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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. 

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by Walter E. Williams

    When you send your youngster off to college, you might not mind that they will have to walk on eggshells, respect taboos, snitch on fellow students for politically incorrect jokes and learn to use ad hominem arguments as a means to attack ideas they find "disagreeable." If that's your preference, you can choose from a wide variety of America's top-ranked colleges. If you want to send your youngster to colleges that are seriously committed to civil and diverse debate, pick up a copy of the June 2019 edition of Reason magazine for some guidance.
    Professors Debra Mashek and Jonathan Haidt authored "10 Colleges Where You Won't Have to Walk on Eggshells." Mashek and Haidt are, respectively, faculty members of Harvey Mudd College and New York University. Haidt is the co-founder of the Heterodox Academy and Mashek is its executive director. Heterodox Academy is nonpartisan and boasts a membership of more than 2,500 faculty and college administrators who advocate for open inquiry and civil disagreement on college campuses and in academic disciplines.
    The Mashek and Haidt article discusses 10 colleges in alphabetical order. Among them is Chapman University, whose president, Daniele Struppa, is "an outspoken advocate of academic freedom and freedom of speech." Struppa has little tolerance for the political correctness so prevalent at most of the nation's colleges.
    The University of Chicago has set the gold standard on free speech and open inquiry. In 2014, it created its "Statement on Principles of Free Expression" (aka the Chicago Principles). Those principles provide the framework for thinking about the importance of dissent as well as the role of the university for establishing the platform for debate. University of Chicago president Robert Zimmer says, "We have an obligation to see that the greatest variety of perspectives is brought to bear on issues before us as scholars and citizens." The Chicago Principles, or substantially similar ones, have been adopted by 55 schools across the nation. In June 2018, the University of Chicago received Heterodox Academy's Institutional Excellence Award in recognition of its stellar culture and support for open inquiry.
    Other colleges listed in the Mashek and Haidt article, where students won't have to walk on eggshells include Arizona State University, Claremont McKenna College, Kansas State University, Kenyon College, Linn-Benton Community College, St. John's College, University of Richmond and Purdue University. It's worth noting that Mitch Daniels is president of Purdue University and former two-term governor of the state of Indiana. Daniels and his interim provost Jay Akridge wrote this message to the Purdue community: "At Purdue, we protect and promote the right to free and open inquiry in all matters and guarantee all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen challenge and learn."
    In my opinion, it is truly a tragic state of affairs when free speech and free inquiry require protection at most institutions of higher learning. Indeed, it has been freedom in the marketplace of ideas that has made the United States, as well as other western nations, leaders in virtually every area of human endeavor. A monopoly of ideas is just as dangerous as a monopoly in other areas of our lives such as monopoly in political power and the production of goods and services.
    At the end of Professors Mashek's and Haidt's article, they come up with a few suggestions for parents. Visit the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education website to find out about a particular college's agenda to suppress free speech. By all means, check out the Heterodox Academy website. Search the college's website for terms such as "open inquiry," "freedom of expression" and "free speech." Examine the college's calendar of events to see whether speakers with diverse opinions are invited. Visit the campus. Talk with actual students about their experiences. In this article, Mashek and Haidt give specific questions to ask. I'd add to their list of things to do on a campus visit: Talk to the local police, bartenders and hospital people about the college. They might give you insights that an admissions officer would choose to keep hidden.
    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

    Both Republican and Democratic politicians want government to "do more" to give parents paid time off.
    "This is not a women's issue. It's a family issue," says Ivanka Trump.
    "Every worker in America should be guaranteed at least 12 weeks," says Sen. Bernie Sanders.
    "That's a very arbitrary number! Why not 14 weeks? Why not 26 weeks?" asks Independent Women's Forum analyst Patrice Onwuka. She opposes Sanders' plan, saying government one-size-fits-all policies don't meet most parents' needs.
    When Onwuka had a baby, IWF gave her six weeks off with pay. She wanted more time off, so she supplemented her maternity leave with vacation time and "personal days." In my newest video, she says she was glad "to be able to customize the time off."
    Of course, government programs are hard to customize. But that's where the U.S. is probably headed.
    "Just us and Papua New Guinea!" complains comedian John Oliver, sneering that those are the only two countries in the world that do not require paid time off.
    "It's disingenuous," responds Onwuka, pointing out that most American workers already get paid parental leave. "Seventeen percent," she says, and the number "jumps to 60, 70, 80 percent when you consider people have sick time off, overtime or all-encompassing personal time."
    In other words, companies and workers already are working this out -- voluntarily, without government telling them how they must handle it.
    "Paid leave is spreading," says Onwuka, and not just for high-earners. "Chipotle workers, CVS workers -- Walmart workers started to get paid leave."
    Why would CVS and Walmart provide this voluntarily?
    "For an employer to attract good talent or retain talent, they need to offer benefits that really resonate with workers. Paid maternity and paternity leave is one of those benefits."
    Arrogant politicians claim they must tell ignorant businesses what's good for them. President Obama and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand both claim mandated parental would be "good for business."
    But business owners know better what's good for business. Most, as Onwuka pointed out, offer paid time off, but not all do. Every business has different needs.
    In truth, mandated leave is not only bad for most businesses, it's bad for many women. That's because such mandates could make hiring a young woman a risk.
    "If an employer has a young woman of childbearing age in front of him, he's thinking, OK, I have to provide paid time off," Onwuka points out. He hires "another employee who's a male."
    Sure enough, in California, the first state to mandate leave, a study from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics found women of childbearing age were more likely to be unemployed.
    In Europe, lots of women work, but most work in lower-level positions -- probably because companies worry less about leaving those positions empty for months if the woman takes her government-dictated parental leave.
    "American women are more likely to be in senior-level positions, managerial positions, than women in Europe," says Onwuka. "Twice as likely. And it's very much tied to these mandates around paid leave."
    American politicians make it sound as if companies will face hardly any new costs if leave is mandated. "It's such a small amount of money -- the cost of a cup of coffee a week," says Gillibrand.
    "$1.61 a year," said Sanders, sounding even more optimistic.
    He probably meant to say "per month" and "spread over all employees" but even that's not true. In California, the estimated cost is already $12 a week. And government programs grow.
    Can't we just leave government out of it and let employers and employees work this out to meet individual needs?
    Apparently not, because now even "conservative" politicians want government to "do something."
    Senators Marco Rubio, Joni Ernst and Mike Lee propose that parents be allowed to tap into Social Security savings for childbearing expenses.
    But Social Security is fiscally unsustainable already. Allowing parents to take out money early will make that worse.
    At least the Republican plan wouldn't be mandatory. But give me a break -- can't we ever say something is not government's job?
    America's already $22 trillion in debt. We don't need another government program.
    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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