Power & Market
Often the worst of Washington is a bipartisan affair, but late last night a solid Democratic voting block stopped legislation that would allow terminally ill patients the ability to seek help from non-FDA approved treatments.
Needing a two-thirds vote to expedite right to try legislation, 140 Democrats voted against patient rights. Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, the senior Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, defended his vote by saying "By defeating this bill tonight, we protected patients and supported F.D.A.’s continued role in approving experimental treatments that may help save a patient’s life.”
Yes, in the twisted world of Washington politicians limiting the choices of dying patients is "protecting them."
While Democrats desperately clung to the narrative that non-FDA approved drugs represented "false hope", we are given examples every day of how absurd this notion truly is. Rather than being some sort of scientific seal of approval, the FDA approval process is a bureaucratic nightmare, taking years of testing and millions of dollars to complete. The numbers of lives lost due to the FDA's actions is incalculable. As Timothy Terrell has noted:
The American public tends to think of the FDA as a protector against dangerous side effects, as we saw with Thalidomide decades ago. But how many Americans have died because of lags in approval? A five-year delay in bringing the antibiotic Septra to the US market may have cost 80,000 lives. A lag in the approval of beta blockers may have cost 250,000 lives.1 The FDA's ban on advertising aspirin as an effective preventer of first heart attacks may have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year. But because it's easy to identify those harmed by side effects, and difficult to identify who might have been saved by earlier introduction of Septra to the marketplace, the FDA tends to be over-conservative in its regulatory process.
In spite of yesterday's vote, this right to try legislation isn't dead yet. Legislators supporting the measure have made it clear that it will be reintroduced and go through the standard voting process. Of course this delay, coupled with what will be required to get it through the Senate, could prove fatal for many of Americans who could possibly benefit from medical freedom.
Rene Boucher, who attacked Rand Paul at his Kentucky home last year, has pled guilty in Federal court:
At first glance, this appears to be as things should be. Given what information is publicly available, it seems clear that Boucher was the aggressor ,and attacked Paul, although Paul posed no threat to Boucher.
But there's a problem here. The case was tried in federal court even though there is no shortage of state laws that forbid assault and battery. So why is the federal government involved? Well, it should surprise few people that there are two sets of laws in the United States: one for high ranking government officials, and another set of laws for everyone else.
By attacking a very-special member of the American ruling class, Boucher opened himself up to federal charges of "assaulting a member of Congress resulting in personal injury, a felony under federal law."
This situation is relatively new, however.
This law provides for a death penalty for killing a member of Congress, a presidential or vice presidential candidate, or a Supreme Court justice, as well as imprisonment up to life for attempting to kill such a person...
The background of this law is interesting. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, it was not a federal crime to kill a U.S. president. Had alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald been tried, the trial would have taken place in a Texas state court. In 1965, Congress passed a law, 18 U.S.C. 1751, making it a federal crime to kill, kidnap, or assault the President or the Vice President.
In 1968, presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles. That was not a federal crime at the time, and Sirhan Sirhan was convicted in California state court for the murder and sentenced to death. (That sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972, when that state abolished the death penalty, and Sirhan remains in a California state prison.) In 1971, Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. 351, which extended the protection of the Federal criminal law to members of Congress, paralleling that extended to the President and the Vice President.
One can be sure, of course, that when important federal personnel are victims, federal investigators will bring to bear a large amount of focus and resources. On the other hand, when it's just ordinary school children, as in the case of the Parkland school shooting in Florida, the FBI is much too busy to pay attention.
President Trump’s planned 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports may provide a temporary boost for those industries, but the tariffs will do tremendous long-term damage to the American and global economies. Tariffs raise the price of, and reduce demand for, imported goods. Tariffs ensure the preferences of politicians, instead of the preferences of consumers, to determine how resources are allocated. This reduces economic efficiency and living standards.
Some justify these economic inefficiencies as being worth it to save American jobs. This ignores how tariffs increase costs of production for industries reliant on imported materials to produce their products. These increased costs lead to job losses in those industries. For example, President Trump’s proposed steel tariff could cost nearly 40,000 jobs in the steel-dependent auto manufacturing industry. Tariffs also cause job losses in industries reliant on exports. This is especially true if — as is likely to be the case — other countries respond to President Trump’s actions by increasing tariffs on US products.
Many of President Trump’s critics do not themselves support true free trade, which is the voluntary exchange of goods and services across borders. Instead, they support the managed (by government) trade of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO). NAFTA and the WTO promote world government and crony capitalism, not free markets. Any libertarian or free-market conservative who thinks the WTO promotes economic liberty should remember that the WTO once ordered Congress to raise taxes!
Foreign manufacturers may make convenient scapegoats for the problems facing US industry. However, the truth is that most of the problems plaguing American businesses stem from the US government. American businesses are burdened by thousands of federal regulations controlling every aspect of their operations. The tax system also burdens businesses. Until last year’s tax reform bill, the US had the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world. The tax reform bill lowered corporate taxes, but the US corporate tax rate is still higher than that of many other developed countries.
The United States not only spends more on military weapons than the combined budgets of the next eight biggest spending countries, but also spends billions subsidizing the defense of developed counties like Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Bringing US troops home from these countries is an excellent place to start reducing spending on militarism.
The biggest cause of our economic problems is the Federal Reserve. America’s experiment with fiat currency has enabled a system based on private and public debt. This makes trade imbalances inevitable as the US government needs foreign investors to purchase its debt. Foreign investors get the money to purchase the US government’s debt by selling products to American consumers. A trade war could cause foreign investors to stop buying US debt instruments and could end the dollar’s world reserves currency status. This would cause a major economic crisis — but at least it would stop our shores from being flooded with “cheap foreign goods.”
President Trump’s claim that trade wars can be easily won is as credible as the neoconservative claim that the Iraq War would be a cakewalk. A trade war would likely push the global economy into a recession or worse. Instead of imposing costs on American businesses and consumers and putting those whose livelihoods depend on imports out of s job, President Trump should address the real causes of our economic problems: the welfare-warfare state, the IRS, and the Federal Reserve.
The Mises Institiute is excited to announce that Dr. Shawn Ritenour is our newest Senior Fellow. Dr. Ritenour is a professor of economics at the historic Grove City College, where he assists with the annual Austrian Student Scholars Conference.
Dr. Joseph Salerno, academic vice president of the Mises Institute, had this to say about the announcement:
We are thrilled to have Shawn Ritenour accept our invitation to become a Senior Fellow. Shawn is a renowned scholar in the Misesian tradition. He is the editor of the Mises Reader, the most important compilation of selections from Mises's works yet published. His own treatise, Foundations of Economics: A Christian View, is much more than a mere economics textbook and can be read with great benefit by anyone wishing to achieve a foundational understanding of modern Austrian economics in the tradition of Mises and Rothbard.
The presidency of Donald Trump continues to be an unpredictable one, with the latest twist being his announced plans to meet with North Korean despot Kim Jong-Un. Naturally the reaction from the beltway and the media was to condemn this diplomatic outreach. Rachel Maddow perhaps did the best job as establishment media mouth piece, pointing out that Trump's decision goes against a policy that has long enjoyed bipartisan support - a label which in DC is used to demonstrate clear intellectual superiority:
It has been through Republican and Democratic administrations, the whole strategy not only for the United States but for the United States as leader of the free world, to the extent that we are, has been to treat North Korea as a pariah state and thereby try to change their behavior.
Of course this same strategy has clearly failed to achieve its desired objective.
Trump's willingness to completely ignore what has been deemed acceptable by the leaders of both parties is, of course, an example of the Trump Administration at its best.
On the flip side, we have been given many examples recently of Trump at his worst, where he adopts the policies and rhetoric that have often enjoyed bipartisan support in the past.
For example, though it is great to see the mainstream media come to condemn the intellectual fallacies inherent with protectionist trade policies, there is nothing particularly novel about a president imposing tariffs. We saw the Obama Administration impose tariffs of foreign solar panels, while the Bush Administration did their own version of steel tariffs. Similarly, Trump's concessions on gun rights make him sound more like Reagan, Bush, and Obama, than the populist "drain the swamp" candidate on the trail.
So hopefully Trump's diplomatic outreach to North Korea will pay off. First and foremost to help de-escalate a truly dangerous threat to civilians in South Asia, but also to help illustrate the virtues of ignoring beltway group think here at home. The index card of allowable opinion has been a disaster for both the country and the world for far to long.
Thanks to Luis Areizaga for his recent comments on the Mises Institute:
Today I was at LibertyCon watching the panel discuss the value of university in the modern era. One of the speakers was Jeff Deist, President of the Mises Institute, an organization that has provided great value to me in my life. After a very active and interesting debate between employers and academics, I got the chance to go up and introduce myself. This conversation, among others that I had with a few members of the Institute that day, led me to want to write about the Mises Institute’s mission and the positive impact it has had on my life.
The Mises Institute was founded in 1982 with the mission of promoting and seeking a society based upon the principles of free-market capitalism, private property, and voluntaryism. It rejects the coercive use of force and the monopoly of violence the state holds. To achieve this, it employs the use of one of the most powerful tools there is, education and dissemination of information. Through its posts, free library, research, and educational programs it has helped spread the message of liberty to an untold number of individuals. The institute stands firmly and proudly as a bulwark against the forces who seek to rid us of our hard-earned liberties and freedoms.
I discovered the institute through a friend who I frequently had discussions of political and economic nature with. He had recommended me the articles as counterpoints to my arguments and as a tool which I could use to learn the arguments of the Austrian School. After a period of reflection, I recognized the logical arguments presented and conceded to their superiority. I have personal experience growing up in a socialist country where, among many other problems caused by state intervention, power outages and water shortages have become increasingly common due to the state monopoly on utilities, so it was not difficult to recognize the truth once I saw it.
The Institute gave me hope and taught me that there were solutions to these problems and that if we empower the individual to pursue innovation and competition in the marketplace we can solve the ills of society and create a better future. Today I seek to take these beliefs and act upon them in order to build a freer world. I have embarked upon a more entrepreneurial path by joining Praxis, an apprenticeship program, where I will be honing my skills and working with like-minded folk in the startup sector. I hope in the future to take these skills to build and develop ideas that innovate and empower the market forces which provide for so many of our needs.
Looking back, I realize that if not for the Mises Institute I might have never learned of these ideas, questioned that which so many take for granted, and taken the steps to reorganize my life in a way where I can contribute towards the cause of liberty. For that, I thank the Institute and implore them to continue their mission in which they have had such outstanding success. I would like to share a quote that I believe carries a greatly important and hard truth but which we must recognize nevertheless “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. Never waver, the Mises Institute and the greater libertarian movement pays that price every day.
President Trump declared last week that the law enforcement should “take the guns first, go through due process second.” But the history of federal firearms enforcement shows that due process is often a mirage when federal bureaucrats drop their hammer. Before enacting sweeping new gun prohibitions, we should remember the collateral damage and constitutional absurdities from previous federal crackdowns.
Gun control advocates have called for prohibiting possession of AR-15 rifles — a ban that could create five million new felons overnight, since most owners would not meekly surrender their firearms at the nearest federal office. Others advocate outlawing all semi-automatic firearms — an edict first floated by the Clinton administration that would create tens of millions of new offenders.
But before vesting vast new power in federal enforcers, the record of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agency must be considered. A 1982 Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution report on ATF concluded, "Enforcement tactics made possible by current firearms laws are constitutionally, legally, and practically reprehensible.” Outrageous abuses have continued to the present day. An analysis conducted for the University of Chicago found that ATF heavily targeted racial minorities in its entrapment operations. And across the nation, ATF has been caught using mentally handicapped individuals in sting operations.
Sweeping new firearms prohibitions would enable the feds to selectively target unpopular offenders. The biggest debacle resulting from prior such targeting occurred 25 years ago last week outside of Waco, Texas. The federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agency saw the Branch Davidians — a fringe Protestant group that quickly became maligned as a cult — as the perfect patsies for a high-profile raid that would make G-men look like heroes.