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Free Market Accountability Project

Privatization to the Rescue

By 7.23.15

With many cities and states struggling to balance their budgets and financially strained taxpayers unable to sustain liberal spending sprees, elected officials are being compelled to choose between raising taxes and service fees or cutting back on the quality and quantity of services provided.

Now that we’re more than a generation away from the days of President Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, many may have forgotten that there is a third way that relieves the pressure on voters’ sorely squeezed wallets without requiring cutbacks in quality of the services.

Privatization, the transfer of an enterprise or industry from the public sector to the private sector, enables residents to keep receiving the government goods or services they enjoy and need—such as recreational parks and trash collection—at a significantly lower cost to taxpayers.

Special Report

The Hero as Supererogator

By 7.23.15

The political arena is much given to trash talking these days, with invective, umbrage, and posturing in full play. Internecine insults, harrumphs, and blowbacks are exploding everywhere. Apparently, some of us are “crazies,” “bigots.” Others of us fail as “patriots,” and “heroes.” This last term, ‘hero,’ has particularly intrigued me through the years, and Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that John McCain didn’t fill the bill leads me to give the notion a closer look.

How can it apply without dissent to a passerby, an insurance salesman or greengrocer, who wades out into hip-deep rushing water to pull a woman from a stalled car, but not so readily apply to a soldier headed out on his eleventh motor patrol in an Afghan district known for its IEDs? The former is far more likely to get a medal or certificate, even though the danger is real for them both. So what’s the difference?

A Further Perspective

The Fact-Free Left: Part II

By 7.23.15

There is no way to know what is going on in someone else’s mind. But sometimes their behavior tells you more than their words.

The political left’s great claim to authenticity and honor is that what they advocate is for the benefit of the less fortunate. But how could we test that?

T.S. Eliot once said, ‘Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.’

This suggests that one way to find out if those who claim to be trying to help the less fortunate are for real is to see if they are satisfied to simply advocate a given policy, and see it through to being imposed — without also testing empirically whether the policy is accomplishing what it set out to do.

The first two steps are enough to let advocates feel important and righteous. Whether you really care about what happens to the supposed beneficiaries of the policy is indicated by whether you bother to check out the empirical evidence afterwards.

Ben Stein's Diary

While Obama Leads America to the Gallows

By 7.22.15

Alex and I got up here Saturday night. It was a grueling trip, as always. You fly to Seattle from LAX, then change to a tiny little commuter plane to Spokane. Saturday’s had six SCREAMING boys with their indolent mother right behind us. Thank you, dear God, for my Bose headphones. They saved my life again.

Then, a roaring trip from Spokane to Sandpoint. We stopped to get Panda take out in Coeur d’Alene, and then raced to Trinity Restaurant, right on the water in Sandpoint for delicious roast chicken.

The next day was hot and humid, but I took my usual stroll along City Beach in Sandpoint. It is a glorious sight to see so many families, church groups, young people, old people, taking in the sun and splashing in Lake Pendoreille on a peaceful day.

There is so very much peace here it’s invigorating to take it all in. Many people, usually older men and women, asked for photos, and as always, I happily obliged. I always wanted to be the cool kid in Junior High, and now I am The Cool Kid in Sandpoint, which is probably the coolest town ever in history.

Media Matters

Radical Islam Is Radical Islam

By 7.22.15

When radical Islam strikes as it did last week in Chattanooga where four Marines and a Navy sailor were murdered by Mohammed Youssef Abdulazeez at two military facilities, it never ceases to amaze how the mainstream media so eagerly to minimize what is staring us right in the face.

Enter Brian Ross of ABC News. 

You might remember that it was Ross who, in the wake of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado three years ago, said that the suspect Jim Holmes was listed as a member of the Colorado Tea Party. Yes, there was a Jim Holmes who was active with the Tea Party in Colorado. Only he was a 52-year old Hispanic male who, other than sharing his name, bore no resemblance to the 24-year old white male ex-medical student who was ultimately charged with the crime. As I wrote at the time:

Buy the Book

America at an Ominous Crossroads

By 7.22.15

Shattered Consensus: The Rise and Decline of America’s Postwar Political Order
By James Piereson
(Encounter, 389 pages, $27.99) 

Authors of history books often design them with a unifying theme, a so-called theory of history. Henry Steele Commager, one of the most ardent promoters of liberal politics in the 20th century, once explained his partisanship by saying, “History is a jangle of accidents, blunders, surprises and absurdities, and so is our knowledge of it, but if we are to report it at all we must impose some order upon it.”

Arnold Toynbee, whose prodigious A Study of History won worldwide acclaim in the 1950s, built his structure around the theory that a common religious belief has driven the rise of civilizations. His fellow Englishman Paul Johnson, whose Modern Times won popularity in the 1980s, followed a similar theme in citing “moral relativity” with its absence of firm values and standards as the acid that dissolves civilizations.

The Current Crisis

Barack the Garrulous

By 7.22.15

“Things fall apart,” as Yeats was wont to say, “The center cannot hold.” The center is most assuredly falling apart today, and who is at the center? Well, his name is Barack H. Obama. He is our president, and I think many Americans wish he would shut down. Every time he pipes up, especially on a peripheral issue, he makes things worse—no, not worse, appalling.

Political Hay

Trump and the Chattering Class

By 7.22.15

It is a toss-up as to who is more bombastic: Donald Trump or his critics in the chattering class. The latter is generating sympathy for him among primary voters by reacting so hysterically and pompously to a handful of off-the-cuff remarks. How bad can he be, they conclude, if liberals are calling for him to “leave the race” and boycotting him like a Christian baker?

In some respects, Trump’s critics exceed his bombast. They obnoxiously present themselves as arbiters of who is and who is not worthy of running in a party they hate. Their unsolicited advice on the “best candidate for the GOP” is always fatal.

So if primary voters are shrugging off their sanctimonious treatment of a trivial exchange of insults between John McCain and Trump, that’s no surprise. They long ago learned not to take the chattering class’s self-important outrage seriously.

A Further Perspective

Chattanooga and the Fact-Free Left

By 7.21.15

The outrage over another multiple murder of American military personnel on American soil by another Islamic extremist has been exacerbated by the fact that these military people had been ordered to be unarmed — and therefore sitting ducks.

Millions of American civilians have also been forbidden to have guns, and are also sitting ducks — for criminals, terrorists, or psychos.

You might think that, before having laws or policies forcing fellow human beings to be defenseless targets, those who support such laws and policies would have some factual basis for believing that these gun restrictions save more lives, on net balance, than allowing more legal access to firearms. But you would be wrong.

Most gun control zealots show not the slightest interest in testing empirically their beliefs or assumptions. There have been careful factual studies by various scholars of what happens after gun control laws have been instituted, strengthened, or reduced.

Political Hay

The Media Missed the Main Event

By 7.21.15

First, let’s briefly analyze the latest pro wrestling spectacle surrounding Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. There is better, and more important, material on the other side of this column.

Trump is more showman than leader, more carnival barker than politician. As such, he will flourish in the early stages of his White House run so long as he manages to entertain the masses — and when the public’s expectations change from “keep me interested” to “look presidential,” he’s no longer going to be a major factor in the GOP race.

What Trump is doing, and what he did again in scoffing at ancient establishmentarian senator John McCain’s Vietnam record (“He’s a war hero because he was captured; I like people who weren’t captured,” a direct plagiarism of a 2008 Chris Rock comedy bit), isn’t just political theater. He’s sticking pins in the political establishment.