2020-02-19 05:30:32

Bernie Sanders leads the race for the Democratic nomination.

He may become America’s first self-described “democratic socialist” president.

What does that mean?

Today, when Sanders talks about socialism, he says: “I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden.”

But Denmark and Sweden are not socialist. Denmark’s prime minister even came to America to refute Sanders’ claims, pointing out that “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy.”

Both Denmark and Sweden do give citizens government-run health care and have bigger welfare programs than America has. However,  recently, they’ve moved away from socialism. Because their socialist policies killed economic growth, they cut regulations and ended government control of many industries.

Sanders probably doesn’t know that. He, like many young people, just loves the idea of socialism.

For my new video this week, Stossel TV producer Maxim Lott went through hours of Sanders’ old speeches. What he found reveals a lot about what Sanders believes.

When Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he went out of his way to defend Fidel Castro. “He educated the kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society!” Fortunately, Sanders added, “Not to say Fidel Castro or Cuba are perfect.”

No, they are not perfect. Castro’s government tortured and murdered thousands. By confiscating private property, they destroyed the island’s economy. Life got bad enough that thousands died trying to escape.

Even now in Cuba, most people try to live on less than $2 a day

Sanders focuses on other things, like: “They did a lot to eliminate illiteracy!”

Sanders has long had a soft spot for socialist countries. He chose to honeymoon in Communist Russia, where he said people “seem reasonably happy and content.” He was “extremely impressed by their public transportation system…[the] cleanest, most effective mass transit system I’ve ever seen in my life!”

He praised Soviet youth programs: “Cultural programs go far beyond what we do in this country.”

He did at least qualify his support, calling the Soviet government “authoritarian.”

But Sanders made no such criticism after Nicaragua’s socialist revolution. He praised the Sandinistas’ land “reform” because they were “giving, for the first time in their lives, real land to farmers so that they can have something that they grow. Nobody denies that they are making significant progress.”

Former landowners sure denied it. They’d had their land stolen. Sanders suggested that was OK because landowners are rich.

“Rich people, who used to have a good life there, are not terribly happy,” he said. “As a socialist, the word socialism does not frighten me… (P)oor people respect that.”

What about the hunger and poverty that socialism creates? Bernie had an odd take on that.

“American journalists talk about how bad a country is because people are lining up for food. That’s a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food; the rich get the food and the poor starve.”

After he said he was “impressed” by Sandinista leaders, Sanders added, “Obviously I will be attacked by every editorial writer in the free press for being a dumb dupe.”

I join them.

Bernie Sanders is indeed a “dumb dupe” about economics. Or as the Soviet Communists used to put it, “a useful idiot.”

Under Ortega’s rule, Nicaragua quickly fell further into poverty, and the socialists were voted out in 1990. Ortega later returned as a violent dictator. For most people in Nicaragua, Cuba, and other centrally planned economies, life is hell.

Once Sanders was elected to Congress, he mostly stopped praising violent socialist revolutions.

At that time, Communist governments in Europe were collapsing. It was convenient for embarrassed former supporters of those governments to rebrand themselves.

In Congress, Sanders would call himself an independent and, in the estimation of his fellow Vermonter, former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, he “votes with the Democrats 98 percent of the time.”

But Sanders has never taken back the enthusiastic praise he gave to socialist regimes.

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2020-02-12 05:45:44

President Donald Trump “saved the United States,” says former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

He’s one of the “smartest, most clever, and successful” presidents, says Fox’s Jeanine Pirro.

No, he’s “dumb and racist,” says comedian Seth Meyers, and guilty of “rampant corruption,” say commentators on MSNBC.

The man divides opinion like no one else in America.

My latest video looks at the “good, bad, and ugly” of Trump. The good is wonderful.

Unemployment is down, and the stock market is up.

Trump deserves credit for that. By criticizing “job-crushing regulations” and appointing some regulators who fear government overreach, Trump signaled people that government would not crush you merely because you make a profit or want to try something new. As a result, 6 million more Americans were hired.

Unemployment fell during Barack Obama’s presidency, too, but under Obama, fewer Americans chose to even look for work. People dropped out of the labor force.

Once Trump was elected, more people applied for jobs again.

Why? I say it’s because his administration sent a new message. Instead of telling people: “You’re victims of an unfair system! You need handouts,” Trump said: “You don’t need welfare. Most of you can get a job.”

Even disability claims, which had been steadily rising, have declined.

Trump did other good things, like appointing judges that tend to rule in favor of free speech and private property.

On the other hand, Trump’s done a lot of bad.

To undermine a political opponent and expose the sleaziness of the opponent’s son, Trump sleazily withheld aid to an ally. Then he lied about it.

Trump lies about all sorts of things—big and small.

He said his inauguration had “the biggest audience in… history.” He kept saying it, even after reports showed it wasn’t true.

He broke his promises about ending America’s wars.

Unlike his predecessors, he hasn’t started new wars—but he’s increased bombings. The USA is now dropping more bombs on Afghanistan than at any time in the last 10 years.

Trump broke promises about spending. He promised he’d “cut spending, big-league.”

But he did the opposite. Spending has increased by half a trillion dollars since Trump was elected.

Rep. Warren Davidson (R–Ohio) is a Trump supporter, but he’s upset that Trump’s gone along with a big increase in the national debt. Davidson complained to his fellow Republicans, but suddenly, they didn’t seem to care much about the debt now that someone from their party was president.

This week, Trump proposed a budget that would slow the growth of most unsustainable welfare programs. But he knows that won’t get through Congress. Probably, he’ll sign the gusher of spending that Congress produces instead.

“We are on a path to bankrupting our country,” says Davidson.

Trump also says false things about trade. He claimed our $500 billion trade deficit means the U.S. is “losing on trade with China.” But that’s absurd.

“He’s telling people trade isn’t win-win; there’s a winner and a loser.” I complained to Davidson, adding, “I don’t think Trump understands trade.”

“He has a metaphor that the average American understands,” responded Davidson.

“But it’s a wrong metaphor, right?” I asked.

“It is technically inaccurate,” said Davidson.

Trump is also a bully. That’s his ugly part.

He calls people “stupid,” “pathetic,” “a low-IQ individual.” He makes fun of their looks and weight. It’s unpresidential.

“Some of his words certainly have been ugly,” Davidson agreed.

“He’s like a 3-year-old!” I said. “We’re supposed to outgrow that narcissism when we’re an adult.”

“This is all baked into Donald Trump,” replied Davidson. “He is true to who everyone knows Donald Trump as, and they love him anyway.”

“You love him anyway?” I asked.

“I do,” said Davidson. “His policies have been great, and the results are measurably great.”

Many are. And Trump is likely to be reelected, according to the odds on my site ElectionBettingOdds.com. So it looks like we’ll see much more of him.

I hope we get more of the good and less of the bad and ugly.

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2020-02-05 05:30:17

A law in South Carolina bans playing pinball if you’re under 18. That’s just one of America’s many ridiculous laws restricting freedom.

“There is a role for the government in keeping people safe from actual criminals, people who commit murder, robbery,” says Rafael Mangual, a “tough-on-crime” guy at the Manhattan Institute.

“But a lot of laws don’t keep people safe,” he says. “There’s a federal prohibition on walking a dog on a leash longer than six feet on federal property. It is a jailable offense.”

Three hundred thousand federal criminal offenses are on the books. “It’s way too big,” says Mangual. “Part of that is because we don’t take any old or outmoded laws off the books.”

In Michigan, prosecutors filed criminal charges against a 10-year-old who, during a dodgeball game, threw a ball at another kid’s face.

“Anyone can be prosecuted for almost anything,” says Mangual. “Lying to your boss over the phone about why you didn’t come in. That could constitute wire fraud.”

Today’s laws punish activities unlikely to be performed with criminal intent.

“Taking a rake from New York into New Jersey, that’s actually a federal crime,” warns Mangual. “If you’ve ever had a rake in the back of your pickup truck and crossed state lines, you probably committed a federal crime.”

In my new video, I push back at Mangual, pointing out that nobody goes to jail for things like that.

“That doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem,” he responds. “Legal compliance is not free. It takes time, money, effort. It violates fundamental norms about fairness.”

One woman was prosecuted for sheltering animals during a hurricane. “My goal was to make sure that they were not out there drowning,” she said. But North Carolina prosecutors filed criminal charges against her for practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

In Kentucky, Holland Kendall gave eyeglasses to needy people who couldn’t afford eye doctors. Then state officials told him that was a crime.

What causes this excess? I was taught that the Constitution created checks and balances that make it difficult for any bill to become a law.

“Everyone has this idea from ‘Schoolhouse Rock’,” says Mangual, “that a law gets made in a particular way (but) that’s not how it works in practice. At the federal level, 98 percent of criminal laws are not passed by elected representatives. They are created by unelected bureaucrats who don’t have to answer to anyone.”

Established businesses manipulate those bureaucrats into passing rules that squash new competition.

“They can afford the lobbyists. They can afford to comply with the crazy webs of regulations,” explains Mangual. “If you’ve got an established cookie business, you don’t want a grandma from down the street who has a better recipe cutting into your business… You go to the legislature and ask them to pass arduous rules about an industrial kitchen and expensive equipment that you that need in order to qualify to participate in this business.”

One woman was prosecuted in a sting operation for selling ceviche on Facebook.

In Denver, a bartender mixed vodka with things like pickles and bacon and then put the mix back in the bottle. Some customers liked that. But authorities jailed the bartender for “infusing vodka.”

I wish I could jail that prosecutor.

Mangual warns: “People commit crimes all the time without knowing it. It’s impossible to know what sort of behavior is criminal.”

Law should stick to punishing assault, theft, and fraud. Otherwise, leave us all alone.

A recent Manhattan Institute report makes suggestions for getting closer to that ideal.

The absence of criminal intent should be taken more seriously by legislators. With hundreds of thousands of criminal offenses on the books, the old adage that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” no longer makes sense.

Lawmakers should also consider listing crimes in one place instead of sprinkling them throughout the statutory codes, which would take a lifetime to read.

And government should regularly repeal laws we no longer need.

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2020-01-29 05:30:54

The Iowa Caucus, the real start of the 2020 presidential primaries, is next week. Who’s favored to win? Sadly, as I write this, the smart money says it’s the candidate who’s promised Americans the most “free” stuff.

Six months ago, my staff and I tallied the candidates’ promises. All wanted to give away trillions—or more accurately, wanted government to tax you and spend your money on the candidates’ schemes.

At that point, Senator Kamala Harris led. Fortunately, her promises did not bring her sustained support, and she dropped out.

Unfortunately, now the other candidates are making even more promises.

So, it’s time for a new contest.

My new video ranks the current leading candidates by how much of your money they promise to spend. We divide the promises into four categories:

Education

Joe Biden would make community college free, cut student loans in half, increase Pell Grants, and modernize schools.

Added to his previous campaign promises, he’d increase federal spending by $157 billion per year.

Elizabeth Warren would spend much more. She wants government to “provide universal child care for every baby in this country age 0 to 5, universal pre-K for every child, raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in America, provide for universal tuition-free college, put $50 billion into historically black colleges and universities… and cancel student loan debt for 95% of the people.”

She’d outspend Biden—but not Bernie Sanders.

Sanders would forgive all student loans—even for the rich. He also demands that government give everyone child care and pre-K.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg also promises free child care, more pay for teachers, more career education, free college and Pell Grants, plus the refinancing of student debt.

Good try, Pete, but Sanders “wins” in the education category, with nearly $300 billion in promises.

Climate

All the Democrats pretend they will do something useful about climate change. Biden would spend $170 billion per year, Buttigieg $150 billion to $200 billion, and Warren $300 billion. Sanders “wins” this category, too, by promising more than $1 trillion.

Health Care

Even the “moderate,” Biden, now wants to “build out Obamacare” and to cover people here illegally.

So does Buttigieg—but he’d spend twice as much on it.

Warren complains the Buttigieg plan “costs so much less” than her plan. She’d spend $2 trillion a year.

Sanders is again the biggest spender. He’d spend $3 trillion of your money on his “Medicare for All” plan.

Welfare

In this category, Biden, to his credit, plans no new spending.

But Buttigieg has been cranking out lots of new promises, like $45 billion for “affordable housing” and $27 billion to expand Social Security payments beyond what people paid in.

Warren would also spend more on “affordable housing” and give kids more food stamps.

Sanders “wins” again. He promises to guarantee everyone a job, provide “housing for all,” and give more people food stamps.

Miscellaneous

Then there’s spending that doesn’t neatly fit into major categories, like Biden’s plans for new foreign aid for Central America, Sanders’ high-speed internet, Buttigieg’s expanding national service programs like the Peace Corps, and Warren’s plan to force government to buy only American-made products.

Finally, we found a spending category that Sanders doesn’t win. With $130 billion in new plans, Biden wins the “miscellaneous” round.

And what about that incumbent Republican?

Donald Trump once talked about “cutting waste,” but government spending rose more than half a trillion dollars during his first three years.

Now Trump wants $267 billion in new spending for things like infrastructure and “access to high-quality, affordable childcare.”

At least Trump wants to spend less than the Democrats.

Biden and Buttigieg would double Trump’s increase. Warren would quadruple it. She’d increase spending by almost $3 trillion.

But Bernie Sanders blows them all out of the water, with nearly $5 trillion in proposed new spending!

“I’m not denying we’re going to spend a lot of money,” he admits.

He’ll probably win in Iowa next week. Whoever wins… taxpayers lose.

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2020-01-22 05:01:07

Reporters complain about business. We overlook the constant improvements in our lives made possible by greedy businesses competing for your money. Think about how our access to entertainment has improved.

“When I was a kid,” says Sean Malone in a new video for the Foundation for Economic Education, “my TV broadcast options were PBS, Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS. Depending on the weather, it was hit or miss whether or not they were even watchable.”

1977 brought the first video rental store. “We literally had to rent a VCR along with two or three movies we could get on VHS from Blockbuster,” Malone reminds us, pointing out how much changed. “Now just about anything I’ve ever wanted to watch is available at the click of a button.”

Here’s a short version I released this week of the FEE video. It wasn’t government or big movie studios that made the amazing array of new options available. They dragged their feet. Malone points out that “the astounding wealth of home entertainment options we have today are the result of entrepreneurial start-ups, like Blockbuster.”

Blockbuster letting people watch movies whenever we wanted was a big improvement. But people are ingrates about the things capitalism makes possible. In the 1990s, people complained that Blockbuster’s chokehold on video entertainment was so strong that the company would be able to censor anything it didn’t like.

Special sanitized versions of movies were distributed through Blockbuster. How would we ever get to see the movies as they were originally intended? Clearly, Blockbuster was a monopoly. Government should regulate “Big Videotape” and break up the Blockbuster monopoly!

Government didn’t. Yet Blockbuster is now bankrupt. Its competitors offered so many better things.

That’s something to think about now when people call Facebook and Google monopolies. A few years ago, people claimed Netflix had a monopoly.

But without government suppressing competition, Netflix had no way to maintain its temporary hold on the streaming market. Other companies caught up fast. Customers decide which businesses succeed and which ones fail.

This is why centrally planning an economy doesn’t work. “Politicians and bureaucrats don’t know what people are going to value,” explains Malone. “They pick winners and losers based on what they want or what they think is going to earn them the most important allies.”

Blockbuster’s demise began when it charged a man named Reed Hastings $40 in late fees. That annoyed him so much, he started a subscription-based, mail-order movie rental company he called Netflix.

Then, Netflix made movies available online.

Now we have instant access to more entertainment than ever through Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc., all for a fraction of the cost of the original Netflix.

Still, we complain. That’s how it is with capitalism, and it’s a wonderful thing. While we complain, entrepreneurs like Hastings invent faster, easier ways to get us what we want. Many offer us options we never knew we wanted, putting old giants out of business.

There is an economics lesson in that. When entrepreneurs face competition, they often lose, but the fights make life better for us consumers.

This process of old things being replaced by new and better ones was dubbed “creative destruction” by economist Joseph Schumpeter. We see creative destruction in every industry.

The first flip phone cost $1,000 and couldn’t do the things we expect phones to do today. Competition drove further innovation. We got the Blackberry, and then the iPhone.

What amazing things will businesses come up with next?

Malone’s video points out that the best way to find out is to keep government and central planning out of the mix.

Once government wades in with regulations, it tends to freeze the current model in place, assuming it’s the best way to do things.

But the best way to do things is one that we haven’t even thought of yet, produced by the endless creative process called competition.

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2020-01-15 05:30:28

People who want to work should be allowed to work. That includes people who once went to jail.

With President Donald Trump’s support, Congress spends your money giving ex-cons “employment assistance.”

Why bother? State laws often make such employment impossible.

Courtney Haveman had an alcohol problem. When she was 19, she got a DUI. Then she took a swing at a security guard. “I made dumb decisions,” she admits in my new video. “Served three days in jail.”

Eight years later, and now sober, Courtney enrolled in beauty school. Such schools invite applicants to “turn your interest in beauty into a rewarding career.”

The schools do provide good careers—to owners of cosmetology schools. In Pennsylvania, where Courtney applied, they typically charge $6,000 tuition and require 1,000 hours of courses.

All that training is required by the state to work.

Courtney had worked in a salon and wanted to do more. Unfortunately, “doing more” requires not just serving customers well, but getting permission from bureaucrats.

Byzantine state laws demand you get a state-approved license before you may become a hairdresser, tour guide, travel agent, house painter, and all sorts of other jobs where customer happiness should be the guide.

So after taking hundreds of hours of cosmetology courses, Courtney paid more to apply for a Pennsylvania cosmetology license.

Pennsylvania then told her she couldn’t do cosmetology there because she has a criminal record.

The bureaucrats said she could appeal. She could prove she has good moral character.

“I sent letters, and people in my 12-step program wrote letters on my behalf, character letters,” she says.

The result?

“They sent me a rejection letter that said, ‘Sorry. You lack the good moral character requirement’,” says Courtney. “One time in my life that I felt like a productive member of society, I was proud of myself…people were proud of me, and then it was just like, you’re not good enough still.”

This is wrong.

Courtney did her time—all three days of it. She should be allowed the “second chance” that politicians keep promising former prisoners. Her arrest was eight years ago. She then got sober. Now she sponsors other women in AA. She has a toddler to support.

But Pennsylvania says, to protect “public health and safety,” she may not practice cosmetology.

The rule doesn’t “protect” anyone. Barbers don’t have to prove they have “good moral character.” Courtney is allowed to work as an “assistant.”

“I’m allowed to touch clients, just not allowed to do what I went to school to do!” says Courtney.

She shampoos customers’ hair and has intimate contact with them. She’s just not allowed to do facials, makeup, waxing—the work she trained for. “Our government makes it extremely difficult for people like me,” she says.

“People can’t just be kicked out of society,” says Institute for Justice lawyer Andrew Ward. He took Courtney’s case for free because he believes that the cosmetology law is unconstitutional. “Everyone has a right…to pursue their own happiness…a right to engage in any of the common occupations of life.”

Who benefits from restrictive licensing laws?

“It’s certainly convenient,” says Ward, “that established players have a law that gets to keep new people, that would compete with them, out.”

Right. Cosmetology boards are dominated by people who run beauty schools. They benefit by making it hard for newcomers to compete for customers by offering better service.

The established schools and salons lobby legislators, demanding stringent “safety” requirements. It’s “accidental” that they limit competition.

Courtney says, “Years of my life have been wasted.” She paid to train for a job she is not allowed to do.

State licensing rules like Pennsylvania’s cosmetology rule don’t protect public health. They don’t help customers.

They crush the little guy and limit competition.

Get rid of them.

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2020-01-08 05:30:05

Congressional hearings were created to educate lawmakers so they have knowledge before they pass bills or impeach a president.

Not today. Today, hardly any education happens.

During the President Trump impeachment “testimony,” legislators tried to score points. At least five times, Rep. Adam Schiff (D–Calif.) shut down criticism by shouting, “Gentleman is not recognized!”

I get that politicians are eager for “face time” in front of a larger audience, but I assumed they would at least try to learn things. Nope.

Maybe they don’t want to ask real questions because they fear looking as dumb as then-Sen. Orrin Hatch (R–Utah) did at a hearing on Facebook. He asked Mark Zuckerberg, “How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?”

“We run ads,” smirked Zuckerberg. “I see,” said Hatch.

What’s obvious to most people somehow eludes the oblivious “experts” in Congress.
At another Facebook hearing, Congress grilled Zuckerberg about his plan to launch an electronic currency called Libra. Zuckerberg said, “I actually don’t know if Libra is going to work, but I believe it’s important to try new things.”

He was right. But instead of asking about technological or economic implications of the idea, Rep. Al Green (D–Texas) asked Zuckerberg, of the companies partnering with him, “how many are headed by women?”

“Congressman, I do not know the answer,” replied Zuckerberg.

“How many of them are minorities?” asked Green. “Are there any members of the LGBTQ+ community?”

Green doesn’t want to learn anything. He wants to sneer and score points.

Politicians’ sloppy ignorance is extraordinary. Rep. Steve King (R–Iowa) grilled Google CEO Sundar Pichai about iPhones, citing a story about his granddaughter using one, leading Pichai to explain, “Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company.”

Today’s posturing is not what the founders had in mind when they invented hearings in 1789. George Mason said members of Congress “possess inquisitorial powers” to “inspect the Conduct of public offices.”

Yes! Investigate government.

But today, they are more likely to threaten CEOs and bully opponents.

“Are you stupid?” then-Rep. Darrell Issa (R–Calif.) said to one witness. They want to showboat, not learn. Often, they ask questions even when they know the answers.

“Ms. DeVos, have you ever taken out a student loan?” asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D–Mass.) of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “Have any of your children had to borrow money?”

Warren knows that DeVos is a billionaire, but she wanted to score points with her fans.

One of the louder showboaters today is self-proclaimed socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.). She asked Wells Fargo boss Tim Sloan, “Why was the bank involved in the caging of children?”

“We weren’t,” replied Sloan.

Some of today’s hearings are useful in that we get to see how absurd and ignorant our representatives can be.

During a hearing on military personnel being stationed on the island of Guam, Rep. Hank Johnson (D–Georgia) said, “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it would tip over and capsize.” Really. He said that.

Then there was the time Rep. Maxine Waters, (D–Calif.) chair of the House Financial Services Committee, summoned bank CEOs to Washington and demanded, “What are you guys doing to help us with this student loan debt?!”

“We stopped making student loans in 2007,” Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan told her.

“We actually ended student lending in 2009,” added Citigroup’s Michael Corbat.

“When the government took over student lending in 2010 … we stopped doing all student lending,” explained Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase.

The Chair of the Financial Services Committee didn’t even know that her own party kicked bankers out of the student loan business, insisting that government take over?!

Apparently not. She is so eager to blame business for government’s mistakes that she didn’t research her own topic.

The more I watch politicians, the more I hate them. Let’s give them less power.

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2020-01-07 15:30:39

Congressional hearings date back to the first Congress in 1789, and they’re supposed to educate lawmakers. But now hearings are more about scoring points.

During recent impeachment hearings, Rep. Adam Schiff (D–Calif.) shouted at least five times, “Gentleman is not recognized!” to shut down opposition points.

Republicans are ridiculous, too. Some should wish they’d been shut down. Several years ago, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R–Utah) asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg the silly question: “How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?”

After a pause, Zuckerberg responded, “Senator, we run ads.” Hatch couldn’t figure that out on his own?

Rep. Al Green (D–Texas) interrogated Zuckerberg about groups that Facebook partners with to create a new cryptocurrency.

“How many are headed by women?” Green demanded.

“Congressman, I do not know the answer,” Zuckerberg replied.

“How many of them are minorities, Mr. Zuckerberg? … Are there any members of the LGBTQ+ community?”

Republican Steve King (R–Iowa) complained to Google’s CEO about what his granddaughter saw on an iPhone. He demanded, “how does that show up on a 7-year-old’s iPhone, who’s playing a kid’s game?” he asked.

“Congressman, the iPhone is made by a different company,” Google’s CEO had to tell King.

The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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2019-12-25 05:30:58

This week, children may learn about that greedy man, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is selfish until ghosts scare him into thinking about others’ well-being, not just his own.

Good for the ghosts.

But the way Scrooge addresses others’ needs matters.

Today’s advocates of equality, compassion, increased spending on education, health care, etc., say “we care” but demand that government do the work.

Controlling other people with the power of government doesn’t prove you care.

If you want to help the poor, clean the environment, improve the arts. Great! Please do.
But if you are compassionate, then you’ll spend your own money on your vision. You will volunteer your work and encourage others to volunteer theirs, by charity or commerce. You don’t force others to do what you think is best.

But government is not voluntary. Government has no money of its own. Whatever it gives away, it first must take from others through taxes.

If you vote for redistribution of wealth, welfare benefits, new Medicare spending or free education, you can tell yourself you’re “generous.” But you’re not. You’re just forcing others to pay for programs you think might help. That’s not generosity. That’s control. The more programs you demand, the more controlling you are.

In fact, you are worse than greedy old Ebenezer Scrooge.

With Scrooge, people have a choice. They can work for Scrooge or quit. They can do business with someone else.

Governments don’t offer us choice. Governments say: “Comply or we will lock you up. Pay taxes and we will decide whom to help. No one may escape the master plan.”

Why, then, do people react to big government ideas as if they’re generous instead of scary? Because most people don’t think clearly about what it means to tell government to use force against their fellow citizens. They think about society the way their ancestors did.

“Our minds evolved tens of thousands of years ago, when we lived in small groups of 50-200 people,” says HumanProgress.org editor Marian Tupy. “We would kill game, bring it back, share it.”

The idea of everyone getting an equal share still makes us feel warm and cozy.
Some of you may feel that coziness this week, sharing a Christmas meal. Great. But remember that if you decide that society’s resources should be redistributed, that’s much more complex than passing meat around a family table.

Seizing control of a big society’s resources has unforeseen consequences—ripple effects that are hard to predict.

Back in the cave, you stood a pretty good chance of noticing which hungry relative needed a bigger share of meat. In the tribe, that sort of central planning worked well enough. It doesn’t work as well once the tribe numbers thousands or millions of people. No tribal elder knows enough to plan so many different people’s lives.

Today’s politicians, for instance, don’t know how many workers will be laid off if they raise taxes on Walmart. They don’t know what innovation will never happen if they cap CEOs’ salaries. They don’t know how much wealth creation will be lost if they tax investors’ money in order to fund another government program.

Government’s built-in ignorance explains how it can spend trillions on failed poverty programs, and then respond to the failure by demanding more funds to continue the same programs.

You stand a better chance of getting good results if you do real charity, close to home, where you can keep an eye on it—and without coercing anyone else to do things your way.

We can invent new ways to give to each other. Philanthropy evolves, much the way markets do, harnessing new technologies and social networks that span the globe.
Innovative ideas, like microlending, start in one kitchen. If they work, they grow.

By contrast, government grows even when it doesn’t work. It bosses people around even when it’s not really helping them.

Big hearts are a good thing. Big government is no substitute for them.

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2019-12-18 05:30:07

Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) just wrote a book, The Case Against Socialism.

I thought that case was already decided, since socialist countries failed so spectacularly.
But the idea hasn’t died, especially amongst the young.

“Hitler’s socialism, Stalin’s socialism, Mao’s socialism. You would think people would have recognized it by now,” says Paul in my latest video.

Paul echoes Orwell in likening socialism to “a boot stamping on the human face forever” and warning that it always leads to violence and corruption.

“You would think that when your economy gets to the point where people are eating their pets,” says Paul, contemplating the quick descent of once-rich Venezuela, “people might have second thoughts about what system they’ve chosen.”

That’s a reference to the fact that Venezuelans have lost weight because food is so hard to find.

“Contrast that with (the country’s) ‘Dear Leader’ Maduro, who’s probably gained 50 pounds,” Paul observes. “It really sums up socialism. There’s still a well-fed top 1 percent; they just happen to be the government or cronies or friends of the government.”

Naturally, American socialists say our socialism will be different.

“When I talk about democratic socialism,” says Sen. Bernie Sanders, “I’m not looking at Venezuela. I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden.”

Paul responds, “They all wind up saying, ‘The kinder, gentler socialism that we want is Scandinavia … democratic socialism.’ So we do a big chunk of the book about Scandinavia.”

Paul’s book is different from other politicians’ books. Instead of repeating platitudes, he and his co-author did actual research, concluding, “It’s not true that the Scandinavian countries are socialist.”

Scandinavia did try socialist policies years ago but then turned away from socialism. They privatized industries and repealed regulations.

Denmark’s prime minister even came to America and refuted Sanders’ claims, pointing out that “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy.” In fact, in rankings of economic freedom, Scandinavian countries are near the top.

“They have private property, private stock exchanges,” says Paul. “We learned that, actually, Bernie is too much of a socialist for Scandinavia!”

Scandinavia did keep some socialist policies, like government-run health care. The media claim that’s why Swedes live longer, but Paul says: “This is the trick of statistics. You can say, ‘The Swedes live longer, and they have socialized medicine!’ Yet if you look hard at the statistics, it started way before socialized medicine.”

Scandinavians already lived longer 60 years ago, and they also had lower rates of poverty. That’s because of Scandinavian culture’s emphasis on self-reliance and hard work. Paul reminded me of an anecdote about economist Milton Friedman.

“This Swedish economist comes up to him and says, ‘In Sweden, we have no poverty!’

Friedman responds, ‘Yeah, in America, we have no poverty among Swedish Americans!'”

In fact, Swedes have 50 percent higher living standards in the U.S. than when they stay in Sweden. Danish Americans, too. Socialism can’t take the credit.

But the most important argument against socialism is that it crushes freedom.

Socialists get elected by promising fairness and equality, but Paul points out: “The only way you can enforce those things is to have an equality police or a fairness police, and ultimately they show up with truncheons. … The best kind of socialist leader ends up having to be ruthless because you can’t be a kinder, gentler socialist leader and get the property.”

By contrast, capitalism largely lets individuals make their own choices.

“It’s a direct democracy every day,” says Paul. “You vote either for Walmart or you vote for Target. You vote with your feet, with your wallet. People who succeed are the people who get the most votes, which are dollars. And as long as there’s no coercion, seems to me that that would be the most just way of distributing a nation’s economy.”

It’s not perfect, but look at the track record of the alternative, says Paul: “Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Chavez, Maduro. It doesn’t work.”

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