I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading.

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PHPKonf: Istanbul PHP Conference 2017

PHP - Mon, 27/03/2017 - 19:00
Categories: Technology

Or Pfft Twice

Blog & Mablog - 3 hours 8 min ago

“If Jesus really did come back from the dead, then certain things are false, and the gigantic brotherhood of man has gone pfft” (Empires of Dirt, p.35).

The post Or Pfft Twice appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know

You Probably Think This Song Is About You

Blog & Mablog - 3 hours 11 min ago

“Now, despite this disclaimer, if someone comes up to me angrily and says, ‘I don’t care about all those disclaimers . . . you really are talking about me!’ Well, yes, I guess I probably am” (Food Catholic, p. 39).

The post You Probably Think This Song Is About You appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know

Break Up the USA

Mises Institute - 3 hours 40 min ago
By: Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.

Some of our assumptions are so deeply embedded that we cannot perceive them ourselves.

Case in point: everyone takes for granted that it’s normal for a country of 320 million to be dictated to by a single central authority. The only debate we’re permitted to have is who should be selected to carry out this grotesque and inhumane function.

Here’s the debate we should be having instead: what if we simply abandoned this quixotic mission, and went our separate ways? It’s an idea that’s gaining traction — much too late, to be sure, but better late than never.

For a long time it seemed as if the idea of secession was unlikely to take hold in modern America. Schoolchildren, after all, are told to associate secession with slavery and treason. American journalists treat the idea as if it were self-evidently ridiculous and contemptible (an attitude they curiously do not adopt when faced with US war propaganda, I might add).

And yet all it took was the election of Donald Trump for the alleged toxicity of secession to vanish entirely. The left’s principled opposition to secession and devotion to the holy Union went promptly out the window on November 8, 2016. Today, about one in three Californians polled favors the Golden State’s secession from the Union.

In other words, some people seem to be coming to the conclusion that the whole system is rotten and should be abandoned.

It’s true that most leftists have not come around to this way of thinking. Many have adopted the creepy slogan “not my president” – in other words, I may not want this particular person having the power to intervene in all aspects of life and holding in his hands the ability to destroy the entire earth, but I most certainly do want someone else to have those powers.

Not exactly a head-on challenge to the system, in other words. (That’s what we libertarians are for.) The problem in their view is only that the wrong people are in charge.

Indeed, leftists who once said “small is beautiful” and “question authority” had little trouble embracing large federal bureaucracies in charge of education, health, housing, and pretty much every important thing. And these authorities, of course, you are not to question (unless they are headed by a Trump nominee, in which case they may be temporarily ignored).

Meanwhile, the right wing has been calling for the abolition of the Department of Education practically since its creation in 1979. That hasn’t happened, as you may have noticed. Having the agency in Republican hands became the more urgent task.

Each side pours tremendous resources into trying to take control of the federal apparatus and lord it over the whole country.

How about we call it quits?

No more federal fiefdoms, no more forcing 320 million people into a single mold, no more dictating to everyone from the central state.

Radical, yes, and surely not a perspective we were exposed to as schoolchildren. But is it so unreasonable? Is it not in fact the very height of reason and good sense? And some people, we may reasonably hope, may be prepared to consider these simple and humane questions for the very first time.

Now can we imagine the left actually growing so unhappy as to favor secession as a genuine solution?

Here’s what I know. On the one hand, the left made its long march through the institutions: universities, the media, popular culture. Their intention was to remake American society. The task involved an enormous amount of time and wealth. Secession would amount to abandoning this string of successes, and it’s hard to imagine them giving up in this way after sinking all those resources into the long march.

At the same time, it’s possible that the cultural elite have come to despise the American bourgeoisie so much that they’re willing to treat all of that as a sunk cost, and simply get out.

Whatever the case may be, what we can and should do is encourage all decentralization and secession talk, such that these heretofore forbidden options become live once again.

I can already hear the objections from Beltway libertarians, who are not known for supporting political decentralization. To the contrary, they long for the day when libertarian judges and lawmakers will impose liberty on the entire country. And on a more basic level, they find talk of states’ rights, nullification, and secession – about which they hold the most exquisitely conventional and p.c. views – to be sources of embarrassment.

How are they going to rub elbows with the Fed chairman if they’re associated with ideas like these?

Of course we would like to see liberty flourish everywhere. But it’s foolish not to accept more limited victories and finite goals when these are the only realistic options.

The great libertarians – from Felix Morley and Frank Chodorov to Murray Rothbard and Hans Hoppe — have always favored political decentralization; F.A. Hayek once said that in the future liberty was more likely to flourish in small states. This is surely the way forward for us today, if we want to see tangible changes in our lifetimes.

Thomas Sowell referred to two competing visions that lay at the heart of so much political debate: the constrained and the unconstrained. In the constrained vision, man’s nature is not really malleable, his existence contains an element of tragedy, and there is little that politics can do by way of grandiose schemes to perfect society. In the unconstrained vision, the only limitation to how much society can be remade in the image of its political rulers is how much the rubes are willing to stomach at a given moment.

These competing visions are reaching an endgame vis-a-vis one another. As Angelo Codevilla observes, the left has overplayed its hand. The regular folks have reached the limits of their toleration of leftist intimidation and thought control, and are hitting back.

We can fight it out, or we can go our separate ways.

When I say go our separate ways, I don’t mean “the left” goes one way and “the right” goes another. I mean the left goes one way and everyone else — rather a diverse group indeed — goes another. People who live for moral posturing, to broadcast their superiority over everyone else, and to steamroll differences in the name of “diversity,” should go one way, and everyone who rolls his eyes at all this should go another.

“No people and no part of a people,” said Ludwig von Mises nearly one hundred years ago, “shall be held against its will in a political association that it does not want.” So much wisdom in that simple sentiment. And so much conflict and anguish could be avoided if only we’d heed it.

Categories: Current Affairs

What's In Store for the Next Four Years?

Mises Institute - 3 hours 40 min ago
By: Allen Mendenhall
A Conversation with Allen Mendenhall

A frequent collaborator with the Mises Institute, Allen Mendenhall is associate dean and executive director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law and Liberty at Faulkner University and is the author of Literature and Liberty: Essays in Libertarian Literary Criticism (2014) and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Pragmatism, and the Jurisprudence of Agon: Aesthetic Dissent and the Common Law (2016). He recently spoke with us about his legal work, how the Mises Institute has influenced him, and his predictions for the new president.

The Austrian: Tell us about your new position at Faulkner University and how you came to be associated with the Mises Institute.

Allen Mendenhall: I’m an associate dean in the law school at Faulkner and the executive director of a new center there called the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty. The center promotes the common-law tradition and coordinates educational programs and research initiatives on liberty and private ordering.

I first started reading publications of the Mises Institute when I was a law student. I was freeing myself from the bad presuppositions and habits of thinking that had entangled me as an undergraduate English major.

For many years, I was a distant observer of the Institute. I was  working through economic ideas for the first  time, startled at the depth of my ignorance and exhilarated by the discoveries I was making through Austrian economics.

One day, on a whim, I wrote a book review and emailed it to the editors of Mises Daily. The next day, the piece was published. I was thrilled. After that, I wrote more pieces for the Institute, and when I attended Auburn University for my doctorate, Lew generously gave me office space to use during the school year.

While I worked toward my doctorate, I participated in an Austrian Scholars Conference, attended Mises Circle events, and completed Mises Academy courses with Thomas DiLorenzo, David Gordon, Stephan Kinsella, and Robert Murphy. I was also working with Paul Cantor on developing libertarian approaches to literary criticism, an effort that resulted in the publication of my first book, Literature and Liberty: Essays in Literary Criticism.

TA: Now that you’ve had time to take a look at Trump’s appointments following the election, what do you expect will be the overall tone of the administration?

AM: It’s hard to say. Trump can seem evasive and unpredictable about details, even if his broad vision for certain policies — say, immigration or trade — is clear. I do find it promising that Trump has favored the private sector in his choices for cabinet positions: Andrew Puzder at Labor, Wilbur Ross at Commerce, Betsy DeVos at Education, and Linda McMahon at the Small Business Administration. And I’m fascinated by his decision to nominate Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, a longtime enemy of the EPA, to head up that agency, which exercised extraordinary powers under the Obama administration.

Whether these nominees will, if confirmed, reduce the power and spending of government or, instead, facilitate corporatism and cronyism remains to be seen. One harbors doubts when figures like John Bolton are in the mix for cabinet positions.

TA: What do you think are the best parts of the new Trump administration and what are the worst?

AM: The best, as I’ve suggested, include the selections of non-politicians and non-government figures. The worst, at least on the basis of track record, involve foreign policy. Given the choices at Homeland Security, Defense, and National Security Advisor, I’m fearful this won’t be a return to an Old Right foreign policy.

As of this writing, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, the chairman and CEO of Exxon. I don’t know much about Tillerson’s perspective on foreign policy, but at least he’s not John Bolton, and I consider his business experience to be valuable.

TA: As an attorney, do you foresee any meaningful changes in the federal judiciary — including the Supreme Court — as a result of Trump’s election?

AM: Yes. The history of the federal judiciary demonstrates that, no matter who the president is, courts always institute meaningful changes in society, for better or worse. On this score, I’d prefer a President Trump to a President Clinton.

The framers of the Constitution believed they could restrain the powers of government through a system of federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances. Perhaps they were quixotic; the state of the federal government today would seem to suggest that they were. Even an ardent nationalist like Hamilton would be shocked at the growth and power of the federal government, let alone the federal judiciary. Many libertarians take an anti-Jeffersonian approach to the federal judiciary, advocating for robust judicial powers that can be enforced against local communities and private businesses. This bothers me.

Imagine if Hillary Clinton had won this election and appointed judges to federal vacancies in the district and circuit courts, and also to the US Supreme Court. Imagine if these judges and justices believed in a fundamental right to basic income or subsistence and attempted to incorporate these alleged rights against the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Imagine new judges and justices who believed that forms of politically incorrect speech constitute “hate speech” that’s not protected by the First Amendment. Imagine new judges and justices who believe the government is responsible for remedying past wrongs against certain groups and thus favored affirmative-action programs in schools and businesses. Imagine judges and justices hostile to the Second Amendment. We might have seen the federal judiciary populated by such jurists had Clinton been elected.

Because Trump won’t nominate jurists like these, at least if his list of 21 potential nominees to the US Supreme Court is any indication, I believe his election will affect the role of judges in our society.

TA: In spite of Trump’s victory, it’s hard to ignore that the election was extremely close. Do you think there’s any real ideological change in the US going on, or could we just be looking at a return to another typical center-left presidency in four years?

AM: Something has changed. Just four years ago, a Donald Trump presidency would have been inconceivable. I don’t know whether a change in public opinion or culture or norms or attitude or demographics or whatever translates into a change in the size and structure of government at this point. We’re experiencing political unrest, but it’s not clear to me yet whether that will lead to more or less liberty and economic freedom in the long term.

Categories: Current Affairs

Abolish the One-Man Presidency

Mises Institute - 5 hours 25 min ago
By: Ryan McMaken

Last month, when President Trump issued his executive order banning refugees and visa holders from seven countries, the acting Attorney General Sally Yates refused to enforce the orders. 

In response, conservatives at National Review issued an unsigned editorial reminding the reader that 

It is a very simple proposition. Our Constitution vests all executive power — not some of it, all of it — in the president of the United States. Executive-branch officials do not have their own power.

This is true indeed. But it shouldn't be.

The US constitution places immense power in the hands of a single person. This was done, as Alexander Hamilton put it in Federalist No 70 to maximize "decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch" in the executive branch. Confronted with opposition from the Anti-Federalists who feared too much power in the hands of a simgle ambitious politicians, Hamilton attempted to illustrate that they had nothing to fear.  

The "Founding Fathers" Were Wrong 

Unfortunately, the majority of the politicians at the Convention agreed with Hamilton, exhibiting yet again that the much vaunted so-called "founding fathers" were not nearly as insightful as is often pretended. Just as James Madison was wrong about a large republic preventing abuses of government power, Hamilton was wrong that a the executive will toward political weakness.  Indeed, the "framers" in general exhibited a remarkable lack of insight in their paranoia about how the legislative branch would dominate all other institutions in the government and run roughshod over the rights of the citizenry. In real life, the legislature has in many respects proven to be the weakest branch of the federal government, and is certainly weaker than the presidency in terms of prestige, public trust, media access, and in Congress's lack of ability to rule by decree as the president does. 

Thus, knowing what we now know about the US presidency today, anything that increases "activity" and "secrecy," as Hamilton wanted, should immediately send up a series of red flags.

In his own comments at the Constitutional Convention, George Mason said as much when he observed : 

The chief advantages which have been urged in favour of unity in the executive are the secrecy, the dispatch, the vigour and energy which the government will derive from it, especially in times of war...Yet perhaps a little reflection may include us to doubt whether these advantages are not greater in theory than in practice...If strong and extensive powers are vested in the executive, and that executive consists only of one person, the government will of course degenerate (for I will call if degeneracy) into a monarchy — a government to contrary to the genius of the people that they will reject even the appearance of it.

On the first point of the executive power's "degeneracy," Mason has been proven right. After all who can deny that the presidents of today enjoy powers that the monarchs of old could only dream of? Modern presidents can destroy the planet in a nuclear holocaust with the touch of a bottom. They can launch the world's more technologically-advanced military at will. They command a vast bureaucratic and law-enforcement apparatus that can destroy the lives of American citizens whether through the DEA, EPA, or countless other federal agencies that wield vast power. Moreover, they enjoy all the same ceremonial trappings of the monarchs of old. 

Just last month, the taxpayers were forced to pay more than 100 million dollars to throw an immense party for the new president so he could be honored with fanfare and solemn ceremonies that would have made the Caesars envious.

As the head of this huge unitary executive, Presidents can command a huge national audience and face no opposition from any peer. They hand our awards to their friends, enjoy sumptuous food at state dinners, travel in luxury on Air Force One — at great cost to the taxpayer — and shut down entire highways and city blocks wherever they choose to go. 

The supporters of these politicians then invent exalted titles for them, such as references to the president as "our" commander-in-chief  as if he were the supreme commander of the United States and not — as was correctly understood in the early United States — merely the "commander of the armed forces on the battlefield." Except for those actively engaged in military service, the President is not the "commander" of anything. 

On his final point about public resistance to the presidency, however, George Mason has been most unfortunately wrong. It has not at all been true that the "the people" rejected the rise of an extremely powerful and monarchic presidency. Indeed, we see something very near its opposite. 

Today, the US president has become for many an object of veneration. He is a person who is supposed to solve the nations problems including everything from geopolitical matters right on down to managing what sort of fishing tackle people can use. He is a figure to which countless Americans have an emotional attachment, to "feel their pain" and to assuage their fears. 

But, just as federal judges must be seen and treated as what they really are — nothing more than government lawyers with friends in high places — so the presidents ought to be reduced to the position of bland administrator. 

RELATED: "Abolish the Supreme Court"

The ideal solution to this situation, of course, would be to drastically reduce the presidency to the point of being a weak and temporary position — perhaps as a temporary commander in times of war — subject to the approval the member states of a voluntary confederation. 

A Modest Proposal 

However, in the spirit of compromise — on the way to total abolition, of course — we can take the profoundly moderate position of simply breaking up the executive branch among several administrators. 

After all, this is commonplace in state governments in the United States where executive powers are shared by several elected executive officers. All states have governors who wield legislative veto power and command the state's military forces. But other executive powers are held in the hands of treasurers, secretaries of state, and attorneys general who themselves who have their own legislative and regulatory prerogatives. 

In 2016, for example, 12 states held elections for governors, but also on the ballot were ten attorneys general, nine treasurers, and eight secretaries of state. Numerous states also directly elect a variety of lesser executive offices including state auditors, agriculture commissioners, and insurance commissioners.

Historically, state governments, being more democratic and closer to the voters have tended to be suspicious of executive power and have limited that power both by decentralizing the executive branch and by holding elections more frequently. 

Today, for instance, only two states still have a two-year term for governor (New Hampshire and Vermont). Over the past century, however, 29 states moved from a 2-year term to a 4-year term. As late as the 1950s and 1960s, no fewer than 19 states still forced governors to run for re-election every two years. 

And yet, these states manage to not descend into chaos, as Hamilton and his Federalists would have had us believe is the inevitable result of a decentralized executive. 

The benefits of, as Hamilton put it "vesting the power in two or more magistrates of equal dignity and authority" would be immediately apparent. It would damage the mystical superstitions that encourage belief in the president as the "embodiment" of the electorate or as representing "the will of the people." Few things can undermine the mystique of the presidency better than creating multiple rivals competing incessantly for national attention and national votes. 

Were this issue to gain any traction, of course, we would hear incessantly from the modern Hamiltonians, themselves lamenting the grave danger to "unity" and "strength" that a diluted presidency would bring. In the eighteenth century, those who held this position bemoaned that an insufficiently "energetic" national government would allow too many freedoms to ordinary people and that "licentiousness" would destroy the nation. On this, Patrick Henry was doubtful, and in 1788, while debating the ratification of the new constitution, he concluded

But we are told that we need not fear; because those in power, being our Representatives, will not abuse the power we put in their hands: I am not well versed in history, but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers? I imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the side of tyranny...

Categories: Current Affairs

How banns can be banned and we can still be missional

Transforming Grace - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 19:58

Marriage in the Church of England is a complex legal thing. The CofE acts on behalf of the state for the legal aspect of marriage.  For British ad EU nationals resident in the UK it is legally required, or at least normal, to marry by banns.  Banns were introduced in the marriage act of 1753 and were designed to prevent polygamy and incest, by giving the community three opportunities before he wedding day, and a fourth on the day itself, to expose anyone who were already married or couples who were unwittingly closely related. Banns no longer serve this legal function because urban communities are too transient and are too big for everyone wishing to marry in church to be well enough known. Many banns which are read in church are for complete strangers to the congregation.

For non-EU nationals the couple can’t legally marry by banns and need to complete the legal prelims at the registry office. This inequality is what Stephen Trott’s private motion at synod last week tried to redress. Unfortunately, all three houses voted down his motion, preferring to put up with the legal and administrative inconvenience and the inequality of treatment for non-EU nationals for the missional opportunities banns provide.

It is too late for synod, but I suggest that we share best practice so that, if the motion returns to synod, someday, we might already know that simplifying the legal does not mean doing away with the missional.

For anyone marrying by banns, there are three Sundays, when the couple don’t need to attend church, but it’s nice if they do, when the vicar reads the banns (I find it slightly disingenuous to say to a couple “we must read your banns, why don’t you come to church?”):

I publish the banns of marriage between NN of … parish and NN of … parish
This is the first / second / third time of asking. If any of you know any reason in law why they may not marry each other you are to declare it.
We pray for these couples (or N and N) as they prepare for their wedding(s)

When a couple can’t marry by banns I propose to say the following, based on the declarations in the marriage service. This gives me the opportunity to say, “you don’t have to come but we’d love to announce your wedding in church and pray for you.”

I give notice of the marriage of NN of … parish and NN of … parish
The marriage vow and covenant which they are to make will be made in the presence of God, who is judge of all.
We therefore pray with them, that as they are united in love, they may fulfill Christ’s will for them throughout their earthly lives.

Does anyone else have a practice which replaces banns when necessary? If so, what do you say?

Categories: Friends

Why the "Experts" Can't Agree About Fed Rate Hikes

Mises Institute - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 19:45
By: C. Jay Engel

It's amazing how the same set of economic data can create two very different opinions on the overrated Fed Funds hike issue. In two Bloomberg opinion pieces last week, we see the stark difference:

Tim Duy: It's Way Too Early for the Fed to Consider a March Rate Increase

Charles Lieberman: The Fed is Behind the Curve

To make their cases, both cite the employment numbers and the consumer price inflation rate. Duy states that the Fed wanted the unemployment rate to be around 4.5 percent, but it's still at 4.8 percent. So allegedly, it's got "room to run." Lieberman looks at the unemployment on a broader timeframe and concludes that the current levels have "historically been universally regarded as full employment."

On price inflation, here is Duy: "Core inflation, as measured by the Fed’s preferred price index, was running at just 1 percent on an annualized basis in the final three months of 2016."

And then Lieberman states that price inflation is already above 2 percent "for all the primary inflation measures, except the Fed’s preferred measure, the core personal consumption deflator, which may also soon rise above 2 percent."

In other words, statistics are not standalone, self-interpreting declarations of the nature of reality. Rather, they are highly interpretable and theory-dependent, in sharp contrast to the positivism of modern economics. The Fed and economic commentators are blinded and stuck in perpetual contradiction with each other. The solution is not better statistics or "more clear data," which the Fed seems to have been dependent on for the last 8 years since the crisis. The solution is better theory, an entire new framework. Without theory, statistics are useless.

Categories: Current Affairs

Flake News

Blog & Mablog - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 19:25

So let us talk for a moment about the term “fake news.” Why are we talking about this all of a sudden? Why is this a thing now?

During the campaign there were various stories that circulated on the Internet, made up of whole cloth, some of which were not flattering to Hillary. In the aftermath of the election, when her people were flailing around in search of someone or something to blame besides Her Majesty, one of the things they tried out was the idea that it was “fake news” that had hurt her in the final days of the election. Let’s run that one up the flag pole to see if anyone salutes.

Not only did no one salute, but something else entirely happened.


But before proceeding further, let me acknowledge fully and sincerely that there were stories out there about Hillary that, when it came to the falsitudinous quotient, ranked pretty high up there. I also acknowledge that Nigerian princes who are stranded in Manila with a suitcase full of gold bullion are also not, shall we say, legit. Do not send them your bank account number. And further, I cheerfully note that purveyors of clickbait techniques love to tell us that what Ted Cruz said next went BOOM, and that Kellyanne Conway DESTROYED Anderson Cooper, and that when you see what Bo Derek looks like now it will BLOW YOUR MIND. So Hillary had to deal with that foolishness, as well all the rest of us. Welcome to earth, kid.

And here is another qualification. Donald Trump is a wrecking ball. It is possible to applaud the fact of some of the wreckage without applauding, um, the entire project. Remember that Elisha met privately with Hazael, but was not in cahoots with Hazael. Elisha sent a young prophet to anoint Jehu king, but was not part of Jehu’s faction. I look at Donald Trump calling CNN names in a presidential news conference, and I realize yet again that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Back to the Thread

So this is when the other thing happened. Fake news became an item of concern as the Hillary folks were trying to explain to us how the most qualified woman in the world managed to lose to Donald Jehu Trump. They put the phrase fake news into play, but they tried doing so by means of an onside kick. The ball flew like a wounded duck, landed on the pointy end, and bounced in ways that would require a sportswriter of the old school to describe. Trump picked it up, but instead of running for the end zone, he ran down the offensive line of the Democratic Party, knocking over CNN, CBS, MSNBC, two refs, and the water boy, and . . .

Look. Let us be frank with each other, you and I. Sometimes when the metaphor mojo is running a little hot, there really isn’t anything you can do except start a new paragraph and hope that the pistons didn’t melt.

At any rate, the phrase fake news was used by Hillary to refer the mole hill of Facebook stories that described her as an illegal immigrant from Area 51, and then Trump picked the phrase up and used it to refer to the Himalayas of bum dope that has been churned by the metric ton for decades out by we call the main stream media. He used it of them and on them, and the dang thing stuck. He refused to allow CNN to question him in a press conference because “you are fake news.” And in his last presser, he said, no, no, that isn’t quite right. “You are very fake news.” Hillary tried to call flake news by the name fake news, and it got turned around and applied to a more worthy object.

Now ordinarily this would be just an insult and, if Mark Twain is to be believed, an ill-advised one. “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” But this is not an ordinary circumstance, and I honestly don’t know if the newsprint, broadcast, and cable establishment is going to be able to recover from this. Here is why.

Dinosaur Hunting

Let us go back to the logic of the Industrial Revolution, which was a centralizing logic. The capstone of that Revolution was the newsprint media established in major cities (19th century) and the broadcast media (20th century). In the 1980’s, CNN arrived as a Johnny-come-lately on cable, making one think of an episode like the United States colonizing the Philippines—you know, two centuries late and very self-important.

When I was a boy, you got your news, if you got it at all, from the newspaper or from one of the big three broadcast stations—CBS, NBC, or ABC. If they blew sunshine at you, as they frequently did, there was not really much you could do about it. In most cases, you would not even know. There was no real way to cross check anything. What we ingested was mass media, delivered in bulk. To readapt an image from a colorful writer of another era, stories went into the massive news factories on the hoof and came out in cans. The gatekeepers were quite diligent, and there were very few gates to guard. If your news source of choice was broadcast television, you had three flavors to choose from. The cans were all the same size, and had basically the same gelatinous content.

If someone was lied about, or misrepresented, or the story that involved them was significantly garbled, there was no practical recourse for that person. And the fact that there was no recourse meant that there was no real disincentive for the media to avoid doing it. To be sure, there was that pesky concept called journalistic ethics that were supposed to govern the whole operation, but because there was very little practical recourse for the victim of a bad story, this meant that journalistic ethics had no one providing any police protection, and they lived on the bad side of town.

If I might insert my own testimony, as one who has been written about in newspapers and magazines a lot, it is safe to say that it is usually the case that some significant fact or facts are gotten wrong, particularly if the story involves some controversy. In other words, usually wrong, frequently unreliable. And in this regard, there has been no appreciable difference with Christian media—magazines like World, for example, have done a much poorer job with us than The New York Times has done. And this is not to say that the Times doesn’t have its issues. Heh, heh, its issues. Get it?

What this has done, over the course of decades, is create a vast pent-up frustration with the media, not quite coast to coast, but close. This has been recognized for a long time, and politicians on the right have angled for cheap points forever by attacking the media during campaigns. Yay. But everything stayed just the same after elections as before, and the frustration continued to build.

What Trump is doing is attacking a venerable institution that is already wasting away. He is dinosaur hunting with shoulder-mounted RPGs. He is shooting at them from a rented safari jeep.

Alt-Media, Not the Alt-Right

So the significant change that has occurred is that it has become possible to stay reasonably well-informed without coming into contact with any of the establishment media. A lot of people have taken the by-pass, and don’t drive through downtown Big Media at all anymore. I haven’t read a newspaper regularly for over a decade. I would have work to find out when the big three newscasts even air. I have no idea where they are hiding these days. I usually find out about breaking news through Twitter, Facebook, or various web sites. Those web sites are collated for me by me—I am my own “editor,” assembling them to taste. The editorial bias that all such sites have can be regulated and balanced with the presence of other sites. I can drop or add, depending. For example, during the heat of this last campaign I dropped Drudge (because of the pom poms), and now that the election is over, I can handle checking him again from time to time.

A Day Late

What has been striking to me is that a number of Republicans have been leaping to the defense of the legacy media. They have stood for years against media “bias,” and have complained about that liberal bias in a whiney voice for almost the same length of time, but they draw the line at Trump calling them all out for the buffoons, poltroons, and macaroons that they are. I know, don’t look it up. A macaroon is a small circular cake, a dainty, a trifle. Actually I think that works.

Moving on.

It is not an assault on freedom of the press to identify liars. It is not blackening the reputation of a venerable institution to point out that it has ceased long ago to be a venerable institution. Mencken had something to say on this: “American journalism (like the journalism of any other country) is predominately paltry and worthless. Its pretensions are enormous but its accomplishments are insignificant.”

In short, it matters not that Donald Trump is an unworthy messenger. The dinosaurs are old and decrepit, and the safari jeep has been on paved roads the whole time, Trump is going to sleep like a baby in a luxury hotel tonight, and the entire thing is completely unfair. But the fact that something feels unfair doesn’t keep it from happening.

his accounts for why it is that celebrity journalists are dancing in place, and spitting occasionally.

The post Flake News appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know

The Opponents in 2 Peter

The Hadley Rectory - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 15:16
"The opponents’ ethical practice, in which sexual immorality seems prominent, is plausibly seen as an accommodation to the permissiveness of pagan society, a perennial temptation in the early church, especially when Christian morality impeded participation in the social life of the cities. The false teachers may therefore be seen as aiming to disencumber Christianity of its eschatology and its ethical rigorism, which seemed to them an embarrassment in their cultural environment, especially after the evident failure of the Parousia expectation. From a general familiarity with Hellenistic religious debate they were able to deploy current skeptical arguments about eschatology and divine revelation. Perhaps they saw themselves as rather daring young radicals trying to clear a lot of traditional nonsense out of the church. Whether they also had any positive religious teaching our evidence does not allow us to say. The analogy with radicals in other generations suggests that a largely negative message could have sounded impressive enough (cf. 2:18a)."

Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter (WBC 50; Waco: Word Books, 1983), 156.

"They have abandoned Christian morality and embraced sexual immorality (2:2, 10, 14, 18), giving themselves over to the inordinate satisfaction of their desires, including drunkenness and gluttony (2:13). They engage in self-indulgent behavior and revelry in the context of the common banquet of the Christians. Although they promise “freedom” (2:19), they are people who live without moral law and are not subject to the divine command (2:21; 3:17). In truth, they are nothing more than “slaves of corruption” (2:19). One of their principal motivations is avarice (2:3, 14), viewing others as a means of gain, people to be exploited for their own ends. The heretics are arrogant in their denial of the Lord and their slander of celestial beings (2:2, 10, 12, 18), a trait especially evident in their strident skepticism (3:3–4)...

"The error of the heretics is doctrinal and not only moral. Peter calls them “false teachers,” who have tried to introduce “heresies of destruction” into the congregations (2:1) by using deceptive means (2:3). At the heart of the error is their skepticism regarding the coming of the Lord and the divine judgment on the day of the Lord (3:3–10). Their argument is that future judgment will never occur, and they rest their case on the apparent delay in the Lord’s advent (3:4, 9; cf. 2:3). They criticize the apostolic preaching regarding the coming as an invention of the preachers themselves and tag their proclamation as nothing more than “myth.” They even place prophetic inspiration in doubt, claiming that the prophets spoke of their own accord and incorrectly interpreted their own visions (1:20–21). This eschatological skepticism translates into an affirmation of liberty that throws off moral restraint (2:19; 3:3–4). Moreover, the heretics have sought support in Paul’s Letters, whose message they have twisted (3:15–16). The doctrinal and moral errors of the false teachers are joined at the hip. In fact, at the head of his denunciation Peter declares that the heresy is a denial of the Lord, who has bought them (2:1). At the heart of this denial is the rejection of his sovereignty over their moral lives (2:10).

"The false teachers are members of the Christian communities among whom they promote their error...

"The differences between the situations presented in Jude and 2 Peter argue against identifying the opponents as the same in both letters. The root of the moral problem that Jude combats is a perversion of the doctrine of grace (v. 4). On the other hand, the doctrinal error that is the foundation for the immorality of the opponents in 2 Peter is the negation of the parousia of Christ and future judgment (3:3–10)."

Gene L. Green, Jude and 2 Peter (BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 151–153.
Categories: Friends

The Economic Evil of Eugenics

Mises Institute - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 14:30
By: Matthew McCaffrey

Eugenics has haunted the social sciences for the better part of two centuries. Historically, as a social movement, its most ardent advocates were the progressives, while in economics its most famous champion was John Maynard Keynes. Recently, the history of the eugenics movement has been studied in detail in Thomas Leonard’s masterpiece, Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era (you can read a review here, and Leonard’s own survey of the topic here). Yet although the rhetoric of public policy has changed since the heyday of eugenics a century ago, economic policies with eugenic implications persist almost unnoticed in the 21st century.

It’s no surprise that Mises, an expert on the economics of socialism and interventionism, perceived the evils of this movement, especially its close connection with authoritarianism. In the early 1920s, for example, when Mises was beginning to outline his critique of socialist economic planning, he observed that total state control of the economy also requires control over reproduction:

Without coercive regulation of the growth of population, a socialist community is inconceivable. A socialist community must be in a position to prevent the size of the population from mounting above or falling below certain definite limits… And since in it those motives, which in a society based on private ownership of the means of production harmonize the number of births with the limitations of the means of subsistence, would not exist, it will be obliged to regulate the matter itself. (1951, p. 198)

This regulation manifests as political rule of the private lives of citizens, against their own wishes:

He who would make man the material of a purposeful system of breeding and feeding would arrogate to himself despotic powers and would use his felIow citizens as means for the attainment of his own ends, which differ from those they themselves are aiming at. (1949, p. 244)

Historically, such total reproductive control was a feature of several socialist regimes, including China and Romania. Yet it was not the communists but the fascists who brought the logic of eugenics to its ultimate conclusion:

The Nazi plan was more comprehensive and therefore more pernicious than that of the Marxians. It aimed at abolishing laisser-faire not only in the production of material goods, but no less in the production of men. The Führer was not only the general manager of all industries; he was also the general manager of the breeding-farm intent upon rearing superior men and eliminating inferior stock. A grandiose scheme of eugenics was to be put into effect according to ‘scientific’ principles.

It is vain for the champions of eugenics to protest that they did not mean what the Nazis executed. Eugenics aims at placing some men, backed by the police power, in complete control of human reproduction. It suggests that the methods applied to domestic animals be applied to men. This is precisely what the Nazis tried to do. The only objection which a consistent eugenist can raise is that his own plan differs from that of the Nazi scholars and that he wants to rear another type of men than the Nazis. As every supporter of economic planning aims at the execution of his own plan only, so every advocate of eugenic planning aims at the execution of his own plan and wants himself to act as the breeder of human stock. (1951, p. 581)

Race is a common theme in historical discussions of eugenics. Then as now, supporters of eugenics claim to rest their case on scientific results. As Mises puts it, “The mass slaughters perpetrated in the Nazi horror camps are too horrible to be adequately described by words. But they were the logical and consistent application of doctrines and policies parading as applied science” (1951, pp. 581-582). He repeatedly pointed out the failure of such pseudoscience to distinguish mental and moral characteristics based on race or social status (1944, pp. 170, 1721951, p. 3241957, p. 336).

Rather than science, eugenics is instead based on the unscientific values of eugenicists themselves, which inevitably imply the need to impose their plans on others:

Such judgments are reasonable if one looks at mankind with the eyes of a breeder intent upon raising a race of men equipped with certain qualities. But society is not a stud-farm operated for the production of a definite type of men. There is no “natural” standard to establish what is desirable and what is undesirable in the biological evolution of man. Any standard chosen is arbitrary, purely subjective... The terms racial improvement and racial degeneration are meaningless when not based on definite plans for the future of mankind. (1949, p. 165)

In others words, central planning implies eugenics, and eugenics in turn is a kind of central planning. And like all central planning, it cannot ultimately succeed, but it can lead society to ruin by removing free choice and the free, innovative minds that go with it: “It is impossible to rear geniuses by eugenics, to train them by schooling, or to organize their activities. But, of course, one can organize society in such a way that no room is left for pioneers and their path-breaking” (1949, p. 140).

Of course, eugenics supporters also claim their plans will improve society by eliminating criminal or other undesirable elements, which they often associate with race and ethnicity. This too is an arbitrary and vain effort to improve the “quality” of humanity:

The eugenists pretend that they want to eliminate criminal individuals. But the qualification of a man as a criminal depends upon the prevailing laws of the country and varies with the change in social and political ideologies… Whom do the eugenists want to eliminate, Brutus or Caesar? Both violated the laws of their country. If eighteenth-century eugenists had prevented alcohol addicts from generating children, their planning would have eliminated Beethoven. (1951, p. 581)

Today, policies are rarely labelled as eugenics-based. Nevertheless, eugenic effects are among the many terrible consequences of interventionist policies. The minimum wage is a useful example. Historically, it was a favorite policy of progressives, who freely admitted that its purpose was to prevent immigrants and other “unemployables” from competing in the job market, the better to manage their reproduction (Leonard, 2005, pp. 212-215). Even though today many of its advocates are unaware of this history, these laws still selectively victimize groups based on factors like race and ethnicity.

Importantly, eugenics is only one consequence of illiberal ideology. Throughout his career, Mises explained that other weapons of illiberalism, including racism, nationalism, protectionism, and war are all related, and mutually reinforce each other. Eugenics is simply one implication of these ideas, especially inasmuch as it fuels and results from economic intervention.

Given the implications for liberty and economy, it’s astonishing that anyone associated with the ideas of liberty could embrace eugenics, or treat eugenicists as legitimate scholars worthy of attention and debate. It’s doubly unfortunate that there is a need to point out that eugenicists, racists, nationalists, and protectionists are no friends of Mises or his ideas, the liberal tradition, or the Austrian school.


Categories: Current Affairs

Parenting and Teaching from a Thankful Heart

Children Desiring God - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 13:00

Parenting and Teaching from a Thankful Heart

Pastor David Michael recently shared these words from C.H. Spurgeon during Children Desiring God staff devotion time. I wonder what impact it would have on our parenting and teaching ministries if we carefully reflected on Spurgeon’s remarks and questions regarding Psalm 103:2—“Forget not all his benefits.”

It is a delightful and profitable occupation to mark the hand of God in the lives of ancient saints, and to observe

his goodness in delivering them,
his mercy in pardoning them,
and his faithfulness in keeping his covenant with them.

But would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us to remark the hand of God in our own lives? Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least

as full of God,
as full of his goodness and of his truth,
as much a proof of his faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before?

Parenting and Teaching from a Thankful HeartWe do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that he wrought all his mighty acts, and showed himself strong for those in the early time, but doth not perform wonders or lay bare his arm for the saints who are now upon the earth.

Let us review our own lives. Surely in these we may discover some happy incidents, refreshing to ourselves and glorifying to our God.

Have you had no deliverances?
Have you passed through no rivers, supported by the divine presence?
Have you walked through no fires unharmed?
Have you had no manifestations?
Have you had no choice favours?
The God who gave Solomon the desire of his heart, hath he never listened to you and answered your requests?
That God of lavish bounty of whom David sang, “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things,” hath he never satiated you with fatness?
Have you never been made to lie down in green pastures?
Have you never been led by the still waters?

Surely the goodness of God has been the same to us as to the saints of old.

Let us, then, weave his mercies into a song.
Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus.
Let our souls give forth music as sweet and as exhilarating as came from David’s harp, while we praise the Lord whose mercy endureth for ever.

(The “Morning” devotion from Morning and Evening for  July 9, retrieved at

Categories: Christian Resources

Does the Government have a Strategy for the Voluntary Sector?

Adam Smith Institute - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 11:38

A cash-strapped government, looking to expand community welfare, should prioritise the voluntary (or “third”) sector which provides more benefit at less cost that the public or private sectors.  “The labour value of formal voluntary activity in DCMS sectors in 2000 was approximately £12.7 billion [at a cost of] £301 million.”[1]

Increasing social complexity and an ageing demography means more people looking for help whilst the increasing affluence and size of the post-employment population could supply the helpers with a little motivation and support from government. Britain would be a happier place if government raised its attention from spending our money.

The voluntary sector workforce has grown by about one third, to over 800,000 in the 10 years following 2004 although the rate of growth has slowed since.  Government prefers commercial contractors to encouraging volunteers.

In 2012, the NCVO estimated that “The combined income of all 164,000 voluntary organisations in the UK, is of a similar magnitude to the UK revenue of Tesco (£38.6 billion for 2009/10).” The voluntary sector covers a wide range of community services including day care centres for the elderly, Citizens Advice, sports and arts coaching and supervision, feeding and sheltering the homeless, youth clubs, and the National Citizen Service.

The Blair government recognized the importance of this third sector and declared 2006 to be the “Year of the Volunteer”.  Not a lot happened and few remember it.  Responsibility was given to the “Office of the Third Sector” until, in 2010, the Coalition renamed it the “Office for Civil Society”. The Civil Society became, under the Cameron government the “Big Society” which was supposed to take power away from politicians and give it to people.  No action backed that up and the term has largely disappeared.

In 2016, the May government transferred the Minister, actually Parliamentary Under-Secretary Rob Wilson, from the Cabinet Office to DCMS, further downgrading the government’s interest in the voluntary sector.  He remains responsible for:

  • The Big Society agenda
  • National Citizen Service (NCS) and youth policy
  • Social action
  • Civil society sector support
  • Social enterprise and social investment.

Quite why these are seen as culture, media or sport is unclear but they are words without action.

The NCS was conceived as non-military national service where young people would learn life skills and society would benefit from their good works, a.k.a. “granny bashing”.  The NCS Bill is going through Parliament at present: “the scheme takes place in the spring, summer or autumn coinciding with school holidays. Groups of teenagers undertake a week-long residential visit, usually to an activity centre for an Outward Bound-style course in the countryside involving physical and team building activities.

After this, volunteers undertake a residential week, gaining a taste of independent living and learning a variety of skills for their future. In the third (and sometimes fourth) week, participants plan and deliver a 'social action' project in their local community, often to raise awareness of or fundraise for a particular cause. Those completing the [3 or 4 week] course receive a certificate at a graduation ceremony. The certificate is signed by the Prime Minister in office at the time of graduation.”  In January 2017, the National Audit Office reported unfavourably on the pilot schemes estimating, amongst a long list of problems, that just 60% of target (213,000) would be participating by 2021.

However much time Parliament may give to this NCS Bill, it will have minimal impact on Britain as a whole.  Meanwhile worthwhile voluntary organizations are denied the help they so much need.  

In short, the government has no overall grasp of the voluntary sector, nor of its potential. There is no voluntary sector strategy, no plan and no means to implement a plan even if it had one. It is missing a major solution to its problems.

[1]  Engaging with the Voluntary and Community Sector: The DCMS Strategy for Implementation of HM Treasury's Cross Cutting Review, 'The Role of the Voluntary and Community Sector in Service Delivery' Updated February 2006

Categories: Current Affairs

Robots are taxed, Mr Gates – too much

Adam Smith Institute - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 11:31

Microsoft creator Bill Gates says that robots that take human jobs should pay income tax. Zillionaire businessman he may be, but does he understand basic economics? It seems not.

First, robots are already taxed – to the hilt. They are a form of capital, and capital has long been an easy mark for high-spending politicians. But capital does not just grow on trees, you have to create it. That means cutting your consumption and putting something aside to make all the tools that you hope will make your life easier and more productive in the future.

Of course, the only certainties in life are death and taxes (and unfortunately they come in the wrong order), so the labour-saving robots we buy for our homes and kitchens come out of taxed income. And if we are silly enough to actually invest our savings until we have enough for that new computer or new car, we pay tax on the interest (and on inflation as well).

Regarding the businesses that make robots and computers other tools, the investors who finance them already pay income tax, or company taxes on the return that their investment makes.

Second, remember that a robot is just a tool. They may be very fancy tools, but to economists they are no different from any other kind of tool going back to pre-history. They are just another form of capital that boosts your productivity.

The tools that have ‘taken’ most human jobs are not robots, but the most basic tools developed by our early ancestors. Think how many workers you could save by digging the peat to fuel your roundhouse with a wooden spade, rather than by hand. It is a hundred times easier. If you then transport the peat back home using a wheelbarrow – another tool – you save even more time and back pain. And so it goes: the spinning jenny, the cotton gin, the water frame, steam, internal combustion, electricity, the internet, industrial robots… they all allow us to produce and enjoy much, much more. Bill Gates’s logic is that we should tax all tools, from spades to spanners. Nuts.

And do these tools actually ‘cost’ jobs? No, they have allowed humanity to prosper and increase, with far more of us now engaged in far more productive and useful things with far less effort, time and cost. 

Most of us would think that a rather good thing. When you tax things, you tend to get less of them. So why tax tools? Why tax progress?

Third, do not get taken in by the politicians’ talk about how great jobs are. Leisure time is Christmas: jobs are the January credit-card bill. Jobs are the sacrifice you have to make to get what you want.

Entirely naturally, we want that sacrifice to be as small as possible. We want to work less, work in more enjoyable forms of labour, and have more time for ourselves to spend with our families, our leisure, our interests, our philanthropic activities and all the rest. You don’t help human workers by making the tools they need to achieve these things more expensive. Indeed, if robots liberate us to do all these desirable things – as they do – they should get a reward, not a tax bill.

Fourth, if you really do want to help humankind, is yet another tax the answer? We’re taxed on what we earn, what we spend, the spirits we put into our cars and our stomachs, the flights we take, the investments we make, the people we employ, the gambling we enjoy. Taxing our tools too is too much.

A much better idea than putting income tax on robots would be to remove income tax on humans. That would spur human progress faster than even the visionary Mr Gates could ever imagine.

Categories: Current Affairs

Christopher Ash on Where was God when that happened?

The Good Book Company - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 10:04

"What matters in the end is not how strongly we hold onto God, but how unbreakable is his loving grip on us." (Christopher Ash, Where was God when that happened?)

Join the conversation and comment below. You can also like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and download The Good Book Company App straight to your phone or tablet.

Categories: Christian Resources

Fake news spotted in The Observer

Adam Smith Institute - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 07:01

And we all do have that duty to fight back against fake news, don't we? That corruption of our body politic which we must be ever vigilant against

One of Britain’s most successful orchestras is moving to Belgium amid fears that its musicians may be among the victims of a post-Brexit crackdown on immigration.

The European Union Baroque Orchestra has been based in Oxfordshire since 1985, but will give its last UK concert in its current form at St John’s Smith Square, London, on 19 May, before moving to Antwerp.

Gosh, really? 

Other major orchestras are also weighing up their options. The highly influential European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) has been based in London since it began life in 1976. Now it is making contingency plans to move to the continent while it waits to see what life after Brexit might look like.

Marshall Marcus, former head of music at London’s Southbank centre and now chief executive of the EUYO, said the orchestra had already received invitations to move to other EU countries. “For some time we have been forming our plan to be ready to relocate, if and when this becomes necessary. Or indeed simply advantageous,” he said.

“If we do land with a hard Brexit it is really difficult to see how British musicians will be able to continue to take advantage of the opportunities that the EUYO and other EU initiatives have been able to offer generations of European musicians,” he added.

He lists EU worker protections, customs unions, import documents (carnets) for instruments and visa requirements as possible future headaches. “No one I know in the music industry – here or on the continent – wants to have to return to the bad old days of filling in more forms, taking up more time and spending more precious money in order for musicians to be able to perform for audiences on both sides of the channel,” he said.

Sounds terrible doesn't it? Paperwork in Channel, Europe Isolated!

We do tend to think that it really is about paperwork but perhaps a rather different sort, the now tallow enabled crinkly folding stuff. From the EU Baroque Orchestra page:

The European Union Baroque Orchestra is unique: EUBO nurtures and supports young baroque music performers through the challenging transition between conservatoire study and the music profession.

The activities of EUBO are an integral part of the EUBO Mobile Baroque Academy (EMBA), a Creative Europe co-operation project 2015-2018 co-funded by the European Union.

From the EU Youth Orchestra page:

The EUYO is funded with support from  the 28 member governments of the European Union.

With the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Commission

It doesn't seem all that remarkable to us that EU funded projects would like to remain in the EU in order to maintain their EU funding.

What does seem remarkable to us is that absolutely no mention is made of this in a report in a so called serious newspaper. But you know, maybe we're just picky about propaganda and fake news?

Categories: Current Affairs

Demonstrative Complications

Peter Leithart - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 05:00

In their 1662 treatise on Logic, or the Art of Thinking , Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole question the straightforwardness of the Calvinist logical analysis concerning the Eucharistic “This is my body.” They summarise the argument this way: “Their claim is that in Jesus Christ’s assertion, ‘This is my body,’ the word ‘this’ signifies the bread. Now the bread, they say, cannot really be the body of Christ, and therefore Christ’s assertion does not mean ‘This is really my body’” (71).

Continue Reading »

Categories: People I don't know

ACNA releases new liturgical resources

Anglican Ink - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 04:46

Nearly all the remaining working texts proposed for the Book of Common Prayer 2019, approved by the College of Bishops in January, are now available online

Review: Rejoicing in Christ

Blog & Mablog - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 04:33

Rejoicing in Christ
Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reeves writes with zest, and is very engaging. He is steeped in Scripture, and his exploration of the basics of Christian living is really good. On top of that, he has the classic Puritan writers at his fingertips and brings them in frequently to buttress or make a glorious point. This is a very good book.

View all my reviews

The post Review: Rejoicing in Christ appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know

Our Huge Hidden Tax: Government Regulations

Mises Institute - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 04:00
By: Scott Powell

On day one, President Trump surprised business leaders gathered at the White House, declaring US regulations “out of control” and “in need of 75% or more reduction.” A week later, he boldly signed an executive order requiring repeal of two old rules for every new one that government agencies implement. 

The fact is that cutting regulations is as critical as tax relief in turning the US economy around. The two are the holy grail to repatriate a large part of the $2.5 trillion in offshore corporate capital, stimulate domestic investment, and create jobs — all central to “making America great again.” And it’s economic growth and broadening the tax base that can — in the longer run — finance rebuilding US infrastructure and the military without adding to deficits and national debt.  

The Federal Register records regulations are imposed on business. Its annual pages generally grow with every administration, with a 19% year over year increase in Obama’s last year — setting a record-breaking 95,000-plus pages. Professor Alan Dershowitz notes that, “today the average professional commits three felonies a day without realizing it, thanks to the complex layers of regulation and legal requirements that have been built up over time.” The Small Business Administration estimates the compliance costs of regulations may be upward of $2 trillion a year — an enormous hidden tax nearly six times greater than the aggregate $350 billion in corporate tax revenue collected annually by the IRS in recent years.

We Need More Than Executive Orders 

Executive orders provide temporary relief, but long-term structural change is needed for the US to free itself from the regulatory leviathan and permanently limit federal bureaucracies and their army of unaccountable regulators. Start with two statutory safeguards: (1) Congressional legislation that requires the delivery of $2 of regulatory cost reduction for every one dollar of new regulatory cost increase; and (2) Periodic Congressional reauthorization of regulations affecting industries and the economy — with sunset provisions for those not reauthorized. 

But perhaps most importantly in the long run is the need for a renaissance in understanding the appropriate scope and principles for regulation in today’s free market information economy.

Toward this end it’s worth evaluating and learning from the three regulatory laws that have had the most impact on the economy over the last 15 years: (1) The Sarbanes-Oxley Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act, which was signed into law by George Bush in 2002; (2) The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare or ACA; and (3) The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act — the latter two signed into law by Barack Obama in 2010.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Disaster 

Sarbanes-Oxley was hastily passed by a unanimous Senate vote in July 2002 to prevent the next WorldCom and Enron — both collapsing into bankruptcy in part because of accounting legerdemain. Its ostensible purpose was to improve corporate governance and prevent accounting fraud. But Sarbanes-Oxley’s one-size-fits-all approach to structuring corporate boards, determining their duties and those of officers, and requiring granular internal controls and audits was overkill and violated the primacy of public companies to choose and implement best management practices.

Sarbanes-Oxley dramatically raised regulatory costs for US public companies, and made them less competitive in world markets. And it diverted management away from innovation, while richly rewarding lawyers, accountants, and auditors. Small public companies and venture capital start-ups, which have typically generated more than 70% of new jobs in the US were penalized more than large companies as compliance costs, starting at around $2 million annually, were spread over fewer heads and less revenue. In reaction, US IPOs dramatically declined after the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley, resulting in reduced capital formation and job creation, with many start-ups choosing to stay private. 

The aftermath of Sarbanes-Oxley also witnessed the advent of mega-billion-cap IPOs, such as Google and Facebook, whose late stage public offerings enriched the 1% insiders while providing less opportunity for the investing public. Uber’s recent announcement that it will likely stay private may also be in part due to the unintended consequence of Sarbanes-Oxley, as company insiders enrich themselves with private stock sales, while avoiding public company red tape.

Sarbanes-Oxley was intended to improve corporate governance and safeguard the little guy. In practice it has dampened innovation, hurt job creation, helped large companies relative to smaller enterprises, and facilitated the rich getting richer.

Obamacare: Keeping Businesses From Expanding

Obamacare provided a new health care entitlement for the uninsured, but it failed to improve the quality, choice, and cost of health care for the vast majority of Americans because it undermined free market mechanisms. In hindsight it was ludicrous to pass health care reform that required billions in new spending that also limited options for participants and weakened competitive forces that cut prices and improved quality, while also forcing some providers to render services that violated their Constitutional First Amendment rights. It also created a new hydra-headed government bureaucracy — all while doing nothing to address the failures and insolvency of the parallel health programs of Medicare and Medicaid. Additionally, ACA was the first bill that was so complex and lengthy at 906 pages that very few Congressional members read it before voting on it. In the words of then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”

What was in the ACA bill was a Congressional surrender of the function of legislation to unaccountable government agencies and commissions, a relinquishing of budgetary control through the allocation of large appropriations for vague expenditures, and the authorization of a bureaucratic explosion that created some 159 new government agencies and boards that have churned out some 30,000 pages of new rules and regulations — all stemming from a 906-page bill that few in Congress ever read.

Obamacare also hurt economic growth with its mandate on employers to provide health care coverage when payrolls exceeded 49 full-time employees. Many companies approaching that threshold responded by either replacing full-time with part-time workers or simply choosing to limit the company’s growth.

The Dodd-Frank Bureaucracy 

If Sarbanes-Oxley and Obamacare created new bureaucratic dysfunction and unaccountability, while emasculating beneficial incentives and constraints unique to private enterprise, Dodd-Frank went further. Passed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it eroded the rule of law by creating yet more new federal agencies to arbitrarily regulate whole sectors of the capital markets as well as large corporations. One creature of Dodd-Frank — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) — was unleashed with no Congressional oversight or budgetary control.

At 2,300 pages, the Dodd-Frank bill was more than twice the length of the Obamacare bill. It extends the same creeping regulatory socialism in the financial service industry as was imposed on health care. Now, more than six years since the law passed, 30% of the nearly 400 rules required by Dodd-Frank remain unfinished, while some 25,000 pages of new rules have been created.

But even after finalization, many of the Dodd-Frank guidelines — such as the Volker Rule — prove exceedingly difficult to interpret, requiring diversion of manpower and resources from profit-enhancing activity to profit-draining regulatory compliance. As with Sarbanes-Oxley, complex and costly financial regulations imposed by Dodd-Frank, have penalized the small and favored the large — resulting in accelerated consolidation and closure of small and community banks and the credit they traditionally extend to small business. Ironically, the Dodd-Frank law that was supposed to eliminate the need for government bailouts has in fact enlarged the number and size of institutions now officially designated as “too big to fail.”

The key lessons from the problems and collateral damage from the three most significant regulatory laws passed in the last 15 years are self-evident. Congress should move forward on legislative action to repeal and replace Obamacare and take statutory actions to correct the economically harmful parts of Sarbanes Oxley and Dodd-Frank. Looking forward, the Trump administration should enlist free market spokespeople and use the bully pulpit to develop a broad-based understanding about the appropriate scope and principles for regulation that can bring about limitations and lasting reduction.

What is underappreciated is that the free market system based on law is largely self-regulating, and relatively efficient in weeding out deficient, unsafe, and excessively priced goods and services, as well as fraud and corruption. Government regulations should not be driven by crises nor be overly complex. The scope of regulation of a market economy properly understood should protect transparency, competition, private and public property, and safety; promote individual and corporate accountability; assure level playing fields, and provide for equal treatment of small enterprises; and most importantly, protect Constitutional rights and equal opportunity and penalty under the law.

In summary, the core lessons of the modern regulatory leviathan are: (1) that it can’t keep up with complexity; (2) that solutions are not only tenuous, but invariably come with unintended consequences; and (3) that it’s unlikely to work because it is driven by politicians who are driven to raise money and solicit votes — promising to “fix” problems by taking actions that “help” some constituents at the expense of others and that generally interfere with the self-correcting nature of a free market system.

It may be counterintuitive, but as the economy continues to grow in complexity, trust in regulatory solutions should be tempered by more reliance on competition within the framework of existing laws. Applying new knowledge and best practices — rapidly transmitted in an information-based market economy — is likely to deliver better outcomes than new, ever-expanding and centralized government regulations.

Categories: Current Affairs


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