And Then There Were None by David Boaz

The Washington Post, December 21, 2005:
The four Republican rebels -- Larry E. Craig (Idaho), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), John E. Sununu (N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) -- have joined all but two Senate Democrats in arguing that more civil liberties safeguards need to be added to the proposed renewal of the Patriot Act.
Let's hope that some of the prospective new senators who consider themselves constitutionalists will raise their voices on issues like this.

Posted on August 30, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Budget Choices by David Boaz

A front-page New York Times headline reads:
Struggling Cities Shut Firehouses in Budget Crisis
Because certainly American cities spend their money on nothing that is less important than fire protection. More on the Washington Monument Syndrome here.

Posted on August 27, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Let’s Regulate Barney Frank’s Pay by David Boaz

"Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said Tuesday that he will hold a hearing this fall to examine whether regulators are being tough enough in curbing pay practices at Wall Street firms that can lead to excessively risky practices," writes Zachary Goldfarb in the Washington Post. Hmmm. "Pay practices that can lead to excessively risky practices." Since Barney Frank entered Congress, federal spending has risen from $590 billion in 1980 to $3.7 trillion this year. (U.S. Budget, Historical Tables, Table 1.1) The annual deficit has risen from $74 billion to $1.5 trillion.  Gross federal debt rose from $909 billion to $13.8 trillion -- and to over $15 trillion next year. (Table 7.1) And all this without a major war or depression during those 30 years. Maybe we should adjust pay practices for members of Congress to give them an incentive to avoid risky, unaffordable, out-of-control borrowing and spending.

Posted on August 26, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Spending and Deficits by David Boaz

E. J. Dionne writes in the Washington Post today that many Republicans think the George W. Bush administration was "too ready to run up the deficit." But, he says,
That the deficit increased primarily because of two tax cuts and two wars was not part of most conservatives' calculation because acknowledging this was ideologically inconvenient.
That's one explanation. Of course, spending did rise by more than a trillion dollars during Bush's eight years, and it wasn't all military spending. And as Michael Tanner writes today, "The Deficit Is a Symptom, Spending Is the Disease."
Traditionally, federal spending has run around 21 percent of GDP. But George W. Bush and (even more dramatically) Barack Obama have now driven federal spending to more than 25 percent of GDP. And as the old joke goes, that's the good news. As the full force of entitlement programs kicks in, the federal government will consume more than 40 percent of GDP by the middle of the century.
The real objection of libertarians and many conservatives to Bush is the massive increase in federal spending. As Tanner says, the deficit is just the symptom of an out-of-control, overspending federal government.

Posted on August 26, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Or a Program That Was Actually Going to Work by David Boaz

John Judis writes in the New Republic that Obama hasn't been as successful at selling his economic program as Reagan was:
On the eve of the [1982] election, with the unemployment rate at a postwar high, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 60 percent of likely voters thought Reagan’s economic program would eventually help the country. That’s a sign of a successful political operation.

Posted on August 25, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Journalists Warn of Regulation’s Costs by David Boaz

All too often, news stories about proposed new regulations mention all the supposed benefits of the regulation while ignoring such potential costs as higher prices, reduced service, or even the demise of the business. Today I'm glad to see journalists noting those costs right up front in their discussions of a new regulation proposed by Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli. Public radio WAMU says:
Currently there are 21 abortion clinics in Virginia. Abortion service providers say at least 17 of those might shut down if state officials use their authority to regulate those clinics. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says abortion clinics provide many other medical services beyond abortions, so they're subject to the same regulations as larger medical facilities. That opinion was issued in response to a request from Virginia State Senator Ralph Smith, who says his only interest is to protect the health of the patient. "I certainly feel that for the safety of all involved that they should be as regulated as other procedures," says Smith. For most clinics, meeting a higher regulatory standard could mean additional equipment or space renovation. Tarina Keene director of NARAL Pro-choice Virginia says the cost involved could drive some clinics out of business.
Yes, indeed, they noted those potential costs right there in the first line. And so did the Washington Post, front page, third sentence:
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has concluded that the state can impose stricter oversight over clinics that perform abortions, a move immediately decried by abortion-rights organizations and others as an attempt to circumvent the General Assembly, which has repeatedly rejected similar measures. Cuccinelli's legal opinion empowers the Board of Health, if it chooses, to require the clinics to meet hospital-type standards. Abortion-rights advocates say that could force some clinics to close because they would be unable to afford to meet the new requirements.
Now if only we could get journalists to take such prominent note of the costs that new regulations impose on other kinds of services, from lemonade stands to local restaurants to for-profit colleges to internet service providers.

Posted on August 24, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Beyond Toleration: George Washington’s View of Liberty by David Boaz

Participants in various current controversies would do well to settle into a comfortable chair and ponder these words of George Washington, sent to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, R.I., 220 years ago today:
While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens. The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and a happy people. The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
I am particularly struck by the third paragraph, which proclaims that the government of the United States "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance" -- thoughts that both reflected and shaped the character of the new nation. Those words actually echo the congregation's address to President Washington. But the preceding line is even more impressive:
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.
That is, equal freedom under the law is not something extended by some as "toleration" of others. Rather, all people who "demean themselves as good citizens" are allowed the free "exercise of their inherent natural rights." It took almost two centuries to fulfill that promise to Jews, to women, and especially to African Americans. And even today Muslim and gay Americans may wonder if they are still regarded as objects of toleration "by the indulgence of one class of people" rather than as full citizens entitled to "the exercise of their inherent natural rights." Let us continue to work toward George Washington's dream of a world in which "every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."

Posted on August 18, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Ideological Warning Labels by David Boaz

A story this morning on NPR's "Morning Edition" reminded me of my continuing complaint that the mainstream (liberal) media regularly put an ideological label on conservative and libertarian organizations and interviewees, but not on liberal and leftist groups.  In a report about states accepting stimulus funds, reporter Kathy Lohr quoted "Jon Shure of the Washington D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities," "Maurice Emsellem with the National Employment Law Project," and "Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst with the fiscally conservative Cato Institute in Washington, D.C." (Thanks! And I'd say the label is correct, even if I might prefer libertarian.) Those are all legitimate sources for the story. But only one of them gets an ideological label -- even though the other two groups are clearly on the left. They're to the left of the Obama administration; indeed, they're probably part of what the White House press secretary calls the "professional left." So why not alert listeners that you might be getting a "liberal" or "leftist" perspective from those two sources, just as you warned them that the Cato Institute was speaking from a fiscally conservative perspective? Back on March 23, I noted but did not blog about references on "Morning Edition" to "the libertarian Cato Institute," the "conservative American Enterprise Institute," and "the Brookings Institution." No label needed for Brookings, of course. Just folks there. (A bit of Googling reveals that the Brookings reference came from Marketplace Radio, heard on WAMU as an insert into "Morning Edition." But NPR never labels it either.) NPR's ombudsman noted in July that NPR uses the term "ultra-conservative" a lot more than "ultra-liberal." It's all too typical of the mainstream-liberal media: They put ideological warning labels on libertarians and conservatives, lest readers and listeners be unaware of the potential for bias, but very rarely label liberals and leftists. Note the absence of labels on NPR in frequent references to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Journalists should be more even-handed: label all your sources ideologically, or none of them. It's stacking the deck to label those on the right but not those on the left.

Posted on August 17, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

"Government Motors": NPR’s Gaffe? by David Boaz

NPR's 9:00 a.m. newscast this morning included this accidentally accurate line:
Government, rather General Motors is expected to announce plans for an initial public offering of stock this week.
The comment can be heard here at about 3:10, but I assume the online hourly report is updated throughout the day. For more on Government Motors, click here.

Posted on August 16, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Mayor Bloomberg Loves Property Rights by David Boaz

A front-page story in today's New York Times begins:
Michael R. Bloomberg is a former Wall Street mogul with a passion for the rights of a private property owner.
The story is about the not-really-at-Ground-Zero mosque, of course. Bloomberg has a passion for property rights --- except when the property owner wants to allow smoking on his own property or just wants to keep the property he owns even if a richer person wants it.

Posted on August 13, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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