Category Archive 'Government'
03 May 2017

Government & Academics Can **** Up Anything

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Some people thought the worst day for human learning occurred in 47 B.C. when the Library of Alexandria was burned during fighting between the troops of Julius Caesar and those of Ptolemy XIII. Ha!

Atlantic:

You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else—a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings at the Library of Congress, Harvard, the University of Michigan, at any of the great national libraries of Europe—would have been available for free at terminals that were going to be placed in every local library that wanted one.

At the terminal you were going to be able to search tens of millions of books and read every page of any book you found. You’d be able to highlight passages and make annotations and share them; for the first time, you’d be able to pinpoint an idea somewhere inside the vastness of the printed record, and send somebody straight to it with a link. Books would become as instantly available, searchable, copy-pasteable—as alive in the digital world—as web pages.

It was to be the realization of a long-held dream. “The universal library has been talked about for millennia,” Richard Ovenden, the head of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, has said. “It was possible to think in the Renaissance that you might be able to amass the whole of published knowledge in a single room or a single institution.” In the spring of 2011, it seemed we’d amassed it in a terminal small enough to fit on a desk.

“This is a watershed event and can serve as a catalyst for the reinvention of education, research, and intellectual life,” one eager observer wrote at the time.

On March 22 of that year, however, the legal agreement that would have unlocked a century’s worth of books and peppered the country with access terminals to a universal library was rejected under Rule 23(e)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

When the library at Alexandria burned it was said to be an “international catastrophe.” When the most significant humanities project of our time was dismantled in court, the scholars, archivists, and librarians who’d had a hand in its undoing breathed a sigh of relief, for they believed, at the time, that they had narrowly averted disaster.

RTWT

30 Dec 2016

Government as Gremlin

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Inside the Beltway there are loads of enormous buildings, each with its own campus, and each filled with thousands and thousands of people dedicated to stopping your toilet from flushing right, making your appliances cease to function properly, messing with your engine’s performance, taking the spare tire out of your car, and making everything more expensive.

Jeffrey Tucker visited Brazil and enjoyed taking an old-fashioned shower.

We have long lived with regulated showers, plugged up with a stopper imposed by government controls imposed in 1992. There was no public announcement. It just happened gradually. After a few years, you couldn’t buy a decent shower head. They called it a flow restrictor and said it would increase efficiency. By efficiency, the government means “doesn’t work as well as it used to.”

We’ve been acculturated to lame showers, but that’s just the start of it. Anything in your home that involves water has been made pathetic, thanks to government controls.

You can see the evidence of the bureaucrat in your shower if you pull off the showerhead and look inside. It has all this complicated stuff inside, whereas it should just be an open hole, you know, so the water could get through. The flow stopper is mandated by the federal government.

To be sure, the regulations apply only on a per-showerhead basis, so if you are rich, you can install a super fancy stall with spray coming at you from all directions. Yes, the market invented this brilliant but expensive workaround. As for the rest of the population, we have to live with a pathetic trickle.

It’s a pretty astonishing fact, if you think about it. The government ruined our showers by truncating our personal rights to have a great shower even when we are willing to pay for one. Sure, you can hack your showerhead but each year this gets more difficult to do. Today it requires drills and hammers, whereas it used to just require a screwdriver.

The water pressure in our homes and apartments has been gradually getting worse for two decades. I had to laugh when Donald Trump made mention of this during the campaign. He was challenged to name an EPA regulation he didn’t like. And recall that he is in the hospitality business and knows a thing or two about this stuff.

“You have showers where I can’t wash my hair properly,” he said. “It’s a disaster. It’s true. They have restrictors put in. The problem is you stay under the shower for five times as long.”

The pundit class made fun of him, but he was exactly right! This is a huge quality of life issue that affects every American, every day.

It’s not just about the showerhead. The water pressure in our homes and apartments has been gradually getting worse for two decades, thanks to EPA mandates on state and local governments. This has meant that even with a good showerhead, the shower is not as good as it might be. It also means that less water is running through our pipes, causing lines to clog and homes to stink just slightly like the sewer. This problem is much more difficult to fix, especially because plumbers are forbidden by law from hacking your water pressure.

The combination of poor pressure and lukewarm temperatures profoundly affects how well your dishwasher and washing machine work.As for the heat of the water, the obsession over “safety” has led to regulations that the top temperature is preset on most water heaters, at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is only slightly hotter than the ideal temperature for growing yeast. Most are shipped at 110 degrees in order to stay safe with regulators. This is not going to get anything really clean; just the opposite. Water temperatures need to be 140 degrees to clean things. (Looking at the industry standard, 120 is the lowest-possible setting for cleaning but 170 degrees gives you the sure thing.)

The combination of poor pressure and lukewarm temperatures profoundly affects how well your dishwasher and washing machine work. Plus, these two machines have been severely regulated in how much energy they can consume and how much water they can use. Top-loading washing machines are a thing of the past, while dishwashers that grind up food and send it away are a relic. We are lucky now to pull out a glass without soap scum on it. As for clothing, what you are wearing is not clean by your grandmother’s standards.

So you might have a vague sense that your clothing and dishes aren’t coming out as clean as they might have in the past. This is exactly right. But because we don’t have a direct comparison, and these regulations have taken many years to gradually unfold and take over our lives, we don’t notice this as intensely.

When you travel to Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, or Switzerland – and probably many places I’ve never been – you are suddenly shocked. Why does everything work so well? Why don’t things work as well in the US? The answer is one word: government. This is the only reason.

Read the whole thing.

28 Jun 2016

Government Interventions For Equality

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EveryoneCollege

11 Jun 2016

Homeowner’s Correspondence With Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

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From Matthew Johnson on Facebook:

FrogLetter1

FrogLetter2

(Apologies for the hard-to-read images. They won’t enlarge or sharpen better. Facebook images are small.)

11 Jun 2016

Biggest Crooks Out There

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AssetForfeiture

Washington Post:

Here’s an interesting factoid about contemporary policing: In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. Martin Armstrong pointed this out at his blog, Armstrong Economics, last week.

And the figures mentioned refer only to Federal Asset Forfeiture!

15 May 2016

Iowahawk Thought For the Day

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Tweet132

27 Apr 2016

US GDP 25% Smaller Due to Federal Regulation

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RegulatoryCosts

Investors Business Daily cites a George Mason University Study of the compliance cost of federal regulations which finds that those costs are truly staggering.

Economists scratch their heads when asked to explain the economy’s tepid growth over the past several years. A new study gives a possible answer: the growing, cumulative burden of federal regulations.

Under President Obama, annual GDP growth never once even hit 3%. Under Bush before him, there were only two years when growth topped 3%. But in the two decades before that, annual GDP growth was above 3% in all but six years.

Growth has been so anemic for so long, we’re now being told that this is the “new normal.” As the Bureau of Labor Statistics put it, “annual U.S. GDP growth exceeding 3% … is not expected to be attainable over the coming decade.” It lists everything as a cause, except for one thing: federal regulations.

Whenever a new regulation gets passed, the government puts out a cost analysis, which focuses on annual compliance costs. That’s fine for a point in time. But these regulations don’t go away. And every year more get added to the pile. The Code of Federal Regulations is now more than 81,000 pages long.

What’s the cumulative impact of all these rules, EDIT3-regu-042616regulations and mandates over several decades? A new study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University tries to get an answer, and what it found is mind-boggling.

The paper looked at regulations imposed since 1977 on 22 different industries, their actual growth, and what might have happened if all those regulations had not been imposed.

What it found is that if the regulatory state had remained frozen in place in 1980, the economy would have been $4 trillion — or 25% — bigger than it was in 2012. That’s equal to almost $13,000 per person in that one year alone.

Looked at another way, if the economic growth lost to regulation in the U.S. were its own country, it would be the fourth largest economy in the world, as the nearby chart shows.

Read the whole thing.

02 Apr 2016

Investment Banks Get No Respect

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BankBuildings

Robert Arvanitis explains that their utility and functions have changed.

This begins with the historical merchant banks. These were firms that helped fund the Age of Exploration, and grew along with their clients during the Industrial Revolution.

A merchant banker was knowledgeable in one or more lines of business, put his own money into investments, and gathered more investors based on his own reputation. A merchant banker was the finance department for his clients. He not only lent and invested, he advised on markets, delivered correspondent services, knew the broader economy, and participated in the risks.

That was a lot of hard work, and a lot of sincere risk taking, and the merchant bankers were well-respected. …

as government grew, it had a baleful impact on banking. Government imposed increasing regulation, it set ever more complex tax schemes, and it used capital markets for its own deficit financing. The classic “elephant in the bath tub” of economic distortions.

By the 1970s, the investment banks, starting with Drexel, responded to these new signals. Investment banks began to disintermediate the commercial banks, with high yield bonds. Here, the investment banks acted as agent, not principal. They matched borrowers to investors but took no principal risk. That removed the need for capital, but also left the investors with both the default and liquidity risk. This further detached banks from clients, and in fact made them competitors in trading.

It turned out there were more — and more profitable — opportunities in arbitraging tax and regulation than there were in actually serving businesses. …

[T]he new-style investment bankers sold bonds to investors, and then traded against both the investors and the issuers, making a relatively safe turn on each sale. Or else they read the tax code, and fabricated deals that were tax-deductible debt for the IRS, but counted as regulatory capital for the other parts of government. That’s easier and more profitable than actually building something.

In short, rather than solving real challenges, today’s investment banks work to exploit the growing incoherent web of government intrusions on the market. Profitable, yes, but not worthy of our respect.

01 Feb 2016

How Much Consent of the Governed Has Modern American Democracy Really Got?

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Leviathan
detail, frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651.

In Iowa today, we are beginning participation in ritual activities intended to persuade us that we are a free people electing our own government which governs with our assent. Jason Brennan, a professor at Georgetown, recently posted a short essay arguing that the degree of consent we actually have in a mass democracy is so limited as to be, in most real circumstances, practically non-existent.

In general, our relationship as individuals to our government doesn’t look much like a consensual relationship.

If you don’t vote or participate, your government will just impose rules, regulations, restrictions, benefits, and taxes upon you. Except in exceptional circumstances, the same outcome will occur regardless of how you vote or what policies you support. So, for instance, I voted for a particular candidate in 2012. But had I abstained or voted for a different candidate, the same candidate would have won anyways. This is not like a consensual transaction, in which I order a JVM and the dealer sends me the amp I ordered. Rather, this is more a like a nonconsensual transaction in which the dealer decides to make me buy an amp no matter whether I place an order or not, and no matter what I order.

If you actively dissent, the government makes you obey its rules anyways. For instance, you can’t get out of marijuana criminalization laws by saying, “Just to be clear, I don’t consent to those laws, or to your rule”. This is unlike my relationship with my music gear dealer, where “no” means “no”. For government, your “no” means “yes”.

You have no reasonable way of opting out of government rule. Governments control all the habitable land, and most of us don’t have the resources or even the legal permission to move elsewhere. Governments won’t even let you move to Antarctica if you want to. At most, a privileged few of us can choose which government we live under, but the vast majority of us are stuck with whatever government we’re born with. This is unlike buying an amp from Sweetwater.com, which, by the way, I highly recommend as a dealer.

Finally, governments require you to obey their rules, pay taxes, and the like, even when they don’t do their part. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the government has no duty to protect individual citizens. Suppose you call the police to alert them that an intruder is in your house, but the police never bother dispatch someone to help you, and as a result the intruder shoots you. The government still requires you to pay taxes for the protection services it chose not to deploy on your behalf.

So, in summary, it looks like in general our relationship to our governments lacks any of the features that signify a consensual transaction.

None of this is to say that governments are unjust or illegitimate, or that we ought to be anarchists. There are other reasons to have governments. Nor is it to say that democracies are not in some way special. Democracies in fact do a much better job than alternative forms of government of responding to their concerns and interests of most of their members. But it’s a stretch to say that democracy rests on the consent of the governed, or, more precisely, it’s a stretch to say that you consent to democratic rule.

Read the whole thing.

28 Jan 2016

The Dowager Countess of Grantham Is Right

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Downton Abbey’s Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) explains her opposition to the absorption of the private local hospital by the national public system.

21 Aug 2015

Love Gov: 5 Episodes

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A series of videos from the Independent Institute depicting Alexis’s relationship with Gov, from first date to mandate.

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05 Jun 2015

The Numbers Are In: The FDA Kills More People Than It Saves

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FDACartoon

Cato Institute:

Analyst Dale Gieringer figured that the benefits of FDA regulation “could reasonably be put at some 5,000 casualties per decade or 10,000 per decade for worst-case scenarios. In comparison … the cost of FDA delay can be estimated at anywhere from 21,000 to 120,000 lives per decade.”

Hat tips to Sarah Jenislawski and Jim Harberson.

06 Oct 2014

Priorities

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EbolaCartoon

Mark Steyn notes that when government gets too big, it completely loses its sense of priorities, devoting unlimited energy to enforcing petty regulations while totally failing to perform its legitimate functions in cases when it really matters.

Thomas Eric Duncan has the distinction of being America’s Patient Zero – the first but not the last person to develop Ebola symptoms in the United States.

Is he a US citizen? No, he’s Liberian.

Is he a resident of the United States? No, he landed at Washington’s Dulles Airport on September 20th, in order to visit his sister and having quit his job in Monrovia a few weeks earlier.

So he’s a single unemployed man with relatives in the US and no compelling reason to return to his native land. That alone is supposed to be cause for immigration scrutiny.

In addition, visitors from Liberia have the fifth highest “visa overstay rate” in the United States. That’s to say, they understand very clearly that all that matters is getting in. Once you’re in, they’ll never get you out.

And, of course, Liberia is one of the hottest spots of Ebola’s West African “hot zone”. It’s been all over the front pages, except apparently in The US Customs & Border Protection Staff Newsletter, where it rated a solitary “News In Brief” item at the foot of page 37.

Just to give you an example of how hard-assed the boneheads of America’s immigration bureaucracy can be when they want to:

The legendary Gord Sinclair, longtime news director of CJAD in Montreal, had a ski place near Jay in northern Vermont, and he invited his engineer on the show to come down and visit him. “What’s the purpose of your visit?” asked the agent at the small rural border post.

“Oh, just a relaxing weekend at my boss’ place,” said Gord’s colleague affably, and then chortled, “although I don’t know if it’ll be that relaxing. He’ll probably have me out in the yard chopping wood all day.”

So the immigration agent refused him entry on the grounds that he would be working illegally in the United States.

They all had a good laugh about that back on the air on Monday, but it took forever to straighten out. A single man with contacts in the United States: He says he’s coming for the weekend, but we all know any Montrealer would willingly trade a job at Quebec’s Number One anglo radio station for casual yard work in Vermont, right?

And yet the unemployed guy from an Ebola hot zone gets in.

Every day CBP agents pull stuff like that weekend-in-Vermont thing, screwing over perfectly obviously law-abiding persons – tourists, businessmen, legal residents and, indeed, citizens.

But the Ebola guy gets in.

What is the priority of America’s deranged border regime right now? As I wrote two months ago:

This weekend [Campbell Webster] was returning to New Hampshire from a competition in Canada, which is how a newspaper story comes to open with a sentence never before written in the history of the English language:

    ‘BAGPIPERS have expressed their fear over a new law which led to two US teenagers having their pipes seized by border control staff at the weekend.’

They can chisel that on the tombstone of the republic. On the northern border, bagpipers are “expressing their fear”, while on the southern border gangbangers have no fear and stroll through the express check-in.

As do Ebola-bearing Liberians at Dulles. US border security devotes more time and resources to Campbell Webster of Concord bringing in a bagpipe than to Thomas Duncan of Monrovia bringing in Ebola.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

06 Oct 2014

Our Incompetent Federal Goverment

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SecretService3

Doyle McManus, at the LA Times, contends that the federal government is focused on political competition at the expense of competence.

Whatever happened to good old American know-how?

The nation that invented modern management seems to be suffering a crisis of competence.

The Secret Service can’t protect the White House. Public health authorities can’t get their arms around a one-man Ebola outbreak. The army we trained in Iraq collapsed as soon as it was attacked by Islamic extremists, and our own veterans can’t get the care they need at VA hospitals. And, lest we forget, it was only a year ago that the White House rolled out its national health insurance program, only to see its website grind to a halt.

Yes, you can argue that these problems all have different causes.

But it’s hard not to conclude that something basic is amiss in Washington.

“This isn’t a partisan problem,” argues Linda Bilmes, a public policy scholar at Harvard’s Kennedy School who worked in the Clinton administration — although she does fault the people at the top. “It hasn’t been a priority under this president to appoint good managers to top positions, but it wasn’t a priority under George W. Bush either.”

Read the whole thing.

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