I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.- Thomas Jefferson.

debt clock

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August 28, 2012

Paul Ryan’s Intellectual Muse

The wisdom of Hayek is exactly what this country needs right now.
My last column for Defining Ideas, “Franklin Delano Obama,” stressed the dangers of Franklin Roosevelt’s “Second Bill of Rights,” which was long on rights but short on any articulation of their correlative duties. Roosevelt’s program works well everywhere except in a world of scarce resources, which, alas, is the only world we will ever know.
Fortunately, Roosevelt quickly met with some determined intellectual resistance. In 1944, when Roosevelt unveiled his “Second Bill of Rights,” Friedrich von Hayek, an Austrian economist, political theorist, and future Nobel Prize winner, wrote The Road To Serfdom. That book rightly became a sensation both in England and in the United States, especially after the publication of its condensed version in The Reader’s Digest in April 1945. Hayek’s basic message was the exact opposite of Roosevelt’s. He was deeply suspicious of government intervention into markets, thinking that it could lead to economic stagnation on the one hand and to political tyranny on the other.
 Illustration by Barbara Kelley
Hayek has never been out of the news. But, right now, his name has been batted around in political circles because Paul Ryan, the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee, has acknowledged that he regards Hayek as one of his intellectual muses. That observation brought forward in the New York Times an ungracious critique (called “Made in Austria” in the print edition) of both Hayek and Ryan by Adam Davidson, a co-founder of NPR’s Planet Money. Davidson’s essay reveals a profound misunderstanding of Hayek’s contribution to twentieth-century thought in political economy.
Davidson leads with a snarky and inaccurate comment that, “A few years ago, it was probably possible to fit every living Hayekian into a conference room.” But it is utterly inexcusable to overlook, as Davidson does, Hayek’s enduring influence.  A year after the Road to Serfdom came out, Hayek published his 1945 masterpiece in the American Economics Review, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” which has been cited over 8,600 times. In this short essay, Hayek explained how the price system allows widely dispersed individuals with different agendas and preferences to coordinate their behaviors in ways that move various goods and services to higher value uses.
Alas, Davidson’s dismissive account of Hayek does not mention even one of Hayek’s major contributions to weaning the United States and Great Britain from the vices of centralized planning. Thus Hayek’s 1940 contribution to the “Socialist Calculation” debate debunked the then-fashionable notion that master planners could achieve the economic nirvana of running a centralized economy in which they obtain whatever distribution of income they choose while simultaneously making sound allocations of both labor and capital, just like in Soviet Russia.
Hayek exposed this fool’s mission by stressing how no given individual or group could obtain and organize the needed information about supply and demand conditions throughout the economy. The virtue of the price system was its use of a common unit of measurement—money—to allow various actors to compete for a given resource without having to lay bare why they need any particular good or service. The seller need only accept the highest bid, without nosing around in other people’s business. The interaction between buyers and sellers allows for constant incremental adjustments of both price and quantity. Old information gets updated in a quick and reliable way, thereby eluding the administrative gauntlet of the socialist state.
Hayek vs. the Academic Establishment
To put Hayek’s sophistication in perspective, just contrast his work with the dominant intellectual attitudes of the time. One of Hayek’s many shrewd observations in The Road to Serfdom was that a public highway system succeeds because the government only sets the rules of the road while allowing individual choices to determine the composition of the traffic.
That position was in fact not altogether true in the United States at the time, for the Interstate Commerce Commission issued licenses, thus determining which trucker could carry tomatoes from San Francisco to Chicago; and the Civil Aeronautics Board determined which airline carriers could fly passengers from New York to Boston. That government control over routes resulted, predictably, in the cartelization of these key markets, which in turn led to higher costs and fewer choices for consumers.
Yet this dubious system received spirited intellectual support from people who should have known better. For example, in the pivotal 1943 case of National Broadcasting Company v. United States, Justice (and former Harvard Law professor) Felix Frankfurter examined what it meant for the Federal Communications Commission to assign frequencies to different broadcasters serving the “public interest, convenience or necessity.” Like the progressive he was, Frankfurter committed, in a few terse paragraphs, all the intellectual sins against which Hayek inveighed.
Frankfurter thought himself too sophisticated to accept the laissez-faire position that the FCC should be treated “as a kind of traffic officer, policing the wave lengths to prevent stations from interfering with each other.” His grander vision “puts upon the Commission the burden of determining the composition of that traffic,” because “the facilities of radio are not large enough to accommodate all who wish to use them.”
Frankfurter’s view was a disastrous mistake precisely because no one at the FCC ever had any idea of who should get which frequency and for what purpose. The FCC’s endless comparative hearings, first to allocate unused frequencies for limited periods of time, and then to pass on renewal licenses, were exercises in futility. Was it more important for a licensee to commit to broadcasting public affairs shows or to have strong ties to the local community? Endless hours of deliberation squandered precious public resources on the impossible instead of just selling off these frequencies by auction.
Ironically, in the end, markets did correct the foolishness of these administrative assignments, for the FCC rules let the lucky recipient of the initial license sell it off after waiting a year, thus pocketing revenues that should have gone into the public treasury. Just removing the middleman could have stopped the charade. The errors of Frankfurter’s reasoning were first exposed by a law student, Leo Herzel, in 1951, and then by the Nobel Prize–winning economist Ronald Coase in his classic article on the Federal Communication Commission. Auctions have become routine for the FCC spectrum today. Score one for Hayek, zero for Frankfurter.
Monopolies and Competition
A second influential illustration of how far off the mark academics were on the operation of markets was Friedrich Kessler’s article in the 1943 issue of the Columbia Law Review, “Contracts of Adhesion—Some Thoughts about Freedom of Contract” (Kessler was one of my professors at Yale Law School). Written during the middle of World War II, Kessler, a German refugee and contracts scholar of great distinction, took it upon himself to warn the United States of the dangers that standardized contracts posed to the economic marketplace and to the health and safety of society as a whole.
The phrase “contract of adhesion” was meant to show that the party who wrote the standard form for the other party gave only a take-it-or-leave-it choice. From that observation, Kessler claimed, freedom of contract was only a “one-sided” privilege, which allowed “enterprisers to legislate by contract . . . in a substantially authoritarian manner,” given the “innate trend of competitive capitalism toward monopoly.”
The clear implication of Kessler’s warning was that massive government intervention had to counteract the power of private legislation. Missing from his analysis, however, was any explanation as to why competition had to move to monopoly, for, as Hayek rightly stressed, any system that allows free entry of new firms will prevent established firms from raising their prices above the competitive level. Nor should the standard form contract in a competitive industry be thought of as anything other than a transaction costs–saving device that helps sellers and consumers alike.
A standard form contract reduces the time for dickering, and it leaves consumers with the option to just say no if the price is too high. Naïve customers who use these contracts enjoy some added confidence that they have gotten the same deal as established customers. The dangers of monopoly do not arise from standardization, but from collusion, which the antitrust laws can address. Kessler’s views unfortunately spurred on a wave of anticompetitive consumer protection laws, which raised prices and reduced innovation, by putting new entrants at a tactical disadvantage relative to the incumbents who are better equipped to jump through regulatory hoops.
The last of my three illustrations is George Orwell’s respectful but critical book review of The Road to Serfdom. Orwell claimed that Hayek “does not see, or will not admit, that a return to ‘free’ competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the State. The trouble with competitions is that somebody wins them.” Actually people keep entering competitions in order to win. But what Orwell never grasped was that his example ignores the key fact that voluntary contracts produce win/win results.
The party who loses the race may well have enjoyed the competition. Or, he may have calculated from the ex ante perspective that the chances of winning justified the risk that he took. What is so tragic about Orwell’s remark is that it lends credence to the dangerous proposition that all business deals produce only some winners but many losers, which of course gives a handy and ubiquitous reason for regulating them all.
Hayek vs. Hayek
Hayek then was light years ahead of his contemporaries in understanding how a market economy ought to work. To be sure, Hayek wrote many things that have been subject to revision. Hayek placed too much faith in local knowledge and individual intuition as sources for rationality in market places. It turns out that the decentralized use of formal business strategies backed by large data sets can displace, and in financial markets often has displaced, the unguided seat-of-the-pants trader. Hayek also placed too much faith in the powers of “spontaneous order” to produce optimal market results. He failed to note how market success often depends on the use of intermediate institutions, often private in nature, to set and revise the customs and conventions under which trading takes place.
Most ironically, Hayek was too skeptical of government central planning to decide, for example, the location of public highways and parks: Planning public spaces is a tractable problem even if planning an entire economy is not. To be sure, the English Constitution developed over centuries by a combination of decisive moments (the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Bill of Rights of 1689, for example). But the American Constitution was “constructed” in a form that did not fit the Hayekian prescription for a sound gradualist political order.
And, most of all, Hayek did not see that his support for unemployment insurance and publicly provided health care could produce programs far larger and more dangerous than could be imagined, which led me to warn against the dangers of “Hayekian Socialism.” Even the devoted Hayekians who dispute that charge know that Davidson was just wrong when he attributed to Hayek “an unfettered faith in the free market and objection to big government.” What Hayek actually believed in was strength of markets subject to a cautious willingness to accept limited government. On that premise, Paul Ryan has indeed chosen the right intellectual forebear.

Richard A. Epstein, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University Law School, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago. His areas of expertise include constitutional law, intellectual property, and property rights. His most recent books are Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration, and the Rule of Law (2011), The Case against the Employee Free Choice Act (Hoover Press, 2009) and Supreme Neglect: How to Revive the Constitutional Protection for Private Property (Oxford Press, 2008).
according to the Boston Consulting Group's study of global wealth, in 2011 American households with investment assets of $1 million or more declined to 5,134,000 from 5,263,000 (by 129,000), while globally the number grew by 175,000. Singapore has the highest proportion of millionaires in the world: 17 percent of all households in Singapore have wealth of over $1 million, as compared to 4.3 percent of households in the United States, which ranks it seventh in the world.[12]



Monday, August 27, 2012

Ron Paul and the Future


One of the most thrilling memories of the 2012 campaign was the sight of those huge crowds who came out to see Ron. His competitors, meanwhile, couldn’t fill half a Starbucks. When I worked as Ron’s chief of staff in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I could only dream of such a day.
Now what was it that attracted all these people to Ron Paul? He didn’t offer his followers a spot on the federal gravy train. He didn’t pass some phony bill. In fact, he didn’t do any of the things we associate with politicians. What his supporters love about him has nothing to do with politics at all.
Ron is the anti-politician. He tells unfashionable truths, educates rather than flatters the public, and stands up for principle even when the whole world is arrayed against him.
Some people say, "I love Ron Paul, except for his foreign policy." But that foreign policy reflects the best and most heroic part of who Ron Paul is. Peace is the linchpin of the Paulian program, not an extraneous or dispensable adjunct to it. He would never and could never abandon it.

Here was the issue Ron could have avoided had he cared only for personal advancement.
But he refused. No matter how many times he’s been urged to keep his mouth shut about war and empire, these have remained the centerpieces of his speeches and interviews.
Of course, Ron Paul deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. In a just world, he would also win the Medal of Freedom, and all the honors for which a man in his position is eligible.
But history is littered with forgotten politicians who earned piles of awards handed out by other politicians. What matters to Ron more than all the honors and ceremonies in the world is all of you, and your commitment to the immortal ideas he has championed all his life.
It’s Ron’s truth-telling and his urge to educate the public that should inspire us as we carry on into the future.
It isn’t a coincidence that governments everywhere want to educate children. Government education, in turn, is supposed to be evidence of the state’s goodness and its concern for our well-being. The real explanation is less flattering. If the government’s propaganda can take root as children grow up, those kids will be no threat to the state apparatus. They’ll fasten the chains to their own ankles.
H.L. Mencken once said that the state doesn’t just want to make you obey. It tries to make you want to obey. And that’s one thing the government schools do very well.

A long-forgotten political thinker, Etienne de la Boetie, wondered why people would ever tolerate an oppressive regime. After all, the people who are governed vastly outnumber the small minority doing the governing. So the people governed could put a stop to it all if only they had the will to do so. And yet they rarely do.
De la Boetie concluded that the only way any regime could survive was if the public consented to it. That consent could range all the way from enthusiastic support to stoic resignation. But if that consent were ever to vanish, a regime’s days would be numbered.
And that’s why education – real education – is such a threat to any regime. If the state loses its grip over your mind, it loses the key to its very survival.
The state is beginning to lose that grip. Traditional media, which have carried water for the government since time began, it seems, are threatened by independent voices on the Internet. I don’t think anyone under 25 even reads a newspaper.
The media and the political class joined forces to try to make sure you never found out about Ron Paul. When that proved impossible, they smeared him, and told you no one could want to go hear Ron when they could hear Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney instead.
All this backfired. The more they panicked about Ron, the more drawn to him people were. They wanted to know what it was that the Establishment was so eager to keep them from hearing.

Ours is the most radical challenge to the state ever posed. We aren’t trying to make the state more efficient, or show how it can take in more revenue, or change its pattern of wealth redistribution. We’re not saying that this subsidy is better than that one, or that this kind of tax would make the system run more smoothly than that one. We reject the existing system root and branch.
And we don’t oppose the state’s wars because they’ll be counterproductive or overextend the state’s forces. We oppose them because mass murder based on lies can never be morally acceptable.
So we don’t beg for scraps from the imperial table, and we don’t seek a seat at that table. We want to knock the table over.
We have much work to do. Countless Americans have been persuaded that it’s in their interest to be looted and ordered around by a ruling elite that in fact cares nothing for their welfare and seeks only to increase its power and wealth at their expense.
The most lethal and anti-social institution in history has gotten away with describing itself as the very source of civilization. From the moment they set foot in the government’s schools, Americans learn that the state is there to rescue them from poverty, unsafe medicines, and rainy days, to provide economic stimulus when the economy is poor, and to keep them secure against shadowy figures everywhere. This view is reinforced, in turn, by the broadcast and print media.
If the public has been bamboozled, as Murray Rothbard would say, it is up to us to do the de-bamboozling. We need to tear the benign mask off the state.
That is the task before you, before all of us, here today.
Begin with yourself. Learn everything you can about a free society. Read the greats, like Frederic Bastiat, Ludwig von Mises, and Murray Rothbard. As you delve into the literature of liberty, share what you’re reading and learning. Start a blog. Create a YouTube channel. Organize a reading group. But whatever you do, learn, spread what you’re learning, and never stop.
If it is through propaganda that people thoughtlessly accept the claims of the state, then it is through education that people must be brought to their senses.
With its kept media on the wane, it is going to be more and more difficult for the state to make its claims stick, to persuade people to keep accepting its lies and propaganda.
You’ve heard it said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Think of the sword as the state. Think of the pen as all of you, each in your own way, spreading the ideas of liberty.
Remember that insight of Etienne de la Boetie: all government rests on public consent, and as soon as the public withdraws that consent, any regime is doomed.
This is why they fear Ron, it’s why they fear you, and it’s why, despite the horrors we read about every day, we may dare to look to the future with hope.
This article is based on remarks delivered at the Paul Festival in Tampa, FL, August 25, 2012.
August 27, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I feel sympathy for the victims and families of all violent crime, but is this reaction really appropriate?  Would the president have done this if the timing was different, like 2 wks after the election?  I could be wrong, but I don't think he did this for the Aurora shootings.  Draw your own conclusion.

Presidential Proclamation--Honoring the Victims of the Tragedy in Oak Creek, Wisconsin

As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on August 5, 2012, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, August 10, 2012.  I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Auditing Shooting Rampage Statistics

July 31st, 2012   Submitted by Davi Barker

Firearm prohibitionists love to use tragedy to leverage their agenda. So, it’s important for gun rights advocates to stand their ground and fire back (proverbially) whenever this happens.
Last week I posted a graphic on Facebook claiming the average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by police is 18.25, and the average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by civilians is 2.2. I based it on 10 shootings I found listed on some timeline somewhere. I honestly don’t even remember where. I presented the case studies in a blog post on the Silver Circle blog and I did the math myself.
The graphic was met with great enthusiasm and much skepticism. Leave it to Facebook users to demand an audit on a meme. So, I started over, only much more meticulous this time. I compiled and analyzed 93 shootings, noting my methodology, and I am now prepared to present my findings, complete with links to the data. But here’s a spoiler… It’s not that different.
The average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by police is 14.3
The average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by a civilian is 2.3.
I was so close! Here’s what I think accounts for the difference. In the first sample there was likely a selection error based on what grabs headlines. Larger shootings get more press, so if you take a small sampling you’re going to be working with a data set of the worst shootings. As for the consistency of the civilian statistic, it makes perfect sense if you think about from inside the mind of a heroic civilian with a concealed carry permit. It goes something like this:
“Holy crap! that guy shot that other guy.”
“He’s just going to keep shooting people.”
And the shooter goes down.
Quite a few cases went something like that. In fact, I found only one example of a shooter stopped by civilians who killed more than 3 people. Jared Loughner killed 6 people in Tucson, Arizona before he was tackled by two civilians. Maybe it’d have been less if one of those two men were armed.
I want to be perfectly clear. I am not much of a firearms enthusiast. I don’t own a firearm. I’ve only ever been shooting twice. For me it’s not an issue of gun rights. It’s about property rights. A person has a natural right to own a hunk of iron in any damn shape they want, and they shouldn’t be criminalized until they use that hunk of iron to harm someone. People can argue crime statistics ’till they’re blue in face. I frankly don’t care about people’s ideas for managing society.
What I am is a math enthusiast, so without further delay, here’s how I arrived at these numbers.
Step One: Amassing a data set
I searched for timelines of shootings and selected 5 that appeared the most comprehensive.
  1. Info Please
  2. CNN
  3. Denver Post
  4. News Max
  5. TruTV
While doing this I learned some important vocabulary. A “spree shooting” is when a killer murders in multiple locations with no break between murders. As in the Virginia Tech killer who began shooting in one hall, and then walked across campus and continued shooting in another hall. A “mass shooting” is when a killer murders multiple people, usually in a single location. As in the Fort Hood shooter who killed 13 people at one military base. A “school shooting” can be either of these as long as one or more locations is a school. As in the Columbine shooting, which is also classified as a spree shooting because they went from room to room. The term “rampage shooting” is used to describe all of these, and does not differentiate between them. So that is the term I’ll be using from here on out.
I selected these lists because they were the most comprehensive of those that I found, and I was seeking as large a data set as possible. I combined them all, including the first 10 from my previous post, and removed all redundant data for a total list of 93 shootings.
Step Two: Trimming irrelevant data.
While the list was comprehensive, the details about each shooting were not. In each shooting I had a date and a location, but often important details, like the number of people killed, or how the shooter was apprehended were missing. So, I set to the long task researching each incident to fill in the missing data. I didn’t incorporate the number of wounded people because so many were not reported. But the reason they call a single death a shooting rampage is because there were many injuries. All relevant data is contained in the links in the finished list below or in the timelines linked above. Most of the data came from either Wikipedia, a mainstream news article about the incident, or a handy resource I discovered called Murderpedia.
Next I removed incidents that did not fit within the scope of this analysis. Even though every incident on the list was a shooting, not every incident was a rampage shooting. So, I selected for incidents that included at least some indiscriminate targeting of bystanders. I removed incidents like Dedric Darnell Owens who shot and killed his classmate Kayla Rolland and then threw his handgun in a wastebasket. And I removed incidents like Michele Kristen Anderson who killed her entire family at a Christmas Party. So what remained were specifically rampage shootings in which a killer went someplace public and began firing at random people.
Suicide presented a tricky variable in the analysis. Roughly half of the remaining rampage shooters ended their own lives. So, I removed all incidents where the shooter killed themselves before police arrived reasoning that they had killed all they were going to kill and police had no impact in stopping them. Theoretically these incidents could have been stopped sooner by a civilian, but let’s not speculate. What I left in were incidents where shooters commit suicide after engaging the police, either during a shootout with police, or after a chase. I included, for example, Jiverly Wong, who witnesses say stopped shooting and killed himself as soon as he heard sirens but before police arrived, crediting the police’s response time with stopping the murders. But I did not include the shooters themselves in the total number of people killed.
I also removed cases like Edward Charles Allaway who shot up a library, then fled to a nearby hotel and called police to turn himself in, and cases like Darrell Ingram who shot up a high school dance and fled the scene only to be apprehended later after a long investigation. I was only looking for incidents when intervention from police or civilian saved lives.
What remained was 30 cases of gunmen firing indiscriminately whose rampage was cut short through the intervention of either a civilian or a police officer.
Step Three: The List
I divided the remaining cases into two categories, those stopped by police and those stopped by civilians. I included both armed and unarmed civilians for reasons that will become clear in the final analysis. I also removed one final case from the list. Dominick Maldonado went on a shooting rampage in a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington, and although he ultimately surrendered to police he was confronted by two legally armed civilians who interrupted his shooting, but did not fire for fear of hitting innocent bystanders. So, I’m calling this one an assist from the civilians and taking it out of the analysis as an anomaly.
  • 9/6/1949 - Howard Barton Unruh went on a shooting rampage in Camden, New Jersey with a German Luger. He shot up a barber shop, a pharmacy and a tailor’s shop killing 13 people. He finally surrendered after a shoot-out with police.
  • 8/1/1966 - Charles Joseph Whitman climbed a tower at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas and began shooting at other students and faculty with a sniper rifle. He killed 16 people before being shot and killed by police.
  • 7/18/1984 – James Oliver Huberty shot up a McDonalds in San Ysidro, California killing 21 people before police shoot and killed him.
  • 10/16/1991 - George Hennard entered Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas and began indiscriminately shooting the patrons. He killed 23 people in all. He commit suicide after being cornered and wounded in a shootout with police.
  • 11/15/1995 – Jamie Rouse used a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle to fire indiscriminately inside Richland High School in Lynnville, Tennessee. He killed 2 people before being tackled by a football player and a coach.
  • 2/2/1996 - Barry Loukaitis entered Frontier Middle School in Moses Lake, Washington with a rifle and two handguns. He killed 3 people before the Gym teacher, Jon Lane grabbed the rifle and wrestled the gunman to the ground.
  • 10/1/1997 - Luke Woodham put on a trench coat to conceal a hunting rifle and entered Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi. He killed 3 students before vice principal Joel Myrick apprehended him with a Colt .45 without firing.
  • 12/1/1997 - Michael Carneal brought a pistol, two rifles and two shotguns to his high school in Paducah, Kentucky and opened fire on a small prayer group killing 3 girls. His rampage was halted when he was tackled by another student.
  • 4/24/1998 - Andrew Wurst attended a middle school dance in Edinboro, Pennsylvania intent on killing a bully but shot wildly into the crowd. He killed 1 student. James Strand lived next door. When he heard the shots he ran over with his 12 gauge shotgun and apprehended the gunman without firing.
  • 5/21/1998 - Kipland Kinkel entered Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon with two pistols and a semi-automatic rifle hidden under a trench coat. He opened fire killing 2 students, but while reloading a wounded student named Jacob Ryker tackled him.
  • 4/20/1999 - Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were the killers behind the Columbine shooting in Littleton, Colorado. The two both commit suicide after police arrived, but what many people do not know is that the school’s armed security guard and the police all stood and waited outside the library while executions happed right inside. 15 people died, not including the shooters.
  • 7/31/1999 - Mark Barton was a daytrader who went on a shooting rampage through two day trading firms in Atlanta, Georgia. He killed 12 people in all and after a police chase he was surrounded by police at a gas station where he commit suicide.
  • 1/16/2002 – Peter Odighizuwa opened fire with a handgun at The Appalachian School in Grundy, Virginia. 3 people were killed before the shooter was apprehended by 3 students, Mikael Gross, Ted Besen, and Tracy Bridges with handguns without firing.
  • 8/27/2003 – Salvador Tapia entered an auto parts store in Chicago, Illinois and shot and killed 6 people with a handgun. He then waged a gunbattle with police before a SWAT team fatally wounded him.
  • 9/24/2003 – John Jason McLaughlin brought a .22-caliber pistol to Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minnesota. He killed 2 people before PE teacher, Mark Johnson confronted him, disarmed him, and held him in the school office for police to arrive.
  • 2/25/2005 – David Hernandez Arroyo Sr. opened fire on a public square from the steps of a courthouse in Tyler, Texas. The shooter was armed with an assault rifle and wearing body armor. Mark Wilson fired back with a handgun, hitting the shooter but not penetrating the armor. Mark drew the shooter’s fire, and ultimately drove him off, but was fatally wounded. Mark was the only death in this incident.
  • 3/21/2005 – Jeff Weise was a student at Red Lake High School in Red Lake, Minnesota. He killed 7 people including a teacher and a security guard. When police cornered him inside the school, he shot and killed himself.
  • 11/8/2005 – Kenneth Bartley, Jr. brought a .22 caliber pistol to Campbell County Comprehensive High School in Jacksboro, Tennessee and killed 1 person before being disarmed by a teacher.
  • 9/29/2006 – Eric Hainstock brought a .22 caliber revolver and a 20-gauge shotgun into Weston High School in Cazenovia, Wisconson. He killed 1 person before staff and students apprehended him and held him until the police arrived.
  • 4/16/2007 – Seung-Hui Cho was the shooter behind the Virgina Tech shooting in Blacksburg, Virginia. Police apprehend the wrong suspect allowing the shooter to walk across campus and open fire again in a second location. He eventually commit suicide after murdering 32 people.
  • 9/3/2008 – Isaac Zamora went on a shooting rampage in Alger, Washington that killed 6 people, including a motorist shot during a high speed chase with police. He eventually surrendered to police.
  • 3/29/2009 – Robert Stewart went on a killing rampage armed with a rifle, and a shotgun in a nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina. He killed 8 people and was apprehended after a shootout with police.
  • 4/3/2009 – Jiverly Wong went on a shooting rampage at a American Civic Association immigration center in Binghamton, New York where he was enrolled in a citizenship class. 13 people were killed before the shooter killed himself. Witnesses say he turned the gun on himself as soon as he heard police sirens approaching.
  • 11/5/2009 – Nidal Malik Hasan was the shooter behind the Fort Hood shooting at a military base just outside Killeen, Texas. The shooter entered the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where personnel are disarmed, armed with a laser sighted pistol and a Smith & Wesson revolver. He killed 13 people before he was shot by a Civilian Police officer.
  • 2/12/2010 – Amy Bishop went on a shooting rampage in classroom at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama. She killed 3 people before the Dean of the University, Debra Moriarity pushed the her out of the room and blockaded the door. She was arrested later.
  • 1/8/2011 – Jared Lee Loughner is charged with the shooting in Tucson, Arizona that killed 6 people, including Chief U.S. District Court Judge John Roll. He was stopped when he was tackled by two civilians.
  • 2/27/2012 – T.J. Lane entered Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio with a handgun and started shooting. 3 students died. The shooter was chased out of the building by a teacher and apprehended by police later.
  • 4/22/2012 – Kiarron Parker opened fire in a church parking lot in Aurora, Colorado. The shooter killed 1 person before being shot and killed by a member of the congregation who was carrying concealed.
  • 7/20/2012 – James Holmes went into a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and opens fire with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle. 12 people were killed, before the shooter surrendered to police.
Step Four: Final analysis
With 14 incidents stopped by police with a total of 200 dead that’s an average of about 14.3. With 15 incidents stopped by civilians and 35 dead that’s an average of 2.3.
The first point I want to draw your attention to is that roughly half of shooting rampages end in suicide anyway. What that means is that police are not even in a position to stop most of them. Only the civilians present at the time of the shooting have any opportunity to stop those shooters. That’s probably more important than the statistic itself. In a shooting rampage, counting on the police to intervene at all is a coin flip at best.
Second, within the civilian category 10 of the 15 shootings were stopped by unarmed civilians. What’s amazing about that is that whether armed or not, when a civilian plays hero it seems to save a lot of lives. The courthouse shooting in Tyler, Texas was the only incident where the heroic civilian was killed. In that incident the hero was armed with a handgun and the villain was armed with an assault rifle and body armor. If you compare the average of people killed in shootings stopped by armed civilians and unarmed civilians you get 1.8 and 2.6, but that’s not nearly as significant as the difference between a proactive civilian, and a cowering civilian who waits for police.
So, given that far less people die in rampage shootings stopped by a proactive civilian, only civilians have any opportunity to stop rampage shootings in roughly half of incidents, and armed civilians do better on average than unarmed civilians, wouldn’t you want those heroic individuals who risk their lives to save others to have every tool available at their disposal?
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Monday, July 16, 2012

From Jason Hommel

At Freedom Fest this weekend in Las Vegas, Libertarian Carla Howell made the point that Romney would be far worse than Obama.  This surprised me, but it took me only moments of listening to realize it is true. 
Carla Howell's reason is that Romney is a big government politician.  Obamacare was based on Romneycare.  If the nation elects Romney, national health care, at least a replaced Romneycare, will be a reality for 50 years, and debate will be OVER, because it will be continually pointed out by the liberal media and controlled press that "both parties" and "everyone" wants it, even though that will not be true. 
I hope and pray that delegates will vote Ron Paul and nominate him as the Republican's choice for president.  But that might not happen.
The only other choice, the ONLY CHOICE, if Ron Paul does not become the Republican nominee, is Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, who was the former governor of New Mexico, who vetoed over 700 bills while in office, more than all the rest of the nation's governors combined.  When he ran for office, governor, for the first time, he spent $510,000 of his own money on his campaign, and received only $30,000 in donations at the last moment when it appeared as if he might win!  Amazing! 
The man is unbribable.  He's like an angel, but maybe better.  Bible says that a third of the angels fell.
I asked him if it was difficult to raise money, since nobody can bribe him with donations, since his principles are to libertarian truths, and not for sale.  Not even Libertarians can "get something" from a man who would have the government spend nothing!
He admitted it was difficult to raise money, and related the story above of spending his own money to gain office, with a mere $30,000 in donations!
How fortunate for the nation at this time that we have TWO excellent Libertarians entering the national debate and race for the office of the presidency!
How much more successful will Gary Johnson be with actual campaign contributions, this time around!  So, I'm proud to say that I just donated the maximum to his campaign, $2500.  Consider.  Ponder this next point:
Even if Gary Johnson does not win, he deserves your support, if you value freedom, if you value the future of your lives and children.
Even if Gary Johnson does not win, you have a chance to let your fellow Americans know that you refuse to vote for the lessor of two evils, and that you can support and encourage real freedom, and encourage other people to study and think about real libertarian ideals.
Voting is not a popularity contest.  It is not a chance for you to "show off" and to try to pick who other people think might be the winner. 
Voting is a chance for your own self-expression.  Trying to vote for who you think the winner might be is beyond foolishness.
Voting is your chance to raise your voice for real meaningful change.  The only way you can vote for real change is to vote for a man who will actually bring honest changes!
Even if "the libertarian" does not win, other politicians at all levels will take notice of how many people voted libertarian, and will be more likely to move their own views towards libertarian ideals of freedom.  But only to the extent that people vote libertarian!
And as it stands, Romney is likely the worse of two evils, since it appears he is willing to not only embrace every single big government idea, but even worse, propose his own!
The way I look at it, I can only hope that the nation is not headed into violent chaos of hyperinflation and big government oppression and violent revolution if the nation votes for Romney.  Or Obama.
As I see it, it's far more likely that the nation will discover a peaceful way towards freedom by supporting and voting for Gary Johnson.  As I see it, lives depend on this.  It is all the more important to vote for Gary Johnson if you live in a "blue" state like California who will likely vote for Obama anyway, because a vote for Romney would not only be harmful for the nation as described above, but a lost vote, as it would mean that you support the "status quo" of big government spending and continued erosion and oppression of our rights. 
Only a vote for Gary Johnson can register your peaceful discontent with the state and direction of our nation.  And if a vote counts, your early and immediate financial support means so much more.
But more important than political involvement, as a way to increase freedom in the US, is to buy silver!  Buying silver is an act of voting "no confidence" in the current government.  Buying silver reduces the oppressive power of the printing press of the Federal Reserve, which they use to bribe politicians, buy the media, bail out the banks, and buy votes. 
I spoke with Gary Johnson's running mate, Judge Jim Gray, a bit about a certain difficulty I have in understanding the consequences of electing freedom minded politicians.  I said, "Look at Ronald Reagan.  He was a gold advocate, and advocate for liberty, and he did good things for increasing freedom by reducing tax rates from 76% down to 33%.  Suppose that Gary Johnson manages to balance the budget and reduce government spending by 40%.  I asked, "Wouldn't this save the dollar, and preserve big government's control over us all the more?"  Yes, it might, but it's better than the alternative; potentially violent revolution through hyperinflation and big government crackdowns on freedom.  I agree.
We silver and gold bugs are a curious lot.  We are among the only ones who will actively work against the best interests of our own investments, for the good of the nation.  We buy gold and silver, but generally support politicians that might make our purchases of gold and silver unnecessary!
So, ironically, more important than voting, there is another non-political alternative, and something else you can do, in addition to donating and voting.  BUY SILVER!  Buying silver exponentially reduces the power of government's printing press, which they use to steal the productive capacity of the nation, and use to pay the manpower for their oppressive government programs.
If Libertarians Johnson/Gray advocate buying silver on the campaign trail, they have the potential to reach so many more people.  As it stands, the world wide physical silver investment market is only about $3 billion.  The Libertarians usually garner 1% of the vote.  But if they get 1% of the people to buy silver, well, 1% of money in the banks would be $180 billion.  Imagine what that would do to the silver market!  
Jim Gray got it.  He understood.  He wants to learn more.
People need to understand that it's not the government that needs to return to silver; the people must do it first.  Government will never lead, it will only follow.  It's up to the people to lead.
People get the government they deserve. 
Expect big things for silver and the Gary Johnson campaign in the coming months.  Donate early.  Help out early.  Volunteer.  Blog.  Facebook.  The more you do, the sooner, the better.
Gary Johnson has not paid for this endorsement, it was the other way around.
God bless.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gun Control Restricts Those Least Likely to Commit Violent Crimes: Newsroom: The Independent Institute

Gun Control Restricts Those Least Likely to Commit Violent Crimes: Newsroom: The Independent Institute

US health care: A reality check on cross-country comparisons

US health care: A reality check on cross-country comparisons
The United States spends substantially more on health care per capita than other developed countries. Based on comparison data of health status, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report on health system performance, finding that the US system does not perform better than systems in countries that spend less. On many measures, US health status is inferior to those of other countries. We find these cross-country comparisons unable to adequately differentiate between health system performance and other confounding factors that determine health. In this Outlook, we provide a comprehensive critique of the OECD report and suggest several ways in which to strengthen the analysis. This includes improving the accuracy of infant mortality rates, employing life expectancy and premature mortality measures that are less sensitive to external factors, improving controls for external elements, and distinguishing between country-specific differences in health status and countries’ health care system efficiency.
Key points in this Outlook:
  • The United States spends substantially more per capita on health care than other developed countries, yet commonly cited reports indicate that the United States does not have superior health system performance.
  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) uses mortality metrics to measure health care system performance, but these data do not adequately indicate health status differences and do not accurately judge health care system efficiency.
  • The OECD and other researchers must adjust their methods for measuring infant mortality, life expectancy, and premature mortality and control for confounding factors such as lifestyle to give a more accurate picture of health system performance.

The United States spends substantially more on health care as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) than other developed countries. In 2010, US health care spending amounted to 17.9 percent of GDP, which worked out to $8402 per person.[1] On the unadjusted measures customarily used to assess population health, US results are not better than those of countries that spend less, and on many of these measures, US outcomes are inferior.
This raises the question of whether the US health care system is inefficient. The primary source of comparison data on health outcomes is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) health system performance data and reports. This information is used to support broad criticisms of the US health care system and to compare it unfavorably with others, particularly the state-operated or state-controlled systems of Europe. Illustrations of such critiques include assessments by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen and the Commonwealth Fund.[2]
Using these health comparison data, the OECD Economics Department issued a major report in 2008, henceforth referred to as “the OECD report.”[3] More recently, the OECD issued an expansion of the report, which is primarily based on the same underlying empirical analysis and was written by some of the same authors as the earlier report.[4]
"The combination of higher delivery costs because of greater NICU use and the unique way the United States counts live briths could lead one to erroneously conclude that the United States is highly inefficient compared to other industrialized nations."
This Outlook offers a brief critical assessment of international health system performance metrics. We will focus on three statistics that the OECD delves into in its report: infant mortality, life expectancy, and premature death. The strengths and weaknesses of these measures are illuminated through brief examples that ultimately demonstrate that the measures do not reflect the efficiency of any country’s health system. Given that organizations such as the OECD continually try to evaluate countries’ health systems, US policymakers and analysts must understand the limitations of such exercises. We conclude with suggested changes in approach and a road map for improved research.
Before describing the key metrics for international comparison, it is useful to recall the relatively recent origin of international health statistics. The OECD was created in 1948 as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) to administer funds made available by the US Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. Later, the OEEC’s membership was extended beyond Europe. In 1961, it was reformed into the OECD. Today, its members are thirty-four developed countries.[5]
Over the last three decades, OECD has published a set of international health statistics based on data supplied by member countries. The data are collected and collated by the Health Division within the Directorate for Employment, Labor, and Social Affairs.
Health Status Metrics
A common misconception is that people value health care in and of itself. In reality, people value the improved health status that they hope to gain from receiving health care. Indeed, using most health care is unpleasant. Health status is not directly measurable; it can only be approximated through related factors that can be measured.
The OECD report focused on observable measures as proxies of health status to provide comparative statistics. A depressing reality is that these observable measures are all some derivative of mortality. The OECD expects all its member states to provide death registers as part of a planned, one-hundred-year public health mission to identify sources of death and time of death to track epidemiological emergencies such as those resulting from infectious diseases. In the service of OECD, mortality metrics are outcome measures that are meant to proxy health status and the output of health care systems, rather than the consumption of health services.
The OECD uses infant mortality, life expectancy, and premature death as measures of mortality in their report.[6] The validity of each one of these measures as proxies for health system performance is examined below.
Infant Mortality. There are three overlapping OECD infant mortality measures: infant, neonatal, and perinatal mortality.[7] Infant mortality is the number of deaths in the first year per one thousand live births. Neonatal mortality is the number of deaths in the first twenty-eight days per one thousand live births. Perinatal mortality is the number of deaths in the first week after birth, plus fetal deaths after twenty-eight weeks of gestation or fetuses that exceed a weight of one thousand grams.
Partly based on an argument by Nixon and Ullmann, the OECD report states that these infant mortality measures are less influenced by factors unrelated to the health care system than are other possible measures.[8] However, we believe that the opposite is true. One major concern is that the basic definitions of infant mortality are not consistent across countries.
For example, babies who are not viable and who die quickly after birth are more likely to be classified as stillbirths in countries outside the United States, especially in Japan, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, the Netherlands, and France. This is especially likely for babies who die before their birth is legally registered.[9] In the United States, however, nonviable births are often recorded as live births, making the US infant mortality rate appear misleadingly high. In a detailed study of medical records and birth and death certificates in Philadelphia, Gibson and colleagues found that infant mortality had been overstated by 40 percent, merely as a result of these nonviable births that were recorded as live births.[10]
There is another problem with using infant mortality to represent health care efficacy. US physicians often go to great efforts—at the prenatal and postnatal stages—to save a baby with poor survival chances. The additional prenatal care an American doctor provides may improve the odds of the live birth of a baby with poor survival chances, who is then likely to require extensive neonatal care. Accordingly, the US uses substantially more neonatal intensive care units (NICU) than other industrialized countries. In this case, the additional health care may actually worsen reported infant mortality rates and misleadingly suggest poor care in the United States. Similarly, US physicians are more likely to resuscitate very small premature babies, many of whom nevertheless die and many others of whom live with serious and expensive medical problems. This practice also raises measured infant mortality rates for the United States.
The combination of higher delivery costs because of greater NICU use and the unique way the United States counts live births could lead one to erroneously conclude that the United States is highly inefficient compared to other industrialized nations. Furthermore, infant mortality is strongly and immediately affected by external influences such as the mother’s age, behavior, and lifestyle (meaning factors such as obesity and use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs).[11] Infant mortality is strongly linked to birth weight and gestational age, which are highly, but not perfectly, correlated. Indeed, the correlation is high enough that researchers will often use one or the other measure according to conveniences. In any case, both measures are largely a result of parental lifestyles.
Teenage mothers are more likely to have preterm, low-birth-weight babies. The mortality rate for infants born to US teenage mothers is 1.5 to 3.5 times as high as the rate for infants born to mothers ages twenty-five to twenty-nine.[12] The US rate of births for teenage mothers is very high—2.8 times that of Canada and 7.0 times that of Sweden and Japan. If the United States had the same birth weights as Canada, its infant mortality rate—adjusting for this variable alone—would be slightly lower than Canada’s (5.4 versus 5.5 per one thousand births).[13]
Turning to gestational age, MacDorman and  Mathews calculate that if the United States had the same distribution of gestational ages as Sweden, its recorded infant mortality rate would drop by 33 percent,  tying it with France as the fifth lowest rate out of twenty-one developed countries.[14] Moreover, in the United States, mortality rates for infants born to unwed mothers were about twice as high as for infants born to married women.[15]
Overall, these lifestyle and socioeconomic factors may reflect poorly on some aspects of society in the United States in comparison to other countries. It is inappropriate, however, to conclude that the root cause is the US health care system rather than societal factors in a dynamic heterogeneous society. Infant mortality is a particularly misleading metric by which to grade country-specific health system performance and to make international comparisons.
"A further limitation of using potential years of life lost as a mortality measurement is that many deaths are caused by other external factors--such as obesity and pollution--which are disguised by the disease they cause."
Life Expectancy. In the abstract, life expectancy (LE) could be an effective metric for comparing international health systems. But there are problems with this measure. One important flaw is that it incorporates infant mortality, which, as discussed above, is confounded by external factors and is not identically measured across all countries covered in the OECD report.
Our main concern is the dependency of LE upon which benchmark age is used. For example, LE can be measured at birth or at older ages such as at the age of forty, sixty, or sixty-five. The OECD uses LE at birth. But LE at older ages is less affected by the measurement, lifestyle, and cultural problems inherent in infant mortality and in LE at birth. Measurement errors and definitional differences related to infant mortality do not directly affect LE at later ages.
Thus, the measurement errors and lifestyle and cultural influences that affect the infant mortality measure are directly imported into LE calculations. In a comparative study of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, Martin Neil Baily and Alan Garber conclude:
Neonatal mortality is heavily influenced by social and economic factors, along with individual health behaviors, that are not strongly related to health care delivery. Overall life expectancy at birth, then, may be an unsuitable measure of health outcomes for the purpose of measuring productivity of health services.[16]
As a result of the problems with infant mortality (as well as mortality due to violence and accidents), the difference between US life expectancy and that of other countries is reduced at later ages. This is demonstrated in empirical studies of the production of health, including in the OECD report itself and also in the raw data. For example, in 2000, female life expectancy at birth was 79.3 years in the United States, 80.3 in the United Kingdom and 81.2 in Germany. Female life expectancy at sixty-five was 19.0 years in the United States, 19.0 years in the United Kingdom and 19.6 years in Germany.[17] The differences decline from 1.0 and 1.9 to 0.0 and 0.6.
Premature Mortality. Premature mortality, which is determined by potential years of life lost (PYLL), is a useful measure if appropriately calculated, though it is also strongly influenced by infant mortality. One advantage—stressed by the OECD—is that PYLL can be linked to cause of death.[18] Since PYLL is calculated from deaths that occur before the defined full life (seventy years in the OECD report), one can include or exclude deaths based on their specific causes. This allows the analyst to reduce, but not eliminate, the confounding of some external causes with health care inputs and with country-specific effects. Oddly, the OECD does not use PYLL measurements for cross-country comparisons.
One can calculate PYLL numbers for categories of diseases that are more related to health care and analyze the effect of the health care system and other variables on PYLL by those categories. Miller and Frech have done this for the respiratory, circulatory, and cancer categories and Or, Wang, and Jamison have done the same for heart disease.[19]
With this in mind, the OECD states that adjustments to PYLL numbers were made in one area, namely to exclude transport accidents, accidental falls, assaults, and suicides. However, while the OECD performs some analyses with these PYLL number adjustments, it does not do so for the country-specific analyses.
Though helpful, moreover, adjustments of PYLL numbers are not perfect. Accident and assault victims use health care resources, especially if they do not die quickly. But the costs associated with this care cannot be accounted for.
A further limitation of using  PYLL as a mortality measurement is that many deaths are caused by other external factors—such as obesity and pollution—which are disguised by the disease they cause (respectively, circulatory and respiratory disease). PYLL cannot be adjusted to reflect these factors; the mediating disease, not the underlying external cause, will be recorded as the cause of death.
In the OECD report, the maximum age at which to establish PYLL is seventy. Thus, the costs and success (or lack of success) of a health care system in extending life and the quality of life beyond age seventy are not reflected. The authors of the report recognize that this is a weakness of this measure.[20] The costs of this care for consumers ages seventy years or more are reflected in the OECD expenditure data, but the health outcomes are not reflected in the PYLL measure.
Accounting for Quality of Life
Mortality data are an inadequate proxy for health system performance for another reason: they measure years of life, but do not reflect the quality of that life. Mortality measures need to be adjusted to give a better picture of health status. The common terms for these adjusted measures are quality-adjusted LE (QALE), disability-adjusted LE (DALE), and health-adjusted LE (HALE).[21] These adjustments depend on the values of the individual consumers and thus differ person by person. In practice, surveys of consumers or experts (typically panels of physicians) are used to find average weights to be applied in research.[22] In some surveys, for instance, a year spent with a migraine headache is considered to be an indicator of very low quality of life and is counted as equivalent to only a month of healthy time; the year with the migraine would be weighted at one-twelfth, or 0.083 of a healthy year.
The OECD report, however, treats all years of life as the same, regardless of health status. HALE is discussed, but not used. The OECD report sticks with raw LE—rather than using quality-adjusted versions—because of the wider availability of unadjusted LE data, but at the expense of conceptual accuracy. As a result, the OECD report attributes no value to expenditures that permit people to enjoy a better life by, for example, being able to work or to be functional longer; it correlates expenditures only with mortality. Thus, money spent on knee replacements, for instance, would appear to be inefficient in that it does not decrease mortality, despite the obvious advantages of improved mobility and prevention of falls. Therefore, it is difficult to see mortality alone as an accurate measure of health system efficiency.
A Road Map for Improvement
We propose some improvements for future research of this kind, beginning with infant mortality. Infant mortality seems to be the least accurate measure of health status because it is most heavily influenced by factors external to the health care system. However, many of those external factors could be addressed by controlling for birth weight and gestational age. Keeping birth weight and gestational age constant would eliminate some of the confounding effects of lifestyle and other influences. The result of doing so is dramatic, as we have seen. One could form an index by picking a distribution of weights to multiply by the birth-weight-specific infant mortality rates.
LE at birth and PYLL numbers are at risk of being seriously flawed because of infant mortality miscalculations. Considering a version of PYLL that excludes most of the causes of death that affect infants would decrease this risk.
One can somewhat reduce the problem of confounding variables by focusing on LE at later ages. As discussed (and contrary to the assertions of the OECD report), infant mortality is highly influenced by external factors and by definitional and measurement problems. LE at later ages—such as at forty, sixty, or sixty-five—eliminates the people who have died before the selected ages. Furthermore, many of the lifestyle choices that lead to bad health outcomes are more heavily concentrated among younger consumers and affect LE more at younger ages. For example, in 2003-2005, annual US motor vehicle deaths peaked at 33 per 100,000 people at age seventeen. This peak was a maximum statistic that was not reached at any subsequent age.
Similarly, the all-injury death rate has an early peak at age eighteen. After that, the all-injury death rate does not catch up to that level until age seventy-five.[23] Using LE at birth fails to adjust for these factors and incorrectly lowers the apparent efficiency of the US health care system.
Accidental and violent deaths need to be excluded from PYLL measurements in making country-level comparisons. The OECD pursues this to some extent by excluding certain accidental and violent deaths from their measurements. But since the PYLL results for country-level efficiency are not reported, the result of adjusting for these causes of death is not reflected. The country-level analysis is entirely in terms of LE and infant mortality, which have questionable validity.[24]
"It is overreaching to interpret country-specific variation in health outcomes as a measure of health care system productivity."
Finally, since morbidity is so important, it would also be relevant to use a measure of quality-adjusted or disability-adjusted LE. This change would be a major contribution to the cross-country health status comparisons.
The OECD report raises important questions on how to determine the efficiency of health care in producing positive health outcomes and how to compare and contrast efficiency of systems among different countries. The OECD staff concludes that health care is highly productive in improving health outcomes and that efficiency varies greatly across countries. It provides country-specific estimates of that efficiency.
Unfortunately, major problems in OECD’s analysis render their conclusions—especially the country-specific conclusions—unreliable. Many external factors that influence health outcomes are either omitted or poorly measured. The net effect is to underweight the role that non-health care factors play in determining health. And since the United States scores relatively poorly on most of these external measures, omitting them or not adequately controlling for them increases the apparent relative inefficiency of the US health care system and probably biases the estimated productivity of health care as well. The OECD report controls to a limited extent for some lifestyle differences by gross measures (for example, consumption of alcohol, tobacco, fruits, and vegetables). It adjusts one health measure—PYLL—for violence and accidents, but does not use that measure for country-specific efficiency numbers. As explained above, we believe that these controls and adjustments are inadequate.
It is overreaching to interpret country-specific variation in health outcomes as a measure of health care system productivity. In reality, the country-specific estimates reflect all differences in country-level influences, whatever their source and measurement issues. As econometrician William Greene stated in a similar context, there are considerable differences among countries that masquerade as inefficiency. More carefully calibrated research is necessary to identify these differences.[25]
H.E. Frech III (frech@econ.uscb.edu) is an adjunct scholar at AEI and a professor in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Stephen T. Parente (stephen.parente@gmail.com) is an adjunct scholar at AEI and a professor in the Department of Finance at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota; and John S. Hoff (johnseaburyhoff@yahoo.com) is a visiting scholar at AEI and was health attaché to the US mission to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2005-2009.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Libertarian Manifesto on Pollution

Mises Daily: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 by

[For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto (1973)]
All right: Even if we concede that full private property in resources and the free market will conserve and create resources, and do it far better than government regulation, what of the problem of pollution? Wouldn't we be suffering aggravated pollution from unchecked "capitalist greed"?
There is, first of all, this stark empirical fact: Government ownership, even socialism, has proved to be no solution to the problem of pollution. Even the most starry-eyed proponents of government planning concede that the poisoning of Lake Baikal in the Soviet Union is a monument to heedless industrial pollution of a valuable natural resource. But there is far more to the problem than that. Note, for example, the two crucial areas in which pollution has become an important problem: the air and the waterways, particularly the rivers. But these are precisely two of the vital areas in society in which private property has not been permitted to function.
First, the rivers. The rivers, and the oceans too, are generally owned by the government; private property, certainly complete private property, has not been permitted in the water. In essence, then, government owns the rivers. But government ownership is not true ownership, because the government officials, while able to control the resource cannot themselves reap their capital value on the market. Government officials cannot sell the rivers or sell stock in them. Hence, they have no economic incentive to preserve the purity and value of the rivers. Rivers are, then, in the economic sense, "unowned"; therefore government officials have permitted their corruption and pollution. Anyone has been able to dump polluting garbage and wastes in the waters. But consider what would happen if private firms were able to own the rivers and the lakes. If a private firm owned Lake Erie, for example, then anyone dumping garbage in the lake would be promptly sued in the courts for their aggression against private property and would be forced by the courts to pay damages and to cease and desist from any further aggression. Thus, only private property rights will insure an end to pollution — invasion of resources. Only because the rivers are unowned is there no owner to rise up and defend his precious resource from attack. If, in contrast, anyone should dump garbage or pollutants into a lake which is privately owned (as are many smaller lakes), he would not be permitted to do so for very long — the owner would come roaring to its defense.[1] Professor Dolan writes:
With a General Motors owning the Mississippi River, you can be sure that stiff effluent charges would be assessed on industries and municipalities along its banks, and that the water would be kept clean enough to maximize revenues from leases granted to firms seeking rights to drinking water, recreation, and commercial fishing.[2]
If government as owner has allowed the pollution of the rivers, government has also been the single major active polluter, especially in its role as municipal sewage disposer. There already exist low-cost chemical toilets which can burn off sewage without polluting air, ground, or water; but who will invest in chemical toilets when local governments will dispose of sewage free to their customers?
This example points up a problem similar to the case of the stunting of aquaculture technology by the absence of private property: if governments as owners of the rivers permit pollution of water, then industrial technology will — and has — become a water-polluting technology. If production processes are allowed to pollute the rivers unchecked by their owners, then that is the sort of production technology we will have.
If the problem of water pollution can be cured by private property rights in water, how about air pollution? How can libertarians possibly come up with a solution for this grievous problem? Surely, there can't be private property in the air? But the answer is: yes, there can. We have already seen how radio and TV frequencies can be privately owned. So could channels for airlines. Commercial airline routes, for example, could be privately owned; there is no need for a Civil Aeronautics Board to parcel out — and restrict — routes between various cities. But in the case of air pollution we are dealing not so much with private property in the air as with protecting private property in one's lungs, fields, and orchards. The vital fact about air pollution is that the polluter sends unwanted and unbidden pollutants — from smoke to nuclear radiation to sulfur oxides — through the air and into the lungs of innocent victims, as well as onto their material property. All such emanations which injure person or property constitute aggression against the private property of the victims. Air pollution, after all, is just as much aggression as committing arson against another's property or injuring him physically. Air pollution that injures others is aggression pure and simple. The major function of government — of courts and police — is to stop aggression; instead, the government has failed in this task and has failed grievously to exercise its defense function against air pollution.
It is important to realize that this failure has not been a question purely of ignorance, a simple time lag between recognizing a new technological problem and facing up to it. For if some of the modern pollutants have only recently become known, factory smoke and many of its bad effects have been known ever since the Industrial Revolution, known to the extent that the American courts, during the late — and as far back as the early 19th century made the deliberate decision to allow property rights to be violated by industrial smoke. To do so, the courts had to — and did — systematically change and weaken the defenses of property right embedded in Anglo-Saxon common law. Before the mid and late 19th century, any injurious air pollution was considered a tort, a nuisance against which the victim could sue for damages and against which he could take out an injunction to cease and desist from any further invasion of his property rights. But during the 19th century, the courts systematically altered the law of negligence and the law of nuisance to permit any air pollution which was not unusually greater than any similar manufacturing firm, one that was not more extensive than the customary practice of fellow polluters.
As factories began to arise and emit smoke, blighting the orchards of neighboring farmers, the farmers would take the manufacturers to court, asking for damages and injunctions against further invasion of their property. But the judges said, in effect, "Sorry. We know that industrial smoke (i.e., air pollution) invades and interferes with your property rights. But there is something more important than mere property rights: and that is public policy, the 'common good.' And the common good decrees that industry is a good thing, industrial progress is a good thing, and therefore your mere private property rights must be overridden on behalf of the general welfare." And now all of us are paying the bitter price for this overriding of private property, in the form of lung disease and countless other ailments. And all for the "common good"![3]
That this principle has guided the courts during the air age as well may be seen by a decision of the Ohio courts in Antonik v. Chamberlain (1947). The residents of a suburban area near Akron sued to enjoin the defendants from operating a privately owned airport. The grounds were invasion of property rights through excessive noise. Refusing the injunction, the court declared:
In our business of judging in this case, while sitting as a court of equity, we must not only weigh the conflict of interests between the airport owner and the nearby landowners, but we must further recognize the public policy of the generation in which we live. We must recognize that the establishment of an airport … is of great concern to the public, and if such an airport is abated, or its establishment prevented, the consequences will be not only a serious injury to the owner of the port property but may be a serious loss of a valuable asset to the entire community.[4]
To cap the crimes of the judges, legislatures, federal and state, moved in to cement the aggression by prohibiting victims of air pollution from engaging in "class action" suits against polluters. Obviously, if a factory pollutes the atmosphere of a city where there are tens of thousands of victims, it is impractical for each victim to sue to collect his particular damages from the polluter (although an injunction could be used effectively by one small victim). The common law, therefore, recognizes the validity of "class action" suits, in which one or a few victims can sue the aggressor not only on their own behalf, but on behalf of the entire class of similar victims. But the legislatures systematically outlawed such class action suits in pollution cases. For this reason, a victim may successfully sue a polluter who injures him individually, in a one-to-one "private nuisance" suit. But he is prohibited by law from acting against a mass polluter who is injuring a large number of people in a given area! As Frank Bubb writes, "It is as if the government were to tell you that it will (attempt to) protect you from a thief who steals only from you, but it will not protect you if the thief also steals from everyone else in the neighborhood."[5]
Noise, too, is a form of air pollution. Noise is the creation of sound waves which go through the air and then bombard and invade the property and persons of others. Only recently have physicians begun to investigate the damaging effects of noise on the human physiology. Again, a libertarian legal system would permit damage and class action suits and injunctions against excessive and damaging noise: against "noise pollution."
The remedy against air pollution is therefore crystal clear, and it has nothing to do with multibillion-dollar palliative government programs at the expense of the taxpayers which do not even meet the real issue. The remedy is simply for the courts to return to their function of defending person and property rights against invasion, and therefore to enjoin anyone from injecting pollutants into the air. But what of the propollution defenders of industrial progress? And what of the increased costs that would have to be borne by the consumer? And what of our present polluting technology?
The argument that such an injunctive prohibition against pollution would add to the costs of industrial production is as reprehensible as the pre-Civil War argument that the abolition of slavery would add to the costs of growing cotton, and that therefore abolition, however morally correct, was "impractical." For this means that the polluters are able to impose all of the high costs of pollution upon those whose lungs and property rights they have been allowed to invade with impunity.
Furthermore, the cost and technology argument overlooks the vital fact that if air pollution is allowed to proceed with impunity, there continues to be no economic incentive to develop a technology that will not pollute. On the contrary, the incentive would continue to cut, as it has for a century, precisely the other way. Suppose, for example, that in the days when automobiles and trucks were first being used, the courts had ruled as follows:
Ordinarily, we would be opposed to trucks invading people's lawns as an invasion of private property, and we would insist that trucks confine themselves to the roads, regardless of traffic congestion. But trucks are vitally important to the public welfare, and therefore we decree that trucks should be allowed to cross any lawns they wish provided they believe that this would ease their traffic problems.
If the courts had ruled in this way, then we would now have a transportation system in which lawns would be systematically desecrated by trucks. And any attempt to stop this would be decried in the name of modern transportation needs! The point is that this is precisely the way that the courts ruled on air pollution — pollution which is far more damaging to all of us than trampling on lawns. In this way, the government gave the green light, from the very start, to a polluting technology. It is no wonder then that this is precisely the kind of technology we have. The only remedy is to force the polluting invaders to stop their invasion, and thereby to redirect technology into nonpolluting or even antipolluting channels.
Already, even at our necessarily primitive stage in antipollution technology, techniques have been developed to combat air and noise pollution. Mufflers can be installed on noisy machines that emit sound waves precisely contra-cyclical to the waves of the machines, and thereby can cancel out these racking sounds. Air wastes can even now be recaptured as they leave the chimney and be recycled to yield products useful to industry. Thus, sulfur dioxide, a major noxious air pollutant, can be captured and recycled to produce economically valuable sulfuric acid.[6] The highly polluting spark ignition engine will either have to be "cured" by new devices or replaced altogether by such nonpolluting engines as diesel, gas turbine, or steam, or by an electric car. And, as libertarian systems engineer Robert Poole, Jr., points out, the costs of installing the non- or antipolluting technology would then "ultimately be borne by the consumers of the firms' products, i.e., by those who choose to associate with the firm, rather than being passed on to innocent third parties in the form of pollution (or as taxes)."[7]
Robert Poole cogently defines pollution "as the transfer of harmful matter or energy to the person or property of another, without the latter's consent."[8] The libertarian — and the only complete — solution to the problem of air pollution is to use the courts and the legal structure to combat and prevent such invasion. There are recent signs that the legal system is beginning to change in this direction: new judicial decisions and repeal of laws disallowing class action suits. But this is only a beginning.[9]
Among conservatives — in contrast to libertarians — there are two ultimately similar responses to the problem of air pollution. One response, by Ayn Rand and Robert Moses among others, is to deny that the problem exists, and to attribute the entire agitation to leftists who want to destroy capitalism and technology on behalf of a tribal form of socialism. While part of this charge may be correct, denial of the very existence of the problem is to deny science itself and to give a vital hostage to the leftist charge that defenders of capitalism "place property rights above human rights." Moreover, a defense of air pollution does not even defend property rights; on the contrary, it puts these conservatives' stamp of approval on those industrialists who are trampling upon the property rights of the mass of the citizenry.
A second, and more sophisticated, conservative response is by such free-market economists as Milton Friedman. The Friedmanites concede the existence of air pollution but propose to meet it, not by a defense of property rights, but rather by a supposedly utilitarian "cost-benefit" calculation by government, which will then make and enforce a "social decision" on how much pollution to allow. This decision would then be enforced either by licensing a given amount of pollution (the granting of "pollution rights"), by a graded scale of taxes against it, or by the taxpayers paying firms not to pollute. Not only would these proposals grant an enormous amount of bureaucratic power to government in the name of safeguarding the "free market"; they would continue to override property rights in the name of a collective decision enforced by the State. This is far from any genuine "free market," and reveals that, as in many other economic areas, it is impossible to really defend freedom and the free market without insisting on defending the rights of private property. Friedman's grotesque dictum that those urban inhabitants who don't wish to contract emphysema should move to the country is starkly reminiscent of Marie Antoinette's famous "Let them eat cake" — and reveals a lack of sensitivity to human or property rights. Friedman's statement, in fact, is of a piece with the typically conservative, "If you don't like it here, leave," a statement that implies that the government rightly owns the entire land area of "here," and that anyone who objects to its rule must therefore leave the area. Robert Poole's libertarian critique of the Friedmanite proposals offers a refreshing contrast:
Unfortunately, it is an example of the most serious failing of the conservative economists: nowhere in the proposal is there any mention of rights. This is the same failing that has undercut advocates of capitalism for 200 years. Even today, the term "laissez-faire" is apt to bring forth images of eighteenth century English factory towns engulfed in smoke and grimy with soot. The early capitalists agreed with the courts that smoke and soot were the "price" that must be paid for the benefits of industry.… Yet laissez-faire without rights is a contradiction in terms; the laissez-faire position is based on and derived from man's rights, and can endure only when rights are held inviolable. Now, in an age of increasing awareness of the environment, this old contradiction is coming back to haunt capitalism.
It is true that air is a scarce resource [as the Friedmanites say], but one must then ask why it is scarce. If it is scarce because of a systematic violation of rights, then the solution is not to raise the price of the status quo, thereby sanctioning the rights-violations, but to assert the rights and demand that they be protected.… When a factory discharges a great quantity of sulfur dioxide molecules that enter someone's lungs and cause pulmonary edema, the factory owners have aggressed against him as much as if they had broken his leg. The point must be emphasized because it is vital to the libertarian laissez-faire position. A laissez-faire polluter is a contradiction in terms and must be identified as such. A libertarian society would be a full-liability society, where everyone is fully responsible for his actions and any harmful consequences they might cause.[10]
In addition to betraying its presumed function of defending private property, government has contributed to air pollution in a more positive sense. It was not so long ago that the Department of Agriculture conducted mass sprayings of DDT by helicopter over large areas, overriding the wishes of individual objecting farmers. It still continues to pour tons of poisonous and carcinogenic insecticides all over the South in an expensive and vain attempt to eradicate the fire ant.[11] And the Atomic Energy Commission has poured radioactive wastes into the air and into the ground by means of its nuclear power plants, and through atomic testing. Municipal power and water plants, and the plants of licensed monopoly utility companies, mightily pollute the atmosphere. One of the major tasks of the State in this area is therefore to stop its own poisoning of the atmosphere.
Thus, when we peel away the confusions and the unsound philosophy of the modern ecologists, we find an important bedrock case against the existing system; but the case turns out to be not against capitalism, private property, growth, or technology per se. It is a case against the failure of government to allow and to defend the rights of private property against invasion. If property rights were to be defended fully, against private and governmental invasion alike, we would find here, as in other areas of our economy and society, that private enterprise and modern technology would come to mankind not as a curse but as its salvation.