Thursday, August 17, 2017

How Middle-Class Europeans Fare Under the Welfare State

How Middle-Class Europeans Fare Under the Welfare State

According to progressives like Bernie Sanders, European nations have wonderfully generous welfare states financed by high tax rates on the rich.

They’re partly right. There are very large welfare states in Europe (though I wouldn’t use “wonderfully” and “generous” to describe systems that have caused economic stagnation and high levels of unemployment).

But they’re wrong about how those welfare states are financed. Yes, tax rates on the rich are onerous, but not that much higher than in the United States. Instead, the big difference between America and Europe is that ordinary people pay much higher taxes on the other side of the Atlantic.

The US Has the Most “Progressive” Tax System



Indeed, I’ve previously cited Tax Foundation data showing that the United States arguably has the most “progressive” tax system in the developed world. Not because we tax the rich more, but simply because we impose comparatively modest burdens on everyone else.

And now we have some new evidence making the same point. Joseph Sternberg of the Wall Street Journal has some very sobering data on how the German tax system imposes a heavy weight on poor and middle-income taxpayers.
Europeans believe their tax codes are highly progressive, giving lower earners a break while levying significant proportions of the income of higher earners and corporations to fund generous social benefits. But that progressivity holds true only for direct taxes on personal and corporate income. Indirect taxes, such as the value-added tax on consumption and social-security taxes (disguised as “contributions”), are a different matter. The VAT disproportionately affects lower earners, who spend a higher proportion of their incomes. And social taxes tend to kick in at lower income levels than income taxes, and extract a higher and more uniform proportion of income. …if you look at the proportion of gross household income paid in all forms of tax, the rate varies by only 25 points. The lowest-earning 5% of households pay roughly 27% of their income in various taxes—mainly VAT—while a household in the 85th income percentile pays total taxes of around 52%, mostly in social-security taxes that amount to nearly double the income-tax bill.
Here’s a chart the WSJ included with the editorial.

As you can see, high payroll taxes and the value-added tax are a very costly combination.



And the rest of Europe is similar to Germany.
…Germany is not unique. The way German total revenues are split among income taxes, social taxes and the consumption tax is in line with the rest of Western Europe, as are its tax rates, according to OECD data. If other countries are more progressive than Germany, it’s only because Germany applies its second-highest marginal income-tax rate of 42% at a lower level of income than most.
Percent of Economic Output

Speaking of the OECD, here’s the bureaucracy’s data on the burden of government spending.

Germany is in the middle of the pack, with the public sector consuming 44 percent of economic output (Finland edges out France and Greece for the dubious honor of having the most expensive government).



The overall burden of the public sector is far too high in the United States, but we’re actually on the “low” side by OECD standards.

According to the data, total government spending “only” consumes 37.7 percent of America’s GDP. Only Ireland, Switzerland, and Latvia have better numbers (though my friend Constantin Gurdgiev explains we should be cautious about Irish economic data).

But I’m digressing. The point I want to emphasize is that punitive taxes on poor and middle-income taxpayers are unavoidable once politicians decide to impose a large welfare state.

Which is why I’m so inflexibly hostile to any tax increase, especially a value-added tax (or anything close to a VAT, such as the BAT) that would vacuum up huge amounts of money from the general population. Simply stated, politicians in Washington will have a hard time financing a bigger burden of government if they can only target the rich.

Sternberg makes the same point in his column.
Tax cuts have emerged as an issue ahead of Germany’s national election next month, with both major parties promising various timid tinkers… Not gonna happen. The VAT and social taxes are too important to the modern welfare state. The great lie is that there are a) enough “rich people,” b) who are rich enough, that c) taxing their incomes heavily enough can pay for generous health benefits and an old-age pension at 65. None of those propositions are true, and the third is especially wrong in an era of globally mobile capital and labor. That leaves the lower and middle classes, and taxes concealed in price tags or dolled up as “insurance contributions” to obscure exactly how much voters are paying for the privilege of their welfare states. …reform of the indirect taxes that impose such a drag on European economies awaits a more serious discussion about the proper role of the state overall.
Exactly.

There’s no feasible way to ease the burden on ordinary German taxpayers (or regular people in other European nations) unless there are sweeping reforms to reduce the welfare state.

And the moral of the story for Americans is that we better enact genuine entitlement reform if we don’t want to suffer the same fate.

P.S. If you don’t like German data, for whatever reason, I wrote last year about Belgium and made the same point about how a big welfare state necessarily means a bad tax system.

P.P.S. By the way, even the OECD admitted that European nations would grow faster if the burden of government was reduced.

Reprinted from International Liberty.


Daniel J. Mitchell


Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

The iPhone in Your Pocket Is Worth Millions

The iPhone in Your Pocket Is Worth Millions

Several years ago, I had a bit of fun estimating how much an iPhone would have cost to make in the 1990s. The impetus was a story making the rounds on the web.

A journalist had found a full-page newspaper ad from RadioShack dating back to 1991. He was rightly amazed that all 13 of the advertised electronic gadgets – computer, camcorder, answering machine, cordless phone, etc. – were now integrated into a single iPhone. The cost of those 13 gadgets, moreover, summed to more than $3,000. Wow, he enthused, most of us now hold $3,000 worth of electronics in the palm of our hand.

I saluted the writer’s general thrust but noted that he had wildly underestimated the true worth of our modern handheld computers. In fact, the computing power, data storage capacity, and communications bandwidth of an iPhone in 2014 would have cost at least $3 million back in 1991. He had underestimated the pace of advance by three orders of magnitude (or a factor of 1,000).

Well, in a recent podcast, our old friend Richard Bennett of High Tech Forum brought up the $3 million iPhone 5 from 2014, so I decided to update the estimate. For the new analysis, I applied the same method to my own iPhone 7, purchased in the fall of 2016 – 25 years after the 1991 RadioShack ad.

My iPhone 7 has 128 gigabytes (GB) of flash memory, which would have cost around $5.76 million back in 1991. Its A10 processor, which includes a CPU and GPU, has 3.3 billion transistors, running at 2.34 gigahertz (GHz) and delivering roughly 120,000 million instructions per second (MIPS). This amount of computing power would have cost something like $3.6 million back in 1991.

The iPhone 7 also delivers astonishing communications speed via 4G LTE mobile networks. Peak and average mobile speeds vary, depending on geography, network load, and other factors, so I just decided to use the speed I normally get on my mobile LTE connection (not Wi-Fi) at my office. With just two of five dots’ worth of signal strength, I enjoy a connection of 33 megabits per second (Mbps). That kind of wireless bandwidth might have cost something like $3.3 million back in 1991.

Adding it up, we get $5.76 + $3.6 + $3.3 = $12.66 million to produce today’s iPhone back in 1991. And that’s just for the three components that are easiest to measure and compare across time. This estimate doesn’t include the camera, display, random access memory (RAM), MEMS gyroscope and accelerometer, or any of the other amazing parts and features packed into an impossibly compact package. Nor does this account for inflation, which means our comparison may understate the effect.

These are fairly rough estimates. Yet it’s interesting that the new $12-million figure is four times the $3-million estimate from three years ago – which just happens to be the pace of Moore’s law, a doubling every 18 months or so. By many accounts, Moore’s law is slowing down or is even “dead.” Yet these types of cost-performance improvements suggest Moore’s law, at least for now, lives on.

Reprinted from American Enterprise Institute.


Bret Swanson


Bret Swanson is a visiting fellow at AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy and president of Entropy Economics LLC, a strategic research firm specializing in technology, innovation, and the global economy.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why Do So Many Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?

Why Do So Many Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?

Following the valuable advice of co-blogger David Henderson, I've gotten my hands on Milton Friedman on Freedom, a new collection edited by the Hoover Institution. The book will surprise all of us who never properly appreciated the insights and wisdom of Friedman's political thinking. His own peculiar blend of classical liberalism comes out all the more as subtle and relevant.



Among the several chapters, I did particularly enjoy a 1974 interview with Reason magazine. Friedman was then interviewed by the editorial trio (Tibor Machan, Joe Cobb, Ralph Raico), who were challenging him from what they considered a more consistent libertarian position.

The interview is rich and interesting in many ways. Friedman defends a negative income tax and school vouchers as "devices for enabling the free market to play a larger role." He admits that the work of E.G. West made him revisit his own rationale for compulsory education (but not to abandon vouchers as a practical policy proposal), and he discusses inflation and the gold standard.

Friedman also speaks on a matter which has likewise been pondered by many of his contemporaries: why intellectuals oppose capitalism.

To these questions, some have replied that the main reason is resentment (intellectuals expect more recognition from the market society than they actually get); some have pointed out that self-interest drives the phenomenon (intellectuals preach government controls and regulation because they'll be the controllers and regulators); some have taken the charitable view that intellectuals do not understand what the market really is about (as they cherish "projects" and the market is instead an unplanned order).

Friedman rejects the resentment view and proposes a version of the self-interest thesis by looking at the demand-side, so to speak. And it shows – behind the veil of his civility – very little consideration for the tastes of his fellow intellectuals for complex arguments, which seems to me quite a criticism.



Here's the passage:
REASON: Perhaps we can go back to your comment about intellectuals. What do you think of the thesis put forth by von Mises and Schoeck, that envy motivates many contemporary intellectuals' opposition to the free market?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I don't think we'll get very far by interpreting the intellectuals' motivation. Their critical attitudes might be attributed to personal resentment and envy but I would say that a more fruitful direction, or a more fundamental one, is that intellectuals are people with something to sell. So the question becomes, what is there a better market for? I think a major reason why intellectuals tend to move towards collectivism is that the collectivist answer is a simple one. If there's something wrong pass a law and do something about it. If there's something wrong it's because of some no-good bum, some devil, evil and wicked – that's a very simple story to tell. You don't have to be very smart to write it and you don't have to be very smart to accept it. On the other hand, the individualistic or libertarian argument is a sophisticated and subtle one. If there's something wrong with society, if there's a real social evil, maybe you will make better progress by letting people voluntarily try to eliminate the evil. Therefore, I think, there is in advance a tendency for intellectuals to be attracted to sell the collectivist idea.

REASON: It's paradoxical but people might then say that you are attributing to the collectivist intellectual a better feeling for the market.

FRIEDMAN: Of course. But while there's a bigger market for Fords than there is for American Motors products, there is a market for the American Motors products. In the same way, there's a bigger market for collectivist ideology than there is for individualist ideology. The thing that really baffles me is that the fraction of intellectuals who are collectivists is, I think, even larger than would be justified by the market.

Reprinted from Library of Economics and Liberty.


Alberto Mingardi


Alberto Mingardi is Director General of Istituto Bruno Leoni, Italy’s free-market think tank.

 

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

PSM (December 1997)

PSM (December 1997)




MegaCon 2017: Showroom

MegaCon 2017: Showroom



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAzjVcJALIE

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Super Strike Eagle (Super Nintendo)

Super Strike Eagle (Super Nintendo)




In Defense of the Infamous Google Memo

In Defense of the Infamous Google Memo

In Defense of the Infamous Google Memo

The internet has given us limitless possibilities when it comes to sharing different worldviews and opinions with each other. But instead of this spread of ideas making society more well-rounded and open-minded, it has caused individuals to section off into smaller echo chambers where contrary opinions are resisted or even thought of as immoral.

Is this due to algorithmic factors only? Or is there a problem with the way we look at ideas that are different from our own? It’s probably both, but a recent incident suggests that we could all improve in our willingness to consider different points of view.

The Great Google Upheaval



Social media is currently buzzing over Google software engineer James Damore, who claims he was fired from the company for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” The whole debacle came to the public’s knowledge after news spread that Damore had circulated an “anti-diversity memo” within the company.

To be sure, the memo itself was not billed as “anti-diversity” by the author himself, but rather picked up the nickname after it was leaked to media outlets. The line of thinking expressed by Damore in his memo may not be aligned with what has come to be known as “politically correct” culture, but rather than allow for an open discourse, Google chose to fire an employee who dared to disagree with the company’s own “anti-diversity” practices.

Google has marketed itself as an organization committed to protecting diversity on all fronts. However, this commitment to all things diverse does not seem to hold true in practice. If Google was really a beacon for diversity, it would not have fired an employee for voicing his own opinion.

What Did It Say?

Calling for more ideological diversity, Damore laid out his grievances in a ten-page memo that was sent out to employees. In the memo, Damore mentions that there seems to be a lack of meritocracy at Google. Instead of hiring the candidate who is best suited for a given job, for example, the company goes out of its way to hire those of minority backgrounds in order to meet their internal quota for diversity.

So that we are clear, this was not some alt-right manifesto. The memo began as follows:
I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes...”
The most provocative claim in the memo was heavily qualified:
"When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions.”
In addition to this, Damore asserts that the company fails to understand that there are biological and philosophical differences between men and women. While Damore clearly points out that he does not deny the existence of overt sexism in the modern workplace, he does protest the idea that there are no substantial differences between the genders. This is, of course, what led Google to label this memo as “sexist” and “anti-discriminatory.”

But what is especially jarring about this particular complaint of Google's, is the disregard it takes for the entire "Lean In" movement. Powerhouse Sheryl Sandberg uses her bestselling book to tell of a time she needed to be assertive in letting her bosses at Google know that women has specific and diverse needs. As a pregnant woman, the men of the company failed to recognize the importance of providing maternity parking to allow a shorter walk for those expecting. Sandberg points out that these women-specific needs are often lost on men, and that it is important to speak up and ask for these needs.

But if Google's stance on this latest issue were consistently applied, and if Sandberg were to ask for maternity parking today, she would be fired for pointing out that men and women have different needs that result from biological differences.

The last grievance aired by Damore calls on Google to recognize that a lack of ideological diversity will not work in its favor. In light of the memo, it has been revealed that Google has a bad track record of accepting diverse opinions. Those employees who skew conservative are often “blacklisted” and miss out on career advancement opportunities as a result of their political beliefs. Unfortunately for Google, refusing to listen to the opposing side of an argument doesn’t mean that it fails to exist; it just means Google is too intolerant to consider anything contrary to its own points of view.

The Market of Ideas

You are under no obligation to believe what I believe and vice versa. Just as there is a market for goods and services, so is there a market of ideas in which individuals are free to adopt what they agree with and disregard the rest. But if we reject every thought that is, on its face value, different from our own, how can we really know what it is we believe?

If I go my whole life using only one brand of toothpaste, without ever trying any other option, I have no business insulting every other brand for being inferior to my own choice. No matter how loyal I am to my choice, it does not negate the fact that there are other choices out there and that these choices may, in fact, be preferable to others.

To take this analogy further, imagine that my preferred choice of toothpaste is so important to me, I decide that all those who use any other brand are not just inferior but that they are also somehow morally corrupt and should be shunned from all of society. If this seems outrageous that is because it is. But we do the same thing when we refuse to at least consider the alternatives whether it be goods or ideas.

When we cast judgment on others solely for how we perceive their views, we not only prove that we are lacking in the critical thinking skills department, but we also lose the opportunity to grow as a person. Anyone who has ever had to defend their beliefs against others knows that there is no greater means to strengthen their argument than understanding what the other side is going to come at you with.

A chess player who refuses to anticipate the next move their opponent is going to make will quickly find that they lose the match in the end. Without an understanding of how others think and process information, you are armed only with your own knowledge. And while individuals are formidable entities, we, unfortunately, do not singularly contain all knowledge.

Free Speech and More Speech

Google likes to think of itself as a haven for free thought and diversity, which is what makes the Damore situation all the more important. While making claims of diversity, Google prevented a free exchange of ideas from occurring within their own company. Rather than let its employees debate the content of the memo, the internal discussion was nipped in the bud.

What this really tells about Google is that protecting others from possible offense is somehow more important than fostering an environment where debate can organically and civilly occur. Google would rather have a collection of employees who are willing to shield themselves from opposing views, then allow those employees to–gasp–actually think for themselves.

While on its own this is a disturbing thought, what makes it all the more hypocritical is that Google fired Damore for his minority opinions while claiming to protect diversity. What Google really meant is that they encourage diversity only when those who fit that description also agree with their own ideological and political views. There is nothing noble about willful ignorance, and that is exactly what Google’s actions are.

As Damore says in the now infamous memo,“If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.”

There Ought to Be a Law...

To be sure, Google is a private entity and is free to hire and fire whomever it pleases. But that doesn’t mean that their practices are correct, or even just. After all, individuals are free to be rude to one another, but that doesn’t make that behavior worthy or wise. But just as with ideas and products, people also have the freedom to choose who they associate with. If Google wants to attract the best, brightest, and most diverse employees, they need to practice what they preach and actually enable an open dialogue amongst their employees.

Blame All Around

But as disgraceful as Google’s actions have been, sympathy for Damore is hard to maintain after he threatened to sue the company for firing him. Everyone deserves the right to speak but no one can force others to give him or her a platform. Google was completely within its rights to fire this employee.

It is completely understandable for Damore to be angry with Google. In fact, many, including myself, are simply angry on his behalf. But that doesn’t make the government the proper solution to the problem.

Somehow, we have become so comfortable with what we already believe, that even with an oasis of knowledge at our disposal, we would rather shut out opposing thought and cling to our pre-existing notions of how the world works. If, as a society, we want to encourage true diversity, this must include the diversity of thought and opinion, and freedom from coercion in the practice of that diversity.


Brittany Hunter


Brittany Hunter is an associate editor at FEE. Brittany studied political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in Constitutional studies.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Millennials Are Obsessed with Cryptoassets

Millennials Are Obsessed with Cryptoassets



Millennials Are Obsessed with Cryptoassets

Now, this is revealing. The New York Times ran a piece on Bitcoin with this sentence: “from less than a cent in early 2010 to around $2,600 currently.” The problem is that when the story went live, the price was actually $3,400.” An editor didn’t think to check it, because he or she didn’t know to do so.

This is how quickly these markets are moving. Not even the people assigned to be experts know enough to do a competent edit.

And this is precisely why so many of us are constantly intrigued by these markets.

Cryptofriends 



Last week, when the NYT story was being filed, I was sitting at the national convention of the Young Americans for Liberty, feeling a vague sense of discomfort for one ridiculous reason. It had been a full day since I had talked with anyone about cryptoassets. So I grabbed the nearest dude and threw out a couple of observations. He lit up. He could talk ICOs, trading platforms, obscure coins and services, with the best of them. Soon others arrived. Then more. Pretty soon we had a big crowd, all talking and thinking about these bizarre new ways to invest.

Pretty interesting. I could never have assembled such a posse of group discussion if I had been talking about bank stocks and the S&P 500. Too boring. The crypto market, on the other hand, is incredibly interesting, lucrative, changing and wildly dynamic. Yes, many people lose their shirts. This is not a disgrace but a bragging right. If you have bought high and watched the thing fall to zero, it only demonstrates your derring do. If you have made money, you are a bit cheeky about it because, after all, these markets are edgy.

There is some glory in checking your smartphone in the middle of the night to find that your assets are up 10% since you went to bed. When you wake up and you are down 20% total, it’s sad but still exciting. That’s why people play these markets. And some people are truly winning.

What does it mean to be a millionaire but all your assets are in brand new digital things with names like BCH, NEO, GBYTE, FCT, or DSH? And do you really want this information known? Probably not.

It’s a Mania

Another scene: I’m at the UPS store and paying with a Bitpay debit card. The guy behind the counter nonchalantly says that his choice coin is Monero. I banter with him a bit. We do what everyone in these discussions does: we test the limits of each other’s knowledge. Who among us is the more tech savvy and experienced. Discerning that gives insight into the real question: what is your crypto net worth?

How likely is it that some dude I bump into at a mail service would know anything about this new thing going on? Could be a coincidence. Or he could be the voice of a generation. According to the New York Times, the second conclusion is the more likely truth.

After years as a niche market for technologically sophisticated anarchists and libertarians excited about a decentralized financial network not under government control, digital coins may be on the verge of going mainstream…. Cryptocurrency has understandable appeal to millennials who came of age during the 2008 financial crisis and are now watching the rise of antiglobalist populism threaten the stability of the international economy.

Typically with such reporting, there are great insights in this story, despite the misquoted price. The 2008 financial crisis traumatized a generation. They no longer trust banks. Conventional financial markets are driven by electronic trading, and there is no way to beat the market in the short run. Plus, there is the draw of the new and techy. Young people have no assets but they do have tech skill. Crypto markets are easy to get into and you are rewarded for knowing your way around. Older people tend to lack such skill, and they are afflicted by incredulity: surely this market is nothing more than a techno tulip mania.

I can recall being in front of an audience of 3,000 people some three years ago, interviewing a major and famous global investor. In passing – slightly expecting to be ridiculed – I asked about Bitcoin. He blew up in fury, as if I had committed a faux pas. This is a fake, he said, just like all social media platforms and time-wasting video games. If young people think this is productive, they are sadly mistaken. This country needs to get back to making things rather than taking food selfies.

I was crypto shamed.

And that was that.

Meanwhile, the dollar exchange ratio of Bitcoin moved from $30 to $3,000. Our savvy and “mature” and responsible investor was completely wrong. And he had misinformed thousands of people who had paid for his advice. And he was wrong because of the old Latin phrase: “Damnant quod non intellegunt.” They condemn what they do not understand.

The young have no such hangups. They don’t need a theory to justify their interests. They discern that the market is pointing a certain direction even if they do not know why. You could chalk it up to naivete of youth. Or you could look at the old investor and observe that his failure to believe is due to the foolhardy incredulity of age.

What It Is

Let me attempt, yet again, to explain why these markets are not tulipmania. Tulips had always existed. Cryptoassets, on the other hand, are a new innovation. What is it? Some people understood early on. For people not stuck in the old ways, not biased by prevailing practices, this was promising and exciting.

For the rest of us, it took time. It’s true that it is a way of hacking the internet to make a market-driven money. It’s true that the blockchain technology that backs cryptoassets makes for a great payment system, far faster, cheaper, and better than existing practices. Millennials know that the old way failed and, because of experience, they trust that there is a technological solution, even if old-world institutions are slow to adopt it.

There’s more going on than just that. This technology is the newest and best iteration of a universal human demand to document ownership rights. After many years of struggling to understand this, this is my best-possible explanation. Humanity documented “mine and thine” since the ancient world: stones, clay, parchment, vellum, databases. There must be a record to compel social assent to anything.

And it is not only about rights. It is about rules. But the failing of every previous piece of technology has been that it has been centralized: only one authoritative copy. Blockchain distributes that knowledge and authority to an infinite number of nodes.

Is that an innovation? Yes. It’s everything. With millions of applications, only one of which could imply the possibility of abolishing government money and central banking in favor of a market-controlled money. And that’s just the most obvious. Blockchain actually offers up the hope that humanity can learn to master its own affairs on a purely voluntary basis: no need for coercive relationships, geographical jurisdictions, or preemptive revenue collection by force. It’s the realization of the old liberal dream.

But not yet. It will take decades to get there. In the meantime, young people are having a blast. Good for them. They understand more about the world than those who are charged with copy editing the New York Times.


Jeffrey A. Tucker


Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Environmentalists Are (Half) Right About Energy Subsidies

Environmentalists Are (Half) Right About Energy Subsidies

Environmentalists Are (Half) Right About Energy Subsidies

Sometimes progressive environmentalists have a point. For instance, they argue that oil subsidies are wasteful and should be abolished. Unfortunately, they typically pollute their sound arguments with gross inconsistency and unwarranted alarmism.

Subsidy Hypocrisy

Oil Change International, a group of mainstream progressive environmental pressure organizations, has published two recent papers complaining that the G20 governments, through international and national development banks, continue to finance fossil-fuel projects around the world, with insufficient subsidies for “clean energy,” defined as renewables not including hydro and some others.

The group explains the rationale for its prescription as follows: “The best available science shows an urgent need to keep global temperature increases below 1.5°C to avoid severe disruptions to people and ecosystems.”

This anti-oil coalition is absolutely correct that subsidized finance for fossil-fuel projects is highly wasteful. It is one thing to subsidize fossil fuel development as a step in economic development, to alleviate acute poverty in developing countries. But where this is not the case, the financing of highly profitable commercial undertakings such as fuel production should be the job of the private sector.

Businesses have powerful incentives to evaluate the economic merits of alternative projects, with a vastly smaller role for political factors. By definition, the opposite is true for government finance agencies, such as the World Bank and the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

The problem is that in the same breath they attack oil subsidies, Oil Change International, demands subsidies for solar installations and windmills, citing environmental doomsday scenarios to justify this distortion of the public discussion on energy development.

First, it should be noted that the purportedly adverse effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations – the driving rationale for the OCI argument – are nowhere to be found in the data. There exists a scientific consensus about the reality and causes of global warming. There is no such consensus about its potential effects, which could range anywhere from mildly beneficial to catastrophic.

Access and “Clean” Renewables

OCI’s even more disingenuous claim is that “clean renewables … are needed to improve energy access” for the poor in less developed economies. That assertion is preposterous.

Renewables are simply more costly than conventional energy, in large part because the energy content of sunlight and wind flows is unconcentrated, unlike the case for fossil fuels.

The wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine, and that makes it less practical and thus more expensive to harness their power in a useful form. Except perhaps for specialized and highly limited applications in localized contexts, higher costs translate to less access. This is why development banks, when they fund energy projects for less-developed economies, often choose fossil fuels.

Moreover, there is nothing “clean” about renewables. There is the heavy-metal pollution created by the production process for wind turbines, along with their noise and flicker effects. There is the large problem of solar panel waste. There is the wildlife destruction caused by the production of renewable power. There is the land use both massive and unsightly, made necessary by the unconcentrated nature of renewable energy.

And above all: There is the increase – yes, increase – in the emissions of conventional effluents caused by the up-and-down cycling of the conventional backup generation units needed to avoid blackouts caused by the unreliability of wind and solar power.

So this plea by the progressive environmentalist groups – more government subsidies for more expensive energy, less for cheaper energy – is highly problematic. It is yet another example of ideology masquerading as analysis, premised upon energy and climate assumptions vastly at odds with the evidence. Those managing the development banks would be wise to ignore it.

Reprinted from the American Enterprise Institute.



Benjamin Zycher

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


Friday, August 11, 2017

This is the Real Reason Your iPhone Cables Break

This is the Real Reason Your iPhone Cables Break



This is the Real Reason Your iPhone Cables Break

Apple products look great. Whatever else you think of the company, there’s little doubt that Apple uses high-end materials to create gorgeous and durable products. That’s true for just about everything Apple makes, with one glaring exception: the cables.

It’s common knowledge that Apple cables begin to disintegrate after about six months of regular use. This has been a constant across many different devices - MacBook, iPhones, and adapters, and over the course of many generations of product. My first generation iPhone had a cable that fell apart in 2009, and my iPhone 6 cable disintegrated less than a year later too.

This issue has created an entire industry of third party Apple cables, and another industry of hacks (see Sugru, Apple cable protectors) to keep cables from disintegrating. Somehow, third party Apple accessory manufacturers have no problem making cables that are far more durable than Apple's. There are websites with buying guides for replacement iPhone cables which are both good looking and far, far more durable. As a committed Apple family with multiple MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones, we’ve eventually replaced all our OEM Apple cables and found alternatives which have survived in pristine condition for years now.

Why can’t Apple use its billions to create a cable that won’t fall apart?



There are several explanations offered for Apple’s apparent incompetence in cable design, but one stands out: Greenpeace. In 2009, Greenpeace successfully lobbied Apple to remove PVC from their cables with their “Green My Apple” campaign. PVC is Polyvinyl chloride, or just vinyl, the world’s third most popular plastic polymer. Ever since, Apple has bragged on their Environment page that all their products are PVC free.

I am not a chemical or environmental engineer, so I cannot definitively tell you whether Apple’s decision is scientifically sound. What I do know is that PVC is one of the world’s most common chemical products. In the USA, it is used for 66% of drinking water delivery pipes, most electrical cable insulation, waterproofed clothing, vinyl flooring, and medical gloves. Not deadly-toxic stuff, in other words. Like any other plastic, I would not suggest eating it or breathing fumes from a fire, but it is otherwise safe.

So why did Greenpeace object to Apple’s use of PVC?  Their site is not clear on this other than vague references to “poison plastics,” and the difficulty of disposal. We used to think that plastics like PVC would remain in the environment for thousands of years, but we’ve since learned that there are bacteria and fungi that effectively eat PVC for dinner. In the past, lead-based stabilizers have been used in PVC, but suitable replacements are well established.

What has Apple accomplished with their PVC ban? Their reputation for making quality accessories has been ruined. Billions of broken Apple cables have been prematurely sent to the landfill. Billions of replacement cables will be sent to landfills when the gadgets they charge become obsolete. While Apple no longer uses PVC in their cables, many people now rely on cheap third party cables from China, which may use toxic chemicals like lead, arsenic, mercury, and brominated flame retardants.

The only winner from Apple’s PVC ban has been Greenpeace, while consumers, Apple’s reputation, and the environment itself have suffered. In 2007, Steve Jobs directly addressed Greenpeace’s campaign against Apple at a shareholder meeting:
“I think your organization particularly depends too much on principle and not enough on fact... I think you put way too much weight on these glorified principles and way too little weight on science and engineering. It would be very helpful if your organization hired a few more engineers and actually entered into dialogue with companies to find out what they are really doing and not just listen to all the flowery language when in reality most of them aren’t doing anything.”

David L Veksler


David Veksler is the Director of Marketing at FEE.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Micro Computer Devices – Selectra-Print

Micro Computer Devices – Selectra-Print




Thursday, August 10, 2017

5-Year-Old Fined $200 for Selling Lemonade

5-Year-Old Fined $200 for Selling Lemonade

5-Year-Old Fined $200 for Selling Lemonade

On summer evenings when I drive home from work, I often see small children selling lemonade in my neighborhood. Most of the time I honk my horn and wave, but occasionally I’ll pull up and purchase a cup, usually for 25 cents.

I happen to like lemonade, but that’s usually not my primary motivation for stopping to purchase a glass. Rather, it’s to offer a bit of encouragement to the budding entrepreneurs who’ve put in the work and taken the time to set up shop in the hopes of making a small profit for themselves (and to just have some fun).

Industry, free exchange, and entrepreneurship seem like virtues an aspiring society would wish to foster in their young. Alas, this is often not the case.

Shaking Down a 5-Year-Old

In a Thursday article for The Telegraph, a man named Andre Spicer wrote about the experience of his five-year-old daughter who tried to open a small lemonade stand in the family’s East London neighborhood.
After about 30 minutes, four local council enforcement officers stormed up to her little table," he wrote. "'Excuse me,' one officer said as he switched on a portable camera attached to his vest. He then read a lengthy legal statement – the gist of which was that because my daughter didn't have a trading permit, she would be fined [$195]. 'But don’t worry, it is only [$117] if it’s paid quickly,' the officer added."
Spicer later wrote: "My daughter burst into tears, repeating again and again 'have I done a bad thing'?"

I can’t imagine a worse introduction to entrepreneurship than that experienced by Andre Spicer’s little girl, in which four uniformed men arrive, shut you down, and fine you an amount of money larger than you can comprehend.

Before one becomes tempted to think such things only happen in Europe, I’ll point out that this sort of thing also happens routinely in the U.S.

Mowing the lawn for a neighbor, watching a friend’s pet, helping a deaf person communicate, and many other simple tasks can result in sharp fines in many states if one accepts monetary compensation without the appropriate permit (which is often quite expensive).

Who Are These Laws For?

These consumer protection laws usually help special interest groups and governments much more than consumers. As Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations,
The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers.”
Worse yet, such regulations impede entrepreneurship and teach the wrong lessons to people seeking to make their way in life.

Ronald Reagan once observed that, "Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States."

Considering that the U.S. economy has not eclipsed 3 percent annual growth since 2005, might it be time to consider creating a climate that fosters entrepreneurship and free exchange instead of stifling it?

Reprinted from Intellectual Takeout.


Jon Miltimore


Jonathan Miltimore is a senior editor at Intellectual Takeout.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I Don’t Want Anyone Forced to Bake Me a Cake

I Don’t Want Anyone Forced to Bake Me a Cake

I Don't Want Anyone Forced to Bake Me a Cake

Being a gay libertarian is like being a black conservative: you are a pariah among your peers. It couldn’t be clearer in the Charlie Craig and David Mullins V. Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which the Supreme Court will hear soon.

Back in 2012, the plaintiffs went to the defendant’s bakery to have a cake for their wedding, which owner Jack Philipps refused, citing religious reasons. Craig and Mullins complained before the Colorado Civil Rights Division, which agreed with the couple in 2014. They even ordered that the bakery completes “extensive sensitivity training”. After Philipps failed to have the Colorado Supreme Court hear his plea, he appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which agreed to take on the case.

So-called civil rights groups like the American Civil Rights Union stand with the plaintiffs, saying that “when businesses are open to the public, they’re supposed to be open to everyone.” Gay webzines like the Gaylygrind automatically call the defendant and his supporters “anti-LGBT hate groups.” Even Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson wants him to “bake the cake.”

A Business Is a Private Property

Well, folks, I am gay myself – I am even married – and I stand by Philipps’ right to discriminate against whoever he wants.

That, of course, makes me a traitor, a turkey voting for Thanksgiving – and if I were African American, it would also make me an Uncle Tom.

But why? Because many liberals stand by the ACLU’s faulty reasoning that businesses open to the public must serve everyone – it’s not “personal” property anymore. Faulty because it implies that, once you start selling a product or service, you automatically lose your right to freely and voluntarily interact with other people. It’s opened to the public, so it suddenly becomes public “property” and the business owner loses any say in who he or she does business with.

Following that logic, a Muslim baker would be forced to make a cake with Mohammed’s face on it – an unspeakable moral crime in Islam – Hooters would have to hire anyone as a server and gay bathhouses would have to welcome female patrons.

As silly as the preceding examples sound, this is exactly what a SCOTUS decision in favor of the plaintiffs would entail. Once the government decides what one business must do, it can decide what all businesses must do. Don’t forget that parts of the US had been under this regimen for nearly 100 years after the end of the Civil War.

Indeed, the infamous Jim Crow laws not only maintained an apartheid-like state for African Americans, but they also dictated how private businesses needed to interact with these people. Had private bus companies been able to let all their customers sit wherever they want, Rosa Park would not have become an icon of civil disobedience since she would not have violated any arbitrary laws stating that she must go to the back of the bus. Instead, she would have ridden the bus that let her sit where she pleases.

Let Bigots Expose Themselves

So instead of having government force businesses to serve anyone, I want it to let them discriminate in the open. This way, I know exactly where not to do business.

Because even if I were heterosexual, I would very likely boycott businesses that discriminate on arbitrary traits like sexual orientation or skin color. It’s not a crime – no one’s life or property is endangered by this refusal of doing business – but it goes against my moral standards of treating every human being as an equal.

It worked wonders in the 1970s when LGBT groups and businesses boycotted Coors for its hostility towards them. Seeing that their anti-LGBT policies caused a slump in their revenues, Coors had no choice but to backtrack. “It’s basic good business practice,” famously said CEO Peter Coors when Republicans decried the company’s gay-friendly policies in 2004.

Now, imagine how easy it would be to organize such massive boycotts thanks to the Internet and social media. Any business, big and small, that shows hostility towards LGBT or any easily identifiable group would promptly see a decrease in its revenues when more and more people learn that it discriminates based on arbitrary traits. Neighboring business would happily get on board, maybe by putting signs that everyone is welcomed as long as they are peaceful. This would leave two choices to the discriminating business: either it backtracks or it will likely face bankruptcy. Or the “fabulous wrath” of trolls.

Of course, it could go both ways; learning that their favorite business is boycotted because it discriminates against certain people, patrons who are also hostile towards the same group(s) of people will increase their business. Chick-fil-A is a good example; after left-wing groups called for a boycott of the fast-food chain in 2012 because of its funding of “hate” groups, conservatives struck back and actually helped the business gain popularity.

Liberals Already Boycott Conservatives

In short, the government has no business deciding who private citizens, by themselves or when they sell products or services, can and cannot serve as long as they don’t voluntarily endanger people’s lives or property.

The obligation not to discriminate only applies to governments, who are bounded by the Constitution and laws, not private citizens.

Besides, the very same people who decry Philipps’ discrimination toward gays are usually prompt to call for a boycott of businesses and states that discriminate. When North Carolina passed its infamous bathroom bill, Michael Moore was celebrated when he asked his distributor to not distribute his movie in the state. Similarly, California has restricted publicly-funded trips to states like Texas since they have policies considered discriminatory towards LGBT people. Hell, even the local LGBT center in San Jose, CA, has a sign stating, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”

If liberals themselves show that it’s possible to peacefully boycott places that act (in their view) in a reprehensible way, why won’t they let conservatives do the same, as seemingly bigoted as it makes them look like? In the end, a business person refusing to do business is the one worse off.


Pierre-Guy Veer


Pierre-Guy Veer is a Canadian-born libertarian now living in the US.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


MegaCon 2017: Gina Torres

MegaCon 2017: Gina Torres

Why I’m Betting on the Future of Bitcoin

Why I’m Betting on the Future of Bitcoin

Why I'm Betting on the Future of Bitcoin

Five years of living in China spoiled me in terms of financial transactions. Most people don’t use debit or credit: they either use cash or more commonly, send money electronically via mobile apps. Mobile wallet apps are often used for large payments, and your landlord or utility company is just as likely to accept them as the friend you’re splitting lunch with. You can log in to your bank’s website or ATM and send someone a million dollars as easily as a few bucks.

Then I moved back to the US.



I owed several thousand dollars to a friend. At first, I tried to find a way to send the money electronically through my bank. You need a business bank account to send via ACH transfer. I could do a wire transfer, but my bank charges the sender $30 and the recipient $15, and requires a lot of information about the recipient’s bank account. I tried this thing called “Zelle” — a new payment network that most major banks have introduced. Much as we tried, we could not get a $5 test transaction to reach my friend. Zelle also has a $2000 daily limit. I looked into Venmo, but the daily limits are too low. PayPal charges 2.9% of each transaction.

Dejectedly, I wrote a check. A check is a piece of paper dating back to the ancient Roman empire on which you — get this — just write down the amount to be transferred to someone else’s bank account. In theory, only the recipient of the check can cash it, but there are exceptions, and not all financial institutions are strict about this.

I thought that was the end of the story until my friend informed me that he had not received my check. Actually, before that, my letter bounced back to me because the stamp somehow fell or was detached. Apparently, I did not apply enough of my saliva to make it last to its destination. I occasionally have my emails bounced, but at least I don’t need to worry about expending sufficient bodily fluids for my messages to reach their independent recipient.

Anyway, we now had a real mess. A check lost in the mail means one of four things:

1: The United State Post Office lost the letter
2: The letter was delivered, but someone had taken it from the mailbox (my friend was on vacation at the time it was delivered)
3: The sender lied about sending the check
4: The recipient lied about receiving the check

Now, I’d like to think that my friend is trustworthy, but how well do I really know him? And how well does he know me? And what about the teenager he asked to watch his house while he was away? A single failure in our payment system had thrown our whole relationship into doubt. And what about the USPS? I only just learned that you’re supposed to wrap checks in a sheet of paper so USPS workers don’t steal your money. Since when do I need to worry about the US Government stealing my money? (Don’t answer that.)

So here is what I did next: first I drove to my bank to put a stop payment on the check ($30 fee). Then I drove to a UPS store and sent another check via certified mail (another $10). After hours of lost productivity and $40 in fees, I needed to wait another week to see if we can put this behind us.

That’s still not the end of the story. Banks are required to report all transactions over $10,000 to the U.S. government, and if the FinCEN or the IRS finds my transaction record suspicious, I may be investigated.

That’s the real reason why financial transactions are outdated, expensive, and buggy: a massive amount of government regulation deters innovation in the Western financial system. While politicians claim to do this in the name of safety, it’s really all about preserving tax revenue. Countries like Hong Kong, Luxembourg, and Singapore with the fewest financial regulations also have simple tax systems with low rates. But politicians want their cut, and they have no problem forcing us to use an expensive and unreliable financial system to get it.

What if we used Bitcoin instead? My friend could send me a payment request with his address. I would open it, click “Send,” and we’re done. I can be absolutely certain that the transaction was successfully sent to the intended recipient, and the recipient can be certain that the funds are irreversibly his. It costs the same (under a dollar) and works equally well for $5, $50, or $5 billion dollars. And, if done properly, the transaction can be completely anonymous.

Can you imagine if the entire finance sector worked like this? Many people are working to make this happen.

Reprinted from Liberty.Me.


David L Veksler


David Veksler is the Director of Marketing at FEE.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Internet Censorship Bill Would Spell Disaster for Speech and Innovation

Internet Censorship Bill Would Spell Disaster for Speech and Innovation



There’s a new bill in Congress that would threaten your right to free expression online. If that weren’t enough, it could also put small Internet businesses in danger of catastrophic litigation.

Don’t let its name fool you: the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693) wouldn’t help punish sex traffickers. What the bill would do (PDF) is expose any person, organization, platform, or business that hosts third-party content on the Internet to the risk of overwhelming criminal and civil liability if sex traffickers use their services. For small Internet businesses, that could be fatal: with the possibility of devastating litigation costs hanging over their heads, we think that many entrepreneurs and investors will be deterred from building new businesses online.

Make no mistake: sex trafficking is a real, horrible problem. This bill is not the way to address it. Lawmakers should think twice before passing a disastrous law and endangering free expression and innovation.

Section 230: The Law that Built the Modern Internet



SESTA would weaken 47 U.S.C. § 230, as enacted by the Communications Decency Act (commonly known as "CDA 230" or simply “Section 230”), one of the most important laws protecting free expression online.

You might remember the fight over the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), a law designed to put harsh restrictions on free speech over the Internet. The bill passed despite overwhelming opposition from Internet users, but with EFF’s help, the bill’s censorship provisions were gutted by the Supreme Court in 1997.

One key piece of the bill that remained was Section 230. Section 230 deals with intermediaries—individuals, companies, and organizations that provide a platform for others to share speech and content over the Internet. Section 230 says that for purposes of enforcing certain laws affecting speech online, an intermediary cannot be held legally responsible for any content created by others. The law thus protects intermediaries against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them liable for what others say and do on their platforms.

Section 230 laid the groundwork for the explosion in U.S. Internet business that’s taken place over the past two decades. Think of how many websites or services you use host third-party content in some way—social media sites, photo and video-sharing apps, newspaper comment sections, and even community mailing lists. All of those providers rely on Section 230. Without Section 230, these businesses might have to review every bit of content a user wanted to publish to make sure that the content would not be illegal or create a risk of civil liability. It’s easy to see how such measures would stifle completely lawful speech.

If SESTA becomes law, it will place that very burden on intermediaries. Although large intermediaries may have the resources to take on this monumental task, small startups don’t. Internet startups—a major growth engine in today’s economy—would become much more dangerous investments. Web platforms run by nonprofit and community groups, which serve as invaluable outlets for free expression and knowledge sharing, would be equally at risk.

Giving States a Censorship Pass

While SESTA’s purpose may be only to fight sex trafficking, it brings a deeper threat to many types of free expression online. The bill would create an exception to Section 230 for enforcement of any state criminal law targeting sex trafficking activities. It would also add an exemption for federal civil law relating to sex trafficking (as it stands now, Section 230 already doesn’t apply to federal criminal law, including laws against trafficking and receiving money from child sex trafficking).

Let’s unpack that. Under SESTA, states would be able to enact laws that censor the Internet in broad ways. As long as those laws claim to target sex traffickers, states could argue that they’re exempt from Section 230 protections. As Eric Goldman points out in his excellent analysis of SESTA, Congress should demand an inventory of existing state laws that would fall into this new loophole before even thinking about opening it.

There’s a long history of states passing extremely broad censorship laws in the name of combatting trafficking. Just this year, legislators in numerous states introduced the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, a bill that has nothing to do with human trafficking and everything to do with censoring sexual expression. Imagine all of the ways in which state lawmakers would attempt to take advantage of SESTA to curb online speech in their states. If they can convince a judge that the state law targets sex trafficking, then SESTA applies. That would create a ton of uncertainty for Internet intermediaries.

Two Bad Choices for Online Platforms

It gets worse.

Section 230 contains a “Good Samaritan” provision that protects intermediaries when they take measures to filter or block certain types of content. This section ensures that intermediaries are not punished for mistakes they might make in removing or failing to remove user-generated content. In other words, a service blocking some content does not make it liable for what it didn’t block.

SESTA would compromise the Good Samaritan provision by imposing federal criminal liability on anyone who merely knows that sex trafficking advertisements are on their platform. Platforms would thus be discouraged from reviewing the content posted by their users, cancelling out the incentive to review, filter and remove provided by the Good Samaritan provision.

That puts companies that run online content platforms in a difficult bind. Any attempt to enforce community conduct guidelines could be used as evidence that the company knew of trafficking taking place on its service. (As we mentioned above, federal criminal law already applies to intermediaries.) The two choices facing platforms would seem to be to put extremely restrictive measures in place compromising their users’ free speech and privacy, or to do nothing at all.

Weakening Safe Harbors Chills Innovation

When considering a policy regulating Internet businesses, it’s always good to ask yourself whether it would bar new players from competing with established ones. Placing overly burdensome requirements on startups has the effect of reinforcing the dominance of incumbent companies.

Indeed, one of the benefits of safe harbors is that they allow intermediaries to enter the market with very limited resources. Without Section 230 (and its corollary in the world of copyright, Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act), the explosion in social media sites and apps would not have happened—or at least the space would look very different than it does today. Facebook, Snapchat, Airbnb, and countless other popular online services began as tiny two- or three-person companies. Without the protections in Section 230, a single lawsuit over the actions of one of its users could have destroyed one of those companies in its early stages. Compromising Section 230 would be catastrophic for high-growth startups.
One company in particular has been central to the discussion around SESTA, the controversial classified ads site Backpage. But as Mike Masnick points out in Techdirt, the Department of Justice already has the authority to prosecute Backpage if it breaks federal criminal law. And besides, Backpage has shut down its “adult services” section and those users have moved on to other platforms. What’s more, a federal grand jury is now considering indicting Backpage under current criminal law. It would be a mistake for Congress to enact a law that would burden every intermediary, not only bad actors.

Tell Congress: Save Section 230

It’s time to act. The Senate bill has 24 sponsors already, nearly a quarter of the Senate. We’re afraid that its supporters are seeking to rush it through quickly so that they can claim it as a rare bipartisan victory during this year of Congressional gridlock.

There’s been a similar bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1865) since April. The House bill is even more frightening than SESTA: it defines the state law exemption to Section 230 even more broadly than SESTA does, and it creates a new federal crime specifically designed to prosecute intermediaries.

Everyone wants to combat human trafficking. If Congress doesn’t hear from us in the next day or two, they’ll make the mistake of thinking of this dangerous bill as an easy, uncontroversial win.

Twenty years ago, the Internet came together against a fundamental threat to free speech online. We won, and in the process, we got one of the most important protections for speech and innovation on the Internet. It’s time to come together again. Let’s tell Congress not to make a short-sighted political decision that would spell disaster for the Internet.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What Cryptocurrency Can Teach Us about Political Governance

What Cryptocurrency Can Teach Us about Political Governance

What Cryptocurrency Can Teach Us about Political Governance

It’s a marvel to me to witness what is happening on planet Earth as it regards cryptocurrencies. Satoshi Nakamoto, whoever or whatever he/she/zhe is, began a revolution as big as the wheel and the printing press and the Internet that came before it, or so it seems to me.

Over $93 billion, and counting, have poured into the cryptocurrency market since Bitcoin was released in 2009. Millions of individuals have come together without central direction to build this worldwide phenomenon.

Changes are happening every day that have global ramifications, all of which are happening without permission by governments, and often in spite of governments’ supposed authority to control other people. That is truly awesome.

Decentralized Governance 



There is governance, to be sure, as it regards cryptocurrencies, but such governance is without centralized structure. Cryptocurrency manipulation must follow specific rules, and changing those rules requires popular acceptance by users and stakeholders of each given cryptocurrency. Nobody can implement their preferred change arbitrarily. The only thing arbitrary about cryptocurrencies is one’s desire to get involved in the hundreds of different systems, and once involved, they must follow the rules.

I think there’s a model here for political governance, or in others words governance around the idea that people have rights, and those rights should be protected, with physical violence if necessary. While people mostly agree that behaviors such as murder, rape, robbery, assault, and battery are undesirable and we all should be protected from them, there’s a lot of disagreement on the smaller stuff, like who’s entitled to what, provided by others that haven’t themselves committed any of the foregoing behaviors (ie. crimes). That’s not to say that people don’t disagree on the big stuff, but the disagreement is more a matter of definition than of undesirability.

Who should decide which entitlements should be enforced? The current model says that for a given arbitrarily-derived geographical area, one entity should decide, even when a party to the dispute and that entity may be influenced in any number of ways. In other words, one size fits all, like it, leave it, or hope you get enough popular support to change it.

Spontaneous Order

Alternatively, using the cryptocurrency model, there would be no single entity per arbitrarily-derived geographical area to force one set of rules onto everyone else. Instead, individuals would pick and chose which rules they wish to engage with. When someone violates their rules, they have the option of dealing with it personally or calling on their rights protection agency to do so.

Everyone involved now has a strong financial incentive to remedy the dispute as peacefully as possible. How so? Because everyone involved is bearing the costs of resolution personally. There’s no forcing those costs on to innocent third parties. Any attempt to do so will be met with the same type of response the original dispute was met with.

Of course, I can’t predict how all of this will develop, spontaneously, just as I couldn’t predict the effects of the wheel, the printing press, the Internet, and of the emergence and spread of cryptocurrencies. But I can say that I’d prefer governance based on this model over governance based on the old model. Seems far more effective, efficient, justified, and just plain ‘ole right, to me.

In any event, to what extent the cryptocurrency phenomenon pushes against old models in the financial industry, and beyond, should be a welcome change for anyone tired of getting “landline government in a cell phone world,” quoting Michael Malice. I don’t think it can be stopped. I think that now that it’s begun, it’s here to stay.

Reprinted from Everything-Voluntary.



Skyler J. Collins
Founder and editor of Everything-Voluntary.com, Skyler is a husband and unschooling father of three beautiful children.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Property Rights Help Environmentalists Protect Wildlife

Property Rights Help Environmentalists Protect Wildlife

Property Rights Help Environmentalists Protect Wildlife

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would seek to open oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The plan, outlined in Trump’s 2018 budget resolution, has reignited a long-standing debate over the oil-rich Alaskan wildlife refuge.

“Some places are so special that they should simply be off-limits,” Nicole Whittington-Evans of the Wilderness Society said at the time, arguing that the refuge is “too wild to drill” and “has values far beyond whatever oil might lie beneath it.” David Yarnold, president of the Audubon Society, said that drilling in ANWR “would cause irreversible damage to birds and one of the wildest places we have left on Earth.”

Drilling proponents cite the area’s immense energy potential. More than 10 billion barrels of oil could be tapped by developing just a small portion of the 19-million-acre refuge, according to the U.S. Geological Survey – enough to produce 1.45 million barrels per day, more than the United States imports daily from Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration claims that opening ANWR for leasing would reduce the federal deficit by $1.8 billion over the next decade.

How are these conflicting environmental and natural-resource values to be resolved? In the case of ANWR, the answer is politics. The refuge is federal land, so decisions about its management are political by their nature. Debates are often characterized as all-or-nothing decisions – either “save the Arctic” or “drill baby drill” – and when one side “wins,” another side loses.

But what would happen if ANWR were privately owned, perhaps by an environmental group?

Privately-Owned Protection



Take, for example, the Audubon Society, one of many environmental groups opposed to drilling in ANWR. “Oil and birds don’t mix,” says the group on its website. “Drilling is a dirty and dangerous business that has historically always resulted in spills and harmed the environment.”

Yet consider how the Audubon Society manages some of its own privately owned wildlife refuges. For nearly 50 years, starting in the 1950s, the group allowed oil and gas companies to drill dozens of wells on its 26,000-acre Paul J. Rainey Sanctuary, a bird sanctuary in southwestern Louisiana.

Why would Audubon allow drilling on its own sanctuaries but oppose it elsewhere? The answer, in short, is property rights. Private ownership creates incentives that often lead to more reasonable outcomes than in the political arena. Property rights motivated Audubon to consider the trade-offs associated with its management and the opportunity costs of leaving the oil and gas in the ground. Because the group owned the sanctuary, it sensibly weighed the potential benefits of drilling against its environmental costs.

Audubon earned more than $25 million in royalties from energy development on the Rainey Sanctuary, and it used those funds to protect more land and invest in habitat improvements on the preserve. “The gas-development activities, closely controlled and monitored by Audubon, offer opportunities to diversify and improve habitat which Audubon otherwise couldn’t afford to create,” said one of the group’s senior vice presidents in 1984.

The Audubon Society had every incentive to ensure the drilling was done responsibly. For instance, energy companies had to comply with strict limits on drilling during bird-nesting season. One journalist wrote that “when the cranes punched in, the hardhats would have to punch out.” The group was especially careful to do so because, as one sanctuary manager put it, Audubon's members “would be very irate if we polluted our own environment, our own land, our own sanctuary.”

Assessing Trade-Offs

The Rainey Sanctuary isn’t the only example of Audubon calling for different actions on its private property than on public lands. The group authorized drilling on its Bernard Baker Sanctuary in Michigan as well. For years, an oil well located outside that sanctuary tapped oil and gas beneath its surface through slant drilling, earning the group mineral royalties while also protecting habitat.

On public lands such as ANWR, the story is much different. Audubon opposes virtually all oil and gas development on federal lands. The group would receive none of the benefits of saying “yes” to drilling there, so it has no reason to weigh its costs and benefits, even if those benefits could be substantial.

One recent study estimated the value of the oil beneath ANWR at $374 billion. With that kind of potential, if the refuge were under private ownership, even the most anti-development environmental group would be forced to consider what additional conservation benefits could be gained by allowing at least some drilling.

After all, it’s possible that a small amount of energy development in one area could help provide even more important environmental benefits elsewhere.

As one Alaskan outdoor writer said in response to debates over ANWR, “It would seem of far more environmental concern that Alaska's ducks and geese have a place to winter in overcrowded, overdeveloped California than that California's ducks and geese have a place to breed each summer in uncrowded and undeveloped Alaska.” With private ownership, environmental groups would more sensibly assess that trade-off, just as Audubon has, to achieve the most environmental value.

Greater Potential for Win-Win Arrangements

Oil and gas production ended on the Rainey Sanctuary in 1999, but Audubon has since considered reopening it to drilling. Other groups such as the Nature Conservancy have also allowed drilling on some of their private lands in Texas, raising millions of dollars to conserve endangered prairie chicken habitat. The conservancy’s efforts, however, have drawn criticism from some environmental activists who pressured the organization to recently declare that they want to get out of the oil and gas business entirely.

Nonetheless, with new horizontal-drilling techniques that allow oil and gas to be extracted from afar and with fewer surface impacts, there is now even greater potential for such win-win arrangements on private lands.

Property rights give owners strong incentives to balance conservation with resource development and resolve competing demands in a cooperative, mutually beneficial way. When environmental groups bear the costs of managing their own lands, their behavior is often very different from what they advocate on public lands. The experience of the Audubon Society’s Rainey Sanctuary demonstrates a more sensible approach than can be found in most public land debates today.

As Richard Stroup of PERC once put it: “Audubon is smart to maintain wildlife habitat while capitalizing on revenue potential – now if only our federal land management agencies could figure this out.”

Reprinted from the Property and Environment Research Center.


Shawn Regan


Shawn Regan is the Director of Publications and a Research Fellow at PERC. He holds a M.S. in Applied Economics from Montana State University and degrees in economics and environmental science from Berry College. His work has appeared in the Wall Street JournalQuartzHigh Country News,ReasonRegulationGrist, and Distinctly Montana. Shawn is also a former backcountry ranger for the National Park Service.

 

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.