What do Steven Jay Russell and Bradley Manning have in common? Manning of course is the U.S. Army private accused of passing massive amounts of Department of Defense and Department of State cables to WikiLeaks. Russell is the serial con man featured in the movie, I Love You Phillip Morris. Manning faces a maximum sentence of 52 years, while Russell is currently nine years into a sentence of 144 years (45 years for embezzlement and 99 years for escaping).... Well, one thing they have in common is that they are both being held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day.Is solitary confinement outrageous and inhumane for nonviolent prisoners? Read more here. And while you're at Britannica.com, read my entry on libertarianism.
Posted on January 31, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
You do not have to be a professor of mathematics or economics to see that if people with plenty of cash start bidding against each other for scarce goods, the price of those goods (them) goes up. Yesterday I submitted to the Congress of the United states a seven-point program, a program of general principles which taken together could be called the national economic policy for attaining the great objective of keeping the cost of living down. I repeat them now to you in substance: First. we must, through heavier taxes, keep personal and corporate profits at a low reasonable rate. Second. We must fix ceilings on prices and rents. Third. We must stabilize wages. Fourth. We must stabilize farm prices. Fifth. We must put more billions into War Bonds. Sixth. We must ration all essential commodities which are scarce. Seventh. We must discourage installment buying, and encourage paying off debts and mortgages.As it happens, I have a 1942 OWI poster with that same message hanging in my kitchen: In fact, of course, price inflation was the natural result of a substantial increase in the money supply before and during the war. All of FDR's policies -- cartels, destruction of crops, wage and price controls, rationing -- were misguided attempts to deal with the consequences of monetary manipulation and other bad policies. By the way, FDR famously said, "The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." Which might explain another propaganda film produced by MGM, this one in 1933, that extolled the virtues of FDR's policy of inflation, utilizing the argument that is variously called "stimulus" or "the broken window fallacy." The film cited the successful results of Civil War inflation. "What inflation has done before it will do again! . . . What a man! And what a leader! Yowzer! Happy days are here again!” Yeah, that went well. And by 1942 MGM was back on board, making a government propaganda film opposing inflation. For background on inflation, read Cato adjunct scholar Lawrence H. White at the Concise Encylopedia of Economics.
Posted on January 31, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Most of his hour-long speech was a paean to liberal activism, as the president called for redoubling outlays on high-speed rail and "countless" green energy jobs.Liberal boondogglery indeed. But Rove's former colleague, White House speechwriter Michael Gerson, wrote on the same day in his Washington Post column:
In his 2006 State of the Union address, which I helped write, President George W. Bush proposed a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research at the Energy Department, a doubling of basic research in the physical sciences and the training of 70,000 high school teachers to instruct Advanced Placement courses in math and science. I have no idea if these "investments" passed or made much difference. I doubt anyone knows.Green nonsense is rampant in Washington. Rove criticizes Obama for
a federal budget that's increased 25% in two years, raising government's share of GDP to 25% from roughly 20%.Obama is a world-class spender. But spending increased 83 percent during Bush's presidency, from $1.863 trillion to $3.414 trillion. He increased federal spending faster than any president since Lyndon Johnson. And yes, Obama is pushing the government's share of GDP up; but Bush increased the federal government's share of GDP by 2.2 percentage points, before the financial crisis, the bailouts, and TARP. Read more...
Posted on January 28, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
There have always been two reasons for adding to the national debt. One is to fight wars. The second is to counteract recessions. But while the national debt in 1982 was 35% of GDP, after a quarter century of nearly uninterrupted economic growth and the end of the Cold War the debt-to-GDP ratio has more than doubled. It is hard to escape the idea that this happened only because Democrats and Republicans alike never said no to any significant interest group. Despite a genuine economic emergency, the stimulus bill is more about dispensing goodies to Democratic interest groups than stimulating the economy. Even Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) -- no deficit hawk when his party is in the majority -- called it "porky."Annual federal spending rose by a trillion dollars when Republicans controlled the government from 2001 to 2007. It has risen another trillion during the Bush-Obama response to the financial crisis. So spending every year is now twice what it was when Bill Clinton left office. Republicans and Democrats alike should be able to find wasteful, extravagant, and unnecessary programs to cut back or eliminate. They could find some of them here in this report by Chris Edwards. Tea Partiers and other taxpayers should listen carefully tonight, to both speeches. Is either party prepared to require the government to live within its means? Or will both parties continue to spend with abandon and raise the "debt limit" every few months?
Posted on January 25, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
(A post from the Cato Institute makes its cheerful willingness to abandon the non-economic planks of its platform explicit: "Candidates and representatives hoping to appeal to the Tea Party, we argue, need to focus on a unifying economic agenda that takes into account this strong libertarian undercurrent.")Just read the quotation. My colleague David Kirby is saying that Republicans should avoid divisive social issues -- presumably meaning abortion, gay marriage, and projects like the Terri Schiavo intervention -- lest they lose the support of libertarian-leaning Tea Party activists. That is, he's urging the Republican Party to abandon its non-libertarian agenda in order to unify a broad coalition of conservatives, libertarians, and independents. Pareene seems to have misread it.
Posted on January 23, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
While the opening few minutes are a bit absurd (Harry's first client is a third-time drug offender who literally lands on her after jumping off a building), the show's pilot brings to light the serious problem of overincarceration in our country. In her closing argument to a jury in defense of a young man charged with cocaine possession (minutes 27-31 of the episode), Harry delivers a touching and evidence-based appeal to the jury and argues that incarceration is not the appropriate way to deal with drug offenders. She points out:Bonus libertarian point: The title "Harry's Law" reminds me of "Harry's War," a 1981 movie about the depredations of the IRS."[S]tudy after study after study has shown that when you take kids like Malcolm [her young black client] and you stick them in jail, you increase the likelihood that they'll remain addicts, or wind up homeless, or worst of all become more hardened and career criminals. When it comes to drug abuse, treatment is seven times more cost effective than incarceration. Seven times. It's an indisputable fact."Since television statistics can often be far from the truth, we did a little research. It seems the show's "seven times" statistic may be based on a 1994 reportcommissioned by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy. Several recent studies also show that treatment is far more cost effective than incarceration for drug offenses. Drug offenses, especially possession, are often indicative of addiction. And addiction, more than being a criminal offense, is something that can be treated. Treatment rehabilitates drug offenders at a lower cost, allowing them to become productive members of society. Incarcerating someone is expensive. And as Harry so effectively points out, prison "neither treats nor trains nor rehabilitates" — it merely risks making someone more dangerous and likely to commit crimes in the future. Harry is right: these are the facts. In one of the more poignant moments in her speech, Harry argues that "intrinsic to justice is humanity. Humanity couldn't call for this young man to be locked up — it simply couldn't." It's true. Not only is it inhumane to lock up people who are addicted to drugs, it's unreasonable and fiscally irresponsible. Taxpayers spend almost $70 billion a year on corrections and incarceration. There are 1.6 million Americans in prison — that is triple the amount of prisoners we had in 1987 — and 25 percent of those incarcerated are locked up for drug offenses. When those who are incarcerated are released, they earn approximately 40 percent less than they did before entering prison — that means their economic mobility is almost half of what it was before incarceration. In times of a global economic crisis, do we really want to spend this much money locking up small time offenders? And do we really want to lock up such a large chunk of our labor force and decrease their future earning potential when it could serve as a drag on our future economic recovery? And on top of all this, it's proven ineffective to imprison people for drug offenses — incarceration doesn't fix the problem of drug addiction. It's even more ineffective (and inhumane) to lock up our kids who are addicted to drugs — as Harry points out, doing so is akin to throwing them away — thereby increasing the likelihood they will have lives filled with inhumane prison conditions, mental health problems, lack of economic opportunity, and continued addiction. And by imprisoning our children for drug offenses, we risk creating a cycle that may prevent their kids from having brighter futures. One in every 28 children in this country has a parent behind bars, up from one in 125 just 25 years ago. We are sacrificing these children's lives as well. Just as we increasingly can't afford the cost of incarceration, we can't afford to lose our kids and our country to the cycle of incarceration and poverty. The show's perspective isn't necessarily profound, but it is pleasant to hear Harry's words cut through the din of fear-driven plotlines that have for so long been a staple in popular television crime dramas.
Posted on January 22, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
The modest gray house in Takoma Park was nearly perfect, from Patrick Earle's staunchly environmentalist point of view. It was small enough for wood-stove heating, faced the right way for good solar exposure and, most important, was in a liberal suburb that embraces all things ecological. Or almost all. When Earle and his wife, Shannon, recently sought to add solar panels to the house, which they have been turning into a sustainability showplace, the couple discovered that Takoma Park values something even more than new energy technologies: big, old trees. When they applied to cut down a partially rotten 50-foot silver maple that overshadowed their roof, the Earles ran into one of the nation's strictest tree-protection ordinances. Under the law, the town arborist would approve removing the maple only if the couple agreed to pay $4,000 into a city tree-replacement fund or plant 23 saplings on their own.So now the rival environmentalists are squaring off in front of the city council:
Takoma Park City Council members, who are considering revising the 1983 tree-protection law, listened Monday night as otherwise like-minded activists vied to claim the green high ground. Tree partisans hailed the benefits of the leafy canopy that shades 59 percent of the town: Trees absorb carbon, take up stormwater, control erosion and provide natural cooling.... Solar advocates at the hearing said that they are tree lovers, too, but that scientific studies support the idea of poking select holes in the tree cover to let a little sun power through.Being an environmentalist homeowner can become a full-time job:
But even some veteran solar users don't like the idea of trading trees for panels. Mike Tidwell, founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, installed solar panels on his Takoma Park house 10 years ago. As the trees have grown, the panels' effectiveness has diminished, and Tidwell now buys wind power credits to supplement them. Still, he said, "I don't believe you should cut down trees for solar." Rather, he thinks neighbors should work together to place shared panels on the sunniest roofs.The city's "official arborist" turned down Earle's application to tear down one rotting tree to accommodate his solar panels. Now the council is debating the issue.
The Earles' council member, Josh Wright, said he was sympathetic to their plight. He said it should remain hard to cut down a tree, but he'd like to see a break for people installing solar power. Wright also wants all homeowners to get credit for trees they may have planted in the years before they remove a tree.It all sounds very complicated. And who knows what the right answer is? Or if there is a right answer? Or if the right answer might change next year? And that's where property rights come in. They allocate both jurisdiction and liability over scarce resources, like roofs, trees, and access to sunlight. A little "law and economics" can help to understand the Takoma Park Tree Tussle. Nobel Laureate in Economics Ronald Coase, who just turned 100, brought law and economics together to study the way that people externalize costs (make others pay for them) or internalize them (take them into account when making decisions). When property rights are well defined and legally secure, and rights can be exchanged at low cost, resources will be directed to their most highly valued use. In fact, the initial allocation of property rights doesn't affect the allocation of resources, if the transfers are freely and easily negotiable. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case in Takoma Park, where instead of a fairly straightforward transaction (facilitated by a purchase), there is a tussle over ill-defined rights and obligations that have little or no legal security, in a very expensive and costly process of negotiation that will almost certainly consume more wood pulp for memos than is contained in the tree in question. Well-defined and legally secure property rights save us the rather substantial trouble of sitting down like the Takoma Park City Council and trying to judge the advisability of every proposed purchase, all the while consuming large amounts of paper and exuding large amount of hot air.
Posted on January 20, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Posted on January 20, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Former Vice President Dick Cheney . . . said President Obama is likely to be a one-term president because his policies are unpopular with the public. “His overall approach to expanding the size of government, expanding the deficit, and giving more and more authority and power to the government over the private sector,” Mr. Cheney said in an interview with Jamie Gangel for NBC News. “Those are all weaknesses, as I look at Barack Obama. And I think he’ll be a one term President."I recall the Bush-Cheney administration also came under criticism for "expanding the size of government, expanding the deficit, and giving more and more authority and power to the government," and it didn't prevent him from being reelected.
Posted on January 18, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Posted on January 17, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty