Written by K. William Watson, trade policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Herbert A Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Do you remember the 112th Congress—the one that repeatedly almost shut down the government while still managing to raise taxes and spending? It turns out they did some interesting things with trade policy. The votes recorded in Cato’s congressional trade votes database have been counted, tabulated, and analyzed, and the results are mixed. The predictable legislative outcome was that with a Republican House and Democratic Senate, the 112th Congress furthered the bipartisan establishment trade policy of reciprocal tariff reduction and unilateral subsidy expansion.
The more interesting revelations come from looking at the voting records of individual members. Rather than simply noting whether a policy would promote or diminish free trade or would increase or decrease America’s engagement in the global economy, Cato’s Free Trade, Free Markets methodology distinguishes between barriers (like tariffs and quotas) and subsidies (like loan guarantees, tax credits, and price supports). This distinction enables us to place members within a two-dimensional matrix.
Libertarians and conservatives alike either are intimately aware of problems with speaking out on social media, or they are residing under virtual rocks. In spite of the proliferation of liberty-minded individuals on networks like Twitter and Facebook, those platforms are anything but welcoming to freedom-oriented content.
On Twitter, there is the hated “gulag” that silences conservatives by exploiting an auto-account suspension rubric, or at least that is the explanation offered by the company. As for Facebook, it’s often turned into page suspensions and deletions for gun dealers, and conservative or libertarian commentators.
Now, Facebook has ended up in the headlines over problems with questionable content. They are now going to take a much more proactive stance when it comes to hate speech on their network. Of course this was at the behest of at least one feminist organization. That is not to say that this wasn’t necessary. Of course, there should be serious action taken to prevent content that promotes violence against anyone. However, this is definitely political pandering, and arguably for the benefit of the least profitable portion of Facebook’s “clientele.”
Michael Hamilton is a libertarian writer living in Washington, D.C. His main interests are economics, immigration, and land-use policy.
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint took to the pages of the Washington Post this morning to defend his institution’s latest report on immigration, in which the ludicrous claim that “amnesty” would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion is made.
I’ll leave analysis of the study itself to others (and boy, are they really piling on), but I take exception to the very first sentence of DeMint’s op-ed: ”The economist Milton Friedman warned that the United States cannot have open borders and an extensive welfare state.”
Every now and again a particular clip from a larger Milton Friedman speech is brought up, and this debate is rehashed in libertarian circles. In it, Friedman says, “it is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both.” This is what DeMint is referencing, and he seems to think it supports either his general point of view or his immigration policy prescriptions. I believe that either is unlikely.
Internet Analogies: Twice as Many Americans Lack Access to Public Water-Supply Systems than Fixed Broadband
After abandoning the “information superhighway” analogy for the Internet, net neutrality advocates began analogizing the Internet to waterworks. I’ve previously discussed the fundamental difference between infrastructure that distributes commodities (e.g., water) and the Internet, which distributes speech protected by the First Amendment – a difference that is alone sufficient to reject any notion that governments should own and control the infrastructure of the Internet. For those who remain unconvinced that the means of disseminating mass communications (e.g., Internet infrastructure) is protected by the First Amendment, however, there is another flaw in the waterworks analogy: If broadband Internet infrastructure had been built to the same extent as public water-supply systems, more than twice as many Americans would lack fixed broadband Internet access.
Beyond enforcing the antitrust laws, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) advocates for competition policy in regulatory proceedings initiated by Executive Branch and independent agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In this role, the DOJ works with the FCC on mergers involving communications companies and occasionally provides input in other FCC proceedings. The historical reputation of the DOJ in this area has been one of impartial engagement and deliberate analysis based on empirical data. The DOJ’s recent filing (DOJ filing) on mobile spectrum aggregation jeopardizes that reputation, however, by recommending that the FCC “ensure” Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile obtain a nationwide block of mobile spectrum in the upcoming broadcast incentive auction.
The American Dream—the idea that any American has the ability to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, work hard, make good decisions, and lift themselves from even abject poverty to extreme wealth—is what has always made America different from any other nation on earth. Only in the United States’ free market capitalist economic system has this level of economic mobility been possible, which is why people from around the world have flocked to the United States throughout its history. But is the American Dream still possible?
According to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey, 59 percent of Americans believe that it is impossible for any individual American to work hard and get rich, the highest level ever. Not only that, only 48% believe that it is possible for anyone to work their way out of poverty, while 39% disagree. Rasmussen also shows that pessimism is at an all-time high, with only 25% of Americans believing that the economy will be better a year from now than it is today. Given the sorry state of the American economy, that’s a very sad statement.
President Obama’s State of the Union address was nothing new. The President continued the same leftist rhetoric he used during his inaugural address, calling for even more spending and government. As Jason wrote, he absurdly claimed that he has CUT spending, attacked the sequestration plan that he himself proposed, and called for an increase in the minimum wage would would prove disastrous to job creation. In short, it was more of the same - big government, high taxes, and spending money we don’t have.
The official Republican response was fairly lackluster. Marco Rubio is a gifted speaker, but his speech was big on platitudes and slogans and small on substance. The real response came from Senator Rand Paul. It’s no secret that Senator Paul is a favorite of mine and of many libertarian-leaning folks, so there was much anticipation that he would offer a clear vision apart from both Obama and Rubio. For the most part, he did just that.
To begin, Paul went strongly after the President and laid out a clear idea of what he believes America is really all about:
Tonight, the President told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt.
What the President fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.
What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the Wealth of Nations.
Michael Hamilton is a libertarian writer living in Washington, D.C. His main interests are economics, drug legalization, immigration, and land-use policy.
“The plans differ; the planners are all alike.” — Frédéric Bastiat
It’s common to hear libertarians pejoratively referred to as “Republicans who smoke pot,” the idea being that libertarians don’t really favor freedom in areas where it would lead to outcomes they do not like. For the most part this is false. There is one policy area, however, where this is an accurate criticism: land-use policy. On this issue, the dominant libertarian narrative does not live up to its name.
The narrative, to put it briefly, is that most Americans prefer detached, single-family homes, and zoning laws reflect this for the most part. Save for eliminating certain regulations aimed at curbing sprawl that make homes expensive such as open space rules or growth boundaries, it says policymakers should avoid making major changes to traditional zoning laws lest we fall into the hands of the “planners” and have to live under “smart growth” policies. The narrative associates suburbs, homeownership, and cars with mobility and better living. Libertarians main goals, so it goes, should be relatively inexpensive (or at least not “artificially expensive”) single-family homes and decent traffic. Note that libertarians who support traditional zoning do not consider themselves planners
This narrative is not only wrong, but distinctly unlibertarian. Before I attack it, two small concessions:
First, smart growth is something that libertarians should oppose for both philosophical and utilitarian reasons.
I want to love the Libertarian Party. I really do. It’s the only political party out there that is anywhere close to my beliefs. I cannot stand the Democrats’ Keynesian social welfare malarkey, which ruins our economy, keeps folks from getting jobs, basically makes people dependent on the government, and is run on absolutely no logic whatsoever. Conversely, I cannot stand the Republicans’ social conservatism BS, which oppresses gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, Muslims, pagans, atheists (and agnostics), Hispanics, immigrants, marijuana users and, to an extent, women. I can’t stand either party’s foreign policy, or their joint support of such idiotic civil liberty destroying things such as our current national security state or the war on drugs. Only the Libertarian Party has a platform that I fully (or near as fully as anyone can) support.
But regrettably, the Libertarian Party hasn’t had a lot of success. This is understandable; we are unfortunately stuck on a rather ridiculous plurality vote system that became obsolete in the middle of the 20th century, an archaic throwback to a far more simpler time when the entire electorate was comprised of a bunch of old white landowners (all men, natch.) In our current system, it is nearly impossible for a third party to get success anywhere, though there are examples where they do (notably at the governor level, including, this last time around, Rhode Island.)
Written by Daniel Ikenson, director of the Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Like almost everything about the 2012 presidential campaigns, the bickering between the major party candidates over who is most responsible for shipping jobs overseas has been banal and utterly uninformative. While politicians have scared many Americans with hyperbolized sales pitches about the costs of foreign outsourcing, most people remain in the dark about the causes and benefits of outsourcing. What is foreign outsourcing anyway? Why do some businesses invest in sales operations, research and development, production and assembly operations, or the provision of services abroad? Are low wages and lax environmental and safety standards in poor countries really the magnets attracting U.S. investment? If so, why is 75% of U.S. direct investment abroad in rich countries? What explains the fact that the United States (high-standard, rich country that it is) is the number one destination in the world for foreign direct investment? Doesn’t the fact that businesses have options in our globalized economy serve to discipline some of the worst government policies?
As I suggested in this recent post:
In a globalized economy, outsourcing is a natural consequence of competition. And policy competition is the natural consequence of outsourcing. Let’s encourage this process.