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By John Stossel

   I just zipped down a city street on an electric scooter. It cost me 15 cents a minute. Fast and fun!
    My scooter was just lying on the ground. I picked it up, activated it with my phone and rode away. When I was done, I simply abandoned it.
    Won't it be stolen? No, because you need an app to activate the scooter and a GPS device keeps track of it.
    My wife loves using the newish Citi Bike shared bicycles that are locked in a big dock near our apartment. They were a good innovation.
    But then entrepreneurs came up with "dockless" bikes. They're even better.
    Better still are these shared scooters. They're small, flexible, cheap and convenient. Maybe these scooters will be the next revolution in urban transit!
    But politicians may kill them off before we get a chance to find out how useful they are.
    Some places have already banned the scooters. San Francisco said they "endanger public health and safety." City attorney Dennis Herrera complained about "broken bones, bruises, and near misses."
    Sigh. Yet San Francisco also complains about not having enough transportation options.
    In San Francisco and other cities, scooter companies tried doing what Uber and Airbnb did: They dodged destructive regulation by simply putting their services out on the street, hoping that by the time sleepy regulators noticed them, they would be too popular to ban.
    That worked for Uber and Airbnb. We consumers got cool new ways to travel and alternatives to hotels, and investors got rich -- all because they didn't ask for permission. Permissionless innovation brings good things.
    But flying under the radar is harder for scooter companies. Scooters on sidewalks are very visible.
    "Unfortunately," Mercatus Center tech policy analyst Jennifer Skees told me for my latest video, "cities haven't learned from their experiences with companies like Uber and Airbnb. They want innovators to come ask for permission and go through the regulatory processes."
    But the "regulatory processes" take years. "That prevents consumers from accessing a transportation option that could be accessible now!" said Skees.
    After a four-month ban, San Francisco granted permits to two small scooter companies. The politicians stiffed Lime and Bird, the innovators that started the business -- presumably because they didn't kiss the politicians' rings and beg for permission first.
    Still, even I acknowledge that there may be a role for government here. A public square needs some rules. Scooters, especially speedy electric scooters, can be dangerous.
    "We haven't seen a large number of accidents or injuries," says Skees. "We don't ban bicycles because somebody might get hurt. ... Social norms (like hand signals) will evolve."
    Whenever there's something new, the media hype the problems. The L.A. Times reports that some people hate the scooters so much that they "have been crammed into toilets, tossed off balconies and set on fire." Internet videos show scooters abandoned in the Pacific Ocean.
    But scooter companies say the vandalism isn't so bad.
    "It's a low percentage," said Lime's Maggie Gendron. In one city, "we had 10,000 rides and 18 vandalism complaints."
    I wanted to try out scooters in my state, New York, but I couldn't, because craven politicians who claim to represent me banned scooters.
    So I took our camera crews to a city that's been more reasonable.
    Oddly, that's a place that overregulates most everything: Washington, D.C. But the capital embraced scooters.
    So, the district has transportation that is green and good exercise and takes up less space than cars.
    Maybe politicians will find it in their hearts to leave scooters, their makers and customers alone.
    One innovation can make many others possible.
    Cars take people to jobs they couldn't do in their own neighborhoods, allowing them to collaborate with people they might never have met if they walked or rode horses.
    Planes, trains and ships bring down costs by allowing inventors to use exotic materials they can't find in their own back yards.
    If any of those forms of transportation had been crushed by regulation, we'd never know how many benefits we'd lost.
    Don't kill scooters. Let's see where they take us.
    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

    One of the best statements of how the Framers saw the role of the federal government is found in Federalist Paper 45, written by James Madison, who is known as the "Father of the Constitution": "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. ... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people." Today's reality is the polar opposite of that vision. The powers of the federal government are numerous and indefinite, and those of state governments are few and defined.
    If confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh will bring to the U.S. Supreme Court a vision closer to that of the Framers than the vision of those who believe that the Constitution is a "living document." Those Americans rallying against Kavanaugh's confirmation are really against the U.S. Constitution rather than the man -- Judge Kavanaugh -- whom I believe would take seriously his oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution.
    Was Madison misinformed or just plain ignorant about the powers delegated to Congress? Before we answer, let's examine statements of other possibly "misinformed" Americans. In 1796, on the floor of the House of Representatives, William Giles of Virginia condemned a relief measure for fire victims, saying the purpose and the right of Congress is to attend to not what generosity and humanity require but instead what their duty requires. In 1854, President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill intended to help the mentally ill, writing to the Senate, "I can not find any authority in the Constitution for making the Federal Government the great almoner of public charity." He added that to approve such spending would "be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive of the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." President Grover Cleveland out-vetoed his predecessors by vetoing 584 acts of Congress, including many congressional spending bills,!
  during his two terms as president in the late 1800s. His often-given veto message was, "I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution." By the way, President Cleveland was a Democrat.
    Were the Founding Fathers, previous congressmen and previous presidents who could not find constitutional authority for today's massive federal government intervention just plain stupid, ignorant, callous and uncaring? Article 1 of the Constitution defines the role of Congress. Its Section 8 lists powers delegated to Congress. I examined our Constitution, looking to see whether an Article 5 amendment had been enacted authorizing Congress to spend money for business bailouts, prescription drugs, education, Social Security and thousands of other spending measures in today's federal budget. I found no such amendment. Contrary to what our Constitution permits, Congress taxes and spends for anything upon which it can muster a majority vote.
    But I found a constitutional loophole that many congressmen use as a blank check, as well as justification to control most aspects of our lives -- namely, the general welfare clause. The Constitution's preamble contains the phrase "promote the general Welfare," and Article 1, Section 8 contains the phrase "provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States." What did the Framers mean by "general Welfare"? In 1817, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated." Madison wrote: "With respect to the words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."
    Case closed: It's our Constitution that's the problem for leftist interventionists -- not Brett Kavanaugh.
    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 Walter E. Williams

    South Africa has been thrown into the news because of President Donald Trump's recent tweet that he instructed his secretary of state to "closely study" alleged land seizures from white farmers in South Africa.
    Earlier this year, a land confiscation motion was brought by radical Marxist opposition leader Julius Malema, and it passed South Africa's Parliament by a 241-83 vote. Malema has had a long-standing commitment to land confiscation without compensation. In 2016, he told his supporters he was "not calling for the slaughter of white people -- at least for now" (https://tinyurl.com/y7mfmhco). The land-grabbing sentiment is also expressed by Lindsay Maasdorp, national spokesman for Black First Land First, a group that condones land seizures in South Africa. He says, "We are going to take back the land, and we'll do it by any means necessary." The land confiscation policy was a key factor in the platform of the new president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
    I have visited South Africa several times, in 1979, 1980 and 1992. My three-month 1980 visit included lectures at nearly all South African universities. The 1992 return visit, two years after apartheid ended and two years before democratic elections, included lectures on my book "South Africa's War Against Capitalism." During each visit, my counsel to South Africans, particularly black South Africans, was that the major task before them was not only ridding the nation of apartheid but deciding what was going to replace it.
    That's an important question. William Hutt, the late University of Cape Town economist who was an anti-apartheid voice within the academic community, wrote in his 1964 book, titled "The Economics of the Colour Bar," that one of the supreme tragedies of the human condition is that those who have been the victims of injustices or oppression "can often be observed to be inflicting not dissimilar injustices upon other races." In 2001, Andrew Kenny wrote an article titled "Black People Aren't Animals -- But That's How Liberals Treat Them." Kenny asked whether South Africa is doomed to follow the rest of Africa into oblivion. Kenny gave a "no" answer to his question, but he was not very optimistic because of the pattern seen elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. He argued that ordinary Africans were better off under colonialism. Colonial masters never committed anything near the murder and genocide seen under black rule in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Somalia and othe!
r countries, where millions of blacks have been slaughtered in unspeakable ways, including being hacked to death, boiled in oil, set on fire and dismembered. Kenny said that if as many elephants, zebras and lions were as ruthlessly slaughtered, the world's leftists would be in a tizzy (https://tinyurl.com/ybj4u9fj).
    Ghanaian economist George Ayittey expressed a similar complaint in his book "Africa Betrayed": "White rulers in South Africa could be condemned, but not black African leaders guilty of the same political crimes." Moeletsi Mbeki, a brother of former South African President Thabo Mbeki's and deputy chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs, an independent think tank based at the University of the Witwatersrand, said in 2004 that Africa was in a spiral of decline. "The average African is poorer than during the age of colonialism," he said (https://tinyurl.com/ycs6l4pb).
    Zimbabwe, South Africa's northern neighbor formerly called Rhodesia, was southern Africa's breadbasket. That was prior to the confiscation of nearly 6,000 large white-owned commercial farms during the 1990s. By the turn of the century, Zimbabwe was threatened with mass starvation and was begging for food. Added to that tragedy, Zimbabwe experienced history's second-highest inflation rate. It reached 79.6 billion percent in mid-November 2008. (In 1946, Hungary experienced the world's highest inflation rate, 41.9 quadrillion percent.)
    South Africa leads in mining, food production and critical infrastructure, such as power production and railroading, in southern Africa. But it's going the same way as Zimbabwe, spelling disaster for the entire southern part of Africa. What's needed most right now is for South Africans to adopt some of the principles enunciated by Nelson Mandela, one of which is, "You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution."
    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

   Some people are very angry about President Trump's new Supreme Court pick.
    "Hell no, Kavanaugh! He is a dangerous man!" protesters shouted on the steps of the Supreme Court. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand yelled, "What is at stake is freedom for LGBTQ Americans, for equal rights, civil rights..."
    "They are freaking out because they don't understand," Ilya Shapiro, editor of the Cato Institute's Supreme Court Review, tells me. "Those top areas, abortion or gay rights or Citizens United, there's really not going to be a change."
    Every time one party appoints a judge, the other party acts as if the appointment will fundamentally change America. But the Supreme Court is the most cautious of the three branches of government. Today's Court, headed by Chief Justice John Roberts, is especially respectful of precedent.
    They almost always base their decisions on decisions made by prior justices, and they often defer to lower courts. That doesn't lead to many surprising changes.
    Maybe that's why, despite activists protesting most every recent appointment, a study finds most Americans can't name a single Supreme Court justice.
    We notice the president, and most of us can name at least some members of Congress. Those people might do something surprising.
    Supreme Court justices, whether Republican or Democratic appointees, are not very likely to undo existing laws, especially laws that millions of Americans have already acted on.
    After 45 years of legal abortions, Roe v. Wade isn't likely to be repealed. Gay marriage is pretty safe too after a quarter-million gay marriages. The court's unlikely to reverse itself on either issue.
    Partisans would be smarter to keep their eyes on issues where the Court is closely divided.
    Private property cases like the Kelo decision might go differently with Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court instead of swing-voter Anthony Kennedy. In that case, Kennedy joined the Court's four liberals in affirming the government's right to seize privately owned land and give it to other private landowners who might pay more in taxes.
    Kennedy voted "for the bad guys," says Shapiro, adding optimistically, "Kavanaugh could very well be the fifth vote to overturn Kelo."
    Also, affirmative action faces challenges. A lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-Americans may reach the court soon.
    Shapiro says, "Kavanaugh could provide the fifth vote to overturn that 40-year-old experiment with using racial preferences to promote some kind of nebulous diversity."
    Kavanaugh also has a history of reining in government regulators -- "all these alphabet agencies that increasingly intrude in people's lives," as Shapiro puts it. "He has written at length that the government keeps doing things that it doesn't have the power to do."
    At the White House, the day he was nominated, Kavanaugh made a point of saying, "The Constitution's separation of powers protects individual liberty."
    That was good to hear.
    As a judge in D.C., Kavanaugh voted to strike down some environmental rules. "I like the idea of clean air and clean water," says Shapiro, "but the EPA has taken a lot of liberties."
    Kavanaugh is also likely to reject new gun control laws.
    "I think libertarians will like the pushback on government excess," predicts Shapiro.
    But conservatives have more reason to be happy than libertarians. As a circuit court judge, Kavanaugh ruled that the NSA was justified in collecting metadata on Americans as part of its surveillance program.
    Kavanaugh volunteered to write that decision, enthusiastically arguing that preventing terrorist attacks was a "special need." But the government never could point to an instance where monitoring all of America's communications has ever prevented an attack.
    "That's his worst case," says Shapiro. "He has a lot of good opinions on... police needing a warrant (and opposing) laws drawn so broadly that prosecutors are convicting people who are not guilty... Clearly, he defers to the government on national security grounds, but most judges and justices do anyway."
    Libertarians should be happy, Shapiro says. "The fact that we're looking around the edges to see what sorts of things (libertarians) can disagree on shows how far we've moved in 10, 20 or 30 years."
    Right.
    If a Kavanaugh Court moves even a little in the direction of restraining government, that's progress.
    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 John Stossel

        Are those who question the severity of global warming worse than Nazis? I wouldn't think so, but YouTube, owned by Google, seems to.
        I wrote last week that YouTube added a Wikipedia link about global warming to videos like ones I do about climate change.
        Extra information sounds helpful. But when social media platforms only pick certain politically disfavored positions to add Wiki links to, they skew debate. Worse, Wikipedia's global warming page has been captured by alarmist editors. It's very one-sided.
        On CNN last week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, "I think we need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is left, is more left-leaning."
        At least Dorsey admits that. Usually, powerful social media platforms push their political agendas while pretending not to have any.
        Roy Spencer, author of "Climate Confusion," points out that when he does a Google search for "climate skepticism," the first 10 pages aren't links to skepticism. Instead, they're links to articles criticizing climate change skepticism.
        By contrast, he points out, a search for "Nazi Party" yields mostly straightforward commentary about what Nazis believed.
        Climate change skepticism is more in need of "correction" than Nazism?
        (Spencer's and my skepticism doesn't mean we doubt global warming. The globe is warming. Climate changes! We just don't think it's been proven that humans are the main cause or that fossil fuel bans and the billions of dollars spent on things like solar subsidies will do any good.)
        YouTube also continues its purge of political commentators it considers too far right. After taking down Alex Jones and his Infowars channel, YouTube expanded its ban to an old personal channel of Jones' associates Owen Shroyer and Roger Stone.
        Meanwhile, Facebook, now the world's most powerful publisher, removes some political articles -- not just so-called fake news created by malicious foreign actors or robots, but also ones by professional journalists.
        Salena Zito posted a New York Post column about Trump supporters sticking with Trump. Facebook removed it. It reappeared only after she complained on Twitter and "went through the confusing messaging options" on Facebook's page to ask why her article was removed.
        She never got an explanation. "No one told me why it was taken down," she writes. "Perhaps someone doesn't like my stories and complained... (W)ho is that person and why does Facebook give them that sort of power?"
        Good luck trying to get social media platforms to explain why they ban you.
        Maybe the "content moderators" at tech companies want to narrow your choices to information from the political center and left -- where most tech company workers live.
        The tech giants gathered in secret last week to confer about how to "counter" political misinformation during the coming election season. They say they want to prevent disruption and interference by outside forces like the Russians. Good.
        But I get nervous when I think about how broadly some liberals define "disruption."
        The purpose of the First Amendment is to let all of us say critical things about the politically powerful, even radical things.
        I worry that tech companies, to avoid admitting they're motivated by political bias, will do what many political activists have done: keep expanding the definition of "hate speech" until almost anyone can be accused of it.
        A NASCAR driver just lost a sponsorship (although, of course, a sponsor has a right to decide whom to fund) because his (SET ITAL)father(END ITAL), during a radio interview, admitted to using a racial slur back in the 1980s, before the NASCAR driver was even born.
        Now that Google can search everything you've said, YouTube may flag it as misinformation. Facebook can track what all your relatives and friends have said, too. Activists stand ready to get angry about all of it.
        At this rate, future speech will be muted. Especially libertarian and conservative speech.
        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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