Power & Market
[Editors note: After this article was written, Theresa May officially announced she is leaving the position of Prime Minister on June 7th.]
Brexit has been a long, drawn-out saga. But finally, Theresa May’s indecision appears to be coming to an end. She has finally been cornered in a tragic opera with more twists and turns than Wagner’s Ring Cycle. May’s Götterdämmerung is reaching its conclusion. Brünnhilde is riding Grane, her trusty steed, into immolation on the funeral pyre of her heavily-amended withdrawal agreement.
Mrs May’s initial error was to seek consensus between Remainers and Brexiteers. In the words of one of her sacked advisers, Nick Timothy, she viewed Brexit as a damage-limitation exercise. Her mission statement evolved from her Lancaster House speech, when she declared she would deliver Brexit in terms which were clear, complying with the referendum and applauded by ardent Brexiteers. It became a fatally flawed compromise, which has failed to be ratified by MPs on three occasions so far, and a proposed fourth in the next week or so is likely to suffer the same fate.
Her problems started in earnest when she over-ruled her first Brexit secretary, David Davis. Unknown to her Brexit ministers, with her own civil service advisors she began negotiating behind her Brexit secretary’s back. Davis was informed of May’s Chequers proposal only a few days before that fateful Checkers meeting, following which Davis and Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary) resigned from the Cabinet, while five other ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries also resigned.
If ever there was evidence that in politics you should keep your enemies close and your friends closer still, this was it. It has allowed those that have resigned to expose May’s duplicity to their fellow MPs and to organise the opposition to May’s Chequers proposal and the subsequent Withdrawal Agreement she cooked up with the EU.
Mrs May was always a Remainer, and her presence as Prime Minister has encouraged leading Europhiles to overturn the Brexit referendum. That is why she sees it as a damage limitation exercise: produce something that can be said to be Brexit, but still leaves the UK tied to Brussels. It is Hotel California, with Britain only leaving if both sides agree to it, or alternatively, Northern Ireland remains in the EU’s customs union. That cannot happen, not least because the DUP would end its vital support for May’s minority government.
Putting the Northern Ireland issue to one side, in order to get the agreement of the other EU nations for a full and final exit, the UK relies on “The duty of good faith which prohibits the deliberate exploitation of the implementation period to damage British interests” (Barclay’s emphasis). This was written in a letter by Steve Barclay, the current Brexit Secretary, to John Redwood, a senior Conservative backbench MP, in response to his concerns over the Withdrawal Agreement.
Good faith in politics? Barclay must be joking. Spain has a political interest in securing Gibraltar: won’t a future Spanish politician not be tempted to only agree to opening the door to Hotel California if Gibraltar is signed over? French fisherman enjoy free access to British fishing grounds. What French politician has the resolve to stand up to striking fisherman on a good-faith commitment? We haven’t seen one yet.
In short, May’s attempt to limit Brexit damage is a stitch-up, pleasing neither side of the House.
Labour’s Role in All This
In desperation, Mrs May has turned to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to gain sufficient support to push her Withdrawal Agreement through the House against the wishes of her own MPs. Corbyn is a Marxist, as is his Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. Both of them have promoted far-left activists, who now have a high degree of control over both party policy and the selection of Labour MPs, meaning that moderates are being side-lined and expunged.
This creates Labour’s own crisis, with Marxist activists alienating moderate Labour voters in the constituencies. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Labour Party has its own split between Remainers and Brexiteers. The whole Brexit issue is a hot potato with which the Labour leadership would rather not be involved. It was with this in mind the Labour leadership held talks with Mrs May’s government, at her invitation, to try to find common ground.
Labours tactics were simple, only an increasingly desperate Prime Minister seemed unable to see them. Labour took and kept the moral high ground, appearing reasonable by accepting the invitation to talks. They ensured they would go nowhere (not difficult, given Mrs May’s stubbornness), then withdraw blaming her for the breakdown. Their hope is to force a general election following a No Confidence Motion only after Brexit has been resolved, capitalising on Mrs May’s disastrous handling of the Brexit issue. And if Mrs May brings her proposed withdrawal agreement to the House for a fourth time, they almost certainly won’t support it, again blaming Mrs May for her “failure to listen”.
The Labour leadership will be observing with interest the battle to succeed her, and it will be clear to them that either No Deal or a compromise in that direction will be the result. This is unlikely to worry them on two counts. Firstly, Labour will not want to alienate voters in their northern constituencies any further by compromising on Mrs May’s deal or anything close to it. And secondly, the leadership, being committed Marxists, will probably take the view that a “right-wing” Prime Minister will improve their own prospects in a general election.
It all points to a continuing strategy of not supporting Mrs May, avoiding any deal with the Conservatives, and hoping the Conservatives will elect a leader that will destroy the Conservatives’ electoral prospects.
Mrs May’s Likely Replacement
At the time of writing, it appears that Mrs May will fail disastrously if she puts her amended withdrawal agreement to a Commons vote for a fourth time. She has tried to appeal to the Remainers with a fourth vote by offering a possible second referendum if MPs back her bill. She has now broken every red line she previously set out. She may not even get the chance for it to be voted.
In the coming days, her position will surely become untenable, though we have all said that before. But this time, she will have exhausted every possibility and have nowhere else to go. And if the Conservative vote collapses in today’s European elections, the fence-sitters in Parliament will be galvanised into getting rid of her.
In the last few days, leadership contenders have been lining up their bids for the premiership. Those jostling for position are talking of everything but Brexit. The Remainers, such as Philip Hammond (the Chancellor) do not appear to be in the race and have become so unpopular outside Parliament that they wouldn’t get a mandate from the constituencies anyway. The next leader is very likely to be a staunch Brexiteer.
It would bore an international audience to list and analyse the runners, other than to concentrate on the clear favourite, Boris Johnson, who currently shows as 7/4-on. His nearest rival, Dominic Raab is 9/2-against. The news on Boris is for him both good and tricky. The good is that he is clearly the favourite with the constituency members, and if he can be one of the two names put forward, he should be home and dry. The tricky bit is Remainer MPs and fence-sitters in the parliamentary party, who claim to be one-nation Tories, would rather not support Boris.
He is regarded as right-wing, when in fact he favours freer markets, less regulation, and free trade. He is a classic Tory. It is the party’s middle ground that has become socialistic. In an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph he wrote the following:
“What we cannot now know – as the great French economist Bastiat observed in the 19th century – is the unseen opportunity cost of the way the UK economic structure has evolved to fit the EU over the last four and a half decades, and the productive ways in which it might now evolve.”
The reference to Frédéric Bastiat is important. He is referring to Bastiat’s parable of the broken window, which points out that the state’s intervention (the boy who broke the window) denies the more productive use of the baker’s money to his desired ends. The fact that Johnson knows the parable and understands the message is good evidence of his libertarian credentials.
That being the case, it is the socialistic element of the Conservative parliamentary party, masquerading as one-nation Tories, that he has to overcome. Reportedly, he has been having one-to-one meetings with his fellow MPs to do just that. Sometime ago, there was a well-founded belief that if Johnson became leader of the Conservative Party at least five MPs would resign the whip. Since then, Change UK, a dustbin of disillusioned Remainers has been formed with eleven MPs, three of which were Conservatives. It has been a complete failure and a sharp lesson to other would-be jumpers, so there are likely to be no more defections on a Johnson leadership.
Johnson has also been taking the advice of Lynton Crosby, probably the most successful political strategist today. It was Crosby who advised Scott Morrison in last weekend’s Australian election, when the expected Labour opposition victory was successfully overturned. He also advised Johnson in his successful elections as Mayor of London in 2008 and 2012.
This is interesting, because Johnson appears to be working to a carefully constructed plan. He avoids press comment over Brexit and writes about anything else in his Monday column at the Daily Telegraph. His contributions in Parliament have been brief, the few on Brexit generally confined to democracy rather than trade. He has positioned himself to rescue the party from electoral destruction if called upon, rather than appear to be an overtly ambitious politician, unlike all the other contenders. It is quite Churchillian, in the sense there is a parallel with Churchill’s election by his peers to lead the nation in its darkest hour. He even wrote about it in a recent bestseller, The Churchill Factor1,and understands intimately what it took for Churchill to gain the support of the House.
It is therefore hardly surprising Johnson is the favourite to succeed Mrs May. His appreciation of free markets means he is not frightened by trading with the EU on WTO terms. Furthermore, President Trump admires him, and would be likely to fast-track a US trade deal with the UK. However, Johnson is likely to pursue a deal on radically different terms on a take-it-or-leave-it basis with no further extensions to Exit Day.
As soon as the 31 October deadline has passed, Remainers will no longer have a cause. They have yet to appreciate the fact, and they may vote for him in the hope that after restoring the party’s fortunes, they can get rid of him and mend relations with the EU. But the Brexit debate would effectively end after Exit Day and its divisiveness with it. Farage’s Brexit party will wither on the vine, its purpose of restoring democratic accountability to Parliament and delivering Brexit being restored.
Johnson would then have the task of rebuilding the party for the next general election, set for 5 May 2022.
In the coming days, having seen Mrs May’s last roll of the dice, all these factors will be uppermost in the minds of both backbenchers and of government ministers in their private capacity. If there is one thing that is certain, the Conservative Party is a survivor. If Boris Johnson is the best option, MPs will swallow their prejudices and elect him.
Excerpted from Brexit – Theresa May’s Final Act
Published by Hodder, 2015.
Most economists, while recognizing the great 19th-century French liberal Frédéric Bastiat as an outstanding economic journalist and a master polemicist for free trade and other liberal economic policies, have summarily dismissed him as an economic theorist. These include economists from Mises and Hayek to Schumpeter and Marx. Lately some economists have begun taking a second look at Bastiat’s work in economic theory.
Right now there is a stimulating online conversation going on about Bastiat's contributions to economic theory in his treatise Economic Harmonies. The conversation marks the completion of a draft of Liberty Fund's new translation of Economic Harmonies and is led by Dr. David Hart, the Academic Editor of Liberty Fund's Bastiat translation project and the leading authority on Bastiat and his work. It is part of the series “Liberty Matters: A Forum for the Discussion of Matters pertaining to Liberty.” Besides David and me, the participants include two prominent academic experts on Bastiat, Professors Don Boudreaux of George Mason University, and Guido Hülsmann of the University of Angers.
The contributions to the discussion are lively, concise, accessible to Bastiat fans of all ages and backgrounds, and well worth reading.
Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe does not pull punches when it comes to tearing down conventional wisdom in professional advancement.
Rowe has had choice words for the university system and how it has kept Americans ill-prepared for the real world. One of the greatest insights that Rowe has shared with many Americans disillusioned with their professional prospects is to look the other way in the blue-collar sector for lucrative opportunities.
On Tucker Carlson’s nightly show, Mike Rowe continued his attacks on higher education in America. Rowe claimed that Americans and legacy institutions are “obsessed with credentialing, not education.”
Rowe continued, “I think because stuck in this binary box, this or that. Right, blue-collar or white color, good job or a bad job. Higher education or higher alternative education.”
The TV show host then said:
“The cost of college today has almost nothing to do with the cost of an education, and everything to do with the cost of buying a credential. That’s all a diploma is. Some are more expensive than others, but none of them reflect the character of the recipient, none are necessary to live a happy and prosperous life, and none of them come with any guarantees.”
Rowe gets the surface details correct, however, there is more to the story than meets the eye. Ever since the federal government got involved in education, not only has the quality become suspect, but the cost of education has skyrocketed.
A study from the National Bureau of Education Research (NBER) found that the average net tuition increased by 106 percent from 1987 to 2010. We can thank government subsidized loans for that.
These guaranteed subsidies artificially drive up demand, and in turn, universities take advantage of this by raising tuition rates . On top of that, rigorous accreditation standards shield established universities from competition. Gary North explains how the American university has evolved during the past century:
Accreditation was initially private. Private regional accrediting associations were set up. Today, there are state laws governing the use of the word 'university.' A university must be accredited.
In effect, these legal barriers to entry restrict the supply of academic institutions providing educational services, thus keeping prices high.
With how democratized information has become due to technology like the Internet, it no longer matters what educational institution you go to. Now, people from all over the world can learn information that was only available to rich elites. In theory, the playing field should already be leveled. Unfortunately, the government has not caught up with this trend and impedes the market from doing its thing.
The U.S. political economy, from its tax code to an out-of-control bureaucracy, has in many ways created a quasi-rigged environment against new entrants. Further, the education system helps perpetuate this vicious cycle of control. From the primary level up until the university level, students are treated as if they are cogs in a machine. Go to class, get lectured, memorize material. Rinse, lather, and repeat.
Once students enter the real world, they are up to their necks in debt and ill-prepared to be a part of the workforce. It’s even sadder when young individuals, disillusioned with their dreary corporate jobs, end up gravitating toward government solutions to these problems. The same government that constricts our job prospects, has also constricted our mindsets when it comes to working. Indeed, we can aspire for more.
It’s time to recognize that not everyone needs a traditional degree to have a successful career. Some people’s calling belongs in trades, not an office cubicle. Our society’s blind acceptance of the university to the corporate pipeline has stunted the professional imagination of countless individuals.
Rowe’s insights on higher education are a breath of fresh air. The next step is for Rowe and others to embrace free markets as the solution to the higher education conundrum.
Rowe might not have the correct specifics but he’s at least starting a conversation that must take place if we want to overhaul our education system. We can start by treating education like a good or service, not some positive right that has to be provided or stimulated by the most primitive institution to rule them all—the State.
There are 326 Native American reservations across the country with a total of approximately 1,150,000 residents, and another four million Native Americans living outside of these reservations.1 The Navajo Nation reservation is the largest and covers 27,413 square miles, the size of the Netherlands and Belgium combined. The Uintah and Ouray Reservation is the second largest and is 6,825 square miles large, almost seven times the size of Luxembourg.2 Third largest is the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation covering 4,453 square miles, which is thirty-six Maltas and one Lichtenstein in change.
These reservations are considered “domestic dependent nations,” and are under the trust of the Department of the Interior. Native American tribes cannot freely access the massive natural resource reserves under their own land, or develop the land itself, without permission from the Department of the Interior, and so the federal government has locked them into a state of perpetual bureaucratic repression:
On Indian lands, companies must go through four federal agencies and forty-nine regulatory or administrative steps to acquire a permit to drill, compared with only four steps when drilling off reservation. . . . It is not uncommon for several years to pass before the necessary approvals are acquired to begin energy development on Indian lands—a process that takes only a few months on private lands. At any time during the energy development process, a federal agency may demand more information or shut down development activity. Development projects on Indians lands are subject to significantly more constraints than similar projects on private lands. Simply completing title search requests results in delays from the BIA. Indians have waited six years to receive title search reports that other Americans can get in a few days.3
The results are grim and contribute to a variety of larger social problems. For example, native American life expectancy is 5.5 years lower than the U.S. average and a Native American poverty rate of 28.3 percent compared with the national average of 15.5 percent for 2014.4 5 On reservations, the situation is particularly dismaying:
The impact of insecure property rights can be seen on almost any reservation. Some families of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, for example, are still living with no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewer. On this reservation, the eighth largest, unemployment hovers around 80 percent and 49 percent live below the federal poverty level. The life expectancies are in the high 40s for males and the low 50s for females.6
Given the bureaucratic hurdles through which tribes must jump through repeatedly, part of the solution may lie in granting true sovereignty to reservations and their residents. This movement toward decentralization of federal power could have immense benefits not only for the reservations themselves, but also for life in the rest of the U.S.
A Collection of Independent States
Potentially, these 326 federally beholden reservations could become 326 states as sovereign as Switzerland and Andorra, and federal control over natural resources in America — solidified and extended by the reservation system — would be reined in.
After all, as noted by Maura Grogan, Rebecca Morse, and April Youpee-Roll,“It appears fair to say, based on a number of reports, that Indian lands contain about 30 percent of the coal found west of the Mississippi, up to 50 percent of potential uranium reserves, and as much as 20 percent of known natural gas and oil reserves.”7 Moreover, as the example of Luxembourg teaches, tiny, landlocked nations are not necessarily limited by their geography. Resource managements is a key factor. While some may argue the tribes would not manage their resources well, it hardly follows that the US federal government is a more trustworthy custodian. Given that residents of the reservations themselves stand to benefit — or suffer — the most from mismanagement, handing over control to bureaucrats in Washington, DC is hardly the most reasonable option.
Moreover, as the tribes and reservations seek to manage their resources, they will also benefit other outside the reservations who can provide capital, expertise, and other resources through trade.
The political advantages of decentralization would increase as well. These new independent enclaves embedded throughout the U.S. would create governmental competition. If the regulatory and tax burdens set by these independent governments are better than those of the U.S., U.S. citizens could vote with their feet and move to Native American lands, to the extent that these new countries would chose to accept them. Furthermore, currently only about a fifth of Native Americans live on tribal lands. The newfound opportunity in these countries would likely cause an influx of part of the seventy-eight percent Native Americans living outside of reservations. As the U.S. would lose part of its tax base, U.S. states and the federal government would face pressure to lower their tax rates, rollback regulatory burdens, and lessen political repression. Some reservations might even chose to act as tax havens just as they have used their limited sovereignty in the past to offer "gambling havens" to residents living in nearby jurisdictions where gambling is illegal.
It is true that, if the option of independence were presented, some tribes would choose to maintain their current relationship with the Department of the Interior. But many might choose self-determination. The result would be a continent that is more decentralized and offers more sovereignty for minority populations.
- 1. Cindy Yurth, “Census: Native count jumps by 27 percent,” Najavo Times, 2012.
- 2. Additionally, there are over 3,100 Native American reservations in Canada.
- 3. Shawn E. Regan, Terry L. Anderson, “The Energy Wealth of Indian Nations,” LSU Journal of Energy Law and Resources, Volume 3, Issue 1, (Fall 2014), pp. 208-209.
- 4. “Disparities,” Indian Health Service, 2018.
- 5. “Facts for Features: American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month: November 2015,” United States Census Bureau, 2015.
- 6. Laura Huggins, “How Government Perpetuates Native American Poverty,” The Property and Environment Research Center, 2010
- 7. Maura Grogan, Rebecca Morse, April Youpee-Roll, “Native American Lands and Natural Resource Development,” Revenue Watch Institute, 2011.
Bernie Sanders is a delusional hard-core statist, but that’s part of what makes him attractive for some voters.
Simply stated, they think he’s authentic rather than a finger-in-the-wind politician.
Related: Public School Teachers Are Not Underpaid by Zach Garris
But I’m not so sure that’s true.
I pointed out in 2015 that he’s not even true to his socialist ideology. Rather than promoting government ownership, central planning, and price controls, he has behaved like a conventional left-wing politician. Indeed, there was almost no difference between his voting record and those of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Whether that’s good or bad is a matter of judgement, of course.
Today, though, I want to highlight something that’s unambiguously bad. He’s decided that currying favor with union bosses at the National Education Association is so important that it’s okay to trap kids from poor families in failing schools. And that, to me, makes him a political hack rather than an honest leftist.
Check out these excerpts from a story in the New York Times.
Senator Bernie Sanders took aim at charter schools on Saturday… In a 10-point plan, Mr. Sanders…said that, if elected, he would…forbid…federal spending on new charter schools as well as…ban…for-profit charter schools — which account for a small proportion of existing charters. “The proliferation of charter schools has disproportionately affected communities of color,” Mr. Sanders wrote… Mr. Sanders of Vermont would also require that charter schools be subject to the same oversight as public schools… Parts of the plan focused on educators, declaring Mr. Sanders’s support for a $60,000 baseline for teachers’ starting salaries as well as unionization efforts by charter schoolteachers.
By the way, I’m not a big fan of charter schools. It would be far better to have true school choice and allow parents to pick high-performing private schools.
Related: We Need More Tax Breaks for Education by Ron Paul
But charter schools are definitely a better option if the only other choice is a failing government school. Especially since pouring more money into a broken system doesn’t work. Regardless of whether it’s a Democrat plan to waste money or a Republican plan to waste money.
This assumes, however, that the goal is to help children get a good education so they have a better chance for a good life.
That’s not what motivates Bernie Sanders. Like many Democrats, his main goal is to appease the teacher unions. And that means protecting and preserving the privileges and perks of union members and the government’s education monopoly.
P.P.S. Just like it’s disgusting that Obama’s Secretary of Education chose private schools for his kids (as did Obama) while fighting against school choice for poor families.
P.P.S. On an uplifting note, Fran Tarkenton, the former Georgia Bulldog (he also played a bit in the NFL) used a sports analogy to explain the benefits of school choice.
P.P.P.S. It’s also uplifting to see very successful school choice systems operate in nations such as Canada, Sweden, Chile, and the Netherlands. And India doesn’t have school choice, but it’s a remarkable example of how private schools are the only good option for poor families that want upward mobility.
P.P.P.P.S. The Washington Post provides an example of honest and decent leftism, having editorialized in favor of poor children over teacher unions.
Originally published at International Liberty
The biggest threat to our prosperity, to your pension and to the prospects of your children and grandchildren is in all likelihood something that you’ve never heard of. Yet Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which ironically is neither modern nor a monetary theory, has been setting alight debate on the Left and looks set to form a substantial role in Labour’s interventionist power grab over the economy.
MMT is utopian in the extreme. It provides justification for policies like Jeremy Corbyn’s “People’s Quantitative Easing”, which would require the Bank of England to print money to fund infrastructure and apprenticeships. An important basis of the “Green New Deal” being demanded by socialists in the American Democrat party, MMT has also been used to justify the Bank of England channelling billions into green investment – that is, to use the capacity of the bank to create cash for explicitly ideological investment purposes. American proponents of the idea say that in this way they could slash greenhouse emissions, create cushy taxpayer-funded jobs and offer free healthcare for all without bothering about who would pick up the bill. They claim that since the US government is the issuer of the nation’s currency, it cannot go bankrupt, but instead just keep creating and printing money.
For the adherents of MMT, all public expenditure can thus be financed by public debt – because the bonds of the government are as good as the money that the sovereign state issues. Public debt is no problem because it has its balance in financial wealth in the private sector.
Read more from Dr. Mueller on MMT with his new paper from the Adam Smith Institute, "The Magic Money Tree: The Case Against Modern Monetary Theory"
Unsurprisingly, the idea has found a receptive audience among the Corbynistas that head up the Labour Party. If there is no fiscal restraint for public spending, opposition to huge public expenditure programmes loses its legitimacy and projects like free university for all, renationalisation of services and a comprehensive upgrading of the country’s infrastructure can be launched with gusto. MMT provides the sales pitch for the agenda of socialists who hope scarcity can be abolished with the right policy.
You can see why the Left likes it. Instead of having to think like a household, needing income before it can spend and having to balance its books, they get to say that they can spend with impunity. In their dreams, government spends without hitting your savings, creating income and activity in the private sector instead. A Labour government could spend and have huge deficits without destroying private investment – and could then walk away from the huge piles of public debt they’ve put on the shoulders of future generations. Their argument, though, is that government could always be free of any fiscal restraint because it can always create as much money as is needed.
The problem is, this is all theoretical nonsense. The inflationary consequences of substantially increasing government spending are an economic reality. Promising to spend wisely assumes a knowledge of the economy that we all know politicians don’t have – let alone the current Marxist front bench.
Devotees of MMT assume a one-sector economy with an unlimited supply of capital whose only constraint is labour. Such a view of the modern economy is wholly unrealistic. The real capitalist economy is the one we all live in, where entrepreneurs must incessantly arrange and rearrange to make a profit, and provide goods and services we actually want.
In purely academic terms, the belief that you can spend and spend without any consequence would deserve no further analysis. As a political contrivance, with far-Left populism on the rise in Britain and the USA, MMT is presently one of the most dangerous economic ideas out there, and should consequently attract our utmost attention.
The lessons of history are clear: endless spending brought down the Spanish Empire with the inflow of gold and silver from the American colonies. The massive expansion of the money supply during and after the First World War led to the German hyperinflation that wiped out its middle class.
As John Maynard Keynes rightly observed, inflation brings all the dark forces in a society to work. Modern Monetary Theory qualifies as the financial equivalent to weapons of mass destruction. Politicians who believe in liberty must speak out against something that so threatens our way of life.
Reprinted from The Telegraph with permission of the author.
Individuals from all corners of the political spectrum have been stirred up by the recent banning of various figures including Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan. Some have praised these bans for providing good constraints on what they deem "fake news" or “hate speech.” Others have attacked these bans for being influenced by nefarious motives that are contra free speech. The debate regarding the extent to which social media sites may regulate speech has been going on for years now. Perhaps it is time for a reassessment.
The Fallacy of "Social Media Homogenization"
One of the biggest fallacies people fail to avoid in these debates is that all social media sites are homogenous goods. The successful entrepreneur understands the importance of differentiation in marketing their product. For it is differentiation which allows the entrepreneur to narrow down his market and attract consumers. Just as in any other market, the social media titans, Facebook and Twitter, have developed very differently from each other, and each have their own distinctive features. Facebook has developed best for allowing like minded people to connect with each other, while Twitter has become a bully pulpit for various figures in the political and pop culture world.
It would thus be wrong to compare all social media sites, as if they were the same. The various consumer ends each social media site serves to satisfy determines its overall development. Many different factors will influence these ends. Among one of these factors is the extent to which speech is regulated.
If a given social media site aims to assist individuals and firms in networking with each other, they will likely not have any role in the market of sharing controversial opinions. Conversely, the social media platform which aims at giving a voice to those on the fringes of society will likely have no interest in entering the market of business networking. If we step back and look at the bigger picture, it is a fallacy to paint all social media sites with a broad brush stroke. Each one of them serves a unique purpose, and this purpose has a huge impact on how the site will develop in the longer run.
So perhaps the solution does not lie in calling for state interventions — boldly proclaiming that social media sites are ruthless monopolies trampling on free speech. Perhaps a site like Facebook is not meant for the sharing of controversial opinions, or genuinely serious discussions. Perhaps it serves the market of people who want to connect with each other through shared interests and friendly banter. Perhaps the initiation of controversial discussion is irrelevant and disruptive to Facebook's purpose. Perhaps the sentiments of Farrakhan and Jones don’t fit in the environment which Facebook is trying to create.
The market has offered solutions to this already. Where the “networking social media site” is lacking, the “controversial opinion sharing site” will compensate. Gab is a good example of this. The site claims to be a bastion of free speech and individual liberty, and has become a platform for many controversial figures who identify with the so called “far right.” The differentiation of various sites can of course be based on different premises. There could perhaps be the “leftist social media site” on the one hand, and the “right wing social media site” on the other.
By advocating for repercussions from social media platforms which practice censorship, we are merely treating the symptom of a much more fundamental problem, (i.e., government intervention). Rather, we should be advocating for the splintering of all governmental partnerships with firms such as Facebook, among others. It is these economic interventions which fundamentally stymie voluntary freedom of association, and replace it with a militant, state enforced censorship.
Those who are truly against censorship will let the market gradually filter it out. One has to support the property rights, and consequently, free speech of his political enemies in order to uphold that of his. Thus we must advocate for a system in which the state doesn’t take sides, nor try to fix the consequences of interventionism through further intervention.
Just as in the physical realm, individuals associate with those whom with they have shared interests, they do so in the realm of the internet. Market mechanisms have allowed for the exercising of this freedom of association, and state intervention only blurs the lines. Let the “safe space junkies” and the “rugged individualists” go their separate ways.
You're a twenty-something student and have recently graduated. You're excited to go and take on the world. However, you owe over $50,000. All you wanted to do is gain an education. This massive debt now looms over you. How can the world be so unfair? Why shouldn't this education be free like the other forms are? Shouldn't education be a right? Step in, Democratic Presidential nominee, Elizabeth Warren. She recently set out her plan to cancel student debt and abolish tuition fees. Her plan offers free tuition, as well as eliminating existing debt of up to $50,000. Each household with income below $100,000 would have up to $50,000 of debt wiped out.
What's There Not To Like?
Surely free higher-education, is beneficial to society as a whole? If smarter people are coming out of colleges, greater value will be created in the economy. The trouble with this is that far too many degrees are not aligned to market demand. Religious Studies may be of interest to the student, but there aren’t many businesses or jobs that require such degrees. There is a case for creating a well-educated workforce, but this has turned into educating for educating's sake.
The System Is Not Aligned With The Market
Too many students are coming out of the educational system and not utilising their degree. Whilst unemployment rates are low among graduates, many find themselves in jobs that don't require a degree. From Starbucks baristas to Wal-Mart assistants — many now have a degree.
Some majors are more prone to underemployment than others. Performing arts graduates for example have an underemployment rate of 65.7% . Graduates in Leisure and Hospitality don't favour much better, with an underemployment rate of 63%. By contrast, engineering and educational graduates score favourably on underemployment measures. The difference is that there is demand for engineers and educators, but not so much for performing arts.
There is a clear disconnect between the market and the educational system. Whilst the market demands graduates in science and engineering, the educational system provides graduates in arts and media.
"Free" College Wont Re-align The Market
Making college education free is not going to resolve the disconnect between the market and colleges. If college education is free, there is no downside of coming out underemployed. The risk associated is almost eradicated. One of the crucial parts of college education is determining whether it's of value. It's an investment. An investment that future earnings will be enhanced as a result. Will the enhanced earnings be worth more than the $50,000+ spent on education? By removing the cost, Warren's proposal changes the incentives. The cost-benefit is changed. There is a significant benefit, but little cost. This incentivises greater participation. When the price of any good is removed, the demand for it will increase. College will be no exception.
More students going to college may seem like a good thing. However, what will they be going to study and what value will that degree have? Based on existing statistics, many will continue to come out underemployed. If we are educating millions of individuals that are not utilising that education, resources are wasted. Those same resources could be used to invest in capital equipment and increase productivity.
The Mess that Is American Public Secondary and Primary Education
Elizabeth Warren justifies her plan as part of an effort to help racial and ethnic minorities get into college. However, given how little government schools at the primary and secondary levels do for students who are low-income or non-white, it’s hard to have confidence in just another government education scheme. After all, at lower levels of public education, instruction and outcomes are notoriously poor for just the sorts of students Warren says she can help. What reason do we have to believe that universal government education at the college level will finally get it right?
If Warren wants to expand college access, she’s be more worried about ensuring schools provide the skills necessary to enter and thrive at higher education institutions. Right now, that simply isn’t happening.
Social Security is going bust, a report released by trustees of the federal government’s entitlement programs claims. And without more money being poured into the system, the report argues, tens of millions of Americans will receive only three-quarters of their Social Security benefits in the near future. But even if trustees hadn’t figured that out by now, you would have known this was bound to happen. Unless you never heard any Austrian economist explain why Social Security is nothing but a Ponzi scheme.
According to the trustees, Social Security’s funds will be tapped out by 2035, meaning that this generation of working men and women may never see a dollar from what they “invested,” forcefully, over the years. In order to fix this problem and make Social Security solvent again, the report urges lawmakers to act.
“Lawmakers have a broad continuum of policy options that would close or reduce the long-term financing shortfall of” Social Security and Medicare, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and other trustees wrote in their report to Congress.
Options include hiking up taxes and slashing benefits, two policies that seldom find any support from elected officials on both sides of the aisle. As such, it’s clearly impossible to work on any Social Security “reform” that will actually help to prevent it from falling apart.
But is there any way that Social Security can be actually saved?
Abolish Social Security
President Trump thought he wouldn’t have to do anything to the entitlement program. As a matter of fact, he claimed that his plans were going to boost the economy enough that Social Security’s problems would be easily solved.
But the U.S. government has long been in debt. Quite deeply, as a matter of fact. As a result, money is not being put aside in some special fund for Social Security. What the government runs on is borrowed and printed cash, as the Federal Reserve keeps postponing its plan to slow down on the expansion of its balance sheets. But as the number of Americans who are 65 or older is expected to grow by a third between now and 2040, the cost of Social Security will continue to rise.
Considering that the program both undermines economic prosperity and damages the average American’s relationship with money by giving beneficiaries incentives to remain dependent on the government, ending it shouldn’t be a tough call. Especially knowing it will no longer be capable of fulfilling its obligations in the coming future.
But Social Security still has friends in high places.
It is thanks to big businesses and their connection with the government that we have the program in the first place. After all, if President Franklin D. Roosevelt hadn’t listened to hot shots at the time, who were upset smaller businesses were not giving employees retiree pensions, the federal government may have not been used to force everyone to pay for similar programs.
As Murray Rothbard put it, Social Security didn’t hurt big, established firms but their competitors, as the program “penalizes the lower cost, ‘unprogressive’ employer and cripples him by artificially raising his costs compared by the larger employer.” Unfortunately, not many Americans see the program this way.
With generations relying on the failed system over the years, it is certain we won’t see any politicians doing much to gut it. But hopefully, Americans will finally refuse the system once they learn it is both ineffective and based on policies that benefit big corporations on the expense of the little guy.
What’s not to hate about such a dysfunctional scheme?