Power & Market

China's Censorship Obsession

The Chinese government has recently produced a lot of international news: the trade war with the U.S. government ; the suspicious financing on Malaysia’s former corrupted ruling party ; the suppression on Taiwan’s foreign and diplomatic space , etc. Excluding the news related to international politics, the Chinese government was also fighting against the Chinese internet users at the same time. What exactly are going on?

Let's review these entire events. During the first semi-final of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, Irish singer Ryan O'Shaughnessy's performance was featured two male dancers expressing a gay love story. This might not be a big deal in Western countries, but in China, the program violates the latest media censorship regulations ! Therefore, Eurovision's Chinese agent Mango TV deleted all of O'Shaughnessy's song performance . At the same time, by the new media censorship regulations, Mango TV also blurred the rainbow flag that appeared in the competition and the tattoo of another Azerbaijani contestant . Subsequently, due to the intervention from EBU , Eurovision had to retreat from the Chinese market temporarily.

In addition to this Eurovision incident, Peppa Pig , Winnie the Pooh , tattoos , and Hip-Pop are all prohibited from transmitting in media in various forms. Obviously, Chinese government has recently intensified the media censorship. In the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup, we will undoubtedly see many tattooed soccer players. As China's soccer players were also recently ordered to cover their tattoos on the match day , and due to the recent media censorship regulations, is the Chinese government ready for blurring all the tattooed players when the World Cup matches are live?

This series of Internet censorship incidents has made Chinese netizens finally intolerable. Faced with the Eurovision incident, Chinese Internet users directly criticized the media censorship regulations and Mango TV’s compromise with the government . In response to the previous incidents, on April 12, Chinese netizens drove hundreds of cars at late night, passing through the entrance of the State Administration of Press, protesting its media censorship with horn .

We are not the locusts of the Chinese government, so we do not know whether the officials have discriminated and are biased against the above contents, or whether they patriarchally think that what young people should do. In fact, what the government officials believe is not essential. What matters is that media censorship is an infringement of property rights and voluntary exchanges for information ; and what is important is that this wave of protests, dominated by young netizens, shows their increased awareness of being individualists and their sense of consumer sovereignty . These young people want to be themselves authentically, deciding what they like and what they want to do based on their own willing. They don’t like and don’t want to have a big government and a big brother telling them dictatorially: what is right for your young people.

It is not known whether the Chinese politicians have realized that 40 years after the market-oriented reform, many people who benefited from the free exchange of markets and private property rights, especially young netizens, are less likely to behave like many of the old generations who had experienced the terrible Cultural Revolution , forbearing the violations of individual freedom and the infringement of private property rights. This reality may also be a reminder to Chinese government which has deliberately intensified the cult of the political leader : the rise of individualism is making it harder for China returning to the Mao era. Only by respecting individual freedom, and further advancing market-oriented reforms will it be a policy for all to win together.

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CEI: Federal Regulations Cost $1.9 Trillion Annually

05/10/2018Tho Bishop

A recent report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute highlights the cost of America's regulatory state.

According to CEI:

The estimate for regulatory compliance and economic effects of federal intervention is $1.9 trillion annually for purposes of comparison with federal spending and other economic metrics. This estimate was compiled using available federal government data and reports, in context with contemporary studies.

Putting that number into perspective:

The estimated burden of regulation is equivalent to nearly half the level of federal spending, expected to be $4.1 trillion in 2018.

If it were a country, U.S. regulation would be the world’s eighth-largest economy, ranking behind India and ahead of Italy

The regulatory hidden tax is equivalent to federal individual and corporate income tax receipts combined, which total an estimated $1.884 trillion in 2017 ($1.587 trillion in individual income tax revenues; and $297 billion in corporate income tax revenues).

This significant drain on America's productive sector exists in spite of the fact that deregulation has been one of the bright spots of the Trump Administration. So far the Administration has been able to maintain its objective of repealing two rules for every new one written and the number of pages in the 2017 Federal Registry was down dramatically from the previous Federal regimes. 

Federal Registry.png

Still, the full costs of Federal regulation are truly impossible to calculate because beyond the compliance costs imposed on current businesses are those companies that do not exist due to America's regulatory environment. As Per Bylund noted while discussing his book Seen, the Unseen, and The Unrealized: How Regulations Affect Our Everyday Lives:

Regulations make it costlier to act — and therefore some actions are no longer profitable when they would have been otherwise. So, for those businesses that lack political influence and aren’t the most effective, a regulation may decide whether there is a business or not. At the same time, businesses that survive the regulation might benefit from a protected situation because the regulation raises barriers to entry. This is why, for instance, it is rational for Walmart to support a high minimum wage — it will hurt Walmart’s competitors more than it hurts Walmart.

The real losers are common people who, as consumers, do not get the valuable goods and services they otherwise would have, and, as producers, cannot find the jobs they otherwise would. The winners are the incumbents, at least short-term, and — as always — the political class.

 

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Cato's Michael Cannon is Wrong about Baby Alfie

05/04/2018Michel Accad

Michael Cannon, director of health care policy at the Cato Institute, has just published a piece where he criticizes conservatives for being “all wrong” about the Alfie Evans case which, according to him “had almost nothing to do with socialized medicine.”

As hostile as libertarians are to government, even we believe government can legitimately order the withdrawal of life support, and prohibit parents from moving a child to obtain further treatment, when that treatment would fruitlessly prolong a child’s suffering – i.e., when further treatment would be akin to torture.

But the court’s decision to prevent Alfie’s parents from obtaining the free care offered by the Vatican had nothing to do with limiting the child’s suffering.

As Cannon himself concedes, neither the court nor the doctors had any way of knowing if the child was suffering or not.  In fact, they were in agreement that the child was in a coma, without any awareness of the external environment (and certainly not subject to a treatment “akin to torture”).

What the court actually argued is that dying was in the child’s “best interests”—even absent pain and suffering.  That specific stipulation comes from recent guidelines by the Royal College of Paediatrics (RCP), which essentially argue that state-employed doctors can, by fiat, assert that a child’s quality of life is poor enough that he or she should die—and must die.

Cannon’s thoughts on Alfie’s case are still “tentative,” he tells us, but not tentative enough to take issue—as a libertarian—with a health care system where a government can forcibly prevent loving parents from providing life sustaining treatment for a sick baby at no cost to the taxpayer.  If the RCP’s guidelines are a perversion of medical ethics, Cannon’s position has got to be a perversion of libertarianism.

Meanwhile, if you would like a sane perspective on the insanity of the Alfie case, below is my latest video with Dr. Anish Koka, in which we discuss this at length.

Originally published at Alert and Oriented 

The Alfie Evans case: Lessons for doctors

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Congressman Questions Fed, Treasury About US Gold

04/25/2018Tho Bishop

One of the pieces of legislation Ron Paul pushed while leading the Congressional committee overseeing monetary policy was a bill to audit the US gold reserves. As one may expect when dealing with the Fed, there has long been a general lack of transparency with America's gold holdings. In fact, last year was the first time in over four decades that any member of Congress had been allowed inspect Fort Knox. 

At a hearing on the topic back in 2011, Dr. Paul explained while this matter was so important: 

Because the Government has for so long refused to provide substantive information on its gold holdings, it is not surprising that so much confusion abounds, both within and without the Government.

This gold belongs to the people, especially since much of it was forcibly taken from them in the 1930s, and the Government owes it to the people to provide them with the details of these holdings.

We would greatly benefit from a full, accurate inventory audit and assay with detailed explanations of who owns the gold and who is responsible for ownership, custody, and auditing. 

For the first time since Dr. Paul's retirement from Congress, a member of the House has questioned the Federal Reserve and the Treasury about the Federal government's handling of its gold reserve. 

In a letter yesterday addressed to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Fed Chair Jerome Powell, West Virginia Congressman Alex Mooney asked the following questions:

1) Records in the archives of the historian of the U.S. State Department describe U.S. government policy in recent decades as aiming to drive gold out of the world financial system in favor of the Federal Reserve Note or Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund.

Is this still U.S. government policy toward gold? If not, what IS the U.S. government’s current policy toward gold?

2) I have heard complains that the U.S. gold reserve has not been fully audited for many decades, particularly as there seems to have been no acknowledgement of – or account for – “swaps” and leases of gold or arrangements for such to which the U.S. government has been a party.

Does the U.S. government, through the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve System, or any other agency or entity, transact in gold or gold derivatives either directly or through intermediaries? If so, what are those transactions and what are their objectives?

3) Does the U.S. government undertake any transactions in gold or gold derivatives through the Bank for International Settlements, Bank of England, or other central banks or governments? If so, what are these transactions and their objectives?

Rep. Mooney also made headlines earlier this year for introducing legislation calling for the dollar to be re-pegged to a weight of gold. 

As he wrote in the Wall Street Journal at the time:

The current Federal Reserve system benefits elites. The gold standard is equitable and puts “we the people” in control of the money supply. That’s why it was part of America’s founding and has been a key to the country’s long economic success.

As President Donald Trump continues to disappoint with his central bank nominees, it's nice to see a few voices in the swamp questioning the Fed. 

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Comey's Book Tour Is All About 'Truth' — but His FBI Tenure, Not so Much

04/20/2018James Bovard

In his ABC interview last Sunday, former FBI chief James Comey boasted endlessly of his devotion to truth, which he said “has to be central to our lives.” Touting his role in bringing down Martha Stewart, he declared, “The truth matters in the criminal justice system.” But, when he was FBI boss from 2013 to 2017, his agency duped the American public whenever convenient.

In 2014, Comey declared that “We do use deception at times to catch crooks, but we are acting responsibly and legally.” His comment was spurred by revelations that an FBI agent had masqueraded as an Associated Press reporter and fabricated an AP story. The Associated Press complained that the FBI’s tactics undermined “the vital distinction between the government and the press," while the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press protested that the ruse “creates the appearance that it is not independent of the government.” But Comey declared the technique was “proper and appropriate,” allowing such scams to continue.

The AP charade was chump change compared to the FBI’s next media flim-flam. After a high-profile confrontation between federal agents and Nevadan ranchers in 2014, the FBI created a bogus independent film crew that spent almost a year hounding the Cliven Bundy family and their supporters, taping their comments to propel federal charges against them. The feds eventually arrested and prosecuted Bundy family members.

This past January, federal judge Gloria Navarro dismissed all charges, denouncing “flagrant” and “reckless” misconduct by federal prosecutors. The FBI was exposed for lying for more than three years regarding its deployment of sniper teams around the Bundys’ ranch prior to the Bundys summoning supporters to protect them.

The Justice Department inspector general last month exposed Comey’s arguably deceitful tactics regarding his campaign to outlaw private encryption, which he perennially portrayed as a grave peril to public safety. After a Muslim couple gunned down 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., the FBI invoked a 1789 law to sway a federal judge to order Apple to write anti-encryption software that would hand the FBI the keys to break into the terrorist’s iPhone (and all other iPhones).

Read the rest at The Hill
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Canada is Not a Free Trade Zone

04/19/2018Tho Bishop

When lampooning the various arguments for trade barriers, Murray Rothbard would like to try to use the arguments offered against foreign trade to trade between states themselves.

As he wrote in Making Economic Sense:

The best way to look at tariffs or import quotas or other protectionist restraints is to forget about political boundaries. Political boundaries of nations may be important for other reasons, but they have no economic meaning whatever. Suppose, for example, that each of the United States were a separate nation. Then we would hear a lot of protectionist bellyaching that we are now fortunately spared. Think of the howls by high-priced New York or Rhode Island textile manufacturers who would then be complaining about the "unfair," "cheap labor" competition from various low-type "foreigners" from Tennessee or North Carolina, or vice versa.

Fortunately, the absurdity of worrying about the balance of payments is made evident by focusing on interstate trade. For nobody worries about the balance of payments between New York and New Jersey, or, for that matter, between Manhattan and Brooklyn, because there are no customs officials recording such trade and such balances.

If we think about it, it is clear that a call by New York firms for a tariff against North Carolina is a pure rip-off of New York (as well as North Carolina) consumers, a naked grab for coerced special privilege by less-efficient business firms. If the 50 states were separate nations, the protectionists would then be able to use the trappings of patriotism, and distrust of foreigners, to camouflage and get away with their looting the consumers of their own region.

Unfortunately such "absurdity" has been ruled to be the law of the land in Canada. As the National Post reports:

After a legal battle fought all the way to Canada’s highest court, a New Brunswick man’s quest to be able to buy slightly cheaper alcohol in a neighbouring province has failed.

In a unanimous decision handed down Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled provincial trade barriers are constitutional as long as they’re aimed at a valid purpose within the province’s jurisdiction, with only an incidental effect on trade. Canada’s constitution simply “does not impose absolute free trade across Canada,” it declared....

On its face, the case was about booze. But had the challenge been successful, the precedent could have struck down a massive swath of provincial trade barriers, from agricultural supply management to e-commerce to environmental controls. Crown attorneys from every province had lined up at the Supreme Court to argue against the challenge, with the federal government siding with them.

The ruling declared that allowing “full economic integration” within Canada would “significantly undermine the shape of Canadian federalism, which is built upon regional diversity within a single nation.” Federalism means there must be “space to each province to regulate the economy in a manner that reflects local concerns,” the court ruled.

As Maxime Bernier, a Conservative Member of Parliament and a student of Austrian economics noted, "Sad day for defenders of economic freedom in Canada."

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CBO Projection: US Deficit Tops $1 Trillion Two Years Ahead of Schedule

04/09/2018Tho Bishop

Prior to the 2016 election, Ryan McMaken noted that history shows the fastest way to increase government spending is to vote Republican:

[F]or decades, we've been told that a vote for the GOP  is a vote for "smaller government." This is repeated both by Republicans, who say it like it's a good thing, and by Democrats who still seem to think that the GOP is committed to cutting grandma's safety net.

If we look at federal spending, though, it's easy to see that the myth of the budget-cutting Republican president is just that: a myth.

As such, it's no surprise that projections for the US deficit has now ballooned to over $1 Trillion two years sooner than previously estimated. 

As Bloomberg reports:

The U.S. budget deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2020, two years sooner than previously estimated, as tax cuts and spending increases signed by President Donald Trump do little to boost long-term economic growth, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Spending will exceed revenue by $804 billion in the fiscal year through September, jumping from a projected $563 billion shortfall forecast in June, the non-partisan arm of Congress said in a report Monday. In fiscal 2019, the deficit will reach $981 billion, compared with an earlier projection of $689 billion.

The nation’s budget gap was only set to surpass the trillion-dollar level in fiscal 2022 under CBO’s report last June.

Of course many pundits and Democrats in Washington are going to direct the blame to Republican tax cuts passed year - the one really good policy we've seen from Congress. 

Naturally anyone familiar with the CBO would be justified in questioning the accuracy of their work (these estimates, for example, include projecting interest rates of 4% by 2021 - higher than the Fed's own projections.) In this case, however, increased deficits were inevitable given that the Trump Administration has allowed Republicans in Congress the cover they've needed to finally act on bipartisan hostility to the sequestration caps on the Federal budget. The GOP has managed to get increases in military spending that are larger than Russia's entire defense budget, while Democrats have been able to receive funding for all sorts of projects that the GOP would have objected to if Obama was still in office

Now the proper reaction to these new fiscal concerns should be for both sides of the isle to get serious about spending. What we will instead see are new calls to increase revenue - perhaps by increasing taxes that are easier to hide than the income tax - and renewed calls to abolish the debt ceilings

At the end of the day though, this news really should simply be seen as another reminder that US default is just a matter of how, not if.

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Citizenship Question Won't Be Most Pernicious Aspect of US Census

04/04/2018James Bovard

The hubbub over the Trump administration’s proposal to ask respondents about citizenship in the 2020 Census is mystifying because the response is so far out of proportion to the White House’s request. But the dispute is obscuring a much greater peril that the Census Bureau poses to Americans.

Recommended: The Census and Despotism by Lew Rockwell

Former Attorney General Eric Holder denounced adding a citizenship question to the Census questionnaire as “motivated purely by politics.” By contrast, the Obama administration’s push to expand the Census to ask if respondents were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender was non-political, right? Holder declaimed that the citizenship question “is a direct attack on our representative democracy.” But how can representative democracy be subverted by getting an accurate count of people who may be ineligible to vote?

From 1890 through 2000 (excluding the 1960 Census), the long version of the Census form asked about citizenship status, as the Census’s American Community Survey, received by around 3.5 million households each year, currently does. At what point did inquiries about citizenship become the moral equivalent of a “direct attack” on our country?...

Recommended: Don’t Want a Muslim Registry? Abolish the Census​ bAlice Salles

But the Census Bureau has a long history of betraying respondents. In the early 1940s, the Census brazenly violated federal law by providing key information on 120,000 Japanese Americans so that the Army could round them up for internment camps. The detentions were among the worst civil liberties violations in modern U.S. history.

For more than 60 years, the Census lied about its role in this debacle, even boasting that it had done nothing to betray people who were wrongfully corralled. 

Read the full article at The Hill

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CJay Engel on AERC

03/26/2018Tho Bishop

It was great to have C.Jay Engel join us for this years AERC. 

At AustroLibertarian.com he has written about his experiences at the conference. 

One of the keynote lectures at the 2018 AERC event was given by the immensely interesting Richard Ebeling who gave a talk relating to his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Moscow to work through the Mises papers and notes that had been stolen by the Nazis when they raided Mises’ Vienna apartment. (My wife and I were lucky enough to visit the apartment in 2013 when we visited Austria.) Ebeling tells the tale of a Mises who, despite very real political odds set against him as an opponent of the rising tide of Economic Planning in the world of growing Nazism, continued with tremendous output. And not only was there an impressive quantity to this output, there was also a perhaps even more impressive quality.

For Mises truly lived up to the motto of his family crest, that one should never give in to evil. The principles held firm in the mind of Mises were of great worth. And not even the threat of academic neglect, of unpopularity, of certain death if he stayed in Austria– not even these could stay Mises’ pen. This commitment to the discovery and advancement of truth is why the Mises Institute exists today. And I am grateful that I get to involve myself more and more in the their efforts to stand as an intellectual bulwark against statism in our time. The Mises Institute is a wonderful testament to the achievements that can be made by sticking to principle and repudiating the economic, political, and social trends of the age.

You can read the full article here.

All of our AERC keynote lectures will soon be available on our Youtube channel. Photos from the event can be found here. 

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Congressional Budget Vote Includes Feinstein-Sponsored Bill to Grow Federal Gun Database

03/21/2018Tho Bishop

It is common practice in DC for politicians to stuff spending bills with all sorts of additional bad legislation — the policy equivalent of being overcharged for a meal that gives you food poisoning. This week's vote is no exception.

As Axios and others have reported, Congressional leadership has included the “Fix NICS” bill into the package. The legislation gives new funding and power to Federal agencies to add on to the national background check registry. As Thomas Massie and other pro-2nd Amendment advocates have noted, it is precisely these sort of registries that have been used in the past to limit American gun ownership rights without due process. As Jose Niño noted on the Wire this week, this is part of a long time trend of governments using "mental health" designations to disenfranchise citizens. (This week is one of several particularly concerning aspects of recent legislation passed in Florida.)

Of course these concerns pre-date the most recent gun control debate, as I noted when the bill came up last December

While Republicans and supporters of the NRA may not fear the Trump Administration coming after their guns, it is obviously reckless to grant additional power and resources to future administrative states that may be quite hostile to the right to gun ownership. To put it simply, there is never a good reason to give Federal agencies the power the revoke an individual's ability to lawfully purchase a weapon without due process.

Further, if one needed an example of how dangerous it is to centralize gun legislation in Washington DC, look no further to what gun owners in states like Ohio and Hawaii are currently facing. Both states, having recently legalized the use of medical marijuana, have placed those who need it with the choice of either owning a gun or receiving life-improving medicine.

In 2011, the Federal government sent a letter to licensed gun dealers reiterating that marijuana users were prohibited from owning a gun — even if it they have a medical prescription. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this decision last year. Hawaii, which requires gun registration, has gone as far as to sending letters to permitted gun owners with marijuana prescriptions requiring they turn over their weapon. While the state is currently asking for “voluntary cooperation,” it could be a matter of time before it turns into compulsory compliance.

At that time the NRA tried to sell this legislation as a way of helping promote a national concealed carry reciprocity law (which is also not a great idea.) That legislation is not included in this spending bill, and  yet the NRA continues to oddly find itself promoting legislation sponsored by Diane Feinstein

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