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by Walter E. Williams

       There's a push to change laws to permit both criminals serving time and ex-criminals the right to vote. Guess which party is pushing the most for these legal changes. If you guessed that it was the Democrats, go to the head of the class. Bernie Sanders says states should allow felons to vote from behind bars. Elizabeth Warren doesn't go that far but believes felons should have the right to vote. Democrats want the criminal class to have voting rights restored because they could become a significant part of the Democratic base.
        These are America's murderers, rapists, burglars, child molesters and drug dealers. Over two million of these people are in prison. If we add in the number of people on probation and parole, there are 6.7 million people currently under correctional control. If cons and ex-cons get the right to vote, it's almost a guarantee that most of these people will cast their vote for a Democratic candidate.
        Democrats don't stop with wanting cons and ex-cons to vote. It turns out that more than 50 percent of Democrats surveyed want illegal immigrants to have the right to vote, as they already do in some Democratic-controlled cities.
        America's gun control advocates have the belief that outlawing guns would drastically reduce crime. Almost all handguns have been outlawed from private citizen use in the U.K. since 1996. Nonetheless, violent crime in the U.K. has risen almost every year since the ban. Criminals love the idea of a disarmed populace. While there are few gun crimes in the U.K., there's a recent report that in 2018 there were over 40,000 knife crimes committed. It's gotten so bad that some stores have stopped selling kitchen knives.
        America's gun control advocates might have some solutions for the citizens of the U.K. They might advocate a thorough MI5 (U.K.'s secret service) background check for anyone wishing to purchase any kind of knife, including kitchen knives. They might advocate knife registration. There might be lengthy prison sentences for anyone caught with an illegal unregistered knife. With London's murder rate higher than New York City's, Mayor Sadiq Khan has implemented knife control policies as violent crime surges. Khan deployed over 300 additional London police officers to stop and search anyone they suspect is carrying a knife.
        Here's something else to ponder: Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential elections are calling for reparations for slavery or for the study of reparations. Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren are leading the charge. Slavery was a gross violation of human rights. Justice would demand that slave owners make compensatory payments to slaves. Since both slaves and slave owners are no longer with us, such punishment and compensation is beyond our reach.
        So which white Americans owe which black Americans how much? Reparations advocates don't want that question asked, but let's you and I ask it. Are the millions of European, Asian and Latin Americans who immigrated to the U.S. in the 20th century responsible for slavery? What about descendants of Northern whites who fought and died in the War of 1861 in the name of freeing slaves? Should they cough up money for black Americans? What about non-slave-owning Southern whites, who were a majority of Southern whites -- should their descendants be made to pay reparations?
        On black people's side of the ledger, thorny questions arise. Some blacks purchased other blacks as a means to free family members. But other blacks owned slaves for the same reason whites owned slaves -- to work farms or plantations. Would descendants of these blacks be eligible for reparations?
        The bottom line is because blacks are doing well in the economic arena under the Trump administration, Democrats fear losing a significant portion of the black vote. Their call for reparations is another attempt to use the promise of handouts to insure that the black vote remains in their pocket. Reparations talk is simply another insulting Democratic rope-a-dope strategy.
        Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

        Are you very afraid? 3D-printed guns are coming.
        "Virtually undetectable!" shrieked CNN.
        "This changes the safety of Americans forever!" shrieked MSNBC.
        Does it?
        Six years ago, a company called Defense Distributed posted blueprints for 3D-printed guns on the web. The Obama State Department said that violated the Arms Control Act because allowing foreigners to see them is equivalent to exporting a missile launcher, and that's illegal.
        Defense Distributed withdrew the blueprints. Gun control advocates were relieved.
        "We have enough guns in this country already," Massachusetts legislator David Linsky tells me in my new video about 3D-printed guns. 
        But this debate is about free speech, too.
        "You can't ban lawful U.S. citizens from sharing information with other lawful U.S. citizens," says Defense Distributed's lawyer, Josh Blackman.
        "After the Oklahoma City bombing, Congress asked the Department of Justice, 'Can we make a law that bans putting bomb-making instruction on the internet?' The DOJ said, 'No, you can't ban putting files on the internet.'"
        Not even files showing how to make a nuclear weapon?
        "Nuclear bomb's ... different because it's classified information," he said. Courts have upheld restrictions on publishing classified information.
        But the web is filled with unclassified information about how to make all sorts of deadly things.
        "Should 'The Anarchist Cookbook' be banned"? I asked Linsky. It contains deadly recipes.
        "There's no reason to ban books," he replied. "The genie is out of the bottle a long, long time ago on 'The Anarchist Cookbook.' But this is a very different thing whereby all you have to do is download a file, press a button and a printer gives you a gun."
        It's actually not that easy.
        U.S. Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., made it sound as if anyone could make a 3D gun. "Bad people can go to Instagram and get an insta-gun!"
        But that's silly, like so much of what Markey says.
        "It's actually a very complicated process," explains Blackman. You need technological expertise and very specific materials. "It might take a full day of printing. You have to treat the plastic with chemicals so that they're strong enough. Even then, odds are, the gun's pretty crappy."
        True. When my TV show tried one, it wouldn't fire.
        But the technology will improve.
        It's said that 3D guns will be "a windfall for terrorists."
        "Terrorists have access to far more dangerous weapons," responds Blackman. "The notion that ISIS is ... making these stupid little plastic guns that can fire one shot at a time strains credulity."
        But can't plastic guns sneak past airport security?
        "Bullets are made out of metal," notes Blackman. "Plastic and rubber bullets are not very effective."
        America has a long tradition of people making their own guns, often for good reasons.
        "If we had a ban on home manufacture of weapons during the time of the American Revolution, we would probably still be under the King's rule," cracked Blackman.
        "It was a very different society," argues Linsky. "Now we have AR-15s."
        Blackman had an answer for that: "Rights were enshrined in the Constitution for permanence ... They're there for the long haul."
        Although Defense Distributed withdrew its blueprints, it continues to fight for the right to publish them online.
        Seems kind of like a pointless fight to me, because in the short time before Defense Distributed withdrew its post, hundreds of other websites had copied it. They still host the blueprints.
        Linsky hadn't realized that. When I showed some to him, he said, "I understand that some people might think that the genie is out of the bottle, but let's put as much of that genie back into the bottle as we possibly can."
        But we can't put the genies back. Today, once information is out, it's out there forever. No government can pull it back.
        Nevertheless, gun control advocates and the childish media will demand that "something be done!"
        CNN warned, "Tomorrow morning, the sun will be shining, the birds will be singing and anyone will be able to legally download instructions to 3D-print their own fully functional plastic gun!"
        I liked Blackman's response:
        "That happened. The world's the same," he said. "People are just fear-mongering."
        John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

       If one needed evidence of the gross ignorance of millennials, and their teachers and college professors, it's their solid support for socialism and socialist presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. Socialism has produced tragedy wherever it has been implemented. Last year marked the 40th anniversary of nearly 1,000 Americans perishing in a mass suicide/murder in the jungles of Guyana. Just as Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez see socialism as mankind's salvation, so, too, did Rev. Jim Jones, who told his followers, "God is Socialism, and I am Principle Socialism, and that's what makes me God."

        Perhaps the most disastrous failing of our educational system and the news media is that people are neither required nor encouraged to test ideas against facts. The promises of socialism sound wonderful and caring, but in reality, wherever it has been tried it has been a true disaster. Let's examine the history of socialism.

        During the first three decades of the 20th century, Argentina was one of the world's top-10 richest nations. It was ahead of Canada and Australia in total and per capita income. After Juan Peron's ideas, captured in his economic creed that he called "national socialism," became a part of Argentina's life, the country fell into economic chaos. Today it has fallen to 25th in terms of GDP.

        Nicolas Maduro, an avowed socialist, has turned oil-rich Venezuela into a place where there are shortages of everything from toilet paper to beer, where electricity keeps shutting down, and where there are long lines of people hoping to get food. Some people are eating their pets and feeding their children from garbage bins. Socialism has crippled Venezuela's once-thriving economy. Today, Venezuela is among the world's most tragically poor countries.

        Socialism can be tested by doing a few side-by-side country comparisons. After Germany's defeat in WWII, it was divided into socialist East Germany and capitalist West Germany. West Germans had far greater income, wealth and human rights protections. In large numbers, East Germans tried to flee to West Germany, so much so that the East German government set up deadly mines and other traps to prevent escape. Few, if any, West Germans tried to flee to East Germany, and the West German government spent no resources preventing its citizens from leaving.

        Then there's North Korea and South Korea. North Korea's nominal per capita GDP is only 3.6 percent of South Korea's nominal per capita GDP of $23,838. There are few human rights protections for North Koreans. North Korea, like East Germany, has set up deadly mines and other traps to prevent its citizens from escaping.

        The key features of a free market system are private property rights and private ownership of the means of production. By contrast, socialist systems feature severely limited private property rights and government ownership or control of the means of production.

        There has never been a purely free market economic system, just as there has never been a purely socialist/communist system. Let's do an experiment. First, rank countries according to whether they are closer to the free market or the communist end of the economic spectrum. Then, rank countries according to per capita gross domestic product. Finally, rank countries according to Freedom House's "Freedom in the World" report.

        Here's our finding: People who live in countries closer to the free market end of the economic spectrum not only have far greater income and wealth than people who live in countries toward the communist end; they also enjoy far greater human rights protections. Moreover, it's the socialist nations that have murdered tens of millions of their own citizens such as the case with the former USSR and China.

        Sanders and other socialists hold Denmark as their dream, but Prime Minister Lars Lekke Rasmussen said: "I know that some people in the U.S. associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy." Scandinavian socialism is a myth.

        Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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by John Stossel

        Please, regulate me!

        That was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's message to Congress recently.

        "Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree," he wrote in an op-ed. "(W)e shouldn't make so many important decisions ... on our own."

        It sounds so self-sacrificing.

        But give me a break. Big companies use regulation to their advantage.

        His smaller competitors can't afford the squads of "compliance officers" that Facebook employs.

        "You, as a company, welcome regulation?" Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Zuckerberg during a congressional hearing.

        "If it's the right regulation, then yes," replied the CEO.

        "Would you work with us in terms of what regulations you think are necessary in your industry?"

        "Absolutely," replied Zuckerberg.

        Zuckerberg's no dope. He sees which way the wind is blowing. He issued his plea to be regulated after receiving months of criticism from politicians.

        If he cooperates early and enthusiastically, Facebook is likely to get to work with the regulators to shape the rules.

        This is sad for two reasons.

        One, the First Amendment says Congress "shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech." I'd think Zuckerberg would know that, but no, he called for government to "require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum."

        Currently, his own website is a wonderful forum for all kinds of useful speech. There's hateful speech, too, but it's the private company's job to decide whether to police that, not government's.

        The second reason Facebook working with regulators is sad is that if anyone should fight for permissionless, unregulated innovation, it should be people like Mark Zuckerberg.

        It's no accident that the amazing wealth creation that brought us Facebook, Google, Instagram, Microsoft, Amazon, etc., happened in the two big metropolitan areas farthest from Washington, D.C.

        As Yaron Brook, chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute, says: "Microsoft in the early 1990s was the largest company in the world, incredibly successful. They spent exactly zero dollars on lobbying, on cronyism, on lawyers. They had no presence in Washington, D.C. -- not a single lawyer, not a single building."

        Instead of investing in lawyers and lobbyists, Microsoft spent money on technology.

        But then the sleepy codgers in Washington, D.C., noticed Microsoft's success.

        "They were literally brought in front of Congress," recounts Brook, "yelled at by a Republican, Orrin Hatch from Utah. He said, 'You guys need to get involved here in Washington, D.C. You need to build a building here, hire lawyers here.' ... The unspoken text: 'You need to bribe me.'"

        The company didn't immediately obey.

        "Microsoft said, you know what? You leave us alone," says Brook. "We're busy. We're running the biggest company in the world. There's a lot to do!"

        But that wasn't the end of it.

        "Six months later, knock on the door at Microsoft: 'We're from the Justice Department and we're here to prosecute you because you're offering ... customers a product for free,'" paraphrases Brook. "Internet Explorer. At a time when (customers) were paying money for Netscape, they offered it for free."

        The government called that a violation of anti-trust law. Free services might make Microsoft too popular.

        "For 10 years they had to fight that lawsuit," says Brook. "They lost. They got regulated. They got controlled. Guess how much Microsoft spends today in Washington, D.C.? Tens of millions of dollars."

        A company that should focus on pleasing customers had to start thinking more about pleasing government.

        Today, "they have a beautiful building about equal distance from the White House and from Congress. They have lawyers, lobbyists, they spend a lot of money," says Brook, "and indeed a lot of other tech companies like Google learned the lesson."

        The lesson is that if you don't want politicians destroying your business, you must go to Washington to give them money. Kiss their rings.

        "A lot of the lobbying and so-called cronyism," explains Brook, "is self-defense."

        Yes, Zuckerberg is acting in self-defense, but it's still ugly. And this crony capitalism is a threat to future innovation. Entrepreneurs will learn to do things government's way instead of heeding the market.

        "If we really want to end cronyism, reduce the power of politicians over our lives," argues Brook, correctly. "Separate economics from state."

        John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

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by Walter E. Williams

        Sometimes, during my drive to work, I listen to Clarence Maurice Mitchell IV, host of the Baltimore's WBAL C4 radio show. Mitchell was formerly a member of Maryland's House of Delegates and its Senate. In recent weeks, Mitchell has been talking about the terrible crime situation in Baltimore. In 2018, there were 308 homicides. So far this year, there have been 69. That's in a 2018 population of 611,648 -- down from nearly a million in 1950. The city is pinning its hopes to reduce homicides and other crime on new Police Commissioner Michael Harrison.
        Another hot news item in Baltimore is the fact that Johns Hopkins University wants to hire 100 armed police officers to patrol its campuses, hospital and surrounding neighborhoods. The hospital president, Dr. Redonda Miller testified in Annapolis hearings that patients and employees are "scared when they walk home, they're scared when they walk to their cars."
        Philadelphia's Temple University police department is the largest university police force in the United States, with 130 campus police officers, including supervisors and detectives.
        In 1957, I attended night school at Temple University. There was little or no campus police presence. I am sure that people who attended Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, and other colleges in or adjacent to black neighborhoods during the '40s, '50s and earlier weren't in an armed camp. In the nation's largest school districts that serve predominantly black youngsters, school police outnumber, sometimes by large margins, school counseling staffs. Again, something entirely new. I attended predominantly black Philadelphia schools from 1942 to 1954. The only time we saw a policeman in school was during an assembly where we had to listen to a boring lecture on safety. Today, Philadelphia schools have hired more than 350 police officers. What has happened to get us to this point? Will hiring more police officers and new police chiefs have much of an impact on crime?
        No doubt hiring more and better trained police officers will have some impact on criminal and disorderly behavior -- but not much unless we create a police state. The root of the problem, particularly among black Americans, is the breakdown of the family unit where fathers are absent. In 1938, 11 percent of blacks were born to unmarried women. By 1965, that number had grown to 25 percent. Now it's about 75 percent. Even during slavery, when marriage between blacks was illegal, a higher percentage of black children were raised by their biological mothers and fathers than today. In 1940, 86 percent of black children were born inside marriage. Today, only 35 percent of black children are born inside marriage. Having no father in the home has a serious impact. Children with no father in the home are five times more likely to be poor and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of school and 20 times more likely to be in prison.
        Our generous welfare system, in effect, allows women to marry the government. Plus, there is shortage of marriageable black men because they've dropped out of school, wound up in jail and haven't much of a future. Unfortunately, many blacks followed the advice of white liberal academics such as Johns Hopkins professor Andrew Cherlin who in the 1960s argued that "the most detrimental aspect of the absence of fathers from one-parent families is not the lack of a male presence but the lack of male income" Cherlin's vision suggested that fathers were unimportant and if black females "married the government"; black fathers would be redundant.
        Most of today's major problems encountered by black people have little or nothing to do with racial discrimination and a legacy of slavery. People who make those excuses are doing a grave disservice to black people. The major problems black people face are not amenable to political solutions and government anti-poverty programs. If they were, then they'd be solved by the more than $20 trillion dollars nation has spent on poverty programs since 1965. As comic strip character Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
        Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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