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by John Stossel

    Happy Fourth of July!
    We have reason to celebrate.
    The Fourth honors the founding of America. It's the anniversary of the day in 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was approved.
    The Declaration was important.
    It didn't say that America would be the best country because it would have the biggest military, toughest leaders, most government giveaways or tightest borders.
    The great innovation that day in Philadelphia was the declaration that the United States would have a limited government, rooted in the idea that every individual has inalienable rights.
    In other words, we do not get our rights from government. They already exist. The government's job is to protect our rights.
    It's a good thing to say out loud while watching the fireworks with your family.
    The world took notice when American colonists told their king: "Bug off. We will trade with you and respect your borders, but no longer will we allow you to rule us." Revolutions in France and elsewhere took their cues from America.
    It was America's emphasis on limited government -- wanting to make sure no one in government would ever again wield power like that of the British king -- that made our revolution the greatest and most lasting success of recent centuries.
    Other countries replaced kings and aristocrats with new forms of bureaucracy and tyranny.
    France created revolutionary committees that murdered dissenters. Russia replaced its czar with a communist police state that confiscated farms, killing millions.
    The U.S. government, by comparison at least, remained humble. It mostly allowed citizens to forge their own destinies and choose where to live, what professions to pursue and what to say and publish, gradually expanding those freedoms to more Americans, not just the white men who were in that room in Philadelphia in 1776.
    That freedom to innovate and live as one chooses made us the most prosperous nation on earth.
    Let's celebrate that.
    The founders had a joyful optimism: Let individuals be free to trade and travel, and they'll take from the best of the world and make something even better.
    The optimism was rewarded. We outlasted European fascism and communism and now have better, healthier and more interesting lives than anyone anywhere ever.
    Yet there is a pessimistic, ugly streak in current politics, both left and right.
    Many Americans now want to create a nation built on very different principles than the ones that made us a success.
    The crowd at the Democratic presidential debates cheered socialist promises - government-run health care, free college, etc. They are eager to replace individualism and markets with government central planning.
    Many sound as if they think the American experiment is an embarrassment.
    Some Republicans, meanwhile, act as if nationalist pride is an end unto itself.
    President Donald Trump talks as if the key to our success is not spreading the idea of liberty but keeping the rest of the world away from the U.S.
    Today's nationalists and populists don't want to leave Americans free to engage in trade with whomever we choose. They do not want people to immigrate and emigrate freely. Some even want government to police speech.
    This Fourth, instead of toasting the Declaration of Independence and individual liberty, some Americans will push for socialism -- and others will demand Trump throw out all immigrants.
    Those ideas rely upon force -- getting everyone to go along with one big plan.
    No matter how great that plan sounds, though, if it is imposed by government, it inevitably overrides the 330 million individual plans that Americans make for themselves, and it overrides them with taxes, regulations, fines, guns and arrests.
    But it wasn't force that made America great. It was freedom.
    America happened -- and continues to happen -- spontaneously, when its leaders are smart enough to just stay out of our way.
    America will do best if we remember that the Declaration of Independence talks about "limited" government and reminds us that every individual has inalienable rights.
    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

    Several Democratic presidential hopefuls are calling for Americans to make reparations for slavery. On June 19, the House judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties held a hearing. Its stated purpose was "to examine, through open and constructive discourse, the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice."
    Slavery was a gross violation of human rights. Justice demands that all participants in the trans-Atlantic slave trade make compensatory reparation payments to slaves. However, there is no way that Europeans could have captured millions of Africans. That means compensation would have to be paid by Africans and Arabs who captured and sold slaves to Europeans in addition to the people who bought and used slaves. Since slaves and slave traders and owners are no longer with us, compensation is beyond our reach and it's a matter that will have to be settled in hell or heaven.
    Let's pretend for a moment that the reparations issue makes a modicum of sense. There's the question of responsibility. More explicitly, should we compensate a black person of today by punishing a white person of today, by taking his money, for what a white person of yesteryear did to a black person of yesteryear? If we believe in individual accountability, we should find that doing so is unjust. In other words, are the tens millions of Europeans, Asian and Latin Americans who immigrated to the U.S. in the late 19th and 20th centuries responsible for slavery, and should they be forced to cough up reparations? What about descendants of Northern whites who fought and died in the name of freeing slaves? Should they pay reparations to black Americans? What about non-slave-owning Southern whites -- who were a majority of Southern whites -- should their descendants be made to pay reparations?
    Reparations advocates make the unchallenged pronouncement that United States became rich on the backs of free black labor. That's utter nonsense. While some slave owners became rich, slavery doesn't have a good record of producing wealth. Slavery existed in the southern states and outlawed in most of the northern states. Buying into the reparations argument suggests that the antebellum South was rich and the slave-starved North was poor. The truth is just the opposite. In fact, the poorest states and regions of our country were places where slavery flourished: Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. And the richest states and regions were those where slavery was absent: Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.
    The reparations movement would be an amusing sideshow were it not for its damaging distractions. It grossly misallocates resources that could be better spent elsewhere. According to the state Department of Education, 75% of black California boys cannot meet state reading standards. In 2016, in 13 of Baltimore's 39 high schools, not a single student scored proficient on the state's mathematics exam. In six other high schools, only 1% tested proficient in math. The same story of low education outcomes can be told about most cities with large black populations. I'd like to see lawyers bring class-action suits against public school systems in cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Detroit and Los Angeles for conferring fraudulent high school diplomas. Such diplomas attest a 12th-grade level of academic achievement when in fact those youngsters often cannot perform at sixth- or seventh-grade levels.
    The nation's most dangerous big cities are Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis, Memphis, Stockton, Birmingham, Baltimore, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago and Milwaukee. The common characteristic of most of these cities is that they have predominantly black populations and blacks have considerable political power as mayors, city councilmen and chiefs of police. Energy spent on reparations should be used to solve those problems.
    As of 2014, U.S. taxpayers have spent $22 trillion on Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty (in constant 2012 dollars). Adjusting for inflation, that's three times more than was spent on all military wars since the American Revolution. If money alone were the answer, the many issues facing a large segment of the black community would have been solved.
    There's another possible reparations issue completely ignored: Blacks as well as whites live on land taken, sometimes brutally, from American Indians. Do blacks and whites owe American Indians anything?
    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

       So many people want to be president. Unfortunately, many have terrible ideas.
        Sen. Kamala Harris wants companies to prove they pay men and women equally. "Penalties if they don't!" she shouts. But there are lots of reasons, other than sexism, why companies pay some men more than women.
        Harris also wants government to "hold social media platforms accountable for the hate infiltrating their platforms." But "holding them accountable" means censorship. If politicians get to censor media, they'll censor anyone who criticizes (SET ITAL)them(END ITAL).
        Sen. Bernie Sanders wants the post office to offer banking services. The post office? It already loses billions of dollars despite its monopoly on delivering mail. Sanders also wants to increase our national debt by forgiving $1.6 trillion in student loan debt.
        He wants to ban for-profit charter schools and freeze funding for nonprofit charters. That's great news for some government-school bureaucrats and teachers unions that don't want to compete but bad news for kids who flourish in charters when government schools fail.
        Sen. Cory Booker once sounded better about charters, saying, "When people tell me they're against school choice ... or charter schools, I say, 'As soon as you're willing to send your kid to a failing school in my city ... then I'll be with you.'"
        Unfortunately, now that Booker is a presidential candidate, he says little about school choice. He also wants government to guarantee people's jobs and to pay more Americans' rent.
        Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to force everyone to buy fertility treatment insurance.
        Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to impose a wealth tax on very rich people. That would certainly benefit accountants and tax lawyers while inspiring rich people to hide more assets instead of putting them to work.
        Warren also wants to ban all oil and gas drilling on federal land, have government decide who sits on corporate boards and make college free.
        The Democrat who leads the betting odds, former Vice President Joe Biden, also says, "College should be free!"
        Free? Colleges have already jacked up their prices much faster than inflation because taxpayers subsidize too much of college. Biden and Warren would make that problem worse.
        The Republican incumbent has bad ideas, too: President Donald Trump imposes tariffs that are really new taxes that American consumers must pay. Trump says tariffs are needed because our "trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars. (That means) we lost $800 billion!"
        But it doesn't mean that, Mr. President. A "trade deficit" just means foreigners sent us $800 billion more goods than we sent them.
        We got their products, and in return they only got American currency, which they'll end up investing in the U.S. That's good for us. It's not a problem.
        Luckily, the president has good ideas, too. He says he wants to shrink the code of federal regulations back to its 1960 size. It would be great if he actually did it. Trump slowing the growth of regulation is one of the best parts of his presidency.
        Some Democratic candidates have sensible ideas, too.
        Cory Booker proposed legalizing marijuana.
        Mayor Pete Buttigieg criticizes his opponents for their "college for all" freebie, saying, "I have a hard time getting my head around the idea that a majority who earn less because they didn't go to college would subsidize a minority who earn more."
        And all candidates could learn from Hawaii's Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who served in Iraq.
        "I know the cost of war!" she says. "I will end the regime change wars -- taking the money that we've been wasting on these wars and weapons and investing it in serving the needs of our people."
        Sadly, she wouldn't give that money back to the people. She'd spend it on other big-government programs.
        Politicians always have ideas other than letting you keep your money.
        I bet we'll hear other bad ideas this week when 20 of the Democratic candidates debate.
        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

      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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