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by John Stossel

      Presidential candidates and the media keep telling people "it's immoral" that a few rich people have so much more money than everyone else.

        They talk as if it doesn't matter what the rich did to get the money. Instead, the fact that they are rich is itself immoral.

        Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute says this is lunacy. "They want to condemn the people that actually have moved civilization forward," Brook complains. "People who improved the standard of living for everybody on the planet."

        Everybody? How is that possible? Isn't there a certain amount of money in the world, so that when rich people grab a lot there's less for everyone else?

        No. Because wealth can be created.

        But for thousands of years, that barely happened.

        "We basically made about $2 a day for 100,000 years -- in other words, we could eat what we farmed," recounts Brook. "Then (250 years ago) something amazing happened."

        That "amazing" thing was capitalism.

        For the first time, ordinary people were allowed to profit from private property. Specialization of labor created efficiency that let people produce more with less. Then they traded to get more. That created wealth.

        "Two-hundred and fifty years ago, we suddenly discovered the value of individual freedom," says Brook in my new video. "The value of leaving individuals free to think, to innovate, to produce without asking for permission, without getting the state to sign off on it -- and we call that the Industrial Revolution."

        But ever since, politicians have complained about the profits. In the movie based on Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged," state officials demand that steel magnate Hank Rearden justify his wealth.

        "I do not owe you an answer, but I could tell you in a hundred ways," replies Rearden. "Thousands of jobs, billions in revenue, fueling our economy despite your efforts."

        Rearden was very right. Capitalism created new wealth.

        "We got much, much, much richer, it's hard to imagine," explains Brook. "We got electricity, running water, things we all take for granted today but we didn't have 150 years ago. And yes, some people complain about inequality, but everybody got richer. Even the poor got richer."

        Much richer. That's the key point.

        Capitalism's critics imply that rich industrialists "took" money from others -- as if the world's wealth is one pie. If Amazon founder Jeff Bezos takes a big piece, then the rest of us have less.

        But that's not how life works. Bezos got rich by baking thousands of new pies. He created new wealth.

        Capitalism creates wealth because under capitalism, unlike socialism, transactions are voluntary.

        We see this every time we buy something.

        At the coffee shop, I give a clerk a dollar and she hands me coffee. Then there's a weird double "thank you!" moment: We both say "thank you." Why?

        Because both of us felt we were better off.

        Under capitalism, we both must like the deal, or the transaction doesn't happen. She wanted my dollar more than the coffee; I wanted the coffee more than the dollar. It's win-win.

        The only way to get rich under capitalism (unless you cheat) is to serve your customers well.

        We live with that kind of winning every day in capitalist countries, and it's made almost everyone better off.

        Since the Industrial Revolution, recounts Brook, "We have more than doubled our life expectancy. We have dramatically increased the quality of our life, and we are wealthier than anybody could have imagined."

        Today's "democratic" socialists say government must aid the poor and sick because capitalists will only help themselves. But Brook points out, "the weak and poor under capitalism have done better than in any other system!"

        Very true.

        Capitalism, he concludes, "is a fantastic system that is fundamentally moral because it allows individuals to pursue their own happiness. Your pursuit of your own well-being -- a virtue in and of itself -- also helps the world be a better world."

        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

        New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says that the city's specialized high schools have a diversity problem. He's joined by New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, educators, students and community leaders who want to fix the diversity problem. I bet you can easily guess what they will do to "improve" the racial mix of students (aka diversity). If you guessed they would propose eliminating the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as the sole criterion for admissions, go to the head of the class. The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test is an examination that is administered to New York City's eighth- and ninth-grade students. By state law, it is used to determine admission to all but one of the city's nine specialized high schools.

        It's taken as axiomatic that the relatively few blacks admitted to these high-powered schools is somehow tied to racial discrimination. In a June 2, 2018 "Chalkbeat" article (https://tinyurl.com/y64delc3), de Blasio writes: "The problem is clear. Eight of our most renowned high schools -- including Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School -- rely on a single, high-stakes exam. The Specialized High School Admissions Test isn't just flawed -- it's a roadblock to justice, progress and academic excellence."

        Let's look at a bit of history to raise some questions about the mayor's diversity hypothesis. Dr. Thomas Sowell provides some interesting statistics about Stuyvesant High School in his book "Wealth, Poverty and Politics." He reports that, "In 1938, the proportion of blacks attending Stuyvesant High School, a specialized school, was almost as high as the proportion of blacks in the population of New York City." Since then, it has spiraled downward. In 1979, blacks were 12.9% of students at Stuyvesant, falling to 4.8% in 1995. By 2012, The New York Times reported that blacks were 1.2% of the student body.

        What explains the decline? None of the usual explanations for racial disparities make sense. In other words, would one want to argue that there was less racial discrimination in 1938? Or, argue that in 1938 the "legacy of slavery" had not taken effect whereby now it is in full bloom? Genetic or environmental arguments cannot explain why blacks of an earlier generation were able to meet the demanding mental test standards to get into an elite high school. Socioeconomic conditions for blacks have improved dramatically since 1938. The only other plausible reason for the decline in academic achievement is that there has been a change in black culture. It doesn't take much to reach this conclusion. Simply look at school behavior today versus yesteryear.

        An Education Week article reported that in the 2015-16 school year, "5.8% of the nation's 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student." The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics show that in the 2011-12 academic year, there were a record 209,800 primary- and secondary-school teachers who reported being physically attacked by a student. Nationally, an average of 1,175 teachers and staff were physically attacked, including being knocked out, each day of that school year.         

      In the city of Baltimore, each school day in 2010, an average of four teachers and staff were assaulted. A National Center for Education Statistics study found that 18% of the nation's schools accounted for 75% of the reported incidents of violence, and 6.6% accounted for half of all reported incidents. These are schools with predominantly black student populations. It's not only assaults on teachers but cursing and disorderly conduct that are the standard fare in so many predominantly black schools.

        Here are questions that might be asked of de Blasio and others who want to "fix the diversity problem" at New York's specialized schools: What has the triumph of egalitarian and diversity principles done for the rest of New York's school system? Are their academic achievement scores better than students at New York's specialized schools? The most important question for black parents: What has been allowed to happen to cripple black academic excellence?

        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

        Soon, some of you will try to make "better babies."
        Already, people pay labs to examine embryos so they can pick ones with DNA they like. Some screen for gender or eye color. Some screen out certain diseases.
        So far, they've been limited to selecting genes that exist in the parents. They haven't designed genes. But that is about to change.
        Chinese scientists recently altered DNA in human embryos.
        The designed babies -- twin sisters -- were born with immunity to common strains of HIV, claims the scientist responsible. (The added gene might also shorten lifespans. Most scientists say it's too soon to gene-edit humans safely.)
        "He was put under house arrest ... and the Chinese are right to punish that scientist," says Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts' medical school in my new video.
        Most Americans agree.
        In one STAT-Harvard poll, 83% said creating more intelligent or stronger babies via gene-editing should be illegal.
        "Of course they say that," says Georgetown philosophy professor Jason Brennan. "When you have any kind of intervention into the body that's new, people think it's icky. And they take that feeling of 'ickiness' and they moralize and think it's a moral objection."
        Those intuitions threaten medical innovation, says Brennan.
        Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of the 43rd president, voiced her moral concerns on Megan Kelly's TV show. She asked, "I mean where does it stop? There should be things that we leave up to God."
        "I'm not sure I'm going to take her word for it." scoffs Brennan. "If God appears before me and says, 'Don't do this,' I'll stop."
        But why would God say stop?
        We already give our kids music lessons, braces, tutoring, karate lessons -- any advantage we can. Why not also give them better genes?
        Imagine, says Brennan, a world where people are much smarter -- maybe smart enough to avoid wars, to take us easily to other planets and to do other things we can't even imagine.
        "Maybe we'll turn them into X-Men," he says, referring to the mutant superheroes in films like the just-released "Dark Phoenix."
        It would be good to have real X-Men around, saving lives.
        Another objection to "customizing" babies is that at first only rich people will be able to pay for it. "This is going to be a new way to create disparities in wealth," says Krimsky.
        Brennan counters that you could say this about most new things.
        "Every bit of technology that we enjoy today follows the same pattern. You look in your automobile, and you have a CD player or an MP3 player and a GPS. ... All of these things, when they first became available, were incredibly expensive. ... The rich pay the infrastructure to develop the technologies, and then they spread ... become commonplace for everybody to have."
        While the rich do often get there first, they also pay for the expensive failures, and they help fund the technologies that get everyone else there second.
        Rich people got airplane travel and Lasik surgery first, but I wouldn't want those things banned because of that. A free, competitive market is the best way to ensure prices come down.
        "Even if the price came down for this," claims Krimsky, "it would create more injustice."
        I accused Krimsky of being an old fuddy-duddy who likes serving on government committees and fears change. In the '70s, he opposed in vitro fertilization.
        "I love change!" he responded. "But ... there are some things we shouldn't be fiddling around with."
        Most countries' governments agree. They've banned creation of designer babies.
        But it's going to happen anyway.
        The U.S. bans sale of kidneys, observes Brennan, but "that doesn't mean people don't buy kidneys. They just go and buy them elsewhere."
        Banning designer baby technology, he predicts, "will just guarantee that it will be available only to the super-rich and only to the politically well-connected."
        I think Brennan's right. Designed babies are coming. If not here, then the genetic engineering will happen in India, Africa, somewhere.
        The U.S. shouldn't keep this technology from those of us who want to give it a try.
        Our descendants should have the right to use science to make themselves all that they can be.
        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

    We are living in a time of increasing domestic tension. Some of it stems from the presidency of Donald Trump. Another part of it is various advocacy groups on both sides of the political spectrum demanding one cause or another. But nearly totally ignored is how growing government control over our lives, along with the betrayal of constitutional principles, contributes the most to domestic tension. Let's look at a few examples.
    Think about primary and secondary schooling. I think that every parent has the right to decide whether his child will recite a morning prayer in school. Similarly, every parent has the right to decide that his child will not recite a morning prayer. The same can be said about the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag, sex education and other hot-button issues in education. These become contentious issues because schools are owned by the government.
    In the case of prayers, there will either be prayers or no prayers in school. It's a political decision whether prayers will be permitted or not, and parent groups with strong preferences will organize to fight one another. A win for one parent means a loss for another parent. The losing parent will be forced to either concede or muster up private school tuition while continuing to pay taxes for a school for which he has no use. Such a conflict would not arise if education were not government-produced but only government-financed, say through education vouchers. Parents with different preferences could have their wishes fulfilled by enrolling their child in a private school of their choice. Instead of being enemies, parents with different preferences could be friends.
    People also have strong preferences for goods and services. Some of us have strong preferences for white wine and distaste for reds while others have the opposite preference -- strong preferences for red wine. Some of us love classical music while others love rock and roll music. Some of us love Mercedes-Benz while others love Lincoln Continentals. When's the last time you heard red wine drinkers in conflict with white wine drinkers? Have you ever seen classical music lovers organizing against rock and roll lovers or Mercedes-Benz lovers in conflict with Lincoln Continental lovers?
    People have strong preferences for these goods just as much as they may have strong preference for schooling. It's a rare occasion, if ever, that one sees the kind of conflict between wine, music and automobile lovers that we see about schooling issues. Why? While government allocation of resources is a zero-sum game -- one person's win is another's loss -- market allocation is not. Market allocation is a positive-sum game where everybody wins. Lovers of red wine, classical music and Mercedes-Benz get what they want while lovers of white wine, rock and roll music and Lincoln Continentals get what they want. Instead of fighting one another, they can live in peace and maybe be friends.
    It would be easy to create conflict among these people. Instead of market allocation, have government, through a democratic majority-rule process, decide what wines, music and cars would be produced. If that were done, I guarantee that red wine lovers would organize against white wine lovers, classical music lovers against rock and roll lovers and Mercedes-Benz lovers against Lincoln Continental lovers.
    Conflict would emerge solely because the decision was made in the political arena. Again, the prime feature of political decision-making is that it's a zero-sum game. One person's win is of necessity another person's loss. If red wine lovers win, white wine lovers would lose. As such, political allocation of resources enhances conflict while market allocation reduces conflict. The greater the number of decisions made in the political arena, the greater the potential for conflict. That's the main benefit of limited government.
    Unfortunately, too many Americans want government to grow and have more power over our lives. That means conflict among us is going to rise.
    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 Ed Duffy

Crypto currencies hit the world stage with a lot of promise, but so far, you still don’t see a lot of people in the convenience store making purchases in Bitcoin or Ripple. They were supposed to be the ultimate upgrade from national (fiat) currencies. Nobody would control them. The amount would be finite and predictable and the value is originated by the work it takes to be issued a new one. The ledger is public, distributed and constantly self-verified. What’s not to love? Well, the value for one. Sure it’s fun to play that market if you’re into betting on wild swings and investor sentiment, but if you’re just sending $500 to Grandma, you want to know it will still be $500 when she goes to spend it. Bitcoin’s market value is tied to nothing but the current opinion of the current buyers and sellers. And the primary thing that Bitcoin is used for is, trading Bitcoin. 

 

One of the constant criticisms of the dollar is that, since we got off the gold standard, it’s not tied to anything. That could not be more wrong. The value of the dollar is pegged to everything that’s priced in dollars. Sure, people can change prices, but stores like customers and customers like predictability, so they don’t constantly change prices throughout the day. You can be confident that the $10 worth of vegetables you put in your cart will still be purchasable with $10 when you get to the register, even if you meander a bit. 

 

In a sense, the value of fiat currency is stored in the ultimate distributed database: the marketplace. The value of countless goods and services are weighed against the dollar and against each other, using the dollar as a unit of measure, all day, every day and the results reported as prices. This is not happening right now with crypto-currency. You really only get values in comparison to other currencies. There is not a wide range of products and services with fixed prices expressed in crypto. 

 

Simply accepting crypto doesn’t do the trick. The goods and/or services have to be priced and published in crypto in order to fix the value. If prices are in dollars, I still have no idea what the price in crypto is until I get to the register. And if I’m the recipient, I’m going to convert it right back to dollars ASAP because I’ll have no idea what the value of my crypto will be tomorrow or what I can buy with it, because nobody publishes fixed prices in crypto, or at least not on a mass market scale. 

 

Bitcoin will likely be around for a long time, but it may not be useful as a currency. The blockchain technology that Bitcoin provided proof of concept for, will certainly be, and is being deployed in international banking, inventory management and other applications. There will no doubt be great crypto currencies coming down the pike as we see what works and what doesn’t and each generation gets a bit of tweaking. Ultimately though, the value of a currency is determined by its users, not its creators.