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Archive for February 7th, 2012

I’ve mentioned before how I’m proud and lucky to work for the Cato Institute, first and foremost because my colleagues are scrupulously non-partisan. We promote the ideals of freedom and liberty and we’ll work with any politician of any party who happens to be on the right side. Likewise, we’ll attack statism, regardless of what political party is in charge.

But I’m also proud to be at Cato because of the high-quality research. The latest example is a study looking at examples of defensive gun use. It’s a fascinating look at real-world anecdotes, augmented by references to other scholarly work.

If you’ve seen the Powerpoint presentation on the Second Amendment that I posted, you’ll understand why I like this new research. Here are some key excerpts.

If policymakers are truly interested in harm reduction, they should pause to consider how many crimes—murders, rapes, assaults, robberies—are thwarted each year by ordinary persons with guns. …This paper uses a collection of news reports of self-defense with guns over an eight-year period to survey the circumstances and outcomes of defensive gun uses in America. …the study by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz…found that there were somewhere between 830,000 and 2.45 million defensive gun uses per year in the United States. …The National Survey of Private Ownership of Firearms (NSPOF) was performed in 1994. It…found approximately 1.5 million defensive gun uses. …The high-end figures on defensive gun uses may well suffer from exaggeration or outright lies. …Since the survey data has severe limitations with respect to defensive gun uses, collecting accounts of self-defense as they are reported in news outlets may be a better method of assessing the frequency and nature of self-defense with firearms. The data set supporting this paper is derived from a collection of news stories published between October 2003 and November 2011. …after Colorado’s 2003 concealed carry law was enacted, Colorado State University decided to allow concealed carry,while the University of Colorado prohibited firearms. The former observed a rapid decline in reported crimes, while the latter, under the gun ban they claimed was for safety,observed a rapid increase in crime. Crime at the University of Colorado has risen 35 percent since 2004, while crime at Colorado State University has dropped 60 percent in the same time frame. …Many people support gun control regulations because they are convinced that the average citizen is either incapable of using a gun in self-defense or will use the gun in a fit of anger over some petty matter. Those assumptions are false. The evidence on this point has grown so strong that even President Obama has had to chide gun safety advocates to accept the proposition that“almost all gun owners in America are highly responsible.”And, as the scores of incidents described in this study show, gun owners stop a lot of criminal mayhem—attempted murders, rapes, assaults, robberies—every year. …Policymakers interested in harm reduction should thus refrain from treating ordinary gun owners as hoodlums or loose cannons and adopt policies that respect the ownership and carrying of arms by responsible individuals.

By the way, the last sentence is inadequate. Regardless of what policy makers decide, responsible and prudent people should own guns, even if it means breaking the law. Self defense is a fundamental right, whether for the purpose of thwarting crime, fighting oppression, or (as I explain in my appearance on NRA-TV) protecting against societal breakdown.

If you’re a fan of the Second Amendment, let’s close with some great links. Here are some anti-gun control posters that have been very popular (here, hereherehere, and here). Here are some amusing images of t-shirts and bumper stickers on gun control (herehere, and here). And here are three different videos on gun control (herehere, and here). Feel free to share all of these widely.

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Is it April Fool’s Day? Has somebody in Paris hacked the website at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development? Have we been transported to a parallel dimension where up is down and black is white?

Please forgive all these questions. I’m trying to figure out why any organization – even a leftist bureaucracy such as the OECD – would send out a press release entitled, “Rising tax revenues: a key to economic development in Latin American countries.”

Not even Keynesians, after all, think higher taxes are a recipe for growth.

Ah, never mind. I just remembered that the OECD is a hotbed of statism, so the press release makes perfect sense. After all, the US-taxpayer-funded organization has become infamous for reflexively advocating big government.

With this dismal track record, it’s hardly a surprise that the Paris-based bureaucracy is now pushing to undermine prosperity in Latin America. Here’s some of what the OECD said in its release.

Additional tax revenues enable governments to simultaneously improve their competitiveness and promote social cohesion through increased spending on education, infrastructure and innovation. Latin American countries have made great strides over the past two decades in raising tax revenues.

You won’t be surprised when I tell you that the Paris-based bureaucrats do not bother to provide even the tiniest shred of proof to support the silly claim that higher taxes improve competitiveness. But that shouldn’t be surprising since even Keynesians don’t believe something that absurd.

And the claim about social cohesion also is a bit of a stretch given the riots, chaos, and social disarray in many European nations.

The only accurate part of the passage is that Latin American nations have increased tax burdens over the past 20 years. To the tax-free bureaucrats at the OECD, that is making “great strides.”

Let’s see what else the OECD had to say.

Despite these improvements, significant gaps between Latin America and OECD countries remain. The average tax to GDP ratio in OECD countries is much higher than in Latin American countries (33.8% compared to 19.2% in 2009, respectively). As the countries in the region still find themselves in relatively strong economic conditions, now is the time to consider reforms that generate long-term, stable resources for governments to finance development.

Wow. The OECD is implying that Latin American nations should mimic OECD nations. In other words, the bureaucrats in Paris apparently think it makes sense to tell nations to copy the failed high-tax, welfare-state model of countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain.

Is that really the lesson they think people should learn from recent fiscal history? Are they really so oblivious and/or blinded by ideology that they issued the release as these European nations are in the middle of a fiscal crisis?

To further demonstrate their bias, the folks at the OECD even acknowledged that the Latin American nations, with their less oppressive tax regimes, are enjoying “relatively strong economic conditions.” Normal people would therefore conclude that the failed high-tax European nation should copy Latin America on fiscal policy, not the other way around. But not the geniuses at the OECD.

Now that we’ve addressed the awful policy advice of the OECD, let’s take a moment to look at the real policy challenges facing Latin America.

The Fraser Institute, in cooperation with dozens of other research organizations around the world, produces every year a comprehensive survey measuring Economic Freedom of the World.

The report ranks 141 nations based on dozens of variables that are used to construct scores for five key measures of economic freedom. Of those five categories, the Latin nations have the highest average ranking on…you guessed it…fiscal policy.

Yet the OECD wants policies that will undermine the competitiveness of the Latin nations, hurting them in the area where they are doing a halfway decent job.

If the bureaucrats actually wanted to boost economic performance in Latin America, they would be pressuring those nations to make reforms in the two areas where the burden of government is most severe – legal structure/property rights and regulation.

But that would make sense, which is contrary to the OECD’s mission of promoting statism.

The only semi-positive thing to say about the OECD is that it is consistent. As this video explains, the Paris-based bureaucrats are advocating bigger government in the United States. And to add insult to injury, they’re using American tax dollars to push that agenda.

What a scam. Politicians from various nations send taxpayer money to Paris. The bureaucrats at the OECD then issue reports and studies saying the politicians in those countries should raise taxes and increase the burden of government. Everybody wins…except for taxpayers and the global economy.

Per dollar spent, OECD subsidies may be the most destructively wasteful part of the federal budget. And that says a lot.

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