Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The shallow-thinking Pope is an enemy of the poor

Pope Francis’s videotaped TED talk “Why the Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone” is full of wisdom that conflicts with the unwise economic policies he advocates.

Released recently at the international TED conference in Vancouver, Canada, the talk begins by observing that community is central to human existence: “life flows through our relations with others. ... Each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by; life is about interactions.”

Next, Francis stressed the moral responsibility of all people to put themselves in the place of others and to help those who are less fortunate. This “solidarity,” the pope explained, was exhibited by the Bible’s Good Samaritan, who personally sacrificed to help a stranger in need.

Finally, Francis said, “The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly.”

These themes are very much in the tradition of classical liberalism and its commitment to economic freedom: community, open social interactions, helping others, and humble, transparent institutions. What is troubling about Pope Francis is that he spends much of his time traveling the world advocating policies that undermine these goals.

Since becoming the Roman Catholic Church’s 266th bishop of Rome in March 2013, Pope Francis has endorsed a larger and more powerful role for governments and international organizations. As Hayeon Carol Park and I show in “Pope Francis, Capitalism, and Private Charitable Giving” (part of a special symposium in The Independent Review titled “Pope Francis and Economics,” Francis frequently lambastes capitalism and calls for more government redistribution of wealth and property.

Rather than “humble” institutions, Francis calls for centralized governments and international bodies to act with hubris, replacing their plans and values for those of individuals. The government-coerced-redistribution model favored by Francis has left a trail of tears and destruction everywhere it has been pursued. Foreign aid, often government-to-government transfers, generally props up dictatorial and kleptocratic governments that murder and steal from their own people.

Government and multinational spending often bails out corrupt rulers’ business cronies at the expense of what Francis calls the “discarded people.”

William Easterly demonstrates that even as foreign aid to Africa soared during the 1980s and 1990s, African economies performed worse. He thus writes in his book “The White Man’s Burden,” “Remember, aid cannot achieve the end of poverty. Only homegrown development based on the dynamism of individuals and firms in free markets can do that.”

The most effective path to lifting people from poverty by the millions is decentralized market-based entrepreneurship. Recent progress in China and India, where hundreds of millions of people have escaped some of the worst poverty on earth, was a result of expanding economic freedom.

Francis does not recognize that what he advocates would undermine the core institutions needed for this process to work. His ideas would slow economic growth and shrink the surplus that people use to start new businesses, hire more employees, and engage in effective private charitable giving. Unfortunately, the approach Francis advocates would bring more human suffering, not less, undercutting his call to help the poor. Yet he does not see the contradiction.

Francis’ talk hints at the most effective approach to lifting people out of poverty: “The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. ... The future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.’”

This aptly describes entrepreneurs, who dedicate their lives to solving problems faced by others, and invest and risk their own time, effort and money for the good of others. Entrepreneurs are true Good Samaritans.

The most effective anti-poverty program is a job. The most effective development strategy is sustained private investment by market-based entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, Pope Francis undercuts both with his worldwide crusade against capitalism.



Gridlock at the FTC Prolongs Washington's Regulatory Status Quo

Missing from the media’s orgy of “100-day” analyses of the Trump administration’s performance has been any substantive discussion of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the fact that it now is operating at fractional capacity: for the first time in its 103-year history, only two of its five commissioners are on the job.

The media’s silence is deafening, given the FTC’s extensive, but largely unheralded, role in American life. The FTC’s paralysis has helped block President Trump from moving forward with much needed regulatory reform, while leaving U.S. corporations and individuals vulnerable to intellectual property theft abroad. It also has allowed President Obama’s anti-business legacy to continue unchecked, leaving pending lawsuits and proposed business mergers in limbo.

As a practical matter, the FTC simply can’t function with just two commissioners, especially in the hyper-partisan atmosphere in which we all live. Despite heading the executive branch, and leading a party that controls both houses of Congress, President Trump is at the mercy of an agency that can take action only following a simple majority vote, obviously hard to come by when one commissioner can veto the other.

Remember President Trump’s oft-repeated campaign vow to eliminate costly, unnecessary regulations? Or, once in office, the executive order he issued to increase American efficiency and dramatically reduce Washington red tape with a policy that slashes two existing regulations for every new one promulgated by an executive branch agency?

Under normal circumstances—with five appointed commissioners, a majority (three) of whom can be affiliated with the same political party at the same time—the FTC likely would be moving even farther down the path toward fulfilling the president’s regulatory reform goals. And yet, important issues, such as data security and broadband privacy, now languish under perpetual review owing to something of a turf battle between the shorthanded FTC and the Federal Communications Commission.

Perhaps the most compelling example of the FTC’s inability to function is the lawsuit it initiated against Qualcomm during the Obama administration’s final days in office. The agency claimed that the company was abusing its dominant market position based on patents covering a type of smart-phone chip, something the FTC said amounted to an “illegal patent tax.”

Qualcomm sued to overturn the FTC’s action, claiming that it was instigated by Apple, which had misrepresented important facts and withheld critical information from the commissioners. Those claims became more credible when Apple filed its own lawsuits against Qualcomm both in China and the United States soon after the FTC did so.

Then-FTC Commissioner, and Acting Chairperson, Maureen Olhausen, agreed with Qualcomm, writing a rare dissent and blasting the lawsuit on a number of grounds. Most explosively, she asserted that the Commission’s decision to sue was based on “flawed legal theory,” “lacked evidentiary and legal support,” and, by “its mere issuance,” would “undermine U.S. intellectual property rights in Asia and worldwide.”

It’s a nightmare not confined to Qualcomm, but to all U.S. businesses, as the American Conservative Union (ACU), Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and many others quickly observed. As the ACU warned: “If Asian companies can access our best technology through nefarious government enforcement actions, both U.S. competitiveness and national security are at stake.”

Although nothing is certain in D.C., with an FTC comprised of its usual five members, the Qualcomm case almost surely would have been scrapped by now, as were some of the unsound and unwieldy antitrust matters that had been dragging on for a decade or more when Ronald Reagan entered the White House.

The FTC has been a lightning rod for criticism since its creation in 1914. No matter what you think about its performance, nowadays or in the past, it cannot do much of anything until its three vacant seats are filled.



Kellyanne Conway Reveals the ‘Biggest Misconception’ About the Trump White House

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was ready to bust some myths about the Trump White House in remarks Friday at the

“What is [President Donald Trump] like in private?” asked Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, addressing Conway. “Does he listen to advice?” he added.

“The biggest misconception … is that Donald Trump doesn’t have anyone around him that will tell him ‘no,’” responded Conway.

Rather, she added, Trump listens so intently that “he remembers everything,“ even to the point that “it always comes back” to get you. She commented on how, just as many within Trump Tower have reported, Trump is a “fully aware, gracious, [and] understanding boss.”

Conway mentioned that Trump would, during both the campaign and now in the White House, remain focused on issues relevant to “forgotten men and women.” She cited illegal immigration as one such issue, saying, “For so long the previous administration asked, ‘What is fair to the illegal immigrant?’”

“What is fair to the American worker competing with the illegal immigrant?” asked Conway.

Conway, who also served as Trump’s campaign manager, talked about the challenges of running against “feminist icon” Hillary Clinton, dubbing it a “double or triple challenge.”

Conway said that Clinton’s campaign did what she believes was a “great disservice” by emphasizing women’s health by focusing only on abortion, and not the other aspects of women’s health.

Conway said she took a different approach, focusing on what women cared about most, what they do on a day-by-day basis, instead of concentrating on one aspect. One theme she saw as important to women was fairness. “Fairness is equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome,” she said.

She also spoke about her personal faith, saying, “I believe that all things come from God.”

Being a mother to four children was “the blessing of my life,” she said. Conway also recalled her own childhood, where she grew up with four Catholic women and was raised “with faith as our center, as our gravity, as our anchor.”

“I don’t recall a single political conversation in my entire childhood … but I was raised to be conservative based on principles and faith.”

“We were taught that family comes first—God, country, family, and faith,” she added. And for Conway, the first female campaign manager to lead a winning presidential campaign, this perspective played a major role in the success of the Trump campaign.

“We pray for you too, and it is not lost on me the sacrifice you have made,” she said to attendees.

Conway also encouraged those in attendance to “go tell your faith journey” when opportunities arise. “Whether you are asked or not … have a seven second, 70 second, and a seven minute version” about your faith journey, of why you are a conservative, why you are involved.

The Road to Majority Conference is hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C.



Young Americans and Hope for the Future

Bob Higgs, in a recent post on all the foolishness in American higher education, reminds us of what a danger we face as our colleges attempt to mold students into young Jacobins. In light of the state of American education, we need some bright spot on what is a dismal landscape. One bright spot I have found is the blog America Restored, which is operated by several high school students. In trying to rekindle a respect for liberty in modern America, these students advise “the key to accomplishing this is to stop asking the world for approval, and begin doing what you know is right. Once you do this, you will feel happiness and joy, rather than discomfort and nervousness. Read the words from the men and women who came before us, who loved and cherished liberty, and you will see that they knew these things to be true.”

This is a good point for us all to remember. Rather than seeking approval from those in power or those enthralled with our current welfare-warfare state, we should do what we know is right whether it causes discomfort or chastisement. It encourages me to see young folks devoted to liberty in a world that prefers to focus on power and intervention. Check them out.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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