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by Walter E. Williams

    Hillary Clinton blamed the Electoral College for her stunning defeat in the 2016 presidential election in her latest memoirs, "What Happened?" Some have claimed that the Electoral College is one of the most dangerous institutions in American politics. Why? They say the Electoral College system, as opposed to a simple majority vote, distorts the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy because electoral votes are not distributed according to population.

    To back up their claim, they point out that the Electoral College gives, for example, Wyoming citizens disproportionate weight in a presidential election. Put another way, Wyoming, a state with a population of about 600,000, has one member in the U.S. House of Representatives and two members in the U.S. Senate, which gives the citizens of Wyoming three electoral votes, or one electoral vote per 200,000 people. California, our most populous state, has more than 39 million people and 55 electoral votes, or approximately one vote per 715,000 people. Comparatively, individuals in Wyoming have nearly four times the power in the Electoral College as Californians.

    Many people whine that using the Electoral College instead of the popular vote and majority rule is undemocratic. I'd say that they are absolutely right. Not deciding who will be the president by majority rule is not democracy. But the Founding Fathers went to great lengths to ensure that we were a republic and not a democracy. In fact, the word democracy does not appear in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution or any other of our founding documents.

    How about a few quotations expressed by the Founders about democracy? In Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison wanted to prevent rule by majority faction, saying, "Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority." John Adams warned in a letter, "Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide." Edmund Randolph said, "That in tracing these evils to their origin, every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy." Then-Chief Justice John Marshall observed, "Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos."

    The Founders expressed contempt for the tyranny of majority rule, and throughout our Constitution, they placed impediments to that tyranny. Two houses of Congress pose one obstacle to majority rule. That is, 51 senators can block the wishes of 435 representatives and 49 senators. The president can veto the wishes of 535 members of Congress. It takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress to override a presidential veto. To change the Constitution requires not a majority but a two-thirds vote of both houses, and if an amendment is approved, it requires ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures. Finally, the Electoral College is yet another measure that thwarts majority rule. It makes sure that the highly populated states -- today, mainly 12 on the East and West coasts, cannot run roughshod over the rest of the nation. That forces a presidential candidate to take into consideration the wishes of the other 38 states.

    Those Americans obsessed with rule by popular majorities might want to get rid of the U.S. Senate, where states, regardless of population, have two senators. Should we change representation in the House of Representatives to a system of proportional representation and eliminate the guarantee that each state gets at least one representative? Currently, seven states with populations of 1 million or fewer have one representative, thus giving them disproportionate influence in Congress. While we're at it, should we make all congressional acts be majority rule? When we're finished with establishing majority rule in Congress, should we then move to change our court system, which requires unanimity in jury decisions, to a simple majority rule?

    My question is: Is it ignorance of or contempt for our Constitution that fuels the movement to abolish the Electoral College?

    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

        Who will warn Americans about hate groups? The media know: the Southern Poverty Law Center.

        SPLC, based in Alabama, calls itself "the premier" group monitoring hate. Give us money, they say, and they will "fight the hate that thrives in our country."

        I once believed in the center's mission. Well-meaning people still do. Apple just gave them a million dollars. So did actor George Clooney.

        They shouldn't.

        Ayaan Hirsi Ali grew up in Somalia, where she suffered female genital mutilation. So now she speaks out against radical Islam. For that, SPLC put her on its list of dangerous "extremists."

        Maajid Nawaz was once an Islamic extremist. Then he started criticizing the radicals. SPLC labels him an "anti-Muslim extremist," too.

        While launching hateful smears like these, SPLC invites you to donate to them to "join the fight against hatred and bigotry."

        SPLC once fought useful fights. They took on the Ku Klux Klan. But now they go after people on the right with whom they disagree.

        They call the Family Research Council a hate group because it says gay men are more likely to sexually abuse children.

        That's their belief. There is some evidence that supports it. Do they belong on a "hate map," like the Ku Klux Klan, because they believe that evidence and worry about it?

        I often disagree with the council, but calling them a hate group is unfair. In my YouTube video this week, the group's vice president, Jerry Boykin, tells me, "I don't hate gay people. And I know gay people, and I have worked with gay people."

        But once you're labeled a hate group, you are a target.

        One man went to the Family Research Council headquarters to kill people, shooting a security guard in the arm before he was stopped.

        The shooter told investigators that he attacked the FRC because he found them on SPLC's hate list.

        Calling the council a "hate group" made its employees the target of real hate.

        SPLC also smears the Ruth Institute, a Christian group that believes gays should not have an equal right to adopt children. The institute's president, Jennifer Roback Morse, says they're not haters.

        "I like gay people. I have no problem with gay people. That's not the issue. The issue is, what are we doing with kids and the definition of who counts as a parent."

        The institute doesn't argue that gays should never adopt. "There could be cases where the best person for a particular child would be their Uncle Harry and his boyfriend," Morse told me. But the institute wants preference given to "a married mother and father."

        For that, SPLC put the Ruth Institute on its hate map. That led the institute's credit card processor to stop working with them. In a letter to the institute, the processor company said that it had learned that the "Ruth Institute ... promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse."

        "We went and checked our website," Morse told me, "and we were already down."

        I suspect SPLC labels lots of groups "haters" because crying "hate" brings in money.

        Years ago, Harper's Magazine reported that SPLC was "the wealthiest civil rights group in America, one that now spend most of its time -- and money -- on a fund-raising campaign." People in Montgomery, Alabama, where SPLC is based, call its elegant new headquarters "the Poverty Palace."

        "Morris Dees' salary is more than my entire annual budget," says Morse. "Whatever they're doing, it pays."

        Dees, SPLC's co-founder, promised to stop fundraising once his endowment hit $55 million. But when he reached $55 million, he upped the bar to $100 million, saying that would allow them "to cease costly fundraising."

        But again, when they reached $100 million, they didn't stop. Now they have $320 million -- a large chunk of which is kept in offshore accounts. Really. It's on their tax forms.

        In return for those donations to SPLC, the world gets a group that now lists people like Ben Carson and Fox commentators Laura Ingraham, Judge Andrew Napolitano and Jeanine Pirro as extremists -- but doesn't list the leftist militant hate groups known as antifa.

        SPLC is now a hate group itself. It's a money-grabbing slander machine.

        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

  A frequent point I have made in past columns has been about the educational travesty happening on many college campuses. Some people have labeled my observations and concerns as trivial, unimportant and cherry-picking. While the spring semester awaits us, let's ask ourselves whether we'd like to see repeats of last year's antics.
    An excellent source for college news is Campus Reform, a conservative website operated by the Leadership Institute (https://www.campusreform.org). Its reporters are college students. Here is a tiny sample of last year's bizarre stories.
    Donna Riley, a professor at Purdue University's School of Engineering Education, published an article in the most recent issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Engineering Education, positing that academic rigor is a "dirty deed" that upholds "white male heterosexual privilege." Riley added that "scientific knowledge itself is gendered, raced, and colonizing." Would you hire an engineering education graduate who has little mastery of the rigor of engineering? What does Riley's vision, if actually practiced by her colleagues, do to the worth of degrees in engineering education from Purdue held by female and black students?
    Sympathizing with Riley's vision is Rochelle Gutierrez, a math education professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In her recent book, she says the ability to solve algebra and geometry problems perpetuates "unearned privilege" among whites. Educators must be aware of the "politics that mathematics brings" in society. She thinks that "on many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness." After all, she adds, "who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White." What's worse is that the university's interim provost, John Wilkin, sanctioned her vision, telling Fox News that Gutierrez is an established and admired scholar who has been published in many peer-reviewed publications. I hope that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's black students don't have the same admiration and stay away from her classes.
    Last February, a California State University, Fullerton professor assaulted a CSUF Republicans member during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration. The students identified the assailant as Eric Canin, an anthropology professor. Fortunately, the school had the good sense to later suspend Canin after confirming the allegations through an internal investigation.
    Last month, the presidents of 13 San Antonio colleges declared in an op-ed written by Ric Baser, president of the Higher Education Council of San Antonio, and signed by San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and 12 other members of the HECSA that "hate speech" and "inappropriate messages" should not be treated as free speech on college campuses. Their vision should be seen as tyranny. The true test of one's commitment to free speech doesn't come when he permits people to be free to make statements that he does not find offensive. The true test of one's commitment to free speech comes when he permits people to make statements he does deem offensive.
    Last year, University of Georgia professor Rick Watson adopted a policy allowing students to select their own grade if they "feel unduly stressed" by their actual grade in the class. Benjamin Ayers, dean of the school's Terry College of Business, released a statement condemning Watson's pick-your-own-grade policy, calling it "inappropriate." He added: "Rest assured that this ill-advised proposal will not be implemented in any Terry classroom. The University of Georgia upholds strict guidelines and academic policies to promote a culture of academic rigor, integrity, and honesty." Ayers' response gives us hope that not all is lost in terms of academic honesty.
    Other campus good news is a report on the resignation of George Ciccariello-Maher, a white Drexel University professor who tweeted last winter, "All I Want For Christmas is White Genocide." He said that he resigned from his tenured position because threats against him and his family had become "unsustainable." If conservative students made such threats, they, too, could benefit from learning the principles of free speech.
    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

Store owner Kamal Saleh was just hit with thousands of dollars in fines.
    His crime? He sold three cigars for $8.89. "Too cheap!" say New York City bureaucrats. "The cigars should have cost 11 cents more."
    Politicians want you to spend more for tobacco.
    They decided this after anti-smoking crusader Dr. Kurt Ribisl told the Centers for Disease Control, "Higher prices will deter children from smoking."
    A pit of socialist micromanagers called the New York City Council quickly embraced the idea. "It's also being considered very seriously in a number of jurisdictions in California," Ribisl told me.
    When health totalitarians make suggestions, leftist politicians jump.
    Ribisl also told the CDC, "Very cheap (tobacco) products should no longer be available." So for my YouTube video this week, I asked him, "Why do you get to decide?!"
    "No, I'm not deciding," he insisted. "I'm a person who studies these policies. I'll let the policymakers decide."
    OK, I sighed, "Why do the politicians get to decide?"
    "Cigarettes are the most lethal product ever introduced," he replied.
    That may be true, although few people realize that half the people who smoke do not die from tobacco-related illness.
    Fatty foods, swimming pools and cars also kill lots of people. Maybe the health police will raise their prices next.
    But so far, it's just tobacco. At Ribisl's urging, New York City adopted price floors and taxes to bring the price of a pack of cigarettes to $13 a pack.
    "People still have the ability to buy it, if they so choose," he said.
    "Just not poor people," I told him. "You're screwing poor people."
    "We see much higher smoking rates among poor people," answered Ribisl. "We need policies that are going to reduce tobacco use among poor people."
    I think all people should get to decide for themselves, but Ribisl wants to engineer "a transition toward thinking more about healthy food and beverage."
    At the CDC, Ribisl suggested that it should also be government policy to "reduce the number of tobacco stores."
    That seems cruel to store owners like Kamal Saleh, but Ribisl said, "We're not interested in putting stores out of business ... They're going to find new products to sell."
    Really? How does he know?
    New York already has a blizzard of regulations that put little stores out of business.
    Tobacco sales regulations alone go on for 47 pages -- confusing pages filled with fine print like: "the price floor for any package of cigars that contains more than one cigar and that has been delivered to a retail dealer in a package described by subdivision a of section 17-704 shall be computed by multiplying the number of cigars in the package by $1.75 and adding $6.25 to the total."
    The 47 pages are just for tobacco sales. "For food, refrigeration, deliveries and everything else, the administrative code could be thousands of pages," says lawyer Andrew Tilem.
    Tilem defends store owners who get fined. Many can barely afford to pay him. Sometimes they pay in "fish and paper plates and tortillas." Those who can't afford to hire a lawyer may just go out of business.
    City Council meddlers, who often complain about "big business," don't notice that their own rules make the big businesses bigger.
    "The big guy can hire lawyers," says Tilem. "It's the little guy who's trying to pinch his pennies and make a dollar that has the biggest problem."
    Playing devil's advocate, I tell him, the government just wants to protect people's health.
    "I'm not a smoking advocate," Tilem replied, "but I think in this country ... people have the right to do the wrong thing."
    We should.
    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 a nation of 325 million people. We have a bit of control over the behavior of our 535 elected representatives in Congress, the president and the vice president. But there are seven unelected people who have life-and-death control over our economy and hence our lives -- the seven governors of the Federal Reserve Board. The Federal Reserve Board controls our money supply. Its governors are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate and serve 14-year staggered terms. They have the power to cripple an economy, as they did during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Their inept monetary policy threw the economy into the Great Depression, during which real output in the United States fell nearly 30 percent and the unemployment rate soared as high as nearly 25 percent.
        The most often stated cause of the Great Depression is the October 1929 stock market crash. Little is further from the truth. The Great Depression was caused by a massive government failure led by the Federal Reserve's rapid 25 percent contraction of the money supply. The next government failure was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which increased U.S. tariffs by more than 50 percent. Those failures were compounded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation. Leftists love to praise New Deal interventionist legislation. But FDR's very own treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, saw the folly of the New Deal, writing: "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. ... We have never made good on our promises. ... I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... and an enormous debt to boot!" The bottom line is that the Federal Reserve Board, the Smoot-Hawle!
 y tariffs and Roosevelt's New Deal policies turned what would have been a two, three- or four-year sharp downturn into a 16-year affair.
        Here's my question never asked about the Federal Reserve Act of 1913: How much sense does it make for us to give seven unelected people life-and-death control over our economy and hence our lives?
        While you're pondering that question, consider another: Should we give the government, through the Federal Communications Commission, control over the internet? During the Clinton administration, along with the help of a Republican-dominated Congress, the visionary 1996 Telecommunications Act declared it "the policy of the United States" that internet service providers and websites be "unfettered by Federal or State regulation." The act sought "to promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies."
        In 2015, the Obama White House pressured the FCC to create the Open Internet Order, which has been branded by its advocates as net neutrality. This move overthrew the spirit of the Telecommunications Act. It represents creeping FCC jurisdiction, as its traditional areas of regulation -- such as broadcast media and telecommunications -- have been transformed by the internet, or at least diminished in importance. Fortunately, it's being challenged by the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, who has announced he will repeal the FCC's heavy-handed 2015 internet regulations.
        The United States has been the world leader in the development of internet technology precisely because it has been relatively unfettered by federal and state regulation. The best thing that the U.S. Congress can do for internet entrepreneurs and internet consumers is to send the FCC out to pasture as it did with the Civil Aeronautics Board, which regulated the airline industry, and the Interstate Commerce Commission, which regulated the trucking industry. When we got rid of those regulatory agencies, we saw a greater number of competitors, and consumers paid lower prices. Giving the FCC the same medicine would allow our high-tech industry to maintain its world leadership position.
        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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