Bryan Caplan notes that for gaining and maintaining political power, truth is
Monopolize the Pretty Lies.
Why do dictators deny people the right to speak freely? The obvious response is, “The truth hurts.” Dictators are bad, so if people can freely speak the truth, they will say bad things about the dictator. This simultaneously wounds dictators’ pride and threatens their power, so dictators declare war on the truth.
But is this story right? Consider: If you want to bring an incumbent dictator down, do you really want to be hamstrung by the truth? It’s far easier – and more crowd-pleasing – to respond to a pack of official lies with your own pack of lies. When the dictator claims, “I’ve made this the greatest country on earth,” you could modestly respond, “Face facts: we’re only 87th.” Yet if it’s power you seek, you might as well lie back, “The dictator has destroyed our country – but this will be the greatest country on earth if we gain power.” Even more obviously, if the current dictator claims the sanction of God, the opposition doesn’t want to shrug, “Highly improbable. How do you even know God exists?” Instead, the opposition wants to roar, “No, God is on our side. Our side!”
Freedom of speech is immensely valuable, but it's easy to attribute powers to it that it doesn't have. Politicians of all stripes know that lies and half-truths are more effective than honesty.
Speaking of monopoly, our Amazon Product du Jour is very hard to get, with an absurdly high price to match. But you might want to click over to Amazon anyway, because the some of the questions and their answers are hilarious. ("Is the board waterproof so Progressive tears won’t ruin it?" "Its coated with VEGAN oil and comes with a brush made from the armpit hair of 200+lb female anqueefa loser.")
(OK, I googled it: "anqueefa" is a very offensive misspelling of "Antifa". I don't recommend googling it.)
Richard A. Epstein writes in the latest issue of Reason on
The Progressive Feeding Frenzy.
After rattling off the new government spending "Progressives" demand:
How then are these gargantuan expenditures to be funded? The first problem is that the private sector will be so debilitated that government revenues will fall even if tax rates are kept at their current rate. But taxes won't stay at their current rate, because the progressive mindset ignores incentives and treats all wealth transfers as zero-sum. They assume that no amount of taking will ever lead to less earning and that the top 1 percent of Americans, who earn about 20 percent of total income, comprise a deep well.
But that well has already been tapped; today these same rich people also pay 40 percent of federal and state taxes. Some of that money generates return benefits in the form of government goods and services. But today, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and lesser entitlement programs consume an ever-larger fraction of public wealth. We are on the wrong side of the Laffer curve, where higher taxes will generate even smaller revenues. Foreign investors will stay away or pull up stakes and move elsewhere. Many older professionals will choose to retire rather than take a cut in after-tax income. Meanwhile, everyone else will lobby to get on the government gravy train.
[I've said this before but:] there is not a dollar in private hands that statists don't imagine they could spend more wisely and humanely.
At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson looks at
The Lawfare Campaign against Gunmakers.
It is remarkable how little our elite law-enforcement agencies and prosecutors are willing to do when it comes to policing the criminal use of firearms. The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, whose office has responsibility for Chicago, has for years maintained a policy of refusing to prosecute most straw-buyer cases unless they are part of a larger organized-crime investigation, partly because those cases are a lot of work and partly because they tend to net a lot of sympathetic defendants, the girlfriends and grandmothers and nephews with clean records who buy firearms illegally for convicted felons. Local officials in Chicago and Illinois practically never pursue gun-trafficking cases: As ProPublica reports, between 2014 and 2017 Cook County authorities charged only twelve gunrunning cases and zero gun-trafficking cases. Chicago police made only 142 arrests for illegal gun sales over the course of a decade — and no arrests at all for gun trafficking. Of the many arrests for illegal possession of firearms, few led to prosecutions and fewer still to convictions. Similar stories play out less dramatically in jurisdictions around the country and in the federal system: Thousands of gun purchases are wrongly approved in federal background checks every year, but the ATF makes no effort at all to recover those guns.
There are reasons for that. The people who are driving Chicago’s sustained murder problem are young and mobile. Chasing them is hard work, catching them is harder still, and convicting them brings very little in the way of headlines or glory.
It's no surprise that law-abiding companies that make and sell guns are "a much easier target". So the hell with the rule of law.
Matt Weidinger of AEI brings out some
of the new 2018 Census Bureau poverty data. Most notably:
1. Poverty fell again. The official poverty rate (now 11.8 percent) and the number of people in poverty (38.1 million) both fell again in 2018. The poverty rate is now the lowest it has been since 2001 (when it was 11.7 percent). Since peaking at 46.7 million in 2014, the number of people in poverty has fallen by over 8 million. This continued decline in poverty is what you would expect at this point in the economic cycle, given strong job growth and very low unemployment rates – recently at levels seen only at the end of the 1990s expansion, and before that, not since the late 1960s.
I'm as unfond of clichés and adages as the next person. But "a rising tide lifts all boats".
Also: What leftists endlessly deride as "trickle down economics" works.
Granite Staters will immediately want to thumb through the report to see how we're doing. That's actually easier to find at the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) report. By the "official" poverty measure, NH averaged a 6.4% poverty rate between 2016-2018; that's by far the lowest rate in the country.
The SPM takes transfer payments and the local cost of living into account; things aren't quite as rosy in our case. The 2016-2018 average SPM poverty rate in NH was 8.2%. A bunch of states, mostly in the midwest (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin) clock in slightly lower than that.