Somewhat Reasonable

Syndicate content
The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
Updated: 49 min 10 sec ago

Heartland Weekly – No, Radical Environmentalism Is Not Inevitable

June 10, 2016, 12:30 PM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Government Tech Waste Illustrates Disrespect for Taxpayers
Jesse Hathaway, The Hill
During the Eisenhower administration, the Treasury Department used state-of-the-art computer technology to maintain the nerve center of the U.S. tax system. More than 50 years later, nothing has changed – literally! Treasury’s IT systems haven’t been updated in 56 years. A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals how many government agencies are operating on outdated and obsolete technology. The most frightening example comes from the Department of Defense, which is still using 8-inch floppy disks to maintain the American nuclear missile arsenal. READ MORE

GMO Labeling Laws Are Harmful and Unnecessary
Tim Benson, Heartland Research & Commentary
Starting July 1, all food in Vermont (except meat and cheese) that contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must carry an identifying label. Several other states are lining up to follow suit, so it’s important to take a look into what effects this law may have. Hundreds of studies prove the safety of GMOs, but that hardly matters when state-mandated labels carry a stigma, conditioning the public to falsely believe GMOs are dangerous and should be avoided.  READ MORE

No, Radical Environmentalism Is Not Inevitable
Joseph Bast, Somewhat Reasonable
Instead of trying to win the climate change debate, the radical environmental left is acting as if its world view has already won. Case in point: a recent Huffington Post essay claims the culture has inevitably shifted toward embracing “environmentalism.” The author implies those opposed to the radical views of Earth First and Greenpeace are racists, sexists, xenophobic, and homophobic. Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast responds, highlighting the author’s most dishonest and disingenuous claims. READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Dr. David Wojick: How Government Funding Bias Corrupts Science
David Wojick, Ph.D., former consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy, joinsEnvironment & Climate News Managing Editor H. Sterling Burnett to discuss how government funding corrupts science. Wojick explains how some prominent science organizations follow government money when studying climate change – and the government tends to want to see conclusions that support the discredited hypothesis that human activity is causing a climate crisis. LISTEN TO MORE

Heartland Library Book Shelf of the Week – History
For more, follow Heartland on Twitter @HeartlandInst

Coming Next Week to Arlington Heights: Know Your Second Amendment Rights
On Wednesday, June 15, a panel of experts will be at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to discuss the Second Amendment and how government at all levels is continually challenging that right to bear arms. And then on Monday, June 20, join The Heartland Institute at the Union League Club in Chicago as we welcome energy experts Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation and Kathleen Hartnett White of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, who will make an unapologetic case in favor of fossil fuels. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

Fracking and Frac Sand Mining Contribute to Cleaner Air
Isaac Orr, The Oklahoman
It’s understandable that people living near industrial sand facilities would be concerned about the potential impacts of sand mining on the environment and human health. Their concern makes it all the more important to recognize that the best available science on the topic shows industrial sand mines and processing plants pose virtually no threat to air quality near these facilities. In fact, the sand mined in the Upper Midwest is playing an important role in reducing air pollution across the nation by encouraging fracking for abundant and cleaner-burning natural gas. READ MORE

Give Vision Patients Protection, not ‘Eye of Newt,’ in Lobbyists Witches’ Brew
Michael Hamilton, Consumer Power Report
Free-market advocates have come to expect legislation to produce results exactly opposite what their names suggest – can anyone say, “Affordable Care Act”? We are thus immediately wary of a new bill, the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act. The law seeks to impose regulations that would essentially kill a new tech startup offering a do-it-yourself online eye exam. Aaron Dallek, CEO and cofounder of Opternative, calls the act a “protectionist bill” that serves only entrenched interests in the industry.   READ MORE

What’s the Difference Between K–12 and College Again?
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
As Milton Friedman explained in his seminal essay on the role of government in education, the line between K–12 and college is not arbitrary. The Founders’ understanding of public education was to develop America’s young people into good citizens capable of governing themselves, as our unique system of government requires. By contrast, college educations benefit the individual more than the general public. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: In The Tank (ep41): Independent Women’s Forum, Ranking States, Unemployment Rates
John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks across the country in episode #41 of the In The Tank Podcast. Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum, joins the show to talk about IWF and its new report, “Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women’s Lives.” This episode also features work from the Mercatus Center, Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, and more.  LISTEN HERE

Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies!
Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable
Many people rely on our profile on Wikipedia to provide an objective description of our mission, programs, and accomplishments. Alas, the profile they find there is a fake, filled with lies and libel about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. We need your help! READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep42): DeVoe L. Moore Center, 10 Things Keeping Us Poor, Uber Unions, and Carbon Taxes

June 10, 2016, 12:03 PM

John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks in episode #42 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, and roundtable discussions that explore the work of think tanks across the country. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Devoe L. Moore Center, the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the Mackinac Center, American’s for Tax Reform, and the Heritage Foundation.

Better Know a Think Tank

In today’s edition of the Better Know a Think Tank segment, Donny teams up with Director of Communications Jim Lakely to welcome Dr. Sam Staley, Managing Director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center out of Florida State University. Dr. Staley joins the show to talk about his organization as well as the impact of regulations, sports stadium subsidies, and public financing of mass transit.

Featured Work of the Week

Featured this week is a policy study from The Maine Heritage Policy Center titled “10 Things Keeping Mainers Poor.” The study explains how the state is struggling, how the percentage living under the poverty level is growing, and why that is. While this study is specific to the state, Donny explains how many of the outlined items in the report can be applied to the most, if not all, states across the country.

In the World of Think Tankery

Uber, the innovative peer-to-peer ride sharing program, has been under a constant regulatory assault since its inception. A new article authored by Vincent Vernuccio, Labor Policy Director at the Mackinac Center discusses the steps Uber has taken to get out ahead of these calls for increased regulation. The article, titled “Uber Disrupts Organized Labor and a Union may get More Dues Paying Members,” talks about how Uber and the International Association of Machinists District 15 established a Independent Drivers Guild to supply limited union benefits. The author explains how the pseudo-union is good step, but it leaves the door open for a move to a more traditional union model.

In the last part of this segment Donny and John talk about the Carbon Tax. A letter from Grover Norquist, President of the Americans for Tax Reform organization, urges Senator Roy Blunt to to fight against any form of a carbon tax. Additionally, Testimony before the Committee on Finance by David Kreutzer from the Heritage Foundation lays out many of the details. According to Kreutzer, a carbon tax would impose major negative impacts on people and the economy without yielding any substantial benefits.

Events 

I hope you’ll listen in, subscribe, and leave a review for our podcast on iTunes. We welcome your feedback in our new show’s inbox at InTheTankPodcast@gmail.com or follow us on twitter @InTheTankPod.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Economics and the Pretense of Knowledge

June 10, 2016, 1:00 AM

Last week, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Janet Yellen was awarded the Radcliffe Medal at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. At a lunch in Yellen’s honor, Lizabeth Cohen, dean of the institute, praised the Fed chair’s “steadfast commitment to robust growth” and the way the she “steers our economy,” guided by the philosophy of her Yale mentor, Keynesian economist James Tobin.

Embedded in Cohen’s seemingly innocuous presentation of the award — as well as Yellen’s subsequent conversation with Harvard economist Gregory Mankiw — are several important premises about what economics is and what economists do. For generations, the mainstream of the economics profession — personified by Yellen and her predecessor, Ben Bernanke — has treated fiscal and monetary policy as, in Yellen’s own words, “tools” to promote growth and end economic inequalities.

That Yellen’s views are sincerely held is beyond question. But it is an open question whether the central bank really can “steer” the economy and whether its policies deliver the promised results.

A recent report from the St. Louis Fed suggests that Federal Reserve policies such as quantitative easing and artificially low interest rates do not moderate inequality. On the contrary, by focusing on buoying stock prices, these policies have inadvertently funneled more money to the very rich — especially to those with enough disposable incomes to invest in the equities market.

Thus, as economist Charles Wolf, Jr. has argued, the Fed’s policies have aggravated wealth and income inequality in the United States. Citing a rise in the country’s “Gini coefficient” — a way that economists measure inequality — Wolf notes that “private equity, hedge funds and venture capital funds [are among the] major beneficiaries of near-zero short-term interest rates.”

Libertarians have, since the Fed’s founding, warned that such monetary manipulations would benefit special-interest groups, in particular, the financial-world insiders who are best situated to take advantage of them. There is a disconnect between the Fed’s stated goals and the strategies it implements — a disconnect that can be traced back to a fundamental flaw in current, mainstream economic thinking.

In his forthcoming book Specialization and Trade: A Re-Introduction to Economics, economist Arnold Kling attempts to “expose and try to correct” certain widespread misconceptions about economics — in particular, about the dynamic phenomena of specialization and trade. Kling contends the economics profession went astray in the 20thcentury, with economists settling into a flawed paradigm during World War II, one that treats the economy as an apparatus to be controlled and repaired by appointed experts.

Following journalist Greg Ip, Kling categorizes economists into two groups: “ecologists” and “engineers.” The engineers try to “steer” the economy by employing mathematical models as tools. The ecologists, by contrast, are skeptics; they are reluctant to generalize from discrete data sets and mathematical equations. As Friedrich Hayek put it in his Nobel Prize lecture “The Pretense of Knowledge,” these economists are distrustful of the tendency of their discipline to “imitate … the procedures of the brilliantly successful physical sciences.” For this reason, the ecologists are less inclined to try to steer the economy.

It may not be immediately obvious why economics shouldn’t imitate the physical sciences. Given the remarkable advancement of scientific methods, the processing power of our computers, and the ostensibly boundless sophistication of our mathematical models, we might believe that central bankers, armed with latest economics research, are capable of treating economic infirmities.

But Hayek recognized something few economists understand today: that what we misleadingly call “the economy” is infinitely more complex than any machine or edifice human beings could ever design or build. The economy is in fact a living, changing, moving web of disparate actions and entities, each of which is composed of multiple, subjective judgments and motivations.

This is a difficult notion for economists who have been trained to regard themselves as practitioners of a “hard” science such as physics. The problem is that, unlike physicists, economists can’t come even close to controlling conditions in their laboratory — the economy — making it difficult, if not impossible, to isolate the causes of a given economic outcome. For this reason, Kling argues, economists must rely instead on “hard-to-verify interpretive frameworks.” These are the sets of philosophical ideas and normative claims that inform our judgments about the events we observe.

The ecologist’s skepticism is not global or unqualified; it’s not as though economics is entirely outside the realm of human understanding. The point, rather, is that we can know very little about this infinitely complex thing we call “the economy” at any given time. For that reason, we should hesitate to inflict our ignorance upon it.

Central bankers such as Yellen would do well to heed Hayek’s call for a humbler approach to economics.

[Originally published at Real Clear Policy]

Categories: On the Blog

Peter Thiel Should Learn A Broader Litigation Lesson From His Gawker Lawsuit

June 10, 2016, 1:00 AM

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel is a pretty smart guy. As partial evidence, I give you his self-made net worth of $2.7 billion. He co-founded online payment mega-company PayPal – which was in 2002 sold to eBay for $1.5 billion. Anyone who saw the very good flick “The Social Network” knows Thiel was one of the first outside investors in Facebook. He still owns a chunk, and is on their Board. He invested in LinkedIn. He’s…done well.

Thiel obviously has a knack for knowing what is worth his money, time and effort. So it was noteworthy when he officially acknowledged that he helped fund professional wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the online publication Gawker (Gawker had amongst other things posted a Hogan sex tape.) Hogan was awarded $140 million for Gawker’s invasion of his privacy.

Why did Thiel fund Hogan? Because nine years ago, Gawkerinvaded Thiel’s privacy – with a story headlined “Peter Thiel is Totally Gay, People.” Thiel said Gawker followed up with similarly invasionary stories on several of his friends (and others) – which Thiel said “ruined people’s lives for no reason.”

So Thiel “funded a team of lawyers to find and help ‘victims’ of the company’s coverage mount cases against Gawker.” Which begat Hogan.  Thiel assessed why he stepped up: “I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves…It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence.”

Thiel should apply these very words and this perspective to patents – which he bizarrely loathes and denounces. Thiel doesn’t at all like patent-protection lawsuits – especially when they are filed against him and his business interests.

But this opposition directly contradicts his very reasoned, reasonable explanation of why he launched Team Lawsuit against Gawker. In the tech world, huge companies (See: Google– Net Worth: $350 billion) routinely steal patented things – usually from “less prominent, far less wealthy” inventors “that simply can’t defend themselves.” It’s the classic bully move –Gawker would be proud. Thiel should be appalled.

In fact, this bully abuse of patent holders has contributed to an increase in the number of “patent trolls” people like Thiel loath. “Patent trolls” are actually nothing more than people who own patents – but don’t actively manufacture anything

with them. Often they purchase the patents as an investment – to make up the purchase price (and then some) by charging people to license them. A perfectly valid business practice.

Why do the inventors themselves sell their patents? Really, it’s none of your business – it’s their property, and they can do with them whatever legal thing they wish. That being said – there are a couple of routine reasons.

One: Have you ever met an inventor? They can be…quirky. They usually aren’t the CEO type. The last thing most want to do after inventing something – is go into the business of selling, manufacturing and distributing it. They would much prefer to make some coin on their last invention – and plow it into their next. So they sell their patents.

Two: Again, inventors oft don’t have a lot of coin. Certainly not Peter Thiel-coin. So if a giant company (See: Google) steals their patent – they are not in a fiscal position to sue and do anything about it. So to ensure they get something for their patent, they sell it – to people with more coin to fend off the thieves (See: Google).

So opposition to “patent trolls” by the likes of Peter Thiel – actually creates more “patent trolls.” In a sense, inventors are outsourcing the protection of their patents – just as Thiel outsourced his legal campaign against Gawker.

Meanwhile, our United States Congress has crafted legislation (the Innovation and PATENT Acts) – that makes it even harder for inventors to protect their patents. These bills make it more difficult and much more expensive for patent holders to sue in defense of their property.

Which will lead even more cash-strapped inventors – to sell their patents to more-fortified “patent trolls.” Even more of the exact opposite result the likes of Thiel say they want.

Thiel doesn’t like bullies like Gawker – and he’s exactly right. Bullies stink on ice. But Thiel is worth $2.7 billion – which means he too can be a fairly huge bully if wants. Sadly, he appears to want to be – and to embolden and empower other bullies – when it comes to patents.

That ain’t good – and it ain’t in keeping with Thiel’s Gawker Team Lawsuit mission statement.

[Originally posted at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

American Forefathers Were Not Paternalistic

June 10, 2016, 1:00 AM

America! For more than 250 years the word has represented hope, opportunity, a second chance, and freedom. In America the accident of a man’s birth did not have to serve as an inescapable weight that dictated a person’s fate or that of his family. The American identity is shaped, not predetermined. We are a society of the free.

Once a newcomer – the immigrant – stepped on American soil he left the political tyrannies and economic barriers of the “old world” behind. A willingness to work hard and to bear the risks of one’s own decisions, the possession of a spirit of enterprise, and a little bit of luck were the keys to the doors of success in their “new world” home.

Visitors from Europe traveling to America in the nineteenth century, Frenchmen like Alexis de Tocqueville and Michel Chevalier, marveled at the energy and adaptability of the ordinary American. An American paid his own way, took responsibility for his actions, and showed versatility in the face of change, often switching his occupation, profession, or trade several times during his life, and frequently moving about from one part of the country to another.

American Ideals Don’t Need Regulating

What’s more, individual Americans demonstrated a generous spirit of charity and voluntary effort to assist those who had fallen upon hard times, as well as to deal with a wide variety of common community services in their cities, towns, and villages.

Those foreign observers of American life noted that no man bowed to another because of the hereditary accident of birth. Each man viewed himself as good as any other, to be judged on the basis of his talents and abilities as well as his character and conduct as a human being.

Even the scar of slavery that blemished the American landscape through more than half of the nineteenth century stood out as something inherently inconsistent and untrue to the vision and conception of a society of free men laid down by those Founding Fathers. The logic of liberty meant that slavery, and all other denials of equal rights before the law, would eventually have to end, in one way or another, if the claim of freedom for all was not to remain confronted with a cruel hypocrisy to the ideal.

A Free America’s Wondrous Fruits

What a glorious country this America was. Here was a land of free individuals who were able to pursue their dreams and fulfill their peaceful desires. They were free men who could put their own labor to work, acquire property, accumulate wealth, and fashion their own lives. They associated on the basis of freedom of exchange, and benefited each other by trading their talents through a network of division of labor that was kept in order through the competitive processes of market-guided supply and demand.

In this free marketplace, the creative entrepreneurial spirit was set free. Every American was at liberty to try his hand, if he chose, to start his own business and devise innovative ways to offer new and better products to the market, through which he hoped to earn his living. No man was bond to the soil upon which he was born or tied to an occupation or profession inherited from his ancestors. Every individual had an opportunity to be the master of his own fate, with the freedom to move where inclination led him and choose the work that seemed most profitable and attractive.

The Counter-Revolution of Collectivism

Then something began to happen in America. The socialist and collectivist ideas that were growing in influence in Europe during the last decades of the nineteenth century began to spread over to the United States. Two generations of young American scholars went off to study in Europe, particularlyGermany, in the 1880s, 1890s, and early 1900s. They became imbued with socialist and state paternalistic conceptions, especially the interventionist and pro-welfare-state ideas that were being taught at the universities in Bismarck’s Germany.

These scholars came back to the United States enthusiastic about their newly learned ideas, convinced that the “negative” idea of freedom dominant in America – an idea of freedom that argued that government’s role was only to secure each individual in his life, liberty, and property – needed to be replaced by a more “positive” notion of freedom. Government should not merely protect citizens from violence and fraud. It should guarantee their health care and retirement pensions; it should regulate their industry and trade, including their wages and conditions of work. The government needed to secure the members of society from all the uncertainties of life, “from cradle to grave” – a phrase that was first popularized during this time.

These European-trained students and academics soon filled the teaching positions in the colleges and universities around the country; they occupied a growing number of jobs in the federal and state bureaucracies; they became the fashionable and “progressive” forward- looking authors of books and magazine articles; they came to dominate the culture of ideas in America.

Progressivism’s Attack on Enduring Principles

How did they sway an increasing number of Americans? They asked people to look around them and observe the radical changes in technologies and styles of life. They pointed to the rapid shift from the countryside to growing urban areas. And they asked, how could such a transformed and transforming society remain wedded to the ideas of men who had lived so long ago, in the eighteenth century? How could a great and growing country be tied down to a Constitution written for a bygone era?

The Constitution, these “progressives” argued, had to reflect the changing times – it had to be a “living” and “evolving” document. Progress, for these proselytizers of Prussian paternalism, required a new political elite who would guide and lead the nation into a more collectivist future.

Results of Collectivism in America

The fruits of their work are, now, after a century all around us. At the beginning of the twentieth century all levels of government in the United States took in taxes an amount less than 8 percent of the people’s wealth and income. Now all levels of government extract, directly or indirectly, often 50 percent of our earnings, in one way or another. One hundred years ago, government hardly regulated and controlled any of the personal and commercial affairs of the American citizenry. Now, government’s hand intrudes into every corner of our private, business, and social affairs. Indeed, it is hard to find one area of our daily lives that does not pass through the interventionist sieve of state management, oversight, restriction, and command.

Perhaps worst of all, too many of our fellow Americans have become accustomed to and, indeed, demanding of government protection or subsidy of their personal and economic affairs. We are no longer free, self-supporting individuals who solely make our ways through the peaceful transactions and exchanges of the marketplace. We have become collective “interest groups” who lobby and pressure those in political office for favors and privileges at the expense of our neighbors. And the political officeholders are only too happy to grant these political gifts to those who supply campaign contributions and votes as the avenue to their own desires for power and control over those whom they claim to serve.

It is sometimes said, “But we are still the freest country in the world. Our wealth and standard of living are the envy of tens of millions all around the globe. We should be proud of what and who we are.”

The Standard for Judging America

Our present greatness in terms of these things, however, is only relative to how much farther other countries have gone down the path of government paternalism and regulation during these past one hundred years. The benchmark of comparison should not be America in relation to other countries in the contemporary world. The standard by which we should judge, especially, our economic liberty should be how much freer the American people were from the stranglehold of government more than one hundred years ago, before those proselytizers of paternalism began to change the political and cultural character of the United States.

By this standard, today’s American people are extremely unfree. We have all become wards of the state. And like the convict who has spent so many years in prison that he is afraid of being released and no longer having his jail keepers to tell him what to do and how to live, we are fearful of even the thought of a life without government caring for us, protecting us, subsidizing us, guiding us, and educating us.
Too many in the older generation in America have lost their understanding of what freedom means and why constitutionally limited government is both necessary and desirable. And the vast majority of the young have never been taught in our government-run schools the ideas, ideals, and political institutional foundations upon which this country of ours was created.

Too many younger Americans presume and take for granted a politically provided financial horn-of-plenty that is to supply all the material means of everyday life and ease, whether it be “free” college tuition or guaranteed healthcare. The recently reawakened interest and sympathy for “democratic” socialism among a significant number of younger voters is one indicator of this trend.

The Damage Done by Political Paternalism

What those earlier German-trained political and cultural paternalists set out to do in America at the beginning of the twentieth century has been to a great extent accomplished. We are threatened with becoming a people who have no sense of an invariant nature of man, and who possess no idea of those values and attitudes in the human character so necessary for preserving freedom and prosperity.

The Founding Fathers were not unaware that “times change.” But in the whirlwind of life they saw that reason and experience could and had demonstrated that there were unchanging qualities to the human condition. They understood the various mantles that tyranny could take on – including the cloak of false benevolence and promises of national “greatness” if only a strong man was put in charge to set things right, unrestrained by traditional conceptions of individual rights and liberty and constitutional limitations.

They established a constitutional order that was meant to guard us from the plunder of violent and greedy and power-hungry men and women, while leaving each of us that wide latitude of personal and economic freedom in which we could find our own meanings for life, and adapt to new circumstances consistent with our conscience and concerns.

This is what made America great. This is what made a country in which individuals could say without embarrassment or conceit that they were proud to be Americans. That is the America we are losing.

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

Thorner: Stossel Tells Students to “Leave People Alone” for American Prosperity

June 09, 2016, 3:38 PM

The Northwestern University College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation co-sponsored an event featuring author John Stossel on Tuesday, May 24, at 8:00 p.m. at the Leverone Auditorium in Evanston, IL.  The topic of Stossel’s speech, “Freedom and Its Enemies.”  In keeping with Stossel’s professed political affiliation, a sizable number of Libertarian college students were in attendance at the free event.

John Stossel, a graduate of Princeton University, with a B.A. in psychology, joined Fox Business Network (FBN) in 2009. He is the host of “Stossel”, a weekly program highlighting current consumer issues with a Libertarian viewpoint.  (See here for an overall view of what the Libertarian Party stands for.)  

Included in its platform is support for drug legalization, free trade, and free-market health care, plus the elimination of campaign finance, gun control laws, the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security and income taxes. Libertarians also espouse a non-interventionist foreign policy.

(As an aside:  As a Libertarian Stossel will now have a candidate to vote for in November, having admitted early on in his address that he disliked both Hillary and Trump.  Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson won the Libertarian nomination for president at its party’s convention Sunday, May 29, 2016.  Although Gary Johnson may get a boost in the 2016 race, a new poll out shows that Johnson looks to be drawing more support from Democrat voters than Republican.)

Stossel has received 19 Emmy Awards and has been honored five times for excellence in consumer reporting by the National Press Club. Earlier in his career, Stossel served as consumer editor for “Good Morning America” and as a reporter at WCBS-TV in New York City. His first job in journalism was as a researcher for KGW-TV (NBC) in Portland, Oregon.  Stossel’s economic programs have been adapted into teaching kits by a non-profit organization, “Stossel in the Classroom.

John Stossel Introduced by Northwestern University Republican Club President 

Appearing thinner and with a slightly altered speaking voice in the aftermath of his hospitalization and successful treatment for throat cancer in April of this year, Stossel confessed that his academic experience was not all that noteworthy. Stossel used to tell young people they should attend college, but he no longer does, questioning whether Northwestern students were getting something from their steep financial outlays.

In speaking about his own college experience, Stossel told students that those who did the best in college were the ones who didn’t know what they wanted to do upon graduation. As a psychology major at Princeton, when Stossel graduated from college he  took every job that came his way. Having never taken a journalism course, Stossel’s work in a newsroom led him to a TV gig delivering the news.  Not only did Stossel look like a 12 year old when delivering the news, he also had a stuttering problem. It took Stossel years to completely conquer his stuttering, but he did in time through professional help.

Stossel’s early thinking about how government involvement was necessary for the good of the people grew out of Johnson’s War on Poverty , observed while a student at Princeton.  Stossel’s professors told him the problems didn’t need to be solved, but instead to create programs to take care of the problems.  The need for government protection was likewise popular concept by the media.

Stossel’s Consumer Reports Win Notice

It was Stossel’s Consumer reports that brought him media attention and for which he won 19 Emmy awards. The public loved them; they were hits. Stossel recounted one early consumer report in which he advocated the licensing of all TV repair shops.  It seemed the right thing to do at the time. Why wouldn’t it be a good idea to license all TV repair shops? until Stossel perceived how problems weren’t being solved even after licensing. The consumer wasn’t being helped.  Furthermore, there were the same number of complaints.  One thing was certain, it cost a fortune in time and money when filling out the licensing forms, which goes to show that rules cause people to do stupid things. Stossel’s explanation of why the economy didn’t perk up after the last depression was based on the massive number of laws and regulations which stifled this nation’s economic growth.

Stossel visited various countries to find out how difficult it would be to start a new business.  In 1999 he went to Hong Kong and in one day, with one form, he got legal permission to open a shop, “Stossel Enterprises”, selling ABC trinkets. Contrast this to “Stossel’s Lemonade – 50 cents” business enterprise in New York City which never did get off the ground because of all the regulatory requirements that had to be met.  Even after 60 days Stossel couldn’t get a permit to operate his lemonade stand.  He could sell the lemonade to patrons, but they weren’t allowed to drink it, and the money had to be returned.

Stossel on Competition and Free Markets

Stossel’s world vision of government to make life better, Princeton instilled, was gradually replaced by watching how the markets worked over the years. As an illustration Stossel spoke about the Trabant car made in GDR (German Democrat Republic), for which there was a five-year waiting period.  GDR’s best car, the Wartburg, couldn’t compete with the most mediocre of cars made in America.  Good companies will survive.  Competition makes things better and cheaper.  This is why free markets can also work for medicine.  Competition brings prices down and also allow the market to police itself.

OSHA was used by Stossel to show how government laws and regulations often make little difference in the long run.  Although work place injuries did drop after OSHA, in reviewing work place injuries before OSCA, it was found that the situation was improving before OSHA.  For as this nation became wealthier, she cared more about work place safety.  Similarly, free markets handle safety issues better than state controlled entities, which is why in a free society things often get better on their own.

From his initial belief in Johnson’s War on Poverty, Stossel came to realize that Johnson’s policies created a situation where a woman no longer needed to have a man in the house to be taken care of.  As such an underclass of people was created.   Things, however, did improve for 7 years before all went south.  $22 trillion has been spent so far to reduce poverty, but the results are dismal.  Even before the War of Poverty things were getting better on their own.

Blunt Assessment:  Expect no Social Security

John Stossel had these blunt remarks to share with Northwestern students.  In pegging unsustainable the amount of government spending per person in this nation, Stossel discounted any expectation that students might have of receiving Social Security benefits upon retirement.  Students were reminded that when Social Security was first established by FDR most people didn’t live until age 65.  It was meant for a minority of the American people.  There was never a trust fund with a person’s name on it.  Instead, the money paid in by workers for future Social Security benefits was spent by greedy politicians to cover government expenses.  Now the American people further expect Medicare to be there in their senior years, notwithstanding its exorbitant cost to government.  Your futures are being robbed through today’s out-of-control spending.

Why life in America is pretty good? 

Despite a massive debt and spending that continues to increase, especially in the last decade, Stossel recounted answers given him by New Jersey high school students when confronted with this question: “Why is life in America pretty good in contrast to other places on Earth with its seven billion inhabitants?”

Answers shared:

  • Because we have a democracy.
  • Because we are a young country.
  • Because we have natural resources.

Stossel then related how he has traveled to other countries to look at poverty.  Keeping in mind the suggested student criteria, Stossel challenged the students as to why India doesn’t offers a reasonably good life for its citizens.  It is a democracy and it has resources.  Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, was then considered:  Here is a place without a democracy and having no natural resources, yet Hong Kong went from 3rd world poverty status to a place of great wealth.

For Stossel the answer was obvious.  The Rule of Law is necessary, but it was because government left free people alone in Hong Kong, that people could make themselves rich. This is the ingredient of prosperity.  Government control takes away opportunities for people to succeed and prosper on their own.

Anger Toward Stossel in Defense of Free Markets over Government Regulations

It was after Stossel make the tie between big government and its drawbacks in creating a prosperous and free society that Stossel’s Emmy awards for consumer reporting became a thing of the past.  Instead of praise, anger erupted over Stossel’s decision to defend free markets over government regulations.  John Stossel’s third book, “No, they Can’t: Why government fails but individuals succeed”, published in 2012, explores the virtues of the free market system vs that of big government.  Unlike when government is in control, businesses must please customers with their goods or services as a requisite to remaining in business.  Such competition fosters better service and lower costs, unheard of when government controls and dictates.   

Stossel, musing how up to now he had spoken mostly about economic freedom, went on to explain the importance of individual freedom.  How so?  When government gets bigger, we get smaller.  Before President Johnson’s Great Society Program in the 1960’s, there were 14,000 mutual aid societies that helped the needy.  These societies understood the needs of the people better than the one-size-fits-all government approach which crowds out good voluntary efforts.  

Even so, continued Stossel, the ingenuity of the American people and business competition have made life better even for poor Americans, in contrast to a government that can’t even count votes correctly!  The American people take supermarkets selling a variety of food at good prices for granted. Likewise taken for granted is cash coming out of ATM machines.  Our plastic cards are used to make all kinds of purchases, but many individual contributed to the development of this convenience which is widely used.  It was the freedom to realize dreams, despite massive increases in government rules and regulations, that has enabled all we take for granted in this nation today to exist.  Such individual freedom has resulted in creating a quality of life that other countries could only dream of having experiencing.  Even among the poorest of the poor there are flush toilets.  

Stossel challenged students by wondering out loud what it was like for them to live in Illinois?, which he called a “model for failure.”

Question and Answer Time:  

In a question addressing Stossel’s views on climate change:  Stossel believes that man is causing climate change, but that it would be far better to address the issue when harm to man becomes obvious, rather than spending money now to curtail climate change by building wind turbine and putting up solar panels which depend largely on government subsidies and which require backup power when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.  

Political Correctness Prevail 

In a display of political correctness, before introducing John Stossel the president of the Northwestern Republican Club made this disclaimer, that the views of John Stossel were his alone and were not endorsed by Northwestern University.  Furthermore, since John Stossel was invited to visit the Northwestern campus, he had the right to be heard and to be respected. 

The same night Stossel spoke at Northwestern, a speaker enlisted by DePaul,Milo Yiannopoulos, had been shut down when a group of activists stormed the stage and allegedly threatened to punch Yiannopoulos in the face.  Outrageous tactics by DePaul University to shut down conservative speech are not limited to DePaul.    

Recent Stossel Commentary, May 25, 2016

Published the day after Stossel spoke at Northwestern University, this commentary, “Private Is Better”, dovetails with  Stossel’s Northwestern address which touted free markets and competition over government control.  

[Originally published at the Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Bette Grande: New Methane Rule vs. Strippers (Low-Volume Wells)

June 09, 2016, 2:53 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency has a new target in it’s sights…strippers. Now that we have your attention, In this edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, research fellows Bette Grande and Isaac Orr discuss how the EPA is targeting oil and gas wells that produce less than 15 barrels of oil equivalent per day. These wells, also known as stripper wells, are under attack from new EPA methane regulations that inappropriately apply rules for new wells on these typically older, lower volume wells.

The new rules will be so costly to implement, they will effectively shut down these wells. In 2014, there were 770,000 stripper wells and their production accounted for approximately 20 percent of U.S. oil and gas production. It’s yet another example of the EPA using flawed methods to turn the screws on oil and gas production in the United States.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

 

Categories: On the Blog

FTC Should Have Priority Over Internet Privacy

June 09, 2016, 1:49 AM

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed to construct a new, additional regulatory apparatus, asserting, without any factual support, that creating untested and discriminatory rules for internet service providers (ISPs) will be the silver bullet for protecting consumers’ privacy.

However, since the beginning of the World Wide Web the Federal Trade Commission has exercised oversight of the internet ecosystem, including websites and internet service providers. The agency has been focused on deceptive and unfair practices and on how data have been collected and used. Under this comprehensive FTC approach there have been very few ISP-related privacy or data security issues.

As MANA National President Amy Hinojosa recently wrote in The Huffington Post, “The FTC is the lead federal consumer protection agency and has been a strong cop on the beat for our privacy. But in a classic case of the ‘law of unintended consequences,’ the FTC had the jurisdictional rug pulled from under its feet for a small portion of the internet—broadband providers—due to legal changes contained in the Open Internet rules passed last year.”

Hinojosa continues, “As a result, the FCC—which regulates telecommunications—is now eager to put their footprint in this space by knitting a­ patchwork set of rules that would apply narrowly to broadband companies while exempting everyone else. In fact, the rules under consideration at the FCC would be a huge step backwards for consumers—confusing consumers and increasing the risk of abusive or discriminatory use of our data online.

Instead of an inconsistent patchwork based on false assumptions and a misreading of the privacy threat, the FCC can and should step back and put consumers ahead of this jurisdictional land grab and learn from the success of the FTC approach that puts consumers in the driver’s seat rather than in a maze.”

As Hinojosa points out, the FCC does not have relevant experience in the consumer privacy realm. While the Communications Act does convey a limited amount of power to cover consumer privacy of satellite and cable subscribers, the actions that the FCC has taken have been almost completely about billing information.

The FTC is appropriately limited to enforcement proceedings after a determination that it has the authority to do so under the relevant law. Such actions send signals to the marketplace as to what is within the bounds of acceptable and legal behavior, allowing for flexible solutions and for innovation to flourish. On the other hand, the FCC makes prophylactic rules which quickly constrain the marketplace with enforcement actions being brought if the rules are violated.

Further, the Communications Act does not provide a basis for the expansion of power that the FCC is seeking. Specifically, the Act contemplates records of phone calls and billing information, not authority over the sorts of broad, personal data the FCC is trying to claim.

Ultimately, too many government entities looking after our privacy means that we do not have any. Consumers will not have a solid understanding of what signals to watch for that indicate a data breach or a scam. The result is a less vigilant populous increasingly prone to their data being collected and used inappropriately without the understanding that certain actions are wrong.

The FCC should bear the burden of proving that it is needed in this area or can add something of value before even considering moving forward. At the very least, a factual, data-driven analysis of whether consumers will gain or be harmed should be undertaken. Even if the Commission had the authority to institute a new and untested regulatory regime doesn’t mean that it should do so.

[Originally published at the Institute for Policy Innovation]

Categories: On the Blog

My View: Give Illinoisans, Not Exelon, a Rescue Plan

June 09, 2016, 1:00 AM

In 2015, Exelon threatened to shut down up to six of its nuclear power plants in Illinois due to the plants’ unprofitability and the reduced price of coal and natural gas energy sources — unless Exelon received a government bailout from the state. The company claimed it needed direct taxpayer subsidies to keep three unprofitable nuclear power plants open.

Exelon later backed off its threat to close the nuclear plants and, instead, supported a different rescue plan effort: the establishment of a low carbon portfolio standard, which would have required 70 percent of the electricity used in utilities’ distribution systems to come from qualified low carbon-dioxide sources, including solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, tidal, wave and clean coal. Utilities falling short of the 70 percent mark would have had to buy credits to make up the difference. Crain’s Chicago Business reports the rescue plan, which Exelon has also backed away from in recent months, would have charged ratepayers $300 million annually.

In May, Exelon announced another new rescue plan. This time, Exelon plans to close two cash-strapped nuclear plants — one in Clinton in central Illinois and one in the Quad Cities area on the Mississippi River. The new approach would be considerably less lucrative for Exelon than the 2015 rescue plan, which would have imposed monthly surcharges on electric bills statewide, but it is still a form of crony capitalism that requires taxpayers to support private businesses and should therefore be avoided.

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, ComEd, which is owned by Exelon, is touting this latest rescue plan as part of a pathway toward a clean-energy future in Illinois. To move its plan forward, ComEd has allied itself with environmentalists who are committed to revamping the state’s clean-energy law, which for largely technical reasons is supporting next-to-no renewable power development in Illinois.

Exelon and ComEd plan to support comprehensive legislation — called the Next Generation Energy Plan — that will comprise major elements of three bills that did not win approval in the past session of the Illinois General Assembly. This comprehensive legislation would overhaul the law to ensure $140 million per year is available for new solar projects in Illinois.

In 2015, ComEd said its reason for needing taxpayer funds to keep multiple nuclear power plants open is to keep people employed. But now, ComEd says it needs support to keep multiple nuclear power plants open to “drive Illinois’ clean energy future while saving and creating jobs and strengthening the state’s economy.”

Illinois’ current renewable portfolio standard mandates 25 percent of power distribution be composed of renewable energy — not including nuclear — by 2025. The average retail price of electricity in Illinois is already 20 percent higher than in Indiana, 24 percent higher than Iowa’s, and 25 percent higher than in Missouri. This means Illinois residents and businesses already pay $2.1 billion per year more for electricity than they would at Indiana prices and $2.5 billion more than they would at Iowa or Missouri prices.

[Originally published at the Rockford Register Star]

Categories: On the Blog

Legislative Reapportionment: The Supreme Court Steps Back

June 09, 2016, 1:00 AM

Justice Clarence Thomas contended the Constitution does not tell the states how to apportion their legislatures at all. His argument was elaborate, and entire books have been written on the subject, but a look at the Constitution itself reveals Thomas is correct.

During the 1960s, Supreme Court justices largely ignored their responsibility to keep the federal government within constitutional bounds. They bullied the states instead, ruling the Constitution’sEqual Protection Clause requires every state to base both houses of its legislature on population. No longer could states give much weight to other factors, such as county and city boundaries. When the voters of Colorado overwhelmingly voted to allow state senate seats to be based on factors other than population, a divided Supreme Court overruled them.

The Equal Protection Clause states, “No State shall… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” It is one of four rules in Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in 1868. Those rules were designed to protect newly freed slaves from certain kinds of state tyranny.

What does the Constitution mean when it says that states may not deny “equal protection of the laws”? The most natural reading is states must treat citizens equally. The language addresses “outputs” — law enforcement and state services — rather than citizen inputs, such as voting. If we say a child is entitled to “protection” from his parents, we refer to how his parents treat him. We do not refer to whether the child can dictate to his parents.

Under the natural reading, a state violates the Equal Protection Clause if it protects white people — but not African-Americans — from terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Similarly, a state may not deny the right to bear arms to women while allowing it for men. It may not impose stiffer criminal penalties on Lithuanian-Americans or on poor people than on other citizens.

Admittedly, there are times when the most natural reading is not the correct one. One could argue when a state gives more legislative weight to a rural voter than to an urban voter, it also fails to “protect” them equally, but that reading is ruled out by other parts of the Constitution. The very next section of the Fourteenth Amendment acknowledges and accepts the practice of weighing citizen input unequally by acknowledging and accepting the denial of suffrage for women and persons less than 21 years of age. It also acknowledged implicitly a state may disenfranchise some adult males, requiring only that the state’s representation in Congress be reduced proportionately.

If the Equal Protection Clause applied to voting, then Congress could have extended suffrage to racial minorities, women, and others merely by exercising its Fourteenth Amendment authority to enforce the Equal Protection Clause “by appropriate legislation.” Until the Supreme Court rewrote the Clause, however, it was universally recognized that it did not apply to the vote. That is why Americans ratified the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 to bar states from denying suffrage “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” That is why Americans ratified the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919 to guarantee women the right to vote. That is also one reason Americans ratified the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, which effectively ended property-based voting restrictions.

So there is little doubt the majority of the justices are wrong and Thomas is right.

What can we do about it? During the 1960s, Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-IL) proposed a constitutional amendment partially overruling the Supreme Court reapportionment cases. The effort stalled with the senator’s death in 1969, but Americans could revive it at any time.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. Meg Edison: Surrendering Board Certification to Increase Patient Care

June 08, 2016, 2:50 PM

Meet a pediatrician who voluntarily surrendered her board certification in order to protest extortion of physicians by the American Board of Medical Specialties, provide better care for her patients, and influence lawmakers to act.

Dr. Meg Edison’s story has received more than 100,000 page views at the blog Rebel.MD. She is a private practitioner in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, and a Hillsdale College graduate. Edison joins Health Care News managing editor and fellow Hillsdale alumnus Michael Hamilton to explain how forcing doctors to maintain board certification results in poorer patient care and less freedom for doctors and patients, with nothing to show for it.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

[Please subscribe to the Health Care News Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Incompetent, Pathetically Slow Government Has Placed Itself Between You and the Economy

June 08, 2016, 10:37 AM

Behold “Mother May I?” government. Where the private sector can’t do a thing, make a move, invent or innovate – until after the incompetent, pathetically slow government finally gets around to granting permission to do so. If we’re lucky – more likely than not, they’ll say Nay.

This is why our economic growth has remained stifled and stunted. President Barack Obama will be the first chief executive in our nation’s history to never, ever have a year of even 3.0% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. (By contrast, Ronald Reagan – who inherited a far worse economy than did Obama – AVERAGED 3.5% GDP growth.)

The terrible laws passed by President Obama and his Democrat-majority Congress are bad enough. Obamacare has basically outlawed full-time employment. Dodd-Frank didn’t shrink too-big-too-fail banks – it suffocated and shut down thousands of the small banks we all say we want. Leaving us with just the banking monsters with which to deal.

Which is a lesson of too much government – the monster companies are the only ones who can afford it. It’s the little guys who get crushed under the Leviathan’s weight.

The American people found revolting these Democrat laws – and elected first a Republican House and then a Republican Senate to stop them. Did that cause President Obama even to pause? Of course not. His instead became the Unilateral Fiat Administration.

Blocked by the American people (via the Congress we elected), President Obama’s Executive Branch turned to executing sweeping power grabs – unprecedented in both size and number (20,642 – so far). While their awful laws are killing the likes of the health care and banking sectors, regulations are killing industries like coal.

Compliance with just federal regulations – just last year – cost us $1.9 trillion. And regulations are pernicious in ways laws aren’t. We have the Constitution-protected“right…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Which is much easier to do with an elected Congress. We are all-but-powerless when unelected bureaucrats impersonate Congress – and write laws disguised as regulations.

To wit: The Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Commission’s three unelected Democrat bureaucrats executed a huge power grab – so as to execute myriad subsequent ones.

The HUGE grab was the FCC unilaterally rewriting the law determining how the Internet is regulated. Gone was the light-touch regulatory approach emplaced by Congress via its 1996 Telecommunications Act. You know, the one that allowed the Internet to grow faster than nigh anything in human history. To in two decades go from next-to-nothing – to the free speech-free market Xanadu at which we marvel daily.

The Internet was anything but broken. Obama’s FCC insisted on “fixing” it. By imposing 1934 landline telephone laws and regulations – written a half century before anyone knew what an Internet was. The FCC executed this authoritarian, bizarre, time-warp grab – because the FCC has dramatically more regulatory (and taxing) authority over landline telephones than they do the Web. They did it – to unleash their avalanche of subsequent power grabs.

Behold: Network Neutrality. Which plops down the Leviathan between you and the Internet economy. The ever-expanding, constantly innovating Internet – now has to ask the government for permission before doing anything new or different. Which freezes the Web in amber – and will slowly grind perhaps the greatest economic machine in history to a lurching halt.

Behold: “Zero rating.” An Internet wrinkle – which really isn’t even new or different. “Zero rating” is Internet providing companies allowing you unlimited access to websites – without it counting against your data cap. This is the Web equivalent of pre-paid postage and toll-free phone numbers – nothing new or different.

But the anti-capitalism Left screeches that “zero rating” is <gasp> a Net Neutrality violation. (Yet another example of these Leftist “consumer groups”being anti-consumer and pro-government.)

The FCC imposed Net Neutrality in February 2015. Yet in June 2016, we STILL are getting headlines like this:

‘Zero Rating’ is the Wild Card in the FCC’s New Net Neutrality

Is Zero Rating a Net Neutrality Issue?

Zero Rating Poses a Conundrum for Net Neutrality Advocates

Sixteen months into the Net Neutrality regime advocates spent a decade-plus saying was imminently, vitally important – and the government STILL hasn’t decided whether or not to grant us permission to engage in this mundane economic practice.

So the entire Internet economy waits, and waits, and stagnates, and…. In a holding pattern over LaGuardia while we wait for incompetent, pathetically slow government to get its act together and make a decision – on whether or not Internet providers can do what phone companies and snail mailers have done for decades.

In other words, Democrat FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s incessant mantra about “permission-less innovation” – were talking point lies along the lines of “If you like your health care plan – you can keep your health care plan.”

But when it comes to economy-killing, government-expanding power grabs – the ends justify any means necessary.

And they did it. We’re still stuck with the likes of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank – and Net Neutrality.

And the private sector sinks further beneath the regulatory waves.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Frac Sand Mining Contributing to Cleaner Air

June 08, 2016, 1:01 AM

The rapid development of frac sand mining in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and especially Wisconsin led many people living near mines and processing plants to become concerned about the potential negative impact these facilities could have on local air quality. One of the primary worries some residents cite is the amount of very fine particle pollutants, measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5), that may be generated from these facilities. But what does the best available evidence tell us?

The Institute for Wisconsin’s Health Incorporated conducted a health impact assessment on the impact of frac sand mining and found it isn’t contributing to hazardous levels of particulate matter. A new study released by the World Health Organization has found the United States as a whole has decreased its PM2.5 air pollution over the past five years, even as frac sand mining has boomed. PM2.5 levels have fallen in part because of increasing reliance on natural gas (which is captured as part of the hydraulic fracking process) to generate electricity. In this respect, the small, spherical grains of frac sand mined in the Upper Midwest are helping to bring cleaner air to the entire country.

Natural gas is a clean-burning fuel, and it is helping to reduce the amount of PM2.5 in the air. Burning gas emits only one-third of the nitrogen oxides and only 1 percent of the sulfur oxides that are emitted when coal is burned. These two compounds can combine with water vapor in the atmosphere to create the PM2.5 particles that have been linked to negative health impacts when they are present in very high concentrations. Those negative impacts include increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

Natural gas helps reduce air pollution, and in order to get natural gas, the nation needs more hydraulic fracturing operations. Hydraulic fracturing now accounts for approximately 67 percent of all U.S. natural gas production, making the United States the largest producer of natural gas in the world. Increasing supplies of natural gas have caused energy prices to plummet, making it a significantly cheaper source of fuel to generate electricity with compared to other forms of energy, such as coal.

Low natural gas prices are the reason why the Energy Information Administration has predicted 2016 will be the first year natural gas-fired generation exceeds coal generation in the United States on a year-to-year basis. As natural gas becomes responsible for generating a greater share of the nation’s electricity in the future, and fracking becomes responsible for a greater share of natural gas production, America’s reliance on frac sand mining will only continue to grow.

It’s understandable for people living near industrial sand facilities to be concerned about the potential impacts of sand mining on the environment and human health, but it’s important to understand the best available science on the topic shows industrial sand mines and processing plants pose virtually no harm to air quality near these facilities, and the spherical sand mined in the Upper Midwest is playing an important role in reducing air pollution across the entire nation.

Sand mining must be done in an environmentally responsible manner that minimizes the risks and maximizes the benefits. It’s easy to fixate on what the local impact of a new industry will be, but it’s also important to understand the benefits derived from sand mining extend beyond our own backyards.

[Originally published at the Oklahoman]

Categories: On the Blog

Medicare-Age Patient to Mr. Trump: Let’s Make a Deal

June 07, 2016, 4:05 PM

 

Mr. Trump has been castigated for saying that if the government goes bankrupt, he’d get creditors to accept less. That is standard operating procedure for businesses. Creditors make deals because something is better than nothing, and if a company is utterly destroyed, nothing is what they will get. They may complain, but unless they were actually defrauded, they voluntarily assumed a risk of loss, hoping to make a profit.

The situation with government is not quite the same. But neither is it altogether different.

Every knowledgeable person who is not in deep denial knows that the U.S. government has already accumulated debts that can never be repaid, and made promises it cannot keep. How rude of Mr. Trump to say it out loud!

A huge part of the government’s obligation is owed to recipients of Social Security and Medicare. These programs are already paying out more than they take in from payroll taxes. Their future unfunded liabilities have been variously calculated. Maybe they are $40 trillion, maybe $100 trillion. The lowest estimate might as well be infinite: it is impossible for government to pay.

We already have seniors in the streets with signs that say “Hands off my Medicare!”

Say what? Whose Medicare? Its instigator, Lyndon Baines Johnson, said it was his Medicare. To be sure that hisprogram succeeded, he virtually wiped out the private insurance alternative. Aside from a few employment-related programs for which Medicare is the primary payer, almost all plans for persons over 65 are supplements, which only cover part of what Medicare allows.

If an insurance policy is yours, you have a contract with the company. You probably didn’t read it, but you at least got it and should have kept it. Unlike a retirement fund or a real insurance policy, Social Security and Medicare are entitlements—to whatever Congress chooses to provide at a given time. Congress could cancel your benefits at any time, and it has for selected beneficiaries deemed unworthy. What could you do about it aside from voting them out at the next election?

There’s the “social contract.” It’s not enforceable in court; it’s just an ethical obligation. We Baby Boomers didn’t have a choice about paying the tax, and they promised to take care of us. But what does it really mean? We paid taxes to support older retirees, and in turn we expect the government to tax the younger generation to support us. Like in all pyramid schemes, the early subscribers did well, but eventually the pool of new subscribers will run dry.

How about this deal between me and the hard-working young man who is servicing my pickup truck: “I’ll pay a relatively modest tax to provide older people with good benefits, and you’ll pay a higher tax to take care of me, and when the money runs out, the government might buy you a suicide drug.” Would anyone consent to that?

That’s the deal Congress imposed on Americans, who didn’t understand what it meant—or who possibly think it is ok to mortgage the future of our children.

No healthcare reform is credible unless it addresses the impending crash of Medicare. As Mr. Trump said, everything is negotiable, and I’ll make the first offer. I’ll relinquish all claims on Medicare in return for a monthly annuity of half the expected value of Medicare coverage. I’ll take responsibility for paying for my medical care, and forgo the Medicare claims processing, utilization review, “quality assurance,” compliance auditing, etc. At least half of all Medicare revenue is wasted on such administrative overhead. I’d face the risk of a big hospital bill, but better that than the risk of treatment in a facility that benefits from my early demise. Some hospitals might be willing to treat me in return for assigning my annuity to them. Or if I reject Medicare on ethical grounds, I can join a health sharing ministry. To sweeten the deal, the government could exempt me from capital gains taxes if I sell assets to pay those who help me. Most capital gains are fictitious anyway because of deterioration in the value of the dollar. And the government could allow greatly expanded health savings accounts.

People who like “their” Medicare could keep it. The rest of us are willing to deal, Mr. Trump!

Categories: On the Blog

Finally, Courage to Counterpunch the Green Bullies

June 07, 2016, 3:24 PM

When the name Resolute was chosen in 2011, after the merger of Bowater and Abitibi-Consolidated, the Canadian company, a global leader in the forest products industry and the largest producer of newsprint in the world, likely didn’t know what a harbinger it was. Today, it stands alone, set in purpose, with firmness and determination. Displaying the rare courage to stand up to the typical environmental extremists’ campaign of misinformation and shaming designed to shut it down, Resolute Forest Products is fighting back.

Many people are probably unaware of the shakedown tactics used by groups whose touchy-feely names belie their true goals.

Like most companies, Resolute originally went along. As Peter Foster explains in the Financial Post: “a cabal of radical environmental non-governmental organizations, ENGOs—including Greenpeace, ForestEthics and the David Suzuki Foundation—agreed to stop their campaigns of customer harassment in return for the members of the Forest Products Association of Canada, FPAC, agreeing to sanitize a swathe of the Canadian Boreal forest, and to ‘consult’ on development plans. Astonishingly, governments played no part.” The result was the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The ENGOs ultimately aspired to put the majority of the Boreal forest off limits—ending economic development. Regarding the Greenpeace-promoted concept of “intact forest landscape protection,” Laurent Lessard, Quebec’s Minister of Forest, Wildlife and Parks, says it threatens “absolutely devastating” economic implications.

Resolute had been a major supporter of the Agreement and has participated in other efforts between ENGOs and industry to work out differences. Despite that, using a campaign of lies and intimidation, ENGOs have constantly attacked Resolute. At one point, in 2012, the false claims were so egregious, Resolute threatened legal action against Greenpeace—which garnered an unprecedented apology and retraction from Greenpeace. However, they came back with vengeance. Greenpeace continued to publicize the same false statements and dubbed Resolute a Boreal forest “destroyer.”

Engaged in a war without violence, Greenpeace has since attacked Rite-Aid Pharmacy for “getting millions of pounds of paper from controversial logging giant Resolute Forest Products,” calling Resolute: “a company with a history of environmental destruction.” Greenpeace was successful with a similar harassment campaign against Best-Buy. Resolute was the company’s primary paper supplier, but due to the shaming, Best-Buy announced it would seek other sources. Greenpeace has no plans to stop the tactic. Other targeted companies include Canadian Tire (a retailer with more than 1700 outlets), Home Depot and Office Depot, Proctor & Gamble and 3M. Foster reports: “Greenpeace itself has calculated that its campaigns have cost Resolute at least $100 million.”

Somewhere between the Greenpeace retraction and May 2013, an epiphany—similar to what occurred between the president of the U.S. and the space alien in the movie Independence Day—must have taken place. In the clip, the captured alien is choking someone with its tentacle and the president is trying to negotiate with it. He tries to reason with the alien and suggests that they could “coexist.” He asks the alien what it wants them to do. The alien simply responds: “die.” Resolute must have realized that no matter how many agreements it might sign, the global network of ENGOs come back with more and more rigid requirements until the tentacles choke the company out.

On May 23, 2013, Resolute filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace claiming it damaged the company’s “business, goodwill and reputation.” The suit asserts defamation, malicious falsehood and intentional interference with economic relations and seeks damages of $5 million as well as punitive damages of $2 million, plus costs. Greenpeace says the suit “is an effort to subdue Greenpeace into silence and send a message to other groups that they should stay quiet.” It believes the suit should have been thrown out, but despite several attempts, the Judge has disagreed and allowed unflattering accusations about Greenpeace’s global law-breaking activities to remain.

While the Canadian lawsuit makes its way through the courts and the appeals process, Resolute has just taken another bold step to defend itself against the green bully’s attacks.

On May 31, Resolute took a page from the ENGO’s playbook and, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, filed a civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) suit against Greenpeace and a number of its associates who, though they claim to be independent, act cooperatively. The RICO Act intended to deal with the mob as a loose organization, or “enterprise,” with a pattern of activity and common nefarious purposes, such as extortion. (Greenpeace has asked the Justice Department to use the RICO Act to investigate oil companies and organizations that sow doubts about the risks of climate change.)

The 100-page complaint alleges that Greenpeace and its affiliates are a RICO “enterprise.” According to the Resolute news release, it describes the deliberate falsity of the malicious and defamatory accusations the enterprise has made and details how, to support its false accusations, “Greenpeace has fabricated evidence and events, including, for example, staged photos falsely purporting to show Resolute logging in prohibited areas.”  The suit also calls Greenpeace a “global fraud” out to line its pockets with money from donors and says that “maximizing donations, not saving the environment, is Greenpeace’s true objective.” Additionally, it cites admissions by Greenpeace’s leadership that it “emotionalizes” issues to manipulate audiences.

In the U.S. lawsuit, Resolute is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial, as well as treble and punitive damages.

Patrick Moore, one of the original founders of Greenpeace, is disappointed that the group that originally wanted to help, is now an extortion racket. He told me: “I am very proud to have played a small role in helping Resolute deal with these lying blackmailers and extortionists”

Discovery in both the Canadian and U.S. lawsuits will open up records and could well peel back the moralist tone to expose a global job-destroying, anti-development agenda. For too long ENGOs have been allowed free rein over regulating natural resources in what is really economic warfare on workers.

At a recent meeting, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, according to Foster, “acknowledged that it was time to stand up and recognize ‘the significant economic implication of misinformation’”—though one has to wonder what took them so long.

Resolute is counter-punching the green bullies—and it’s about time. Just ask the coal miners in West Virginia or the farmers in Central California who are wild with enthusiasm for the Trump candidacy that promises to end the regressive regulations and return the U.S. to economic strength.

Hopefully other companies will now tune into the public’s change in attitude and, with firmness and determination, will, also, fight back to protect shareholders and workers.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Adam Michel: How the Tax Code Holds Back Prosperity

June 07, 2016, 3:21 PM

In this episode of The Heartland Institute’s weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Mercatus Center at George Mason University Spending and Budget Initiative program manager Adam Michel about a new study on which he collaborated, about how the U.S. tax code is holding back the nation’s prosperity-building power, and how common-sense tax reforms could unleash the nation’s economic beast and make America great again. 

According to Michel, an ideal tax code is one that’s simple, efficient, equitable, and predictable. Michel explains how our current tax system has none of these qualities, and how these qualities effect the amount of revenue government receives. Americans of all income levels believe the tax code is unfair. This perception is largely fueled by the code’s loopholes,” provisions intended to benefit or penalize select individuals and groups. Instead of benefiting some at the expense of others, Michel explains why lawmakers should reduce or eliminate provisions favoring one group or behavior over others.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

#MentalIllnessFeelsLike States Should Remove Barriers to Telehealth

June 07, 2016, 1:52 PM

One obstacle preventing Americans suffering from mental illness from obtaining the treatment they need is a stigma associated with having a sullied bill of mental health.

States can overcome this obstacle in part by expanding digital access to mental health care providers. This would allow patients to obtain preventive and maintenance mental health care from the convenience and comfort of their homes.

The stigma surrounding mental health problems is prevalent on a webpage hosted by the educational nonprofit group Mental Health America aggregating social media posts with the hashtag #mentalillnessfeelslike.

“The struggle of having illness is speaking up about what is affecting you,” Alondra Sanchez posted on May 18. “The want to tell people but yet to hide it is suffocating.”

“Shame prevents people from reaching out for support,” Cara Wykowski posted to the site via Twitter the same day. “You are not alone!”

Indeed, mental health patients are not alone. Approximately 61.5 million Americans, or one out of four adults, experience mental illness in a given year, and 13.6 million, or one out of 17, suffer from schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, or another serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The ubiquity of mentally ill patients notwithstanding, only “60 percent of adults, and almost one-half of youth ages 8 to 15 with a mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year,” according to NAMI.

It is reasonable to attribute some of this lack of treatment, directly or indirectly, to stigma associated with mental illness. “Stigma can result in lower prioritization for public resources allocated to mental health services and poorer quality of care delivered to people with mental illness,” states a 2012 study coauthored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations.

If mental illness stigma leads to decreased access and quality of mental health care, expanding telemental health opportunities and increasing patient access to high-quality mental health care providers could reduce the felt effects of this stigma.

Successfully treating patients with mental illnesses often requires patients to take prescribed medications consistently. Regular visits with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other certified counselor are also commonly called for. Neither of these treatment components derives its inherent value from the patient and counselor’s physical presence in the same room.

Although on-site presence with one’s mental health care provider all or some of the time may be the best form of treatment for some patients, other patients would benefit from being able to access their providers’ expertise through audio/visual teleconferencing and obtain certain prescriptions, or at least prescription renewals, as a result of a digital doctor appointment.

Making telehealth and telemental health treatment so widespread that they are commonplace for qualified patients would result in more consistent care. It could also reduce the incidence of communication breakdowns between providers and their mentally ill patients, such as Molly Cornelius (@MollyMandlin) of The Bronx, New York, was experiencing on May 16, according to her tweet:

“Miserable. Out of 4 meds. Dr. Completely incommunicado. Withdrawl [sic] from medicine that treats both #fibromyalgia pain & #depression. So sick.”

Although not strictly a mental illness – unlike depression, which Cornelius also mentioned – fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and memory and mood complications, according to an October 1, 2015 post by Mayo Clinic staff.

Cornelius’ tweet was reposted to Mental Health America’s dedicated site the same day by a sympathizer who chose to remain anonymous when he or she replied, “#mentalillnessfeelslike your safety net is made of wet toilet paper.”

No one can guess the backstory behind Cornelius running out of medication, being unable to reach her doctor, or resonating with a fellow patient experiencing mental illness. Nevertheless, lawmakers can improve upon “wet toilet paper” safety nets in their states by ensuring policy environments conducive to the growth of telehealth and telemental health services.

Twenty-eight states plus Washington, DC have enacted full parity laws, which require private insurers to cover telemedicine-provided services comparable to services offered by in-person providers, according to a report by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) published in January 2016.

States should not necessarily require private insurers to cover telehealth or telemental health services, a decision best left to competitive markets. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has amply demonstrated that insurance costs rise when governments mandate private insurers to provide care beyond what they can afford.

Nevertheless, only 22 states plus DC of the 28 states earned “A” ratings from ATA indicating parity laws authorizing statewide coverage without provider or technology restrictions. This means six of the states with parity laws either restrict private insurers from reimbursing providers for telehealth or telemental health services, or restrict providers from treating patients through telehealth. An additional 22 states either lack parity laws or have “numerous artificial barriers to parity,” the ATA report states.

Individuals with mental illness have less of an incentive to make room in their everyday lives for consistent treatment by an in-person provider if doing so mires them in stigma. Although mental telehealth treatment seems a natural alternative, providers have less of an incentive to treat mentally ill patients remotely if the insured’s plan does not extend to telehealth coverage.

Lawmakers should make sure their state laws ensure a free market in which providers and insurers can multiply telehealth and telemental health treatment options for patients.

[Originally published at Townhall]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Burnett: Donald Trump a wild card as Dems push high-cost energy

June 07, 2016, 1:41 PM

Donald Trump’s views on climate change and energy production could hardly be more different than the positions taken by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Trump, a climate skeptic, has said he will reverse the Obama administration’s “war on coal” and rescind the Environmental Protection Agency’s harmful regulations limiting Americans’ ability to access and use fossil fuels.

Trump doubts the claim humans are causing climate change, and says the policies enacted by the Obama administration to fight climate change are harming the United States. On Twitter, Trump has called the climate change theory a “con job,” a “canard,” a “hoax,” and a concept “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.”

In a Sept. 21, 2015, appearance on the Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Trump said, “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. I mean, Obama thinks it’s the No. 1 problem of the world today, and I think it’s very low on the list … we have much bigger problems.”

In a questionnaire provided by the American Energy Alliance, Trump says he would review the Obama administration’s conclusion that carbon dioxide endangers public health and welfare and reverse policies such as the Clean Power Plan, bans on offshore oil and gas production, and new fracking regulations that impose unnecessary burdens on business while delivering little if any environmental benefit. Trump also says he would cut EPA’s budget dramatically and review all EPA regulations, eliminating many of them because, “Overregulation presents one of the greatest barriers to entry into markets and one of the greatest costs to businesses that are trying to stay competitive.”

By contrast, Sanders and Clinton want to double-down on Obama’s rules, ending the use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible to battle climate change, which Sanders calls “the single greatest threat facing our planet” and Clinton says is “an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our times.” Clinton and Sanders would end fossil-fuel subsidies while massively expanding subsidies and mandates for renewable energy use.

Clinton says she would enact policies that would result in the United States generating enough renewable energy to power every home in the country by the end of her first term, but she shows little recognition this four-fold increase in renewable electric power generation — completed in just four years — would require an even larger expansion of natural-gas-fired power plants. Natural-gas-fired power providers do most of the heavy lifting when intermittent wind and solar power are added to the grid.

Clinton and Sanders are split on fracking and the carbon dioxide tax. Sanders has committed to banning all fracking and imposing a carbon dioxide tax. Clinton would increase regulations related to fracking, but she would allow fracking operations to continue. Clinton also rejects the creation of a carbon dioxide tax.

In an ironic twist, Sanders and Clinton, who claim to be progressives primarily concerned for the welfare of the nation’s poor, support the most regressive energy policy there is: government support for wind and solar power, which radically increase the cost of energy. Solar panels, despite decades of development, still only convert about 20 percent of the sunlight they capture into electricity, resulting in solar power being among the most expensive, least reliable sources of electricity available today — costing four to five times the price of electricity generated by burning coal or natural gas.

Wind turbines are almost as unreliable as solar; they produce electricity only 30 percent of the time. In addition, solar and wind power development require hundreds of miles of transmission wires to ship power from isolated areas, where they work best, to major population centers that are often hundreds of miles away. And, because they are unreliable, every watt of solar or wind power must be matched by an additional watt of electricity from fossil fuels or a nuclear plant, adding unnecessary redundancy and additional costs to the electric supply. Since the poor spend a greater percentage of their income on energy compared to middle-income earners or the wealthy, the added costs of renewables amount to an energy tax on the impoverished among us.

While what Trump has said he would do on energy and climate is generally encouraging, the truth is based on his history of funding far-left politicians, including Clinton, one can hardly know what Trump will actually do concerning energy or climate. He’s a question mark. On the other hand, Sanders and Clinton have promised to expand on policies Obama has implemented that have contributed to a 30 percent rise in electricity prices since Obama took office, undermining our energy security.

What a choice.

[Originally published at the Boston Herald]

Categories: On the Blog

How the West Got Healthy and Prosperous

June 07, 2016, 1:25 PM

Vital ingredients included the scientific method and fossil fuels – truths we forget at our peril

Several years ago, physician, statistician, sword swallower and vibrant lecturer Hans Rosling produced a fascinating 4-minute video that presented 120,000 data points and showcased how mostly western nations became healthy and prosperous in just 200 years – after countless millennia of malnutrition, disease,  wretched poverty and early death.

More recently, professor of history and economics Deidre McCloskey provided some clues as to why and how this happened. In a Wall Street Journal article outlining “how the West (and the rest) got rich,” she notes that it wasn’t just Karl Marx’s “exploited workers” or Adam Smith’s “virtuously saved capital, nor was it only Hernando DeSoto and Douglas North’s essential property rights and other legal institutions.

Perhaps the most vital ingredient was that over those two centuries “ideas started having sex,” as author Matt Ridley described the process in The Rational Optimist. It enabled innovators to make discoveries and devise technological wonders, often through coincidental Connections that historian James Burke found among seemingly unrelated earlier inventions, to bring us television, computers and other marvels.

Why did ideas suddenly start having sex? McCloskey asks. One reason was the printing press, which enabled more people to read and share ideas. However, she cites two other principal developments: liberty and equality. Liberated people are ingenious, she observes – free to pursue happiness, and ideas; free to try and fail, and try again; free to pursue their own self-interests, and thereby better mankind.

Equality of social dignity and before the law emboldened people to invest, invent and take risks. Once accidents of parentage, titles, inherited wealth or formal education no longer controlled destinies or opportunities, the innate inspiration, perspiration and perseverance of a Franklin, Bell, Edison, Wright, Kettering, Steinmetz, Ford, Benz, Borlaug and countless others could be unleashed.

“Supposedly inferior races and classes and ethnicities proved not to be so,” McCloskey says. “Ordinary men and women didn’t need to be directed from above and, when honored and left alone, became immensely creative.” That’s an important message in the splendid British television series Downton Abbey, as well: when societal restrictions are relaxed, many can rise to new callings and heights.

Many other factors played key roles in this incredible progress. Two are especially important.

The scientific method begins with an hypothesis about how some component of the natural world works, and a calculation or forecast of what would happen if the concept is correct. Scientists then subject the hypothesis and prediction to experiment. If confirmed by data and observations, we have a new theory or law of nature; if not, the hypothesis is wrong.

This process brought wondrous advances – often through long, laborious tinkering and testing, and often amid heated, acrimonious debate about which hypothesis was correct (the miasma or germ theory of disease), which system was better (direct or alternating current), and countless other investigations.

Abundant, reliable, affordable energy – the vast majority of it fossil fuels – made all this and much more possible. It carried us from human and animal muscle, wood, dung and water wheels, to densely packed energy that could reliably power factories, laboratories, schools, hospitals, homes and offices. Those fuels also run equipment that removes harmful pollutants from our air and water, and they ended our unsustainable reliance on whale oil, saving those magnificent mammals from extinction.

Today, coal, oil and natural gas still provide 80% of America’s and the world’s energy, for transportation, communication, refrigeration, heat, lights, manufacturing, entertainment and every other component of modern life. Together, the scientific method and industrial-grade energy enable our Ultimate Resource – the human mind – to create more new ideas, institutions and technologies that make life for poor people in wealthier countries better, healthier, fuller and longer than even royalty enjoyed a mere century ago.

Medical research discovered why people died from wounds; the true causes of malaria, smallpox, cholera and other diseases; antibiotics, vaccinations, insecticides and pharmaceuticals to combat disease and improve our overall well-being; anesthesia and surgical techniques that permit life-saving operations and organ transplants; sanitation (toilets, soap, trash removal) and water purification; and countless other advances that raised the average American’s life expectancy from 46 in 1900 to 76 today for men and 81 for women.

Internal combustion engines replaced horses for plows and transportation, and rid city streets of manure, urine and carcasses, while creating new problems that later generations toiled to address. Today we can travel the world in hours and ship produce, clothing and other products to the globe’s farthest corners.

Mechanized agriculture – coupled with modern fertilizers, hybrid and GMO seeds, drip irrigation and other advances – produce bumper crops that feed billions, using less land, water and insecticides.

Houses and other buildings are built better and stronger, to keep out the cold and heat and disease-carrying insects, better survive hurricanes and earthquakes, and connect their inhabitants with entertainment and information centers from all over the planet, and beyond.

Modern mining techniques and technologies find, extract and process the incredible variety of metals and other raw materials required to make the mechanized equipment and factories required to produce the energy we need and grow or make everything we eat, wear or use.

If energy is the Master Resource that makes all of this possible, electricity is the king of modern energy. Imagine your life without electricity – generated by coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind or solar facilities, or batteries. Imagine life before electricity, or before the internet and cell phones put the fullness of human knowledge and entertainment instantly in the palm of your hand.

At least one more factor helped to unleash this sudden surge of invention, progress, health and prosperity. A relatively new legal entity, the corporation, organized, harnessed and directed people, money and other resources toward common purposes. A growing private sector – free enterprises and entrepreneurs – put corporate and other ideas, labor and investors’ money on the line, assisted by evolving financial and investment systems and practices, while legal and government institutions provided the ethical and regulatory frameworks within which these entities are expected to operate.

Numerous “invisible hands” worked together across continents and oceans, often without even knowing their counterparts exist, to bring us products as simple as a pencil or as complex as a cell phone.

So we are left with a profound question. Amid all this health, prosperity and longevity for so many – why do so many still struggle on the edge of survival? Why do two billion still have minimal electricity and another 1.3 people still have none at all? Why do two billion still exist on $3 per day? Why do a half-million still die every year from malaria? five million more from respiratory and intestinal diseases?

The formula for health and prosperity is no secret. It is readily available on your cell phone. Indeed, says Leon Louw, the real “economic miracle” today is not found in South Korea, Singapore or Botswana – but in North Korea, Venezuela and most of Africa.

What should fascinate us is the miracle of poverty – the way inept, corrupt, greedy, centrally planned, hyper-regulated governments have prevented prosperity from happening. What should outrage us is that callous UN bodies, NGOs and activists have imposed their eco-imperialist agendas, and prevented countries from acquiring the property rights and technologies that made so many nations healthy and rich.

What should concern us is that many forces are conspiring to roll back the free enterprise, free speech, scientific method, and reliable, affordable energy that make modern living standards possible. Having them now does not guarantee them tomorrow. Failure to safeguard these essential foundations could take us on the path to joining the ranks of the “miracles of poverty” and FRCs: Formerly Rich Countries.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Naomi Oreskes Warps History

June 07, 2016, 1:11 PM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Greenpeace Under Fire – Again
H. Sterling Burnett, Somewhat Reasonable
According to a lawsuit filed on May 31, Greenpeace is “a global fraud” that has “fraudulently induced people throughout the United States and the world to donate millions of dollars based on materially false and misleading claims about its purported environmental purpose and its ‘campaigns’ against targeted companies.” The suit says “maximizing donations, not saving the environment, is Greenpeace’s true objective.” We’ve been reporting that for years. READ MORE

Answering the John Birch Society’s Questions about Article V
Michael Farris, Heartland Policy Brief
The John Birch Society (JBS) is one of the most vocal opponents of convening a convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution. Michael Farris, a legal advisor for the Convention of States Project, addresses and debunks 16 objections by JBS, writing, “Only a Convention of States will give us effective solutions to the abuse of power in Washington, D.C. It is our moral obligation to protect liberty for ourselves and our posterity.”  READ MORE

Naomi Oreskes Warps History
Ron Arnold, LeftExposed
Socialist historian Naomi Oreskes took what amounts to climate skeptic vanilla pudding and labeled it as deadly poison in a book titled Merchants of Doubt that became her meal ticket for life. But she never bothered investigating the original source documents and made no effort to interview the clearly named involved parties. That breaks every rule of journalistic ethics, not to mention scholarly historiography. READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Peter Ferrara: Examining Obamacare Repeal and Replace Options
After years of false starts, 2017 may be the year Congress finally repeals Obamacare. Heartland Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara, author of Power to the People, joins Michael Hamilton, managing editor of Health Care News, to talk about the proposed plans for replacing the Affordable Care Act. Ferrara and Hamilton discuss universal health insurance tax credits (UHITCs) and the idea of block-granting Medicaid to the states. LISTEN TO MORE

Heartland Library Book Shelf of the Week – Health Care
For more, follow Heartland on Twitter @HeartlandInst

Coming Next Week to Arlington Heights: Funding Education Choice
On Wednesday, June 8, the Cato Institute’s Jason Bedrick will be at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to explain how your tax dollars can be better used to educate your children. A week later, a panel of experts will discuss our Second Amendment right to bear arms and how the government challenges that right. We hope to see you here in Arlington Heights, but if you are unable to attend in person, the events will be live-streamed and archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

FDA’s Hasty, Irresponsible Regulation of E-Cigarettes Will Harm Consumers
David S. D’Amato, Investor’s Business Daily 
Government’s role in ensuring consumer safety should extend to barring fraud and false or misleading advertising, while otherwise leaving producers and consumers free to bargain and exchange. FDA’s rush to over-regulate e-cigarettes reveals how today’s consumer needs protection from government, not companies offering innovative alternatives to tobacco. READ MORE

Trump Would Renegotiate Paris Climate Agreement
H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly
One piece of good news to come out of the presidential campaign so far is presidential candidate Donald Trump’s bold and uncompromising dissent from global warming alarmism. Trump has said global warming ranks low on the list of problems facing the world, and he would renegotiate the climate agreement that came out of COP-21 in Paris in December. He also said he does not expect China, the world’s top carbon dioxide emitter, to adhere to the toothless and nonbinding pledge. READ MORE

Schools Seek to Reduce Emphasis on Test Scores
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
New requirements from the Every Student Succeeds Act are now leading states to judge public schools against “non-academic” criteria. Instead of relying heavily on test scores, new factors may include attendance rates and student perceptions of teacher “warmth.” But if bureaucrats can’t manage a few criteria well, why should they seek to manage more – and why should we allow them to do so?  READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Lennie Jarratt: Nation’s Report Card Shows Falling Education Scores
The latest results of the “Nation’s Report Card,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, show yet another decline in student achievement. Lennie Jarratt, project manager for The Heartland Institute’s Center for Transforming Education, joins theMorning News Watch Radio Show to talk about these test scores, some of the first seen during the Common Core era. While it may be too early to lay all the blame on Common Core, Jarratt points to a study showing scores fell most dramatically in states that embraced Common Core. READ MORE

AGs Delegated Powers to Predatory Lawyer in Suit Against ExxonMobil
Ron Arnold, Left Exposed
A group of state attorneys general, calling themselves “AGs United for Clean Power,” declared they planned to “creatively and aggressively” use their powers to harass and intimidate ExxonMobil, think tanks, and individuals who dare to criticize the Obama administration’s war on fossil fuels. One of their tactics is to contract with an infamous trial lawyer, Linda Singer, known for her use of “questionable tactics to win lucrative cases.” READ MORE

States Ought to Remove Barriers to Telehealth
Michael Hamilton, Consumer Power Report
More than half the states restrict telemedicine-provided services. This fact, along with the stigma surrounding mental health, has served to limit treatment for those most in need. A key step toward increasing access to mental health services is to remove already-in-place barriers. If digital access to mental health services were expanded, patients would be allowed to obtain preventive and maintenance services from the convenience and comfort of their own homes. READ MORE

Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies! Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable Many people rely on our profile on Wikipedia to provide an objective description of our mission, programs, and accomplishments. Alas, the profile they find there is a fake, filled with lies and libel about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. We need your help! READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog