It is said, perhaps not reliably, that the following headlines appeared in a Paris newspaper, perhaps Le Moniteur Universel, in 1815 as Napoleon escaped from exile on Elba and advanced through France:
THE ANTHROPOPHAGUS HAS QUITTED HIS DEN
THE CORSICAN OGRE HAS LANDED AT CAPE JUAN
THE TIGER HAS ARRIVED AT CAP
THE MONSTER SLEPT AT GRENOBLE
THE TYRANT HAS PASSED THOUGH LYONS
THE USURPER IS DIRECTING HIS STEPS TOWARDS DIJON
BONAPARTE IS ONLY SIXTY LEAGUES FROM THE CAPITAL
He has been fortunate enough to escape his pursuers
BONAPARTE IS ADVANCING WITH RAPID STEPS, BUT HE WILL NEVER ENTER PARIS
NAPOLEON WILL, TOMORROW, BE UNDER OUR RAMPARTS
THE EMPEROR IS AT FONTAINEBLEAU
HIS IMPERIAL AND ROYAL MAJESTY arrived yesterday evening at the Tuileries, amid the joyful acclamation of his devoted and faithful subjects
And I think about that story whenever I see articles like this one in this morning’s Washington Post:
GOP elites are now resigned to Donald Trump as their nominee
Philip Rucker writes:
An aura of inevitability is now forming around the controversial mogul. Trump smothered his opponents in six straight primaries in the Northeast and vacuumed up more delegates than even the most generous predictions foresaw. He is gaining high-profile endorsements by the day — a legendary Indiana basketball coach Wednesday, two House committee chairmen Thursday.
Which is not exactly the rush of support that any normal frontrunner would be getting by this point. But the article is full of Republican leaders saying things like “People are realizing that he’s the likely nominee,” and “More and more people hope he wins that nomination on the first ballot because they do not want to see a convention that explodes into total chaos.” Not exactly profiles in courage, these leaders. As Dan McLaughlin tweeted last night:
20 years from now - maybe 2 years from now - everyone in the GOP will want to say they were against Trump now.
But the stories are everywhere today: Republicans coming to accept their conquest by Trump. For a brief explanation of why they should not, I recommend Jay Cost’s tweets as captured on Storify and my own contribution to a National Review symposium in January:
From a libertarian point of view — and I think serious conservatives and liberals would share this view—Trump’s greatest offenses against American tradition and our founding principles are his nativism and his promise of one-man rule.
Not since George Wallace has there been a presidential candidate who made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign. Trump launched his campaign talking about Mexican rapists and has gone on to rant about mass deportation, bans on Muslim immigration, shutting down mosques, and building a wall around America. America is an exceptional nation in large part because we’ve aspired to rise above such prejudices and guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone. Equally troubling is his idea of the presidency—his promise that he’s the guy, the man on a white horse, who can ride into Washington, fire the stupid people, hire the best people, and fix everything. He doesn’t talk about policy or working with Congress. He’s effectively vowing to be an American Mussolini, concentrating power in the Trump White House and governing by fiat. It’s a vision to make the last 16 years of executive abuse of power seem modest.
This is no brief for any other current presidential candidate. The major-party candidates seem as tragically un-libertarian to me as any group of candidates ever. But Trump seems dangerously uninformed, unmoored, erratic, threatening, and megalomaniacal in a way that transcends mere ideology.
Republicans like to praise the “greatest generation.” Nobody’s ever going to call the Republicans who rolled over for Donald Trump the greatest generation. Nor do they seem to be emulating their hero, Winston Churchill, who famously said:
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.
As Dan McLaughlin suggests, Republicans should be asking themselves, What will I say when my son asks, What did you do when Donald Trump knocked on the Republican party’s door, Daddy?
Posted on April 29, 2016 Posted to Cato@Liberty
“People who had the most dairy fat in their diet had about a 50 percent lower risk of diabetes” compared with people who consumed the least dairy fat, says Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who is also an author of the study.
NPR reporter Allison Aubrey notes other recent studies on the possible benefits of dairy fat and then reports:
With all the new evidence that challenges the low-fat-is-best orthodoxy, Mozaffarian says it may be time to reconsider the National School Lunch Program rules, which allow only skim and low-fat milk.
“Our research indicates that the national policy should be neutral about dairy fat, until we learn more,” says Mozaffarian.
And there’s the problem for public policy. Why do we need a national policy on dairy fat? Why do we need national rules on what local schools can serve for lunch? And most specifically, since our understanding of nutrition science is always changing, why should we codify today’s understandings in law and regulation?
As I wrote a few months ago in response to a Washington Post story on the possibility that decades of government warnings about whole milk may have been in error,
It’s understandable that some scientific studies turn out to be wrong. Science is a process of trial and error, hypothesis and testing. Some studies are bad, some turn out to have missed complicating factors, some just point in the wrong direction. I have no criticism of scientists’ efforts to find evidence about good nutrition and to report what they (think they) have learned. My concern is that we not use government coercion to tip the scales either in research or in actual bans and mandates and Official Science. Let scientists conduct research, let other scientists examine it, let journalists report it, let doctors give us advice. But let’s keep nutrition – and much else – in the realm of persuasion, not force. First, because it’s wrong to use force against peaceful people, and second, because we might be wrong….
Today’s scientific hypotheses may be wrong. Better, then, not to make them law.
Posted on April 18, 2016 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Drawing on a new World Bank study, Washington Post columnist Charles Lane today notes “a vast reduction in poverty and income inequality worldwide over the past quarter-century” – despite what you might think if you listen to Pope Francis, Bernie Sanders, and other voices prominent in the media.
Specifically, the world’s Gini coefficient — the most commonly used measure of income distribution — has fallen from 0.69 in 1988 to 0.63 in 2011. (A higher Gini coefficient connotes greater inequality, up to a maximum of 1.0.)
That may seem modest until you consider that the estimate’s author, former World Bank economist Branko Milanovic, thinks we may be witnessing the first period of declining global inequality since the Industrial Revolution.
Note that this hopeful figure applies to the world’s population as though every individual lived in one big country. When Milanovic assessed the distribution of income between nations, adjusted for population, the improvement was even more striking: a decline in the Gini coefficient from 0.60 in 1988 to 0.48 in 2014.
The global middle class expanded, as real income went up between 70 percent and 80 percent for those around the world who were already earning at or near the global median, including some 200 million Chinese, 90 million Indians and 30 million people each in Indonesia, Egypt and Brazil.
Those in the bottom third of the global income distribution registered real income gains between 40 percent and 70 percent, Milanovic reports. The share of the world’s population living on $1.25 or less per day — what the World Bank defines as “absolute poverty” — fell from 44 percent to 23 percent.
So maybe this is a result of all the agitation on behalf of a more moral or planned economy? No, says Lane, citing Milanovic:
Did this historic progress, with its overwhelmingly beneficial consequences for millions of the world’s humblest inhabitants, occur because everyone finally adopted “democratic socialism”? Was it due to a conscious, organized effort to construct a “moral economy” as per Vatican standards?
To the contrary: The big story after 1988 is the collapse of communism and the spread of market institutions, albeit imperfect ones, to India, China and Latin America. This was a process mightily abetted by freer flows of international trade and private capital, which were, in turn, promoted by a bipartisan succession of U.S. presidents and Congresses.
The extension of capitalism fueled economic growth, which Milanovic correctly calls “the most powerful tool for reducing global poverty and inequality.”
This is the good news about the world today. Indeed, it’s the most important news about our world. We hear so much about poverty, inequality, gaps, resource depletion, and the like, it’s a wonder any NPR listeners can bear to get out of bed in the morning. But as the economic historian Deirdre McCloskey says, this is the “Great Fact,” the most important fact about our world today – the enormous and unprecedented growth in living standards that began in the western world around 1700. She calls it “a factor of sixteen”: we moderns consume at least 16 times the food, clothing, housing, and education that our ancestors did in London in the 18th century. And this vast increase in wealth that began in northwestern Europe, mostly Britain and the Netherlands, has now spread to most of Europe, the United States, Japan, and increasingly to the rest of the world.
Bernie Sanders is leaving tonight for the Vatican, where he’ll speak at a conference of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on changes in politics, economics, and culture over the past 25 years. Other speakers will include the leftist presidents of Ecuador and Bolivia. The Vatican would do better to invite Branko Milanovic and Deirdre McCloskey, who have a much better understanding of the real changes in our world than do Sanders, Rafael Correa, and Evo Morales.
Economic growth has not eliminated all poverty, and it will never solve all the problems of the human heart. But understanding the enormous increase in world standards of living over the past three centuries and the past 25 years should be a starting point for any discussion of further progress. Neither the Vatican nor the American media do a good job of informing us about the Great Fact.
Posted on April 14, 2016 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Two articles in the same section of the Washington Post remind us of how government actually works. First, on page B1 we learn that it pays to know the mayor:
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has pitched her plan to create family homeless shelters in almost every ward of the city as an equitable way for the community to share the burden of caring for the neediest residents.
But records show that most of the private properties proposed as shelter sites are owned or at least partly controlled by major donors to the mayor. And experts have calculated that the city leases would increase the assessed value of those properties by as much as 10 times for that small group of landowners and developers.
Then on B5 an obituary for Martin O. Sabo, who was chairman of the House Budget Committee and a high-ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, reminds us of how federal tax dollars get allocated:
Politicians praised Mr. Sabo, a Norwegian Lutheran, for his understated manner and ability to deliver millions of dollars to the Twin Cities for road and housing projects, including the Hiawatha Avenue light-rail line and the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center.
Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said Minnesota has important infrastructure projects because of Mr. Sabo’s senior position on the House Appropriations Committee.
We all know the civics book story of how laws get made. Congress itself explains the process to young people in slightly less catchy language than Schoolhouse Rock:
Laws begin as ideas. These ideas may come from a Representative—or from a citizen like you. Citizens who have ideas for laws can contact their Representatives to discuss their ideas. If the Representatives agree, they research the ideas and write them into bills….
When the bill reaches committee, the committee members—groups of Representatives who are experts on topics such as agriculture, education, or international relations—review, research, and revise the bill before voting on whether or not to send the bill back to the House floor.
If the committee members would like more information before deciding if the bill should be sent to the House floor, the bill is sent to a subcommittee. While in subcommittee, the bill is closely examined and expert opinions are gathered before it is sent back to the committee for approval.
When the committee has approved a bill, it is sent—or reported—to the House floor. Once reported, a bill is ready to be debated by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ah yes … an idea, from a citizen, which is then researched, and studied by experts, and debated by representatives, and closely examined and carefully considered. But it does help if you know the mayor, or if your representative has enough clout to slip goodies for his constituents into a bill – often without being researched, and studied by experts, and closely examined, and debated.
Posted on April 1, 2016 Posted to Cato@Liberty