers who agreed to work at hourly wages below the legislated minimum – would you still support minimum wages?

Would you be good with police officers arresting those workers who, preferring to remain employed at sub-minimum wages rather than risk losing their current jobs (or risking having do endure worsened employment conditions), refuse to abide by the wage terms dictated by the legislature?

Would you think it an acceptable price to pay for your minimum-wage policy that armed police officers confine in cages low-skilled workers whose only offense is their persistence at taking jobs at wages below those dictated by the government?

If a minimum-wage policy is both economically justified and morally acceptable, you should have no problem with this manner of enforcement.

(You might still prefer, for obviously aesthetic reasons, enforcement leveled mainly at employers. But if the policy is to unleash government force to raise wages above those that would be otherwise agreed to on the market voluntarily between employers and workers, then you should agree that, if for some reason enforcement aimed at employers were impossible or too costly, enforcement aimed at workers is morally and economically acceptable.)

If, however, you do have a problem with minimum-wage regulations being enforced by targeting workers who violate the legislature’s dictated wage terms, then you might wish to think a bit more realistically and deeply about just what it is you advocate in the name of economic improvement or “social justice.”

This post first appeared at Cafe Hayek, where Don Boudreaux blogs with Russ Roberts.

Donald Boudreaux

Donald Boudreaux is a professor of economics at George Mason University, a former FEE president, and the author of Hypocrites and Half-Wits.

Capitalism Defused the Population Bomb by Chelsea German

Journalists know that alarmism attracts readers. An article in the British newspaper the Independent titled, “Have we reached ‘peak food’? Shortages loom as global production rates slow” claimed humanity will soon face mass starvation.

Just as Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb  predicted that millions would die due to food shortages in the 1970s and 1980s, the article in 2015 tries to capture readers’ interest through unfounded fear. Let’s take a look at the actual state of global food production.

The alarmists cite statistics showing that while we continue to produce more and more food every year, the rate of acceleration is slowing down slightly. The article then presumes that if the rate of food production growth slows, then widespread starvation is inevitable.

This is misleading. Let us take a look at the global trend in net food production, per person, measured in 2004-2006 international dollars. Here you can see that even taking population growth into account, food production per person is actually increasing:

Food is becoming cheaper, too. As K.O. Fuglie and S. L. Wang showed in their 2012 article “New Evidence Points to Robust but Uneven Productivity Growth in Global Agriculture,” food prices have been declining for over a century, in spite of a recent uptick:

In fact, people are better nourished today than they ever have been, even in poor countries. Consider how caloric consumption in India increased despite population growth:

Given that food is more plentiful than ever, what perpetuates the mistaken idea that mass hunger is looming? The failure to realize that human innovation, through advancing technology and the free market, will continue to rise to meet the challenges of growing food demand.

In the words of HumanProgress.org Advisory Board member Matt Ridley, “If 6.7 billion people continue to keep specializing and exchanging and innovating, there’s no reason at all why we can’t overcome whatever problems face us.”

This idea first appeared at Cato.org.

Los Angeles Pummels the Poor: A $15 an hour wage floor is a cruel and stupid policy by JEFFREY A. TUCKER

Does anyone on the Los Angeles City Council have a clue about what they have just done? It really is unclear whether reality matters in this legislative body. Rarely have we seen such jaw-dropping display of economic fallacy enacted into law.

The law under consideration here is a new wage floor of $15, phased in over five years. Why phased in? Why not do it now? Why not $30 or $150? Perhaps the implied reticence here illustrates just a bit of caution. Somewhere in the recesses of the councilors’ minds, they might have a lurking sense that there will be a price to pay for this.

Such doubt is wholly justified. Recall that the minimum wage was initially conceived as a method to exclude undesirables from the workforce. The hope, back in the time when eugenics was the rage, was that a wage floor would cause the “unemployable” to stop reproducing and die out in one generation.

Racism drove the policy, but it was hardly limited to that. The exterminationist ambition applied to anyone deemed unworthy of remunerative work.

“We have not reached the stage where we can proceed to chloroform them once and for all,” lamented the progressive economist Frank Taussig in his 1911 bookPrinciples of Economics. “What are the possibilities of employing at the prescribed wages all the healthy able-bodied who apply? The persons affected by such legislation would be those in the lowest economic and social group.”

Professor Taussig spoke for a generation of ruling-class intellectuals that had egregiously immoral visions of how to use government policy. But for all their evil intentions, at least they understood the basic economics of what they were doing. They knew what a wage floor excludes marginal workers, effectively dooming them to poverty — that’s precisely why they favored them.

Today, our situation seems reversed: an abundance of good intentions and a dearth of basic economic literacy. The mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti, was elated at the decision: “We’re leading the country; we’re not going to wait for Washington to lift Americans out of poverty.”

Leading the country, maybe, but where is another question. This is a policy that will, over time, lock millions out of the workforce and forces many businesses to cut their payrolls. Machines to replace workers will come at a premium. The remaining workers will be expected to become much more productive. Potential new business will face a higher bar than ever. Many enterprises will close or move.

As for the existing unemployed, they can forget it. Seriously. In fact, it is rather interesting that in all the hooplah about this change, there’s not been one word about the existing unemployed (officially, 7.5% of the city’s workforce). It’s as if everyone intuitively knows the truth here: this law will not help them at all, at least not if they want to work in the legal economy.

The underground economy, which is already massive in Los Angeles, will grow larger. New informal enterprises will pop up everywhere, doing a cash-only business. The long, brawny arm of the state will not be powerful enough to stop it. Sneaking around and hiding from the law is already a way of life for millions. Look for this tendency to become the dominant way of work for millions more.

All of this will happen, and yet the proponents of the minimum wage will still be in denial, for their commitment to the belief that laws can make wealth is doctrinal and essentially unfalsifiable.

As for those who know better, business owners all over the city pleaded for the Council not to do this. But their pleas fell on deaf ears. The Council had already been bought and paid for by the labor unions and interests that represent the already employed in Los Angeles. Such union rolls do not include the poor, the unemployed, or even many of the 50% of workers in the city who work for less than $15. They represent the working-class bourgeoisie: people rich enough to devote themselves to politics but do not actually own or run businesses.

Will such unions be helped by this law? Perhaps, a bit — but at whose expense? Those who work outside union protection.

This is a revealing insight into why unions have been so passionate about pushing for the minimum wage at all levels. Here is the truth you won’t read in the papers: a higher wage floor helps cartelize the labor market in their favor.

You can understand this by reflecting on your own employment. Let’s say that you earn $50,000 for a task that could possibly done by others for $25,000, and those people are submitting resumes. This is your situation, and it potentially applies to a dozen people in your workplace.

Let’s say you have the opportunity to enact a new policy for the firm: no one can be hired for less than $50,000 a year. Would this policy be good for you? In a perverse way, it would. Suddenly, nobody else, no matter how deserving, could underbid you or threaten your job. It’s a cruel way to go about padding your wallet, but it might work for a time.

Now imagine pushing this policy out to an entire city or an entire country. This would create an economic structure that (however temporarily) serves the interests of the politically connected at the expense of everyone else.

It certainly would not create wealth. It would not help the poor as a whole. And it would do nothing to create a dynamic and competitive marketplace. It would institutionalize stasis and cause innovation to stall and die.

The terrible effects are many and cascading, and much of the damage will be unseen in the form of business not formed, laborers not hired, efficiencies not realized. This is what the government of Los Angeles has done. It is a self-inflicted wound, performed in the name of health and well-being.

The City Council is cheering. So are the unions. So are the ghosts of the eugenists of the past who first fantasized about a labor force populated only by the kinds of people they approved.

As for everyone else, they will face a tougher road than ever.


Jeffrey 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.

The dirty little secret no one wants to admit about Baltimore

The population of Baltimore is 622,000 and 63 percent of its population is black. The mayor, state’s attorney, police chief and city council president are black, as is 48 percent of the police force. But as 36-year-old Robert Stokes says, “You look around and see unemployment. Filling out job applications and being turned down because of where you live and your demographic. It’s so much bigger than the police department.”

Everyone wants to have an honest conversation about race, so let’s us endeavor to do just that. Now, of course, when you speak the hard truth about race issues in America – and not just the liberal progressive talking points – and you’re white, you’ll be branded a racist. And if you’re black, well, y’all just watch the comments below and see the denigrating drivel.

As posted on Breitbart.com by John Nolte, “Contrary to the emotional blackmail some leftists are attempting to peddle, Baltimore is not America’s problem or shame. That failed city is solely and completely a Democrat problem.”

“Like many failed cities, Detroit comes to mind, and every city besieged recently by rioting, Democrats and their union pals have had carte blanche to inflict their ideas and policies on Baltimore since 1967, the last time there was a Republican Mayor. In 2012, after four years of his own failed policies, President Obama won a whopping 87.4% of the Baltimore city vote. Democrats run the city of Baltimore, the unions, the schools, and, yes, the police force. Since 1969, there have only been only been two Republican governors of the State of Maryland. Elijah Cummings has represented Baltimore in the U.S. Congress for more than thirty years.”

“As I write this, despite his objectively disastrous reign, the Democrat-infested mainstream media is treating the Democrat like a local folk hero, not the obvious and glaring failure he really is. Every single member of the Baltimore city council is a Democrat. Liberalism and all the toxic government dependence and cronyism and union corruption and failed schools that comes along with it, has run amok in Baltimore for a half-century, and that is Baltimore’s problem. It is the free people of Baltimore who elect and then re-elect those who institute policies that have so spectacularly failed that once-great city. It is the free people of Baltimore who elected Mayor “Space-to-Destroy”.

Mr. Nolte is white and we all know the invectives which will be hurled his way — but he is absolutely correct.

I was watching the news reports from Baltimore and hearing all the condemnations from some about being kept down and the lack of jobs, opportunity, good schools — then why do these blacks keep voting for the same people? And this isn’t a phenomenon isolated to Baltimore.

Every single major urban center in America is run by Democrats — more specifically, liberal progressives, black or white. The morass that became Detroit. The killing fields of Chicago. The depravity of Washington DC. The shame of South Dallas. And yes, even the place that was once my home, Atlanta — even with all the successful black entertainers.

Now, I remember the first black mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson. That guy was a leader and even spoke at my high school Baccalaureate. But today, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has done such a bang-up job that the Atlanta Braves are moving to Cobb County!

Just do the assessment yourselves, who are the elected officials heading up the urban centers? And where does one find the most dire socio-economic statistics?

Yet we hear these rioters blame whites — well, they need to make sure they’re specifically blaming the correct whites — those on the left. Blacks have been herded into these inner city clusters, a new economic plantation and in this 50th year of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society — well, the unintended, or maybe intended, consequences are deplorable.

But Mr. Nolte does bring up an interesting comparative analysis. He writes:

“Poverty has nothing to do with it. This madness and chaos and anarchy is a Democrat-driven culture that starts at the top with a racially-divisive White House heartbreakingly effective at ginning up hate and violence. Where I currently reside here in Watauga County, North Carolina, the poverty level is 31.3%. Median income is only $34,293. In both of those areas we are much worse off than Baltimore, that has a poverty rate of only 23.8% and a median income of $41,385. Despite all that, we don’t riot here in Watauga County. Thankfully, we have not been poisoned by the same left-wing culture that is rotting Baltimore, and so many other cities like it, from the inside out. We get along remarkably well. We are neighbors. We are people who help out one another. We take pride in our community, and are grateful for what we do have. We are far from perfect, but we work out our many differences in civilized ways. Solutions are our goal, not cronyism, narcissistic victimhood, and the blaming of others.”

The truth is that it is a culture of dependency as promulgated by the race baiters and new plantation overseers of the inner city that has created what we’re seeing play out in Baltimore. There is where the blame lies, but there are very few who are willing to admit just that.

Remember what ESPN sports commentator Stephen A. Smith said? He wished that for one voting cycle, the black community would vote Republican. Heck, they could do no worse — and look, even the people of the state of Maryland decided to try something different and elected a Republican governor. Who, when finally asked, immediately activated the National Guard to quell the violence and chaos which the Democrat Mayor of Baltimore failed to comprehend, and control. Perhaps what we’re witnessing in Baltimore is the pure definition of insanity — continuing to do the same thing and expect different results.

Yes, the dirty little secret that no one wants to admit is that Baltimore, and so many other urban areas and inner city communities in America are a reflection of the abject failure of liberal progressive socialist policies as advanced by the Democrat party.

The preeminent question is whether or not those in Baltimore and other places will recognize who is truly responsible for their plight. Or will they continue to be manipulated and propagandized by the liberal progressive media and the poverty pimps like the one supposedly heading down from New York City.

John Nolte’s piece was spot on and this is not about an American failure, it is about a Democrat failure. And ask yourself, who were the ones who developed the concept of urban economic empowerment zones — as opposed to the ones who have produced urban depraved enslavement zones?

Progress and Poverty, Then and Now by JEFFREY A. TUCKER

Everyone seems to know about Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. It’s all about unequal distribution of wealth and the government measures we need to fix it. But we’ve been here before.

Deja vu. The same focus drove the public debate more than a century ago.

It’s strange how a bestselling book from a century ago could so completely disappear from view. But that’s the case with Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, written in 1879. It became the single most influential book on economics during the highest period of economic growth ever recorded. This was true for decades after its publication.

I’ve seen it in used book stores for years but never bothered to pick it up. I recently had the chance to read George’s book through. The themes of the book were strangely familiar. In fact, in many ways, they are identical: the problem of massive poverty amidst plenty, the corrupt relationship between wealth and political power, the sense that the social order has vast potential that is being locked up by a ruling elite. It’s all here in George’s book.

“The present century has been marked by a prodigious increase in wealth-producing power,” reads the opening salvo. This was America in the Gilded Age, when double-digit growth was not unusual. The country was on a gold standard. New innovations and their disbursement through the population were dramatically changing the culture and challenging people’s thinking on economics. There were railroads, steel, internal combustion, flight, the telephone, electricity, and huge developments in medicine. Life spans increased, income boomed, and infant mortality receded.

It was the birth of the modern world, and George became its leading social and economic thinker. There was probably not an intellectual in the English-speaking world between the book’s appearance and the 1930s who did not read the book. Most everyone praised it, including Albert Einstein, Frank Chodorov, Leon Tolstoy, Philip Wicksteed, F.A. Hayek, John Dewey, and Bertrand Russell, among thousands of others. The praise extended far beyond politics, with free-market radicals and socialists all finding ways to credit his contributions as their primary influence.

The book eventually sold 6 million copies and was translated into 15 languages, becoming the second-best selling book next to the Bible (before Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged displaced it for that title). This is notoriety is especially unusual given that George was never formally educated beyond the age of 14. He was a sometime businessman who grew up in poverty, eventually becoming a writer for newspapers. He had no academic standing at all.

What was the argument? On technical matters, George sought to address why it is that poverty persists despite the massive rise of wealth. How could so many create and possess such vast new wealth, while yet so many remain in a state of grueling poverty?

It was the inequality that struck him, and his casual observation seemed to suggest that the inequality grew even as wealth expanded. He noted that the poor in New York, where wealth was highest, were worse off than they were in California even though the West had far fewer barons of great wealth. How can we account for this? He was also struck by the cycles of boom and bust that caused so much suffering among so many, and speculated on their cause.

“So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury, and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want,” he wrote, “progress is not real, and cannot be permanent. The reaction must come. The tower leans from its foundations, and every new story but hastens the final catastrophe.”

His core theory was that the untaxed private ownership of land and resources was locking up wealth in a way that it could not be accessed by everyone but its owners. The value of land rose higher and higher, even though its owners were not themselves producing anything.

This was particularly true of the railroads, he noted. Wherever the tracks were laid, and the banks appeared, we saw large pockets of wealth appear, but it was channeled only to the few who were involved in land speculation.

He said that this was due to the fact that land is an example of a fixed resource. It doesn’t grow in supply. So when it becomes more valuable, the rent to the land flows only to its owner, who unjustly benefits while everyone else suffers.

His solution was a broad and sweeping tax on land, which he proposed as a replacement to all other existing taxes, including excise taxes of all sorts and also all tariffs (he was a radical proponent of free trade between nations). This tax, wrote George, would fund the whole of the government in all its operations and help discourage the monopolization of land in the hands of a few. This would create the conditions for a more widespread sharing of wealth.

What’s crucial here is that George was not in any way a socialist. In fact, he saw government as a tool of the ruling class that should not be empowered.

“The ideas that there is a necessary conflict between capital and labour,” he wrote, and “that machinery is an evil, that competition must be restrained and interest abolished, that wealth may be created by the issue of money, that it is the duty of Government to furnish capital or to furnish work, are rapidly making way among the great body of the people, who keenly feel a hurt, and are sharply conscious of a wrong. Such ideas, which bring great masses of men, the repositories of ultimate political power, under the leadership of charlatans and demagogues, are fraught with danger.”

Though he believed that poverty was traceable to private land, he nowhere proposed the end of private ownership of every sort. Indeed, he was a champion of all forms of private ownership, trade, innovation, and association.

“Laissez faire (in its full true meaning) opens the way to the realization of the noble dreams of socialism,” he wrote.

His one exception was land. He believed that a land tax would perfect the vision of Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

Why was this book so stunningly popular? There was in the world at that time a rising fear of socialist revolution. The socialists were gaining ground in Europe, and among academia generally, and a widespread fear of an all-out worker revolution was common.

George’s passion on the issue of poverty and equality, together with what seemed to be a common-sense solution, offered an alternative to revolutionary upheaval and the imposition of despotism. He seemed to provide a way to save economic freedom from being overthrown, at once protecting the rights of the wealthy while spreading the benefit of that wealth more broadly among the population. This solution had a huge appeal.

There is an additional factor here. Massive portions of this book are devoted to pushing the land tax idea as an explanation for poverty and cycles of business activity. He saw this solution as a way of lessening the overall tax burden on society.

“Nearly all of the manifold taxes by which the people of the United States are now burdened have been imposed rather with a view to private advantage than to the raising of revenue,” he wrote, “and the great obstacle to the simplification of taxation is these private interests, whose representatives cluster in the lobby whenever a reduction of taxation is proposed, to see that the taxes by which they profit are not reduced.”

His technical analysis here was deeply flawed. There is no theoretical case for singling out land as a unique form of property. Yes, it is limited, but so are all resources. The supply of and demand for valuable land is subject to all the usual economic laws. A tax on land is a tax on people, and this reduces overall prosperity.

And, in any case, this policy idea cannot account for the appeal of the book — the tax never happened nor was ever likely to.

To understand its draw, one has to move to the last chapters, which lay out a beautiful vision of a liberal economy, universal prosperity, and the moral urgency of freedom. He believed it belonged to all peoples in all times, and he was convinced that it could be had in the new century. In this sense, he defined the very essence of what became the highest aspirations of the best intellectuals of his age.

For, in the end, he was a lover of freedom and free markets. “We honour Liberty in name and in form. We set up her statues and sound her praises. But we have not fully trusted her.”

And he loathed power:

With the growth of the collective power as compared with the power of the individual, his power to reward and to punish increases, and so increase the inducements to natter and to fear him; until finally, if the process be not disturbed, a nation grovels at the foot of a throne, and a hundred thousand men toil for fifty years to prepare a tomb for one of their own mortal kind.

George’s perspective makes for a striking contrast to the views of other contemporaries, who expressed alarm at the radical demographic changes of the last quarter of the 19th century. Population exploded, infant mortality collapsed, and the middle class dawned and began to earn new levels of income.

These were the two warring factions at the time: those who aspired to global prosperity and those who wanted to use government to stop the progress of peoples and restore ruling class control of a static society. Intellectuals like T.S. Elliot and D.H. Lawrence, along with the Ivy League faculties of colleges and universities on the East Coast, were pushing for eugenic policies to curb the rise of a new middle class. They feared, even hated, the advance of commercial society.

Henry George, despite his confused economics and his advocacy of the land tax, was an eloquent and passionate advocate of the free society pushed toward progress through a laissez-faire economy. He rallied around the principle of association as the basis for the existence of society as we know it, and the lack of association or its forbidding is the condition that leads to its unraveling. He saw people as an asset that made society more prosperous, and thereby completely rejected the Malthusian idea that more people leads to more poverty.

His massive influence is sometimes credited with many of the reforms of the progressive era, but he is more correctly seen as a critical influence in the development of the 20th century libertarian tradition. In short, his concern for equality led him to seek conditions to raise everyone up, not merely build the state to tear down wealth.

“Liberty calls to us again,” he wrote. “We must follow her further; we must trust her fully. Either we must wholly accept her or she will not stay. It is not enough that men should vote; it is not enough that they should be theoretically equal before the law. They must have liberty to avail themselves of the opportunities and means of life.”

Jeffrey 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.

Why Socialism Causes Pollution by THOMAS J. DILORENZO

Corporations are often accused of despoiling the environment in their quest for profit. Free enterprise is supposedly incompatible with environmental preservation, so that government regulation is required.

Such thinking is the basis for current proposals to expand environmental regulation greatly. So many new controls have been proposed and enacted that the late economic journalist Warren Brookes once forecast that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could well become “the most powerful government agency on earth, involved in massive levels of economic, social, scientific, and political spending and interference.

But if the profit motive is the primary cause of pollution, one would not expect to find much pollution in socialist countries, such as the former Soviet Union, China, and in the former Communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe. That is, in theory. In reality exactly the opposite is true: The socialist world suffers from the worst pollution on earth. Could it be that free enterprise is not so incompatible with environmental protection after all?

I. Socialist Pollution

The Soviet Union

In the Soviet Union there was a vast body of environmental law and regulation that purportedly protected the public interest, but these constraints have had no perceivable benefit. The Soviet Union, like all socialist countries, suffered from a massive “tragedy of the commons,” to borrow the term used by biologist Garrett Hardin in his classic 1968 article. Where property is communally or governmentally owned and treated as a free resource, resources will inevitably be overused with little regard for future consequences.

The Soviet government’s imperatives for economic growth, combined with communal ownership of virtually all property and resources, caused tremendous environmental damage. According to economist Marshall Goldman, who studied and traveled extensively in the Soviet Union, “The attitude that nature is there to be exploited by man is the very essence of the Soviet production ethic.”

A typical example of the environmental damage caused by the Soviet economic system is the exploitation of the Black Sea. To comply with five-year plans for housing and building construction, gravel, sand, and trees around the beaches were used for decades as construction materials. Because there is no private property, “no value is attached to the gravel along the seashore. Since, in effect, it is free, the contractors haul it away. This practice caused massive beach erosion which reduced the Black Sea coast by 50 percent between 1920 and 1960. Eventually, hotels, hospitals, and of all things, a military sanitarium collapsed into the sea as the shoreline gave way. Frequent landslides–as many as 300 per year–have been reported.

Water pollution is catastrophic. Effluent from a chemical plant killed almost all the fish in the Oka River in 1965, and similar fish kills have occurred in the Volga, Ob, Yenesei, Ural, and Northern Dvina rivers. Most Russian factories discharge their waste without cleaning it at all. Mines, oil wells, and ships freely dump waste and ballast into any available body of water, since it is all one big (and tragic) “commons.”

Only six of the 20 main cities in Moldavia had a sewer system by the late 1960s, and only two of those cities made any effort to treat the sewage. Conditions are far more primitive in the countryside.

The Aral and Caspian seas have been gradually disappearing as large quantities of their water have been diverted for irrigation. And since untreated sewage flows into feeder rivers, they are also heavily polluted.

Some Soviet authorities expressed fears that by the turn of the century the Aral Sea will be nothing but a salt marsh. One paper reported that because of the rising salt content of the Aral the remaining fish will rapidly disappear. It was recently revealed that the Aral Sea has shrunk by about a third. Its shore line “is arid desert and the wind blows dry deposits of salt thousands of miles away. The infant mortality rate [in that region] is four to five times the national average.”

The declining water level in the Caspian Sea has been catastrophic for its fish population as spawning areas have turned into dry land. The sturgeon population has been so decimated that the Soviets have experimented with producing artificial caviar. Hundreds of factories and refineries along the Caspian Sea dump untreated waste into the sea, and major cities routinely dump raw sewage. It has been estimated that one-half of all the discharged effluent is carried in the Volga River, which flows into the Caspian Sea. The concentration of oil in the Volga is so great that steamboats are equipped with signs forbidding passengers to toss cigarettes overboard. As might be expected, fish kills along the Volga are a “common calamity.”

Lake Baikal, which is believed to be the oldest freshwater lake in the world, is also one of the largest and deepest. It is five times as deep as Lake Superior and contains twice the volume of water. According to Marshall Goldman, it was also “the best known example of the misuse of water resources in the USSR.”

Factories and pulp mills have been dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of effluent into Lake Baikal each year for decades. As a result, animal life in the lake has been cut by more than 50 percent over the past half century. Untreated sewage is dumped into virtually all tributaries to the lake.

Islands of alkaline sewage have been observed floating on the lake, including one that was 18 miles long and three miles wide. These “islands” have polluted the air around the lake as well as the water in it. Thousands of acres of forest surrounding the lake have been denuded, causing such erosion that dust storms have been reported. So much forest land in the Lake Baikal region has been destroyed that some observers reported shifting sands that link up with the Gobi Desert; there are fears that the desert may sweep into Siberia and destroy the lake.

In other regions the fact that no compensation has to be paid for land that is flooded by water projects has made it easy for government engineers to submerge large areas of land. “As much land has been lost through flooding and salination as has been added through irrigation and drainage in the Soviet Union.”

These examples of environment degradation in the Soviet Union are not meant to be exhaustive but to illustrate the phenomenon of Communist pollution. As Goldman has observed, the great pollution problems in Russia stem from the fact that the government determined that economic growth was to be pursued at any cost. “Government officials in the USSR generally have a greater willingness to sacrifice their environment than government officials in a society with private enterprise where there is a degree of public accountability. There is virtually a political as well as an economic imperative to devour idle resources in the USSR.”

China

In China, as in Russia, putting the government in charge of resource allocation has not had desirable environmental consequences. Information on the state of China’s environment is not encouraging.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, more than 90 percent of the trees in the pine forests in China’s Sichuan province have died because of air pollution. In Chungking, the biggest city in southwest China, a 4, 500-acre forest has been reduced by half. Acid rain has reportedly caused massive crop losses.

There also have been reports of waterworks and landfill projects severely hampering fish migration. Fish breeding was so seriously neglected that fish has largely vanished from the national diet. Depletion of government-owned forests has turned them into deserts, and millions of acres of grazing and farm land in the northern Chinese plains were made alkaline and unproductive during the “Great Leap Forward.”

Central and Eastern Europe

With Communism’s collapse, word has begun to seep out about Eastern Europe’s environmental disasters. According to the United Nations Global Environment Monitoring Program, “pollution in that region is among the worst on the Earth’s surface.” Jeffrey Leonard of the World Wildlife Fund concluded that “pollution was part and parcel of the system that molested the people [of Eastern Europe] in their daily lives.” Evidence is mounting of “an environmental nightmare,” the legacy of “decades of industrial development with little or no environmental control.”

Poland

According to the Polish Academy of Sciences, “a third of the nation’s 38 million people live in areas of ecological disaster.” In the heavily industrialized Katowice region of Poland, the people suffer 15 percent more circulatory disease, 30 percent more tumors, and 47 percent more respiratory disease than other Poles. Physicians and scientists believe pollution is a major contributor to these health problems.

Acid rain has so corroded railroad tracks that trains are not allowed to exceed 24 miles an hour. The air is so polluted in Katowice that there are underground “clinics” in uranium mines where the chronically ill can go to breathe clean air.

Continuous pumping of water from coal mines has caused so much land to subside that over 300,000 apartments were destroyed as buildings collapsed. The mine sludge has been pumped into rivers and streams along with untreated sewage which has made 95 percent of the water unfit for human consumption. More than 65 percent of the nation’s water is even unfit for industrial use because it is so toxic that it would destroy heavy metals used by industry. In Cracow, Poland’s ancient capital, acid rain “dissolved so much of the gold roof of the 16th century Sigismund Chapel that it recently hd to be replaced.”

Industrial dust rains down on towns, depositing cadmium, lead, zinc, and iron. The dust is so heavy that huge trucks drive through city streets daily spraying water to reduce it. By some accounts eight tons of dust fall on each square mile in and around Cracow each year. The mayor of Cracow recently stated that the Vistula River — the largest river in Poland — is “nothing but a sewage canal.” The river has mercury levels that are three times what researchers say is safe, while lead levels are 25 times higher than deemed safe.

Half of Poland’s cities, including Warsaw, don’t even treat their wastes, and 41 animal species have reportedly become extinct in Poland in recent years. While health statistics are spotty — they were not a priority of the Communist government–available data are alarming. A recent study of the Katowice region found that 21 percent of the children up to 4 years old are sick almost constantly, while 41 percent of the children under 6 have serious health problems.

Life expectancy for men is lower than it was 20 years ago. In Upper Silesia, which is considered one of the most heavily industrialized regions in the world, circulatory disease levels are 15 percent higher, respiratory disease is 47 percent higher, and there has been “an appalling increase in the number of retarded children,” according to the Polish Academy of Sciences. Although pollution cannot be blamed for all these health problems, physicians and scientists attach much of the blame to this source.

Czechoslovakia

In a speech given on New Year’s Day of 1990, Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel said, “We have laid waste to our soil and the rivers and the forests…and we have the worst environment in the whole of Europe today.” He was not exaggerating, although the competition for the title of “worst environment” is clearly fierce. Sulfur dioxide concentrations in Czechoslovakia are eight times higher than in the United Sates, and “half the forests are dead or dying.”

Because of the overuse of fertilizers, farmland in some areas of Czechoslovakia is toxic to more than one foot in depth. In Bohemia, in northwestern Czechoslovakia, hills stand bare because their vegetation has died in air so foul it can be tasted. One report describes the Czech countryside as a place where “barren plateaus stretch for miles, studded with the stumps and skeletons of pine trees. Under the snow lie thousands of acres of poisoned ground, where for centuries thick forests had grown.” There is a stretch of over 350 miles where more than 300,000 acres of forest have disappeared and the remaining trees are dying. A thick, brown haze hangs over much of northern Czechoslovakia for about eight months of the year. Sometimes it takes on the sting of tear gas, according to local officials. There are environmental laws, but they aren’t enforced. Sulfur in the air has been reported at 20 times the permissible level. Soil in some regions is so acidic that aluminum trapped in the clay is released. Scientists discovered that the aluminum has poisoned groundwater, killing tree and plant roots and filtering into the drinking water.

Severe erosion in the decimated forests has caused spring floods in which all the melted snow cascades down mountainsides in a few weeks, causing further erosion and leading to water shortages in the summer.

In its search for coal, the Communist government has used bulldozers on such a massive scale that they have “turned towns, farms and woodlands into coarse brown deserts and gaping hollows. Because open-pit mining is cheaper than underground mining, and has been practiced extensively, in some areas of Czechoslovakia “you have total devastation of the land.”

East Germany

The new German government has claimed that nearly 40 percent of the East German populace suffers ill effects from pollutants in the air. In Leipzig, half the children are treated each year for illnesses believed to be associated with air pollution. Eighty percent of eastern Germany’s surface waters are classified as unsuitable for fishing, sports, or drinking, and one out of three lakes has been declared biologically dead because of decades of untreated dumping of chemical waste.

Much of the East German landscape has been devastated. Fifteen to 20 percent of its forests are dead, and another 40 percent are said to be dying. Between 1960 and 1980 at least 70 villages were destroyed and their inhabitants uprooted by the government, which wanted to mine high-sulfur brown coal. The countryside is now “pitted with moon-like craters” and “laced with the remains of what were once spruce and pine trees, nestled amid clouds of rancid smog.” The air in some cities is so polluted that residents use their car headlights during the day, and visitors have been known to vomit from breathing the air.

Nearly identical problems exist in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia.

Visiting scientists have concluded that pollution in Central and Eastern Europe “is more dangerous and widespread than anything they have seen in the Western industrial nations.”

II. United States: Public Sector Pollution

The last refuge of those who advocate socialistic solutions to environmental pollution is the claim that it is the lack of democratic processes that prevents the Communist nations from truly serving the public interest. If this theory is correct, then the public sector of an established democracy such as the United States should be one of the best examples of environmental responsibility. But U.S. government agencies are among the most cavalier when it comes to environmental stewardship.

There is much evidence to dispute the theory that only private businesses pollute. In the United States, we need look no further than our own government agencies. These public sector institutions, such as the Department of Defense (DOD), are among the worst offenders. DOD now generates more than 400,000 tons of hazardous waste a year — more than is produced by the five largest chemical companies combined. To make matters worse, the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the enforcement power over the public sector that it possesses over the private sector.

The lax situation uncovered by the General Accounting Office (GAO) at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma is typical of the way in which many Federal agencies respond to the EPA’s directives. “Although DOD policy calls for the military services to … implement EPA’s hazardous waste management regulations, we found that Tinker has been selling…waste oil, fuels, and solvents rather than recycling,” reported the GAO.

One of the world’s most poisonous spots lies about 10 miles northeast of Denver in the Army’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Nerve gas, mustard shells, the anti-crop spray TX, and incendiary devices have been dumped into pits there over the past 40 years. Dealing with only one “basin” of this dump cost $40 million. Six hundred thousand cubic yards of contaminated soil and sludge had to be scraped and entombed in a 16-acre, double-lined waste pile.

There are plenty of other examples of Defense Department facilities that need major cleanup. In fact, total costs of along-term Pentagon cleanup are hard to get a handle on. Some officials have conceded that the price tag could eventually exceed $20 billion.

Government-owned power plants are another example of public-sector pollution. These plants are a large source of sulfur dioxide emissions. The federal government’s Tennessee Valley Authority operates 59 coal-fired power plants in the Southeast, where it has had major legal confrontations with state governments who want the Federal agency to comply with state governments who want the Federal agency to comply with state environmental regulations. The TVA has fought the state governments for years over compliance with their clean air standards. It won a major Supreme Court victory when the Court ruled that, as a federal government enterprise, it could be exempt from environmental regulations with which private sector and local government power plants must comply.

Federal agricultural policy also has been a large source of pollution, in the past encouraging over utilization of land subject to erosion. Powerful farm lobbies have protected “non-point” sources of pollution from the heavy hand of regulation places on other private industries.

III. Policy Implications

These examples of environmental degradation throughout the world suggest some valuable lessons. First, it is not free enterprise per se that causes environmental harm; if so, the socialist world would be environmentally pristine.

The heart of the problem lies with the failure of our legal institutions, not the free enterprise system. Specifically, American laws were weakened more than a century ago by Progressive Era courts that believed economic progress was in the public interest and should therefore supersede individual rights.

The English common law tradition of the protection of private property rights — including the right to be free from pollution — was slowly overturned. In other words, many environmental problems are not caused by “market failure” but by government’s failure to enforce property rights. It is a travesty of justice when downstream residents, for example, cannot hold an upstream polluter responsible for damaging their properties. The common law tradition must be revived if we are to enjoy a healthy market economy and a cleaner environment. Potential polluters must know in advance that they will be held responsible for their actions.

The second lesson is that the plundering of the environment in the socialist world is a grand example of the tragedy of the commons. Under communal property ownership, where no one owns or is responsible for a natural resource, the inclination is for each individual to abuse or deplete the resource before someone else does. Common examples of this “tragedy” are how people litter public streets and parks much more than their own yards; private housing is much better maintained than public lands but maintain lush pastures on their own property; the national forests are carelessly over-logged, but private forests are carefully managed and reforested by lumber companies with “super trees”; and game fish are habitually overfished in public waterways but thrive in private lakes and streams. The tragedy of the commons is a lesson for those who believe that further nationalization and governmental control of natural resources is a solution to our environmental problems.

These two pillars of free enterprise — sound liability laws that hold people responsible for actions and the enforcement of private property rights — are important stepping stones to environmental protection.

ABOUT THOMAS J. DILORENZO

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

The Minimum Wage Poison Pill

As we approach the 2014 General Election, with president Barack Obama set to occupy the White House for two more years, the stakes are higher than ever. As usual, Democrats across the country focus on phony issues, such as a Republican “War on Women,” the widening income gap between the rich and the non-rich, and bogus claims of being champions of the middle class.

In terms of domestic policy, they express support for the “middle class,” while doing everything in their power to turn America into a two-class society: the very rich… whose wealth they only wish to plunder… and the very poor, who, in return for an endless array of government handouts, will be expected to do nothing more than to pull the Democrat lever on Election Day.

In foreign affairs, they express outrage over the gruesome crimes of radical Islam… such as the recent beheading of an Oklahoma City woman by a radical Muslim co-worker… yet they oppose any and all effort at what they see as “racial profiling.” They find moral equivalency between the anti-Christian genocide of radical Islam throughout the Middle East, and the bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic in years past.

They express support for high quality public education, but the teachers unions… who own a controlling interest in the Democrat Party… dictate that Democrats oppose any and all voucher proposals, causing the greatest damage to the hopes of minority parents who want to see their children receive a quality education. They ignore the fact that throwing more money at public schools does nothing to increase the quality of a public school education. Instead, at the behest of the teachers unions, they demand that class sizes be reduced, that new school buildings be constructed, and that teacher salaries be increased… all the while regaling their low-information voter base with the cynical lie that Republicans want to “cut benefits to kids.”

They express a desire for the budget discipline of the 1990s… a direct result of Ronald Reagan’s “trickle down” economic policies and the election of a Republican Congress… and they support the notion of cutting the deficit in half, while supporting every new spending scheme hatched by liberal social planners. (In their 2000 platform, they announced that Democrats would entirely eliminate the public debt by the year 2012. Clearly, they had not heard of Barack Obama.)

While expressing a desire to curb the influence of lobbyists, they attempt to convince low-information voters that Republican administrations are dominated by lobbyists for business interests. Yet, no previous administration has been as heavily staffed and influenced by special interests as is the Obama administration. And while they express strong support for an electoral system that is “accessible, auditable, and accurate,” they insist that every attempt to curb vote fraud is nothing more than a Republican scheme to oppress the black vote.

On the healthcare front, they express a desire to provide healthcare insurance for 30-40 million uninsured, to improve the access to and quality of healthcare for all Americans, to substantially reduce the cost of healthcare for everyone, and to do it all without increasing the number of doctors, nurses, and hospitals. Like president Barack Obama, they see no contradictions in any of this. These are obviously people who would promise, with a straight face, that they could stuff 10 lb. of (excrement) into a 5 lb. Bag. All we need to do to make these magical things happen is to elect more Democrats to public office.

Democrats want to use the tax code to discourage the outflow of jobs overseas. Yet they have no problem with the fact that the United States has the highest corporate tax rate of any developed nation. They express a desire to cut taxes for every working family, including those who pay no federal or state income tax, but they exclude tax relief for the “millionaires” who are expected to provide good-paying jobs for the poor and the middle class.

And finally, while fast food workers go on strike demanding a $15.00 per hour minimum wage, a 107 percent increase, Democrats prescribe a poison pill for the U.S. economy with a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage standard from $7.25 cents per hour to $10.10 per hour a 39.3 percent increase. In doing so, they scoff at studies which show that, for each 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, 1-2 percent of jobs in the nation simply go away. For unskilled entry-lever workers, each 10 percent increase in the minimum wage results in a decrease of 4-5 percent in the number of entry-level jobs available… the jobs most often held by teens, the poor, and the unskilled.

According to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a majority of those who worked at minimum wage jobs in 2013 were 24 years old, or younger, while only 0.8 percent, less than one in a hundred, of those 24 years old, or older, work for a minimum wage.

Minimum wage increases are major job-killers. According to a 2014 report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, an increase in the minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour would reduce the total number of jobs available by approximately 500,000. For the most part, these are the jobs currently held by all those fast food workers who fill the streets, demanding a $15 per hour minimum wage. And if those who clamor for a $15 per hour minimum wage are anxious to learn what happens to a job market with a minimum wage of that magnitude, they won’t have to wait long. In early June 2014, the Seattle city council voted to increase the minimum wage in that city to $15 per hour, the highest in the nation.

A report by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) tells us that, of every dollar of revenue coming into restaurant cash registers, approximately 33 percent goes to salaries and wages. The remainder of that dollar of revenue goes to cover the cost of food and beverages, other costs of doing business, and a small net profit for the owner. According to NRA statistics, the profit margin of restaurants varies, depending on the size of the average check per patron. Those with average checks under $15 per person… e.g., McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, etc… produce average profit margins of 3 percent, while those with checks of $15 to $24.99… e.g., The Olive Garden, Red Lobster, The Cheesecake Factory, etc… produce profit margins of roughly 3.5 percent, the highest in the industry.

According to a recent report by Gingrich Productions, a good measure of the impact of minimum wage laws can be found in the European experience. Among those countries with no minimum wage… Austria, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland… the median unemployment rate is just 5.2 percent, while the median jobless rate stands at 11.1 percent in countries with minimum wage laws… more than twice that of those without minimum wage laws.

But there is a much larger issue than the question of whether we should have a statutory minimum wage of $10.10 or $15 per hour… an issue that Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are not anxious to talk about. I refer to the question that more and more minimum wage workers are asking themselves, which is, “Why should I work 40 hours a week at $10.10 per hour, when I can earn more by staying at home and living off the public dole?”

A 2013 Cato Institute study tells us that, in 33 states and the District of Columbia, welfare benefits pay more than the current $7.25 per hour, while in 13 states, welfare benefits pay more than $15 per hour. In Hawaii, for example, the pre-tax “salary” of stay-at-home welfare recipients is $60,590 per year, or $29.13 per hour when compared to a 40-hour work week, while in Washington, DC, the hourly rate for just staying at home is $24.43 per hour. At the lower end of the spectrum among states where sloth is more lucrative than honest toil, the hourly rate for stay-at-home welfare recipients in South Carolina is $10.53 per hour… 43 cents more than the $10.10 minimum wage proposed by Democrtats.

So what do we do to fix the problem?

Instead of catering cynically to the poorest of the poor as a political constituency, as Democrats do, we should be asking exactly how an individual in this, the land of opportunity and economic freedom, can still be working at a minimum wage job when he/she is 24 years old, or older. That circumstance can only be explained by pointing out that a great many people simply make very bad choices in their lives.

But Democrats are clearly more interested in purchasing a “nanny state” constituency than they are in doing what is necessary to really help people lift themselves out of poverty. As one writer, Charles M. Blow, has said, “Much of what happens in Washington occurs at the intersection of political advantage and earnest intentions.”

What is clear is that we cannot perpetuate a system in which it is more lucrative to take a welfare check than it is to earn an honest living. In order to throw off the bonds of that insanity our options are only two. First, one might ask, why not raise the minimum wage to $25 or $30 per hour so that those who work can earn more than those who don’t, or won’t? The answer is, a $25 or $30 minimum wage would literally wreck whatever is left of our fragile economy and price us completely out of world markets.

The one remaining option is to do what we did in the mid-90s when a Republican-controlled Congress forced a Democrat president, Bill Clinton, to sign what was called “welfare-to-work” legislation, requiring those on public assistance to also find honest employment. The country experienced real economic growth, balanced budgets, and a pay-down in the national debt.

The choice is ours. What was done in the 1990s can be done again. But in order to do that we must first have a president who understands at least a “smidgen” about the intricacies of the U.S. economy. That means that our first priority must be to rid ourselves of Barack Obama, sending him back to his Kenyan roots where he can actually learn a thing or two about micro-economics.

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Wages and the Free Market, Part 1 — Dispelling labor market myths with theory and data

Wages and the Free Market, Part 2 — Innovation Is the Lifeblood of a Healthy Economy

Raise the Minimum Wage? A Socratic Dialogue