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 by Walter E. Williams

  A widely anticipated textbook, "Universal Economics," has just been published by Liberty Fund. Its authors are two noted UCLA economists, the late Armen A. Alchian and William R. Allen. Editor Jerry L. Jordan was their student and later became a member of President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, as well as the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Professor Alchian was probably the greatest microeconomic theorist of the 20th century, while Professor Allen's genius was in the area of international trade and the history of economic thought. Both were tenacious mentors of mine during my student days at UCLA in the mid-1960s and early '70s.
    "Universal Economics'" 680 pages, not including its glossary and index, reflect a friendly chat I had with Professor Alchian during one of the UCLA economics department's weekly faculty/graduate student coffee hour, in which he said, "Williams, the true test of whether someone understands his subject is whether he can explain it to someone who doesn't know a darn thing about it." That's precisely what "Universal Economics" does -- explain economics in a way that anyone can understand. There's no economic jargon, just a tiny bit of simple mathematics and a few graphs.
    Chapter 1 introduces the fundamental issue that faces all of mankind -- scarcity. How does one know whether things are scarce? That's easy. When human wants exceed the means to satisfy those wants, we say that there's scarcity. The bounds to human wants do not frequently reveal themselves; however, the means to satisfy those wants are indeed limited. Thus, scarcity creates conflict issues -- namely, what things will be produced, how will they be produced, when will they be produced and who will get them? Analyzing those issues represents the heart of microeconomics.
    Alchian and Allen want your study of economics to be "interesting and enjoyable." They caution: "You'll be brainwashed -- in the 'desirable' sense of removing erroneous beliefs. You will begin to suspect that a vast majority of what people popularly believe about economic events is at least misleading and often wrong." The authors give a long list of erroneous beliefs that people hold. Here's a tiny sample: Employers pay for employer-provided insurance; larger incomes for some people require smaller incomes for others; minimum wage legislation helps the unskilled and minorities; foreign imports reduce the number of domestic jobs; "equal pay for equal work" laws aid women, minorities and the young; labor unions protect the natural brotherhood and collective well-being of workers against their natural enemies, employers; and we cannot compete in a world in which most foreign wages are lower than wages paid to domestic workers.
    One of Professor Alchian's major contributions to economic science is in the area of property rights and its effect on the outcomes observed. The essence of private property rights contains three components: the owner's right to make decisions about the uses of what's deemed his property; his right to acquire, keep and dispose of his property; and his right to enjoy the income, as well as bear losses, resulting from his decisions. If one or more of those three elements is missing, private property rights are not present. Private property rights also restrain one from interfering with other people's rights. Private property rights have long been seen as vital to personal liberty. James Madison, in an 1829 speech at the Virginia Constitutional Convention, said: "It is sufficiently obvious that persons and property are the two great subjects on which governments are to act and that the rights of persons and the rights of property are the objects for the protection of which gov!
ernment was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated."
    At the end of many of "Universal Economics'" 42 chapters, there's a section named "Questions and Meditations." Here's my guarantee: If you know and can understand those questions and answers, you will be better trained than the average economist teaching or working in Washington, D.C.
    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

    Socialism is hot.
    Famous actors recently made a commercial proclaiming that "democratic socialism" creates some of the best parts of America. It's "your kids' public school" (says Susan Sarandon), the "interstate highway system" (Rosario Dawson), "public libraries" (Jay Ferguson), "EMTs" (Ethan Embry), "workers who plow our streets" (Max Carver) and "scientists" (Danny DeVito).
    Wow. I guess every popular thing government does is socialism.
    The celebrities conclude: "We can do better when we do them together."
    There is sometimes truth to that, but the movie stars don't know that America's first highways were built by capitalist contractors. They also probably didn't notice that the more popular parts of government -- public schools, EMTs, snow plowing, libraries, etc. -- are largely locally funded.
    "They should wake up," says Gloria Alvarez. She is from Guatemala and says, "I've seen the impact of socialism. My father escaped Cuba. My grandfather suffered under Communists in Hungary before escaping."
    This week I turn my video channel over to Alvarez so she can give her perspective on democratic socialism's new popularity.
    "As a child, I was taught to mock socialism," she says, "but democratic socialism sounded OK. It made sense that government should take care of the economy. Then I watched democratic socialism fail in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua and Uruguay. I learned that every time a country started down the socialist path, it fails."
    But every time a country tries it, even just a little of it, people applaud.
    When Castro came to power, people cheered because he was going to help the poor and make everyone equal.
    But governments can't plan things efficiently without the prices and constant individual decision-making that free markets provide.
    The result in Cuba was economic stagnation and horrible loss of freedom.
    Cuban refugees who now live in Miami's "Little Havana" neighborhood warn Americans about socialist promises.
    Michel Ibarra told Alvarez, "You don't see any future. Everything is stagnated. Health care, education -- nowadays they're in ruins."
    Venezuela didn't learn from Cuba's problems. They voted in Hugo Chavez when he said that "capitalism is the realm of injustice" and promised wealth would be distributed equally.
    But when there was no more money left to take from rich people, he did what many governments (including our own) do: He printed more.
    That's caused inflation approaching 1 million percent.
    When business owners raised prices to try to keep up, Chavez and his successor just seized many of them.
    Again, Venezuelans applauded. Taking from the rich is popular. Ramon Muchacho, a former mayor in Caracas, told Alvarez that when Chavez seized businesses, people were "clapping so hard. They were like, 'Oh, finally there is somebody here making social justice!'"
    But government grabbing private businesses creates shortages. Governments aren't good at running supermarkets. One Venezuelan refugee told Alvarez, "It's like the apocalypse. No food. No medicine."
    But in the U.S., socialism still holds appeal.
    "Plenty of (socialist) countries are nothing like Venezuela," says comedian John Oliver.
    "When I talk about democratic socialism, I am not looking at Venezuela," says Sen. Bernie Sanders, "not looking at Cuba. I'm looking at countries like Denmark, like Sweden."
    So many American politicians now cite Denmark as a socialist paradise that Denmark's prime minister felt compelled to go on TV to say, "Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy."
    Exactly. Socialism, democratic or tyrannical, means government owns or controls businesses.
    In Scandinavia, business is largely left alone. Governments don't even set a minimum wage. Economic freedom rankings give Scandinavian countries high scores on property rights and business freedom.
    Those countries do have big welfare programs, but they are funded by thriving free enterprise.
    In addition, many cut back on their welfare programs after they discovered they were unsustainable or discouraged work.
    Think about that the next time you hear celebrities saying "Sweden" and praising socialism.
    As one Venezuelan refugee told Alvarez, "You don't need the government to dictate how to live your life, how much money you should make, how your family should be treated."
    Increased government control rarely helps people. It wrecks economies. It wrecks lives.
    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

        President Barack Obama's first education secretary, Arne Duncan, gave a speech on the 45th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where, in 1965, state troopers beat and tear-gassed hundreds of peaceful civil rights marchers who were demanding voting rights. Later that year, as a result of widespread support across the nation, the U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. Secretary Duncan titled his speech "Crossing the Next Bridge." Duncan told the crowd that black students "are more than three times as likely to be expelled as their white peers," adding that Martin Luther King would be "dismayed."
        Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and her special assistant and counselor, Alison Somin, have written an important article in the Texas Review of Law & Politics, titled "The Department of Education's Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline" (Spring 2018). The article is about the departments of Education and Justice's "disparate impact" vision, wherein they see racial discrimination as the factor that explains why black male students face suspension and expulsion more often than other students.
        Faced with threats from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, schools have instituted new disciplinary policies. For example, after the public school district in Oklahoma City was investigated by the OCR, there was a 42.5 percent decrease in the number of suspensions. According to an article in The Oklahoman, one teacher said, "Students are yelling, cursing, hitting and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors." According to Chalkbeat, new high school teachers left one school because they didn't feel safe. There have been cases in which students have assaulted teachers and returned to school the next day.
        Many of the complaints about black student behavior are coming from black teachers. I doubt whether they could be accused of racial discrimination against black students. The first vice president of the St. Paul, Minnesota, chapter of the NAACP said it's "very disturbing" that the school district would retaliate against a black teacher "for simply voicing the concern" that when black students are not held accountable for misbehaving, they are set up for failure in life.
        An article in Education Week earlier this year, titled "When Students Assault Teachers, Effects Can Be Lasting," discusses the widespread assaults of teachers across the country: "In the 2015-16 school year, 5.8 percent of the nation's 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student. Almost 10 percent were threatened with injury, according to federal education data" (http://tinyurl.com/y7ndtyom).
        Measures that propose harsh punishment for students who assault teachers have not been successful. In North Carolina, a bill was introduced that proposed that students 16 or older could be charged with a felony if they assaulted a teacher. It was opposed by children's advocacy and disability rights groups. In Minnesota, a 2016 bill would have required school boards to automatically expel a student who threatened or inflicted bodily harm on a teacher for up to a year. It, too, was opposed, even in light of the fact that teachers have suffered serious bodily harm, such as the case in which a high school student slammed a teacher into a concrete wall and then squeezed his throat. That teacher ended up with a traumatic brain injury.
        There are plenty of visuals of assaults on teachers. Here's a tiny sample: Florida's Seminole Middle School (http://tinyurl.com/yc2tmchd), Pennsylvania's Cheltenham High School (http://tinyurl.com/ydf8rajf), Illinois' Rich Central High School (http://tinyurl.com/yah3bjey). Byongook Moon, a professor in the criminal justice department at the University of Texas at San Antonio, says that according to his study of 1,600 teachers, about 44 percent of teachers who had been victims of physical assault said that being attacked had a negative impact on their job performance. Nearly 30 percent said they could no longer trust the student who had attacked them, and 27 percent said they thought of quitting their teaching career afterward.
        My question is: Is there any reason whatsoever for adults to tolerate this kind of behavior from our young people?
        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

       They live on the street, often foraging through dumpsters. Some threaten us. Occasionally, they assault people.
        Thousands of mentally ill people cycle in and out of hospital emergency rooms. They strain our medical system, scare the public and sometimes harm themselves.
        Most, says DJ Jaffe, are schizophrenic or bipolar and have stopped taking their medication.
        Jaffe gave up a successful advertising career to try to improve the way America deals with such people.
        "John Hinckley shot President Reagan because he knew, not thought, knew that was the best way to get a date with Jodie Foster," Jaffe tells me in my latest internet video collaboration with City Journal.
        Years ago, such people were locked up in mental hospitals. That protected the public, but the asylums were horrible, overcrowded places, where sick people rarely got good treatment.
        "We decided we would largely replace that system with mental health care in the community," says Stephen Eide, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
        Community treatment made sense. Care would be easier and cheaper in the patients' own neighborhoods. Patients would be closer to their families, who could visit.
        But community treatment never really happened. Politicians didn't fund it. Neighborhood mental health facilities were not popular with their constituents.
        Many mentally ill people now end up in prison. "Prison is no place for somebody with schizophrenia," says Eide. "However, that's where they're going to remain.
        Today, more seriously mentally ill people are locked up in Los Angeles County Jail, Cook County Jail and New York's Rikers Island jail than in any mental hospital.
        In jail, they barely get treatment. As a result, they stay in jail longer than other inmates.
        "They get abused and victimized and thrown in solitary, and they can't visit their families," says Jaffe. "It's a horrific place to be."
         America has some high-quality mental hospitals, but they don't have enough money to give the extended treatment that most seriously ill people need.
        Jaffe says, "It's become harder to get into Bellevue (a New York City mental hospital) than Harvard. If you're well enough to walk into a hospital and ask for care, they're going to say you're not sick enough to need it."
        Hospitals often practice what Jaffe calls "treating and streeting." The police call it "catch and release."
        Jaffe says that a big part of the problem is that governments, instead of treating the sickest people, often offer "something for everyone."
        That's a line from Chirlane McCray, wife of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio named his wife director of the city's program to combat mental illness. McCray promised to spend "almost a billion dollars" on "54 initiatives."
        Unfortunately, most of those initiatives address people who are not very sick. "They wrap anything that makes you sad -- bad grades, poverty, coming from a single-parent household -- in a mental health narrative," says Jaffe.
        "Blurring the lines between mild mental disorders such as anxiety or mild depression -- and schizophrenia -- is not a bug; it's a feature of the program," says Eide. "They believe the only way New Yorkers will support improvements to mental illness policy is if they are convinced that everybody has a mental illness."
        So most funds don't go to helping the people diving into dumpsters or to protecting us from threatening people on the street.
        "If we're going to spend all our money on people who are anxious or can't sleep, what's left for the seriously ill?" asks Jaffe. "Ask any cop what we need, he's going to say: more hospitals, easier civil commitment, so that when I bring somebody they're admitted. We need to keep them on their medications so they don't deteriorate."
        Why then do authorities focus on comparatively minor problems? "They don't cost as much to help! Serving the seriously mentally ill is a really difficult task," he adds.
        So the seriously mentally ill live on the street or get locked up in jails.
        "We tend to think of ourselves as a very compassionate society," says Eide, "but a century from now, when people look at the situation with the seriously mentally ill, they're going to look back on us and wonder how compassionate we really were."
        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 Laura Lollar

Those of us who lost homes and businesses to Colorado wildfires, know full well the importance of mitigating your property to create defensible space and minimize risk. When I bought my log cabin in the woods, I was thrilled to be living under century old pine trees and wouldn’t have considered cutting them down. After the 2013 Black Forest Wildfire, a reporter asked me if I’d ever choose to live in the woods again.

I sure would and still do. There are tradeoffs for every choice we make in life. Mitigation is essential, but to remove every tree within 100-200 feet of our home would have been costly.

The same is true with Proposition 112.

The Costs of Proposition 112

Proposition 112, which will be on the November 2018 ballot, would prohibit NEW oil and gas drilling within 2500 feet of homes, schools, parks and water sources like lakes and streams. The existing setback is 500 feet from homes and 1000 feet from schools and other areas designated as vulnerable.

This proposition expands and modifies the definition of vulnerable areas to include playgrounds, any occupied building including homes, schools and hospitals, as well as sports fields, drinking water sources, irrigation canals, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, streams, etc. Current drilling activity would not be affected, but re-entering old, abandoned oil and gas wells would qualify as new development and the setback requirements would apply.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission report states Proposition 112 (formerly 97) would put as much as 85% of Colorado’s non-federal lands off-limits to new development. It would also eliminate new production in 94 percent of the state’s top five producing oil and natural gas counties of Weld, Garfield, La Plata, Rio Blanco and Las Animas. Read the report and view maps here.

A study by the Common Sense Policy Roundtable states Prop 112’s passage would cost Colorado over $230 million in tax revenue in its first year. By 2030, lost tax revenue would grow to $1 billion annually and jobs lost could reach 147,800 by 2030. That’s a lot of jobs! Read the study here.

Basically, Proposition 112 will significantly reduce energy production in Colorado and have a devastating impact on our economy. Read more about Prop 112, including the organizations and officials who support it here.

Updated Rules and Protections

In a perfect Colorado, there would be no air pollution from wildfire smoke, no claims from hail damage and no deaths from riding bikes, hiking mountains or rafting rivers. There is inherent risk in every part of life, but we still take measures to minimize it. Thankfully, our Legislators, the Governor, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, oil and gas companies and local municipalities have not been sitting idly by when it comes to energy industry regulations. We have some of the strongest in the country, including:

– Updated rules now require companies inform Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulators where pipelines will be installed and provide information on old lines they know about. A new task force will explore inspection technology to detect leaks and locate existing pipelines. (Source: http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/tns-colorado-oil-gas-regulations.html

– Colorado was the first state in the nation to pass methane regulations requiring capture of air pollutants released during oil and natural gas operations. (Source: https://www.npr.org/2014/02/25/282359550/colorado-becomes-first-state-to-restrict-methane-emissions)

– First state to require water sampling before and after drilling. (Source: http://www.cred.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/COGCC_APPROVES_SWEEPING_NEW_SETBACK_RULES1.pdf)

– First state to require oil and gas companies to find and fix methane leaks and require 95% capture of pollutants from oil and natural gas operations. (Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/colorado-first-state-to-limit-methane-pollution-from-oil-and-gas-wells/)

No Ideal Solutions, Only Tradeoffs

If we want energy independence, affordable utility bills and access to more than 6000 made-from-petroleum plastic products (tires, fishing lures, panty hose, trash bags, surf boards, sun glasses, heart valves, drinking cups, contact lenses, etc.), we must be willing to make tradeoffs. We cannot put substantial chunks of Colorado land off-limits from oil and gas production and expect to still reap affordable benefits from the energy industry.

Wind and solar cannot yet shoulder the full load of supplying our energy needs. And according to some, the more wind and solar we use as an energy source, the more expensive electricity becomes due to the cost of preparation and delivery. Read more on this perspective here.

Also, if we value personal property rights so owners can develop their land and minerals, like oil and gas, then are we willing to compensate them for the loss of that value? Amendment 74 is also on the November ballot; it’s worth considering what’s at stake when a government action takes or devalues property. Is it fair to move the goalpost after the fact and force property owners to take a loss?  

In November, please vote “NO” on Proposition 112. Join increasing numbers of Coloradans, business leaders and elected officials who say Prop 112 is no good for our state. Even both Gubernatorial candidates, Republican Walker Stapleton and Democrat Jared Polis, along with almost every Mayor in Weld County, Colorado agree this is a losing Proposition.

Laura Lollar is a business owner, writer, USAF Veteran, outdoors enthusiast and wildfire survivor. Follow @LauraLollar