Sunday, February 19, 2017

Limits to charity

Charity Is Not How We Solve Poverty | Foundation for Economic Education - Jason Sorens:

February 19, 2017 - "In a famous 1972 article, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” philosopher Peter Singer compared global poverty to a child drowning in a pond: ': "[I]f it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it. An application of this principle would be as follows: if I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning in it, I ought to wade in and pull the child out. This will mean getting my clothes muddy, but this is insignificant, while the death of the child would presumably be a very bad thing.'

"If we ought to prevent something very bad from happening whenever we can do so without sacrificing anything morally significant, then we also ought to spend much of our lives and wealth on rescuing people from starvation and disease.... Instead of buying a Starbucks coffee once a week, you could save that money – about $200 over the course of a year – and give it to a charity that saves lives. It’s morally wrong to buy Starbucks coffee when there are people dying around the world. Letting someone die so that you can enjoy Starbucks is like letting a child drown rather than getting your suit muddy....

"Singer’s argument faces two main difficulties. First, he thinks it’s obvious that consuming luxuries isn’t morally significant. But is that right?... Second, he thinks saving poor people’s lives is about as simple as wading into a pond and dragging a drowning child out of danger. But in fact it might be a lot more complicated.

"Let’s think about the first point. Global poverty is a really big problem. There are millions of people suffering from extreme poverty and a very high likelihood of early death. If it were always wrong to consume a luxury whenever there were someone whose life could be saved instead, we would in fact be morally obligated never to consume any luxury, and to spend essentially our whole surplus wealth and time on saving people. It’s as if there were millions of ponds with millions of children drowning in them. To live up to a moral duty to save every life, we’d have to spend our entire lives going from pond to pond.

"That kind of life might not be worth living. You’d be turning yourself into a virtual slave of the people you save. Your life would have no value to you.... It isn’t clear at what point it becomes morally permissible for us to focus on our own desires rather than spending our resources on saving others, but it’s definitely well before the point of 'marginal utility' (when you become as bad off as someone in extreme poverty). The point isn’t that you don’t have a duty to save people – you do – but there are limits, real though difficult to nail down precisely, to the duty.

"The second point is that saving people isn’t simple. Giving money to a charity that claims to help people may not do very much good and may even do net harm. Extreme poverty in the world today is generally the fault of some human organization or institution, usually a government but often rebel groups, gangs, and other purveyors of violence.... If giving to a charity empowers some vicious gang or government that keeps people poor, you’ve just made poor people’s lives worse....

"Extreme poverty is falling around the world, mostly because governments have chosen to let their people join the global marketplace. The biggest reductions in poverty have happened in China, where post-1980 market reforms have raised 680 million people out of poverty. One of the most important things we can do to better the lives of the poor is to fight for their access to property rights and to global markets."

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Niskanen economist urges Universal Basic Income

Why Should a Libertarian Take Universal Basic Income Seriously? - Niskanen Center - Edwin G. Dolan:

February 6, 2017 - "In a recent post on EconLog, Bryan Caplan writes, 'I’m baffled that anyone with libertarian sympathies takes the UBI [universal basic income] seriously.' I love a challenge.... Here are three kinds of libertarians who might take a UBI very seriously indeed.

"[W]hat galls many libertarians most about government is the failure of many policies to produce their intended results. Poverty policy is Exhibit A.... A UBI would help by ending the way benefit reductions and 'welfare cliffs' in current programs undermine work incentives ... a worker from a poor household can end up taking home nothing, even from a full-time job. A UBI has no benefit reductions. You get it whether you work or not, so you keep every added dollar you earn (income and payroll taxes excepted, and these are low for the poor).

"But ... Why would I work at all if you gave me a UBI? That might be a problem if you got your UBI on top of existing programs, but if it replaced those programs, work incentives would be strengthened, not weakened.... Or, you might say, a UBI might be fine for the poor, but wouldn’t it be unaffordable to give it to the middle class and the rich as well? Yes, if you added it on top of all the middle-class welfare and tax loopholes for the rich that we have now. No, if the UBI replaced existing tax preferences and other programs....

"Many classical liberals, even those whom purist libertarians lionize in other contexts, are more open to the idea of a social safety net.... In his book Law, Legislation, and Liberty, classical liberal Friedrich Hayek wrote, "The assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone, or a sort of floor below which nobody need fall even when he is unable to provide for himself, appears not only to be a wholly legitimate protection against a risk common to all, but a necessary part of the Great Society."

"Once the philosophical hurdle is overcome, the practical advantages of a UBI become highly attractive. In terms of administrative efficiency and work incentives, a UBI wins hands down over the current welfare system, and beats even the negative income tax famously championed by Milton Friedman, another classical liberal,.

"The libertarian sympathies of still others arise from the conviction that all people should be able to live their lives according to their own values, so long as they don’t interfere with the right of others to do likewise. These lifestyle libertarians are drawn to a UBI because of its contrast with the nanny state mentality that characterizes current policies. Why should social programs treat married couples differently from people living in unconventional communal arrangements? Why should welfare recipients have to undergo intrusive drug testing? Why should food stamps let you buy hamburger and feed it to your dog, but not buy dog food?....

"A UBI is a policy for pragmatic critics of well-intentioned but ineffective government, for classical liberals, and for advocates of personal freedom. No wonder so many libertarians take the idea seriously."

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Deep state terminated Trump security adviser

The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn - Bloomberg View - Eli Lake:

February 14, 2017 - "If we are to believe the Trump White House, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn just resigned because he lied about his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the vice president....  That sounds about as credible as when the president told CIA employees that the media had invented the story about his enmity toward the spy agency, not even two weeks after he had taken to Twitter to compare the CIA to Nazis.... It doesn't add up.

"It's not even clear that Flynn lied. He says in his resignation letter that he did not deliberately leave out elements of his conversations with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak when he recounted them to Vice President Mike Pence. The New York Times and Washington Post reported that the transcript of the phone call reviewed over the weekend by the White House could be read different ways. One White House official with knowledge of the conversations told me that the Russian ambassador raised the sanctions to Flynn and that Flynn responded that the Trump team would be taking office in a few weeks and would review Russia policy and sanctions. That's neither illegal nor improper....

"A better explanation here is that Flynn was just thrown under the bus. His tenure as national security adviser, the briefest in U.S. history, was rocky from the start. When Flynn was attacked in the media for his ties to Russia, he was not allowed by the White House to defend himself. Over the weekend, he was instructed not to speak to the press when he was in the fight for his political life. His staff was not even allowed to review the transcripts of his call to the Russian ambassador.

"There is another component to this story as well -- as Trump himself just tweeted. It's very rare that reporters are ever told about government-monitored communications of U.S. citizens, let alone senior U.S. officials. The last story like this to hit Washington was in 2009.... Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do....

"The fact that the intercepts of Flynn's conversations with Kislyak appear to have been widely distributed inside the government is a red flag.

"Representative Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, ... saw the leaks about Flynn's conversations with Kislyak as part of a pattern. 'There does appear to be a well orchestrated effort to attack Flynn and others in the administration,' he said. 'From the leaking of phone calls between the president and foreign leaders to what appears to be high-level FISA Court information, to the leaking of American citizens being denied security clearances, it looks like a pattern.'"

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Obamacare repeal no cure for U.S. deficit ills

On Spending, Is Rand Paul the Last Man Standing? - Barry W. Poulson, American Thinker:

February 15, 2017 - "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the only legislator to vote against Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, which sets the framework for budget negotiations in the 115th Congress. His vote was dismissed as an alleged example of libertarian extremism, but I suggest this vote is a measure of the extent to which legislators have lost touch with their constituents.

"Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 proposes to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without changes to other parts of the budget. The truly surprising (and disappointing) part of the legislation is it exempts future health care legislation replacing the ACA from current budget rules meant to impose fiscal discipline.... Because we can expect health care spending to grow at even higher rates than those projected by the Congressional Budget Office, this legislation is particularly problematic.

"Even more shocking is Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 assumes business as usual in future budget negotiations. Total spending is projected to grow from $3.2 trillion to $4.9 trillion over the next decade. Annual deficits will roughly double to more than $1 trillion; and total debt will increase from $20 trillion to $29 trillion....

"The universal support of Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, with Paul the lone dissenter, suggests legislators are not willing to enact the fundamental reforms in Medicare and Medicaid required to balance the budget. Nor should we look to Trump for leadership on this issue. He has made it clear entitlement reform is not on his agenda, stating, 'A balanced budget is fine, but sometimes you have to fuel the well in order to really get the economy going'....

"In 2016 alone, legislators proposed 192 bills to address budget deficits and the national debt. Paul’s bill, the Cut Cap and Balance Act of 2015, was one of only a dozen of these bills to be reported out of committee, and like other similar measures, it was rejected by his fellow members of Congress on both sides of the aisle....

"Despite his failures to get significant reforms passed in Congress, it is Paul, not his colleagues, who is in touch with his constituents. Nationwide polls conducted on behalf of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force ... reveal 83 percent of citizens support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

"If Paul is the only legislator in the Senate willing to stand up for a balanced budget when the chips are down, perhaps it is time for citizens to look for an alternative solution to the federal fiscal crisis. Twenty-eight state legislatures have now passed resolutions proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Only 34 states are needed to call an Article V convention, which, given the current restraints in Washington, D.C., may be a better option than waiting for Congress or the president to act.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The libertarian way to improve airports

A libertarian plan to improve our airports | Rare - Jillian Lane Wyant:

January 25, 2017 - "President Trump has promised to add a plan to improve American airports to his infrastructure proposal. Libertarian minded citizens are looking to Washington to both improve our airports by decentralizing control of airports, relying more on user fees and respecting travelers’ privacy rights....

"Americans have felt helpless as we’ve watched the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) physically and clumsily invade our personal privacy at the airport and the privacy of those around us. All while they continue to miss glaring red flags....

"Just last month, while in the Fort Lauderdale airport — two days before the terrorist attack on the airport, killing five people — the TSA stopped me due to the fact that the book in my purse was 'too thick and needed further inspection.' The man behind me in line laughed, as he overheard, and informed me he was carrying fireworks in his bag that the TSA had not detected. The self-righteous libertarian in me nearly imploded. This is not an isolated incident, this is a daily and possible deadly occurrence....

"Currently, libertarians are concerned with the amount that taxpayers are going be forced to foot the bill of when it comes to Trump’s infrastructure plan to rebuild America’s airports, roads, and bridges. The fiscally-conservative libertarian favors user-fees, as well as devolving the federal responsibilities over the airports and roads to local control.

"While of course, the first thing that Congress should undertake to fix when dealing with the airports is fixing the overzealous and egregiously expensive screening administered by TSA.... Over the last eight years, we have heard time and time again that the TSA is not doing an exemplary job of screening passengers, yet they continue to employ over 44,000 security officers. The TSA’s sole job is to intercept items that could cause a security threat, yet ... anybody who has traveled in the past few months feels violated every time they pass through security as attacks on airports continue to occur.

"As for the funding of infrastructure improvements, the Cato Institute is promoting the libertarian idea of 'Privatizing U.S. Airports.' Robert W. Poole Jr. and Chris Edwards make the case for a reduction in 'federal intervention' and a push toward a 'greater reliance on the private sector to fund, own, and operate the nation’s infrastructure." These are consistent with libertarian ideas that promote safety and peace-of-mind for travelers alike. Libertarians would like to dismantle the high federal taxes imposed on air travel that is used to improve airports; and allow local airports to collect fees to improve infrastructure on their own.

"Libertarians need to look to the members of the House Transportation Committee like Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) who can guide the legislation in the direction of decentralization and to get the federal government out of the business of treating all Americans as if they are terrorists.... Liberty based ideas that promoted decentralization and a less invasive taxes and security checks could make air travel great again."

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Iowa State NORML group can use ISU logo, court rules

Appeals court rules marijuana legalization group can use Iowa State logo - Jake New, Inside Higher Ed:

February 14, 2017 - "Iowa State University cannot bar a student group from using the university’s logo and mascot on T-shirts advocating the legalization of marijuana, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

"The lawsuit, sponsored by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education as part of its Stand Up for Free Speech Litigation Project, was filed by two former Iowa State students in 2014. At the time, the students were officers with the university's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. They had repeatedly sought permission to use the Iowa State logo alongside a cannabis leaf on their shirts, but their requests were denied, with the university saying it did not want to appear to be endorsing the group’s agenda.

"But the court's opinion noted that the university allows 800 other student groups to use the logo, including organizations with differing political viewpoints, such as the Iowa State Democrats and the ISU College Republicans....

"The university had originally allowed the group to use its logo and mascot on the shirts, until ...  local politicians pressured the university to revoke its approval of the T-shirts. One such email came from the governor's office.... [T]he university ...suddenly prohibited 'designs that suggest promotion of dangerous, illegal or unhealthy products, actions or behaviors,' or 'drugs and drug paraphernalia that are illegal or unhealthful'....

"Two of the group’s officers sought FIRE's help in suing the university ... after attempts to handle the conflict internally, including submitting several other designs, failed.... Last year, a federal court ... ruled that Iowa State had discriminated against the group and violated the First Amendment. Iowa State chose to appeal, but Monday’s ruling by the higher court reaffirms the initial decision. John McCarroll, a university spokesman, said Iowa State is reviewing the appellate court’s decision and has not decided yet whether to appeal again.

"Monday’s ruling is another win for FIRE’s Stand Up for Free Speech project, in which the organization supports students looking to sue colleges over First Amendment issues.
Four of the project’s initial six lawsuits have ended in settlements."

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Monday, February 13, 2017

NH state legislator joins Libertarian Party (video)

NH State Representative Joins Libertarian Party – Press Conference Video | Free Keene: - Ian Bernard:

February 9, 2017 - "It’s a big day for libertarian history in New Hampshire and nationwide. For the first time in two decades, the Libertarian Party of NH (LPNH) has a sitting state representative in the legislature who is just beginning his first term in office. Caleb Dyer, state representative for Hudson and Pelham, announced today at a press conference in Concord’s Legislative Office Building that he has switched his voter registration from republican to libertarian and has also joined the state party as a dues-paying member. Dyer is a New Hampshire native who knocked on 2,000 doors in his district, Hillsborough 37, to win his election in November of 2016. Here’s the press conference video from this morning:"

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