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The Black Alliance for Education Options released the results of a new survey of black voters in four states on education policy. The poll found that more than six in ten blacks in Alabama, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Tennessee support school vouchers.


Source: BAEO Survey on Education Policy

The results are similar to Education Next’s 2015 survey, which found that 58 percent of blacks nationwide supported universal school vouchers and 66 percent supported vouchers for low-income families.

The survey also asked about black voters’ views on charter schools (about two-thirds support them), “parent choice” generally (three-quarters support it), and the importance of testing. However, it appears that BAEO is overinterpreting the findings on that last question, claiming:

The survey also indicated solid support among Black voters that believe educational standards such as Common Core and its related assessments is essential to holding education stakeholders responsible for student learning outcomes.

If the wording of the survey question was identical to how it appears on their website, then it says absolutely nothing about black support for Common Core. The question as it appears on their website is: “Do you think that testing is necessary to hold school accountable for student achievement?” The question doesn’t mention Common Core at all. For that matter, it doesn’t mention standardized testing specifically, nor explain how the testing is meant to “hold schools accountable.” Perhaps it means publishing the score results so parents will hold schools accountable. Or perhaps it means the state government will offer financial carrots or regulatory sticks. Or maybe it means whatever the survey respondent wants it to mean. 

Source: BAEO Survey on Education Policy

If Acme Snack Co. asked survey respondents, “Do you like snacks that are delicious and nutritious?” and then claimed “two-thirds of Americans enjoy delicious and nutritious snacks such as Acme Snack Co. snacks,” they would be guilty of false advertising. Maybe the survey respondents really do like Acme Snacks–or Common Core–but we can’t know that from that survey. Just as some people may enjoy carrots (delicious and nutritious) but find Acme Snacks revolting, lots of parents may support some measure of testing while opposing Common Core testing for any number of reasons.

BAEO’s question on vouchers was clear: “Do you support school vouchers/scholarships?” Yes, most blacks do. But its question on testing is much less clear, and therefore so are the results. All the BAEO survey tells us is that most blacks support using some sort of testing to hold schools accountable in some undefined way. Interpreting these results as support for Common Core is irresponsible.

After filmmaker Quentin Tarantino delivered an impassioned speech at a rally denouncing as “murder” some recent police uses of force against civilians, pro-police groups called for a boycott of his films.  So far, so dull. But now, according to the Hollywood Reporter, things have taken a new and remarkable turn. 

In a veiled threat, the largest police union in the country says it has a “surprise” in store for Quentin Tarantino.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, would not go into any detail about what is being cooked up for the Hollywood director, but he did tell THR: “We’ll be opportunistic.” 

Pasco specified that the “surprise” in question would be in addition to the standing call for a boycott. 

“Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element,” says Pasco. “Something could happen anytime between now and [the premiere]. And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable.

“The right time and place will come up and we’ll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that’s economically,” says Pasco.

When asked if this was a threat, Pasco said no, at least not a physical threat.

Note well that last bit, which did not deny that the surprise might involve forms of on-the-job retaliation by Pasco’s members falling short of physical violence. Might it involve traffic problems at a Tarantino appearance? Asking patrons to state their business as they walk to a premiere? Simple failure to extend protection can accomplish a lot, as Padma Lakshmi discovered last year when police outside Boston failed to protect her from a vicious onslaught and tire-slashings when her crew tried to film a segment of Top Chef without a demanded union contingent. 

Like many others, I have taken positions adverse to FOP’s – opposing its call for attacks on police to be covered by the enhanced penalties of hate crime laws, for example, and criticizing the LEOBR laws that confer teacher-like tenure on errant cops. Perhaps from now on I too should worry about a “surprise” at the hands of police unionists who might, after finding my movements “predictable,” seize the “right time and place” to “try to hurt.”

Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake made a splash yesterday with their report on “paid patriotism.” The report shows that the National Guard and military services, in the name of marketing themselves to potential recruits, paid millions over the last several years to professional sports teams and a couple universities for on-field tributes to military personnel, which appeared to fans as unpaid expressions of affection. According the report:

These paid tributes included on-field color guard, enlistment and reenlistment ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, full-field flag details, ceremonial first pitches͕ and puck drops. The National Guard paid teams for the “opportunity” to sponsor military appreciation nights and to recognize its birthday. It paid the Buffalo Bills to sponsor its Salute to the Service game. DOD even paid teams for the “opportunity” to perform surprise welcome home promotions for troops returning from deployments and to recognize wounded warriors.

In other cases, it seems that a military marketing or promotional contract paid a lot of personnel to attend games without doing much of marketing value. They just wanted tickets.

Letters from Pentagon officials, appended to the report, ban these practices. A letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell of the National Football League, says that its teams will better differentiate what is and isn’t advertising and refund “inappropriate payments,” though what that includes is unclear. The NFL also included for the report a lengthy list of the unpaid troop tributes and pro-military acts of the NFL and its teams. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association also say they’ll avoid paid tributes.

Besides the leagues, the major culprits here, in both ticket abuse and fake tributes, are the U.S. Air Force and Army National Guard from various states. The report never mentions the regular Army or the Marine Corps. The Navy comes up only once, due to the $24,000 that the Naval Supply Systems Command’s spent on Phillies tickets in both 2012 and 2014. It’s not clear why that purchase is in the report, given that the online contract says the goal is “social and recreational” purposes, not recruiting or promotions. Maybe that’s too much recreation on the taxpayer dime, but there is no misdirection, which seems to be report’s concern.

Some might wonder why paid tributes are so bad. As the Pentagon’s responses to Flake’s inquiries all note, advertising is a legitimate way for the military to recruit volunteers. Plus, it’s not as if fans received some sacred promise from the profit-making entertainment corporations—the teams— that they support not to blur the line between performance and advertising.

Still, there are a couple good reasons to be annoyed by paid tributes. First, it’s unclear that advertising during sports events, even the traditional, non-scandalous sort, is an efficient way to reach recruits. A Pentagon document appended to the report notes, reasonably, that professional sports broadcasts, especially football, reach much of the military target audience for recruiting. But, as the report notes, the Pentagon didn’t offer evidence that buying sports advertising or sponsorships to reach this audience is more cost-effective than alternative marketing strategies in generating recruits.

One likely reason for the military’s limited interest in the ostensible goal of this advertising is that it serves additional ends. Like the Air Force’s Thunderbirds and Navy’s Blue Angels air show units, the goal of military advertising arguably is public support or even awe. That’s conducive not only recruits but also to budgetary support and organizational health, sometimes at the expense of other public organizations. Because those aren’t necessarily kosher uses of tax dollars, it’s safer to say it’s all for recruiting.

If that misdirection is a problem, it’s a far more costly one than the one the report highlights. The press is mostly using the $6.8 million figure on the report’s cover as an estimate of spending on paid troop tributes from 2012 until 2015. Actually, it is unclear what the report means by that figure. But whatever the right amount, it’s a fraction of the $53 million that the Pentagon reports spending on marketing and advertising deals with sports teams over those three years. And that’s a drop in the bucket of the total marketing budget.  Maybe the Senators should broaden their scope.

The bigger reason to be offended by paid tributes is their particular brand of phoniness. Sneaky product placement is annoying. Getting paid to display your regard for military service is a more unseemly trick, a point Senator Flake made in interviews yesterday.

But weren’t displays a bit unseemly already? Uncompensated ballpark tributes do not lack for pretension. It is easy for public announcers to make fans stand and cheer by saying “heroes” during the seventh inning stretch or before kickoff, but hard to make them do so for the public reasons. The social patriotism produced for quick display in stadiums might not be much more legitimate than the paid kind. Maybe ballparks are a bad place to commemorate wars.

I hope everybody’s read my book The Libertarian Mind. Not to mention the companion volume The Libertarian Reader.

But for those who prefer listening or watching videos to reading, I’m excited to announce my new online Introduction to Libertarianism, the first of several Guides to libertarian ideas produced by Each Guide will include an introductory video, a series of video lectures, and a featured book, along with additional reading lists, essays, and links to other materials. Here’s a peek:

Coming soon: Guides on such topics as economics, political philosophy, and public policy, generally with a short original book to accompany the videos. For the Introduction to Libertarianism, the accompanying book is The Libertarian Mind. The 14 short lectures – 10 to 20 minutes each – track the sections of the book:

The Early Roots of Libertarianism

The Classical Liberal Era

The Modern Libertarian Revival

What Rights Do We Have?

The Dignity of the Individual

Pluralism and Toleration

Law and the Constitution

Civil Society

Networks of Trust

The Market Process

The Seen and the Unseen and International Trade

What Big Government Is All About

Public Choice

The Obsolete State

My colleagues at and I have tried to create the best available introduction to libertarianism here in 2015. And by the way, even though it’s called “Introduction,” I think almost any libertarian will find some new and interesting material in both the lectures and The Libertarian Mind.

Read the book! And check out the video lectures at 

The Washington Post today discusses how presidential candidate Donald Trump is dismissing the need for major entitlement reforms. The paper noted, “… leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump railed against proposals to end or significantly change Medicare.”

Trump said, “You can’t get rid of Medicare. It’d be a horrible thing to get rid of. It actually works. You get rid of the fraud, waste and abuse — it works.”

Mr. Trump seems sure that it’s easy to fix Washington with tough talk and a little elbow grease. I admire his confidence, but he needs to do his homework on the entitlement programs.

Because the Obama administration has buried its head in the sand on the entitlement crisis, the next administration will face very ugly budget projections when it comes into office in 2017. The chart below shows the explosive CBO projections for the three largest entitlements. Over the next two presidential terms, spending is expected to grow 62 percent on Social Security, 73 percent on Medicare, and 45 percent on Medicaid.

Without needed cuts, Social Security will become a $1 trillion program in 2018, and Medicare will top $1 trillion by 2022. These programs are only “working” to put the next generation of taxpayers into the poor house.

As for “fraud, waste and abuse” in the health programs, the cause is same as the cause of the explosive growth. That is, the open-ended and top-down structure of the programs that funnels vast funds to doctors and hospitals. The way to slow the rapid growth and cut the waste is to move to a system of consumer-driven health care based on individual vouchers, savings, and competition.

I have a piece running in the Federalist this week on the notion that presidential candidates should campaign “joyfully,” as Jeb Bush ever more desperately insists that he is. It’s not clear why we’re supposed to want joyful candidates, but that seems to be the prevailing norm. Hardly a week goes by without reporters needling the contestants: are you having fun yet? I wrote the column before former Senator Fred Thompson passed away on Sunday, but it occurred to me that his failed 2008 run is a perfect illustration of how perverse the cult of campaign-trail positivity has become. 

By almost any measure, Thompson had a full life: a Watergate Committee counsel whose questioning revealed the existence of the White House tapes; U.S. senator from Tennessee; “Law and Order,” “The Hunt for Red October,” “Die Hard 2.” But his short-lived presidential campaign isn’t part of the highlight reel. The Tenneseean put it gently in their obituary: “Mr. Thompson underwhelmed” in his 2008 bid. The press was harsher when Thompson dropped out of the race. “You must show an interest in running for the most powerful office in the world to gain that office,” John Dickerson scolded in Slatebut “The press copies of his daily schedule always looked like they’d been handed out with a couple of the pages missing. The candidate seemed like he might just show up for events in sweatpants.” “As his hopes cratered,” Politico chided, “the former Tennessee senator increasingly voiced his displeasure with a process he plainly loathed. Thompson’s stump speech became mostly a bitter expression of grievance against what was expected of him or any White House hopeful.” Ha: what a weird old grouch! I mean, the guy’s an actor, and he still couldn’t fake it! What’s wrong with him?

And yet, earlier generations of Americans would have viewed Thompson’s reticence as reassuring. As the political scientist Richard J. Ellis explained in an insightful 2003 article, “The Joy of Power: Changing Conceptions of the Presidential Office,” early American political culture took it as self-evident that anyone who seemed to relish the idea of wielding power over others couldn’t be trusted with it. “Presidential candidates largely stayed home in dignified silence,” he wrote, “ready to serve if called by the people….Distrusting demagoguery and tyranny, the dutiful presidency demanded dignity, reserve and self-denial from its presidents.”

By the mid-20th century, those cultural expectations had been upended, replaced with a demand for happy warriors with fire in their bellies and joy in their hearts. Changes in the nomination process reinforced the new norms, increasingly favoring boundless ambition and stamina. Campaigning for president “was something I didn’t do well,” Thompson himself reflected in 2014, “You have to about want it more than you want life itself.” But it’s worth asking: what sort of person wants the job that badly? And, are we sure we want that sort of person for the job?

As I wrote in the Federalist:

A latter-day Cincinnatus might put down his plow in the hour of his country’s need; he’s not going to sign up for a two-year ultramarathon of pleading with high-dollar donors, glad-handing his way through primary states, and saying things no intelligent person could possibly believe. Instead, we get the sort of person who wants presidential power badly enough to do what it takes to get it, 16 hours a day, feigning joy all the while.

At least, we should hope it’s feigned. Anyone who approaches “the process” with genuine joy in his heart is a maniac who should be kept as far away from “kill lists” and nuclear weapons as possible.

Years later, one of Thompson’s former aides said he’d have been “a great president, if he didn’t have to campaign for it.” I don’t know about the “great president” bit. I’m increasingly unsure that such a creature is possible. But Thompson’s inability to feign enthusiasm for the process spoke well of him. It suggested that he was psychologically healthy and normal. Those qualities are ruthlessly winnowed out by the modern presidential race, which rewards those with an unhealthy appetite for presidential power and glory. You’ve got to want it to win it, and they want it more. 

So, Dr. Craig Venter, the genius who first sequenced the human genome, is at it again. This time, he has created artificial life. Does the man ever sleep? Anyhow, here is the latest installment in my innovation-that-you-might-have-missed series. Included you will find news on the 3D-printing of a human heart, pain management, a new electric battery breakthrough and my personal favorite—sideways elevators!

Researchers Now Capable Of 3D-Printing a Human Heart Using Organic Materials

A recent breakthrough in bio-printing technology may allow for the creation of human hearts. A research team at Carnegie Mellon used a consumer printer to create a heart out of organic material. While 3D-printing has previously been used to solve a lot of different problems, it had, until now, built things out of plastic and metal—inorganic materials that don’t necessarily adapt well to the human body.  Hopefully, further progress of this sort in bio-printing tech will revolutionize the treatment of tissue damage and organ failure.

New Foam Batteries Promise Faster Charging, Higher Capacity

Despite billions of dollars spent on investment, innovation in batteries has lagged relative to other technologies. However, a growing number of researchers are looking at three-dimensional batteries that tend to have porous, sponge-like structures, as opposed to the traditional “2-D” form (i.e., thin layers of metal in a liquid electrolyte solution inside a box). A recent startup, called Prieto Battery, claims to have succeeded in producing a 3-D battery that would be cheaper to make, faster to charge, safer, smaller, and less environmentally toxic than conventional batteries. Prieto’s innovation increases the battery surface area, thereby reducing the distance that the ions have to travel, thus increasing both power and energy density. While the first applications of these new batteries will be limited to small wearable systems and consumer electronics, they could eventually spread to cars, and one day, even grid-scale storage systems.

Scientists Discover How to “Turn Off” Pain

Researchers have discovered that people who suffer from chronic pain (e.g., arthritis) develop more receptors that respond to opiate pain relief. Having extra receptors makes the body more resistant to pain—both by using our bodies’ natural painkillers, endorphins, and through prescribed opiates such as morphine. Put differently, people who regularly underwent physical pain, such as arthritis sufferers as well as those who exercised regularly, were more resistant to pain due to their brains’ increased opiate receptor density. Increasing the receptor density may, therefore, hold the key to more effective pain relief treatment.

Skype Founders Invent Self-Driving Robot That Can Deliver Groceries For $1.50

Through the company Starship, the cofounders of Skype have created a robot that can deliver groceries five to fifteen times cheaper than current delivery services. These robots are able to autonomously drive at a speed of 4 mph and carry 20 lbs. worth of groceries, while recharging at hubs that are in close proximity to grocery stores. However, human operators have the ability to take control of the robot at anytime. Starship claims that a delivery will only take 30 minutes and cost £1 ($1.50). They hope to have the robots on the market in 2016.

The Sideways Elevators of the Future Will be Shown Off for the First Time

As more of the world’s population moves to urban areas, the demand for elevator technology will grow. To answer the call, ThyssenKrupp AG has created a ten meter tall elevator prototype that uses magnetic levitation instead of the traditional steel cable system. This technology allows for the vertical and horizontal movement of elevator cars, while also having multiple cars in the same shaft. The technology is not fully developed, but in the future it could rival the contemporary elevator system.

Craig Venter Creates Life for the First Time in Laboratory

Dr. Craig Venter has recently created artificial life by injecting a synthetic chromosome into an empty cell where it proceeded to multiply, which is the very definition of basic life. Compared to the synthetic life form, human DNA has roughly forty times as many genes and three-thousand times as many base pairs or “rungs” on the DNA ladder. Future uses of synthetic life could range anywhere from new vaccines for fighting disease to finding new energy sources.

It’s not often that a regulatory policy analyst correctly predicts a pop culture development a decade out, so…

Back in the spring of 2005, law professor Christopher Yoo (then at Vanderbilt, now at Penn) argued in Regulation that the Federal Communications Commission should liberalize its “structural regulations”—controls on such things as how the broadcast spectrum can be used, cable TV rates, ownership of different media outlets in a geograpic market, etc. He explained that those controls limit the diversity of voices and programming in mass media, making it mainstream-directed, because such programming is most profitable under those rules.

About the time his article appeared, the now-defunct UPN Network announced its cancellation of the series Star Trek: Enterprise, the most recent TV installment of the Star Trek franchise. The reason was low ratings; Trek fans are fervant and typically middle to upper class, but they were not a big enough market segment for UPN and its desired advertisers. However, those characteristics made the fans an ideal market for a paying-subscriber-supported Star Trek—something that Yoo’s reforms would have allowed, but FCC regulations prohibit.

Seeing the news hook, Yoo and I wrote an op-ed for the San Francisco Examiner explaining all this and concluding

Hopefully, if the “Star Trek” series gets yet another revival, it will be in a mass communications environment where niche shows have a better chance to live long and prosper.

Unfortunately, the FCC hasn’t adopted the reforms we envisioned (if anything, going in the opposite direction). But human innovation—both in technology and business—often finds ways around government barriers.

This week, the CBS Network announced that a new Star Trek series will launch in January 2017, exclusively on CBS’s Internet-delivered subscriber service All Access. The move will attempt to do exactly what Yoo and I foresaw: tap the Trek fanbase to see if it is a viable market for the show.

It can’t be said that CBS is boldly going where no one has gone before. Cable and satellite services, premium channels like HBO and Starz, and streaming services like Hulu and Netflix have already entered the final frontier of subscriber-supported content, delivering high-quality but niche-audience new programming such as original series Game of Thrones and House of Cards, as well as network-cancelled series like The Mindy Project. They can do this, in part, because they can escape many of the FCC’s diversity-dampening regulations—for now at least. 

Unfortunately, the FCC hovers as menacingly as a Romulan starship, as evidenced by the recently adopted net neutrality regulations. Still, let’s hope that CBS’s new venture lives long and prospers.

The solution to this giant mess

is this reform plan.

Before he launched his presidential campaign, Jeb Bush released his emails from his eight years as governor. Now he’s released a 700-page book of selected emails. According to Amazon’s search function, I’m not in the book. But I did have a brief exchange with Governor Bush in 2003. As a libertarian, I wasn’t convinced by his argument. But I was impressed that the governor personally answered an email that I didn’t even send to him but rather to a member of his press staff. Governor Bush announced the creation of the Governor’s Task Force on the Obesity Epidemic, with such goals as:

  1. Recommend ways to promote the recognition of overweight and obesity as a major public health problem in Florida that also has serious implications for Florida’s economic prosperity;
  2. Review data and other research to determine the number of Florida’s children who are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight;
  3. Identify the contributing factors to the increasing burden of overweight and obesity in Florida;
  4. Recommend ways to help Floridians balance healthy eating with regular physical activity to achieve and maintain a healthy or healthier body weight;
  5. Identify and research evidenced-based strategies to promote lifelong physical activity and lifelong healthful nutrition, and to assist those who are already overweight or obese to maintain healthy lifestyles;
  6. Identify effective and culturally appropriate interventions to prevent and treat overweight and obesity;

When the announcement of this task force reached my inbox, courtesy of the governor’s office press list, I had this exchange (read from the bottom):

From: Jeb Bush [mailto:jeb [at]]
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2003 8:05 PM
To: David Boaz
Cc: jill.bratina [at]
Subject: FW: Executive Order Number 03-196

David, the reason for this is that obesity creates huge costs to government. If you believe in limited government, you should support initiatives that reduce it. I know you believe that it is not the role of government to deal with these demands, which I respect, but until you win the day, we need to respond to the challenge.


—–Original Message—–
From: David Boaz [mailto:dboaz [at]]
Sent: Wednesday, October 15, 2003 10:30 AM
To: DiPietre, Jacob
Subject: RE: Executive Order Number 03-196

Why is what I eat any of the government’s business? This is the very definition of big government.

—–Original Message—–
From: DiPietre, Jacob [mailto:Jacob.DiPietre [at]]
Sent: Wednesday, October 15, 2003 10:21 AM
Subject: Executive Order Number 03-196

DATE: October 15, 2003
TO: Capital Press Corps
FROM: Jill Bratina, Governor’s Communications Director
RE: Executive Order Number 03-196
Please find attached an Executive Order creating the Governor’s Task Force on the Obesity Epidemic.

As I said, I wasn’t persuaded. I’ve written that obesity is not in fact a public health problem. It may be a widespread health problem, but you can’t catch obesity from doorknobs or molecules in the air. And the idea that our personal choices impose costs on government, through semi-socialized medicine and similar programs, has no good stopping point. If obesity is the government’s business, then so are smoking, salt intake, motorcycle riding, insufficient sleep, cooking all the nutrients out of vegetables, and an endless stream of potentially sub-optimal decisions. (I was going to include drinking whole milk, but … well, you know.)

I’m glad to note that last month Jeb Bush said that a federally developed anti-obesity video game, “Mommio,” was a waste of “scarce resources.” Maybe he’s coming around.

The overwhelming conclusion of the best research on school choice is that students who receive scholarships to attend the school of their choice perform as well or better on achievement tests on average and are more likely to graduate high school and go to college. The positive effects are particularly found among low-income and minority populations that are presently the most choice deprived.

The only way opponents of school choice get around this inconvenient truth is by ignoring it, which they do with great persistence. They are frequently aided in their willful ignorance by dubious “reports” that claim to evaluate the evidence while inexplicably leaving out numerous gold standard studies by researchers at top universities. The latest such “report” comes from the Center for Public Education, which Professor James Shuls of the University of Missouri-St. Louis methodically exposed over at the Show-Me Institute’s blog

Recently, the Center for Public Education, an arm of the National School Boards Association, released a report on the merits of school choice. The paper claims to summarize “what the research says.” Interestingly, the report fails to include almost every analysis that has found benefits to private school choice programs.

When Anna Egalite, an assistant professor of educational leadership, policy, and human development at North Carolina State University, conducted a systematic review of the competitive effects of private school choice programs, she found 21 studies. She concluded that the results “unanimously find positive impacts on student achievement. Such overwhelming evidence supports the development of market-based schooling policies as a means to increase student achievement in traditional public schools.” Interestingly, the Center for Public Education did not cite any of these studies.

Similarly, there have been 12 random-assignment studies of voucher programs. These are considered the “gold-standard” in social science research because they are the best at determining causality. Eleven of the 12 studies have found positive effects from voucher programs. The Center for Public Education review only cites one of these studies.

The report cites plenty of useful statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics and other sources, but does not even attempt to cite the plethora of useful research on school choice programs.

Nevertheless, the report does get at least one thing right—private school choice tends to boost graduation rates.  This was highlighted in the evaluation of the Washington D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, which showed a 21 percentage point increase in the graduation rate for voucher users.

Not surprisingly, given that they neglect to cite any of the ample evidence showing that school choice succeeds, the Center’s conclusion is that “In general, we find that school choices work for some students sometimes, are worse for some students sometimes, and are usually no better or worse than traditional public schools.”

The Center for Public Education does not explain what criteria it used to determine which studies to include in its supposed review of the research on school choice. Hopefully they will respond to Prof. Shuls’ critique by issuing a revised report that is more transparent and thorough–but don’t hold your breath.

By nearly a 2 to 1 margin, Ohio’s Issue 3 has failed. It may be just as well. Jacob Sullum writes at Reason:

[I]t’s not clear whether the rejection of Issue 3 reflects general resistance to legalization or opposition to the initiative’s most controversial feature: a cannabis cultivation cartel that would have limited commercial production to 10 sites controlled by the initiative’s financial backers. The ballot description highlighted that aspect of the initiative, saying Issue 3 “grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes” and would “endow exclusive rights for commercial marijuana growth, cultivation, and extraction to self-designated landowners who own ten predetermined parcels of land.”

This is nothing like the model that prevailed in Colorado, and that seems to be working well so far.

Establishing a permanent commercial pot cartel has no clear public policy rationale. It appears rather to have been an instance of shameless self-dealing by individuals who hoped to extract rents based on the public’s anxiety about change. Even – and I don’t say this lightly – even a state monopoly on commercial sales might have been better, in that the rents would have gone to a public purpose, rather than to some well-connected speculators, who ought not to profit from a law written specifically to favor them. Indeed, such laws are not properly called laws at all; they are privileges – private laws, rather than public ones, and as such they come under grave suspicion.

The problem, then, is not corporatization. Love it or hate it, we’re neck deep in corporatization already. Few would object to it now, I would think, particularly given that Issue 3’s backers did (grudgingly) relent and allow personal cultivation. The trouble is not corporatization; it’s when only a self-selected handful of corporations even get a chance to enter the market, and when all others are excluded by law forever, presumably by means of the same awful Drug War apparatus we’ve always known.

What should a legal marijuana market look like? It’s a little early to tell. Colorado’s experiment is still developing, and its market may not yet be mature. What’s called for is flexibility in business design, as well as rapid response by state governments to any genuine problems that might arise. (Will they? Maybe!) We don’t really know what consumers are going to want yet, including whether that may vary regionally or over time, and what negative externalities their choices might or might not produce. Establishing a cartel would have been exactly the wrong move.

In a recent The Hill piece on the REAL ID debate in New Hampshire, I wrote about the complaint against federal legislators who cease representing their states in Washington, D.C., and start representing Washington, D.C., in their states.

That seems to be happening in New Mexico, where four of five members of the congressional delegation are at best standing by worrying about a Department of Homeland Security attack on their state. At worst, they are lobbying the state legislature to cede authority over driver licensing to the federal government.

The DHS is pushing New Mexico toward compliance with REAL ID, the national ID law, by saying that it will not offer another extension of the deadline for compliance. The statutory deadline passed seven years ago and no state is in compliance. No state will be in 2016. The national ID law is as unworkable as it is weak as a security tool.

But U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D) and Martin Heinrich (D), and Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) had this to say in a joint statement:

Our offices remain in close contact with DHS and it is clear from our conversations that the state legislature and the governor must take action to ensure New Mexicans can continue to access federal facilities and airports in the months to come.

It’s not the New Mexico delegation calling the shots in Washington, D.C. It’s Ted Sobel of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of State-Issued Identification Support. According to Government Technology, he confirmed Friday that New Mexico’s practice of issuing licenses to qualified drivers without reference to their immigration status is the reason why DHS has mounted this attack on New Mexico.

That’s a good state policy, though, treating driver’s licenses simply as a license to drive. And it’s the policy New Mexico has chosen. I can imagine New Mexicans being nonplussed to learn that their congressional delegation is “in close contact” with the federal bureaucrats attacking their state’s policies and authority.

A Santa Fe New Mexican editorial calling for state compliance is too conciliatory and wrong in its conclusion, but it says of REAL ID, “It likely won’t increase security but does add to the bureaucratic hurdles citizens and state governments face. Another solution to New Mexico’s problem would be for Congress to repeal the law.”

Another solution indeed. Perhaps the paper should urge the congressional delegation to defend the interests of New Mexico and New Mexicans by defunding and repealing the national ID law.

Presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have proposed value-added taxes (VATs) as part of their tax reform plans.

I critique these taxes in National Review today, arguing that they could become engines of big government growth.

Cruz and Paul are champions of small government, and so their embrace of VATs is unfortunate, and also potentially dangerous.

Dangerous because VATs are probably the only way that liberals would be able to fund the huge projected growth in unreformed entitlement programs in coming years.

In a worse-case scenario under the current tax system, liberals would succeed in hiking income taxes, but they wouldn’t be able to seize much more money because the income tax base is so mobile in today’s global economy. The corporate income tax, for example, is a complex and damaging tax, but it is not capable of raising the government any more revenue than it already does.

But in a worst-case scenario under a Cruz or Paul VAT, the government would be able to confiscate far more money as the VAT rate were jacked up over time. It is no coincidence that Western European governments—with their VATs—collect substantially higher revenues as a share of GDP than we do.

In a best-case scenario, reformers like Cruz and Paul will lead the charge to cut entitlements and enact a simpler, lower, pro-growth tax code. But we have to consider how liberals will work to hijack new tax structures and try to drive us in the opposite direction.

Cruz and Paul are heroes for their battles against the GOP establishment on overspending and other issues. But I fear their tax plans would not move us in the small-government direction they want to go in over the long run.

This morning, I saw a TV ad for Lasik eye surgery and that got me wondering, “What’s happened to the price of Lasik since I had my procedure 10 years ago?” We hear a lot about the rising cost of healthcare. (By the way, how is that Obamacare working out for you?) But, what about elective medical procedures – you know, the ones that patients pay for themselves? And so I called the ophthalmologist who performed my Lasik operation (with superb results, I might add) to find out the details.    Back in 2005, he charged $3,500 for fixing nearsightedness and astigmatism in both eyes, or $4,264 in 2015 dollars. Today, he charges $3,000. That amounts to a real price reduction of 30 percent. In the meantime, average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees (a close approximation to the quintessential “blue collar worker”), rose from $15.91 in January 2005 to $20.80 in January 2015. So, an ordinary American needed to work for 220 hours to afford a Lasik surgery in 2005. S/he needs to work 144 hours to afford the same procedure today. That’s a 35 percent decrease in terms of work time.   And, as my doctor reminded me, the price was not the only thing that has changed. Lasik machines today are significantly more precise, achieving 20/20 vision with greater regularity for nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. They are much safer and disastrous complications, such as the loss of sight, have become even rarer (i.e., Lasik has been a very safe procedure for a very long time). The doctors performing the operation are more experienced and the screening of potentially problematic patients has improved.    Candidly, my doctor has admitted that the prices could come down even more. One reason for Lasik prices being what they are is that only ophthalmologists are allowed to perform Lasik operations. Optometrists, however, are banned. And, of course, there is immigration, which makes it super difficult for foreign doctors to work in the United States.   Still, relative to 10 years ago, today a prospective Lasik patient enjoys the benefits of better and safer machines, and a price/time reduction of 35 percent. Not bad, not bad at all. Please visit HumanProgress and search for “cost of cosmetic procedures” to see how other elective medical procedures have become cheaper over time.  


Back in 2002, Stephen Ware wrote a policy analysis for Cato entitled “Arbitration Under Assault: Trial Lawyers Lead the Charge.” That assault – endorsed by the New York Times in a two-part series that is getting some attention – depends crucially on both an attack on freedom of contract and a refusal to take seriously what consumers vote for with their marketplace choices.

As has come to be widely acknowledged in recent years, most class action litigation over consumer financial claims goes on for the benefit of lawyers. It produces scanty benefits for customers but does drive up the costs of providing common services, which is passed along in the form of higher fees and rates. Given a chance, as a result, almost every company will seek to draft “fine print” substituting low-cost, relatively fast arbitration for forms of litigation whose transactional cost greatly exceeds the value to customers of eventual relief given. Even where there is strong competition in a market (among affluent credit card users, for example), it is exceedingly rare for consumers to switch accounts because one provider shunts claims into arbitration while another invites class action litigation.

What does this signify about consumer preferences? Consumers willingly switch all the time from one airline loyalty card to another in quest of better miles-and-points rewards, baggage allowances, pre-boarding policies, and so forth – but not to avoid arbitration policies. Why not? To the experts the Times prefers to speak to – and as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce points out, every single judge and law professor the Times spoke to was hostile to arbitration, which is hardly true of the universe of all distinguished law professors and judges  – it must be inattention or false consciousness; consumers don’t realize that they’ve giving up terribly valuable rights. The other possibility is that consumers rationally place little before-the-fact value on a future benefit that is expensive to provide and mostly pays off for the lawyers who – as Daniel Fisher points out – mostly manage to stay in the background of the Times piece. 

I’ve got more on the story at Overlawyered this morning, where I’ve been covering the Litigation Lobby’s war on arbitration since I launched the site in 1999.  Other Cato legal scholars have agreed with a Supreme Court majority (but not with the Times) that the role of the government is ordinarily to enforce, not substitute its judgment for, clearly worded private contracts generating terms announced and known to the parties.  And I’ll give the last word for the moment to blogger Coyote, writing about a recent California anti-arbitration bill so extreme that even liberal Gov. Jerry Brown saw fit to veto it: “Here is how you should think about this proposed law: Attorneys are the taxi cartels, and arbitration is Uber. And the incumbents want their competitor banned.”

The Arizona Republic and the Associated Press (AP) used Cato’s recent work to highlight the failure of E-Verify to turn off the jobs magnet that attracts unauthorized immigrants to the United States. Arizona has a shaky record on immigration enforcement, despite its laws and reputation to the contrary. Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has had zero E-Verify related cases since 2010 and the state Attorney General’s office has failed to update a list of E-Verify compliant businesses since at least 2012 – a requirement under state law.

Other states’ recent experiences also point to problems with E-Verify.

In Ohio, an unauthorized worker at a dairy company was charged on October 20th with identity fraud, after having been discovered to be using the Social Security number of a (legal) Arizona resident.  The fraud only came to light after the Arizonan discovered that his Social Security number was being used in Ohio. The fraud was not discovered by the routine E-Verify check that the unauthorized Ohio worker underwent in 2013. E-Verify confirmed the worker, who was utilizing the stolen SSN and fraudulently obtained documents based off of said number, as work-authorized and legal. The use of a valid number and fraudulent (but on the surface valid) documents by migrants is a problem with E-Verify that we’ve highlighted in the past.

California passed legislation to prevent employer misuse of E-Verify. Their law effectively duplicates federal restrictions on re-verification of employees, bars selective verification (targeting certain applicants over others), punishes use of E-Verify as an interview screening tool, and imposes a $10,000 fine for misuse. The intent of the new law is positive but it will be impossible to enforce. 

Finally, a controversial immigration bill has become law in North Carolina (I wrote about this in May). The new law lowers the threshold for mandated E-Verify to businesses with five or more employees, limits the types of identification that migrants can present (effectively banning use of Mexican consular identification cards), and prevents local and county governments from adopting so-called “sanctuary city” policies.

E-Verify imposes an economic cost on American workers and employers, does little to halt unlawful immigration because it fails to turn off the “jobs magnet,” and is an expansionary threat to American liberties.  During the housing collapse and Great Recession, Arizona enacted the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA), which mandated E-Verify for all new hires in the states.  In its early days, E-Verify had a reputation of effectiveness that, combined with the crashing economy, resulted in a large exodus of unlawful immigrants from Arizona.  After the economic recovery and E-Verify’s flaws were made clear, subsequent states like Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina have had far less success in using E-Verify to decrease the numbers of unauthorized immigrants in their states.  E-Verify’s bark was worse than its bite.   

This post was written with the help of Scott Platton

As the prominence of tariffs in the transatlantic relationship has receded and transnational supply chains and investment have proliferated, regulatory barriers to transatlantic trade have become more evident. Reducing duplicative regulations that increase production and compliance costs without providing any meaningful social benefits is a chief aim of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations. Indeed, most of the economic gains from the TTIP are expected to come from this exercise.

But that is easier said than done.  According to University of California-Irvine law school professor Gregory Shaffer, “regulatory barriers to trade can be more pernicious and more difficult to reduce than tariff barriers because they often reflect certain cultural values and preferences, and there are often more interests vested in the status quo.” In his Cato Online Forum essay, submitted in conjunction with last month’s TTIP conference, Shaffer describes five different approaches to regulatory coherence/harmonization (with pros and cons) that could be undertaken by U.S. and EU negotiators.

Depsite vastly different approaches to regulation on opposite sides of the Atlantic, Shaffer points to examples of successful cooperation in recent years as evidence that the TTIP’s regulatory coherence discussions could bear fruit. But he doesn’t bet the house on that outcome. Instead, he writes:

We should nonetheless be cautious in our optimism given the serious impediments to achieving regulatory coherence. Removing regulatory barriers to trade and investment while continuing to reflect local preferences and retain democratic accountability is, and always has been, a challenging undertaking.

Read Shaffer’s essay here.  Read the other Cato Online Forum essays here.

On Sunday, the Associated Press released the results of a year-long investigation into sexual misconduct by police officers across the country. They found that about 1,000 officers were decertified for some type of sexual misconduct—consensual sex on duty, sexual assault, coercion, child molestation/pornography, statutory rape, inter alia—over a six year period. The Morning Call listed the general rules governing misconduct and decertification—where applicable—in each state.

The AP story reported that the 1,000 number is “unquestionably an undercount” of offenders because of the scattershot nature of police misconduct reporting, prosecution, and internal administrative discipline across states and departments. Indeed, such is the nature of tracking any kind of police misconduct.

At the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project (NPMRP), we track all kinds of police misconduct from sexual misconduct to domestic violence to DUI and drug related corruption. Looking at the preliminary data through October 30, NPMRP has tracked at least 130 news reports of sexual misconduct* by American law enforcement personnel in 2015. Almost all were criminal in nature. Many cases had multiple victims and happened over a period of years, supporting the AP claim that many cases go unreported.

You can look at the cases we’ve tracked below the fold. You can read more about NPMRP at, follow the @NPMRP Twitter feed, and like our facebook page.

Jurisdiction/Agency State Date of Report Summary of Incident Jal NM 1/5/15 Chief resigned after being caught having sex in ambulance while on duty. Milan NM 1/5/15 Officer arrested for sexual assault and providing alcohol to a minor. Oklahoma City OK 1/9/15 Officer fired and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault against motorists, all of whom were women of color. Memphis TN 1/12/15 Officer sentenced to one year, suspended, and two years of probation for sexual misconduct. Plano TX 1/12/15 Officer arrested for child pornography distribution and indecent contact with a minor. Duluth GA 1/13/15 Officer fired and arrested for sexual battery of an acquaintance. Homerville GA 1/13/15 Officer arrested for sexual assault of jail inmate. Irwindale CA 1/14/15 Officer sentenced to nine years in prison for sexually assaulting woman after traffic stop. Ocala FL 1/16/15 Officer arrested and fired for soliciting sex from 16-year-old sex worker. Aledo IL 1/21/15 Officer charged with aggravated sexual assault with a weapon. Highstown NJ 1/26/15 Officer faced administrative discipline for having sex on duty. Atlantic City NJ 1/27/15 Officer pled guilty to misconduct and sexual assault of a minor. Falfurrias TX 2/10/15 Officer arrested for sexual assault of a child. New York NY 2/11/15 Sergeant charged with rape for actions against girl under 15 years of age. Mansfield OH 2/13/15 Officer indicted on 40 counts, including 25 felonies, related to sexual battery, burglary, and tampering. Rothschild WI 2/17/15 Officer resigned and charged with sexual assault. Broward County FL 2/18/15 Deputy sentenced to five years for coercing undocumented immigrants into having sex. Shreveport LA 2/19/15 Officer arrested for aggravated rape and intimidation. Adams County OH 2/20/15 Chief deputy charged with multiple rape counts for actions at his home with 15-year-old girl. Chatham County GA 2/25/15 Deputy fired and arrested for filing false statements and sexual assault of an inmate. Grand Rapids MI 3/3/15 Officer charged with home invasion and sexual assault of his ex-girlfriend. Memphis TN 3/3/15 Officer arrested for performing a lewd act and solicitation of a minor. New Orleans LA 3/4/15 Officer arrested for solicitation of prostitution. Orange Beach AL 3/9/15 Officer indicted on two counts of sexual abuse of a child under 12. Long Beach MS 3/12/15 Officer indicted on multiple counts of statutory rape for actions with 15-year-old girl. New York NY 3/12/15 Two officers went to Seattle to interview rape victim and went drinking with her. They were all very drunk and they convinced her to come back to their hotel, where one officer eventually crawled into bed with her and ripped her shirt while making sexual advances. They pled guilty to administrative charges, were sentenced to forfeit vacation time and were transferred out of their departments, but ultimately kept their jobs as police officers. Exeter CA 3/13/15 Officer sentenced to 45 days in jail for sex with a minor who was in department’s youth program. McLennan County TX 3/13/15 Constable fired and arrested for soliciting sex from a minor. Syracuse NY 3/16/15 Officer indicted for misconduct for having sex with woman who called police for help. Pitt County NC 3/18/15 SRO arrested for statutory rape of a 15-year-old student. USCBP (Ysleta, TX) USCBP 3/19/15 Agent arrested for sexual assault of a child. Hardin County TX 3/20/15 Deputy pled guilty to making false statement in a child pornography investigation. Seminole County FL 3/24/15 Deputy fired and arrested on molestation charges. New York  NY 3/27/15 Officer arrested for repeated sexual assaults of 16-year-old girl at church where he served as pastor. Indiana Excise Police IN 3/31/15 Officer arrested for sexual misconduct with a minor. Eugene OR 4/6/15 Officer sentenced to seven years for child pornography possession and hiding cameras in police bathroom. Vidalia GA 4/6/15 Suspended and charged with statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl. Ohio State Police OH 4/10/15 State trooper was sentenced to five years in prison for throwing out traffic tickets in exchange for sexual favors. Fairfax County VA 4/16/15 Officer charged with child pornography possession. Indiana University-Bloomington IN 4/17/15 Officer resigned after he was accused of raping a student. Butler County OH 4/22/15 Deputy arrested for a sex crime against a minor. Park Ridge IL 4/22/15 Officer suspended for sending sexual images to woman who recently had contact with the police. Wichita KS 4/30/15 Retired officer tried for multiple counts of sexual contacts with minors during last several years of his career. Hillsborough NC 5/5/15 Officer sentenced to 20-33 months, suspended, for sexual contact with two 13-year-old children. Washington County OR 5/8/15 Sergeant resigned during investigation into sexual harassment and misconduct. Bethel OH 5/12/15 Officer resigned after indictment for rape and sexual battery. St. Clair County MI 5/12/15 Deputy fired and arrested for sexual misconduct for having sex w/ jail inmate. Bossier Parish LA 5/14/15 Deputy fired and arrested for solicitation of prostitution. Orange County FL 5/14/15 Deputy resigned before he was arrested for child pornography. Onslow County NC 5/15/15 Deputy charged with solicitation of child pornography. Chicago IL 5/18/15 The City settled a lawsuit with a woman who claimed two officers sexually assaulted her while they were on duty. Washington DC 5/18/15 Officer arrested for sexual abuse of a minor and child pornography. Lincoln County WI 5/21/15 Deputy resigned after his arrest for molesting a 15-year-old girl. New York State Police NY 6/1/15 Trooper acquitted on 3 of 4 rape charges. Jury hung on fourth charge. Winona County MN 6/4/15 Deputy fired and arrested for solicitation of prostitution. Greece NY 6/5/15 Officer sentenced to four years in prison and 10 years supervised release for child pornography conviction. Ann Arbor MI 6/8/15 Officer sentenced to 11 months in jail for offering leniency to female suspect in exchange for sex. Brandenburg KY 6/11/15 Officer’s trial for child rape postponed until April 2016. Williams County ND 6/11/15 Deputy arrested for child pornography. Oklahoma State Police OK 6/12/15 Trooper ordered to stand trial for rape of motorist during traffic stop. Tallahassee FL 6/15/15 Officer arrested for solicitation of prostitution. New York State Police NY 6/17/15 Trooper arrested for sexual assault of woman in Atlantic City. Amarillo TX 6/19/15 Officer fired after sexual assault allegation. DeKalb County GA 6/19/15 Deputy sentenced to 1 year in prison and 9 years of supervised release for soliciting prostitution on duty. Seaside Park NJ 6/19/15 Officer arrested for sexual contact with minor. Dane County WI 6/25/15 Deputy convicted of sexual assault for actions against a woman who was serving her sentence in home confinement. Phoenix AZ 6/29/15 Officer arrested for kidnapping and sexual assault against a woman in custody. Tuscon AZ 6/29/15 Two officers resigned; 5 others under investigation for involvement with sex workers. Champaign IL 7/6/15 Officer arrested for sexual assault and domestic battery. Fairfax County SC 7/7/15 Deputy sentenced to 20 years for sex crimes against 11-year-old child. Phoenix AZ 7/14/15 Officer pled guilty to sexual contact with a minor. Dallas TX 7/22/15 Officer arrested and fired for sex acts against a child. Sacramento CA 7/22/15 Officer was convicted for repeatedly raping elderly woman at senior living facility. Maypearl TX 7/23/15 Chief terminated and charged for sex acts against minors. Hartsville IN 7/24/15 Deputy town marshal arrested for attempted solicitation of a child. Portland OR 7/24/15 Officer placed on leave after he was accused of demanding sexual acts from a woman. Fresno CA 7/28/15 Officer resigned after being discovered in prostitution investigation. Dallas TX 7/31/15 Officer pled guilty to aggravated assault after he was charged with raping a woman who was sleeping. He received a five-year suspended sentence. Mt. Pleasant NY 8/3/15 Chief pled guilty to child pornography charges. Whitehouse TX 8/3/15 Chief resigned one week after an assault charge for unwanted sexual advances against him was dropped. Las Vegas NV 8/4/15 Detective sentenced to 3 years of probation for attacking a sex worker. Boscawen NH 8/6/15 Former officer who was then chief of Canterbury was arrested for sexual assault of a minor for actions while employed in Boscawen. Jackson County NC 8/7/15 Deputy pled guilty to obstruction for covering up underage drinking and statutory rape charges. Pasco County FL 8/7/15 Deputy arrested for soliciting sex from a minor. San Bernadino County CA 8/7/15 Deputy accused of sex with jail inmate. Spearsville LA 8/12/15 Chief convicted of child rape sentenced to life imprisonment. Cleveland TN 8/14/15 Two officers suspended for sexual misconduct. Sevier County TN 8/14/15 Deputy sentenced to 90 days of house arrest after he pled guilty to misconduct for having sex with woman while on duty. Emmett Township MI 8/17/15 Officer suspended for sexual assault arrested again for sexual assault. Greece NY 8/17/15 Officer fired and arrested for sexual harassment and stalking. Kiowa OK 8/18/15 Officer fired and charged with abduction and sexual seduction for actions against a 15-year-old girl. Oakland FL 8/19/15 Officer charged with child molestation and child pornography. Elburn IL 8/20/15 Officer charged with 33 counts related to sexual abuse of a child over 10 years. Gretna LA 8/20/15 Officer arrested for child pornography. DEA (McAllen, TX) DEA 8/21/15 Agent arrested for accessing child pornography. Haskell AR 8/21/15 Officer arrested on sexual assault and child pornography charges. Oak Ridge TN 8/21/15 Officer fired amid statutory rape allegations. He left his previous law enforcement position after being accused of indecent exposure. Eagle County CO 9/8/15 Deputy sentenced to 180 days–90 in jail, 90 in work release–for sexual assault. Kern County CA 9/9/15 Deputy sentenced to two years in prison for sexual battery. San Mateo CA 9/9/15 Deputy found guilty of child molestation. Maryland State Police MD 9/10/15 Trooper indicted for forcing a woman to perform sex act at gunpoint. Michigan State Police MI 9/10/15 Trooper found guilty on four counts of 2nd degree criminal sexual conduct. Birmingham AL 9/11/15 Officer indicted for rape and sexual abuse of a child. Shelby County TN 9/11/15 Deputy arrested for statutory rape. Spalding County OH 9/11/15 Captain charged with aggravated assault, influencing witnesses, stalking, sexual battery, and other charges against department employees. Germantown TN 9/14/15 Officer fired while rape charge pending. Memphis TN 9/15/15 Officer arrested for sexual battery, official misconduct and oppression. East St. Louis IL 9/21/15 Officer on leave for suspected sexual assault off duty. Isabella County MI 9/21/15 Deputy pled no contest to attempting to extort sexual favors from suspects. Port St. Lucie FL 9/23/15 Officer arrested for child pornography. Fairview OK 9/24/15 Officer arrested for child pornography. San Antonio TX 9/25/15 Three officers charged with sexual assault and official oppression. San Jose CA 9/25/15 Officer charged with rape fired. Crestview FL 9/29/15 Officer resigned in lieu of termination amid sexual battery allegations. Greenville TN 10/2/15 Officer sentenced to 18 months for having sexual relationships with several jail inmates. Kentucky State Police KY 10/5/15 Trooper pled guilty to sex with a minor. Four other law enforcement officers were terminated or charged for sexual contact with same girl. University of Oklahoma OK 10/7/15 Officer arrested for breaking into a car, stealing cell phone, and attempting to send or access sexual content with that phone. Spring ISD TX 10/15/15 SRO arrested for sexual assault against a minor. Watervliet NY 10/15/15 SRO pled guilty to sodomy charges against student at his school. Chicago IL 10/19/15 Two officers under investigation for sex trafficking. Tulsa County OK 10/19/15 Deputy found guilty of sexual battery and indecent exposure while in uniform. Walton County GA 10/19/15 Deputy arrested for child pornography. Fort Smith AR 10/22/15 Resigned after his arrest for solicitation. Henderson TX 10/22/15 Officer accused of sex crimes against a child. Adams County CO 10/26/15 Deputy fired for sexual assault on duty. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD TX 10/26/15 SRO sentenced to one year for pulling over motorist and asking for sexual favor in exchange for looking other way on misdemeanor charge. Live Oak FL 10/29/15 Officer fired for child pornography possession. Boynton Beach FL 10/30/15 The City settled lawsuit for over $800,000 brought by a 21-year-old woman who accused officer of raping her last year. The officer was acquitted at trial. Los Angeles County CA 10/30/15 Deputy was arrested for child molestation. Spokane WA 10/30/15 Spokane Co. Sheriff accuses city police of covering up sexual assault against SCSO employee.


*This number was compiled by searching the @NPMRP Twitter feed using the terms “rape,”“sex,” “sexual,” “pornography,” “solicitation,” and “molestation.” Other cases of stalking, harassment, and other charges that may be sexual in nature would not necessarily be counted in these searches. 

The government of China has launched its 13th five-year plan (known as 13.5), sticking with the form if not the substance of Stalinism. But in our modern and networked world, China wants the world to understand its planning process, so it released this catchy video in American English:

What’s China gonna do? Better check this music video

The video explains how comprehensive the planning process is: 

Every five years in China, man
They make a new development plan!
The time has come for number 13.
The shi san wu, that’s what it means!

There’s government ministers and think tank minds
And party leadership contributing finds.

First there’s research, views collected,
Then discussion and views projected.
Reports get written and passed around 

As the plan goes down from high to low,
The government’s experience continues to grow.
They have to work hard and deliberate
Because a billion lives are all at stake!

It must be smart: note the picture of Einstein along with Chinese leaders such as Mao Zedong (around 0:50).

Of course, this “planning process” doesn’t work. In the best of circumstances, it’s no match for a billion producers and consumers making decisions every day about what actions are likely to better their own condition. It’s characterized by bureaucracy, backward-looking decisions, and cronyism. In less-than-ideal circumstances, when the planners are armed with total power and inspired by an ideological belief that they can actually direct the activities of millions of people, as in China from 1949 to 1979, the results are disastrous: poverty, starvation, and even cannibalism. Fortunately, after 1979, the planners led by Deng Xiaoping began to dismantle the system of collective farming and to allow Chinese farmers to make many of their own decisions, and growth took off. Plans work better when they allow individuals to plan.

I wrote about planning in The Libertarian Mind:

It is the absence of market prices that makes socialism unworkable, as Ludwig von Mises pointed out in the 1920s. Socialists have often considered the question of production an engineering question: Just do some calculations to figure out what would be most efficient. It’s true that an engineer can answer a specific question about the production process, such as, What’s the most efficient way to use tin to make a 10-ounce soup can, that is, what shape of can would contain 10 ounces with the smallest surface area? But the economic question—the efficient use of all relevant resources—can’t be answered by the engineer. Should the can be made of aluminum, or of platinum? Everyone knows that a platinum soup can would be ridiculous, but we know it because the price system tells us so. An engineer would tell you that silver wire would conduct electricity better than copper. Why do we use copper? Because it delivers the best results for the cost. That’s an economic problem, not an engineering problem.

Without prices, how would the socialist planner know what to produce? He could take a poll and find that people want bread, meat, shoes, refrigerators, televisions. But how much bread and how many shoes? And what resources should be used to make which goods? “Enough,” one might answer. But, beyond absolute subsistence, how much bread is enough? At what point would people prefer a new pair of shoes to more food? If there’s a limited amount of steel available, how much of it should be used for cars and how much for ovens? What about new goods, which consumers don’t yet know they’d like? And most important, what combination of resources is the least expensive way to produce each good? The problem is impossible to solve in a theoretical model; without the information conveyed by prices, planners are “planning” blind.

In practice, Soviet factory managers had to establish markets illegally among themselves. They were not allowed to use money prices, so marvelously complex systems of indirect exchange—or barter—emerged. Soviet economists identified at least eighty different media of exchange, from vodka to ball bearings to motor oil to tractor tires. The closest analogy to such a clumsy market that Americans have ever encountered was probably the bargaining skill of Radar O’Reilly on the television show M*A*S*H. Radar was also operating in a centrally planned economy—the U.S. Army—and his unit had no money with which to purchase supplies, so he would get on the phone, call other M*A*S*H units, and arrange elaborate trades of surgical gloves for C rations for penicillin for bourbon, each unit trading something it had been overallocated for what it had been underallocated. Imagine running an entire economy like that.

Despite the total failure of total planning, I wrote,

the Holy Grail of planning dies hard among intellectuals. What is President Obama’s health care plan but a central plan for one-seventh of the American economy? [And see also his promise of “strategic decisions about strategic industries.”] President Bill Clinton had offered an even more breathtaking view of the ability and obligation of government to plan the economy:

We ought to say right now, we ought to have a national inventory of the capacity of every… manufacturing plant in the United States: every airplane plant, every small business subcontractor, everybody working in defense.

We ought to know what the inventory is, what the skills of the work force are and match it against the kind of things we have to produce in the next 20 years and then we have to decide how to get from here to there. From what we have to what we need to do.

After the election, a White House aide named Ira Magaziner fleshed out this sweeping vision: Defense conversion would require a twenty-year plan developed by government committees, “a detailed organizational plan… to lay out how, in specific, a proposal like this could be implemented.” Five-year plans, you see, had failed in the Soviet Union; maybe a twenty-year plan would be sufficient to the task.

China’s catchy jingle can’t obscure the fact that central economic planning is a misguided holdover from the era of centralized industries and centralized governments. It’s increasingly backward in a dynamic world of instant communication, global markets, and unprecedented access to information.