User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
by Walter E. Williams

For the most part, people share common goals. Most of us want poor people to enjoy higher standards of living, greater traffic safety, more world peace, greater racial harmony, cleaner air and water, and less crime. Despite the fact that people have common goals, we often see them grouped into contentious factions, fighting tooth and nail to promote polar opposite government policies in the name of achieving a commonly held goal. The conflict is centered around the means to achieve goals rather than the goals themselves. The policies that become law often have the unintended consequence of sabotaging the achievement of the stated goal.

Let's look at a policy pushed by advocacy groups, politicians and poorly trained, perhaps dishonest, economists -- mandated increases in the minimum wage. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman claimed in a 2014 interview with Business Insider that there is actually not much risk of significantly higher wages hurting workers. He argued that low-wage workers are in non-tradable industries for which production cannot be moved overseas and are in industries in which labor cannot be easily replaced by technology. Krugman's vision is one that my George Mason University colleagues and I try to correct.

Those who argue that the price of something can be raised without people having a response to it have what economists call a zero-elasticity vision of the world. For them, labor prices can rise and employers will employ just as much labor after the price increase as before. There is no evidence anywhere that people have no response to the change in price of anything. Plus, the longer a price change remains in effect the greater the response to it.

Let's examine Krugman's assertion that low-skilled labor cannot be easily replaced by technology. Momentum Machines has built a robot that can "slice toppings like tomatoes and pickles immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible." The robot is "more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce about 360 hamburgers per hour." Let's Pizza is a pizza-making vending machine from Europe that can make four different kinds of pizza in about 2 1/2 minutes.

Kay S. Hymowitz's recent article "The Mother of All Disruptions," in a special issue of City Journal, gives numerous examples of jobs loss through technology. According to The New York Times, 89,000 workers in general merchandise lost their jobs between the beginning of November 2016 and the end of March. And it's not just the U.S. where robots are replacing labor. Foxconn's iPhone-making facility in China has replaced 60,000 workers with robots.

The economic phenomenon that people who call for higher minimum wages ignore is that when the price of anything rises, people seek substitutes. We see it with anything. When the price of oil rose, people sought ways to use less of it through purchasing more insulation for their homes and fuel-efficient cars. When the price of beef rose, people sought cheaper substitutes such as pork and chicken. The substitution effect of price changes is omnipresent, but do-gooders and politicians seem to suggest that labor markets are an exception. It's bad enough when do-gooders and politicians have that vision, but it is utterly disgusting and inexcusable for a trained economist to buy into that zero-elasticity vision.

It's not just Krugman. On the eve of the 2007 minimum wage increase, 650 of my fellow economists, including a couple of Nobel laureates, signed a petition that read, "We believe that a modest increase in the minimum wage would improve the well-being of low-wage workers and would not have the adverse effects that critics have claimed." At the time, I wrote that I felt professional embarrassment for them; however, I felt proud that not a single member of our distinguished George Mason University economic faculty signed the petition.

Convincing people of how the world really works in hopes of promoting more humane policies requires examination and falsification of false visions and premises. That's a tough job with little prospect for completion.

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.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
by Walter E. Williams

Here's part of President Donald Trump's speech in Poland: "The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?"

After this speech, which was warmly received by Poles, the president encountered predictable criticism. Most of the criticism reflected gross ignorance and dishonesty.

One example of that ignorance was penned in the Atlantic magazine by Peter Beinart, a contributing editor and associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York. Beinart said, "Donald Trump referred 10 times to 'the West' and five times to 'our civilization.' His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means." He added, "The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white."

Intellectual elites argue that different cultures and their values are morally equivalent. That's ludicrous. Western culture and values are superior to all others. I have a few questions for those who'd claim that such a statement is untrue or smacks of racism and Eurocentrism. Is forcible female genital mutilation, as practiced in nearly 30 sub-Saharan African and Middle Eastern countries, a morally equivalent cultural value? Slavery is practiced in Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan; is it morally equivalent? In most of the Middle East, there are numerous limitations placed on women, such as prohibitions on driving, employment and education. Under Islamic law, in some countries, female adulterers face death by stoning. Thieves face the punishment of having their hands severed. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in some countries. Are these cultural values morally equivalent, superior or inferior to Western values?

During his speech, Trump asked several vital questions. "Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?" There's no question that the West has the military might to protect itself. The question is whether we have the intelligence to recognize the attack and the will to defend ourselves from annihilation.

Much of the Muslim world is at war with Western civilization. Islamists' use multiculturalism as a foot in the door to attack Western and Christian values from the inside. Much of that attack has its roots on college campuses among the intellectual elite who indoctrinate our youth. Multiculturalism has not yet done the damage in the U.S. that it has in Western European countries -- such as England, France and Germany -- but it's on its way.

My colleague Dr. Thomas Sowell reveals some of the problem. He says, "Those in the Islamic world have for centuries been taught to regard themselves as far superior to the 'infidels' of the West, while everything they see with their own eyes now tells them otherwise." Sowell adds, "Nowhere have whole peoples seen their situation reversed more visibly or more painfully than the peoples of the Islamic world." Few people, such as Persians and Arabs, once at the top of civilization, accept their reversals of fortune gracefully. Moreover, they don't blame themselves and their culture. They blame the West.

By the way, one need not be a Westerner to hold Western values. One just has to accept the sanctity of the individual above all else.

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.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
by John Stossel

Did you see the $2 million dollar bathroom? That's what New York City government spent to build a "comfort station" in a park.    I went to look at it.

There were no gold-plated fixtures. It's just a little building with four toilets and four sinks.

I asked park users, "What do you think that new bathroom cost?"

A few said $70,000. One said $100,000. One said, "I could build it for $10,000."

They were shocked when I told them what the city spent.

No park bathroom needs to cost $2 million. An entire six-bedroom house nearby was for sale for $539,000.

Everything costs more when government builds it.
    "Government always pays above-average prices for below-average work," says my friend who makes a living privatizing government activities.
    --Obamacare's website was supposed to cost $464 million.? ?It cost $834 million and still crashed.
    --Washington, D.C.'s Visitor Center rose in cost from $265 million to $621 million.
    --The Veterans Affairs medical center being built near Denver was projected to cost $590 million. Now they estimate $1.7 billion.

Government spends more because every decision is tied up in endless rules. Rigid specs. Affirmative action. Minority outreach. Wheelchair access. "The process is designed to prevent any human from using judgment, or adapting to unforeseen circumstances," says Philip Howard of the government reform group Common Good, adding, "The idea of a commercial relationship, based on norms of reasonableness and reciprocity, is anathema."

But New York City's bureaucrats are unapologetic about their $2 million toilet. The Parks Department even put out a statement saying, "Our current estimate to build a new comfort station with minimal site work is $3 million."

$3 million?!" I said to New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, incredulously.

"New York City is the most expensive place to build," he replied. As a result, "$2 million was a good deal."

I pointed out that entire homes sell for less. He said, "We built these comfort stations to last. ... (L)ook at the material we use compared to that of a home. These are very, very durable materials."

They have to be, he says, because the bathroom gets so much use. "We're going to expect thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of visitors. ... So we have to build it to last."

Yet not far away, Bryant Park has a bathroom that gets much more use. That bathroom cost just $300,000. Why the difference?

Bryant Park is privately managed.

New York politicians also order contractors to pay "prevailing" wages. That usually means union wages, and that adds 13-25 percent to all bills.

When I asked Commissioner Silver about that, he said, "This is a city that does believe strongly in labor."

New York Democrats act as if "labor" means union labor. It's an insult to laborers. Most don't belong to unions. Unions, however, fund Democrats' campaigns.

Since government spends other people's money, they don't care that much about cost and they certainly don't care much about speed. Many Parks Department projects are years behind schedule.

Commissioner Silver says he's made improvements. "We've now saved five months out of what used to be four years."

"That's still terrible!" I said.

"We believe strongly in engaging the public," he replied. "We have a process that includes design, procurement and construction."

But so does the private sector, which gets the job done faster.

Silver added: "[Privately managed] Bryant Park did a renovation. ... (W)e do it from the ground up!"

But no one forced the city to build from the ground up. Anyway, renovation can cost as much as new construction. Governments just spend more.

Sometimes, people get so fed up that they take matters into their own hands.

Toronto's government estimated that a tiny staircase for a park would cost $65,000-$150,000.

So a local citizen installed a staircase himself.

Cost? $550.

Did the bureaucrats thank him? No. They say they will tear his staircase down. Can't have private citizens doing things for themselves. Update: The private stairs have been torn down, and the city says it will replace them for $10,000.

Because private builders save so much money on staircases and bathrooms, imagine what we could save if government turned construction of government housing, airports and roads over to the private sector.

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.
COPYRIGHT 2017 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

We need to sell more rhino horns, quickly.

by John Stossel



That may be the only way to save rhinos from extinction. Today, rhinos vanish because poachers kill them for their horns. Businesses turn their horns into ornaments or quack health potions.

Some horns sell for $300,000. No wonder poachers risk their lives for one. How do you fight an incentive that strong?

Flood the market!

That's a solution suggested by Matthew Markus.

Markus's biotech company can make artificial rhino horn in a laboratory that's virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

Put enough of that lab-grown horn on the market and supply and demand will bring the price way down.

Then poachers won't risk getting killed trying to steal real rhino horn.

"One way to devalue something is to create a lot of it," said Markus. "When things are abundant, people don't kill."

South Africa tried a mild version of this solution once. For 20 years, they made it legal to own rhinos and sell their horns.

Poaching dropped because legal rhino farming took away the poachers' incentive. Rhino farmers bred rhinos and protected them. Once in a while, they'd put rhinos to sleep with tranquilizer darts and saw off their horns. The horns grow back. The rhino population quadrupled.

Win-win.

But animal welfare activists are never happy with any solution that involves profiting from nature. South Africa banned sales of rhino horn again. Poaching rose 9,000 percent from 2007 to 2014, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Now South Africa is considering legalization again, but they will have to fight the NGOs.

Some, like Humane Society International, even oppose sale of that artificial horn. They asked the U.S. government to block a shipment of a sample of rhino DNA that might have created better artificial horn.

I confronted the Humane Society's spokeswoman about that. Our interview will be one of the first videos for my new project: "Stossel on Reason." I will post videos weekly on Facebook, Twitter and Reason TV. We start this week.

In this first story, the Humane Society's Masha Kalinina passionately argues against re-legalizing rhino farming and the sale of artificial horn.

"This is dangerous! Absolutely dangerous for rhinos and their survival," she says. "This is greenwashing an illegal activity. ... The problem is that people still see animals as commodities, natural resources for their use!"

Yes. And why is that a problem? I eat eggs and chicken, and I drink milk. More chickens and cows are alive because people like me pay for them or what they produce.

Kalinina replied: "Are we really going to farm every single animal on this planet so we can continue endlessly supplying this bloodlust and thirst of people to consume wildlife products?"

Give me a break. Farming isn't "bloodlust."

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
by Walter E. Williams

Too many people believe that slavery is a "peculiar institution." That's what Kenneth Stampp called slavery in his book, "Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South." But slavery is by no means peculiar, odd or unusual. It was common among ancient peoples such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Greeks, Persians, Armenians and many others. Large numbers of Christians were enslaved during the Ottoman wars in Europe. White slaves were common in Europe from the Dark Ages to the Middle Ages. It was only after A.D. 1600 that Europeans joined with Arabs and Africans and started the Atlantic slave trade. As David P. Forsythe wrote in his book, "The Globalist," "The fact remained that at the beginning of the nineteenth century an estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom."

While slavery constitutes one of the grossest encroachments on human liberty, it is by no means unique or restricted to the Western world or United States, as many liberal academics would have us believe. Much of their indoctrination of our young people, at all levels of education, paints our nation's founders as racist adherents to slavery, but the story is not so simple.

At the time of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, slaves were about 40 percent of the population of the Southern colonies. Apportionment in the House of Representatives and the number of electoral votes each state would have in presidential elections would be based upon population. Southern delegates to the convention wanted slaves to be counted as one person. Northern delegates to the convention, and those opposed to slavery, wanted only free persons of each state to be counted for the purposes of apportionment in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. The compromise reached was that each slave would be counted as only three-fifths of a person.

Many criticize this compromise as proof of racism. My question to these grossly uninformed critics is whether they would have found it more preferable for slaves to be counted as whole persons. Slaves counted as whole persons would have given slaveholding Southern states much more political power. Or, would the critics of the founders prefer that the Northern delegates not compromise and not allow slaves to be counted at all. If they did, it is likely that the Constitution would have not been ratified. Thus, the question emerges is whether blacks would be better off with Northern states having gone their way and Southern states having gone theirs, resulting in no U.S. Constitution and no Union? Unlike today's pseudointellectuals, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass understood the compromise, saying that the three-fifths clause was "a downright disability laid upon the slaveholding states" that deprived them of "two-fifths of their natural basis of representation."

Douglass' vision was shared by Patrick Henry and others. Henry said, expressing the reality of the three-fifths compromise, "As much as I deplore slavery, I see that prudence forbids its abolition." With this union, Congress at least had the power to abolish slave trade by 1808. According to delegate James Wilson, many believed the anti-slave-trade clause laid "the foundation for banishing slavery out of this country." Many of the founders abhorred slavery. Their statements can be read on my website, walterewilliams.com.

The most unique aspect of slavery in the Western world was the moral outrage against it, which began to emerge in the 18th century and led to massive elimination efforts. It was Britain's military sea power that put an end to the slave trade. And our country fought a costly war that brought an end to slavery. Unfortunately, these facts about slavery are not in the lessons taught in our schools and colleges. Instead, there is gross misrepresentation and suggestion that slavery was a uniquely American practice.

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.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM