Power & Market

Austrians Should Pay Attention to the "Replication Crisis" in Scientific Research

12/07/2018Michel Accad

Austrian economists should take an interest in the so-called “replication crisis” in science, which is affecting primarily the field of psychology, but is likely under-recognized in other social sciences—and in economics in particular.

Over the last several, an increasing number of reports have highlighted the fact that scientists are frequently unable to replicate the results of prior experiments in psychology, even when those experimental or correlational studies were conducted and analyzed according to commonly accepted methods. The magnitude of the problem was made concrete in a 2015 Science paper by lead author Brian Nosek. Replication rates, in terms of statistical significance or effect size, were only between 25-50% (depending on the particular field of psychological study).

The doubts raised by Nosek and his collaborators are metastasizing to other human sciences, including medicine. Reports of poor research reproducibility are now appearing routinely in scientific journals. Interestingly , in the context of such a replication study pertaining to the social sciences and published this past August, it was discovered that scientists are able to predict a priori with a high degree of accuracy which particular result will be replicated and which will not!

A perhaps even more startling study was just published last month. Nosek submitted a very rich data set, taken from the 2012-2013 soccer season, to 29 different teams of statisticians for analysis. The question to be answered by the statisticians was whether a darker skin tone increased the likelihood that a player would receive a red card. The variability in the methods chosen and in the results obtained was astounding, especially since, at one point in the process, the teams of analysts were encouraged to compare notes and give each other feedback.

We interviewed Nosek on our podcast about his work. It was a fascinating conversation. As an empiricist, he remains hopeful that, perhaps through greater transparency, sharing of data, and collaboration among scientists, the replication crisis will resolve itself. And he expects that the resolution will occur while preserving the standard theoretical assumptions of empiricism.

I’m not so “optimistic,” and I suspect that the crisis will be protracted. But I am hopeful that, over time, social scientists will come to recognize and accept that certain types of knowledge can only be obtained by human judgment, rather than by measurement—provided that the judgment and reasoning proceed logically from a basis of reasonable assumptions. This is a good opportunity for Austrians to showcase their methodological alternative to the scientific world

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About Civility...

11/30/2018Jeff Deist

The foundation of any and every civilization, including our own, is private ownership of the means of production. Whoever wishes to criticize modern civilization, therefore, begins with private property.
Ludwig von Mises.

Civility is the word of the moment.

New stories lament the breakdown of civility in American society, while reports of Antifa street violence in cities like Portland raise uncomfortable memories for older Americans of 1960s riots. Editorial after editorial decries the loss of social cohesion and friendliness across the country, even within families. Pundits and politicians insist we must restore civility in politics. Otherwise we face a bleak and intensifying cold civil war: progressive vs. conservative, urban vs. rural, #metoo vs. Brett Kavanaugh, elites vs. populists, and Never Trumpers vs. Deplorables.

Yet how do they propose to accomplish this? More politics, more elections, and more top-down edicts from Congress and the Supreme Court.

Hillary Clinton, for instance, suggests civility will be restored only following successful midterm elections that places Democrats in control of Congress. And why not? The political world is all she knows, and the political world yields winners and losers, victors and vanquished. In her utterly politicized worldview, things will settle down only when the right people—her people—control US politics. Hers is a zero-sum world, always ruled by the political gang in power.

We hardly should expect an America so wracked by politics to remain civil.

But Ludwig von Mises understood a different world, one organized around property and trade rather than the state. To him, private property was the basis of any civilized society. Without that foundation, without property and a concomitant system of mutual exchange, he knew humans were destined to devolve into poverty, war, and anti-intellectual savagery. Property gives us prosperity, and therefore material abundance to live civilized lives beyond mere the subsistence that marked most of human history. Property rights give us the ability to accumulate capital, to invest in higher productivity, and to have a greater degree of certainty regarding the future.

Civility cannot be sheared from the broader concept of civilization itself. Both words share the same Latin root civilis, which means relating to citizenship or public life. But it also means relating to others with courtesy, manners, and affability. If civilization is the sum total of a society and its culture, civility—or the lack thereof—is its building block, the positive or negative social traits exhibited by people in that society.

Lew Rockwell, our Founder and Chairman, has a long career fighting for both civilization and civility. Along the way he met some of the brightest lights of our time or any time: Neil McCaffrey, Henry Hazlitt, Leonard Read, Percy and Bettina Greaves, Ayn Rand, Ludwig and Margit Mises, Ron and Carol Paul, and Murray and Joey Rothbard among them.

So I'm sure you'll enjoy my recent interview with him. With the help of Mrs. Mises, whom Murray Rothbard called a “one-woman Mises industry,” Lew Rockwell set about saving the work and name of the 20th century’s greatest economist from obscurity. Today Mises is known around the world, and cited even by his harshest critics as a champion of laissez-faire who fearlessly challenged the supposedly scientific case for socialism.

Don’t miss David Gordon’s review of Kirkpatrick Sale’s remarkable book Human Scale Revisited: A New Look at the Classic Case for a Decentralized Future. Sale is no libertarian, and even an anti-materialist, but he understands the risks posed by consolidated political power. Thus he thinks the 20th century’s trend toward larger and larger centralized states, prevalent both in once-confederated Europe and America, has been harmful to community, peace, and human flourishing.

To Sale’s credit, he is one of many thinkers from around the political spectrum challenging the accepted wisdom that political globalism and political universalism are per se beneficial. Just as Mises elevated self-determination to a defining principle of liberalism, progressives, conservatives, and libertarians increasingly see subsidiarity and decentralization as defining characteristics for a peaceful future.

Speaking of peace, on behalf of everyone at the Mises Institute let me wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a peaceful, happy New Year. All of us want peace and prosperity for the world; all of us share a (true)liberal worldview, and all of us understand how non-interventionism in both the economy and world affairs is key to a better future. Let us all commit to making the world a better place next year through our own contributions.

We have big plans at the Mises Institute for 2019—unique, outside-the-box speakers at events, new podcasts, a new entrepreneurs platform, and new opportunities to earn academic credentials from the Institute—and we hope you’ll be part of them.

This article first appeared in the November/December issue of The Austrian.

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As Housing Prices Fall on West Coast, Even Red Zones Turn Against Trump

11/28/2018Doug French

Donald Trump continues to claim victory, but the blue wave was undeniable on the left coast. You might say, California was already a bunch of lefties. Yeah, except Orange County has always been a Republican stronghold since the days of R.C. Hoiles. In a review of Brian Doherty’s “ Radicals for Capitalism ,” I wrote,

One of the genuine heroes of the movement who the book enlightened me to is R.C. Hoiles. It should have occurred to me sooner that a courageous man was behind a very libertarian daily newspaper being published from the middle of liberal California: the Orange County Register. As Doherty describes, "Orange County became known, to a large degree thanks to Hoiles himself, as 'nut country,' the hotbed of the rightest of the right wing."

"Any time a man has to pay for something he does not want because of the initiating of force by the government, he is, to that degree, a slave," Hoiles wrote. Now that's my kind of guy, and the fact that he owned a newspaper with all the pressures of making advertisers happy to keep the presses running is heroic.

"Hoiles was an earthy and simple man and a notorious union-busting anarchist cuss," writes Doherty, "who'd thrust himself into picket lines surrounding his property to tell the union boys why they were all wet." Just learning about the late Mr. Hoiles is worth the price of the book.

Orange County “nut country” went bluer than blue on election night. Was it Trump’s fault, or maybe the Trump Bump has turned into Trump Dump in west coast housing with voters voting their falling property values.

In the seemingly always red-hot Bay area and Silicon Valley homeowners are rushing to put their homes on the market. Wolf Richter writes ,

So it’s time to unload. Sellers are putting their homes on the market, and active listings in those three counties combined – San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara, which cover the area from San Jose to San Francisco – surged by 76% in October compared to October last year, to 4,149 listings, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The chart below dramatically illustrates the Bay Area price cutting.

price+cuts1.PNG

The market is no better in Southern California. KTLA 5 News reported at the end of October,

A chill is settling over the once white-hot Southern California housing market.Listings are up. Sales are falling. Price reductions are becoming more common.

The Seattle market also hit the ditch this summer. The number of listings doubled in October, from a year ago, with the number of listings matching the lows of 2012. Price cuts in King County (Seattle and Bellevue) have tripled according to Wolfe Street .

Mr. Richter makes the point that Seattle and San Francisco voters didn’t side with Trump in 2016, “But when it comes to home prices in these liberal bastions, the ‘Trump effect’ made property owners a ton of money – if they’re able to get out in time.”

If they are not out by now, they may have waited too long.

king+county.PNG
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An Easy Alternative to the Brexit Agreement

11/15/2018Gary North

Prime Minister May says that she has reached an agreement with the European Union.

The agreement is 585 pages long. Every time politicians vote to implement a 600-page document that was written by high-level bureaucrats, the liberties of the citizens of that nation decline. The devil is in the details, and there are a lot of details for the devil to get into.

She got it through her cabinet. Now she has to get it through Parliament, which is going to be a challenge. The pro-Brexit people hate conciliation, and the Remainers don't want to agree to anything remotely like Brexit.

She was never a big fan of Brexit. She is going along with the whole thing grudgingly. She has stalled an agreement for almost 2 years.

If Parliament won't vote for her agreement, then Britain will depart from the EU on March 29. It's automatic.

I have a solution. Parliament does not have to accept any agreement. No agreement is necessary.

Here is my Brexit solution. Parliament votes for this law.

Her Majesty's government adopts a policy of zero tariffs and zero import quotas, beginning tomorrow.

That's it? That's it!

There would be no negotiations with foreign countries. There would be nothing to negotiate.

If exporters located in EU countries want to sell something to the Brits, good for them. If there are Brits who like the products and accept them, good for them.

Tariffs are simply sales taxes on imported goods. Anytime a government cuts taxes, that is positive.

Revenues to the government would fall. This is also good.

Import quotas don't generate any revenues. There shouldn't be any import quotas.

Would trade go up between buyers in Great Britain and sellers in the European Union? You bet it would. Everybody likes to be able to sell at a discount, and, overnight, exporters to Great Britain would find that their goods now sell at a discount. No sales taxes are tacked onto the goods.

Would this be good for British buyers? Of course. Who wants to pay sales taxes?

Would financial companies leave Great Britain? No. Why should they? All of a sudden, the whole world would want to sell goods to residents of Great Britain. The doors would be open wide. If it's good for trade, it's good for finance.

If Great Britain did this, its economy would not sink. Other countries in the European Union would figure out that the benefits of staying inside the EU don't compensate for the liabilities associated with the surrender of national sovereignty. Anyway, a substantial minority of voters in those countries would figure this out. All it would take would be a policy of zero tariffs. In other words, all it would take would be a reduction of taxes. "We're outta here!"

No nation needs to sign a 500-page agreement in order to leave the EU profitably. It simply leaves the EU, abolishes tariffs and quotas, and starts trading.

Come one, come all! Let's make a deal!

This article originally appeared here at GaryNorth.com.

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A Trump-Pelosi Budget Deal is a Recipe for the Worst Kind of Tax Increase

The most disturbing outcome of the recent mid-term election isn’t that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be a Member of Congress. I actually look forward to that because of the humor value.

Instead, with the Democrats now controlling the House of Representatives, I’m more worried about Donald Trump getting tricked into a “budget summit” that inevitably would produce a deal with higher taxes and more spending. Just in case you think I’m being paranoid, here are some excerpts from a recent Politico report.

The dust has barely settled on the midterm elections, yet tax talk is already in the air thanks to President Donald Trump signaling openness to higher taxes, at least for some. …Trump said he’d be open to making an “adjustment” to recent corporate and upper-income tax cuts… Those off-the-cuff comments are sure to spark concerns among Republican leaders… Trump also suggested he could find common ground with Democrats on health care and infrastructure.

To be fair, Trump was only talking about higher taxes as an offset to a new middle-class tax package, but Democrats realize that getting Trump to acquiesce to a net tax hike would be of great political value.

And I fear they will be successful in any fiscal negotiations. Just look at how Trump got rolled on spending earlier this year (and that orgy of new spending took place when Democrats were in the minority).

I fear a deal in part because I object to higher taxes. But also because it’s quite likely that we’ll get the worst kind of tax hikes – i.e., class-warfare increases in tax rates on work, saving, investment, and entrepreneurship.

The political dynamic of budget deals is rather straightforward. So long as the debate is whether to raise taxes or not, the anti-tax crowd has the advantage since most Americans don’t want to give more of their money to politicians.

But if both parties agree with the notion that taxes should increase, then most Americans will — for reasons of self defense — want higher taxes on the rich (with “rich” defined as “making more money than me”). And those are the tax increases that do the most damage.

Interestingly, even economists from the International Monetary Fund agree with me about the negative consequences of higher tax rates. Here’s the abstract of a recent study.

This paper examines the macroeconomic effects of tax changes during fiscal consolidations. We build a new narrative dataset of tax changes during fiscal consolidation years, containing detailed information on the expected revenue impact, motivation, and announcement and implementation dates of nearly 2,500 tax measures across 10 OECD countries. We analyze the macroeconomic impact of tax changes, distinguishing between tax rate and tax base changes, and further separating between changes in personal income, corporate income, and value added tax. Our results suggest that base broadening during fiscal consolidations leads to smaller output and employment declines compared to rate hikes, even when distinguishing between tax types.

Here’s a bit of the theory from the report.

Tax-based fiscal consolidations are generally associated with large output declines, but their composition can matter. In particular, policy advice often assumes that measures to broaden the tax base by reducing exemptions and deductions are less harmful to economic activity during austerity. …base broadening often tends to make taxation across sectors, firms, or activities more homogeneous, contrary to rate increases. This helps re-allocate resources to those projects with the highest pre-tax return, thereby improving economic efficiency.

By the way, “base broadening” is the term for when politicians collect more revenue by repealing or limiting deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, and other tax preferences (“tax reform” is the term for when politicians repeal or limit preferences and use the money to finance lower tax rates).

Anyhow, here are some of the findings from the IMF study on the overall impact of tax increases.

Mitchell1.jpg

The chart on the right shows that higher taxes lead to less economic output, which certainly is consistent with academic research.

And the chart on the left shows the revenue impact declining over time, presumably because of the Laffer Curve (further confirming that tax hikes are bad even if they generate some revenue).

But the main purpose of the study is to review the impact of different types of tax increases. Here’s what the authors found.

Our key finding is that tax base changes during consolidations appear to have a smaller impact on output and employment than tax rate changes of a similar size. We find a statistically significant one-year cumulative tax rate multiplier of about 1.2, rising to about 1.6 after two years. By contrast, the cumulative tax base multiplier is only 0.3 after one year, and 0.4 after two years, and these estimates are not statistically significant.

And here’s the chart comparing the very harmful impact of higher rates (on the left) with the relatively benign effect of base changes (on the right).

mitchell2.jpg

For what it’s worth, the economic people in the Trump administration almost certainly understand that there shouldn’t be any tax increases. Moreover, they almost certainly agree with the findings from the IMF report that class-warfare-style tax increases do the most damage.

Sadly, politicians generally ignore advice from economists. So I fear that Trump’s spending splurge has set the stage for tax hikes. And I fear that he will acquiesce to very damaging tax hikes.

All of which will lead to predictably bad results.

P.S. A columnist for the New York Times accidentally admitted that the only budget summit that actually led to a balanced budget was the 1997 that lowered taxes.

Originally published at International Liberty
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All Hail Halloween

10/31/2018Ryan McMaken

[Originally published October 31, 2009 at LewRockwell.com.]

Damian Thompson, writing in the UK’s Telegraph, recently noted that "This is the only time of year when I become seriously anti-American." The reason? He hates Halloween.

Apparently, Halloween is one of "America’s worst exports" according to Thompson, and he is at least the second British writer just this year that I’ve noticed going on a tirade against this venerable American holiday.

Now, I don’t fault Thompson (who is one of my favorite religion writers) and his fellow Brits for hating Halloween at all. The dreary streets of London suburbs simply don’t mesh with the spirit of Halloween, and I’m reminded of the one Halloween I spent in Rome where tiny children wandered through the streets (all dressed in identical witch or ghost costumes) and begged shopkeepers and restaurateurs for some kind of treat that I couldn’t identify.

So no, Europeans don’t know a good Halloween any more than they know a decent hot dog, so I don’t begrudge Thompson or his brethren on the continent who also apparently have their own reservations about Halloween.

But what a magnificent American festival it is. The smell of candles burning inside pumpkins, the sound of crunching leaves beneath our feet, and the chance to dress up and beg for free candy are all a recipe for childhood memories that easily rival the fun of even Christmas.

It’s the trick-or-treating that the Brits seem to hate the most, but in America, the act of going door to door to beg for treats is as American as candied apples and pumpkin pie. Indeed, going door to door for treats was once considered the thing to do on numerous holidays. Thanksgiving especially was once considered a day for treat-hunting throughout the neighborhood, and for impromptu and raucous parades of strangely dressed citizens looking for a fun time.

Over time, these door-to-door parades were quashed by the guardians of the respectable middle classes who thought such activities too working-class and too un-bourgeois to be tolerated. Thus, they invented the Thanksgiving turkey dinner and the Thanksgiving football game rituals out of nothing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in an attempt to replace the more spontaneous celebrations of the common folk.

But Thanksgiving was a cynical creation of government, and Halloween has never been a government-sanctioned holiday, so it is all the more encouraging that trick-or-treating thankfully survives in spite of all the efforts of fear-mongering suburbanites and crazed religious devil-fighters who do their best to ruin the holiday every year.

And what a testament to the inherent goodness of humankind that trick-or-treating survives. Every year, millions of Americans go out and drop quite a bit of money on treats for children, and then give it away for free. And, in all these years of trick-or-treating there are no documented cases of poisonings of children by strangers. Yes, some sick people have poisoned the Halloween candy of their own children, but the risk of being poisoned by some nut in your neighborhood is just about zero.

In spite of what the guardians of decency may have us believe, most people simply aren’t interested in poisoning children. Instead, we Americans take great joy in handing out free stuff to people who ring our doorbells and demand candy.

If foreigners can’t appreciate the sheer fun and exhilaration of such a festival, so be it. I can’t stand it when Americans act like there’s no such thing as a uniquely American culture. Maybe the average American has become too ignorant and classless to know it, but American civilization is simply among the best in both music and in English-language literature. And it’s been that way for well over a century.

And it’s some of that excellent literature that informs what we think of our best secular holiday. The entire mise-en-scène of Halloween comes to us from Americans.

While the idea of the jack-o-lantern may come from an Irish version made from turnips, the modern jack-o-lantern, made from pumpkins, which are native to the Americas, is as American as they come.

And when we think of the elements of Halloween with its dark forests and headless horsemen and gothic freaks and menacing ravens, we are taking a page from the works of writers like Washington Irving and the inimitable Edgar Allen Poe who is the undisputed father of the American horror movie, the ghost story, and the American folklore behind haunted houses and masquerade balls.

Yes, tales of werewolves and monsters, and even Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster come to us from Europeans, but that unique feel of Poe-ish gothic creepiness within a chilly North American autumn is what we all strive to re-create every 31st of October.

What Halloween is complete without a recitation of "The Raven?" And who would let a Halloween go by without carving a jack-o-lantern? Hopefully few of us would be so thankless as to let such a great American opportunity pass.

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A Serial Killer Called "Socialism"

10/30/2018Rafael Acevedo

Socialism has killed more than 100 million people worldwide. Socialism came to Venezuela 60 years ago and has proven to be the worst form of government under which to improve the quality of life. Ludwig von Mises once said that every socialist is a potential dictator, and the history in Venezuela supports his statement. My country is now ruled by one of the most tyrannical, vicious, and corrupt regimes in the world and — as a dedicated socialist regime — it could not be anything else.

On October 5, a leader of the political party Primero Justicia, Fernando Alban, was murdered by these enemies of freedom. He was held and tortured by the SEBIN (the Venezuelan intelligence agency) and his injuries were so severe that he ultimately died from them. After his death his body was thrown from a 10-story building and immediately, and officially, ruled a suicide. This was a blatant attempt to direct blame elsewhere. Venezuela's “Chief Prosecutor” has declared there will be consequences to anyone who publicly says or insinuates that the SEBIN assassinated Alban.

Alban is just the most recent victim of this regime. The opposition party is of no help and is part of the problem because they don't do anything to stop what is going on and  only want political power and control of the economy. In 2017, the security forces murdered more than 150 people that had protested against the regime, the majority of those people were young students that wanted a country where they could live in freedom.

The classic socialist tactic of eliminating ones adversaries — no matter the price — is common and repeated constantly.

On October 12, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Rafael Ernesto Díaz Cuello was jailed. The reason given by Jorge Rodriguez  — one of the Regime's Capos — was that Diaz Cuello is guilty of treason to the homeland. Díaz Cuello is not a traitor. I know because I have had the opportunity to talk and share the stage with him as a speaker. He is just a retired military officer who speaks out against the regime and the crisis looming currently in Venezuela. Of course, he is a military man and comes from that background, but one of his proposals makes the government very uncomfortable. He advocates a transitional government to steer Venezuela out of its current crisis by adopting a Swiss-like government structure with the support of international security forces or the replication of Singapore’s experience.

However, Díaz Cuello is not the only military man in jail or accused of treason. In June, the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported more than 99 military officers and personnel were in jail or discharged from their duties because of treasonous activity and conspiracies against the regime, two generals are among the incarcerated. In addition, there is the case of Oscar Pérez, an ex-police officer who was leading a group of rebels that was massacred — despite the fact that they had already surrendered. This sort of thing is without precedent in Venezuela.

So, when people analyze the real history of socialism, it is important to understand the many systems that are swathed in blood. People, especially the young idealists, must recognize that "social democracy," "progressivism," or "social Christianism" often ends in the destruction of life and liberty for untold numbers of people. To open one's political and economic system to such a threat is like opening one's house to a serial killer. 

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A New Book on Mises for the Layman — In German

10/18/2018Ryan McMaken

Thosten Polleit, a frequent author at mises.org, and an active part of Ludwig von Mises Institut Deutschland, has completed a new introductory text on Mises and his work: Ludwig von Mises für jedermann: Der kompromisslose Liberale (Ökonomen für Jedermann). It is available both at Amazon.de and Amazon.com. And best of all, it's priced at an affordable price, and is not one of those 90-dollar books that academic publishers often turn out.

olleit.JPG
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August Building Permits Drop for First Time in Eight Years

09/21/2018Ryan McMaken

Building permits for private housing units in the US dropped by 5.5 percent in August, which was the largest drop recorded in more than two years. The last time housing permit activity dropped by a larger amount was during June of 2016 when permits fell by 12.3 percent.

The trend in all permits (seasonally adjusted):

ermits_SA.PNG
 

The decline was driven by a drop in multifamily permits. In fact, single-family permit growth didn't drop below zero at all — although single-family permits grew at the weakest rate (2.1 percent) recorded since May of 2014.

The trend in single-family permits (seasonally adjusted):

ermits1unit_SA.PNG
 

The general trend here, since early 2017, is one of stalling growth rates in permit activity.

If you're like me, though, you're not a huge fan of seasonally-adjusted numbers. So let's look at the non-adjusted permit totals.

Given that permit activity does tend to be highly seasonal, it's helpful to compare this past August with other Augusts. So, if we look at each month of August since 2005, we find that August 2018 was the first August in eight years during which permit activity (for all units) actually turned negative when compared to the previous August. August 2018's permit activity was down 5.9 percent, year over year.

Total permits reported for August of each year:

singlefam.PNG
 

As with the seasonally-adjusted data, the decline was driven largely by a drop in multifamily permits. Looking at permits for building with 5 or more units, we find that permit activity in August 2018 was down 21 percent from the previous August. To find a larger drop in August, we have to go back to 2009.

Multifamily permits reported for August of each year:

multifam.PNG
 

Meanwhile, single-family permits were up by 1.6 percent in the non-adjusted data, comparing August 2017 to August 2018. This was the smallest August increase in single-family permits in four years. Nevertheless, it was an increase.

In short, we're seeing a similar trend in the August non-adjusted data that we see in the adjusted data: single-family permits are more or less flat, and growing at a weak rate.

Unlike single-family permits, though, multifamily permits aren't growing at all, and in August, they dropped off by the largest amount seen since the last recession.

Why Might Permit Activity Be Dropping?

Given that permits tend to be an indicator of future building activity, these numbers suggest that builder confidence is slipping. This could be due to at least two factors. One factor is likely rising mortgage rates . In August, the average 30-year fixed rate was the highest it has been since 2011. That's likely to put downward pressure on demand for both single-family homes and condos in multifamily buildings.

Secondly, thanks to the Trump tariffs, the cost of both lumber and steel has risen, driving up construction costs. This means builders won't be able to deliver units at a prices that are likely to attract as many buyers as might have been the case without the tariffs.

On the other hand, it's possible that the weakness in the August numbers are a fluke and and that permit activity will bounce back. If both construction and borrowing costs continue to go up, though, sustaining demand will require greater growth in incomes.

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An Armed Pregnant Woman Defended Herself, Now She Faces 24 Years in Jail

09/20/2018Tho Bishop

Last December, Krissy Noble (then going by her maiden name Tran) shot and killed a man who broke into her apartment and attacked her. She was 11 weeks pregnant at the time.

As ABC News described the incident:

[When her attacker was] inside, the man tackled her and began trying to cover her mouth with his hand, which she thought smelled of chemicals, the report states. He then started hitting her in the face with his fist.

After she was able to break free, Noble grabbed a pistol off the coffee table and shot the man three times before running to her neighbor's apartment and telling her to call 911, according to the report.

Noble told police that "she feared not only for her safety but for the safety of her baby, and felt that she had no other option in this situation, according to the report.

Authorities have ruled that Noble’s use of force was justified, however she now faces 24 years in jail for her actions. Why? She previously pled guilty to a felony marijuana charge.

As she told ABC 13:

"Right now I'm looking at the max, 24 years, that's my baby's life. I mean, I'm going to miss 24 years of my child... I won't even, I won't even know my child, I'll miss out on everything.”

The tragedy of Nobles’s story has several layers.

The first is that a marijuana possession is a felony charge in the state of Arkansas. It’s worth noting that there is nothing particularly unusual about Noble’s case: her and several friends were found with an ounce of marijuana and drug paraphernalia during a routine traffic stop. Since no one claimed ownership, all faced criminal charges. Facing jail time, Noble accepted a plea deal that gave her a suspended sentence and barred her from possessing a fire arm.

That Noble would face a felony from such an incident speaks to the absurdity of the continued war on drugs. It may also explain why 66 of Arkansas’s 75 counties see unusually high opioid prescriptions.

The second is how over criminalization leads to a dangerous loss of basic individual rights. In the case of Noble, the gun used to defend herself was owned by her husband, who serves is the Arkansas National Guard. In the eyes of the Arkansas “Justice” system, Noble being caught with marijuana last December meant she had no right to use her husband’s firearm to defend herself from a brutal attacker. The law would leave her a defenseless victim.

Luckily there does seem to be momentum towards restoring gun ownership rights to non-violent offenders that have been caught up in America’s justice system. Legislators at both the state and federal level have relevant pushed bills in recent years, while federal courts have also found some that blanket bans for all felons are unconstitutional.   

Unfortunately for Noble, this precedent won’t apply to her case as she was still under her five year suspended sentence.

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