Penn Jillette, the world-famous magician (and fellow of the Cato Institute), has a saying: “Everybody got a gris-gris.” By that, Jillette means everyone has some irrational belief or superstition, something one believes even when knowing it is an unreasonable. We carry these superstitions through life like talismans, and we defend them when confronted with the cold light of reason. My gris-gris is NASA.
Author: John Engle
It is a rare occurrence when Hollywood produces a film that neither glorifies the welfare-warfare state, nor vilifies capitalists and businessmen. Yet that is exactly what Marvel Studios has managed with the Iron Man series. In the character of Tony Stark we see the pinnacle of the capitalist fantasy: an ingenious businessman who values property rights and self-defense, and who does not compromise those fundamental rights in the face of government intimidation and force.
When Andrew Cuomo was elected governor of New York in 2010, he promised to root out corruption in the New York state government. He began belatedly to act on that promise in 2013 when he set up the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. The commission quickly set about investigating corruption and government malfeasance. In one year, they had discovered evidence of potentially criminal actions by as many as 12 state lawmakers. The commission made a number of criminal referrals to federal prosecutors.
President Obama came into office promising the most open White House in American history. He went back on that promise almost immediately, refusing to cooperate with oversight organizations and stonewalling the press. Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary from 2011 to 2014, dodged questions nearly 10 thousand times during his tenure. Brianna Keilar, a CNN reporter, as said of the White House that “anyone here can tell there’s less access than under the Bush administration.” When even Obama’s fawning press corps is fed up, you know something is going on.
Last week a federal judge ordered Microsoft to hand over its data stores to the government, including data housed overseas. The ruling marks an ominous new chapter in Internet privacy, one that could have lasting impacts on both individuals’ privacy online and the nature of international law.
Since the Reagan administration, the United States has, under various guises, sought to develop technology that would render enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles non-threatening to its people and interests. The national missile defense program has been aimed at bringing about the end of foreign missile threats from rogue states and geopolitical foes alike. Missile defense systems have grown exponentially more effective and sophisticated, and have culminated in an interceptor system that will soon make missile attacks on areas shielded by such systems pointless.
Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor, while not a household name, has been recognized by the scientific community many times over the years. The metric system unit for magnetic field strength, for example, is known as the tesla. Tesla made many contributions to various sciences over the years, including pioneering work in magnetic fields, induction motors, and electricity. In recent years, various communities on the Internet have sought to lionize Tesla’s life and to expand knowledge of his scientific achievements. This goal is a noble one, as Tesla’s life is frequently reduced to the position of footnote in science histories. But these communities have also engaged in a very wrong-headed pursuit: trashing the reputation of Thomas Edison.
It seems that when Chief Justice John Marshall was preparing the opinion for McCulloch v. Maryland he tapped into an eternal truth. “The power to tax is the power to destroy,” he wrote on behalf of a unanimous Supreme Court. Those words are no less true in 2014 than they were in 1819. Taxation appropriates money from one person or group of people in order to give it to others. There is no way to escape taxes. But there is a way to make taxes somewhat fairer. One way is to make taxes flatter and expand the tax base.
There is a strain of thought in the American pro-liberty movement that argues for what is essentially a return to a policy of isolationism. That is the attitude typified by former Representative Ron Paul and his adherents, who have spent years calling for the withdrawal of the United States from many of its foreign treaty and institutional obligations, including the United Nations. There is a certain attractiveness to this position, especially in light of the recent exhausting and expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The claim that the War on Terror and other interventions in various countries’ affairs have created more enemies than they vanquished holds no small amount of truth.
Want to know why capitalism will always triumph over collectivism? It responds to people’s desires, even those who would consider themselves enemies of capitalism. A case-in-point is the ubiquitous Che Guevara t-shirt. Anyone who has spent any time walking down a city street will have come across at least one young person wearing Che’s famous likeness. Some leftists have argued that the sheer pervasiveness and popularity of the image is proof of the enduring principles of which Che has sometimes been seen as a symbol. Yet that is not the case.
The United States is a political anomaly. Throughout time there has never been a nation so politically, culturally, and militarily dominant. Rome, even at its height, had rivals. So too did the British Empire, which at its apex made pretense to the rule of the waves, in spite of near constant challenges to its power from forces seeking to upset or supplant it. The international stability and peace created by these great empires, the Pax Romana and Pax Britannica, the Roman Peace and the British Peace, served in their times to guarantee security and relative prosperity within their spheres of influence. Yet they could never do so unchallenged.
America is supposed to be the land of the free, yet it is has one of the most vicious tax regimes in the rich world. Once blessed with comparatively low tax rates and levels of regulation, businesses and entrepreneurs flocked to the United States from the sclerotic systems of Europe (and elsewhere). Now American businesses are fleeing America’s shores and foreign-born entrepreneurs are less inclined to come at all.
All over the world, advocates of the free market are looking askance at Pope Francis. Since succeeding Benedict XVI in 2013, Pope Francis has mounted a vocal challenge to what he sees as the now dominant global ideology of capitalism.
The subject of tax inversion, in which American firms avail of lower tax rates in foreign countries by merging companies in those countries, has become very topical in the last couple weeks thanks to a decision by Abbvie, a drug company, to merger with Shire, an Ireland-based firm and move its headquarters overseas. One of at least 47 tax inversions in the last decade, the Abbvie-Shire deal is the largest such action yet, worth $54 billion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, President Obama and Democrats in Congress have become apoplectic with rage at the audacity of a business making a prudent decision to escape bloodsucking taxes.
The American presidency has grown in power almost continuously since the outbreak of World War II. The executive has risen from being simply the chief magistrate of the government to be being a quasi-legislative force, a leader who pushes an aggressive legislative agenda as well as enforcing the laws passed by the legislature. The president is frequently referred to as “the most powerful person in the world,” or “the leader of the free world.” Such appellations represent far more than good PR. They are statements of fact that the president of the United States has drastically more power and authority than any other individual on Earth. For that reason certainly, presidents should be restricted to a single term of office.
The Labour Party, the main opposition political party in New Zealand, made headlines last week when it announced its proposed policy for trying people accused of rape. According to the party’s justice spokesman, Andrew Little, the party is proposing that the burden of proof be reversed in rape trials. In other words, people accused of rape must prove their innocence.
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast sat down with the New American’s Bill Jasper during the 9th International Conference on Climate Change to talk about the origin and purpose of the conference. Boasting 64 speakers, from a multitude of disciplines, ICCC9 was the most star-studded climate conference yet.
When asked to imagine the birthplace of our contemporary republican democracy, most educated people point to the democratic traditions of ancient Athens and to the institutions and offices of the Roman Republic. Yet, Athens was destroyed and its democracy destroyed centuries before the birth of Christ, and the Roman Republic succumbed to imperial despotism in 27BC. These shining examples continued to burn as embers of remembrance long after their practical extinction, thanks to a political and intellectual class dedicated to the preservation of ancient documents and knowledge. But while preserving the records, the successor states of both Athens and Rome were neither democratic nor republican in character.
In his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell described the “memory hole,” a chute leading to a vast incinerator into which all unwanted documents were cast. The memory hole served as the ultimate form of state censorship, destroying any trace of information deemed to pose a threat to the regime. Thanks to a ruling in May by the European Court of Justice, a genuine digital memory hole has come online.
It began as the idea of one eccentric entrepreneur, but now has 1.3 million signatories backing it: the case for breaking California up into six separate states is gathering steam. When the Six Californias campaign began, most serious commentators thought it was crackpot scheme, a pipe-dream of a few people that had no hope of gaining traction. They have been proved wrong. To an extent anyway.