A Tip of the Hat to Tom Paine by David Boaz

Thomas Paine, one of the fathers of American freedom, died almost unmourned 200 years ago today. Brendan O'Neill remembers him at BBC.com:
In January 1776 he published a short pamphlet that earned him the title The Father of the American Revolution. Titled simply, Common Sense, the work has been described by the Pulitzer-winning historian Gordon S Wood as "the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire [American] revolutionary period". It put the case for democracy, against the monarchy, and for American independence from British rule.
Lefties like Harvey Kaye, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and author of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America, like to say
He put the case for political democracy AND social democracy, arguing in The Rights of Man that young people and the elderly should be afforded financial security by their governments. These welfare ideals are under attack right now, in our era of recession.
He has a point, though I suspect that Paine would think that the American welfare state has exceeded the sort of minimal provision for the poor that he had in mind. As for me, I rather like the fact that he proposed to execute any legislator who so much as proposed a bill to issue paper money and make it legal tender. A bit too strong, I concede. But a healthy understanding of what fiat money can do to people who work hard and save their money. Find some of Thomas Paine's best writings in The Libertarian Reader.

Posted on June 8, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Americans Want Global Warming Action Now by David Boaz

Dana Milbank has the evidence:
For the past few years, liberal activists have gathered in Washington each spring for the Take Back America conference.... But now that Obama has actually taken back America, the activists at this year's gathering feel a bit like the dog that finally caught up with the car. Organizers changed the name from Take Back America to America's Future Now, but that didn't prevent a sharp decline in participation. ... Hickey estimates attendance dropped from 2,500 last year to 1,500 this year, and even that may overstate things. At yesterday morning's four concurrent "issue briefings," 585 chairs were set out. Only 213 of them were occupied, including just 15 for the session on global warming.

Posted on June 4, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Obama’s Energy Reading by David Boaz

The Washington Post writes about how President Obama became obsessed with grabbing our complex energy systems by the scruff of the neck and shaking them into something more appealing to Ivy League planners. I was struck by this vignette:
But even before the late-night session in July, Obama had begun to educate himself about energy and climate and to use those issues to define himself as a politician, say people who have advised him. He read a three-part New Yorker series on climate change, for instance, and mentioned it in three speeches.
It's great that he read a three-part series in the New Yorker. But has the president ever actually read anything by a climate change skeptic? Actually, a better term would be "a climate change moderate." Leading "skeptic" Patrick J. Michaels, for instance, of Cato and the University of Virginia, isn't skeptical about the reality of global warming. His summary article in the Cato Handbook for Policymakers begins:
Global warming is indeed real, and human activity has been a contributor since 1975.
But he also notes that climate change is complex, and its policy implications are at best unclear. "Although there are many different legislative proposals for substantial reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, there is no operational or tested suite of technologies that can accomplish the goals of such legislation." The flawed computer models on which activists rely cannot reliably predict the future course of world temperatures. The apocalyptic visions that dominate the media are not based on sound science. The best guess is that over the next century there will be very slight warming, without serious implications for our environment our society. Michaels's closing appeal to members of Congress would also apply to President Obama and his advisers:
Members of Congress need to ask difficult questions about global warming. Does the most recent science and climate data argue for precipitous action? (No.) Is there a suite of technologies that can dramatically cut emissions by, say, 2050? (No.) Would such actions take away capital, in a futile attempt to stop warming, that would best be invested in the future? (Yes.) Finally, do we not have the responsibility to communicate this information to our citizens, despite disconnections between perceptions of climate change and climate reality? The answer is surely yes. If not the U.S. Congress, then whom? If not now, when? After we have committed to expensive policies that do not work in response to a misperception of global warming?
Please, President Obama -- in addition to the lyrical magazine articles on the apocalyptic vision that you read, please read at least one article by a moderate and widely published climatologist before rushing into disastrously expensive policies.

Posted on June 3, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Corporate Culture at Government Motors by David Boaz

David Brooks comes in for his share of criticism in these parts, but he has a very astute column today about the ways that government ownership will worsen an already problematic corporate culture at a once-great company:
Fifth, G.M.’s executives and unions now have an incentive to see Washington as a prime revenue center. Already, the union has successfully lobbied to move production centers back from overseas. Already, the company has successfully sought to restrict the import of cars that might compete with G.M. brands. In the years ahead, G.M.’s management will have a strong incentive to spend time in Washington, urging the company’s owner, the federal government, to issue laws to help it against Ford and Honda. Sixth, the new plan will create an ever-thickening set of relationships between G.M.’s new owners — in government, management and unions. These thickening bonds between public and private bureaucrats will fundamentally alter the corporate culture, and not for the better. Members of Congress are also getting more involved in the company they own, and will have their own quaint impact. The end result is that G.M. will not become more like successful car companies. It will become less like them.

Posted on June 2, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Is Obama Making America like Sweden? by David Boaz

If only. Just as the Obama administration takes over another once-great American company, Sweden is busy privatizing. As the Christian Science Monitor reported recently:
Last week, the country’s center-right government began selling off state-owned pharmacies, one of the country’s few remaining nationalized companies, as part of an ambitious program of liberal economic reforms started in 2006. In the same week, a study by the Swedish Unemployment Insurance Board revealed that almost half of the country’s jobless lacked full unemployment benefits. Many opted out of the state scheme when the cost of membership was raised last year; others were ineligible. State pensions, schools, healthcare, public transport, and post offices have been fully or partly privatized over the last decade, making Sweden one of the most free market orientated economies in the world, analysts say.
Please, President Obama, send Larry Summers to Sweden to get some new ideas for economic reform.

Posted on June 1, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

About David Boaz

Click here to learn more.