Conservatism is the NEW Counter-Culture
Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the InnocentThe average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague. In Three Felonies a Day, Harvey A. Silverglate reveals how federal criminal laws have become dangerously disconnected from the English common law tradition and how prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior. The volume of federal crimes in recent decades has increased well beyond the statute books and into the morass of the Code of Federal Regulations, handing federal prosecutors an additional trove of vague and exceedingly complex and technical prohibitions to stick on their hapless targets. The dangers spelled out in Three Felonies a Day do not apply solely to “white collar criminals,” state and local politicians, and professionals. No social class or profession is safe from this troubling form of social control by the executive branch, and nothing less than the integrity of our constitutional democracy hangs in the balance.
The Natural-Monopoly Myth: Telephone ServicesThe biggest myth of all in this regard is the notion that telephone service is a natural monopoly. Economists have taught generations of students that telephone service is a "classic" example of market failure and that government regulation in the "public interest" was necessary. But as Adam D. Thierer recently proved, there is nothing at all "natural" about the telephone monopoly enjoyed by AT&T for so many decades; it was purely a creation of government intervention."
Once AT&T's initial patents expired in 1893, dozens of competitors sprung up. "By the end of 1894 over 80 new independent competitors had already grabbed 5 percent of total market share … after the turn of the century, over 3,000 competitors existed. In some states there were over 200 telephone companies operating simultaneously. By 1907, AT&T's competitors had captured 51 percent of the telephone market and prices were being driven sharply down by the competition. Moreover, there was no evidence of economies of scale, and entry barriers were obviously almost nonexistent, contrary to the standard account of the theory of natural monopoly as applied to the telephone industry.
The eventual creation of the telephone monopoly was the result of a conspiracy between AT&T and politicians who wanted to offer "universal telephone service" as a pork-barrel entitlement to their constituents. Politicians began denouncing competition as "duplicative," "destructive," and "wasteful," and various economists were paid to attend congressional hearings in which they somberly declared telephony a natural monopoly. "There is nothing to be gained by competition in the local telephone business," one congressional hearing concluded.
The crusade to create a monopolistic telephone industry by government fiat finally succeeded when the federal government used World War I as an excuse to nationalize the industry in 1918. AT&T still operated its phone system, but it was controlled by a government commission headed by the postmaster general. Like so many other instances of government regulation, AT&T quickly "captured" the regulators and used the regulatory apparatus to eliminate its competitors. "By 1925 not only had virtually every state established strict rate regulation guidelines, but local telephone competition was either discouraged or explicitly prohibited within many of those jurisdictions."
Sweden’s Immigrant Crime ProblemEntitled “Hand Grenades and Gang Violence Rattle Sweden’s Middle Class,” the report examines how weapons of war and clan-like violence have accompanied an influx of immigrants from certain parts of Europe and the greater Middle East.
The story centers on the death of a man in the town of Varby Gard, a once tranquil Stockholm suburb that is now the home base of an increasingly destructive immigrant gang. He was killed in early January when he picked up a mysterious object lying in the street that turned out to be a live hand grenade. The device exploded when he touched it, killing him instantly.
It was one of more than 100 incidents involving military-grade explosives in the Stockholm metro area that police have attributed to an “arms race” among immigrant gangs, reports TheNYT. There were only a few such incidents in Sweden until 2014, but since then, the number of explosions and seizures of grenades has shot up and remained worryingly high.
The police seized 45 grenades in 2015, while 10 others were detonated in public, according to Stockholm Police. The next year, 55 were seized and 35 detonated. A modest decrease occurred in 2017, when 39 were seized and 21 exploded.
Though TheNYT readily reported on the nature of the violence, it was somewhat more circumspect about its origin. Nowhere in the story do the words “Muslim” or “refugee” appear. The only mention of the word “asylum” is to describe a witness to the explosion, one of many Varby Gard residents who arrived there thanks to Sweden’s famously open asylum policies.
The fact is that Sweden’s spike in gang violence and certain categories of crime coincided with the resettlement of more than 100,000 asylum seekers from predominantly Muslim nations beginning in 2014.
In a sane world, it would be easy.To understand how difficult and expensive it is to build housing in San Francisco, observe the case of Robert Tillman. Tillman owns a single-story laundromat in the city's Mission District. Since 2014, he has been attempting to develop his property into a 75-unit apartment building.
The city is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, with an average one-bedroom apartment going for $3,400 a month. So you might think Tillman's project would sail through the permitting process. Instead, the city's labyrinthine process of reviews, regulations, and appeals has dragged on for four years. The project has cost the self-described "accidental developer" nearly $1 million so far, and he hasn't even broken ground yet.
"It's taken me longer to get to this point than it took for the United States to win World War II," says Tillman, "and my site is the easiest site in the city to build."
In a sane world, it would be easy. No housing is located at the site, so there's no fear that redevelopment will displace any tenants. There are three other coin-operated laundromats within 100 yards of Tillman's property, so there is no real concern about lost neighborhood services. Half of the property is a parking lot, so the city won't be losing an aesthetically pleasing landmark. On top of all that, Tillman's lot is a three-minute walk from the 24th Mission Street BART light rail station, a major plus for a city obsessed with "transit-oriented" development.
In March 2014, when Tillman first submitted his plans to the San Francisco Planning Department, the initial reaction was positive. Officials were "very much in favor of developing site," Tillman says.
The real opposition came from some of the neighbors. A community meeting in January 2016 served as something of a flashpoint.
At the meeting, one woman fretted that the tall building would violate the privacy of a nearby public school. Another argued that the project needed to be 100 percent affordable housing. Two representatives from local Latino Cultural District Calle 24 said that even a 100 percent affordable housing project was out of the question, given the proposed height of the development.
When Tillman said he saw his project as necessary so people like his daughter could afford to come back and live in the city, one particularly motivated activist said she wished his daughter was killed in a terrorist attack.
Nevertheless, Tillman persisted, working with the Planning Department to change the design of his development where necessary and spending tens of thousands more on various impact studies. That includes $6,500 on a wind study, $5,000 on a shadow study, and $189,000 in city fees by the end of 2017.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Planning Commission—which oversees the Planning Department and is responsible for approving new developments—continued to push for changes.
Parroting many of the Mission activists' concerns, Commissioner Rich Hillis complained that the design was "bulky, and a bit out of character" with the neighborhood, while Commissioner Kathrin Moore said that erecting an 84-foot tall building would be like "plopping a foreign object into this area and not thinking about the consequences." Commissioner Dennis Richards said, "I think a project absolutely belongs here. The question is what kind of project."
Thanks to California's state density bonus law, which restricts localities' ability to reject housing developments that reserve a certain percentage of their units for below-market tenants, the Commission was largely prevented from imposing new conditions. After another three-month delay, the Commission voted on November 30, 2017, to approve the project.
So that meant Tillman could move forward with construction, right? Of course not. It just set off another round of delays.
California's Environmental Quality Act allows anyone to file an environmental appeal within 30 days of a project's approval, requiring local agencies essentially to reevaluate the environmental and community impact evaluations they've already performed. On January 2, attorney Scott Weaver filed just such an appeal on behalf of the Calle 24 District Council, claiming that the city had conducted an insufficient review of the project's environmental impacts, including the impact of increased shadow on a nearby school and of the potential displacement of businesses and residents. (Remember: The property in question houses zero current residents, and the only business there is Tillman's.)
On February 5, the Planning Department rejected this appeal, stating that Weaver and his clients had "not demonstrated nor provided substantial evidence" to back up their claims of insufficient environmental review.
No, that didn't mean Tillman could finally go ahead with the project. The Planning Department also said that new information had been presented suggesting that Tillman's property might be a "historic resource." You see, the building once housed a local employment agency, back in the 1970s. Also, it once featured a mural depicting the life of Latina women. (The mural no longer exists.)
"You have 150 machines, you have wiring and plumbing. If there was a historical office there, it doesn't exist anymore," Tillman says.
Indeed, the lots Tillman owns were deemed ineligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and on any state or local equivalents, according to the 2011 South Mission Historic Resource Survey conducted by the Planning Department.
Nevertheless, on February 13 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to require a historic evaluation to be done at Tillman's expense. They will revisit the issue, they say, in another four months. To date, Tillman has spent $947,000 in development costs.
Tillman, who already owns the land he wants to develop and whose laundromat business still pulls some $10,000 a month, says he can afford to wait. Other developers watching land and construction costs increase with each delay might have given up long ago.
But the biggest cost may be one that isn't falling on Tillman's shoulders. "What's the cost to the people who would have occupied those units?" Tillman asks. "Those people don't have housing for six months. Put a number on that."
Truth and myths about democratic and republican parties
"trickle-down" economics is a straw man argumentThe "trickle-down" theory cannot be found in even the most voluminous scholarly studies of economic theories -- including J.A. Schumpeter's monumental "History of Economic Analysis," more than a thousand pages long and printed in very small type.
It is not just in politics that the non-existent "trickle-down" theory is found. It has been attacked in the New York Times, in the Washington Post and by professors at prestigious American universities -- and even as far away as India. Yet none of those who denounce a "trickle-down" theory can quote anybody who actually advocated it.
The book "Winner-Take-All Politics" refers to "the 'trickle-down' scenario that advocates of helping the have-it-alls with tax cuts and other goodies constantly trot out." But no one who actually trotted out any such scenario was cited, much less quoted.
One of the things that provoke the left into bringing out the "trickle-down" bogeyman is any suggestion that there are limits to how high they can push tax rates on people with high incomes, without causing repercussions that hurt the economy as a whole.
But, contrary to Mayor de Blasio, this is not a view confined to people on the "far right." Such liberal icons as Presidents John F. Kennedy and Woodrow Wilson likewise argued that tax rates can be so high that they have an adverse effect on the economy.
In his 1919 address to Congress, Woodrow Wilson warned that, at some point, "high rates of income and profits taxes discourage energy, remove the incentive to new enterprise, encourage extravagant expenditures, and produce industrial stagnation with consequent unemployment and other attendant evils."
In a 1962 address to Congress, John F. Kennedy said, "it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now."
This was not a new idea. John Maynard Keynes said, back in 1933, that "taxation may be so high as to defeat its object," that in the long run, a reduction of the tax rate "will run a better chance, than an increase, of balancing the budget." And Keynes was not on "the far right" either.
The time is long overdue for people to ask themselves why it is necessary for those on the left to make up a lie if what they believe in is true.
Income taxes don’t reduce income inequalityIncome taxes don’t reduce income inequality. Instead they do quite the opposite, according to December-dated analysis published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The paper looked at three major 20th century U.S. tax reforms and found that they did nothing to decrease income inequality and everything to increase it.
“I find that all the considered tax policy reforms raised economic inequality, instead of lowering it, as was intended by the policymakers,” states the paper titled “Do Taxes Increase Economic Inequality? A Comparative Study Based on the State Personal Income Tax” by Ugo Troiano, professor of economics at the University of Michigan.
The tax policy reforms he references are the introduction of state income tax, the introduction of tax withholding along with reporting by employers, and the agreement between the federal government and the states to coordinate audits.
Why did income inequality increase when that wasn’t the goal of the reforms?
“The fact that the only effect that these reforms had in common was raising the revenues from income tax and making the government bigger and the private sector smaller, suggest that a bigger government, at least in the recent history, had the effect of higher inequality,” the report states.
In other words, bigger government ends up retarding the private sector and reducing the size of the wealth pie. Naturally, the poorer come out worst in such a situation, while the well-heeled can get top tier advice to dodge the tax bullet. Hence, the rich get richer and the poor stay skint.
About Scandinavian SocialismScandinavian countries—specifically, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland—are perceived as socialist because their citizens pay very high income taxes. However, these countries still suffer from many of the social and economic ills that socialism is supposed to prevent. Additionally, the United States taxes wealthy Americans at much higher rates than Scandinavian countries tax their similarly wealthy citizens, yet leftists such as Sanders are still displeased with how our tax system is organized.
Scandinavian Countries Aren’t Socialist
One of the reasons it is incorrect to refer to countries like Sweden as “socialist” is that these countries were once far more progressive than they are now. The Economist says Sweden was once a “tax-and-spend” economy in which author Astrid Lindgren (of “Pippi Longstocking” fame) was required to pay more than 100 percent of her income in taxes. This heavily progressive tax rate stunted economic growth, and Sweden fell from the fourth-wealthiest country in the world to the fourteenth-wealthiest country in just 23 years.
The government recognized the cause of the trouble and instituted several capitalist reforms to resuscitate Sweden’s economy. According to The Economist, following the success of Sweden’s relatively right-leaning Moderate party, “Swedish GDP is growing strongly, and unemployment is falling. The budget is heading into surplus next year.” The article notes that many Swedes support moderate and right-wing reforms: “The centre-right has made welfare payments less generous, cut taxes for the lower-paid and trimmed the numbers on sickness benefit. Voters seem to approve.” The electoral success of moderate and conservative parties throughout Scandinavia is at once a rejection of progressive policies and an endorsement of free markets in what some consider to be the most progressive region in the world.
In some ways, Sweden is now less progressive than the United States. Harvard professor Gregory Mankiw writes that the wealthiest decile of Swedes carries 26.7 percent of the tax burden. In The United States, the figure is a whopping 45.1 percent. Additionally, wealth inequality is more pronounced in Scandinavian countries than it is in the United States. In Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway, the top decile of earners own between 65 and 69 percent of the country’s total wealth, an astonishing figure. Sanders is apparently unaware of this reality, given that one of his primary reasons for praising Scandinavia was their low levels of wealth inequality.
Scandinavia Has High Taxes and High Personal Debt
Despite their rates of wealth inequality, it is true that the citizens of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland devote more of their income to taxes than American citizens do. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average American spends 9.8 percent of his income on taxes; Swedes spend 12.3 percent, Danes 26.4 percent, Norwegians 10 percent, and Finns 12.9 percent. Perhaps because of these measures, government debt is less of a problem in Scandinavia than it is in the United States.
However, Scandinavian rates of household debt are astronomically high. OECD figures also show the average Dane has a household debt equal to 310 percent of his disposable income; the number is 173 percent for Swedes. In America, the average is 114 percent. While America’s economic problems cannot be ignored, it is noteworthy that Scandinavia’s progressive tax systems fail to protect their citizens from staggering personal debt.
Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, Sweden’s public education system is ranked lower than that of the United States. According to the OECD, Sweden ranks 30 of 37 in math and 24 of 37 in reading. The United States, meanwhile, is 27 of 37 in math and 25 of 37 in reading. Norway and Denmark are both ranked better than the United States, but not by much. These realities destroy the pervasive myth that “socialist” Scandinavian schools are the best in the world. Despite what Sanders might believe, educational institutions in Sweden are not superior to those in the United States. Sweden’s high tax rates have not ensured educational excellence, and many Swedes likely pay the equivalent of college tuition for their children in the form of taxes anyhow.
The Non-Socialist European Success Story: Switzerland
This evidence is quite as compelling as the success story that is Switzerland. Unlike its neighbors, Switzerland is one of the most capitalist countries in existence. Its citizens only pay 8.6 percent of their personal incomes in taxes annually, and its economic climate is particularly well-suited to entrepreneurship. The Huffington Post writes that 99 percent of Switzerland’s economy is made up of small and medium-sized enterprises, which also employ three-quarters of the country’s workforce.
Switzerland is ranked best in the world on many categories related to economic development, including “innovation, on-the-job staff training, attracting talent from elsewhere, and for government-provided training.” Ultimately, The Huffington Post claims, “Switzerland is home to one of the world’s most thriving economies and also one of the happiest populations on the globe.” Many leftists extol the limited successes of Sweden and Finland without ever acknowledging Switzerland, although it outperforms much of Europe in various economic and social metrics.
Although it is very capitalist, Switzerland boasts many of the advantages that socialist Scandinavian states are supposed to claim exclusively. Switzerland’s unemployment rate is just 4.5 percent, which is one of the lowest rates in the world. The country’s poverty rate is similarly low (XLS). Those who immigrate to Switzerland have an average employment rate of 76 percent, which is much higher than the European average of 62 percent.
Furthermore, the Swiss educational system is ranked third in the world by the OECD. Only Korea and Japan are ranked higher, which means Switzerland’s educational system is the best in the Western world. Many claim this distinction belongs to Finland, but Finnish schools are in fact ranked 10/37 in math and 4/37 in reading.
Additionally, income inequality and debt are both quite low in Switzerland. This reality persists although Switzerland’s wealthy have the lowest tax burden in the world; the richest decile in the country pays only 20.9 percent of the country’s taxes. Remarkably, even though the tax burden on the wealthy is minimal, Switzerland’s national debt as a percentage of its gross domestic product is lower than Finland’s, Sweden’s, and Denmark’s.
Switzerland is the closest to “paradise” of any European country, yet it remains one of the most capitalist economies on Earth. Its success is a powerful antidote to socialist claims about the benefits of progressive taxation, and all but destroys the assumption that Scandinavia as a bastion of socialism shows that only collectivism can produce success.
More fair and more safe?Quite ironic. The solutions which were created to fight the war on poverty ended up causing more problems than they solved. Since the 1960's, America has passed tax after tax, law after law, regulation after regulation, all in effort to increase safety and fairness. And though we are somewhat safer, few would say things are more fair. If you want to know why middle class jobs have left America, and gone overseas, here are two reasons, a tax code, which in 2016 was 74,608 pages long, and a federal code of rules and regulations which has grown by more than 60,000 pages per year for more than 20 years. Today in America it takes at least one decade to open a new factory, and existing factories face increasing regulation every year. If an automaker wants to create a new car model, it also takes a decade, and costs upwards of $1 billion. Since the post-war years, when federal regulations exploded, how many new car companies have been created in America? How many airplane companies? How many motorcycle companies? How many bicycle companies? The sad fact is that we have far fewer of any of these than we did 50 or 60 years ago. When it is extremely difficult and expensive to manufacture things in America, and virtually impossible to expand or create factories, how in the hell are we supposed to end up with more jobs, higher wages, and less inequality?