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Thursday, November 30, 2017

The EU Declares War on Supermarkets

The EU Declares War on Supermarkets

With Britain leaving the European Union, the British will cease to contribute to the budgets of the institutions. This includes the CAP, the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, which allocates funding in the form of individual payments to producers. Over the last months, farmers on the continent have been very concerned about their subsidies which put the European Union's Commission, which proposes legislation, in a bit of an awkward position. Uneasy about the prospect of losing the popular support of farmers, the EU seeks to find new winning issues.

At the beginning of this past October, the Irish EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, spoke at the Food Safety Authority in Dublin. During his speech, Hogan sympathized with the audience of farmers by stating that:
The imbalance of bargaining power between price setters and price takers is stark, leading to a situation where there is a real ‘fear factor’ for farmers of commercial retaliation, late payments and other headaches.
Hogans staff later tweeted this image from the account of the EU Agriculture Commission.

The Commissioner is, therefore, clearly taking the side of the lobbyists in the agricultural industry who seek to acquire regulatory advantages over the markets.

Enabling Cartels

In the same month, EU governments and the European Parliament signed off on substantial changes to the Union’s Common Agricultural Policy. In the so-called “Omnibus talks,” the EU’s three main institutions, together with representatives of producers, agreed to grant essential privileges to farmers, most notably that of forming cartels. EU politicians claim that these cartels will be an effective counter to the bargaining power currently held by retailers. The new rules allow for the possibility of collectively negotiating value-sharing terms inside contracts.

This would mean that European farmers could agree on quantity caps in the production of milk in order to artificially increase prices. While agreements between producers aren't inherently reprehensible, it does produce an imbalance if one side – the producers – have the possibility to organize while the other side – the supermarkets – do not. As a result, it is consumers who will be hurt by these changes.

Dual Food Quality

Another instance in which the European Union is trying to score points with the electorate is that of "dual food quality." This is an argument brought forward by Central European nations such as the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia. The leaders of these nations believe that retailers and food processors sell lower quality food in Central and Eastern Europe than they do in countries such as Germany or France.

Despite there being no evidence of companies conspiring against consumers in the East, their governments have been keen on making it an election issue. The European Union's Commissioner for Justice, Consumers, and Gender Equality, the Czech Věra Jourová, also called out companies on this issue and vowed to protect consumers. Jourová said in a video for social media that there will be no “second-class citizens in Europe.” The Commission is pledging €1 million to assist local food standard authorities to assess the situation.

Even the study that many Czech politicians point to, which was supposed to prove the existence of dual food quality, was not conclusive. Jan Pivoňka, from the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague, who carried out the research, said that: “The aim of the research was not to show that there are more or less quality products in some countries. Criteria of quality is [sic] very subjective.” The researcher pointed to the fact that his study wasn’t there to prove that food in Central and Eastern Europe was of a worse quality.

It turns out that food processors happen to adapt their products to different tastes yet fail to mark the differences when the products appear in the store. In the same vein, your chili sauce might look the same when it's sold in Mexico, yet it's very likely that it will turn out to be considerably spicier. The suggestion that Barilla and Nestlé are conspiring together with supermarkets in order to subjugate one part of Europe is utterly absurd.

Why Are We Always Assuming the Worst?

Supermarkets and food processors are just the latest in a long list of enemies in the eyes of European regulators. It seems odd that once you follow EU policy proposals more regularly, you find that politicians aim at a different industry pretty much every week. In each case, they always assume that if the market appears to have some sort of a problem, then it must be the intentional wrong-doing of massive corporations. And while the intention of each measure seems to be ameliorating the situation for consumers, it very often does the opposite either by making one actor in the market more powerful and therefore distorting competition or by blatantly taking choices away from consumers by banning or taxing their products.

It needs to be asked how long consumers are willing to put up with the EU's flagrant paternalism which is steeped in the idea that individuals are basically unable to make informed decisions about their own lives. How long until we recognize that problems in the marketplace mostly arise out of too much regulation and not too little and that only more competition will provide the consumers with the choices they need and want? Because when the last Coke is taxed, the last bread over-regulated, and the last cigarette banned, we might finally notice that we've gone too far.


Bill Wirtz


Bill Wirtz is a Young Voices Advocate. His work has been featured in several outlets, including Newsweek, Rare, RealClear, CityAM, Le Monde and Le Figaro. He also works as a Policy Analyst for the Consumer Choice Center.

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



Compute!’s PC (January 1988)

Compute!’s PC (January 1988)




Wednesday, November 29, 2017

NSA Internet Surveillance Under Section 702 Violates the First Amendment

NSA Internet Surveillance Under Section 702 Violates the First Amendment



The First Amendment is too often overlooked in discussions of the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance authorities. But as Congress considers whether to reauthorize Section 702 of FISA this winter, we must remember that it’s not just our Fourth Amendment rights to privacy that are in the crosshairs, but also our First Amendment rights. These rights to anonymously speak, associate, access information, and engage in political activism are the bedrock of our democracy, and they’re endangered by the NSA’s pervasive surveillance.

The NSA uses Section 702 to justify ongoing programs to siphon off copies of vast amounts of our communications directly from the Internet backbone as well as require system-wide searches across the information collected by major Internet companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple.

So how does the First Amendment come to apply to mass surveillance? To understand this, we need to begin with a little history of the civil rights movement.

As part of the backlash to the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down segregation in schools, the Attorney General of Alabama, John Patterson, brought a lawsuit against a leading civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The lawsuit alleged that the NAACP violated a state law requiring “foreign corporations” to file certain paperwork and get approval before practicing business in Alabama. The NAACP is a nonprofit membership organization; it didn’t file the paperwork because it believed it was exempt. While the NAACP fought the suit, the state issued a subpoena demanding detailed records from the NAACP, including membership lists and bank records. The NAACP refused to surrender its membership lists, fearing retaliatory consequences for its members. Because of this refusal, the court fined the NAACP $10,000, which after five days was raised to $100,000. The NAACP continued to fight the order for two years until the Supreme Court took up the issue, never surrendering its membership lists.

Ultimately the NAACP was vindicated. The Supreme Court recognized that the First Amendment protected the associational privacy interests of NAACP members. It directly recognized that freely associating for advocacy or other purposes is a fundamental right. It noted that state invasions of privacy could infringe on that right: “It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the "liberty" assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech… Of course, it is immaterial whether the beliefs sought to be advanced by association pertain to political, economic, religious or cultural matters, and state action which may have the effect of curtailing the freedom to associate is subject to the closest scrutiny.”

The Supreme Court found that the “Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs.”

In short, we all have the right to engage in associate with one another and to join and communicate with political and religious groups free from government surveillance.

As our society has moved online, our associations have become digital in nature. Signing up for a membership or learning about an advocacy group often happens over a website or app. Members of modern political groups coordinate donations, activities, and information over social networks, email, and websites. When the NSA—either by itself or by working with corporate “partners”—collects the digital communications and browsing history of countless individuals, it’s also obtaining records of innocent Americans visiting activism websites, becoming members of advocacy groups, and coordinating social movements. EFF also raised this argument in our case against the mass telephone records collection by the NSA (substantially narrowed in 2015First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v NSA.

The surveillance of our communications systems, and thereby the surveillance of our communications, infringes on the very rights of private association upheld by the Supreme Court in 1958.

So while the Fourth Amendment concerns about 702 and mass surveillance are important, they are not the only problem created by the law. And as Alex Abdo, an attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, argues that when it comes to confronting government surveillance, we shouldn’t expect the Fourth Amendment alone to protect our First Amendment interests. He recently wrote that “The Fourth Amendment, unlike the First, is blind to the cumulative effects of invasions of privacy that are small in isolation but substantial in combination.”

Those cumulative effects are especially felt when it comes to the right to publish and access information freely. While the government may be forbidden from censoring online speakers and readers, the cumulative impact of pervasive digital surveillance has a chilling effect on online communities. The specter of government surveillance quells engagement in online forums, social networks, and blogs that discuss controversial, political, or unpopular positions. Knowing that the government is keeping a digital dossier of comments we leave online and articles we digitally share creates an environment in which speakers hesitate to engage in online political advocacy.

Readers also hesitate to visit websites that may be seen as out of favor with the government, whether that’s Al Jazeera or CNN or EFF’s own site, knowing that their visit may be recorded in a government database for years to come.

The NSA’s digital surveillance of countless law-abiding Americans also indirectly affects another key First Amendment right: our right to assembly. Today’s modern protest movements are often organized and fueled by social media and digital communication, where activists coordinate across a wide range of physical locations. The NSA’s pervasive digital surveillance challenges our values as a society that respects and safeguards the right to plan and participate in protests and other political activity, rights which are themselves baked into the First Amendment.

The pervasive digital surveillance programs of the NSA chip away at the First Amendment protections that underpin our democracy. As Congress considers whether to reauthorize or reform Section 702 surveillance in the coming weeks, we urge them to remember that their choice will not just impact the privacy of Americans, it will have a profound impact on freedom of speech, association, and assembly protected by the First Amendment and ultimately, upon our democracy itself.

Contact Congress today to speak out against NSA surveillance.

Source: NSA Internet Surveillance Under Section 702 Violates the First Amendment | Electronic Frontier Foundation


GamePro (October 1993)

GamePro (October 1993)




Goodbye Net Neutrality; Hello Competition

Goodbye Net Neutrality; Hello Competition

At long last, with the end of “net neutrality,” competition could soon come to the industry that delivers Internet services to you. You might be able to pick among a range of packages, some minimalist and some maximalist, depending on how you use the service. Or you could choose a package that charges based only on what you consume, rather than sharing fees with everyone else.

Internet socialism is dead; long live market forces.

With market-based pricing finally permitted, we could see new entrants to the industry because it might make economic sense for the first time to innovate. The growing competition will lead, over the long run, to innovation and falling prices. Consumers will find themselves in the driver’s seat rather than crawling and begging for service and paying whatever the provider demands.

Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, is exactly right. “Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them.”

A Fed for Communication

The old rules pushed by the Obama administration had locked down the industry with regulation that only helped incumbent service providers and major content delivery services. They called it a triumph of “free expression and democratic principles.” It was anything but. It was actually a power grab. It created an Internet communication cartel not unlike the way the banking system works under the Federal Reserve. 

Net Neutrality had the backing of all the top names in content delivery, from Google to Yahoo to Netflix to Amazon. It’s had the quiet support of the leading Internet service providers Comcast and Verizon. Both companies are on record in support of the principle, repeatedly and consistently, while opposing only Title II which makes them a public utility – a classic "have your cake and eat it" position. 

The opposition, in contrast, had been represented by small players in the industry, hardware providers like Cisco, free-market think tanks and disinterested professors, and a small group of writers and pundits who know something about freedom and free-market economics.

The public at large should have been rising up in opposition, but people were largely ignorant of what was going on with net neutrality. Consumers imagined that they would get censorship-free access and low prices. That’s not what happened.

Here’s what’s was really going on with net neutrality. The incumbent rulers of the world’s most exciting technology decided to lock down the prevailing market conditions to protect themselves against rising upstarts in a fast-changing market. The imposition of a rule against throttling content or using the market price system to allocate bandwidth resources protects against innovations that would disrupt the status quo.

Industrial Giants

What was sold as economic fairness and a wonderful favor to consumers was actually a sop to industrial giants who were seeking untrammeled access to your wallet and an end to competitive threats to market power.

Let’s grasp the position of the large content providers. Here we see the obvious special interests at work. Netflix, Amazon, and the rest don’t want ISPs to charge either them or their consumers for their high-bandwidth content. They would rather the ISPs themselves absorb the higher costs of such provision. It’s very clear how getting the government to make price discrimination illegal is in their interest. It means no threats to their business model.

By analogy, let’s imagine that a retailer furniture company were in a position to offload all their shipping costs to the trucking industry. By government decree, the truckers were not permitted to charge any more or less whether they were shipping one chair or a whole houseful of furniture. Would the furniture sellers favor such a deal? Absolutely. They could call this “furniture neutrality” and fob it off on the public as preventing control of furniture by the shipping industry.

But that leaves the question about why the opposition from the ISPs themselves (the truckers by analogy) would either be silent or quietly in favor of such a rule change. Here is where matters get complicated. After many years of experimentation in the provision of Internet services — times when we went from telephone dial-up to landlines to T1 connections to 4G and 5G data coverage — the winner in the market (for now) has been the cable companies. Consumers prefer the speed and bandwidth over all existing options.

But what about the future? What kind of services are going to replace the cable services, which are by-and-large monopolies due to special privileges from states and localities? It’s hard to know for sure but there are some impressive ideas out there. Costs are falling for all kinds of wireless and even distributed systems.

Raising Costs

If you are a dominant player in the market — an incumbent firm like Comcast and Verizon — you really face two threats to your business model. You have to keep your existing consumer base onboard and you have to protect against upstarts seeking to poach consumers from you.

For established firms, a rule like net neutrality can raise the costs of doing business, but there is a wonderful upside to this: your future potential competitors face the same costs. You are in a much better position to absorb higher costs than those barking at your heels. This means that you can slow down development, cool it on your investments in fiber optics, and generally rest on your laurels more.

But how can you sell such a nefarious plan? You get in good with the regulators. You support the idea in general, with some reservations, while tweaking the legislation in your favor. You know full well that this raises the costs to new competitors. When it passes, call it a vote for the “open internet” that will “preserve the right to communicate freely online.”

Neutrality was Deceptive

But when you look closely at the effects, the reality was exactly the opposite. Net neutrality closed down market competition by generally putting government and its corporate backers in charge of deciding who can and cannot play in the market. It erected barriers to entry for upstart firms while hugely subsidizing the largest and most well-heeled content providers.

So what are the costs to the rest of us? It meant no price reductions in internet service. It could mean the opposite. Your bills went up and there was very little competition. It also meant a slowing down in the pace of technological development due to the reduction in competition that followed the imposition of this rule. In other words, it was like all government regulation: most of the costs were unseen, and the benefits were concentrated in the hands of the ruling class.

There was an additional threat: the FCC had reclassified the internet as a public utility. It meant a blank check for government control across the board. Think of the medical marketplace, which is now entirely owned by a non-competitive cartel of industry insiders. This was the future of the internet under net neutrality.

Good riddance, then. No more government-managed control of the industry. No more price fixing. No more of the largest players using government power to protect their monopoly structure.

In the short term, the shift by the FCC does not mean the immediate emergence of a free marketplace for Internet service. But it is a step. If we let this experiment in liberalization run a few years, we will see massive new entrants into the sector. As with every good or service provided by market forces, consumers will gain the benefit of innovation and falling prices.

The end of net neutrality is the best single deregulatory initiative yet taken by the Trump administration. The simultaneous, contradictory, and economically absurd attempt by the Justice Department to stop the merger of Time-/Warner and AT&T–which might only be a government attempt to punish CNN and therefore an abuse of presidential power–is another matter for another time.

We should take our deregulation where we can get it.


Jeffrey A. Tucker


Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, economics adviser to FreeSociety.com, 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, most recently Right-Wing Collectivism: The Other Threat to Liberty, with a preface by Deirdre McCloskey (FEE 2017). He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press. He is available for press interviews via his email.

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



Antic (December 1985)

Antic (December 1985)




Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Single-Payer Health Care Would Be Even Worse than Obamacare

Single-Payer Health Care Would Be Even Worse than Obamacare

The late, great Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman said it best: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Friedman’s pithy proverb reminds us that there is also no “free health care.” It’s a timely reminder, as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is making a public push for his “Medicare for All” bill.

While liberals have long advocated “single-payer” systems for health care, what’s new this time is that they are coalescing around a plan. Sixteen Senate Democrats are co-sponsoring Sanders’ bill, and 120 Democrats in the House have signed on to a similar approach.

Free Care?

This latest push for “single-payer” features the provision of “free health care” at the point of service from doctors, hospitals, and all other medical institutions.

The Sanders bill provides a comprehensive set of medical benefits and services, combined with “first dollar” coverage and outlaws all patient “cost-sharing,” meaning no deductibles, no co-insurance, no copayments of any kind. Zero.

Sounds great, right? Well, P.J. O’Rourke, a prominent political humorist, improves on Friedman: “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”

Make no mistake: If Americans were ever foolish enough to take Sanders’ “single-payer” prescription, they would suffer a fiscal fever the likes of which they have never even imagined.

Last year, two separate analyses – one from the Urban Institute and another from professor Kenneth Thorpe at Emory University – outlined in dreadful detail the fiscal consequences of Sanders’ 2016 proposal.

Though the analysts differed on their assumptions and calculated conclusions based on different models, they both came to the same conclusion: The Sanders “single-payer” bill is going to cost the American people far more than the senator and his academic and congressional allies claim, and the taxes to finance this massive enterprise are going to be huge.

Last year, Sanders estimated that over 10 years (2017 to 2026), new federal spending for his “Medicare for All” proposal would amount to $13.8 trillion.

By getting rid of all private insurance, including the unnecessary marketing and administrative costs and simplifying the system by junking today’s public-private mélange of payment and delivery, ordinary Americans would see big savings compared to their current health care spending.

Well, not quite. Thorpe, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, projected that the full, 10-year cost of the plan would be $24.7 trillion.

Scholars at the Urban Institute, a prominent liberal think tank, estimated a stunning 10-year cost of $32 trillion. According to the Urban analysts, the Sanders plan would come up $16.6 trillion short of the revenues necessary to fully pay for it. Socialism is expensive.

‘Feeling the Bern?’

While the Urban analysts did not model the tax impact of Sanders’ 2016 proposal, Thorpe did. He concluded that the senator’s 6.2 percent payroll tax, plus a 2.2 percent income-based premium tax, plus a whole series of special taxes on investments, dividends, “wealth,” and the hated “rich,” would not be sufficient to pay for the program.

There are just not enough rich people to pay for socialized medicine.

Taxes would have to be higher – much higher. So Thorpe concluded that to fully finance Sanders’ plan, as the senator outlined it in 2016, would require a combination of higher payroll and income-based premium taxes, amounting to a 20 percent tax on income.

As for the promised savings for ordinary Americans? Forget it. Taxes on working families would be substantial.

To fully fund Sanders’ single-payer plan, Thorpe estimated, 71 percent of working families would end up paying more than what they pay now under current law.

Loss of Freedom

There are other costs beyond the dollars and cents. As we have noted in a recent Heritage Foundation analysis of Sanders’ updated version of his bill, Americans would lose big chunks of their personal and economic freedom.

Recall that when former President Barack Obama was campaigning relentlessly for Obamacare, he promised – falsely – that, “If you like you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan.”

In fact, under Obamacare, you never really had the freedom to keep what you liked. In 2013, on the eve of the very first year of Obamacare’s full implementation, 4.7 million health insurance policies were canceled across 30 states, whether enrollees liked them or not.

Over the last three years, Obamacare’s health insurance costs exploded while personal choice and market competition collapsed. By 2016, Americans in 70 percent of U.S. counties were left with only one or two options.

Sanders and his 16 Senate Democratic colleagues deserve applause for their refreshing honesty. They make no pretense whatsoever that you can keep your health plan, regardless of your personal wants, needs, or preferences. You don’t count.

Under the Sanders bill, almost all private health insurance would be outlawed, including your employment-based health coverage. Today, nearly 60 percent of working-age Americans get their health insurance through private, employer-based plans.

Likewise, persons enrolled in existing government health programs – Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program – would be absorbed into the new government health plan.

The Sanders bill not only abolishes private plans in the Obamacare exchanges, but kills off the popular and successful Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which provides benefits to over 8 million current and former federal employees. For military dependents, Tricare would also be gone.

Curiously, the scandal-ridden Veterans Administration program and the troubled Indian Health Services would remain. Of course, both are ideologically correct: They are “single-payer” systems.

The Sanders bill would concentrate enormous power in the health and human services secretary, far beyond the already expansive administrative discretion that the secretary exercises today under Obamacare.

The secretary’s power would extend to the establishment of a national health care budget for all health care spending, provider payment, standards for provider participation, and the quality of care delivery.

Taxpayer funding of abortion, among other things, would be compulsory, and, at least from the language of the text, it appears that there would be no traditional conscience protections for doctors and patients opposed to unethical or immoral medical procedures.

The bill would allow for very limited private contracting between doctors and patients for medical care outside of the government system.

If a doctor and a patient wanted to contract privately for medical services, the doctor would have to give up treating all other patients enrolled in the government health plan and receiving reimbursement from the government for one full year.

Curiously, such an absurd restriction on personal freedom does not even exist in Britain’s National Health Service, the granddaddy of socialized medicine, where doctors freely practice in both the government program and the private sector.

Sanders and his colleagues have outlined a clear direction for America’s health policy: a government monopoly with centralized power over American health care financing and delivery; a massive increase in federal spending combined with promised savings that will not materialize; enormous tax increases that will reach deep down into the working class; new restrictions on personal and economic freedom; and, for patients who want or need something new and better, virtually no avenue of escape.

Sanders and his colleagues have put their vision – profoundly authoritarian – into legislative form. It is touted in the media and elsewhere as a viable alternative only in the wake of the Senate Republicans’ monumental failure to come together and enact an alternative to Obamacare.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., recently asked the Congressional Budget Office to score the cost of the latest version of Sanders’ plan.

Meanwhile, the president and the Congress should explain to the American people how a patient-centered, market-based set of reforms will reduce health insurance costs, improve access to quality care, and expand their personal freedom.

In short, they should outline their vision – and fight for it.

Reprinted from the Daily Signal.


Robert E. Moffit


Robert E. Moffit, a seasoned veteran of more than three decades in Washington policymaking, is a senior fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Center for Health Policy Studies. Read his research.

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



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

No, Rand Paul Didn’t Have It Coming

No, Rand Paul Didn’t Have It Coming



I read Elie Mystal’s article on Rand Paul’s assault, which suggests such violent encounters are the inevitable result of libertarianism in practice. He makes two errors. First, he contends Rand Paul ignores the rules of his HOA based on his libertarian philosophy. Second, he contends basing a legal framework on the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP) is unworkable.

Private Contracts

Regarding the first error, libertarianism is based on the sanctity of voluntary contracts. An HOA is a perfect example of what libertarians would replace zoning regulations with – an enforceable contract voluntarily entered into by every individual, instead of a set of rules imposed on the whole by a supposed majority. Mystal conflates voluntary contracts with regulations near the end of his piece, writing, “Rand Paul’s broken ribs are a g**damn case study in why we need regulations.” This begs the question, “Why do we need regulations, rather than just enforcement of the HOA?”

 

Neither Mystal nor I know the terms of Rand Paul’s HOA contract, but if they prohibit either pumpkin patches or compost heaps, then Rand Paul appears to be in violation of that contract. Libertarians would side with the HOA, not Rand Paul. However, the HOA contract also provides penalties for violation of the terms, which I’m fairly certain don’t include bum-rushing him and breaking his ribs.

This all assumes there is any truth to reports Senator Paul used his property in ways his neighbors found offensive, whether compliant with the letter of his HOA agreement or not. Several of his neighbors have come forward since Mystal’s piece was written to refute those reports.

Even in the absence of a written agreement, libertarians recognize longstanding local conditions as binding on new property owners. Thus, I cannot come into a quiet community and build an airport on my land, subjecting my neighbors to the noise and other inconveniences of having an airport border their land. By the same token, I cannot buy the land next to an existing airport and then demand the airport stop making noise or doing the other things an airport must do to conduct its business. This principle extends to all sorts of questions, including air pollution, zoning, etc. Murray Rothbard wrote about this concept many times. Here is an example.

The Non-Aggression Principle

Second, Mystal’s article includes this passage:
You can do what you want and I can do what I want and, so long as we’re not hurting anybody, the government can do nothing.” It’s… cute, as theories of social interactions go. It’s not a workable basis for law and governance.
I would refer the writer to this passage from Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural address:
With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens — a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. [emphasis added]
In fact, Jefferson reiterated the NAP as the basis for law and governance many times over the course of his life. Examples include thisthis and this.

Rather than a “cute theory of social interaction,” the NAP was the guiding principle of American liberty for well over a century until Woodrow Wilson specifically called it out as no longer adequate for what he considered too complex a society for the NAP to govern. Libertarians disagree with Wilson. Mystal may not. But it would be a much more valuable discussion if libertarianism would at least be represented correctly when criticized, rather than presented in the cartoonish fashion our sound bite media so often resort to.

Reprinted from tommullen.net


Tom Mullen


Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? and A Return to Common  Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. For more information and more of Tom's writing, visit www.tommullen.net.

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Government Is Lying to Us About Cybersecurity

The Government Is Lying to Us About Cybersecurity


In a press conference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stated that the “absolutist position” that strong encryption should be, by definition, unbreakable is “unreasonable.”

The DOJ is lying about three things:

First

The US government works against the security of businesses. Just this week, I had to tell Apple that my iPhone app did not have certain kinds of encryption that the U.S. government has export control on. Encryption export controls cripple the security and innovation of software products made by American businesses.  

Furthermore, the U.S. government hoards software exploits so it can hack into your computer rather than publish them that so companies can patch their products. The NSA intentionally sneaks weaknesses into protocols and bribes businesses to add holes to security products so it can steal the data of their customers.

When businesses want to improve the security of their products, they offer rewards for exploits – Microsoft pays up to $250,000 per exploit, Facebook has paid $40,000, and so on. The NSA purchases millions of dollars of exploits from hackers and uses them to spy on the entire world, including U.S. citizens. Unfortunately, the NSA is incompetent at keeping secrets, so it lost their exploit database and caused millions of computers to be infected and hijacked with the exploits they hoarded.

The hardware and software pieces of both the Internet and individual user’s computers are made by private companies. There is nothing the U.S. government can do to improve “cybersecurity” other than prosecuting criminal behavior.  However, the U.S. government prosecutes a minuscule proportion of cybercrime.  Whether it is unable or unwilling to punish criminals, the reality is that the only “cybersecurity” that the government cares about is its ability to conduct surveillance and attacks on foreign and domestic political targets.

Second

The idea that “strong security” is compatible with a government backdoor is a lie. Any security expert can tell you that a backdoor leaves your product vulnerable, even if you trust the government agency with the key. Previous backdoors advocated by the US government have been blown wide open by security experts. There is near-universal agreement among security experts that government backdoors and security are not compatible – a reality that the DOJ continues to ignore.

Third

It is not true that the government wants to weaken American’s security to protect against crime or terrorism. Their real motivation has always been power and money: they want to monitor the flow of information in order to prevent people from hiding their wealth and use their secret keys and vulnerability stash to intimidate and blackmail other countries into compliance with U.S. policies. This is why the U.S. intelligence budget of over $75 billion did not prevent most American’s personal details from being leaked, but U.S. citizens who do not report foreign bank accounts (under FACTA) can be fined $250,000 or 5 years in jail even if they have never stepped foot in the USA.

Reprinted from The Ungoverned


David L Veksler


David Veksler is the Director of Marketing at FEE.

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



Friday, November 17, 2017

Money, It Turns Out, Is a Practical Art

Money, It Turns Out, Is a Practical Art

If you read on the topic of money’s history from any mainstream textbook, you will already know the drill. In the past, money took many forms. It was shells, pelts, salt, and various metals. Finally we got paper money, credit institutions, then central banks. At this point, we are told, history was complete. The final and best form had arrived.

The state would be in charge of money forever. All that was left was to have it managed in a way that better served our needs. People argued about systems of government management. Maybe a rule of some sort, based on quantity or the gold price or some other scheme. The system can be reformed, but the idea of treating money as a technology to be managed by the market – well, let’s just leave that to utopians like F.A. Hayek.

Frozen in Place

 

But look what actually happened. From the time when money came to be nationalized by the state and managed by central banks, roughly 100 years ago, the improvements stopped. Everything else got better: cars, flight, communication, homes, indoor environments, distribution of all essentials from food to clothing to finance. What did not improve was the money itself. In fact, it became worse.

This is for a reason. The nationalization of money froze it in place. It was no longer subject to the pressure that free enterprise places on everything else. It was the great exception (there were other exceptions too, like schools and courts). It was stuck. In the 21st century, we were using the same core money technology as we were using in the early part of the 20th century. Hardly anyone thought anything of it. Surely we had come to the end of history.

The consequences were not only that money never got better. The nationalization of money led to a huge increase in government debt, wild swings in credit cycles, inflation, and even war because government no longer had to tax people for funds but rather could print it without limit. All of this ended up eating away at liberty itself, growing government beyond what any liberal society should tolerate, and fed human rights abuses.

Then Came Crypto

From the time that Bitcoin became viable, however, monetary theory would never be the same. In the years since that time (2009), I’ve noticed a gradual change taking place. We used to think about money as somehow existing in a finalized form. No more. It is now being thought of as we should have thought about it all along, as a technology that can become better in response to human needs.

In the 19th century, the word technology was not in common use. Instead a different phrase was popular: the practical arts. I think it is better. Inventing new things for human use is an art form. But it is not art just for admiring. It is art for using, art to make life better, a tool to enable a better path forward for all.

The practical arts today involve new apps, new buying options, new ways to communicate, new modes of transportation, and new markets. They make things cheaper, better, and more adaptive to our needs. Entrepreneurs compete to find better ways of serving us through the practical arts.

Thanks to the rise of cryptocurrency, the practical arts are being applied to reinventing money itself. It is going on every day, with thousands of companies innovating new monetary technologies. The big breakthroughs include: the uniting of money with payment systems, the dramatic diminution of counterparty risk, the inclusion of the unbanked, the impossibility of censorship, the security of ownership, the absence of a central point of failure. We keep discovering new virtues.

Cryptocurrency opened up the floodgates of monetary innovation a century after the enterprise had been shut down. F.A. Hayek wrote, “I have no doubt that competition would be much more inventive in providing the kind of monetary institutions needed for the proper functioning of markets.” He thought this might only happen by eliminating legal tender laws and dismantling central banks.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about cryptocurrency is that it unleashed competition without any reform of the system that still operates from the top down. No law was repealed, no plan was enacted, no new reforms were passed. It was as if a Maserati had sudden driven up alongside a fleet of Model Ts.

When will mainstream monetary theory adapt to the new reality? Check back in ten years.

When I was in Tel Aviv, Israel, recently, I did a full interview on a popular podcast on this topic and its meaning for our future.

 


Jeffrey A. Tucker


Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, economics adviser to FreeSociety.com, 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, most recently Right-Wing Collectivism: The Other Threat to Liberty, with a preface by Deirdre McCloskey (FEE 2017). He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press. He is available for press interviews via his email.

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Run – Special Issue Number 3 – 1987

Run – Special Issue Number 3 – 1987