Monthly Archives: January 2008

Government Influence Of Science — Mandating Losers

Democrats seem to want the federal government to invest huge sums of money in development of alternative energy sources. tarran, last year, pointed out that government has all the wrong incentives and thus often picks the most politically-palatable technologies, not the most effective.

This is currently occurring in Britain, a nation which has gone down the same path towards ethanol as the United States. What’s interesting is where the opposition is currently coming from– the greens:

Yet even as their star has risen at Westminster, biofuels have been raising doubts among greens. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, two environmental-lobbying groups, have given warning that biofuels may not be as eco-friendly as they seem. On January 14th a more august body took a similar line. The Royal Society, Britain’s national science academy, published a report that analysed the bewildering range of biofuels on the market. It concluded that, thanks to carbon emissions from fertilisers and processing, some biofuels may cause more climate change than petrol. That raises the risk of a spectacular official own-goal: if targets encourage people to use the wrong sort of fuel, transport may get dirtier, not cleaner. The Royal Society wants ministers to specify targets not for biofuel consumption but for greenhouse-gas reduction. The government says it may do that after 2010.

I’ve pointed out that in the US, we have a system where we subsidize corn and tax sugar. This is a situation where our ethanol mandate distorts the market by raising the price of corn, raising the price (and reducing the supply) of food crops, raises the price of fuel, and if Greenpeace is correct, doesn’t even improve the environment. Why does this occur? Because corn producers vote and lobby Washington, while sugar producers are largely foreign, and thus cannot vote for politicians in Congress.

Government and science don’t mix.


So What’s Going On With Romneycare ?

When Mitt Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, he signed into a law a bill mandating that every resident purchase health insurance or pay a fine to the state to subsidize the cost of state-provided insurance.

When the law was passed it was assumed that most people would be covered by employer provided insurance, but according to the Boston Globe, Romneycare is costing the state a lot more than expected:

Spending on the state’s landmark health insurance initiative would rise by more than $400 million next year, representing one of the largest increases in the $28.2 billion state budget the governor proposed yesterday.

The biggest driver of the cost increase is projected growth in the number of people signing up for state-subsidized insurance, which now far exceeds earlier estimates.

State and federal taxpayers are expected to bear nearly all of the additional cost.

Of course they are, it’s only logical. Why should employers provide health insurance to their employees when they know that those employees will be able to take advantage of a taxpayer subsidized alternative ? Why should individuals make the effort to find cost-effective health insurance when they know the state will provide it for them ? When you subsidize something, in this case uninsured citizens, you get more of it, and that’s exactly what’s going on here.

Keep in mind what’s going on here. We are talking about a health insurance plan that was proposed nearly three years ago by then Republican Governor Mitt Romney, who is now running for President claiming to be a conservative. Is this what he would impose upon America; a massive, unfunded mandate that will single-handedly wreck the private insurance market ?

And it’s not just the insurance market that’s at stake here:

[T]he long-term cost of the insurance initiative continues to concern pol icy makers and analysts, who are worried that it may become unaffordable.

“These increases are more than anticipated, so we absolutely have to find ways to hold down the rate of growth in future years,” said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-funded budget watchdog that has supported the initiative.

Steve Verdon points out, accurately I think, just exactly how that is likely to happen:

Here are two ideas that push the cost back on the individuals in the plan and will never show up on a balance sheet anywhere:

  1. Increase waiting times.
  2. Suspend certain procedures, treatments, etc.

The nice thing about these two is that while they impose costs in the individuals in the plan, there are no dollor costs.

In other words, rationing health care. Thanks Governor Romney, but I’ll pass on that one.

Bush, Congress To Pass Ineffective “Stimulus” Package

It hasn’t been made official yet, but it looks like the Bush Administration and Congress have reached a deal on an economic stimulus package, the major component of which will include tax rebates of up to $ 600 per person:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — American taxpayers would get checks of several hundred dollars from the federal government under a plan to stimulate the economy, sources said Thursday.

Congressional leaders of both parties were talking with their membership to sell the plan, sources said.

Sources on Capitol Hill and at the Treasury Department said congressional and White House negotiators agreed upon checks of $600 per individual and $1,200 per couple who paid income tax and who filed jointly.

People who did not pay federal income taxes but who had earned income of more than $3,000 would get checks of $300 per individual or $600 per couple.

A Democratic aide and Republican aide said there will be an additional amount per child, which could be in the neighborhood of $300.

Concidentally, Don Boureaux points out in today’s Christian Science Monitor why such “tax rebate” plans won’t do anything to stimulate the economy:

Government cannot create genuine spending power; the most it can do is to transfer it from Smith to Jones. If the Treasury sends a stimulus check to Jones, the money comes from taxes, from borrowing, or is newly created.

If it comes from taxes, the value of Jones’s stimulus check is offset by the greater taxes paid by Smith, who will then have fewer dollars to spend or invest. If Uncle Sam borrows to pay for the stimulus checks, this borrowing takes money out of the private sector. Any dollars borrowed – whether from foreigners or fellow Americans – for purposes of stimulus would have been spent or invested in other ways were they not loaned to the government.

The only other means of paying for such stimulus is for the Federal Reserve to create new money. Unfortunately, this option leads inevitably to inflation.

All Americans wind up with more dollars in their wallets but also paying higher prices in the stores. Prosperity is not created by raining down upon the populace more monochrome pictures of dead statesmen.

Stimulus funded with newly created money is especially harmful. Most obviously, the inflation it causes prompts investors to flee the dollar. But because inflation can take time to show up, injecting new money into the economy can create a temporary sense that consumers and investors are wealthier than they really are. Such a false sense dangerously delays the necessary pruning of unfruitful investments. A bad economy is prolonged.

Creating a “temporary sense” that the economy isn’t really that bad is, of course, exactly what the politicians are aiming for here. They’re not aiming to actually fix what’s wrong, they’re aiming to make it seem like they fixed it in time for the upcoming elections. Which is why both political parties, Republican and Democrat, are behind the idea and why it’s taken less than a week from when President Bush first spoke about a stimulus package for Congress and the White House to reach an agreement. It’s in both their interests to make people think that they’re doing something that will help, even if it won’t.

Instead of the temporary fixes that Washington is concentrating on, Boudreaux says that politicians should focus on fixing the fundamentals and stop engaging in policies that discourage investment and growth:

First, Mr. Bush should call for a substantial and permanent cut in both capital-gains and personal-income tax rates.

Next, he should insist on a large reduction in federal spending, including elimination of all agricultural subsidies. While he’s showing such courage, he might as well unconditionally endorse free trade.

Cutting taxes is, of course, a good thing, but it’s important to know why. The goal would not be to increase consumer spending. Instead, it would be to raise the returns on investment and work.

By letting investors and workers keep more of the fruits of their risk-taking, creativity, and efforts, the economy will enjoy more risk-taking, creativity, and effort. Businesses that would otherwise not be started would be created. Likewise with machinery and training that increases worker productivity. Investors worldwide would flock to take advantage of these lower tax rates, further increasing productive investments.


Finally, Bush should assure the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve that he neither expects nor wants them to use monetary policy politically. Reminding them of the wisdom of Milton Friedman, he should strongly urge them to keep a tight rein on the money supply.

Of course, as Boudreaux notes, none of these policies will have the immediate impact that politicians desire, and none of them will be as readily apparent to voters as a $ 1,200 check in their mailbox, which is exactly why thery won’t be adopted.

Free Market Organs

Last week, Doug linked a post about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s support for a policy that would allow hospitals to harvest organs without prior consent of the decedent or his/ her family. In essence, the organs of all deceased British citizens would belong to the government’s healthcare system except for those individuals who “opted out” prior to death.

The policy in the U.S. is an “opt in” approach rather than “opt out.” Why is this distinction important? Answer: the presumption of ownership. If citizens have an option of opting in, this shows that individuals own their bodies; to suggest that an individual has to opt out shows that citizens’ bodies are property of the government (unless s/he makes an affirmative claim on his/her body).
The reason for Brown’s support for this policy is quite obvious: like just about everywhere else in the world, Britain is having an organ shortage.

So if presumed consent is not the answer to solving the organ shortage, what is? Randolph Beard, John D. Jackson, and David L. Kaserman of Auburn University published a study in the Winter 2008 issue of Cato’s Regulation Magazine. The team studied the effectiveness of current policies aimed at maximizing donor participation and organ matching. Among the policies they analyzed were: increased government funding for organ donor education, organ donor cards (such as having the words “organ donor” on driver’s licenses), required request, kidney exchange programs, and donor reimbursement. None of the policies have come close to solving the shortage. The researchers estimate that roughly half of the potentially viable cadaver organs are ever harvested. With the exception of the inefficient kidney exchange program, one feature that all of these programs have in common is that they each rely on altruism on the part of individuals to donate organs without any sort of compensation.

The one solution which the researchers believe would be effective, monetary compensation to organ donors or their families, is illegal almost everywhere. In 1984, the National Organ Transplant Act was passed making it a crime in the U.S. for a surviving family to receive payment for their loved one’s organs. The law was passed mostly on ethical grounds without any consideration for what would happen to the supply of available organs. The researchers estimate that some 80,000 lives from 1984 to present have been lost because of the bill’s passage and other subsequent policies in the current “altruistic” system. The researchers further project that another 196,310 lives will be lost between 2005- 2015 (and this is what they consider a “conservative” estimate!).

As controversial as compensating families organs of deceased family members is, the thought of an individual driving to a hospital, removing an organ (such as a kidney), and selling that organ to someone in need of the organ for a profit is a complete non-starter. This shouldn’t come as a shock given that in today’s lexicon; the word “profit” is a dirty word. The people who scream bloody murder whenever people decide to “scalp” tickets to sporting events or tickets for Hanna Montana concerts (what’s the big deal with Hanna Montana anyway?) will not likely be in favor of selling vital organs. Anti-capitalist objections aside, free market buying and selling of organs appears to be the most practical solution.

Cato Institute’s Director of Bioethics Studies Sigrid Fry-Revere found that Iran is the only country that does not have an organ shortage and has not had a shortage in ten years. Why? Because Iran (of all places!) is one of the only countries where it is legal for individuals to buy and sell organs from live, voluntary, donations. Revere’s findings also revealed that even if all the viable organs were taken by force by the government from cadavers, there would still not be enough organs to provide an organ to everyone who needs one (Cato Daily Podcast dated January 15, 2008). Maybe the Iranians are on to something here?

David Holcberg, writing for Capitalism Magazine agrees arguing in favor of a free market system for organs on both practical and moral grounds:

If you were sick and needed a kidney transplant, you would soon find out that there is a waiting line–and that there are 70,000 people ahead of you, 4,000 of whom will die within a year. If you couldn’t find a willing and compatible donor among your friends and family, you could try to find a stranger willing to give you his kidney–but you would not be allowed to pay him. In fact, the law would not permit you to give him any value in exchange for his kidney. As far as the law is concerned, no one can profit from donating an organ–even if that policy costs you your life.

Patients’ attempt to circumvent this deplorable state of affairs has led to the emergence of “paired” kidney donations, an arrangement whereby two individuals–who can’t donate their organs to their loves ones because of medical incompatibility–agree that each will donate a kidney to a friend or family member of the other. But this exchange of value for value is precisely what today’s law forbids. Thus, under pressure to allow this type of exchange, in December the U.S. House and Senate passed The Living Kidney Organ Donation Clarification Act, which amends the National Organ Transplant Act to exempt “paired” donations of kidneys from prosecution.

The congress says that kidneys can be exchanged without sending anyone to jail; how thoughtful. While this is an encouraging step in the right direction, why won’t our elected officials go the rest of the way? Is it the potential risks for the donors? Holcberg points out that the risk for a healthy person dying from donating a kidney is about .03% and usually live normal lives without reducing his or her life expectancy.

No, I suspect the objection to selling organs is more rooted in the overall distain far too many people have towards capitalism. It’s simply unethical to make a profit off of something that someone else “needs” whether its gasoline, Hanna Montana tickets, or a kidney. Only the “privileged” will be able to buy organs if such a system were adopted, they would argue.

Even if this were true, denying a person the right to purchase an organ to save his or her own life should not be subject to a vote or someone else’s ethical hang-ups. If I want to remove a kidney and sell it to a willing buyer for $30,000 (or whatever the going market rate is) I ought to have that right. Why must we assume the government has the right to tell us what we can do with our bodies whether it’s selling our organs by our own choices or government taking them from us after we die without prior consent? Our individual rights of life, liberty, and property demand that we have the ability to make these choices for ourselves.

French Prefer Linguistic Purity To International Relevance

France is a nation that once dominated the world. In the 14th Century or so, the King of France would have likely been considered the “most powerful man in the world”, much as an American President would be considered today. Over time, the French have become irrelevant, as their empire has shrunk and their power– including a goal to dominate Europe through the EU– has dissipated as well.

How have the French people taken this change? With a whole host of sour grapes, and rarely has this been more apparent than in their language. Preferring not to use terms like “e-mail” due to its English root, the French government tried in vain to promote the term “courier electronique”. In an effort to re-assert their prominence in the news world, they began their own international news network to compete with CNN, known as France 24. At the time, they offered it in multiple languages, as English has become the lingua franca of international business. Now, though, French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to shut down the English version of the channel:

“GOBSMACKED!” That is how one journalist at France 24, a television news channel, described the newsroom’s reaction to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s announcement that the channel should in future broadcast only in French. That such a colloquialism—in English—reverberates so readily around a French television studio shows how bilingual the channel has become in a land known for linguistic chauvinism.

France 24, jointly owned by the public broadcaster and TF1, a private station, was set up just over a year ago as a result of French exasperation at American dominance of the airwaves. The French were vexed, particularly during the invasion of Iraq, by the cheerleading of American networks, and wanted a CNN à la française. From the start, it was obvious that to offer a “French perspective” to others, it would have to broadcast in languages other than French, just as al-Jazeera knew it could not broadcast only in Arabic. France 24 began with channels in French and English; an Arabic station followed.

So why does Mr Sarkozy want to close down its non-French channels? One reason is budgetary: he says he is “not disposed to finance a channel that does not speak French”. The other is diplomatic. “In order to present a French vision,” he says, “I would really prefer it to be presented in the French language.” The French have long considered their language to be more than a tool of communication: it is an embodiment of culture, identity and independence. To speak to the world in another language seems like a gesture of submission.

Submission? Perhaps. But to speak to the world in French is largely a gesture of futility.

To be fair, I’m not saying that broadcasting only in French is a bad thing. French is still one of the world’s great languages. According to wikipedia, somewhere in the range of 500 million people worldwide have “significant knowledge” of the language. That puts it roughly near Spanish, slightly ahead of Arabic, and only behind Chinese (Mandarin) and English worldwide.

But if France wants to expand its culture, it needs to reach out to areas where its culture currently does not penetrate. America and the rest of the English-speaking world would be a great market. Trying to enter the US market will be difficult enough for a French network, but trying to do so in the French language will be impossible.

Sarkozy has a choice: either continue with the attempt to expand French culture, knowing that you will have to do so in other languages, or give up on the plan to expand the culture, and use France 24 as a competitor to CNN and Al-Jazeera in markets with already heavy French influence. If there will be any chance to reverse the trajectory of French culture over the last century, it might be best to attempt the former.

That Lottery Ticket Is Guilty !

Police in Maine are holding onto a lottery ticket worth $ 1,000 on the ground that it constitutes proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs:

ELLSWORTH, Maine (AP) — His lottery ticket was a $1,000 winner, but police have seized it saying it was bought with proceeds from an illegal drug sale.

Michael David, who had been staying at an Ellsworth motel, sold four 10-milligram methadone pills for $15 each last week, Police Chief John Deleo said.

He then went to a convenience store and bought lottery tickets and other merchandise and went back to his motel room, where he was busted.

“I guess it will be up to a judge to decide, but it’s in our possession right now as proceeds from a drug transaction,” Deleo said of the winning ticket.

In other words, as with the Nebraska case that Brad wrote about earlier today, the Ellsworth police don’t even have any evidence that the lottery ticket in question was paid for using illegal drugs. And guess what would happen to the $ 1,000 winnings if the judge determines that ticket does constitute “drug proceeds” ? It would either go to the state as a drug forfeiture, or go back to the state lottery fund as an unclaimed prize.

In either case, the state wins and liberty is the loser.

H/T: Publius Endures

That Money Is GUILTY!

As yet another example of how insane the drug war has become, cops in Nebraska have seized $69K in “suspected drug money” from a driver who was not arrested, ticketed, nor in any way proven to be involved in criminal activity:

Deputy Chris Engel, 25, had been on the job just two weeks when a routine traffic stop Dec. 20 turned into the biggest cash seizure the Nebraska county has ever seen.

Engel pulled over a Salt Lake City, Utah, resident whom he suspected of speeding on Interstate 80 near the town of Kimball.

The driver’s story didn’t add up, Engel said, so he did a little more investigating. In the end, $69,040 in cash was taken from the car. Officials suspect the money is connected to a drug-trafficking operation, he said.

The driver was not arrested — or even ticketed for going 10 mph over the 75 mph speed limit. (He was warned.) But the investigation is ongoing, Engel said. The Nebraska State Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Agency are assisting in the investigation.

It was the first big cash seizure Kimball County has seen, said Sheriff Tim Hanson. With Interstate 80 running through the Panhandle county, he believes there are ample opportunities to make a dent in drug operations. But in such a sparsely populated county with few resources, it has been difficult to devote deputies’ time to patrolling the Interstate, he said.

“Chris is a very aggressive young deputy,” Hanson said.

Investigators don’t know if they will be able to connect the money to a drug operation, Hanson said, but the important work already has been done.

“The big thing is he grabbed 69 (thousand dollars) and took it away from them,” Hanson said of the money seized. “That’s going right straight to the heart of the matter.”

As I found this story through Radley Balko, I’m going to apply one of his general rules of drug raids. If the cops have evidence against someone in a situation like this, they’ll immediately state that as justification for their actions. Silence is most often to be interpreted as a lack of evidence.

But look at what the Sheriff says. They don’t know whether they can connect the money to drugs, but the “important work” is done. Wouldn’t it be important to prove that the money was obtained illegally? Wouldn’t be important to prove that the driver was doing something wrong which would justify the seizure of his money? Don’t they need to satisfy any due process?

Sadly, the answer is no. As we learned a year and a half ago, simply having large amounts of cash is a crime. And because they charge the money with the crime, not the owner of the money, they don’t need to assume that the owner of the money is innocent until proven guilty. Rather, the money is assumed to be drug-related, and the owner must sue to prove its legitimacy.

I’ve often said that government is thinly-veiled thievery. Now they’re so confident in themselves that they’re removing the veil.

Fred Thompson Withdraws From Race

Fred Thompson, in a statement released by the candidate, withdrew his candidacy for President:

Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people.

Although not unforeseen, it is unfortunate. Thompson was one of the few candidates that was somewhere between neutral and moderately friendly towards more liberty when looking at the current set of issues. While I would not have endorsed him, or any other candidate, for President in this particular group of candidates, I would have liked to see him stay in to push the discussion more his direction and less to the Huckabee and Giuliani side of the house.

The Consequences When Government Tries To Do A Good Thing&#153

I think we can all agree that gender equality is a Good Thing&#153. I think we can all agree that there should not be any barriers, legal or otherwise, to women reaching the highest levels of the workforce. And I think we can mostly, if not all, agree that the “old boy’s club”, to the extent that it exists, harms our economy by making it much harder for qualified women to reach that level of a company.

The real question, then, is what to do about it. Personally, I’m more of a “let the market sort it out” type. After all, we’ve seen a sea change on this issue in just my lifetime, and anyone who still harbors thoughts that business is just a “man’s game” should keep his guard up before Oprah owns his ass. Norway, though, has taken a different tack. Not content to let the market sort it out, they’ve mandated that 40% of the countries seats on Boards of Directors be held by women. Unfortunately, though, they’ve put the cart before the horse, and simply crowned a few of the countries top business women:

Before the law was proposed, about 7% of board members in Norway were female, according to the Centre for Corporate Diversity. The number has since jumped to 36%. That is far higher than the average of 9% for big companies across Europe—11% for Britain’s FTSE 100—or America’s 15% for the Fortune 500. Norway’s stock exchange and its main business lobby oppose the law, as do many businessmen. “I am against quotas for women or men as a matter of principle,” says Sverre Munck, head of international operations at Schibsted, a media firm. “Board members of public companies should be chosen solely on the basis of merit and experience,” he says. Several firms have even given up their public status in order to escape the new law.

Companies have had to recruit about 1,000 women in four years. Many complain that it has been difficult to find experienced candidates. Because of this, some of the best women have collected as many as 25-35 directorships each, and are known in Norwegian business circles as the “golden skirts”. One reason for the scarcity is that there are fairly few women in management in Norwegian companies—they occupy around 15% of senior positions. It has been particularly hard for firms in the oil, technology and financial industries to find women with enough experience. DNO, for instance, an oil and gas firm that operates in Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere, found women it was happy with last November, but their expertise is in finance and human resources, not oil, says Helge Eide, DNO’s president. “However, we retain sufficient oil and gas experience in the men on our board,” he adds.

When government tries to do something “good”, they end up bringing in unintended consequences and ill effects that they often seem surprised to find. In this case, much like Sarbanes-Oxley, it has caused many companies to go private. And rather than leveling the playing field for all women, it has simply elevated a few specific women to a level where they sit on so many boards that their efforts must be spread too thin to have any real effect.

What is also interesting here is the difference between allowing the market to sort it out, and not. America tends to have relatively low business regulation in comparison to Europe, where the barrier to entry for a public company is tremendous. Thus, America’s more free market offers more opportunity for women to start public companies and to prove their mettle in the business world. As the story points out, this has resulted in about 15% of Board of Directors at American Fortune 500 companies to be women, with Britian, Europe, and Norway (pre-mandate) lagging behind.

This is a perfect example of government attempting to fix a problem through mandate, when all they have done is masked the problem. America lets the market sort this out, and women hold more top-level positions than other industrialized nations. It proves what we free-market advocates have long stated: the free-market isn’t simply the most efficient distributor of capital, it is also one of the most equal and fair systems for distributing opportunity.

Venezuela Shows Why Price Controls Fail

In my regular Chavez-watching, I read an article about bickering between the United States, Colombia, and Venezuela over drug trafficking and interdiction efforts. As a libertarian and an opponent of the drug war, that’s little more than political theater. After all, for all the tons of cocaine stopped by the local government, tens or hundreds of times more make it out. After all, the profit in a black market is far too alluring to avoid.

Which is what makes the end of this article such a great lesson. Chavez is destroying his economy, with inflation and the often-following wrong response to inflation: price controls. Suddenly producing goods becomes more expensive than selling those goods at the regulated price. Thus, you see what happens:

The announcement comes after 145 tons of contraband food items headed for Colombia were found in San Cristobal, Tachira last week in an anti-smuggling operation by Venezuelan intelligence services. The items included a number of basic food products that are regulated by the government such as powdered milk, rice, sugar, cooking oil, cereal and canned fish. The government says that speculation and hoarding by private producers has contributed food shortages of basic products.

The regional daily, Panorama, reported that every night 50 to 60 trucks load up with Venezuelan food products such as rice and milk, leave the Las Pulgas market in Maracaibo in the opposition controlled state of Zulia and cross over the Colombian border illegally where they sell the products at up to five times the regulated price in Venezuela.

“No one says anything because the business is very big,” said an anonymous vendor in the Las Pulgas market to Panorama. “In order to not have any problems in transporting it is necessary to pay what they ask [the border guards], but in the end they earn a lot more there than here because of the regulation of prices implemented by the government,” he added.

As part of the measures adopted to combat smuggling and crime in the frontier zone a further 500 tons of food loaded onto 18 semi-trailers that were destined for Colombia were intercepted today and a clandestine landing strip near the border, along with a camp thought to be used for narco-trafficking logistics were uncovered.

Remember, just as in the drug trade, the numbers of tons they actually catch is an indication that the number making it through is much, much higher.

See what happens in a command and control economy? When it becomes a money-losing operation to try to sell at the regulated price, it doesn’t mean commerce disappears, it only disappears from store shelves. The “criminals” profit and the rich eat well, while the average citizen is duped by the government’s claim of “speculation and hoarding”.

Venezuela is like a living lesson of what happens when the government tries to break the law of supply and demand. Sadly, as I’ve said before, far too few people will understand the lesson.

Quote Of The Day: I Have A Dream

Posted last year, but worth reposting again. One of the best political speeches in American history, on a par with Washington’s Farewell Address and Lincoln’s Gettyburg Address:

Full text:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

California Propagandists — Pulling Out All The Stops

California currently has a term limits law– 14 years total, with a max of 6 in the State Assembly and 8 in the State Senate. As is expected, politicians don’t like this law. They want to stay in office for as long as possible.

So they’re trying to change it. They can’t advocate an outright repeal, as the voters will see right through that. So instead, they’re dropping the maximum to 12 years, and allowing it to be served in a single house. Since it’s a lot easier to get re-elected than elected, this means that most legislators who currently only serve 6 or 8 (despite the opportunity to serve 14) will serve the full 12 years. It’s a way to gut the term limits to make them about half as effective.

At the same time, there is more politics at play. The two big backers behind the plan are Tom Perata and Fabian Nunez, two politicians who would be termed-out after this year. In California, ballot initiatives often come up during primary elections, so normally they would be required to sit out a term (as the extensions of their terms wouldn’t be legally possible until after the measure passed, which means someone else would have been nominated in the primary). This year, they decided to push for a special election to move their Presidential primary forward, which conveniently allows this measure to come up to the ballot and be in force when they try to run for re-election at the statehouse primaries in June.

But all that was intended for a future post, as we move closer to primary day. What really got me was just how shameless the proponents of this plan were in their television ads. See for yourself:

Just look at the logical fallacies here. When you know that a politician or union representative arguing this point simply won’t fly, you hire for someone so unassailable that only a monster would oppose him: a fresh-faced EMT, tasked with saving lives. After all, look at this kid. He can’t possibly be shilling for a horrible cause, yet gives an improper argument from authority. Then, you create a false choice: vote for term limits or your government will be as corrupt as those which didn’t respond to Katrina. And last, an irrelevant conclusion: experience is the answer to every problem of California’s government!

I could point out that Louisiana already has 12-year term limits, and Mississippi (which handled Katrina much more effectively) has no term limits. I could point out that California managed the wildfires well because the state erupts in fire every few years, and they’ve got lots of practice. I could even point out that term limits are often enacted because politicians have experience at the wrong thing– selling influence, rather than solving problems. I could come up with plenty of logical reasons to oppose Prop 93.

But all that seems unnecessary when you look at the way they crafted this ad. It’s a slick advertisement meant to appeal to people’s emotions, not their reason. Personally, when I see someone blatantly lying to sell a product, it makes me unwilling to buy that product unless I have trusted independent sources to verify its quality. The same holds true here. There can be a debate over whether or not term limits are useful, but when you see such blatant propaganda from the other side, it’s best to reflexively vote NO.

Nevada and South Carolina Wrap-Up

Well, on the Republican side Mitt Romney won Nevada (uncontested) and John McCain won South Carolina.

The Republican race finally narrows with departure of Duncan Hunter and the probable departure of Fred Thompson after his third place finish in South Carolina.

Now for the rest:

John McCain: He has the momentum going into Florida. Basically, if McCain wins Florida, he’ll win the nomination.

Mitt Romney: Romney’s three golds as he likes to portray them have a bit of tarnish to them. Two of them (Wyoming and Nevada) were uncontested for all intents and purposes. Furthermore, the Wyoming Caucus was dominated by party hacks who are mostly supporting Romney. Plus, Romney was the native son in Michigan. However, his poor showing in South Carolina shows that Romney’s support is very weak in the South. Florida is probably do or die for Romney.

Mike Huckabee: He’s dead but he probably doesn’t realize it.

Rudy Giuliani: He wins Florida, he’s still alive. He loses Florida, he’s dead.

Ron Paul: Despite winning 2nd in Nevada, Ron Paul is still dead.

Now for the Democrats, Nevada was so close that it was probably not important in the long term scheme of things. South Carolina will determine the momentum going into Super Tuesday.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Nevada/South Carolina Predictions And Saturday Open Thread

Once again, I tread into the dangerous and, so far unsuccessful, world of prediction.

In this case, today’s South Carolina Republican Primary and Nevada Caucuses.

First Nevada:


  1. Barack Obama
  2. Hillary Clinton
  3. John Edwards

The current polls show Clinton with a slight edge, but caucuses are harder to poll than primaries and I think Obama will win based on a combination of his endorsement from the Culinary Workers Union and resentment over the efforts of Clinton’s backers in the Teacher’s Union to stop the casino caucus sites.


  1. Mitt Romney
  2. John McCain
  3. Mike Huckabee
  4. Rudy Giuliani
  5. Ron Paul
  6. Fred Thompson

Nothing too surprising here. Nevada has over 100,000 Mormons, so that gives Romney a fairly substantial base to work with. The only change I could see to the above would be if more Ron Paul supporters come out than predicted and push him into 4th place instead of 5th.

And, finally, South Carolina:

  1. John McCain
  2. Mike Huckabee
  3. Fred Thompson
  4. Mitt Romney
  5. Ron Paul
  6. Rudy Giuliani

Late polls show Huckabee closing on McCain, but the more interesting question will be if Thompson is able to do better than expected. A strong third would be good for him, but second place is what his campaign really needs.

As always, feel free to criticize.

Mike Huckabee vs. The First Amendment

In an interview on NPR, Mike Huckabee said that he wants to outlaw all independent speech in political campaigns:

Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee on Wednesday disavowed the use of a negative campaign tactic known as “push polling” being used on his behalf by an independent group ahead of the South Carolina primary.

Huckabee said he disagreed with the automated phone calls purporting to be part of a survey that instead disparage rival candidates. The “push polling” calls were being made by Colorado-based Common Sense Issues in support of the Huckabee campaign.

“We don’t know who these people are,” the former Arkansas governor told NPR’s Morning Edition. “I personally wish all of this were outlawed. I think that every candidate ought to speak for himself.”

More detail from the radio interview itself:

I personally wish that all of this were outlawed. I think that every candidate ought to speak for himself, and that everything that involves the candidate’s name or another candidate’s name should be authorized and approved by that candidate, otherwise it shouldn’t be spoken . . . The point is that candidates can’t force these special interest 527 groups to stop. I wish we could.

The Club for Growth’s Pat Toomey puts it best:

“Under a Mike Huckabee presidency, no individual or group would be allowed to criticize a politician’s policies without the politician’s approval. Which part of ‘Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,’ is lost on Governor Huckabee?”

Maybe that’s one of the parts of the Constitution he wants to amend

Hillary Wants To Do For The Housing Market What She Tried To Do For Health Care

Destroy it.

At the last Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton laid out her proposal to deal with the subprime mortgage crisis:

“I have a plan – a moratorium on foreclosures for 90 days [and] freezing interest rates for five years, which I think we should do immediately,” Clinton announced at what was the last Democratic debate before the Nevada Caucus on Jan. 19.

As Fortune’s Jon Birger notes, Clinton’s proposal for an interest rate freeze would be a complete, utter disaster:

[S]uch a freeze would be disastrous. Interest rates on new mortgages would skyrocket – perhaps past 8 percent, as the mutual funds, pension funds and other investors who typically provide capital to the mortgage market shift their money into other investments where the government isn’t impairing returns. With higher mortgage rates eroding buying power, the downward pressure on home prices would only increase. Lower home prices would lead to even more defaults, as more folks who’d lost the equity in their homes choose to walk away from their mortgages.

“It certainly would not speed the recovery of the housing market,” says Doug Duncan, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association. “The problem now is that investors are already worried about what the risks are, and (a rate freeze) would only widen risk premiums more.”

Then there’s the long-term impact such a bailout would have on behavior. While Clinton’s plan would no doubt save some legitimate victims who were duped into taking out bad loans, she’d also be saving the flippers and speculators who knew the risks of low teaser rate mortgages but figured (wrongly) that they could always sell their house for a profit if the reset mortgage rate proved unaffordable. Bailing out these folks now would only encourage them to take even bigger risks down the line.

And, you see, that’s what this housing crisis is all about. People took risks and made dumb decisions and now they’re paying the consequence for it. The only sane and rational thing to do is to allow the crisis to play itself out, and whether that means more foreclosures or banks renegotiating the terms of loans to allow people to get out from under payments they can’t afford is something that private parties, not the government should decide.

But Hillary’s proposal just reminds me of the something else. The Republicans are bad on economics, but at least they aren’t proposing a plan that would send the housing market into a death spiral.

So who do you vote for — the eventual Republican nominee, whoever that might be, or the woman who will destroy the economy ?

More On The Ron Paul Newsletter Story

Julian Sanchez, who co-authored a Reason article detailing the history behind the Ron Paul newsletters, responds today to some of the criticism that has been thrown his way:

First, Paul was not going to be the next president, or even the next Republican nominee, in any parallel universe remotely close to ours. We have not deep-sixed the Paul Administration. The movement behind Paul is a good thing to the extent it raises awareness about our ideas, and demonstrates that there really is a constituency for a candidate who talks about peace and small government. And the best thing that could happen from that perspective, I think, is for Paul to come clean and ensure that people don’t start thinking of “property rights,” like “states rights,” as some kind of bad-faith codeword for racism.

Second, do people think this story wouldn’t have come out if we hadn’t run it? Jamie Kirchick was on exactly the same trail we were, and so was John Tabin at the Spectator, and so, probably, were others. The question was whether we’d break it, dispelling the impression that libertarians are happy to wink at racism, or whether someone far more hostile to Paul would.

Sanchez’s entire post is worth a read, and I pretty much agree with everything he has to say there.

In other news, David Weigel reports some interesting news:

I just had a conversation with Tom Lizardo, Ron Paul’s longtime congressional chief of staff, who wanted to say this on the record:

Last week, a statement was prepared by Ron Paul’s press secretary Jesse Benton, and approved by Ron Paul, acknowledging Lew Rockwell as having a role in the newsletters. The statement was squashed by campaign chairman Kent Snyder


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