Trump or Biden: Who Will Be Better for the US Economy?

Trump or Biden: Who Will Be Better for the US Economy?

Here are my thoughts on which presidential candidate will do less harm to the US economy and why Dwight D. Eisenhower was the best president of the postwar era.

 

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A Collection of Bovardian Epigrams

10/29/2020James Bovard

Election Day can be the longest day of the year. Especially if the presidential race remains undecided late into the evening, neither Xanax nor vodka may be enough to kill the pain. In lieu of other sedatives, following are some cheerful lines which might blunt the impact of the prattling on CNN or MSNBC, though there is no known antidote to PBS’s piety.

Voting

  • The most dangerous political illusion is that votes limit politicians’ power.
  • Nowadays, we have elections in lieu of freedom.
  • The defects in any system of choosing rulers outweigh the risks of letting people run their own lives.
  • People are entitled to far more information when testing baldness cures than when casting votes that could lead to war.
  • What’s the point of voting if “government under the law” is not a choice on Election Day?
  • Having a vote does nothing to prevent a person from being molested by the TSA, spied on by the NSA, or harassed by the IRS.
  • Politicians are increasingly dividing Americans into two classes—those who work for a living and those who vote for a living.
  • Voting for lesser evils makes Washington no less odious.
  • Politicians have mandated warning labels for almost everything except voting booths.
  • On Election Day, Americans are more likely to be deluded by their own government than by foreigners.
  • Politicians talk as if voting magically protects the rights of everyone within a fifty-mile radius of the polling booth.
  • Political consent is defined these days as rape was defined a generation or two ago: people consent to anything which they do not forcibly resist.

Democracy

  • Modern democracy pretends that people can control what they do not understand.
  • We have a drive-by democracy where politicians wave to voters every few years and otherwise do as they please.
  • The more power politicians capture, the more illusory democracy becomes.
  • A democratic government that respects no limits on its own power is a ticking time bomb, waiting to destroy the rights it was created to protect.
  • The surest effect of exalting democracy is to make it easier for politicians to drag everyone else down.
  • The Washington Post’s motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” But democracy also dies from too many Iron Fists.
  • The phrases which consecrate democracy seep into Americans’ minds like buried hazardous waste.
  • Rather than a democracy, we increasingly have an elective dictatorship. Voters merely designate who will violate the laws and the Constitution.
  • Democracy unleashes the State in the name of the people.
  • The more that democracy is presumed to be inevitable, the more likely it will self-destruct.
  • America is now an Attention Deficit Democracy where citizens’ ignorance and apathy entitle politicians to do as they damn well please.
  • Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
  • Americans now embrace the same myths about democracy that downtrodden European peasants formerly swallowed about monarchy.
  • Instead of revealing the “will of the people,” election results are often only a one-day snapshot of transient mass delusions.
  • Nothing happens after Election Day to make politicians less venal.

Lying

  • A lie that is accepted by a sufficient number of ignorant voters becomes a political truth.
  • America is increasingly a “Garbage In, Garbage Out” democracy. Politicians dupe citizens and then invoke deluded votes to stretch their power.
  • Promising to “speak truth to power” is the favorite vow in the most deceitful city in America.
  • Truth delayed is truth defused.
  •  A successful politician is often merely someone who bamboozled more voters than the other liar running for office.
  • The biggest election frauds usually occur before the voting booths open.
  • Politicians nowadays treat Americans like medical orderlies treat Alzheimer’s patients, telling them anything that will keep them subdued. It doesn’t matter what untruths the people are fed because they will quickly forget.
  • When people blindly trust politicians, the biggest liars win.
  • Secrecy and lying are often two sides of the same political coin.
  • The more powerful government becomes, the more abuses it commits, and the more lies it must tell.

Government et Cetera

  • America is rapidly becoming a two-tier society: those whom the law fails to restrain, and those whom the law fails to protect.
  • Idealism these days is often only positive thinking about growing servitude.
  • It is naïve to expect governments to descend step-by-step into barbarism—as if there is a train schedule to political hell with easy exits along the way.
  • The first duty of today's citizen is to assume the best of government, while federal agents assume the worst of him.
  • America needs fewer laws, not more prisons.
  • Every recent American commander in chief has expanded and exploited the dictatorial potential of the presidency.
  • Many people reason about political power like sheep who ignore the wolf until they feel its teeth.
  • Political saviors almost always cost more than they deliver.
  • There is no such thing as retroactive self-government.
  • The arrogance of power is the best hope for the survival of freedom.
  • Washingtonians view individual freedom like an ancient superstition they must pretend to respect.
  • Paternalism is a desperate gamble that lying politicians will honestly care for those who fall under their sway.
  • Citizens should distrust politicians who distrust freedom.
  • The Night Watchman State has been replaced by Highway Robber States in which no asset or right is safe from marauding politicians.
  • P.T. Barnum may have been thinking of Washington journalists when he said there’s a sucker born every minute.
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Can Incumbent Trump Win with an Anti-establishment Message?

10/28/2020Alice Salles

Tuesday is the last chance for (most) Americans to cast their vote for president. What will make the difference in attaining victory? When it comes to messaging, Team Biden relies on elite news outlets for assurances of victory, while Team Trump’s preferred sources are blacklisted by social media and ignored by broadcast news organization.

But what does recent history tell us about which voice is most likely to prevail?

In 2016, Trump’s unusual and unrefined demeanor brought him closer to those who had long been left out of the political discourse.

But despite his apparent popular appeal, pundits and major cable news outlets all but gave former secretary of state Hillary Clinton the victory. On Election Day, however, things didn't go as the Democrats planned. Few predicted the outcome.

After four years, his anti-establishment rhetoric has continued to cause many to see him as the antipolitician candidate, even though he has ultimately failed to deliver on many of his promises.

Can the populist strategy work again?

Maybe. The lessons of 2016—taking a stand against the status quo—don’t seem to have stuck with Democratic activists. The party has remained energized by its long dedication to exploiting identity politics and pushing ideological concepts that often don’t resonate with its own base.

From promising to maintain the US's failed foreign policy strategy in the Middle East to pushing the already debunked “Russia did it” talking point to exhaustion, the Democrats have stuck with what has been used to shore up the base in recent years, while ignoring much of the center. Instead, they have chosen to double down, even threatening with physical violence those who oppose their message.

Consider Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, who went as far as promising that the violent riots that followed the death of George Floyd “were not going to stop” until “there are people in the system who are willing or pushing” to make a difference.

Biden, meanwhile has hurled threats at much of the population by promising “nationalization” of mask wearing and vaccine distribution. Presumably, such measures would require enforcement by armed agents of the state.

Many voters are likely to find Trump to be relatively laissez-faire in comparison. Yet that remains a low bar. Trump promises to downsize the US military’s presence in Afghanistan but has not done so. But in practice, his approach to fighting the pandemic has been far less reliant on mandates and state coercion than what Biden proposes.

When it comes down to the main differences between the two candidates, many voters may ultimately conclude it’s clear that Biden is the professional politician whereas Trump remains the loudmouthed, anti-establishment guy. This may help Trump with some voters. Moreover, although Trump is now an incumbent, he is nonetheless running against lifelong politicians like Biden. As Trump was careful to note during the first debate: “If I thought [Biden] did a good job, I never would have run.”

The other difference is that now, compared to 2016, Americans are likely to be even more weary of politics thanks to the coronavirus lockdowns, BLM riots, and the destruction of businesses by both the mob and state governments. Whatever the motivation, Trump stands to benefit so long as he can cultivate the image of being the candidate fighting against the madness while Biden and Harris stand stoically as the candidates willing to legitimize the mob.

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Will a Nonpolitical "Silent Majority" Stop the Left?

10/28/2020Tho Bishop

The 2020 campaign is down to its final week, with each party and pundit preparing the ammo they need to either take a victory lap or explain away their defeat. In the age of covid, the Democratic Party has pushed heavily a vote-by-mail campaign that places their successes in the hands of the ability of voters to successfully negotiate the postal system, while Trump’s team is relying on MAGA rallies to motivate in-person early voting. The combination of the two has the race projected to be the largest projected voter turnout in over a century.

According to conventional wisdom, this is a major win for Joe Biden’s team. In fact, strong voter turnout in states like Texas and Georgia has anxious pundits questioning whether this is finally the year these red state stalwarts flip blue. But is conventional wisdom correct?

If we do in fact see a major surge of voter behavior, it’s useful to consider the sort of voter who may be turning out to cast a vote for the first time. Both sides have their own preferred narrative here: Democrats see a nation of politically oppressed groups that can be activated by tapping into their sense of injustice, while Republicans see a “silent majority” that wants, to quote @realDonaldtrump, “LAW AND ORDER!”

Historically, the demonstrated preference of American voters has firmly been political apathy. In 2016, if Did Not Vote had been a candidate, it would have won with an impressive 471 votes. As such, to the extent that the “silent majority” exists, we can perhaps view it as “antipolitical.”

The question, then, is which candidate makes the best appeal to the “antipolitical”?

If you were to listen to the corporate press, the obvious answer would be that President Trump is so uniquely bad that any decent person would be motivated to fire him. Helping this argument is general disapproval of the president’s handling of covid (though specific criticisms are not made clear in the poll), as well as the fact his favorability rating is below 50 percent (though no worse than in 2016). Working against this narrative is the fact that, in spite of what 2020 has brought, 56 percent of voters told Gallup that they are better off now than where they were four years ago.

Considering the amount of money that was spent in 2016 unsuccessfully making the case that Donald Trump was a uniquely unacceptable outcome for American democracy, it’s fair to question whether four years of “Orange Man Bad” is a political message that would electrify new votes.

So what has changed in four years?

Well, one obvious change is social media and the willingness of Big Tech to leverage their platforms for purely partisan purposes. In 2016, Americans were able to find and read and share materials such as leaked campaign emails, or episodes of The Alex Jones Show. American democracy allowed for voters to make their own judgments on these matters.

Now we're told that American democracy depends on protecting voters from potential “disinformation.” The most obvious example is social media’s treatment of files allegedly found on a lost laptop, which Big Tech has desperately tried to hide from American voters. The New York Post, one of America’s oldest newspapers, remains locked out of their Twitter account for daring to publish the content.

While this episode highlights important questions about the relationship between Big Tech and society, this is simply an example of a larger trend of the progressive left pushing politics beyond elections. While the political agenda of Facebook and Twitter may have a more direct impact on how we use the product than how Gillette targets its advertising or what the next woke flavor of Ben and Jerry’s is, the Left and its corporate allies have made the decision that politics is too important to not be talked about.

But what if normal Americans do not want to be lectured to? Particularly when those lectures come from the people who engage in such performative hypocrisy as celebrating massive protests in the name of “social justice” while scolding you for going to church?

If “bread and circuses” really are all that is needed to keep the masses content, what happens when you pervert pastimes into “soy and political lectures”?

What if there is a large section of the country that did not vote for Trump in 2016, sees plenty of faults with the man and his policies, but sees him and his tweets as far less dangerous than self-righteous lefties who use their social media to get random people fired? If polling trends are accurate, we've already seen President Trump greatly enhance his position with minority voters, whose communities tend to be the most hostile to the Left's fetish for political correctness. In particular, Biden may win 100 percent of the self-identified Latinx demographic, but Trump appears set to perform significantly better with Hispanic voters in both Florida and the Sun Belt.

Perhaps real populism in America is simply letting people raise a family and grill in peace?

If so, maybe Murray Rothbard was right about the potential for a uniquely libertarian brand of populism in America.

One thing is for sure if this theory holds: political pundits in New York and Washington, DC will find themselves looking foolish in 2020. Again.

Image source:
GPA / Photo Archive / Flickr Creative Commons
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Goldman Sachs Bribes a Foreign Government

10/27/2020Robert Aro

Goldman Sachs was fined $2.9 Billion while pleading guilty to bribery charges involving the Malaysian government, breaking a record for the largest penalty under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Under US law it is illegal to bribe foreign leaders, as reported by CNN. They quoted Goldman’s CEO who is “pleased to be putting the matter behind us.” Widely recognized as one of the most important financial institutions in the world, Goldman will survive, as the firm has approximately $153 Billion in cash and will likely claw back executive bonuses.

It could have been worse, considering the case centers around $4.5 Billion that was stolen from Malaysia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, in which:

The money was used to buy New York condos, hotels, yachts and a jet, and to fund movies such as "The Wolf of Wall Street." 

The fine is less than the money allegedly stolen! Even more serendipitous for shareholders, Forbes notes:

The settlement amount is lower than the $3.2 billion Goldman set aside for ongoing regulatory and legal matters as of Sept. 30 and was largely accounted for in its 2020 financial results.

As far as continual compliance is concerned:

Goldman is not mandated to hire a compliance monitor… which would be costly and could have been long-term.

Is this an isolated incident? Or does it reflect systemic issues of power, corruption and theft? And what, if anything, does this have to do with the Federal Reserve?

On Thursday the Fed announced a fine:

$154 million for the firm's failure to maintain appropriate oversight, internal controls, and risk management with respect to Goldman's involvement in a far-reaching scheme to defraud a Malaysian state-owned investment and development company…

We know the Fed “conducts the nation’s monetary policy to promote maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates,” but there are additional functions beyond what the central bank is charged, including regulation and supervision of financial institutions. Per the 10th edition of The Federal Reserve System Purposes & Functions:

Regulation entails establishing the rules within which financial institutions must operate… Once the rules and regulations are established, supervision… seeks to ensure that an institution complies with those rules and regulations, and that it operates in a safe and sound manner.

The Federal Reserve is one of the few, or only, regulators who literally pays the entity which it regulates! Under section 7 of the Federal Reserve Act:

Dividend Amount. After all necessary expenses of a Federal reserve bank have been paid or provided for, the stockholders of the bank shall be entitled to receive an annual dividend on paid-in capital stock…

Typically when an entity is mandated to be regulated by the government, that entity must pay the government (or its agency) an annual fee to cover the costs associated with the regulatory burden on the taxpayers. This is not true for the Fed. Despite having free reign on money creation, it is also funded via paid-in capital stock. The list of stockholders remains an elusive find, but it is well understood to be the very banks in which the Fed regulates. There is no secret nor conspiracy to this, as seen on the 2019 KPMG annual audit report, showing “Dividends on Capital Stock” was $999 million for 2018 and $714 million for 2019. Per the Act, this dividend is cumulative and paid out before the US Treasury receives its surplus payout. Perhaps an act of Congress will one day change the payment structure of the Fed. Until then, it’s the Fed’s world, taxpayers are just footing the bill.

…As for Goldman Sachs, they’ll be okay. Luck for them, it appears no jail time will be served for what could be a billion dollar theft.

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The Fed Is Now Fighting Housing Inequality?

10/27/2020Robert Aro

While not explicitly defined, the “housing challenge” invokes an idea of “inequality,” and the Fed aims to fight it. Like all problems, we must find the root cause should we wish to find resolution. If housing unaffordability is an issue the Fed chooses to combat, perhaps they should look into their own monetary policies first. Should their interventions be the cause of the problem, refraining from intervention becomes the viable solution. Nevertheless, when the Fed champions a cause, even beyond the scope of their mandate, there is little anyone can do to stop it.

At the National Housing Conference on Tuesday, Governor Lael Brainard harkened back to days of the last financial crisis:

During the mortgage foreclosure crisis, many families around the country suffered the devastating loss of their home through no fault of their own, and homeownership rates have not recovered to pre-crisis levels for the affected groups. 

She likens the current crisis to the previous, where, through no fault of the public or the Fed, external events caused financial hardship, targeting minorities and those in the lowest income bracket the most. Due to COVID, we are told, rents and home prices have continued to rise while the supply of “affordable housing” has decreased. Brainard mentions several interventions such as unemployment benefits and various subsidies in an attempt to fight unaffordability. Of course, it’s easy for a Governor to place the blame of a housing crisis on everything except the Fed and propose more intervention. But when interest rate manipulation and inflationist policies are considered, it becomes a tough sell.

Beginning with the Effective Federal Funds Rate, since 2008 rates have stayed near zero. In this time, these abnormally low rates contributed to the perpetual rise in asset prices. For anyone in a low to middle income, the last thing they’d want is for housing prices to continually increase as it makes life that much more expensive. Rising house prices are even addressed in her speech:

Many households have been unable to purchase a home since the last financial crisis due to a confluence of factors, including higher home prices and stricter lending standards. For those who have purchased a home, higher home prices have translated into higher debt levels relative to household income.

Few seem to ask why housing prices are inexplicably increasing and what effect artificially low interest rates have on fueling this housing boom (bubble). As for lending standards, as higher home prices require a greater debt burden, it’s not surprising lending has become tighter than the decade prior.

What of increases to the money supply and how does this affect housing? The Fed’s balance sheet currently sits north of $7 Trillion, with no promise to decrease it any time soon. This was reiterated by Vice Chair Clarida a day before Brainard’s speech, who promised to “maintain an accommodative stance of monetary policy until these outcomes” are achieved; the outcomes being maximum employment and:

until inflation has risen to 2 percent, and until inflation is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time.

In other words, expect continual asset purchases for a very long time. Yet no one at the Fed seems to consider the disconnect in perpetually claiming low consumer prices despite balance sheet expansion, while household debt levels and those dependent on financial aid appear to be increasing.

The failure to understand money supply vis-a-vis the unaffordability of life is displayed by Brainard who notes that “22 percent of renters pay more than half of their income toward rent.” This leaves little room for families to save. It’s debatable whether rent should be half of the average person’s income and it’s the price of consumer goods that are too high, or whether goods are priced “just right” but rents are too high.

Either way, any mention of inequality requires citing the $7 Trillion of money created since the last crisis. Of this amount, we know the overwhelming majority did not go to the disenfranchised. Not to say this money should have been better allocated, but to say this money should have never been created at all. If inequality is a problem in America, then look to see who received the $7 Trillion first and how their lives were bettered at the expense of the masses. Only then can we have a serious discussion about inequality in this country.

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3 Reasons the Left Keeps Winning

10/27/2020Ryan McMaken

Even if Trump somehow manages to win in November, the Left (i.e., "progressives" and social democrats) can rest easy knowing that the Left's influence over the country's institutions and ideological views have only increased in recent years.

Naturally, the Left has portrayed itself as somehow victimized, declaring itself to be "the resistance" and making numerous predictions of doom in which the opponents of the Left would gain untrammeled control over the population. In this view, the nation is always just a few days away from enduring a mixture of social Darwinism and theocracy as imposed by libertarians and conservatives, respectively. 

After four years with the Trump administration in power, of course, the nation isn't even heading in this direction. Government control over healthcare isn't going away. Most states have only expanded Medicaid. Gun control laws have become more stringent, not less. Government spending has risen to unprecedented levels, and almost no political candidate at the federal level would seriously argue in favor of any substantial cuts. Anti-Christian rhetoric has become more fashionable than ever, so that now any Christian who actually practices his or her religion—i.e., Amy Coney Barrett—is portrayed in the media as a religious zealot. Even minor deviations from the demanded orthodoxy—such as actor Chris Pratt’s lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden—earns hate campaigns from the guardians of acceptable public opinion.

These trends have only accelerated in recent years. The Left has consolidated and increased its control over academia, the media, social media firms, Hollywood, the recording industry, and corporate America. In other words, outside some legislative and legal institutions—and a shrinking handful of religious institutions—the Left’s control of the nation’s educational, cultural, artistic, and media institutions is very safe indeed.

If the electoral success enjoyed by Donald Trump and his supporters has offered any meaningful opposition to this, it lies only in the fact that the Trump party has in some ways slowed these trends. But by no measure has the trend leftward been stopped or reversed.

But why has the Left been so successful in this?

The reasons for this are many, but there are three that stand out: the Left recognizes the importance of education in forming Americans’ ideology. The Left takes a long-term view. The Left accepts partial victories.

One: The Left Understands the Importance of Ideas and Ideologies

The Left long ago mastered the art of intellectual activism. What is intellectual activism? Legal scholar David Yamada offers a helpful definition: “intellectual activism involves conducting and publishing original research and analysis and then applying that work to the tasks of reforming and improving the law, legal systems, and the legal profession.”

Yamada is referring to intellectual activism within the field of law. But, of course, it can be applied to any number of fields. Within economics, intellectual activists conduct research, provide analysis, and then apply that work to reforming political and economic institutions. Historians often do similar work within their own fields.

In recent decades, the Left’s dominance of intellectual activism has grown to the point of dominating most fields. Left-wing (i.e., anticapitalist) historians, sociologists, anthropologists, legal scholars, and economists routinely publish studies illustrating their views. But the activism doesn’t stop there. Journalists, pundits, and artists then cite these studies, rehash them, popularize them, and repackage them for public consumption.

These views are then passed on to the next generation of scholars, imbibed by schoolteachers-in-training, and parroted by elected officials. These views filter down to the voting public, the TV viewer at home, and schoolchildren in the classroom.

Certainly, there are other intellectual activists offering differing views. There are still courageous scholars who attempt to do the work of fighting the Left’s dominance through research that dissents from the usual zeitgeist.

If these intrepid scholars did not exist, the Left’s success would be even more complete. Dissenting views would be even more marginalized, and even more in the minority. As Lew Rockwell noted: 

A new BBC poll [reported November 2009] finds that only 11 percent of people questioned around the world—and 29,000 people were asked their opinions—think that free-market capitalism is a good thing. The rest believe in more government regulation….

As to those who would despair at this poll, consider that it might have been much worse were it not for the efforts of a relative handful of intellectuals who have fought against socialist theory for more than a century. It might have been 99% in support of socialist tyranny. So there is no sense in saying that these intellectual efforts are wasted.

And yet, there are many on the right who want to completely abandon the field to the Left. For those of us involved in the work of intellectual activism, we’ve heard something like this many times: “We don’t have time to read books or spread ideas! We need to win elections now! All this stuff about spreading ideas and changing ideology will never work!”

Of course, what these people might as well be saying is “stop using the methods that the Left has employed so successfully for decades! Sure, after twelve years of public schooling, four years of university education, and a lifetime of watching TV news and Hollywood movies most people are fully steeped in the Left's ideology. But I have a newfangled plan that will magically undo all those years of ideological conditioning just in time for the next election!”

Needless to say, this isn’t exactly a recipe for success.

The Left wins because leftists understand that if the goal is to “win elections now!” one must first lay the groundwork that makes the public open to one’s ideological agenda. Sometimes this work takes decades. Without doing this necessary and time-consuming work beforehand, however, long-term failure is assured.

This is why leftists have spent so much time writing books, teaching classes, getting graduate degrees, becoming journalists, and editing newspapers. They know that ideas matter, and that the long-term goals of any ideological movement depend on spreading ideas through scholarship, media, and art.

In other words, the Left has long understood that ”politics is downstream from culture.” If we want to change political institutions, we must first change cultural, educational, and intellectual institutions. Once the public’s ideas have been changed, political change will follow.

Two: The Left Takes a Long-Term View

Many conservatives and libertarians like to declare defeat at the earliest opportunity. We often are reminded of this defeatism when we hear phrases like “Oh, we’ll never get those freedoms back. The government will never give up those powers!” 

But “never” is a very long time. Consider the following two statements:

  • “The Soviet Union will never give up its rule over Russia and all the other republics of the USSR.”
  • “The Roman Empire will never allow Christians to worship legally and in peace.”

It’s true the timeframe for breaking Soviet rule was seventy years. It took the Christians three centuries to obtain an edict of toleration from the emperor. But it’s a good thing the freedom fighters in the old USSR and the Roman Empire didn’t have modern-day conservatives and libertarians around to assure them that their attempts at gaining more freedom were futile and impractical.

Yes, I get it. In many cases, these people who insist good things will never happen recognize that things are different in the long term. But if that is the belief, why not emphasize it? Leftists, in contrast, are often quick to emphasize their belief that they will have the long-term victory with phrases like these: “It’s just a matter of time until we win! We’re on the right side of history! When we take over we’ll machine-gun everyone we don’t like!”

Meanwhile, many conservatives and libertarians spend their time debating whether or not they should give up and retreat to a mountain compound right now or maybe wait until after the next election.

Three: The Left Pursues Partial Victories

And how exactly do the leftists execute their long-term strategy? They accept partial victories.

Here’s something we never hear from the left: “Well, we got the legislation we wanted. It’s time to declare victory and rest on our laurels.”

Here’s the reality: the Left pushed and pushed for Obamacare. And then, when it was passed, not more than five minutes passed before the Left began advocating for Medicare for All.

Imagine if the Left managed to win a federal mandate for a $15 minimum wage. Does anyone seriously believe the demands would stop there? We’d never stop hearing about the need for a $17-per-hour wage. And then one at $20.

In other words, leftists are willing to take partial victories, one step at a time. What we don't hear leftists say is "If I call for a $15 minimum wage, that implies I don’t think a $20-an-hour wage is needed. Therefore I will oppose any wage mandate below $20 per hour!” 

Yet, a sizable and vocal contingent of conservatives and libertarians use this line all the time: “Why, if I support a ban on late-term abortion, that implies I think abortion is fine!" Or, "if I support a cut to the income tax, that implies I think income taxes are fine!"

[RELATED: "We Must Be 'Opportunists' In Dismantling the State" by Joseph Salerno]

Here’s a real-world example: in 2015, Colorado pro-gun activists had almost everything they needed to increase magazine limits to thirty rounds, almost totally undoing a 2013 Democrat-passed bill reducing magazine limits to fifteen rounds. Clearly, this would have been a significant victory for gun freedom. But then Rocky Mountain Gun Owners stepped in to prevent the passage of the bill by threatening elected officials with primaries if the officials voted for the change. “If you let them limit mags to thirty rounds, that implies we accept limits of any kind,” the “pro-gun” activists huffed. So, they killed the bill. To this day, the magazine limit is fifteen rounds instead of thirty. 

This shortsighted and half-witted strategy can be contrasted with the strategy of the abolitionists—the strategy recommended by Murray Rothbard.

Rothbard understood that it is important to always “hold aloft” the ultimate goal, which is the evisceration of state power. But as with the abolitionists, it is important to also accept even partial victories, so long as these partial victories move us closer to the goal.

The Left understands this. A great many libertarians and conservatives, on the other hand, have apparently not yet figured it out.

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Who Owns Your Data?

10/23/2020Peter G. Klein

Nicolas Petit's forthcoming book, Big Tech and the Digital Economy (Oxford, 2020) offers an interesting new take on antirust and regulation in the digital economy. Here's one wise reviewer:

Introducing the concept of "moligopoly" Petit shows how firms with big market shares -- even so-called "entrenched monopolists" -- still face vigorous competition in adjacent markets. Weaving together insights from industrial organization economics, strategic management, and theories of dynamic competition and building on thinkers from Joseph Schumpeter to David Teece, Petit provides not only an overview of key issues related to digital markets and technologies but also a provocative and useful guide for making competition policy better. 

OK, that's my own dust jacket blurb. The law and economics blog Truth on the Market is running a symposium to celebrate the launch of the book and I contributed a short piece, "It’s Not So Simple Who Owns 'Your' Data," which elaborates on a point I made in my Mises University lecture on data privacy.

Image source:
Getty
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Google Is Making It Harder to Find Mises Institute Content

10/20/2020Tho Bishop

On October 5, Ryan McMaken’s article "Police Officers Threaten to Quit If the Public Keeps Demanding Accountability" managed to hit the top spot on Reddit. It was soon removed from the popular social media platform under very suspicious circumstances.

For those not familiar with Reddit, the platform consists of “subreddits” based on a particular topic or theme. The best performing posts within a subreddit are then highlighted on the front page. In this case, the subreddit was one titled "Not the Onion," which features “true stories that are so mind-blowingly ridiculous that you could have sworn they were from The Onion.” The headline to Ryan’s article seemed like a natural fit; users of the subreddit agreed, but the thought police of Reddit disagreed.

Despite Reddit’s actions against the article, the piece managed over a hundred thousand views.

Read more: The Social Media Purge: Is the Mises Institute Next?

Unfortunately, Reddit hasn’t been the only Big Tech actor seemingly interested in downplaying Mises Institute content. In recent weeks, Google has made changes to its search engine that makes Mises Institute articles harder to find. This seems particularly true for articles on Big Tech and social media. The content itself doesn’t seem to be the issue—links to websites that republished our articles still appear on the front page—but the mises.org link has been buried.

While disappointing, none of this is surprising. The ideas of the Mises Institute are particularly dangerous to would-be central planners of all kinds. While social media and Big Tech have been useful tools in the promotion of our ideas, we have long understood the dangers of relying upon these platforms for distribution.

In the words of our founder, Lew Rockwell, “we don't beg for scraps from the imperial table, and we don't seek a seat at that table. We want to knock the table over.”

To those ends, we have actively worked to improve our internal email lists and search engine. We are lucky that a large portion of our frequent user base visits our site directly, which is the surest way to avoid the censorship of third parties. We also have backups of our online video library on censor-resistant platforms, such as Bitchute.

Read more: Notes on Trump's Executive Order for Tech Companies

No matter how the landscape of future politics and power unfolds in America, the ideas of the Mises Institute will not be silenced so long as there are those interested in finding the truth.

If you believe in these ideas, please consider becoming a Mises Institute member for just $5 a month at Mises.org/censor.

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Lockdowns in Europe Are Back. Turns Out Early Lockdowns Didn't "Beat the Virus" after All.

10/20/2020Ryan McMaken

Back in August, European politicians were threatening lockdowns and calling for "vigilance." But given the economic devastation wrought by full, nationwide lockdowns, politicians have become fearful of going down that road again. For example, in the Czech Republic, where the seven-day average for reported covid deaths has surged from 7 to 66,  the central government has stated it won't make a decision about lockdowns for two more weeks. Meanwhile, Czech citizens are protesting against what restrictions are in place. 

But elsewhere in Europe, restrictions are quickly escalating.

Belgium: all bars, cafes, restaurants must close.

Ireland: people are required to limit movement, stay out of each other's homes.

France: new nighttime curfews.

Spain: people can't leave or enter Madrid for nonessential reasons.

Netherlands: a maximum of three people in your home per day.

It should be noted that Spain, Ireland, and Belgium have had some of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. Belgium never really ended strict measures and has always had very draconian measures on gatherings, even during the summer, as other countries were raising restrictions. Belgium now has the worst national covid death rate in Europe.

In Spain, of course, the lockdowns were notoriously strict during spring 2020, with families not even permitted to leave their apartments to gather with family outside.

It was claimed this would all "beat the virus." Of course, lockdowns do no such thing.

As Dr. Gilbert Berdine has noted here at mises.org:

The data suggest that lockdowns have not prevented any deaths from covid-19. At best, lockdowns have deferred death for a short time, but they cannot possibly be continued for the long term. It seems likely that one will not have to even compare economic deprivation with loss of life, as the final death toll following authoritarian lockdowns will most likely exceed the deaths from letting people choose how to manage their own risk.

In Sweden, there is still no sign of any resurgence of covid deaths. There is no lockdown, and no general mask mandate. Death rates in Spain, Belgium, Italy, and eastern Europe continue to get worse while Sweden's rate remains stable.

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Gun Sales Surge Again. This Time in California.

10/20/2020Ryan McMaken

As we noted back in July, Americans are buying guns in record numbers, with millions of Americans buying guns for the first time in recent months. Now, the New York Post reports that California is very much part of this trend:

About 47,000 Californians bought guns for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to researchers who also found a staggering amount keep their weapons locked, loaded and readily available.

But the Post article also makes some rather odd assertions, implying people are buying guns because of a "health crisis":

An estimated 110,000 people in the Golden State recently purchased firearms and did so because of the global health crisis, including the 47,000 new owners.

But why would people buy guns because of a public health crisis? It's a safe bet new gun buyers don't think guns will protect them from a disease. If we look a little further, we then see it's the lockdowns that are the problem, not the disease:

The coronavirus pandemic and efforts to lessen its spread have compounded this burden. (emphasis added)

So there it is. By destroying the economy, social services, churches, and commerce, governments have laid the groundwork for more violence. Consequently, many more Americans now feel unsafe:

People who bought guns during the pandemic cited concerns over lawlessness, prisoner releases, the government going too far, government collapses and gun stores closing, the research found.

Not surprisingly, we have seen real-world increases in crime this year over last year. In some cities, the increases in homicide have been substantial, although overall homicide continues to be relatively low in a larger historical context. Moreover, many Americans have figured out that if civil unrest comes to your neighborhood, the police won't be doing much to protect you. The smoking ruins of Minneapolis have made this abundantly clear to many.

So much for that mythical "social contract" the governments keep talking about whenever it demands more power over the people it allegedly "keeps safe."

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