BrianGarst.com

Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.

Tuesday

14

October 2014

Sunday

5

October 2014

Minimum Wage Follies

Written by , Posted in Economics & the Economy, Free Markets

The great Krugtron the Invincible argues the minimum wage can be increased without much consequence. He says there’s “hardly any cost to raising it,” and that “we can raise these wages without losing lots of jobs.” Notice the weasel language. We can raise it without losing “lots” of jobs, but regardless of what he subjectively considers to reach the “lots of jobs” threshold, there will unarguably be a lose of some jobs.

Bringing in some data, Antony Davies at the Mercatus Center demonstrates that as relative minimum wages have increased, so to has unemployment rates for those with anything less than a college diploma.

Min wage vs Unemployment by edu

So Krugman’s job is safe, but plenty of those poor folks he claims to champion will feel the warm, fuzzy benefits of his proposal all the way to the unemployment line.

In the latest episode of Hotnomics, host Emerald Robinson looks closer at the numbers and lays out the evidence against raising the minimum wage.

Friday

19

September 2014

Is Secession Acceptable Again?

Written by , Posted in Culture & Society, Foreign Affairs & Policy, Liberty & Limited Government

An interesting aspect of yesterday’s vote for Scottish independence is that it has Americans discussing political separation without all the unwanted historical baggage of the Civil War and race relations. That is, there have been substantive discussions even among Americans on the pros and cons of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom (they ultimately voted to stay) without anyone claiming the very idea of secession to be racist, as so often happens when it is considered within the United States.

Even though the Scottish vote resulted in affirmation of the union that forms the United Kingdom, the orderly acceptance of the vote stands in stark contrast to the threats of violence that come in response to even idle talk in the US. Just suggest that a state might leave the union, and you won’t have to wait long for indignant statists to wag their fingers and sarcastically warn about “how well that went last time.” In other words, try to leave the union and they’ll wage war upon you and burn your cities to the ground. In the name of unity, naturally.

If the British, who once fought a war to prevent the American colonies their independence, can agree that they want no unwilling subjects and indicate they would have accepted without bloodshed the will of the Scottish people to secede, then is it not time for Americans to stop threatening violence at long-shot prospects of political separation?

Thursday

18

September 2014

Is Government Threat of Punishment Keeping Private Universities from Cutting Tuition?

Written by , Posted in Big Government, Economics & the Economy, Education

Federal policies unquestionably deserve some blame for skyrocketing tuition costs. Washington subsidizes student borrowing, and colleges in turn raise prices to capture federal dollars. Higher prices put pressure on Washington to increase subsidies and the cycle repeats.

But there are obviously other forces at work as well. In a typical market you would expect competition to drive prices down, for instance. However, cutting prices doesn’t have the expected effect. Ike Brannon explains:

[W]hy don’t private colleges simply reduce tuition and reap the benefits? Indeed, a few colleges have done precisely that, and have been rewarded with a sharp spike in applicants the first year or two afterwards.

However, the gains from such a tuition reduction are short-lived: the typical pattern from a unilateral price cut is that by the third year the market has forgotten the gauzy rhetoric behind the price reduction and perceives the cut-rate tuition as an indicator of an inferior good, and applications decline.

Colleges in this way act as a Veblen good, meaning demand is proportional to price, rather than inversely proportional as we would expect from the law of supply and demand. Colleges with higher tuition are perceived as more prestigious and of higher quality and afford their alumni bragging rights. Thus, slicing tuition in a vacuum can reduce demand.

But one college president proposed a solution that would benefit consumers. Unfortunately, the government sprung to action and threatened him with legal repercussions:

Private colleges can cut tuition and avoid such a death spiral, but only if they do so in concert. However, the specter of a few dozen private colleges organizing to reduce prices — which might seem like an unmitigated good to parents — risks the ire of the Justice Department, which launched an investigation when a college president suggested such an idea at a public conference. College presidents don’t like being told by an officer of the government that they’re risking jail time, and any nascent discussions quickly ceased.

The government has criminalized “price fixing” in the name of protecting consumers. But as we see here, good intentions mean little once government bureaucrats with tunnel vision are brought into the equation. Regardless of the rule’s intent, prosecutors are prepared to punish colleges for potentially agreeing to lower tuition despite both its obvious benefit to consumers and the action’s alignment with stated policy goals.

Government policies helped create the problem of exorbitant tuition costs, and now it is actively working to prevent others from solving it. To quote Ronald Reagan, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Saturday

30

August 2014

Risks Come in Many Forms

Written by , Posted in Big Government, Culture & Society, Foreign Affairs & Policy, Gun Rights, Liberty & Limited Government, The Nanny State & A Regulated Society

The New York Times editorial board has some sound advice for Great Britain as it worries about the threat of home grown terrorists. It’s a serious problem, and one which the UK has largely invited on itself through a failed experiment in cultural appeasement that has only served to embolden extremism. Be that as it may, NYT editors are right to warn against overreactions that undermine civil rights by concluding that, “scrapping civil liberties should not be the first line of defense in a democracy.”

Terrorists pose a safety risk, and mitigating that risk should be done with respect to civil liberties rather than trampling them. But there are a great many risks in society, and unfortunately the NYT editorial board fails to consistently apply this principle on other issues. They have no problem curtailing rights for the illusion of security when doing so confirms their ideological biases, such as limiting speech in the name of removing money from politics, or scrapping the Second Amendment in the name of reducing violence.

In fact, just a day before sternly warning the Brits against overreacting to their homegrown extremism problem, the very same New York Times editorial board overreacted to a single gun accident caused by the irresponsibility of parents and an instructor that allowed a young girl who couldn’t handle the weapons and its kickback to shoot an Uzi, ultimately resulting in the instructor’s death. Not only did they use the unusual incident to finger wag at defenders of the Second Amendment and note in horror all the various ways in which gun enthusiasts enjoy their hobby, but they also demanded the restriction of rights in response. Citing a similar incident over half a decade ago (giving indication to  how rare these events are) where a young child accidentally killed himself at a gun range, the NYT editors praised his state of Connecticut for reacting by banning access to certain guns even at gun ranges for those under 16, regardless of the level of supervision, precautions taken, or capabilities of the shooter. They then lamented that there will be no “swift action in Arizona, where the gun culture is deeply entrenched.”

Rights are precarious things. They are at their most vulnerable when the populace is scared. The New York Times recognizes this when it comes to foreign threats, but fails to understand that domestic panics over extremely low risks of harm are just as dangerous.

Thursday

21

August 2014

Case for Police Reform is Bigger Than Ferguson Shooting

Written by , Posted in The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

Facts are slowly trickling out regarding the Michael Brown shooting by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. Not only has it now been determined that Brown was involved in an earlier strong-arm robbery – which speaks to Brown’s state of mind and makes it more plausible that he would engage an officer in violent conflict – but it’s also being claimed by some sources that officer Wilson suffered serious injuries in the alleged scuffle. The latter is far from proven, however.

This is important information for this particular case and those that want to ensure justice is done. It does not, however, tell us anything about the need for criminal justice reforms. Even if the shooting of Michael Brown was justified, it does not absolve the nation’s police as a whole, or even the Ferguson police in particular, of wrongdoing. The Ferguson PD would still be responsible for unnecessarily inflaming tensions through a combination of unnecessary and excessive displays of force, and a lack of timely communication.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Max Geron, a security studies scholar who runs the Media Relations Unit of the Dallas Police Department had to say:

The images from Ferguson, Missouri are disturbing and disappointing to those who recognize their role in law enforcement as servants of the public as opposed to strict enforcers of the law, maintainers of order or members of a paramilitary organization. While enforcing the law is a primary function and order maintenance is a part of that job, they are but components of the larger public servant role. Additionally, while police agencies are paramilitary in nature, law enforcement leaders now, more than ever, need to guard against the increase of militarization currently underway.

I’m disheartened that police unions and associations across the country are concerned about citizens photographing police while in public and have no qualms about speaking out against it. This adds to the concern of the public that we are moving more towards a police state and slowly eroding the freedoms we should cherish in this great nation.

Thursday

14

August 2014

Lack of Police Accountability Will Breed More Ferguson’s

Written by , Posted in Culture & Society, The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

A number of troubling things are happening related to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. In the wake of the shooting death of 18-year old Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer, there have been looting, riots, and demonstrations. While theft and mindless destruction of property by looters shouldn’t be tolerated, residents have more than enough reason to be upset.

Witness descriptions paint Brown’s shooting as a deliberate homicide, yet police have refused to release the name of the officer who killed him. The police department predictably claims that Brown was the instigator and inexplicably attempted to take the officer’s gun, but police are notorious liars who routinely falsify reports to cover up wrongdoing. Sometimes they are punished, but given the frequency with which such actions are discovered, it’s quite likely that it far more often goes unnoticed. While it’s certainly possible that police are telling the truth in this case and that the witnesses are lying to get them in trouble, the public has every reason not to give them the benefit of the doubt.

It is, in other words, the constant and pervasive lack of accountability for police departments across the country that fuels tensions and distrust. Even when misconduct is clear, the thin blue line often serves to protect officers from punishment. The result is a frustrated public that sees little hope of justice when police misbehave. The casual dismissal of public concerns only fuels the notion that police don’t believe they serve anyone but themselves.

Often times misconduct and false reports are only discovered when video later comes to light. It would thus be of significant public interest for police to be monitored by video at all times. When a small California city put cameras on all their police officers, the result was a dramatic decline in the number of complaints against officers. Police, like their civilian counterparts, misbehave less when they are more likely to be caught.

Others rightfully highlight the growing militarization of police forces across the US. Federal grants have encouraged local police departments to acquire weapons of war for domestic use. Tiny towns are getting funds to build SWAT teams and armored vehicles for which they have no need, and then are predictably deploying them in situations where such extreme tactics are not only unwarranted, but can be counterproductive.

Given the excessive deference by prosecutors for police wrongdoings and the fact that police are being handed weapons of war to use against the public, the only surprise that should come from the events in Ferguson is that such unrest is not already more common. If things continue as they are without significant reform of policing in the US, we can expect these confrontations to continue to happen.

Friday

8

August 2014

Tuesday

5

August 2014

Government Accuses Gay Bar of Anti-Gay Discrimination for Enforcing Government ID Requirements

Written by , Posted in Big Government, Culture & Society, Identity Politics, Liberty & Limited Government

Government lovers and practitioners of identity politics are eating their own according to Scott Shackford at Reason:

What happened last summer is that a gay man named Vito Marzano, dressed in drag from a fundraiser elsewhere, wanted to enter the Wrangler. He was denied entry. The bar claims it wasn’t because he was cross-dressing but because his image didn’t match his driver’s license. The bar had been previously cited for serving somebody underage and were now being extra cautious. For those not in the know, gay bars have a history of being targets of scrutiny by authorities looking for excuses to raid them and shut them down.

This is an important point. Arbitrary and overzealous enforcement has been a common tactic for government agents to harass certain minority populations, like gay communities. Allowing in customers who do not match their ID is a sure fire way to invite such government harassment.

Equally disturbing is the logic used by the government to determine that there was “discrimination.” The bar, it seems, dares to cater to the interests of a particular subset of the gay community known as “bears,” or burly masculine men who prefer other burly masculine men.

The state’s report notes that the bar has a dress code forbidding high-heeled shoes, wigs or appearance-altering make-up or strong perfumes. While the report states there’s nothing wrong with the dress code itself, it has determined that the bar uses this code as an excuse to exclude overly feminine women or transgender people. The Wrangler is a “bear” bar, whose target demographic is the burlier of the gay men. What’s alarming about the ruling is that it seems to act as though catering to a particular demographic is in fact evidence of a likelihood of discriminating against others:

“[T]he Respondent caters to a gay subculture known as “Bears,” which are bisexual or gay males which tend to place importance on presenting a hypermasculine image andoften shun interaction with men who exhibit effeminacy. This is evident from the pictures and statements made by employees regarding the “Bear” culture of the club and several links on the Respondent’s webpage referencing “Bear” clubs … .”

Emphasis added by me because WT-bloody-F? You know what gay people love? Having the government tell them how their various subcultures work and think on the basis of talking to a bunch of people at a bar and looking at pictures. The preference for dating or friendship with certain types of people is not the same as “shunning” other types of people. And to the extent that there are social rifts between various parts of the gay demographic, nobody should want the state government policing how they should be interacting with each other.

In a truly free and diverse society, outlets meeting niche needs would be welcomed along side those serving a more general population. But in a world of degenerative Progressivism, words such as  ”diversity” and “discrimination” have been twisted to the point of almost meaning their literal opposites. Diversity now requires universal sameness – all locations must serve the same clients in the same way. Discrimination now refers to any perceived negative action against a special identity group – such as the enforcement of ID requirements – even as the same action is routinely used against non-protected classes without fuss, making anti-discrimination efforts inherently discriminatory.

Shackford ends with the most important point:

This case is a good demonstration as to why it’s so important to hold a hard line on the right to freedom of association. The Wrangler should have the right to pursue whatever customer demographic it wants for its bar. And if the community finds it significantly discriminatory, they can use social pressures to push for change (as Marzano has apparently done with a call for a boycott).

Freedom, not central government control and more power for bureaucrats, is the answer.

Saturday

26

July 2014

Sen. Paul Moves to Breathe Life Back Into Fifth Amendment

Written by , Posted in Big Government, The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

Right now, it is possible and quite common for the government to seize personal assets without trial or any other form of due process. Under what’s known as civil asset forfeiture, police can take property they claim may be part of a crime, though they need not prove so, and put that money in their department’s pocket. This gives police departments incentive to steal. To make matters worse, it is then up to the victim to prove their innocence, often at significant cost, if they want any hope of getting their property back.

Rand Paul has introduced a bill that would end this despicable practice:

Sen. Rand Paul yesterday introduced S. 2644, the FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act, which would protect the rights of citizens and restore the Fifth Amendment’s role in seizing property without due process of law. Under current law, law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without ever charging, let alone convicting, the property owner. In addition, state agencies routinely use federal asset forfeiture laws; ignoring state regulations to confiscate and receive financial proceeds from forfeited property.

The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury’s General Fund.

Radley Balko has more on how the law will also stop state and local officials from skirting state law by conspiring, for a kickback, with the feds.

The bill would also require states “to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property.” This is important. Currently, a number of state legislatures across the country have passed reform bills to rein in forfeiture abuses. The problem is that the federal government has a program known as “adoption” or “equitable sharing.” Under the program, a local police agency need only call up the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or similar federal agency. That agency then “federalizes” the investigation, making it subject to federal law. The federal agency then initiates forfeiture proceedings under the laxer federal guidelines for forfeiture. The feds take a cut and then return the rest — as much as 80 percent — back to the local agency. This trick thwarts the intent of state legislature that have attempted to make civil forfeiture more fair when it comes to burden of proof, protections for innocent property owners and eliminating the perverse incentive of allowing forfeiture proceeds to go to the same police agency that made the seizure.

Which brings us to a final important provision in the bill: It would “would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury’s General Fund.

To put it simply, agencies of the federal government have engaged in a criminal conspiracy with state police departments to loot and rob the American people. It’s about time that someone take the obvious position of ending their abuses.