Category: Public Policy

truthiness_largeThe Supreme Courts is hearing a case that involves a First Amendment challenge to an Ohio law that makes it a crime to “disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false.”

During the 2010 elections, the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life advocacy group, published ads in Ohio claiming that then-Rep. Steven Driehaus supported taxpayer-funded abortions (because he had voted for the Affordable Care Act). Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission over the ads. The SBA List challenged the constitutionality of the law, which is now before the Supreme Court.

In support of the SBA List, P.J. O’Rourke, humorist and national treasure, contributed to an amicus brief defending our constitutional right to “truthiness”:
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IKEA-Refugee-Shelter3When looking for solutions to humanity’s problems, conservatives and libertarians tend to prefer turning first to free markets rather than government. The reason for such a preference is often misunderstood, and can be difficult to explain since it appears paradoxical: free markets are often better at serving human needs than governments because free markets make it easier to fail.

As Arnold Kling explains, the best way to deal with failure depends on the institution. An individual needs to fail with a fallback position, a small startup firm needs to fail quickly, and a large, established firm needs to fail gracefully. But government, says Kling, cannot do any of these things well.

Of the many things that governments do poorly, failing is probably the worst. That is why governments rarely produces significant innovations. To produce innovative ideas, products, processes, or services requires testing what works and adjusting what doesn’t until you find the right formula. In a free market, the actions of consumers provide a signal to individuals and firms that they are doing well – or that they are failing.

If a company is failing, they have an incentive to adjust — and are pressured by competitors to adjust quickly — in order to give the customer what they need. They are often faced with a brutal, binary choice: innovate or fail. Government agencies, in contrast, tend to lack such feedback mechanisms and the ability to adjust quickly precisely because they have a low fear of failure. Even if they are unable to innovate and serve the needs of their “customers” they will likely stay in business due to bureaucratic inertia.
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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, March 3, 2014

“Most CEOs now spray the word ‘innovation’ as if it were an air freshener,” says Dennis Berman in the Wall Street Journal, “A little spritz can’t hurt.” A prime example, notes Berman, is what Kellogg’s CEO John Bryant described as one of their company’s most important “innovations”: a peanut butter Pop-Tart.

Most of us would probably agree that a new flavor of breakfast pastry isn’t as innovative as, say, the iPhone. But how do we know? What exactly is innovation?

As David Brier explains, innovation is about “seeing and connecting the dots.”

The story of Myles Eckert giving a $20 bill to Lt. Col. Frank Dailey is deserving of the massive amount of attention it has received across the nation. Eckert’s powerful deed has been highlighted and shared frequently all over social media.

One of the great qualities I love about many of the old Frank Capra films is how he appealed to the moral conscience of his audience with authenticity and the power of giving. The hero character in Capra films often endured suffering or betrayal and harnessed their inner goodness to tell a powerful moral story about how America should be instead of the vain shallowness and evil that too often infects us. Capra was the master at capturing indictments of evil, greed, and the selfishness in our culture through film. Myles, in Capra like fashion, undoubtedly displays the great quality of the American Spirit and teaches us something in return.

This CBS Evening News report from Steve Hartman explains it all:

Dr. Seuss is renowned for his insights into human nature and development, along with an ability to communicate these insights in a way that is so straightforwardly simple that children can grasp the lesson immediately and intuitively.

Consider, for instance, the case of Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose. Thidwick is a moose who cares about others, and so when the occasion arises, Thidwick is happy to share space on his antlers with a bug who needs somewhere to stay. But Thidwick’s generosity sets a precedent that can be abused, as increasingly pushy and impolite guests take advantage of Thidwick’s sentiment to impose themselves into his life. Thidwick has a heart for the poor, but as we often hear around the Acton Institute offices, that’s not enough. We need to have a mind for the poor as well.

thidwickguests
Benjamin Franklin once quipped that democracy is “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” In Thidwick’s case, when he needs to migrate across the lake, the squatters on his antlers vote “democratically” against migrating.

The prospects for Thidwick look bad, indeed, as he has only one vote and therefore is facing starvation. But happily for Thidwick, his biology provide him with an escape, so to speak, from this unjust social arrangement.

Thidwick sheds his antlers naturally. But the larger lesson from Thidwick’s travails is that our political order has no such natural escape route. An exception may be the ability of the wealthy to vote with their feet, as in the case of France’s recent proposed 75% tax on the rich. This is perhaps part of the reason why Antonio Rosmini placed such importance of the “natural right” to “travel anywhere in the world.” As he put it, “Emigration cannot be denied to anyone who demands it.”

Consider, then, Thidwick as a cautionary tale of the temptations of social democracy and the dangers of democratic tyranny.

amnesty_no_compromisePeople face tradeoffs. To get one thing that we like, we usually have to give up another thing that we like. That principle is one of the most basic in economics — and yet the most frequently ignored when it comes to public policy. A prime example is the tradeoff that is required on two frequently debated political issues: immigration reform and minimum wage laws.

Many of the same people who support increasing the minimum wage also support increased immigration and amnesty for illegal immigrants. But increases in minimum wage can have a severely detrimental impact on immigrants.

(For the sake of argument, we’ll set aside the question of whether amnesty is a policy that should be promoted and assume that is a policy we’d consider beneficial, at least for illegal immigrants.)

Imagine that Congress passes two laws that take effect on the same day — January 1, 2016 — one granting amnesty to illegal immigrants and the other raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. What would be the result?
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homeless-feet (1)Does the city of Pensacola, Florida care more about the comfort of cats than the dignity and safety of human beings? That certainly seems to be the case. Last week, a local news warning suggested that residents bring pets inside to protect them from cold temperatures. But the city prohibited its homeless population from covering themselves to keep out the cold.

The Pensacola ordinance said a person may not be “adjacent to or inside a tent or sleeping bag, or atop and/or covered by materials such as a bedroll, cardboard, newspapers, or inside some form of temporary shelter.”

Jeremy Bosso, who writes about local politics in the area, was sickened by the inhumane treatment. “I think we should extend that courtesy to our fellow humans,” he said of the effort to lift the prohibition of blankets in public. “I mean, we do it for the animals, and I think we should respect life at all stages.”
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Admiral James B. Stockdale

Admiral James B. Stockdale

Earlier this week I reviewed Defiant, the riveting new book by Alvin Townley. Admiral James B. Stockdale (1923-2005) is a principal figure in Townley’s account about POWs in North Vietnam. Stockdale’s famous to many for being Ross Perot’s vice-presidential running mate in 1992. He was widely ridiculed for his rather clumsy and cluttered performance in the debate. Republican political consultant Ed Rollins offered this marked observation of the debate in his book Bare Knuckles and Backrooms:

Of all of the political injustices in my lifetime, what happened to Jim Stockdale was the greatest. Congress should pass a law requiring every person who laughed at him during the vice-presidential debate to read the citation that explains why Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his conduct as a senior prisoner of war in Hanoi for more than eight years. This man is a great academic scholar, a true war hero, and a wonderful human being – the best the military and this country has to offer. He deserved better.

While the citation testifies alone to his impeccable leadership, Townley’s book made me dig out my copy of Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot by Stockdale. I shared these poignant comments by Stockdale on public virtue and our federal debt on the Powerblog in 2009. The book is a gem, and it’s worth sharing a few of his thoughts on morality and leadership, especially since the trait is clearly lacking by so many of our leaders today.
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Blog author: abradley
posted by on Friday, February 14, 2014

download (1)According to a recent study in the journal Crime & Delinquency nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the U.S. are arrested by age 23. As the study indicates, these arrests can “hurt their ability to find work, go to school and participate fully in their communities.” “The study is an analysis of national survey data from 1997 to 2008 of teenagers and young adults, ages 18-23, and their arrest histories, which run the gamut from truancy and underage drinking to more serious and violent offenses,” according to the press release. These results signal a possible dark future for our country.

Will there be national outrage at these arrest numbers? Doubtful. Some might argue that these numbers are simply a part of the ongoing narrative of the war on drugs and the criminalization of masculinity. Arguably, if the same percentages held for women, regardless of race, feminists would likely charge America with being “obviously” misogynistic. Do these numbers tell us anything about the country’s disposition toward men? Does it show us that misandry is truly legalized and flourishing as some have argued?
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SharkBloodHOCOver at The American Culture, I have some thoughts about the first season of House of Cards ahead of the premiere of the second season today.

As many have noted, the drop of the Netflix exclusive today coincides with Valentine’s Day, and there have been some serious considerations about how to plan for the contingency that only one of the partners in a couple enjoys the show.

But the question of love is also a helpful analytic device for understanding the show’s protagonist, Frank Underwood. Early on in the show we see that Frank and Claire are well-matched. Frank professes his affection for her in one of his Shakespearean asides to the audience: “I love that woman. I love her more than a shark loves blood.” Frank has a rather curious love for Claire, however. He loves her for what she can do for him, for her shared disposition toward power. When their interests clash, we see what Frank’s priorities really consist in.

In the TAC piece, I draw heavily on Augustine to explore the depth of Frank’s pathological pursuit of power. It’s clear that despite his profession of love for Claire that what Frank really loves is himself and what he lusts for most is consolidating and collecting power. Augustine wonders at this all-too-human tendency: “There are many different kinds of lust, of which not a few have names peculiar to themselves, while others have not. Who, for example, could easily give a name to the lust for mastery, though the evidence of civil wars shows how great a sway it has over the minds of tyrants?”

The tradition does in fact name this desire, the lust for power, the libido dominandi.

At one point Frank makes clear what he seeks in another of his fourth-wall addresses. In speaking of one of his former proteges, Frank bemoans “such a waste of talent. He chose money over power – in this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries.”

As Michael Novak has observed, this kind of lust is far more pervasive and dangerous than more mundane grubbing after money: “Lust for power–superbia–is deeper, more pervasive, and more widespread than lust for wealth–cupiditas.” Here Novak connects pride (superbia) with the lust for power, and it is Underwood’s exceeding self-love that leads to his particular brand of politics without romance.