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by John Stossel

    Look at the dollar bills in your wallet. They say they are "legal tender for all debts."
    But are they? What makes them valuable? What makes them worth anything?
    Each bill says, "In God We Trust." But God won't guarantee their value.
    The $20 bill depicts the White House. Congress is on $50s. But neither guarantees the value of our dollars.
    I wouldn't trust them if they did. I don't trust politicians, generally, but I especially don't trust them with money. Since President Richard Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard, the dollar has lost 80 percent of its value.
    So what makes money trustworthy?
    A new PBS documentary, "In Money We Trust?" points out that money is only useful if people agree that it can be trusted.
    I made a short version of the documentary.
    To earn trust, money should be "reliable, like a clock," says Forbes magazine publisher Steve Forbes. "It has to be fixed in value: 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute. Imagine if that floated each day. That would make life chaotic."
    Throughout history, people needed a way to assign a fixed value to money.
    "The best mechanism for this would be some kind of commodity that's permanent, easily transported, easily understood by everyone. And that medium was, of course, gold," says anthropologist Jack Weatherford in the documentary.
    But gold isn't the only thing to which people have pegged the value of money. They've also linked it to things such as silver, crops and salt. Salt-based trade is where we got the word "salary."
    But gold created "a kind of mobility in people's lives that they never had before," says Weatherford.
    But gold is heavy -- hard to carry around. That limited trade.
    So people created banks.
    "The Knights Templar developed a system where they said, 'Well, you can just deposit your money here with us and then, when you need some, withdraw it from your account,'" explains economist Nathan Lewis. "This enabled the peasants to travel Europe without being in danger of being robbed."
    That meant people could engage in more trade.
    "You could ... sell a bond in London," says Lewis, "and build a railroad in India."
    The increased trade made the world much richer.
    In the United States, the first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, fixed the dollar to gold and silver. The whole world came to trust the dollar as a reliable indicator of value.
    But governments like to enrich themselves by debasing currency, making it appear the government has more wealth than it really does -- spreading the same wealth over more units of currency.
    The evil emperor Nero did it in ancient Rome, says Weatherford. "They would call in all the coins, melt them down, reissue them -- of course, with his picture on them," but with less gold in each coin. Rome's decline was tied to the decrease in the trustworthiness of its currency.
    "When you change the value of money, you're stealing property," says Forbes.
    That happened in Germany after World War I. The victorious nations demanded that Germany pay for the cost of the war. So, Germany just printed more bills. That created massive inflation. That inflation helped elect Hitler.
    Governments rarely resist the temptation to print more currency.
    During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt confiscated private supplies of gold.
    Without a clear legal peg of each dollar to a specific amount of gold, the government could print more currency. That only added to the financial instability.
    After World War II, governments returned to gold-based currency. "Those two decades," says Lewis, "were the most successful economically of any time."
    The documentary argues that a return to the gold standard is what's needed to have reliable money.
    Today, most economists disagree.
    But "In Money We Trust?" will give you a new appreciation for how important it is that we get this right.
    As technologist George Gilder concludes in the documentary, "All this is the struggle for trust."
    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

        Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics at Ohio University Richard Vedder's new book, "Restoring the Promise," published by the Independent Institute based in Oakland, California, is about the crisis in higher education. He summarizes the three major problems faced by America's colleges and universities. First, our universities "are vastly too expensive, often costing twice as much per student compared with institutions in other industrialized democracies." Second, though there are some important exceptions, students "on average are learning relatively little, spend little time in academic preparation and in some disciplines are indoctrinated by highly subjective ideology." Third, "there is a mismatch between student occupational expectations after graduation and labor market realities." College graduates often find themselves employed as baristas, retail clerks and taxi drivers.
        The extraordinary high college cost not only saddles students with debt, it causes them to defer activities such as getting married and starting a family, buying a home and saving for retirement. Research done by the New York Federal Reserve Banks and the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that each dollar of federal aid to college leads to a tuition increase of 60 cents.
        For the high cost of college, what do students learn? A seminal study, "Academically Adrift," by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, after surveying 2,300 students at various colleges, argues that very little improvement in critical reasoning skills occurs in college. Adult literacy is falling among college graduates. Large proportions of college graduates do not know simple facts, such as the half-century in which the Civil War occurred. There are some exceptions to this academic incompetency, most notably in technical areas such as engineering, nursing, architecture and accounting, where colleges teach vocationally useful material. Vedder says that student ineptitude is not surprising since they spend little time in classrooms and studying. It's even less surprising when one considers student high school preparation. According to 2010 and 2013 NAEP test scores, only 37% of 12th-graders were proficient in reading, 25% in math, 12% in history, 20% in geography and 24% in civics.
        What happens when many of these students graduate saddled with debt? The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in an October 2018 report, finds that many students are underemployed, filling jobs that can be done with a high school education. More than one-third of currently working college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree, such as flight attendants, janitors and salesmen. In addition to this kind of resource misallocation, 40% or more college students fail to graduate in six years. It is not unreasonable to ask whether college attendance was a wise use of these students' time and the resources of their parents and taxpayers.
        Vedder has several important ideas for higher education reform. First, we should put an end to the university monopoly on certifying educational and vocational competency. Non-college organizations could package academic courses and award degrees based upon external examinations.
        Regarding financial aid, colleges should be forced to share in covering loan defaults, namely they need to have some skin in the game. More importantly, Vedder says that we should end or revise the federal student aid program.
        Vedder ends "Restoring the Promise" with a number of proposals with which I agree:
        --College administrative staff often exceeds the teaching staff. Vedder says, "I doubt there is a major campus in America where you couldn't eliminate very conservatively 10 percent of the administrative payroll (in dollar terms) without materially impacting academic performance."
        --Reevaluate academic tenure. Tenure is an employment benefit that has costs, and faculty members should be forced to make tradeoffs between it and other forms of university compensation.
        --Colleges of education, with their overall poor academic quality, are an embarrassment on most campuses and should be eliminated.
        --End speech codes on college campuses by using the University of Chicago Principles on free speech.
        --Require a core curriculum that incorporates civic and cultural literacy.
        --The most important measure of academic reforms is to make university governing boards independent and meaningful. In my opinion, most academic governing boards are little more than yes men for the president and provost.
        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

        When police charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with soliciting prostitution, the press said the police rescued sex slaves.
        "They were women who were from China, who were forced into sex slavery," said Trevor Noah on "The Daily Show."
        We're told this happens all the time.
        "Human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal business in the United States," says fashion model Kathy Ireland.
        It's bunk, says reporter Elizabeth Nolan Brown.
        In the Robert Kraft case, she points out, "They had all these big announcements at first saying they had busted up an international sex trafficking ring, implying these women weren't allowed to leave."
        But now prosecutors acknowledge that there was no trafficking. The women were willing sex workers.
        The police and the media got it wrong. That's typical. "Ninety-nine percent of the headlines are not true," says Brown in my latest video. "Sex trafficking and prostitution are sort of used interchangeably."
        What about the headlines that say police are "rescuing victims"?
        "By rescue they (mean) put them in jail and give them a criminal record," says Brown. "The victims are the sex workers ... getting harassed and locked up in cages by the cops."
        Politicians tell us that thousands of children are forced into the sex trade.
        "Three-hundred thousand American children are at risk!" said Rep. Ann Wagner on the floor of Congress.
        That 300,000 number comes from just one study, and that study's lead author, Richard Estes, has disavowed it.
        "The National Crimes Against Children Center says, 'Do not cite this study'!" says Brown. It's "total bull."
        Widely quoted bull.
        On TV, former prosecutor Wendy Murphy shouts, "Three-hundred thousand kids a year are raped, sex trafficked and pimped in this country!"
        "If that was the case, cops would be able to find this all the time," responds Brown. "Cops wouldn't have to go through these elaborate stings."
        Florida police spent months taking down the spa Robert Kraft visited.
        "They had Homeland Security involved," recounts Brown. "They were following these women around in the grocery stores, watching them buy condoms."
        I'd think cops would have better things to do with their time.
        "If this was really a situation where these women were being forced and sexually assaulted multiple times a day, the cops just let it happen for months on end?" asks Brown.
        She covered a case in Seattle where the local sheriff, at a news conference, said he'd rescued sex slaves.
        But when Brown spoke to the sheriff later, "he ended up saying, 'Well, you know, maybe they weren't being forced by whatever, but we're all trafficked by something and there was money involved.' Then by the end of the investigation they were like, 'Well, I mean, they were pressured because they didn't know a lot of people and they wanted to make money'."
        One former sex worker says the moral panic over prostitution is a "combination of the conservative fetish for going after people for doing 'sex stuff' and the liberal instinct to help a group of people that they can't be bothered to understand."
        That includes the celebrities who perpetuate the myth that sex slavery is rampant.
        "You can go online and buy a child for sex. It's as easy as ordering a pizza," says Amy Schumer.
        "Thousands of children are raped every day!" says comedian Seth Meyers.
        Actor Ashton Kutcher even promotes an app that he claims rescues victims. He told Congress, "We have identified over 6,000 trafficking victims this year."
        Really? Where are they? Kutcher's representatives did not respond to our repeated emails.
        "If Ashton Kutcher is finding all those victims, he's not turning them over to police," said Brown.
        Sex slavery is evil. Authorities should do everything they can to stop it. But there is a big difference between slavery and sex work done by consenting adults.
        "When we have these exaggerated numbers," says Brown, "it forces people into this crazy emergency moral panic mode that ends up not helping the actual problem that we have."
        Periodic crackdowns on prostitution don't help either.
        "They want this imaginary world where you take away a safer option for these women," says Brown, and then "the oldest profession, as they call it, will magically stop. But that's not going to happen."
        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

       "I'm not going to let them bully me out of reporting," said Tim Pool after recording an Antifa protest where angry activists cursed at him. There might have been violence, but Antifa's "de-escalation team" protected him, he says.
        That surprised me. "Antifa has a de-escalation team?" I ask Pool in my latest internet video.
        "They have people who try and make sure nobody from their side starts it -- because cameras are rolling," he answered.
        Pool is part of the new media that now cover stories the mainstream media often miss.
        I've become part of that new media, too. I still work at Fox, but now most of my video views (117 million plus) come from short videos I post on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
        Pool considers himself a man of the left. He supported Bernie Sanders and once worked for Vice. But now he often finds himself criticizing his fellow leftists.
        "This really strange faction of people on the left are saying ridiculous things," he says. "They're helping Donald Trump."
        Trump probably does gain support when people watch street protests turn violent.
        "Look at this protest in Portland," recounts Pool. "A Bernie Sanders supporter showed up with an American flag -- to protest fascists. What did Antifa do? Crack him over the head with a club."
        Pool won new followers with his coverage of the Washington, D.C., conflict between a Native American protestor and Covington, Kentucky, high school teens wearing Trump hats, including one who looked like he was smirking.
        "All these big news outlets, even The Washington Post, CNN, they immediately made the assumption 'He must be a racist sneering at this Native American man'," says Pool. "I didn't make that assumption... I just see a guy banging a drum and a kid with a weird look on his face."
        Pool and Reason TV's Robby Soave were the rare journalists who bothered to examine more of the videos.
        "The initial narrative that we heard from the activists was that this kid got in this man's face... It's actually the other way around," Pool said. "No one else watched the video."
        No one? Major news outlets said the student was racist without ever examining the full video?
        "Here's what happens," Pool explains. "One left-wing journalist says, 'Look at this racist!' His buddy sees it and says, 'Wow, look at this racist.' And that's a big ol' circular game of telephone where no one actually does any fact-checking. Then The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN all publish the same fake story."
        Although Pool made those big-name outlets look like irresponsible amateurs, he doesn't have a journalism degree. In fact, he didn't even finish high school. He dropped out of school and just started videotaping what interested him, funding his videos with ads and donations from viewers.
        "I want to know why things are happening. Some people don't trust the media. I don't know who to believe. Why don't I just go there and see for myself?"
        That's brought him more than a million internet subscribers.
        It's also made him an advocate for free speech.
        "When I was growing up, it was the religious conservatives that had the moral panic about music and swear words. But today the moral panic is coming from the left. Today, the left shows up with torches and burns free speech signs."
        I'm glad there are young journalists like Pool, who still value open debate.
        Actually, we have lots of new media options today.
        Joe Rogan's podcast covers viewpoints from all sides. He has won a huge audience.
        Dave Rubin reports on YouTube from a classical liberal perspective.
        Naomi Brockwell covers how tech is changing the world.
        On the right, Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder and Candace Owens irreverently critique my New York City neighbors' sacred cows.
        On the left, Sam Harris has attracted a big podcast following by discussing all kinds of ideas, and Jimmy Dore takes a principled left-wing stand.
        I don't agree with all those new media people. I very much disagree with some of them. But I'm glad they are out there, giving us more choice.
        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

        Last week's column discussed Dr. Thomas Sowell's newest book "Discrimination and Disparities," which is an enlarged and revised edition of an earlier version. In this review, I am going to focus on one of his richest chapters titled "Social Visions and Human Consequences." Sowell challenges the seemingly invincible fallacy "that group outcomes in human endeavors would tend to be equal, or at least comparable or random, if there were no biased interventions, on the one hand, nor genetic deficiencies, on the other." But disparate impact statistics carries the day among academicians, lawyers and courts as evidence of discrimination.
        Sowell gives the example of blacks, who make up close to 70 percent of NFL and AFL players in professional football. Blacks are greatly overrepresented among star players but almost nonexistent among field goal kickers and punters. Probably the only reason why lawsuits are not brought against team owners is that the same people hire running backs and field goal kickers. One wonders whether anyone has considered the possibility that professional black players do not want to be punters and field goal kickers?
        Different social classes raise their children differently. Studies have shown that children whose parents are professional heard more words per hour than children whose families are on welfare. Studies show that professional parents used "more words and more different words ... more multiclause sentences, more past and future verb tenses. ... The ratio of affirmative words to negative words was six to one with parents who had professional occupation." By contrast, families on welfare used discouraging words more than two to one: words such as "Don't," "Stop," "Quit," and "Shut up." Sowell sarcastically asks are we to believe that children raised in such different ways, many years before they reach an employer, a college admissions office or crime scene are the same in capabilities, orientation and limitations?
        Social justice warriors ignore many differences that have little or nothing to do with discrimination but have an enormous impact on outcomes. Age is one of those factors. Median age differences between groups, sometimes of a decade or two will have an enormous impact on observed group outcomes. The median age for American Jews is slightly over 50 years old and that of Latinos is 28. Just on median age alone, would one be surprised at significant group income disparity and other differences related to age?
        Sowell says that a single inconspicuous difference in circumstance can make a huge historical difference in human outcomes. During the 1840s, Ireland experienced a potato famine. Potatoes were the principle food of the Irish. That famine led to the deaths of a million people and caused 2 million to flee. The same variety of potato that was grown in Ireland was also grown in the U.S. with no crop failure. The source of Ireland's crop failure has been traced to a fertilizer used on both sides of the Atlantic. The difference was that fertilizer contained a fungus that thrived in the mild and moist climate of Ireland but did not in the hot, dry climate of Idaho and other potato growing areas of the U.S. That one small difference caused massive human tragedy.
        A study of National Merit Scholarship finalists found that firstborn children were finalists far more often than their younger siblings. In the U.S. and other countries such as Britain and Germany, the firstborn's IQs were higher than their siblings. Among medical students, a high proportion are firstborn. Sowell asks that if equality of outcomes don't exist among people with the same parents, raised in the same household, why would one expect equality of outcomes elsewhere?
        Morally neutral factors such as crop failures, birth order, geographic setting, and demographic or cultural differences are among the reasons why economic and social outcomes fail to fit the preconceived notions of "experts."
        The bottom line about Sowell's new book, "Discrimination and Disparities," is that it contains a wealth of data and analysis that turns much of the thinking of politicians, academicians, legal experts and judges into pure, unadulterated mush.
        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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