Policy Institutes

Paul Krugman, “Killing the European Project”, NY Times, July 12, 2015: “The European project — a project I have always praised and supported — has just been dealt a terrible, perhaps fatal blow. And whatever you think of Syriza, or Greece, it wasn’t the Greeks who did it.”

Paul Krugman has always praised and supported the European project? Really? Here’s Prof. Krugman in his own words on the centerpiece of the European project, the euro:

  • Paul Krugman, “The Euro: Beware Of What You Wish For”, Fortune, December 1998: “But EMU wasn’t designed to make everyone happy. It was designed to keep Germany happy - to provide the kind of stern anti-inflationary discipline that everyone knew Germany had always wanted and would always want in future. So what if the Germans have changed their mind, and realized that they - along with all the other major governments - are more worried about deflation than inflation, that they would very much like the central bankers to print some more money? Sorry, too late: the system is already on autopilot, and no course changes are permitted.”
  • Paul Krugman, “Can Europe Be Saved?”, NY Times, January 12, 2011: “The tragedy of the Euromess is that the creation of the euro was supposed to be the finest moment in a grand and noble undertaking: the generations-long effort to bring peace, democracy and shared prosperity to a once and frequently war-torn continent. But the architects of the euro, caught up in their project’s sweep and romance, chose to ignore the mundane difficulties a shared currency would predictably encounter — to ignore warnings, which were issued right from the beginning, that Europe lacked the institutions needed to make a common currency workable. Instead, they engaged in magical thinking, acting as if the nobility of their mission transcended such concerns.”
  • Paul Krugman, “Europe’s Many Economic Disasters”, NY Times, July 3, 2015: “What all of these economies have in common, however, is that by joining the eurozone they put themselves into an economic straitjacket. Finland had a very severe economic crisis at the end of the 1980s — much worse, at the beginning, than what it’s going through now. But it was able to engineer a fairly quick recovery in large part by sharply devaluing its currency, making its exports more competitive. This time, unfortunately, it had no currency to devalue. And the same goes for Europe’s other trouble spots. Does this mean that creating the euro was a mistake? Well, yes.”

When reading Prof. Krugman’s works, it’s prudent to fact check. Prof. Krugman has always been in the Eurosceptic camp. Indeed, the essence of many of his pronouncements can be found in declarations from a wide range of Eurosceptic parties.

Today’s Google Doodle honors Ida Wells, born into slavery in Mississippi on this date in 1862, fearless and tireless anti-lynching activist and heroine of free speech. Writer and owner of several publications, Wells was best known for documenting the post-Reconstruction horrors of “sanctioned violence outside the machinery of the state,” as I described it in this space recently

By the time Wells came to national note in the 1890s, the threat of mob violence had come to be accepted as an endemic part of American life across much of the South and a good part of the North as well. Press freedom, however, was also something real, and Wells could bring the ghastly specifics of lynching practice, as well as the falseness of the arguments used in its defense, to a national audience. Soon a mob in Memphis proceeded to storm and destroy her printing press. But it could not silence her; she was free to carry on from other, safer cities. Is there a better lesson in how civil liberties work to reinforce each other? Because of America’s broad degree of press liberty, Wells could build her case methodically for a right to freedom from mob violence; because mob violence was held in check across enough of the country, Wells could not be prevented from writing, speaking on tour, and soon becoming an internationally known figure of reform and African-American advocacy. 

You can read Wells’ work in many primary sources online: “Lynch Law,” 1893; speech, “Lynch Law in America”; and the pamphlet “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases,” with a letter of encouragement from Frederick Douglass in Anacostia. Her accomplishments should be of interest to every libertarian and every American. 

A quick notice: The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s much anticipated decision in the long running “John Doe” investigations of alleged campaign finance violations came down this morning, and it’s a resounding rejection of the prosecution’s entire theory of the case. By way of very brief background of a very complex case, here’s the opening paragraph from an April 27 post I wrote for Cato@Liberty:

Just when you thought the long-running “John Doe” prosecution/persecutions in Wisconsin couldn’t get any worse—SWAT teams conducting pre-dawn raids on family homes, gag orders on the victims, and the prosecutor’s recusal motion directed against no fewer than four state supreme court justices, all over politically driven campaign finance allegations—Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm suggested over the weekend that Gov. Scott Walker could be criminally charged for lying. Walker’s “crime”? In Iowa on Saturday, he questioned whether the prosecution’s tactics were constitutional.

You can’t make stuff like this up. Well here’s just a bit of the language this morning from Justice Michael J. Gableman:

[W]e invalidate the special prosecutor’s theory of the case, and we grant the relief requested by the Unnamed Movants. 

To be clear, this conclusion ends the John Doe investigation because the special prosecutor’s legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law.  Consequently, the investigation is closed.  Consistent with our decision and the order entered by Reserve Judge Peterson, we order that the special prosecutor and the district attorneys involved in this investigation must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation.  All Unnamed Movants are relieved of any duty to cooperate further with the investigation.

Language like that makes one appreciate the importance of an independent judiciary. You can read the whole opinion here

ADDENDUM: Once you get to paragraph 133 of the Court’s opinion, you see this whole matter put in perspective:

Our lengthy discussion of these three cases can be distilled into a few simple, but important, points.  It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing.   In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a “perfect storm” of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them.  It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution.  Further, these brave individuals played a crucial role in presenting this court with an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution.  Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation.

Here is Paul Krugman the other day, touting President Obama’s efforts to promote clean energy:

Some things I’ve been reading lately remind me that there’s another major Obama initiative that is the subject of similar delusions: the promotion of green energy. Everyone on the right knows that the stimulus-linked efforts to promote solar and wind were a bust — Solyndra! Solyndra! Benghazi! — and in general they still seem to regard renewables as hippie-dippy stuff that will never go anywhere.

So it comes as something of a shock when you look at the actual data, and discover that solar and wind energy consumption has tripled under Obama.

True, it started from a low base, but green energy is no longer a marginal factor — and with solar panels experiencing Moore’s Law-type cost declines, we’re looking at a real transformation looking forward.

You can argue about how much this transformation owes to federal policy. …

I don’t know all the reasons why solar and wind energy consumption has tripled in recent years, but yes, you can argue about the role of federal policy here. The federal policy that I follow most closely is trade policy, and what trade policy has been doing is imposing really high import taxes on solar and wind products, thus raising their costs.  Here’s what my colleague Bill Watson and I wrote about this a while ago:

Over the last couple of years, trade remedy actions on clean energy products have intensified. In the wind industry, the Wind Tower Trade Coalition, an association of U.S. producers of wind towers, brought an AD/CVD complaint against imported wind towers in 2011. The U.S. Commerce Department started an investigation, and announced a preliminary decision in December 2012.

This decision found both subsidization and dumping in relation to Chinese imports and imposed an antidumping tariff of between 44.99% and 70.63%, as well as countervailing duties of 21.86%–34.81%. The Commerce Department also established a separate antidumping duty of 51.40%–58.49% on Vietnamese wind tower manufacturers.

In the solar industry, in October 2011, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, a group of seven U.S. solar panel manufacturers led by Solar World Industries America, accused Chinese solar panel companies of dumping products in the United States. The Commerce Department opened an investigation in 2011 and announced the final ruling in 2012. The decision was to impose antidumping tariffs ranging from 24% to 36% on Chinese producers.

If we wanted to promote clean energy, the first thing we could and should do is stop imposing tariffs on these imports! 

With a potentially historic agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in place, President Obama immediately focused his attention on the fight at home. When he announced the deal Tuesday morning, the president warned Congress that he would “veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.” A few hours later, he sat down with the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman to sell it on its merits.

“We are not measuring this deal by whether it is changing the regime inside of Iran,” the president said. “We’re not measuring this deal by whether we are solving every problem that can be traced back to Iran, whether we are eliminating all their nefarious activities around the globe.”

The aim of the negotiations was on ensuring that “Iran could not get a nuclear weapon.”

And that is where he wants the ensuing debate over the final terms of the agreement to be focused. “What I’m going to be able to say, and I think we will be able to prove,” he told Friedman, “is that this by a wide margin is the most definitive path by which Iran will not get a nuclear weapon, and we will be able to achieve that with the full cooperation of the world community and without having to engage in another war in the Middle East.”

That is what the president would like people to believe. But it may not be so simple.

Congress has 60 days to review the deal for final approval, but many GOP leaders have declared the agreement dead on arrival. Some Republicans, as I noted, lambasted the administration for appeasing the Iranian regime even before the details were announced. Accordingly, the administration will likely focus most of its time on reassuring skeptical Democrats to block the passage of legislation that would undo the deal, or, failing that, to sustain a veto.

An override seems unlikely, but the coming congressional debate will not be limited to the merits of the deal.

As Justin Logan and John Glaser wrote on CNN.com:

The debate over Iran diplomacy was really two debates, in which each side was arguing over something different. On the one side was a strikingly broad consensus of nearly the entire arms control community, which recognizes what the deal can achieve in terms of nonproliferation and regional stability. On the opposing side is the Iran hawk community, which focused less on the nuclear issue than on finding ways to isolate and ultimately destroy Iran’s clerical regime, by military force if necessary, nuclear program or not.

The agreement is a clear success for nonproliferation advocates. Unfortunately, that’s not what matters to some of those who now control its fate. 

I really like Sandusky Register reporter Tom Jackson’s piece responding to my post yesterday about congressional appropriators and our national ID law, the REAL ID Act. Jackson is paying attention to all that is said about Ohio’s congressional delegation. Not just following the herd, he’s looking out for new and different things that might be interesting to the folks back home.

The gist of his argument is that calling Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur 75 percent supportive of REAL ID is unfair because she voted against it when it passed the House as a stand-alone bill in 2005. She did vote against it that once, but she also allowed a voice vote on the rule that attached REAL ID to a later appropriations bill, and she voted for that bill and the conference report, both votes helping to make REAL ID a federal law.

Rep. Kaptur doesn’t stand out as a pro-national-ID legislator—true—but that is precisely how log-rolling in Washington works. Bills that tie controversial matter like a national ID law to broadly supported priorities like military funding and money for tsunami relief allow representatives like Kaptur to vote for a national ID twice without standing out.

I didn’t do a good enough job of explaining the procedure by which REAL ID was passed, and Jackson understood me to be blaming Kaptur for funding REAL ID. In fact, my post focused on votes for passage of REAL ID itself. But Kaptur and other appropriators will be voting soon on the FY 2016 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, which year after year provides funds to push state implementation of REAL ID. The bill has lots of other priorities in it, but Rep. Kaptur and her colleagues on the Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee are responsible for all of the bill’s content. Given that any of them could de-fund REAL ID and the national ID project with a simple amendment, I believe it’s appropriate to hold all of them to account for not doing so.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s proposed degradation of the ten-dollar bill (read: the removal of Alexander Hamilton as the featured figure on the ten-spot) is wrongheaded. In addition to being the first and most distinguished U.S. Treasury Secretary and a renowned journalist, Hamilton also excelled as a lawyer and defender of property rights.

Yes, Alexander Hamilton was a distinguished lawyer. He took on many famous cases out of principle. After the Revolutionary War, the state of New York enacted harsh measures against Loyalists and British subjects. These included the Confiscation Act (1779), the Citation Act (1782), and the Trespass Act (1783). All involved the taking of property. In Hamilton’s view, these acts illustrated the inherent difference between democracy and the law. Even though the acts were widely popular, they flouted fundamental principles of property law. Hamilton carried his views into action and successfully defended — in the face of enormous public hostility — those who had property taken under the three New York state statutes.

Hamilton’s influence on creating a respected national judiciary and shaping American jurisprudence was significant and widely recognized during his lifetime. For example, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Marshall was known to have said that he was a mere schoolboy next to Hamilton. Indeed, in three of Marshall’s landmark decisions – Marbury v. Madison (1803), Fletcher v. Peck (1810), and McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) – he turned to Hamilton’s legal writings for guidance.

Alexander Hamilton is one of America’s most acclaimed Founding Fathers. He should remain as-is on the ten-dollar bill. Anything else would be an insult, the kind of thing that once engendered a duel.

The Spin Cycle is a reoccurring feature based upon just how much the latest weather or climate story, policy pronouncement, or simply poo-bah blather spins the truth. Statements are given a rating between 1-5 spin cycles, with fewer cycles meaning less spin. For a more in-depth description, visit the inaugural edition.

The headline from a CBS News story read “Study: Climate change may be costing lives in the U.S.” The tone is in perfect keeping with the White House wanting the media to focus on the (negative) health impacts from climate change to help drive home the “moral imperative” of administration’s greenhouse gas emissions regulations.

There is one key problem: the findings from the “study” do nothing to shed light on whether “climate change” is taking lives in New England (the region that the study focused on) or anywhere else in the United States. In fact, taking the literature as a whole (including the results of the new study), the more appropriate headline would have been “Studies: Climate change may be saving lives in the U.S.”

The new study in question appears in the journal Nature Climate Change written by a research team headed by Liuhua Shi from the Harvard School of Public Health. Shi and colleagues examined how temperature and temperature variability during the summer and winter seasons impacts the annual mortality of Medicare recipients (i.e., a population aged 65+) residing in New England.

In general, Shi and colleagues found that warmer summers slightly increased mortality while warmer winters slightly lowered it. They also found that more variable temperature (in either winter or summer) led to increases in overall mortality.

Aside from the very real possibility that the statistical significance of these findings was inflated by the mythological design (over inflation of the number of independent data points), the most obvious flaw is that the study didn’t look for any trends in their results. This means, of course, that they aren’t very applicable when it comes to trying to ascertain future behavior (under climate change or not).

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that adaptation to temperature extremes (especially extreme heat) has been increasing over time such that the population of the United States (including New England) is much less sensitive to heat waves (i.e., fewer people die) now than it was, say, 30 to 40 years ago. While this adaptation is not complete—as evidenced by the results of Shi et al. and other previous studies—it is ongoing.

And partially driving this trend towards lower sensitivity to extreme heat is an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events themselves. In other words, climate change begets adaptation.

As we have shown, it doesn’t take much for the increased awareness of heat-related dangers, spawned in part by a changing climate, to overwhelm the impacts of an increase in heat events resulting from the same climate change. We wrote in a recent paper (which also was published in Nature Climate Change):

Some portion of this response [a declining sensitivity to extreme heat events] probably reflects the temporal increase in the frequency of extreme-heat events, an increase that elevates public consciousness and spurs adaptive response. In this manner, climate change itself leads to adaptation. It is insufficient to ignore this effect when compiling and discussing the impacts of climate change.

This is true state of affairs when it comes to climate change and its impact on temperature-related mortality in the United States (and elsewhere), not the one suggested by the CBS News headline.

Consequently, for the spinning inadequate and incomplete data into headlines suggesting climate change is killing us, we award a Slightly Soiled spin cycle (two spins) to CBS News.  

In a 3-to-3 vote today, the U.S. International Trade Commission determined that the domestic industry producing passenger car and light truck tires was materially injured by reason of dumped and subsidized imports from China. Wait, what?  Yes, that’s right.  Despite the Washington protectionism lobby’s self-portrayal as victims of unfair foreign trade practices who are forced to surmount the highest of hurdles before they can “obtain relief” at everyone else’s expense, tie votes go to the protectionists.  A negative determination would have required four votes. Here’s what I wrote about the case on Friday.

So:

  • even though respondents were tasked with having to convince 33.3% more commissioners than were the petitioners; 
  • even though the “domestic industry” was a single labor union representing workers at plants accounting for only 40% of tire production capacity;
  • even though not a single domestic tire producer supported the AD/CVD petitions;
  • even though the costs of the prospective AD/CVD duties on downstream industries (vehicle manufacturers, tire wholesalers and retailers, rental car companies, Uber drivers, etc.), consumers, and national economic welfare are all statutorily forbidden from being considered by the ITC;
  • even though the effects of three years of duties on the exact same kinds of tires from China (from 2009-2012) demonstrate that domestic production will not increase, but imports from other countries will;
  • even though duty calculations are inflated by a sympathetic and pliable Commerce Department agency called “Enforcement and Compliance,” which routinely engages in methodological sleight of hand;
  • and, even though the antidumping and countervailing duty laws – protected from adequate scrutiny because they’re portrayed as tools to level the playing field with unscrupulous foreigners exploiting unfair practices – are routinely abused by U.S. companies and unions to kneecap domestic competition or to obtain greater market or bargaining power…

Congress just passed and the president just enacted legislation to relax to evidentiary requirements and other burdens of proof on petitioners in these kinds of cases.

So, with the steel industry (and others) chomping at the bit to test out these new provisions, don’t be surprised to see a flow of new cases and the emergence of trade lawyering as a growth industry. 

The alleged murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has reignited the debate over the link between immigration and crime. Such debates often call for change in policy regarding the deportation or apprehension of illegal immigrants. However, if policies should change, it should not be in reaction to a single tragic murder.  It should be in response to careful research on whether immigrants actually boost the U.S. crime rates. 

With few exceptions, immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates.  As described below, the research is fairly one-sided.       

There are two broad types of studies that investigate immigrant criminality.  The first type uses Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data from the institutionalized population and broadly concludes that immigrants are less crime prone than the native-born population.  It is important to note that immigrants convicted of crimes serve their sentences before being deported with few exceptions.  However, there are some potential problems with Census-based studies that could lead to inaccurate results.  That’s where the second type of study comes in.  The second type is a macro level analysis to judge the impact of immigration on crime rates, generally finding that increased immigration does not increase crime and sometimes even causes crime rates to fall. 

Type 1: Immigrant Crime – Censuses of the Institutionalized Population 

Butcher and Piehl examine the incarceration rates for men aged 18-40 in the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Censuses.  In each year immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than natives with the gap widening each decade.  By 2000, immigrants have incarceration rates that are one-fifth those of the native-born.  Butcher and Piehl wrote another paper focusing on immigrant incarceration in California by looking at both property and violent crimes by city.  Between years 2000 and 2005, California cities with large inflows of recent immigrants tended have lower violent crimes rates and the findings are statistically significant.  During the same time period, there is no statistically significant relationship between immigration and property crime.   

Ewing, Martinez, and Rumbaut summarize their findings on criminality and immigration thusly:

“[R]oughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born.  The disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades, as evidenced by data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial census.  In each of those years, the incarceration rates of the native-born were anywhere from two to five times higher than that of immigrants.”

They continue by focusing on immigrant incarceration rates by country of origin in the 2010 Census.  Less educated young Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men (poorly educated young men are most likely to be incarcerated) make up the bulk of the unlawful immigrant population but have significantly lower incarceration rates than native-born men without a high-school diploma.  In 2010, 10.7 percent of native-born men aged 18-39 without a high school degree were incarcerated compared to 2.8 percent of Mexican immigrants and 1.7 percent of Guatemalan and Salvadoran immigrants.  These are similar to Rumbaut’s older research also based on Census data from 2000.  Controlling for relevant observable factors, young uneducated immigrant men from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala are less likely to be incarcerated than similarly situated native-born men.

However, studies of immigrant criminality based on Census data alone could fail to give the full picture.  First, many of the answers given to the Census may have been educated guesses from the Census workers and not the inmates.  Second, the government has done a very poor job of gathering data on the nationality and immigration status of prisoners – even when it has tried.  That biases me against the accuracy of prison surveys by the Census Bureau.  Third, incarceration rates may better reflect the priorities of law enforcement than the true rates of criminal activity among certain populations.

Type 2: Macro Level Analysis of Immigrant Criminality

To avoid the potential Census data problems, other researchers have looked at crime rates and immigration on a macro scale.  These investigations also capture other avenues through which immigration could cause crimes – for instance, by inducing an increase in native criminality or by being easy targets for native criminals.

The phased rollout of the Secure Communities (S-COMM) immigration enforcement program provided a natural experiment.  A recent paper by Thomas J. Miles and Adam B. Cox used the phased rollout to see how S-COMM affected crime rates per county.  If immigrants were disproportionately criminal, then S-COMM would decrease the crime rates.  They found that S-COMM “led to no meaningful reduction in the FBI index crime rate” including violent crimes.  Relying on similar data with different specifications, Treyger et al. found that S-COMM did not decrease crime rates nor did it lead to an increase in discriminatory policing that some critics were worried about.  According to both reports, the population of immigrants is either not correlated, or negatively correlated, with crime rates.         

Ousey and Kubrin looked at 159 cities at three dates between 1980 and 2000 and found that crime rates and levels of immigration are not correlated.  They conclude that “[v]iolent crime is not a deleterious consequence of increased immigration.”  Martinez looked at 111 U.S. cities with at least 5,000 Hispanics and found no statistically significant findings.  Reid et al. looked at a sample of 150 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and found that levels of recent immigration had a statistically significant negative effect on homicide rates but no effect on property crime rates.  They wrote, “[i]t appears that anti-immigrant sentiments that view immigrants as crime prone are not only inaccurate at the micro-level, they are also inaccurate at the macro-level … increased immigration may actually be beneficial in terms of lessening some types of crimes.”  Wadsworth found that cities with greater growth in immigrant or new immigrant populations between 1990 and 2000 tended to have steeper decreases in homicide and robbery rates. 

Using panel data on U.S. counties, Spenkuch finds that a 10 percent increase in the share of immigrants increases the property crime rate by 1.2 percent.  In other words, the average immigrant commits roughly 2.5 times as many property crimes as the average native but with no impact on violent crime rates.  He finds that this effect on property crime rates is caused entirely by Mexican immigrants.  Separating Mexicans from other immigrants, the former commit 3.5 to 5 times as many crimes as the average native.  However, all other immigrants commit less than half as many crimes as natives.  This is the most deleterious finding that I discovered. 

Stowell et al. looks at 103 different MSAs from 1994-2004 and finds that violent crime rates tended to decrease as the concentration of immigrants increased.  An immigrant concentration two standard deviations above the mean translates into 40.5 fewer violent crimes per 100,000 compared to a decrease of 8.1 violent crimes in areas that experienced a change in immigration concentration two standard deviations below the mean.  It is easy to focus on the horrible tragedies when somebody is murdered by an immigrant but it’s very hard to imagine all of the people who weren’t murdered because of the lower crime rates created by increased immigration.  In their summary of the research on this topic, they write:

“[T]he weight of the evidence suggests that immigration is not associated with increased levels of crime.  To the extent that a relationship does exist, research often finds a negative effect of immigration on levels of crime, in general, and on homicide in particular.   

Some immigrants from certain countries of origin may be more crime prone than others, as Spenkuch finds above.  To test this, Chalfin used rainfall patterns in Mexico to estimate inflows of Mexican immigrants.  The idea is that lower rainfall and a decrease in agricultural productivity in Mexico would push marginal Mexican immigrants out of Mexico and into the U.S. labor market.  Mexican rainfall patterns and the subsequent immigration had no effect on violent or property crime rates in major U.S. metropolitan areas.    

These trends have also been found on the local level.  Davies and Fagan looked at crime and immigration patterns at the neighborhood level in New York City.  They find that crime rates are not higher in areas with more immigrants.  Sampson looked at Chicago and found that Hispanic immigrants were far less likely to commit a violent criminal act then either black or white native Chicagoans.  Lee et al. found that trends in recent immigration are either not correlated with homicides or are negatively correlated in Miami, San Diego, and El Paso.  The only exception is that there is a positive relationship between immigration and black homicide rates in San Diego.      

Numerous studies also conclude that the high immigration rate of the 1990s significantly contributed to the precipitous crime decline of that decade.  According to this theory, immigrants are less crime prone and have positive spillover effects like aiding in community redevelopment, rebuilding of local civil society in formerly decaying urban cores, and contributing to greater economic prosperity through pushing natives up the skills spectrum through complementary task specialization. 

Note on Illegal Immigration

The public focus is on the crime rates of unauthorized or illegal immigrants.  The research papers above mostly include all immigrants regardless of legal status.  However, every problem with gathering data on immigrant criminality is multiplied for unauthorized immigrants.  There is some work that can help shed light here.

With particular implications for the murder of Kate Steinle, Hickman et al. look at the recidivism rates of 517 deportable and 780 nondeportable aliens released from the Los Angeles County Jail over a 30-day period in 2002.  They found that there is no difference in the rearrest rate of deportable and nondeportable immigrants released from incarceration at the same place and time.  Their paper is not entirely convincing for several reasons, the most important being that their sample does not include the higher risk inmates who were transferred to state prison and were subsequently released from there.  There are also findings in their paper that seem to contradict their conclusion that aren’t adequately accounted for.  This is only one study of one sample in one city but the results should be incorporated into any argument over sanctuary cities.     

Conclusion

Both the Census-data driven studies and macro-level studies find that immigrants are less crime-prone than natives with some small potential exceptions.  There are numerous reasons why immigrant criminality is lower than native criminality.  One explanation is that immigrants who commit crimes can be deported and thus are punished more for criminal behavior, making them less likely to break the law. 

Another explanation is that immigrants self-select for those willing to work rather than those willing to commit crimes.  According to this “healthy immigrant thesis,” motivated and ambitious foreigners are more likely to immigrate and those folks are less likely to be criminals. This could explain why immigrants are less likely to engage in “anti-social” behaviors than natives despite having lower incomes.  It’s also possible that more effective interior immigration enforcement is catching and deporting unlawful immigrants who are more likely to be criminals before they have a chance to be incarcerated.          

The above research is a vital and missing component in the debate over the supposed links between immigration and crime.  

Today’s Iran deal is a victory for U.S. nonproliferation efforts, and while it may not be perfect, it goes a long way towards ensuring that Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons, and that the IAEA will regain crucial oversight access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. But though it is fundamentally an arms control agreement, some of the biggest impacts may in fact be felt in global oil and gas markets, as easing sanctions allow Iran’s hydrocarbon sector to reopen to the world.

Much of the text of the deal focuses on the sanctions which will be lifted in exchange for Iranian concessions on nuclear enrichment and processing. These include agreement by both the U.S. and EU to permit the import of oil and gas, as well as lifting asset freezes and bans on the export to Iran of technology and equipment for oil and gas extraction. More importantly, bans on investment, financing and service provision in the industry will be lifted, paving the way for European and American firms to provide technical services and invest in the country.

Oil prices have been volatile since the deal was announced, falling almost two percent before recovering. The initial price drop reflects the expectation that Iran may release some of its approximately thirty million reserve barrels of oil onto the market as soon as it is able. Iran also has the potential to impact oil prices in the long-term, holding the world’s fourth-largest reserves of crude oil, and second-largest gas reserves. Production has been depressed by sanctions, but once they are lifted, it is plausible that Iran could increase production to its pre-sanctions levels (2-3 million barrels a day) within several years.

A surge in Iranian production will only increase the current global oversupply of oil, driving prices lower, and setting Iran up for a confrontation with its partners in OPEC. This would be good news for consumers, but bad news for American shale producers, whose profits have already been dented by falling global oil prices. Yet, it could also be good news for large U.S. oil firms, opening the door to exploration and joint ventures in Iran.

Such investment may be particularly tempting given the recent closure of Russia’s oil market by sanctions. Companies like ExxonMobil, which lost access to its $3 billion joint Arctic exploration project with Rosneft, may find Iranian alternatives attractive.  The fact that most of Iran’s reserves are onshore fields - rather than hard-to-access offshore or arctic deposits – may also prove popular. American firms will likely be engaging in competition with European firms like ENI and Total, who were the major international players in Iran’s oil industry prior to the current sanctions regime.

Certainly, there are still obstacles to overcome before Iran reenters the market, a fact reflected in the volatility of oil prices this morning. The deal must clear congress, though opponents of the deal are unlikely to successfully overcome a presidential veto. Sanctions mitigation will not take effect for at least ninety days, as the lifting of the sanctions is tied to successful completion of many of the deal’s requirements by Iran. And there is always the risk of ‘snapback,’ the idea that sanctions may be suddenly reinstated if Iran fails in its obligations. American oil companies may be hesitant to get involved in Iran until these risks diminish.

There is no denying, however, that the successful implementation of the deal will have major consequences for global oil markets, driving prices lower and opening up new investment opportunities. Ultimately, some of the biggest winners of the Iranian deal could be U.S. consumers and companies.   

When Kelly Rindfleisch became a policy analyst for Scott Walker, and then his deputy chief of staff, she didn’t expect all of her personal emails to be the subject of a search into the criminal investigation of another person, but that’s Wisconsin politics for you.

In 2010, state officials opened a “John Doe” investigation (essentially Wisconsin’s version of a grand jury inquiry) into another Walker staffer, then-Chief of Staff Tim Russell. In their investigation, law enforcement sought and obtained a warrant for Google and Yahoo to turn over all ~16,000 emails held on Rindfleisch’s personal email account in order to find possibly incriminating emails sent between her and Russell—no narrowing, minimization, key-word searching, or independent third-party review required.

Through their fishing expedition, prosecutors were able to find enough evidence to support a charge against Rindfleisch, claiming that the incriminating content of those emails was in “plain view” subsequent to the incredibly broad search. Due to the unconstitutional search, Rindfleisch eventually plead guilty to misconduct in public office.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the validity of the search warrants, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal—leaving law enforcement with carte blanche to rummage through personal emails. Rindfleisch’s case provides an excellent vehicle for the U.S. Supreme Court to address the degree to which the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant for searching electronic data, tailored to probable cause. That’s why Cato filed a brief, joining the DKT Liberty Project, supporting Rindfleisch’s cert petition.

The Wisconsin courts’ decisions stand in direct conflict with many of the Supreme Court’s precedents; just last year in Riley v. California (2014), the Court addressed the precise privacy concerns at issue here. In Riley, the Court unanimously ruled that the Fourth Amendment requirement of a warrant applied to the digital contents of a locked cell phone. Now the issue has morphed to where lower courts are increasingly confronted with broad searches of all of a citizen’s electronic footprint when there is only probable cause to search a specific and identifiable subset of that information.

Issuing such warrants directly conflicts with the Fourth Amendment’s requirements of reasonableness and specificity. The practice of granting these warrants, particularly in the digital age, amounts to the grant of general warrants—or writs of assistance—to British officials in the colonies, the chief evil at which the Fourth Amendment was aimed.

The Supreme Court should take up this case and articulate meaningful requirements for specificity and reasonableness for electronic search warrants. It should invalidate the fishing expeditions that have become prevalent in political battle zones like Wisconsin.

The Supreme Court will decide whether to take Rindfleisch v. Wisconsin this fall after the justices return from their summer recess.

Every year around this time, a ritual is underway that quietly moves the ball forward on creating a U.S. national ID. That ritual is the annual appropriations process in Congress, which doles out money for everything the government does—including weaving together a system that may one day identify, track, and control each one of us.

As I noted last year in my policy analysis, REAL ID: A State-by-State Update, DHS has spent over a quarter billion dollars on REAL ID since the 2008 fiscal year. Beginning in 2012, grants supporting state efforts to implement REAL ID were moved into the State Homeland Security Grant Program, which fairly well keeps the amounts hidden from you and me. But appropriators at any time could deny the expenditure of funds to implement REAL ID.

Why don’t they do it? Judging by their records, appropriators are a strongly pro-national-ID group. Appropriations committee members who were in Congress when it passed tended to favor the national ID law—Republicans almost without exception. (And because Republicans chair the appropriations committees in both the House and Senate, they are currently the ones to watch.)

House members serving in 2005 had four chances to vote against the national ID law, and senators had two: First, when REAL ID passed the House on a test vote as H.R. 418. Second, when the rule governing debate in the House on H.R. 1268 passed by voice vote, attaching REAL ID to this spending bill. Third, when H.R. 1268 passed the House and Senate. And, fourth, when the conference report on H.R. 1268 passed the House and Senate.

Take a look at the pro-national-ID vote percentages for House Appropriations Committee members. All but one of the House Republican appropriators then serving voted in favor of the national ID law (or allowed it to go forward) every time. Mario Diaz-Balart went against REAL ID on one out of four occasions, voting against it on the test vote. (He was absent for the final vote on the appropriations bill to which REAL ID was attached. This analysis treats absence as “favoring” a bill because it allowed the outcome to occur. Representatives are obliged to vote on consequential matters.)

  • Harold Rogers (KY), Chairman 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (NJ) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Robert B. Aderholt (AL) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Kay Granger (TX) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Michael K. Simpson (ID) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • John Abney Culberson (TX) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Ander Crenshaw (FL) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • John R. Carter (TX) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Ken Calvert (CA) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Tom Cole (OK) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Mario Diaz-Balart (FL) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Charles W. Dent (PA) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Tom Graves (GA) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Jeff Fortenberry (NE) 100% in favor of a national ID

(Current Republican appropriators not serving in the House in 2005: Kevin Yoder, Kansas; Steve Womack, Arkansas; Tom Rooney, Florida; Chuck Fleischmann, Tennessee; Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington; David Joyce, Ohio; David Valadao, California; Andy Harris, MD, Maryland; Martha Roby, Alabama; Mark Amodei, Nevada; Chris Stewart, Utah; Scott Rigell, Virginia; David Jolly, Florida; David Young, Iowa; Evan Jenkins, West Virginia; Steven Palazzo, Mississippi.)

House Democrats now serving on the appropriations committee had generally better records, typically voting against REAL ID as a freestanding bill, but getting rolled into a supportive position when it was attached to an appropriations bill. Some Democrats voted in favor every time, and a few voted to oppose a national ID because they opposed the spending bill to which it was attached. The only sin of this latter group was allowing the vote on the rule that attached REAL ID to the spending bill to go forward without a roll call vote.

  • Nita M. Lowey (NY), ranking member 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Marcy Kaptur (OH) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Peter J. Visclosky (IN) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • José E. Serrano (NY) 25% in favor of a national ID
  • Rosa L. DeLauro (CT) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • David E. Price (NC) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Sam Farr (CA) 25% in favor of a national ID
  • Chaka Fattah (PA) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Barbara Lee (CA) 25% in favor of a national ID
  • Michael M. Honda (CA) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Betty McCollum (MN) 25% in favor of a national ID
  • Steve Israel (NY) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Tim Ryan (OH) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Henry Cuellar (TX) 100% in favor of a national ID

Three Democrats currently on the House Appropriations Committee weren’t in Congress when REAL ID passed: Chellie Pingree (ME), Mike Quigley (IL), and Derek Kilmer (WA).

Senate appropriators generally have had only two chances to oppose a national ID. On the vote passing the spending bill that contained REAL ID and on the conference report for that bill. Long-term appropriators from both parties signed on to REAL ID without exception—every single one of them. Senate appropriators who previously served in the House (indicated by an “H” below) have a more diverse record, including Tammy Baldwin, who voted against all but the rule allowing REAL ID to be attached to the bill that carried it into law.

Senate Republicans

  • Thad Cochran (MS), Chairman 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Mitch McConnell (KY) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Richard C. Shelby (AL) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Lamar Alexander (TN) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Susan Collins (ME) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Lindsey Graham (SC) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Mark Kirk (IL) - H  100% in favor of a national ID
  • Roy Blunt (MO) - H 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Jerry Moran (KS) - H 100% in favor of a national ID
  • John Boozman (AR) - H 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Shelley Moore Capito (WV) - H 100% in favor of a national ID

Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Hoeven (ND), Bill Cassidy (LA), James Lankford (OK), and Steve Daines (MT) did not serve in the Senate or House during passage of REAL ID.

Senate Democrats

  • Barbara Mikulski (MD), ranking member 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Patrick J. Leahy (VT) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Patty Murray (WA) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Dianne Feinstein (CA) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Richard J. Durbin (IL) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Jack Reed (RI) 100% in favor of a national ID
  • Tom Udall (NM) - H 75% in favor of a national ID
  • Tammy Baldwin (WI) - H 25% in favor of a national ID

Jon Tester (MT), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Jeff Merkley (OR), Chris Coons (DE), Brian Schatz (HI), and Christopher Murphy (CT) did not serve in the House during passage of REAL ID.

In 2008, Senator Tester came to Cato to denounce the REAL ID law, but he hasn’t done anything that we know of to defund the national ID program using his share of power over the purse.

Fair-minded people may object that it’s unfair to count a vote on a bulky appropriations bill as pro-national-ID, or to do the same with standing by as a voice vote happens on a rule for debate in the House. But do you know what principled fighters for our liberties do? They vote against big, “important” bills because liberty is the most important thing. They buck the leadership and their colleagues’ precious deals to take down a bad rule.

There’s more to learn about the behavior of some of the shorter-serving members of the appropriations committees. They may have records that show where they are on national ID funding. If they’ve been going along with Department of Homeland Security spending bills that happen to include funding for REAL ID, that’s a pro-national-ID position that you just might be reading about here in the near future.

Earlier today in Vienna, international negotiators reached a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. The New York Times reports that the agreement will eventually lift oil and financial sanctions, “in return for limits on Iran’s nuclear production capability and fuel stockpile over the next 15 years.” The international restrictions on Iranian arms exports will remain in place for up to 5 years, and the ban on ballistic missile exports could remain for up to 8 years. 

In a televised statement this morning, President Obama defended his decision to engage in the negotiations “from a position of strength” and assured the American people that, under the deal, “Iran will not be able to achieve a nuclear weapon.” His opponents are sure to challenge both assertions. 

The deal, Obama said, “is not built on trust, it is built on verification.” Those verification provisions appeared to have been one of the final sticking points in the negotiations. According to the Associated Press, the Iranians agreed to allow inspection of Iranian military sites, “something the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had long vowed to oppose,” but such inspections are not the surprise, snap inspections that some had pushed for. 

The focus now turns to the Senate, which has 60 days to review the agreement. Senators could vote to block it, but Obama has already pledged that he would veto any legislation that prohibits the deal’s implementation. He has a reasonably strong hand to play. Even if all Senate Republicans vote to kill the deal, opponents would need at least a dozen Senate Democrats to vote with them in order to override the president. 

Expect the details of the nearly 100-page document to come under close scrutiny, even though many opponents don’t appear to believe that the specifics matter that much. For them, nearly any deal is a bad deal. 

For example, the latest entrant into the 2016 Republican presidential contest, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, yesterday pledged to “terminate the bad deal with Iran on Day One” – before the terms were even finalized. And he predicted that any other Republican president would do the same. Arkansas’s freshman Senator Tom Cotton has publicly stated that his object has been to blow up any deal. For Walker, Cotton, and others you don’t negotiate with a regime like Iran’s – you destroy it. 

But counter proliferation by means of regime change has a bad odor today, thanks chiefly to the Iraq war that, coincidentally, many of the most outspoken Iran deal opponents had a hand in pushing on the American people beginning in the late 1990s. 

They have learned nothing, it appears, but most Americans have: refusing to engage diplomatically with an odious regime, or waging war to separate said regime from its weapons – by removing the regime from power – is a costly proposition, and there is no guarantee that the government that emerges in its place will be better than that which came before. George W. Bush came around to this view by the middle of his second term in office: the man who in 2002 cast Iran as a charter member of the Axis of Evil – along with Iraq and North Korea – supported the P5 + 1 negotiating process that eventually led to today’s deal. 

So keep all this in mind in the coming weeks as the details of the Iran deal are debated in Washington and around the country. Deal opponents have an obligation to describe their preferred alternative, not merely what they are against.

Today the French celebrate the 226th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, the date usually recognized as the beginning of the French Revolution. What should libertarians (or classical liberals) think of the French Revolution?

The Chinese premier Zhou Enlai is famously (but apparently inaccurately) quoted as saying, “It is too soon to tell.” I like to draw on the wisdom of another mid-20th-century thinker, Henny Youngman, who when asked “How’s your wife?” answered, “Compared to what?” Compared to the American Revolution, the French Revolution is very disappointing to libertarians. Compared to the Russian Revolution, it looks pretty good. And it also looks good, at least in the long view, compared to the ancien regime that preceded it.

Conservatives typically follow Edmund Burke’s critical view in his Reflections on the Revolution in France. They may even quote John Adams: “Helvetius and Rousseau preached to the French nation liberty, till they made them the most mechanical slaves; equality, till they destroyed all equity; humanity, till they became weasels and African panthers; and fraternity, till they cut one another’s throats like Roman gladiators.”

But there’s another view. And visitors to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, get a glimpse of it when they see a key hanging in a place of honor. It’s one of the keys to the Bastille, sent to Washington by Lafayette by way of Thomas Paine. They understood, as the great historian A.V. Dicey put it, that “The Bastille was the outward visible sign of lawless power.” And thus keys to the Bastille were symbols of liberation from tyranny.

Traditionalist conservatives sometimes long for “the world we have lost” before liberalism and capitalism upended the natural order of the world. The diplomat Talleyrand said, “Those who haven’t lived in the eighteenth century before the Revolution do not know the sweetness of living.” But not everyone found it so sweet. Lord Acton wrote that for decades before the revolution “the Church was oppressed, the Protestants persecuted or exiled, … the people exhausted by taxes and wars.” The rise of absolutism had centralized power and led to the growth of administrative bureaucracies on top of the feudal land monopolies and restrictive guilds.

The economic causes of the French Revolution are sometimes insufficiently appreciated. In his book The French Revolution: An Economic Interpretation, Florin Aftalion outlines some of those causes. The French state engaged in wars throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. To pay for the wars, it employed complex and burdensome taxation, tax farming, borrowing, debt repudiation and forced “disgorgement” from the financiers, and debasement of the currency. Lord Acton wrote that people had been anticipating revolution in France for a century. And revolution came.

Liberals and libertarians admired the fundamental values it represented. Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek both hailed “the ideas of 1789” and contrasted them with “the ideas of 1914” — that is, liberty versus state-directed organization.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man, issued a month after the fall of the Bastille, enunciated libertarian principles similar to those of the Declaration of Independence:

1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights… .

2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression… .

4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights… .

17. [P]roperty is an inviolable and sacred right.

But it also contained some dissonant notes, notably:

3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation… .

6. Law is the expression of the general will.

A liberal interpretation of those clauses would stress that sovereignty is now rested in the people (like “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”), not in any individual, family, or class. But those phrases are also subject to illiberal interpretation and indeed can be traced to an illiberal provenance. The liberal Benjamin Constant blamed many of France’s ensuing problems on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, often very wrongly thought to be a liberal: “By transposing into our modern age an extent of social power, of collective sovereignty, which belonged to other centuries, this sublime genius, animated by the purest love of liberty, has nevertheless furnished deadly pretexts for more than one kind of tyranny.” That is, Rousseau and too many other Frenchmen thought that liberty consisted in being part of a self-governing community rather than the individual right to worship, trade, speak, and “come and go as we please.”

The results of that philosophical error—that the state is the embodiment of the “general will,” which is sovereign and thus unconstrained—have often been disastrous, and conservatives point to the Reign of Terror in 1793-94 as the precursor of similar terrors in totalitarian countries from the Soviet Union to Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

In Europe, the results of creating democratic but essentially unconstrained governments have been far different but still disappointing to liberals. As Hayek wrote in The Constitution of Liberty:

The decisive factor which made the efforts of the Revolution toward the enhancement of individual liberty so abortive was that it created the belief that, since at last all power had been placed in the hands of the people, all safeguards against the abuse of this power had become unnecessary.

Governments could become vast, expensive, debt-ridden, intrusive, and burdensome, even though they remained subject to periodic elections and largely respectful of civil and personal liberties. A century after the French Revolution, Herbert Spencer worried that the divine right of kings had been replaced by “the divine right of parliaments.”

Still, as Constant celebrated in 1816, in England, France, and the United States, liberty

is the right to be subjected only to the laws, and to be neither arrested, detained, put to death or maltreated in any way by the arbitrary will of one or more individuals. It is the right of everyone to express their opinion, choose a profession and practice it, to dispose of property, and even to abuse it; to come and go without permission, and without having to account for their motives or undertakings. It is everyone’s right to associate with other individuals, either to discuss their interests, or to profess the religion which they and their associates prefer, or even simply to occupy their days or hours in a way which is most compatible with their inclinations or whims.

Compared to the ancien regime of monarchy, aristocracy, class, monopoly, mercantilism, religious uniformity, and arbitrary power, that’s the triumph of liberalism.

Today President Obama announced that 46 non-violent drug offenders will have their sentences commuted and be released this year.  The announcement comes ahead of President Obama’s speech on sentencing reform later this week from a prison in Oklahoma.

The vast majority of the offenders were convicted of cocaine offenses, along with a handful of marijuana cases and some general “controlled substance” violations.  The lowest initial sentence among the 46 was 15 years, while several received life sentences.  In issuing the commutations the White House noted that, due to recent sentencing reforms, these sentences are out of step with the sentences the offenders would receive for the same violations today:

These unduly harsh sentences are one of the reasons the President is committed to using all the tools at his disposal to remedy unfairness in our criminal justice system. Today, he is continuing this effort by granting clemency to 46 men and women, nearly all of whom would have already served their time and returned to society if they were convicted of the exact same crime today.

The list of recipients, along with their offenses, can be found here.  

It should go without saying that sentences ranging from 15 years to life in prison for non-violent drug offenses are beyond the pale, and these commutations are certainly welcome.  But without substantial front-end criminal justice reforms, injustices like this will continue to happen.  Tens of thousands of non-violent drug offenders remain in federal prison.  Nearly half of federal prisoners were convicted of drug offenses.  The United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate, the largest prison population, and the most expensive penal system, and the needless incarceration of non-violent offenders is a primary reason for those dubious honors.

Pardons and commutations are often the very last gasp for an inmate after years or decades of incarceration, and for practical and political reasons only a small fraction of offenders can ever hope to receive one.  Substantive front-end reforms to our criminal laws will spare thousands of non-violent people from ever having to hope for a pardon or commutation.

Libertarians have been fighting for front-end criminal justice reforms for decades, and it’s high time for the rest of the country to catch up.  These commutations are a step in the right direction, but the federal government’s draconian policies toward non-violent offenders remain.

Click the links for more of Cato’s work on overcriminalization, the drug war, and mandatory minimum sentencing.

Washington’s protectionism lobby – that conspiracy of interests, which includes certain members of the House and Senate, steel and other import-competing producers, organized labor, and creative trade lawyers existentially determined to broaden the definition of unfair trade both statutorily and in the public’s mind – succeeded in extracting rents from President Obama and congressional Republican leadership in the deal that produced Trade Promotion Authority last month.

In addition to reauthorizing Trade Adjustment Assistance, which after 53 years of failure as economic policy has succeeded only at reinforcing the myth that job loss due to trade is especially problematic, Congress passed and the president enacted the American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act, which reduces the burden of proof on domestic industries seeking protection from import competition under the U.S. Antidumping and Countervailing Duty laws.

As we at the Cato Institute have documented over the past 16 years in more than a dozen policy papers and a book, the so-called trade remedy laws are already way too accessible and prone to abuse.  The abuse of these laws has caused enormous amounts of collateral damage, especially to downstream U.S. industries whose access to needed raw materials and intermediate goods can be shut down at the request of a single domestic producer.  These laws have never made sense economically, but are especially deleterious in a globalized economy.  Today, these so-called unfair trade laws are used primarily by U.S. companies and their workers to cripple the supply chains of other U.S. companies and their workers.  The rhetoric says “Us versus Them,” but the reality is “Us versus Us” – with net economic welfare losses being the typical result. 

Tomorrow, the U.S. International Trade Commission will render judgment in antidumping and countervailing duty cases involving automobile tires imported from China.  None of the domestic producers supports the petition for duties, which was brought by the United Steelworkers union, representing workers at domestic plants accounting for only 40 percent of U.S. tire production.

The case is not really about unfair trade.  It’s about the union attempting to obtain leverage over management so that it can extract production and wage concessions it might not gain under normal labor-management negotiations.  This is just one of the myriad ways in which the trade laws have been abused in recent years.  With further loosening of the evidentiary thresholds in the new law, we should expect to see more and more cases, and more and more economic damage.

I write about the tires case in greater detail over at Forbes.

I recently objected to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s proposed demotion of Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill. Hamilton was not only the first and most distinguished Treasury Secretary, but was also an accomplished professional in many other fields outside the confines of finance.

During his varied career, Alexander Hamilton was a profound journalist. His most famous journalistic project was a series of 85 opinion pieces that called for the ratification of the Constitution. These essays are called The Federalist Papers, and are the most cited sources by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Federalist Papers were published in 1787 and 1788 in New York City’s Independent Journal. These important essays — written under pseudonyms by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay — were of very high quality and set the stage for the Constitutional Convention and the resulting product.

Hamilton organized this project, wrote most of the essays, and, of all the Founding Fathers, performed most of the intellectual work for the least historical credit. That said, two notable economists have given Hamilton his due. Lionel Robbins thought The Federalist Papers was “the best book on political science and its broad practical aspects written in the last thousand years.” And if that were not enough, Milton Friedman wrote in 1973 that The Federalist Paper, No. 15, written by Hamilton, “contains a more cogent analysis of the European Common Market than any I have seen from the pen of a modern writer.”

Hamilton’s prowess as a writer and journalist wasn’t a one-shot affair. He drafted a large part of George Washington’s famous Farewell Address, which was published in the American Daily Advertiser. And only three years before his untimely death, resulting from a wound inflicted in a duel with Aaron Burr, Hamilton founded the New-York Evening Post.

Treasury Secretary Lew’s proposed demotion of Hamilton throws into question both the Secretary’s grasp of history, as well as his judgment.

Now that the coast is clear, Slate has an honest assessment of ObamaCare premiums. Helaine Olen writes

Under this assault [from ObamaCare opponents], all too many ACA defenders turned into fanboys and fangirls, dismissing any issue raised against the law as inconsequential and exaggerated…

But this strategy might well come back to bite the Democrats. The bill for the health care expansion is coming due, just as the recipients will be heading to the ballot box to vote in the first primaries for the 2016 election. More than a few are likely to be annoyed.

Last week Oregon’s insurance commissioner, Laura Cali, announced that the state had approved a 25 percent premium increase for the largest health insurer on the state’s exchanges. The second largest insurer did even better: It received permission to boost its monthly charge to consumers by 33 percent…

And that sounds like a relative bargain compared with Minnesota and New Mexico, where the BlueCross BlueShield family is looking for increases of more than 50 percent. Even if the final numbers are lower than the asks, it seems quite likely these states will approve substantive premium increases.

The problem is simple. As Trudy Lieberman reported this month in Harper’s, the ACA made a decent stab at solving the problem of Americans lacking insurance. Unfortunately, the bargain struck to get the bill to a point where lobbyists for the hospital, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries to sign on, or at least not fight it, did not adequately address the issue of overall medical costs.

And that’s where the consumer comes in. Someone is “it,” the party paying the bill. And that “it” is increasingly you, whether you receive insurance on the exchanges or from an employer.

Or as I like to put it, ObamaCare doesn’t make health insurance more affordable. It robs Peter to pay Paul. When selling ObamaCare, supporters told everyone, “Don’t worry, you’re Paul.” But as time goes by, more Americans are realizing they’re not Paul. They’re Peter.

“You ought not to forget that the credit system and the tax apparatus remain in the hands of the workers’ state and that this is a very important weapon in the struggle between state industry and private industry….

The pruning knife of taxation is a very important instrument.  With it the workers’ state will be able to clip the young plant of capitalism, lest it thrive too luxuriously.”

–Leon Trotsky, The First 5 Years of the Comintern, Vol 2 (London, New Park, 1945) p. 341

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