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Archive for the ‘Polling Data’ Category

When I write about socialism, I often point out that there’s a difference between how economists define it (government ownershipcentral planning, and price controls) and how normal people define it (lots of taxes, redistribution, and intervention).

These definitions are blurry, of course, which is why I created a “socialism slide” to show how countries oftentimes are an odd mix of markets and government.

But one thing that isn’t blurry is the evidence on what works. Simply stated, there is less prosperity in nations with big government compared to nations with small government.

And it doesn’t matter whether socialism is the result of democracy or tyranny.

Kristian Niemietz is with the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. He explained for CapX that mixing democracy with socialism doesn’t fix anything.

Mention the economic failures of the former Eastern Bloc countries, or Maoist China, or North Vietnam, or today, of Cuba or Venezuela or North Korea, and the answer will invariably be: “But that was a dictatorship! That’s got nothing to do with me, I’m a democratic socialist!” …“[S]ocialism means ‘economic democracy’… But the…economic failures of socialism never had anything to do with a lack of democracy. Democratisation improves many things, and is desirable for many reasons. But it does not, in and of itself, make countries richer. …The empirical literature on this subject finds no relationship either way between economic development, and the system of government. …If socialists want to make the case that democracy was the magic missing ingredient… How exactly would democracy have closed the economic gap between East and West Germany, or North and South Korea, or Cuba and Puerto Rico, or Maoist China and Taiwan, or the People’s Republic of Angola and Botswana, or Venezuela and Chile?

Meanwhile, Kevin Williamson pointed out in National Review that post-war socialism in the United Kingdom failed for the same reason that socialism fails anywhere and everywhere it is tried.

History counsels us to consider the first adjective in “democratic socialist” with some skepticism. …the socialism that reduced the United Kingdom from world power to intermittently pre-industrial backwater in the post-war era was thoroughly democratic. …In the United States, we use the word “democratic” as though it were a synonym for “decent” or “accountable,” but 51 percent of the people can wreck a country just as easily and as thoroughly as 10 percent of them. …The problems of socialism are problems of socialism — problems related to the absence of markets, innovation, and free enterprise… Socialism and authoritarianism often go hand in hand (almost always, in fact), but socialism on its own, even when it is the result of democratic elections and genuinely democratic processes, is a bottomless well of misery. …rights — property rights and the right to trade prominent among them — also find themselves on the wrong side of majorities, constantly and predictably. But they are…necessary for a thriving and prosperous society. Socialism destroys societies by gutting or diminishing those rights. Doing so with the blessing of 50 percent plus one of the population does not make that any less immoral or any less corrosive.

Thankfully, Margaret Thatcher saved the United Kingdom from socialism.

But other nations haven’t been so lucky. Democratically elected governments adopted socialism in Greece and Argentina, but neither country found a savior to restore economic liberty (or maybe voters didn’t want to reverse the failed policies).

What about the United States? Will we vote ourselves into socialism?

Given the wretched track records of Wilson, Hoover, FDR, Nixon, Obama, etc, I’m tempted to say that we’ve been doing that for more than 100 years.

But I don’t want to be unduly pessimistic. America hasn’t slid too far down the socialism slide. Indeed, we’re actually ranked #6 in the world for economic liberty.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are lots of proposals for additional bad policy and plenty of politicians clamoring to move in the wrong direction.

To see what that might mean, I’ll close with some polling data that the Washington Examiner shared earlier this year. Here are things that might happen if socialists (however defined) get power in the United States.

And here are things that the American people say would qualify as socialism.

Ugh, that’s a recipe for the Venezuela-fication of the U.S. economy.

P.S. For what it’s worth, notwithstanding his statist platform, I think Joe Biden only intends to incrementally go down the slide (whereas Bernie Sanders would have greased the slide for a rapid descent).

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I started fretting about the socialist tendencies of young people early last decade.

And when Sanders attracted a lot of youth support in 2016, I gave the issue even more attention, and I’ve since continued to investigate why so many young people are sympathetic to such a poisonous ideology with a lengthy track record of failure and deprivation.

Some of the recent polling data is very discouraging.

And if you want to be even more depressed, here are some tweets with the most-recent data about the the views of young people.

It’s not just that they have warm and fuzzy thoughts about so-called democratic socialism.

I’m completely horrified to learn that more than one-third of young people even have a positive perception of communism.

In other words, wearing Che t-shirts isn’t just a vapid fashion statement.

These kids are either overtly evil or utterly oblivious.

Yes, I realize I sound like a curmudgeon (“you kids get off my lawn!”), but how else should I react when I see these numbers from Axios.

For what it’s worth, the same problem exists in the United Kingdom.

And it may be even more lopsided.

(Though I’m very relieved the misguided views of young people didn’t prevent a victory for Boris Johnson last month.)

For today’s column, let’s keep our focus on the United States.

What’s the underlying cause of bad polling numbers in America?

In a column for the Washington Times, Robert Knight explains that many young people have been spoon-fed a leftist version of American history.

Why do so many young people hate America and think we’d be better off as a socialist country? …reading and believing Howard Zinn’s best-selling ‘A People’s History of the United States’… First published in 1980, “A People’s History” has sold more than 2.5 million copies and is in virtually every school district, university and local library. …Everything Zinn wrote was couched in the language of Marxist class warfare. Key events were omitted. The mass slaughter that followed the Communist takeover of Cambodia? Good luck finding it in “A People’s History.” …Zinn was a member of numerous Soviet front groups, and he helped found the socialist New Party… Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Zinn warned that concern over communism was due to “hysteria,”… In a chapter titled “The Coming Revolt of the Guards,” …Zinn states flatly that “capitalism has always been a failure for the lower classes. It is now beginning to fail for the middle class.” …Zinn envisions a utopian future in which “certain basic things” would be “…available — free — to everyone: food, housing, health care, education, transportation.” …The reason this insane, economically illiterate, un-American scheme appeals to so many is that they’ve been miseducated via Howard Zinn into thinking that they live in a bad country that must be rebuilt as a socialist paradise.

Jarrett Stepman opined on the adverse consequences of historical illiteracy in a piece for the Daily Signal.

As young Americans are losing an understanding of civics and American history, they increasingly embrace socialism. …younger generations have a far sunnier view of socialism and communism than their elders. …Perhaps worse than nostalgia for the Soviet Union, “57% of millennials (compared to 94% of the Silent Generation) believe the Declaration of Independence better guarantees freedom and equality over the Communist Manifesto.” That’s appalling. …there’s not only been a worrisome decline in inculcating informed patriotism in young Americans, but a willful attempt to re-educate them to turn them against the foundations of America itself. …So far, we have escaped the curse of socialism… But a troubling collapse in a basic understanding of our history, along with the malignant attempt to reframe our country’s origins to make us more susceptible to doctrines outside our tradition, means that the specter of socialism now hangs over us.

Amen. The government’s education monopoly too often gives kids a diet of statist pabulum. This is another reason why we need school choice.

But it’s not just bad history in government schools.

It’s also bad policy in government.

In a column for the Wall Street Journal, Mene Ukueberuwa shares some insights from Edward Glaeser, a professor at Harvard who warns that statist policies are leading young people to support bigger government.

Bernie Sanders…has become an unlikely voice of the young generation. …this axis of today’s struggle could change politics for generations to come, as millennials reject the country’s capitalist consensus and embrace socialism in record numbers. …Critics often blame today’s socialist surge on millennials’ laziness. …One free-market economist has a different explanation. Edward Glaeser, a Harvard professor…, argues that young people have radicalized politically because “there are a number of ways in which the modern American economy isn’t working all that well for them.” Many public policies make it harder to get a job, save money or find an affordable home, leaving young idealists thinking, “Why not try socialism?” But that cure would merely worsen the disease. Mr. Glaeser decries policies that constrain the job market and increase the cost of living compared with what the economy would produce if left alone. …Consider the housing market. “In the 1960s and earlier,” Mr. Glaeser says, “America basically had a property-rights regime that meant that anyone who had a plot of land could pretty much put up anything reasonable on that plot of land.” …The shift of income toward those Mr. Glaeser calls the “entrenched” is most explicit in entitlement programs. …They’re funded by payroll taxes, which snag a disproportionate share of low-earners’ paychecks. Taxpayers also pony up ever more to fund the retirements of government employees.

Glaeser is right.

Government intervention is increasing the price of housing for the young. Entitlement programs are pillaging the young. And bureaucrat pensions are a scam that victimizes the young.

For all intents and purposes, Prof. Glaeser is describing Mitchell’s Law.

Bad policy causes bad results, which leads some people (in this case, young people) to want more bad policy.

So the obvious solution, he argues, is to get rid of the bad policies that are causing problems in the first place.

And maybe young people will realize that they should support free markets and limited government!

“They say, ‘Well, there are a whole bunch of projects—a whole bunch of government spending that helps old people. I want mine. If we’re going to spend a huge amount on Medicare, why aren’t we spending a whole lot on education for me?’” …To give newcomers a chance, Mr. Glaeser would curtail the influence of entrenched groups and restore incentives for “a capitalism that is inclusive, and that provides a place of opportunity for more people.” …Mr. Glaeser insists that this message would be likelier to catch on if it were backed by policy reforms that make work more fruitful. A program of plentiful job opportunities, cheaper housing, and tax cuts financed by curtailed entitlements could be a significant step toward replacing socialism in the hearts of Mr. Sanders’s young supporters.

For what it’s worth, bad history and bad policy are both good explanations, but they don’t fully explain why young people are misguided.

I suspect many young people also think support for socialism is a way of signalling that you’re a nice person. That you care about others.

I’m not sure how we solve this problem, but this clever video from Kristian Niemietz suggests that part of the answer may be satire.

Though I may be biased since I have an entire collection of humor that targets socialism and communism.

P.S. When it hits close to home, college students actually reject socialism, though maybe they should have learned that lesson in kindergarten.

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I’ve opined that statist policies harm young people.

I also shared this video explaining why big government is bad for millennials and the Gen-Z crowd.

This should be a slam-dunk issue. After all, don’t they know how the communist world collapsed?

Aren’t they aware of the problems in places such as Greece and Venezuela?

Or, to make it personal, don’t they have any inkling of the fact that they are going to get screwed by entitlement programs?

And what about the fact that they lose out because of Obamacare?

Sadly, it appears many of them haven’t learned the right lesson.

Support for socialism is disturbingly high among the young.

I’ve wondered, only half-jokingly, whether they’re too clueless to vote.

David Grasso opines on this topic for the New York Post.

It’s important to look at the typical millennial trajectory, and why unprecedented government intervention into our daily lives is now widely seen as the only solution to the problems that bedevil us as a generation. …the only choice was to go to a college or university. We took this journey on the faith that a college education would give us the necessary skills to kick-start our careers. After graduation, we quickly found out that our alma maters did little to prepare us to be job-ready. …Just as we get our first student-loan bill, we find ourselves navigating unpaid and low-paid internships… The next predictable step is working a service-industry job that doesn’t require a degree while trying to get set up in a city with job openings in our fields. Yet a booming job market often also means a housing horror show. Misguided housing policies in places like New York, Los Angeles, Washington and San Francisco have created such a tight market that it is often financially impossible for a young person to move there. …We pay through the nose for health insurance, have zero job security and pray we advance as soon as possible. …Many of us are eternally disappointed with the unjust system that blocked us from doing things past generations did, like get married, have kids and have a lovely oak-shaded, picket-fence life.

Grasso notes that government is the underlying problem.

Then we turn on our streaming services and find politicians who seem to understand us, who are tapping into the spirit of a generation that’s reacting to the post-Great Recession era. …Given such a journey, it is easy to see why socialism seduces young Americans. We desperately need change if we are ever going to progress as a generation. The problem is, what the socialists are proposing — more government — is exactly the opposite of what we need. In fact, many of the most prominent obstacles we have faced are the result, at least in part, of heavy-handed government interference. …Truth is, young people need exactly the opposite of socialism — pro-growth policies and restrained, common-sense regulation. This will create more economic opportunities and more avenues into the middle class. Socialist policies will only choke economic opportunity and make our tough existence far worse.

More young people need to reach this conclusion.

At least if this horrifying poll is even close to accurate.

In other words, it seems like Americans are morphing into Europeans.

This is such a depressing thought that I’ll end today’s column with a bit of humor.

Here’s some gallows humor from Remy.

P.S. You can enjoy more of his videos by clicking here, here, here, and here.

P.S.S. For what it’s worth, there is some polling data indicating young people aren’t totally hopeless.

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Socialism is a very bad concept. It deserves mockery rather than respect.

But that’s true of all statist ideologies.

Last year, as part of a column on the collapse of the Soviet Empire, I put together a statism spectrum showing the degree to which various nations allow economic liberty.

I thought this effort was useful because it shows, for instance, that the United States, France, and Hong Kong are all on the right side, but that there are nonetheless obvious differences in the amount of economic freedom for those three jurisdictions. Likewise, it’s not good to be Mexico, China, or North Korea, but there are degrees of statism and it’s worse to be farther to the left.

Speaking of left, not all advocates of bigger government are the same. So earlier this year I created another spectrum showing that there are various strains of statism, especially among true believers.

The value of this spectrum is that it shows the differences between totalitarians, genuine socialists, and run-of-the-mill hard-core leftists like Bernie Sanders.

And both of these spectrums were implicit in my interview yesterday about Venezuela. I pointed out that Venezuela technically isn’t socialist, but also suggested that doesn’t matter because the country is definitely on the wrong part of the statism spectrum.

And Venezuela definitely is proof that being on the wrong side of the spectrum is a recipe for collapse (or, in the case of North Korea, a recipe for never getting off the ground in the first place).

Since we’re discussing statism, let’s close with some really good news. Matt Yglesias of Vox likes big government. A lot. But he’s also capable of dispassionately analyzing what works and doesn’t work for his side. And he writes that “socialism” is a bad word for those who want to expand the size and scope of government.

Bernie Sanders refers to his ideology — which I would characterize as social democracy or even just welfare state liberalism — as democratic socialism, a politically loaded term that seems to imply policy commitments Sanders hasn’t made to things like government ownership of major industries. …the socialist branding seems to have offered Sanders some upside…earning him enthusiastic support from a number of politically engaged people who seem to really be socialists… Against this, though, one has to weigh the reality that socialism is really unpopular in the United States.

How unpopular? Yglesias shares some new polling data from Gallup.

This is great news. Not only is socialism unpopular, but it ranks below the federal government (which traditionally gets low marks from the American people). And the supposed Sanders revolution hasn’t even translated into a relative improvement. This poisonous ideology is actually slightly more unpopular than it was in 2010 and 2012.

Here’s what Yglesias wrote about these numbers.

Any form of left-of-center politics in the United States, frankly, is going to have a problem with the fact that “the federal government” is viewed so much less favorably than cuddly targets like “small business,” “entrepreneurs,” and “free enterprise.” Even big business does better than the federal government. And both big business and capitalism do far better than socialism.

As I said, this is excellent news.

A few closing thoughts.

  • First, Yglesias and I don’t agree on very much (he’s referred to me as insane and irrational), but we both think that a socialist is someone who believes in government ownership of the means of production, not simply someone who believes in bigger government.
  • Second, the Gallup data reinforces what I wrote back in April about “free enterprise” being a much more appealing term than “capitalism.”

The bottom line is that economic liberty works while left-wing ideologies (all based on coercion) don’t work, so let’s use whatever words are most capable of disseminating this valuable message.

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What was the best news of the year?

That’s a difficult question to answer if you believe in small government and you work in Washington.

We certainly didn’t get the things on my Christmas list, like genuine entitlement reform and fundamental tax reform.

Santa also forget to give me much-needed spending caps, like they have in Switzerland and Hong Kong.

But there is reason for hope. The political elite may be a bunch of self-serving statists, but ordinary citizens still have a core belief in liberty.

The folks at Gallup, for instance, asked Americans about the biggest threat to America’s future. As you can see, they wisely and astutely named big government. By an overwhelming margin.

In another poll, CNN reports that Americans generally are not happy with Washington.

Heading into the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency, the American public…expresses broad dissatisfaction with government and anger about the way things are going in the nation generally. According to a new CNN/ORC Poll, 75% of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed, and 69% are at least somewhat angry with the way things are going in the U.S., both metrics about as negative as they were in fall 2014.

Though I suppose I shouldn’t be too encouraged by this data. After all, what if they’re dissatisfied because government isn’t giving them enough goodies?

But I’m reasonably hopeful that the unhappiness is for the right reasons.

For example, here’s some encouraging polling data from Pew that was shared by James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute. Strong support for free enterprise as a generic principle doesn’t automatically translate into support for free markets on every issue, of course, but I’m glad people in the United States at least have good instincts (unlike the misguided citizens of Argentina).

By the way, I can’t help grousing about the way the folks at Pew presented this data. Notice how the subheading starts with “despite the global financial crisis,” which implies that it was the fault of free markets.

At the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, it was bad monetary policy and corrupt subsidies from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that deserve the lion’s share of the blame for that mess.

Anyhow, back to polling data. While I’m encouraged by some of the polling data above, I’m not under any illusion that people always have the right instincts. Or that they even have consistent views.

Here’s some polling data that was put together for the Legatum Institute.

The bad news is that a lot of people believe in the false left-wing narrative that the economy is a fixed pie and the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. I addressed that issue a few days ago, but the most compelling evidence is in these videos from Learn Liberty, Marginal Revolution, and the Fund for American Studies.

On the other hand, the good news is that perhaps people already have watched these videos. That because they also strongly believe that free enterprise is the best way of improving life for the poor.

P.S. Let’s end 2015 with some Donald Trump humor. I haven’t written much about the Donald, other than to point out that he has a reasonably good tax plan (though perhaps not a serious one).

But he does generate amusement value.

Here’s some anti-Trump humor, sort of similar to the how-the-world-sees-libertarians joke I’ve previously shared.

And here’s some pro-Trump humor (depending on your perspective.

It arrived in my inbox with the heading: “Trump and his national security team arriving in Saudi Arabia.”

He’s not my cup of tea, but you have to give Trump credit for dominating the election. Whether he’s making dumb statements or smart statements, he knows how to work the media.

For what it’s worth, my preferred candidate isn’t available this election, though the fact that he wins this poll (and also this poll) is yet another sign that the American people still have very sensible instincts.

P.P.S. Here are some great videos of that candidate in action. And here’s one more if you those weren’t enough.

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I feel compelled to comment on the Supreme Court’s latest Obamacare decision, though I could sum up my reaction with one word: disgust.

  • I’m disgusted that we had politicians who decided in 2009 and 2010 to further screw up the healthcare system with Obamacare.
  • I’m disgusted the IRS then decided to arbitrarily change the law in order to provide subsidies to people getting insurance through the federal exchange, even though the law explicitly says those handouts were only supposed to go to those getting policies through state exchanges (as the oily Jonathan Gruber openly admitted).
  • I’m disgusted that the lawyers at the Justice Department and the Office of White House Counsel didn’t have the integrity to say that handouts could only be given to people using state exchanges.
  • But most of all, I’m disgusted that the Supreme Court once again has decided to put politics above the Constitution.

In theory, the courts play a valuable role in America’s separation-of-powers system. They supposedly protect our freedoms from majoritarianism. And they ostensibly preserve our system of checks and balances by preventing other branches of the federal government from exceeding their powers.

To be sure, the courts – including and especially the Supreme Court – have not done a good job in some areas. Ever since the 1930s, for instance, they’ve completely failed to limit the federal government to the enumerated powers in Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court’s first Obamacare decision back in 2012 then took that negligence to a higher level.

Now we have a second Obamacare decision. And this one may be even more outrageous because the Supreme Court decided to act as a pseudo-legislature by arbitrarily re-writing Obamacare.

Here’s what George Will wrote about the decision.

The most durable damage from Thursday’s decision is not the perpetuation of the ACA, which can be undone by what created it — legislative action. The paramount injury is the court’s embrace of a duty to ratify and even facilitate lawless discretion exercised by administrative agencies and the executive branch generally. …The decision also resulted from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s embrace of the doctrine that courts, owing vast deference to the purposes of the political branches, are obligated to do whatever is required to make a law efficient, regardless of how the law is written. What Roberts does by way of, to be polite, creative construing (Justice Antonin Scalia, dissenting, calls it “somersaults of statutory interpretation”) is legislating, not judging. …Thursday’s decision demonstrates how easily, indeed inevitably, judicial deference becomes judicial dereliction, with anticonstitutional consequences. We are, says William R. Maurer of the Institute for Justice, becoming “a country in which all the branches of government work in tandem to achieve policy outcomes, instead of checking one another to protect individual rights.

Here’s the bottom line, from Will’s perspective.

The Roberts Doctrine facilitates what has been for a century progressivism’s central objective, the overthrow of the Constitution’s architecture. The separation of powers impedes progressivism by preventing government from wielding uninhibited power.

Here’s how my Cato colleagues reacted, starting with Michael Cannon, our healthcare expert whose heroic efforts at least got the case to the Supreme Court.

…the Supreme Court allowed itself to be intimidated. …the Court rewrote ObamaCare to save it—again. In doing so, the Court has sent a dangerous message to future administrations… The Court today validated President Obama’s massive power grab, allowing him to tax, borrow, and spend $700 billion that no Congress ever authorized. This establishes a precedent that could let any president modify, amend, or suspend any enacted law at his or her whim.

Now let’s look at the responses of two of Cato’s constitutional scholars. Roger Pilon is less than impressed, explaining that the Roberts’ decision is a bizarre combination of improper deference and imprudent activism.

With Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion for the Court, therefore, we have a perverse blend of the opposing positions of the judicial restraint and activist schools that reigned a few decades ago. To a fault, the Court today is deferential to the political branches, much as conservatives in the mold of Alexander Bickel and Robert Bork urged, against the activism of the Warren and Burger Courts. But its deference manifests itself in the liberal activism of a Justice Brennan, rewriting the law to save Congress from itself. As Scalia writes, “the Court forgets that ours is a government of laws and not of men.”

And Ilya Shapiro also unloads on this horrible decision.

Chief Justice Roberts…admits, as he did three years ago in the individual-mandate case, that those challenging the administration are correct on the law. Nevertheless, again as he did before, Roberts contorts himself to eviscerate that “natural meaning” and rewrite Congress’s inartfully concocted scheme, this time such that “exchange established by the state” means “any old exchange.” Scalia rightly calls this novel interpretation “absurd.” …as Justice Scalia put it, “normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.” …like three years ago, we have a horrendous bit of word play that violates all applicable canons of statutory interpretation to preserve the operation of a unpopular program that has done untold damage to the economy and health care system.

Now I’ll add my two cents, at least above and beyond expressing disgust. But I won’t comment on the legal issues since that’s not my area of expertise.

Instead I’ll have a semi-optimistic spin. I wrote in 2013 that we should be optimistic about repealing Obamacare and fixing the government-caused dysfunctionalism (I don’t think that’s a word, but it nonetheless seems appropriate) of our healthcare system.

This latest decision from the Supreme Court, while disappointing, doesn’t change a single word of what I wrote two years ago.

P.S. Since today’s topic (other than my conclusion) was very depressing, let’s close by looking at something cheerful.

I’ve commented before that America has a big advantage over Europe because of a greater belief in self-reliance and a greater suspicion of big government.

Well, now we have further evidence. Here’s some polling data from AEI’s most recent Political Report. As you can see, there’s a much stronger belief in self-sufficiency in the United States than there is in either Germany or Italy.

Polling data like this is yet another sign of America’s superior social capital.

And so long as Americans continue to value freedom over dependency, then there’s a chance of fixing the mess in Washington. Not just Obamacare, but the entire decrepit welfare state.

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I periodically share polling data on issues ranging from which nations most support capitalism to the degree to which government is a leading cause of stress.

Or how about the poll of Americans on the best and worst Presidents since World War II, or the survey data on what share of government spending is wasted.

Today, we’re going to expand on that collection by reviewing some potential good news about attitudes of young people and attitudes about guns. But this isn’t about how young people owning guns, or how they feel about guns.

Instead, we’re going to review two separate pieces of information, one about whether young people want to work for the federal government and another about an online poll about gun control that backfired. And both are somewhat encouraging, albeit not very scientific.

With regards to young people, I was very pleased to read a story in the Washington Post indicating that President Obama is failing in his attempt to make government jobs “cool again.”

Six years after candidate Barack Obama vowed to make working for government “cool again,” federal hiring of young people is instead tailing off and many millennials are heading for the door. The share of the federal workforce under the age of 30 dropped to 7 percent this year, the lowest figure in nearly a decade, government figures show. …top government officials, including at the White House, are growing increasingly distressed about the dwindling role played by young workers.

Let’s hope this is true. The last thing we want is talented young people diverted from productive employment into the suffocating embrace of government bureaucracy.

But the key issue from my perspective is why young people prefer the private sector.

If it’s because they want to do something meaningful, or because they recognize government bureaucracy is a black hole of inefficiency, or because they don’t want to be a burden on taxpayers, I would view any of those explanations as a positive sign. Perhaps even an indication of growing social capital.

But there’s a less-optimistic explanation. Maybe young people actually do want overpaid positions as regulators, paper pushers, and memo writers, but haven’t had much luck simply because the process is so inefficient and/or the money isn’t there because of the spending restraint in recent years.

Danzig said that the federal shutdown, furloughs and pay freezes in recent years have eroded the attraction of working for the government. …For those millennials who still want to land a government job, the hiring process can be an infuriating mystery. And the government’s Pathways internship program, designed to help launch young people on a federal career, is so beset by problems that only a trickle of workers has been hired. …then Congress imposed the automatic budget cuts called “sequestration.” …Budget cuts have forced agencies to slow the hiring pipeline in the past two years, and with job prospects in the private sector improving after the long economic slowdown, millennials are increasingly taking jobs outside government, where they can see a better chance of advancement.

The most encouraging part of the story is that some young people who did land government jobs have decided to jump ship and go into the private sector.

That’s a win-win for taxpayers and the economy.

These millennials no longer are a burden on people in the productive sector of the economy and they’re also presumably now doing things that are far more likely to add value to society.

Sort of like when a welfare recipient is rescued from government dependency and becomes self-sufficient.

But you won’t be surprised to learn the Obama Administration isn’t giving up.

The agency’s director, Katherine Archuleta, has been visiting college campuses to urge students to consider federal careers. …“We know hiring millennials is really critical to the future of the government,” she said. …Meanwhile, the Obama administration has been working to revamp the Pathways federal internship program for college students and recent graduates.

None of this is a surprise. The White House presumably understands that a bigger government workforce means more voters who are likely to support candidates that want to expand the size and scope of government.

Our second example comes from the scroungers at PBS. The government-subsidized broadcasters did a story on gun control and included an online poll.

There was nothing remarkable about the story, just the usual pro-gun control agitprop, but the polling results must have been a big disappointment to the PBS crowd.

Wow, 95 percent-4 percent in favor of the Second Amendment.

To be sure, online surveys are completely unscientific and I’m sure some pro-gun rights people must have actively encouraged votes.

Nonetheless, I still find the results amusing if for no other reason than they undermined the narrative that PBS doubtlessly was hoping to create.

P.S. Based on this actual polling data, many millennials are quite confused and inconsistent in their views about public policy, so they probably are very well suited for careers in government. Which is all the more reason to push them in the private sector where a bit of real-world experience would probably help them think more clearly.

P.P.S. Since the title of today’s column was about young people and guns, I can’t resist sharing this feel-good story from Georgia.

A local gun club gave young people an opportunity to pose with Santa Claus and some of their favorite weapons.

Reminds me of the time I took my kids into the woods of Vermont so they could shoot an AK-47.

There was snow on the ground, but Santa Claus was absent, so I can’t say I matched the experience the gun club provided.

However, as you can see by clicking here, I raised my kids with good values about the Second Amendment.

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I wrote last week about the lunacy of a tax system that created the conditions that led to the death of Eric Garner in New York City.

But I wrote that column in the context of how high tax rates lead to tax avoidance and tax evasion. Let’s now zoom out and look at the bigger picture.

Using the Garner case as a springboard, George Will explains that we have too many laws.

Garner died at the dangerous intersection of something wise, known as “broken windows” policing, and something worse than foolish: decades of overcriminalization. …when more and more behaviors are criminalized, there are more and more occasions for police, who embody the state’s monopoly on legitimate violence, and who fully participate in humanity’s flaws, to make mistakes. Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties attorney, titled his 2009 book “Three Felonies a Day” to indicate how easily we can fall afoul of the United States’ metastasizing body of criminal laws. Professor Douglas Husak of Rutgers University says that approximately 70 percent of American adults have, usually unwittingly, committed a crime for which they could be imprisoned. …The scandal of mass incarceration is partly produced by the frivolity of the political class, which uses the multiplication of criminal offenses as a form of moral exhibitionism. This, like Eric Garner’s death, is a pebble in the mountain of evidence that American government is increasingly characterized by an ugly and sometimes lethal irresponsibility.

I don’t know if Americans actually do commit three felonies each day, and I also don’t know if 70 percent of us have committed offenses punishable by jail time, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these numbers are correct.

They may even be understated.

Indeed, when I share horrifying examples of government thuggery, these generally involve brutal and over-zealous enforcement of things that oftentimes shouldn’t be against the law in the first place.

This Eric Allie cartoon is a good example, and definitely will get added to my collection of images that capture the essence of government.

In other words, George Will wasn’t exaggerating when he wrote that, “American government is increasingly characterized by an ugly and sometimes lethal irresponsibility.”

Writing for Bloomberg, Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School has a similar perspective.

I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. …I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you. I wish this caution were only theoretical. It isn’t. …It’s not just cigarette tax laws that can lead to the death of those the police seek to arrest. It’s every law. Libertarians argue that we have far too many laws, and the Garner case offers evidence that they’re right. …it is unavoidable that there will be situations where police err on the side of too much violence rather than too little. Better training won’t lead to perfection. But fewer laws would mean fewer opportunities for official violence to get out of hand.

Amen.

A just society should have very few laws, and those laws should be both easy to understand and they should focus on protecting life, liberty, and property.

Sadly, that’s not a good description for what now exists in America. Professor Carter explains.

…federal law alone includes more than 3,000 crimes, fewer than half of which found in the Federal Criminal Code. The rest are scattered through other statutes. A citizen who wants to abide by the law has no quick and easy way to find out what the law actually is — a violation of the traditional principle that the state cannot punish without fair notice. In addition to these statutes, he writes, an astonishing 300,000 or more federal regulations may be enforceable through criminal punishment in the discretion of an administrative agency. Nobody knows the number for sure. Husak cites estimates that more than 70 percent of American adults have committed a crime that could lead to imprisonment. …making an offense criminal also means that the police will go armed to enforce it. Overcriminalization matters… Every new law requires enforcement; every act of enforcement includes the possibility of violence. …Don’t ever fight to make something illegal unless you’re willing to risk the lives of your fellow citizens to get your way.

Which is a good description of why I’m a libertarian notwithstanding my personal conservatism.

I don’t like drugs, but I’m not willing to let someone else get killed because they have a different perspective.

I don’t like gambling, but I don’t want another person to die because they want to play cards.

I don’t like prostitution, but it’s awful to think someone could lose his life because he paid for sex.

This Glenn McCoy cartoon summarizes what’s happening far too often in this country.

P.S. Since this has been a depressing topic, let’s close by switching to some good news.

I’ve previously explained why I’m somewhat optimistic on the future of the Second Amendment. Well, the folks at Pew Research have some new polling data that bolsters my optimism.

Here’s one result that put a smile on my face.

And here’s a breakdown that’s also encouraging. Note how blacks have become much more supportive of gun rights.

I guess this means “Stretch” and “R.J.” have a lot more support than just two years ago.

And it’s worth noting that cops have the same perspective.

In other words, these are not fun times for gun grabbers.

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When discussing how to boost growth, economists often discuss the importance of human capital and physical capital.

Those are key factors driving economic performance. After all, improvements in human capital mean a more productive workforce. And improvements in physical capital mean greater output per hour worked.

So you can see why I want lower tax rates and less intervention. Simply stated, we’re far more likely to increase – and effectively utilize – human and physical capital when markets allocate resources rather than politicians.

But there’s another form of capital that’s also important. It’s difficult to measure, but I suspect it also plays a huge role in determining a nation’s long-run prosperity.

For lack of a better term, let’s call it societal capital, and it refers to the attitudes of a country’s people. I’m not sure how to define social capital, but here are a series of questions that capture what I’m trying to describe: Do the people of a nation believe in the work ethic? Or would they be comfortable as wards of the state, living off others? Are they motivated by the spirit of self-reliance? Would they be ashamed to go on welfare? Do they think the government is obligated to give them things?

The answers to these questions matter a lot because a nation can’t prosper once you reach a tipping point of too many people riding in the wagon and too few people producing.

Here’s what I wrote earlier this year.

…a nation is doomed when a majority of its people decide that it is morally and economically okay to live off the labor of others and want to use the coercive power of government to make it happen. For lack of a better term, we can call this a country’s Dependency Ratio, and it’s a measure of eroding social capital. To what degree, in other words, has the entitlement mentality replaced the work ethic and the spirit of self reliance?

I raise this issue because I want to share two items.

First, here’s some very good news about the United States. According to a new poll from YouGov about attitudes in the United States and United Kingdom, Americans are far more likely to believe they have a moral right to their earnings. Brits, by contrast, overwhelmingly believe that government has a greater moral claim to people’s earnings.

Makes me proud to be American, just as I was back in 2011 when reporting on some Pew research that also showed Americans had a greater spirit of self reliance.

The Brits, by contrast, seem to be moving in the wrong direction. Some of the blame belongs to supposedly right-wing politicians such as David Cameron, George Osborne, and David Gauke, all of whom have argued that people have a moral obligation to pay more to the state than is legally required.

In any event, it’s disturbing to see that people in the United Kingdom have such a warped moral perspective. Which raises the question of whether it’s possible to restore social capital once it’s been eroded?

Or is that a futile task once people have learned a dependency mindset, sort of like trying to put toothpaste back in a tube.

We have some research from Germany that offers guidance on these questions, which is the second item I want to share. Here are excerpts from a story in the Boston Globe.

…If you were a researcher trying to determine how a political system affects people’s values, beliefs, and behavior, you would ideally want to take two identical populations, separate them for a generation or two, and subject them each to two totally different kinds of government. Then you’d want to measure the results… Ethically, such a study would be unthinkable even to propose. But when the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, it created what London School of Economics associate professor Daniel Sturm calls a “perfect experiment.” The two halves of the country were like a pair of identical twins separated at birth and raised by two very different sets of parents.

And what did this experiment produce?

The bad news is that living in a statist regime did erode societal capital.

…the researchers didn’t know what to expect. On the one hand, East Germans might be resentful of the system that had constrained their lives; on the other hand, it was also plausible that they had become comfortable with the notion that a government would provide for basic needs at the expense of an open society. Alesina and Fuchs-Schundeln used data from a German survey administered in 1997, and split the respondents into two groups based on where they had lived before reunification. What they found was that, at that point, people from the East still tended to believe in the social-service model. They were also more likely to support a robust government program to help the unemployed…

But the good news is that at least some of the toothpaste of self reliance can be put back in the tube.

It goes the other way too, if slowly: When Alesina and Fuchs-Schundeln looked at survey results from 2002, they found that the two groups of Germans had begun to converge politically. Based on the data, they estimated that it would take between one and two generations—20 to 40 years— for the gap to fully close, and “for an average East German to have the same views on state intervention as an average West German.” …In a separate but related study, it was shown that watching Western TV had actually shaped East Germans’ views about work and chance, making them “more inclined to believe that effort rather than luck determines success in life.”

So what’s the moral of the story?

I guess I’m a tad bit optimistic after learning about this research. I was worried that societal capital couldn’t be restored.

So maybe if we force everyone in Greece and Italy to watch my video on free markets and small government, there’s a chance those societies can be salvaged! (But let’s not show it to the French since we’ll always need bad examples.)

P.S. These two cartoons show the dangers of the entitlement mentality.

November 4, 2018 addendum: To be more precise, I’m now trying to use “societal capital” rather than “social capital.”

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It’s unfortunate that Senator Tom Coburn is retiring. He hasn’t been perfect, but nobody can question is commitment to limited government. He’s been a rare voice in Washington against wasteful spending.

And he’s going out with a bang, having just released the 2014 edition of the Wastebook.

It’s a grisly collection of boondoggles and pork-barrel spending, highlights (though lowlights might be a better term) of which can be seen in this video.

The good news is that the American people increasingly recognize that Washington is a cesspool of waste, fraud, and abuse.

A Gallup Poll from last month, for instance, finds that folks are quite aware that a huge chunk of the federal budget is squandered.

There are two interesting takeaways from this polling data.

First, it’s good to see that there’s been a steady increase in the perception of waste in Washington. That shows people are paying more attention over time. In other words, more and more Americans recognize that the public sector is a sleazy racket for the benefit of bureaucrats, lobbyists, contractors, politicians, cronies, interest groups, and other insiders.

Second, it’s also worth noting that there’s less waste at the state level and even less waste at the local level. These are just perceptions, to be sure, but I suspect people are right. Money is less likely to be squandered when people have a greater opportunity to see how it’s being spent. Which is why federalism is good policy and good politics.

Now let me add my two cents. Government waste doesn’t just occur when money goes to silly projects. From an economic perspective, money is wasted whenever there is a misallocation of potentially productive resources.

And that’s a pretty accurate description of most of the federal budget. Not just discretionary programs, but also entitlement programs.

Here’s my video providing the theoretical arguments against excessive government spending.

And here’s the companion video that reviews the evidence showing that big government undermines prosperity.

And if you want another video, but one that shows horrific government waste presented in an amusing manner, click here.

And if you instead want to get heartburn by reading about disgusting examples of waste, click here, here, or here.

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Every so often, I share polling data from other nations that is either encouraging or puzzling. Looking through the archives, here are some memorable examples.

*Americans are more libertarian than Europeans.

*On the other hand, the French support spending cuts by a 4-1 margin.

*More than 90 percent of Greeks and Italians see government as an obstacle to business.

*Nearly 70 percent of Labor voters in the United Kingdom would favor class-warfare tax policy even if tax revenues didn’t increase.

*People in 20 out of 21 nations preferred Obama over Romney.

*Italians supposedly are more fiscally conservative than Americans. As are Germans.

*But Americans are more likely than anybody else to think there is too much red tape.

Some of those results make sense, while others were a big surprise.

But nothing was as surprising as the results we’re looking at today.

First, some background. According to Wikipedia, Vietnam “is one of the world’s four remaining single-party socialist states officially espousing communism.”

Yet according to a global public opinion survey from Pew Research, citizens of that communist nation are the world’s most pro-capitalist people. Asked to agree or disagree with the statement that people are better off in a free market economy, 95 percent of them chose capitalism.

And the nation with the third-highest level of support for capitalism is…drum roll please…China. So another communist-run nation has pro-capitalist citizens (as well as a few secretly capitalist officials).

Here’s a table with more amazing polling data showing the degree to which people in other countries support free markets.

The worst country, if you’re looking at overt support for free markets is Argentina. Only 33 percent of respondents agreed that a free market economy was best (gee, I’m shocked).

And Japan, Spain, and Jordan are the most anti-capitalist nations based on the share of respondents who disagreed with that notion.

Now let’s look at some more numbers. Here’s an equally fascinating table of polling data on which policies are seen as being most effective in lowering the gap between the rich and poor.

Who would have guessed that the Italians, Brazilians, and Ugandans would be most supportive of low taxes? Or that the Germans, Jordanians, and Salvadorans would be most in favor of high taxes?

The German results are particularly odd. They have very high support for free markets, while also supporting class-warfare taxation.

By the way, the people of the United States also are confused. They support free markets, yet they also give a plurality to class-warfare tax policy. We’re not as mixed up as the Germans, but it still doesn’t make sense.

But Americans kicked you-know-what in one part of the Pew Survey. In questions designed to measure the role of individual achievement, respondents from the United States were far more likely than most to demonstrate a belief in the work ethic and the spirit of upward mobility.

Though there are some anomalies in this data. The Venezuelans (62 percent) surpassed America on the top chart, for instance, and the Colombians and Argentinians (78 percent) beat America on the bottom chart.

For what it’s worth, I suspect the Swiss actually are the most sensible people.

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Why is President Obama so fixated on a class-warfare agenda of higher taxes on the rich and government dependency for the poor?

Is it because a tax-the-rich agenda is good politics, as determined by clever pollsters who have tapped into the collective mind of American voters (and as demonstrated by this cartoon)?

Or is the President ideologically committed to a redistributionist mindset, meaning that he will pursue class-warfare policies even if they rub voters the wrong way?

Since I can’t read the President’s mind, I’m not sure of the answer. I suspect he’s a genuine ideologue, but your guess is as good as mine.

But I can say with more confidence that his pursuit of class-warfare doesn’t resonate with voters.

Or, to be more specific, the American people aren’t susceptible to the politics of hate and envy so long as they’re offered a better alternative.

Let’s look at some new polling data on this topic.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, William Galston explains that anemic growth is making it harder and harder for households to increase their living standards.

Over the next decade, there is one overriding challenge—recreating an economy in which growth works for everyone, not just a favored few.  …Recent reports underscore the extent of the challenge. …long-term trends continued to point in the wrong direction. The employment-to-population ratio is lower than it was at the official end of the Great Recession in mid-2009. The labor-force participation rate dropped to 62.8%, the lowest since the late 1970s. …from 2010 to 2013 median family income corrected for inflation declined by 5%, even as average family income rose by 4%. Only families at the very top of the income distribution saw gains during this period. Family incomes between the 40th and 90th percentiles stagnated, while families at the bottom experienced substantial declines.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the American people understand that class warfare and redistribution is not a route to a better life.

They are much more supportive of policies that increase the size of the economic pie.

Americans have strong views about the economic course policy makers should pursue. Surveys of 3,000 Americans conducted between January and March of 2014 by the Global Strategy Group found that fully 78% thought that it was important for Congress to promote an agenda of economic growth that would benefit all Americans. …Strategies to spread wealth more evenly and reduce income inequality received the least support; 53% believe that fostering economic growth is “extremely important,” compared with only 30% who take that view about narrowing income inequality. …These views have political consequences. By 59% to 37%, Global Strategy Group found that Americans prefer a candidate who focuses on economic growth to one who emphasizes economic fairness. By a remarkable margin of 64 percentage points (80% to 16%), they opt for a candidate who focuses on more economic growth to one who emphasizes less income inequality.

What makes these results especially notable, as pointed out by another WSJ columnist, is that the Global Strategy Group is a Democrat-connected polling firm.

Here’s some of what James Freeman wrote.

Now here’s something you don’t see every day. A prominent Democratic polling firm has found that voters don’t view reducing income inequality as a top priority. Instead, they want economic growth. …The results were released in April but until now have received almost no attention in the press. No doubt the findings would have rudely interrupted the months-long media celebration of Thomas Piketty and his error-filled and widely unread book on income inequality. And the survey data suggest that the core message of President Obama and his political outfit Organizing for Action is off target.the Obama economic message is all about redistributing wealth, not creating it. But as the liberals at Global Strategy Group felt compelled to observe, “Growth-focused candidates appeal to many more voters.”

I’m very encouraged by these numbers.

For decades, I’ve been telling folks in Washington that growth trumps fairness. And I’ve made that argument based on policy and politics.

The policy part is easy. All you have to do is compare, say, France to Hong Kong if you want evidence that pro-growth policy is how you help the less fortunate.

But since I worry that America’s social capital is eroding, I’m also concerned that people might be more sympathetic to redistribution. In other words, maybe a growth message no longer is effective when trying to get votes.

According the Global Strategy Group data, though, voters still understand that it’s better for politicians to focus on growing the pie.

In this same spirit, here’s an interview I did earlier in the week for Blaze TV. The early part of the discussion is about a new Harvard report on the economy. But since the report didn’t say anything, skip to the relevant part of the interview, which starts at about 3:15. I explain that economic growth is the only viable way of boosting the well being of lower-income Americans.

And if you want more information on why growth is better for the poor than redistribution, click here.

P.S. For a humorous explanation of why the dependency agenda is so destructive, here’s the politically correct version of the fable of the Little Red Hen.

And the socialism-in-the-classroom example, which may or may not be an urban legend, makes a similar point.

But I think this pizza analogy may be the best way of showing that redistribution doesn’t help the poor.

P.P.S. I still think Margaret Thatcher has the best explanation of why the left is wrong on inequality. And if you want to see a truly disturbing video of a politicians with a different perspective, click here.

P.P.P.S. We have yet another update (updating yesterday’s update, which updated previous stories) on horrific IRS abuse.

Take a look at this video, which features the big Democratic donor who was made head of the IRS by Obama, and get a load of his cavalier attitude about the IRS obeying the law.

If you watch the entire exchange, I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Koskinen wasn’t saying that the IRS shouldn’t obey the law. But his flippant response, combined with the Obama Administration’s repeated decisions to arbitrarily ignore and/or change existing law, certainly shows that the ruling class isn’t very serious about the rule of law.

And that’s not a good sign for America’s future.

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The polling data I shared last month about confused young people was a bit of a downer, so let’s look at three different polls that are a bit more encouraging.

First, I’m glad to see that many Americans feel that government and politicians are their leading cause of daily stress.

Here’s some of what the Washington Post reported on this poll.

…much of that emotional response is completely justified. As if it weren’t enough that our politicians are actively working to harm the global economy and otherwise failing to do their jobs or even show up for work in general, they’re also stressing everyone out with the astonishing breadth and depth of their incompetence. And since high stress is linked to shorter life expectancy, they are also literally killing us with their incompetence. In other words, thanks, Obama (and everyone in Congress too).

My job is to connect the dots so that people understand that the only way to reduce stress is to make government smaller.

And, for what it’s worth, that’s the best way to make government at least semi-competent.

Our second batch of polling numbers come from Rasmussen. I’ve shared research and data on the negative impact of redistribution spending (as illustrated by this powerful chart), but I figured most Americans didn’t understand that such programs trap people in dependency.

I’m glad to read that I’m wrong. In an article entitled, “49% Believe Government Programs Increase Poverty in America,” Rasmussen reports the following.

Most Americans still believe current government anti-poverty programs have no impact on poverty in this country or actually increase it. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that a plurality (44%) of American Adults still think the government spends too much on poverty programs.

The Rasmussen folks also have this encouraging bit of public opinion research.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of American Adults think there are too many in this country who are dependent on the government for financial aid, up slightly from 64% in September of last year.

Our third set of polling numbers come from the periodic Reason-Rupe poll.

I’ll share several pieces of data, but here are the numbers I find most encouraging. Apparently most people realize that pro-growth policy is the right approach, not class warfare and redistribution.

In terms of economic policies, 74 percent of Americans would like Congress to focus on policies to promote economic growth, while 20 percent favor policies to reduce income inequality.

I guess I’m also happy about these results, though I can’t help but think that there are some very confused folks in the Tea Party.

Fifty-five percent of Americans tell Reason-Rupe they have a favorable opinion of capitalism. Meanwhile, 36 percent of those surveyed, including 33 percent of independents and 26 percent of self-described Tea Party supporters, have a favorable opinion of socialism.

I don’t even think Obama’s a socialist, so these ostensibly anti-Obama folks apparently favor even more government than our statist President. Go figure.

Last but not least, I should like this result, but I’m actually disturbed since the margin is much smaller than it should be.

When asked about the size of government, 54 percent of Americans favor a smaller government providing fewer services. Forty-two percent favor a larger government providing more services.

P.S. Remember when I warned that the one downside to personal retirement accounts is that future politicians might steal the money?

Well, it’s happened again according to Reuters, this time in Russia.

Russia’s government has approved a plan to use contributions to employees’ privately-managed pension funds to plug budget holes for a second year running. The move was confirmed by Labour Minister Maxim Topilin on Tuesday in comments published on the ministry’s website. It has been heavily criticised by some officials and analysts, who say it will hurt the pensions industry and financial markets.

P.P.S. I was beginning to feel a bit more positive about the Tory-led government in the United Kingdom, particularly after reading about some well-designed welfare reform, significant corporate tax cuts, and postal service privatization.

Then I read something awful. And what could be worse than imposing a death tax on people who are still alive.

Savers could be forced to pay inheritance tax while they are still alive, under a new drive against tax avoidance planned by the Government. …Under plans put out for consultation, HM Revenue & Customs would have powers to subject people minimising inheritance tax to “accelerated payment” laws, meaning they would be forced to pay up front if officials suspect them of using new schemes to avoid tax. Experts have warned that under the rules, taxpayers will be treated as “guilty until proven innocent”. …there will be concerns that innocent people could be investigated and made to pay large sums before they are able to defend themselves. …Economists, tax experts and Tory MPs have called for reform of the tax, warning that it predominantly hits middle-class families.

Shame on David Cameron for allowing this to happen. But I’m not surprised given the government’s track record.

And what else would you expect from a government that brainwashes children to rat out their parents and also puts despicable Orwellian ads on subways and trains?

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I periodically share polling data. This is because public opinion research (if done honestly) provides insights on the degree to which people are either well informed, uninformed, or misinformed.

And that kind of information is useful for policy wonks like me since it shows where we need to re-double our efforts to educate the American people.

And some of the best polling data today comes from the periodic Reason-Rupe survey. They ask fair questions (i.e., they’re trying to discover what people actually think rather than doing “push polls” designed to produce pre-determined results) and they ask interesting questions.

But that doesn’t mean I always like the answers. Reason-Rupe just did a major survey of Americans between ages 18 and 29. Perhaps I’m being a glass-half-empty person, but I’m not overly encouraged by the answers from these so-called millenials.

Heck, I’m tempted to say that the voting age should be raised to 30.

Is this because of how they voted in the past two elections?

Young Americans (ages 18-29) have shifted markedly left in their voting behavior over the past decade. …by 2008, 66 percent voted for Barack Obama, as did 60 percent in 2012.

Nope, that’s not why I’m distressed about millenials. It’s hard to blame voters for turning against the GOP after eight years of Bush’s big-government paternalism. Moreover, both McCain and Romney held a lot of statist views, so I didn’t view the 2008 and 2012 elections as a rejection of libertarianism or small-government conservatism. The Reason-Rupe experts have a similar assessment.

The Republican Party—which rhetorically lays claim to free markets, limited government, and fiscal responsibility—found itself lacking credibility… The Republican Party’s policy mishandlings tainted not just its own brand, but those who share its rhetoric. Messengers selling free markets and limited government under the GOP banner have found it more difficult to reach a trusting audience.

At most, millenials were guilty of believing the nonsensical hype that Obama was some sort of post-partisan leader.

So why, then, am I distressed about the Reason-Rupe poll results? Mostly because millenials appear to be scatterbrained.

We’ll start with the good news. In some ways, they seem very sensible.

…millennials are not statists clamoring for government management of the economy. Quite the opposite. Millennials are still free marketeers—they like profit and competition, they prefer capitalism over socialism… There has been a surge in the share of millennials who think government is wasteful and inefficient… Most also think government agencies abuse their power… Millennials say hard work brings success, as older generations do. They also believe in self-determination and say that individuals are and should be primarily responsible for both their successes and failings, even if this leads to unequal outcomes. Millennials are concerned about growing income inequality, but they prefer a competitive, merit-based society that rewards personal achievement over one with little income inequality. …nearly three-fourths of millennials support “changing the Social Security program so younger workers can invest their Social Security taxes in private retirement accounts.”

But before you conclude millenials have their heads on straight, let’s look at these results.

A plurality of millennials says there is more government should be doing… the cohort still favors social welfare spending and a variety of government guarantees. …Millennials are more favorable toward socialism than they are to a government-managed economy, even though the latter is arguably less interventionist. …Millennials are far more likely than Americans over 30 to identify as liberal. While only 14 percent of Americans over 30 call themselves liberals, 25 percent of millennials do the same. …They support raising taxes to increase financial assistance to the poor, they think government should guarantee access to health care, and a slim majority favors guaranteeing access to college. …American millennials agree government should spend more to help the poor even if it leads to higher taxes. …Nearly seven in 10 say government should guarantee health insurance and a living wage. …The plurality of millennials (48 %) think people usually get rich at the expense of others, a zero-sum view of wealth in society.

So does this mean young voters are statists?

Perhaps, but the most accurate conclusion is that they simply don’t know enough to give consistent answers.

A 2010 CBS/New York Times survey found that when Americans were asked to use their own words to define the word “socialism” millennials were the least able to do so. Accord to the survey, only 16 percent of millennials could define socialism as government ownership, or some variation thereof, compared to 30 percent of Americans over 30 (and 57% of tea partiers, incidentally).

So maybe we should raise the voting age to 30.

Or at least have a rule that says you can’t vote until you have a job and are paying taxes (that might be a good rule for all ages!).

Now that we’ve tried to figure out how millenials are thinking, let’s look at the entire population.

And let’s focus on just one issue: How many Americans think corruption is widespread in government.

The good news is that Gallup found that a record number of Americans recognize that the public sector is a sleazy racket for the benefit of bureaucrats, lobbyists, contractors, politicians, cronies, interest groups, and other insiders.

By the way, I like these results, but they don’t necessarily mean that people want to shrink government. As we saw with the data on millenials, it’s possible for people to favor more government even though they think that it is corrupt, wasteful, and inefficient.

But at least (I hope) this means that they are susceptible to the common-sense message that shrinking government is the most effective way of reducing corruption.

Last but not least, I’m not sure this qualifies as an opinion poll, but it does deal with responses to questions.

It turns out that “unattractive” people are most likely to donate to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

A new series of studies from Stanford researchers has found that people who feel “unattractive” are more likely to donate to the Occupy movement. …participants were then asked to rate their own attractiveness… Finally, after watching a short video about the Occupy Movement, participants were asked if they would like to donate their compensatory $50 lottery ticket to the movement. Researchers found that those who perceived themselves to be less attractive were almost twice as likely to donate to Occupy.

And while we don’t have any research on this issue, I’m going out on a limb and asserting that folks who donate to America’s best think tank are beautiful, charming, debonair, suave, virile, and popular.

P.S. But as you can see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, the Occupy protesters did generate some good political humor, so they’re not all bad.

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We’re going to touch on two topics today.

I realize that not that many readers care about Greek economic policy, but sometimes other nations can teach us very important lessons. For better or worse.

And in the case of Greece, the lesson is that government intervention and bureaucracy is an enemy of entrepreneurship.

Probably the most amazing – and weird – example is that the Greek government wanted stool samples from entrepreneurs seeking to set up an online company (and, just to be clear, I’m not talking about furniture).

We now have another example, but it’s seems more tragic than bizarre. Here are some really sad passages from a column in the New York Times by a woman who tried set up a business in Greece.

I managed to master the perfect macaron. I was ready to sell them. I invested every penny I earned in high-quality photographs, a superbly designed website and tasteful packaging. “Le macaron grec” was born and the little olive green boxes of treats I was selling were, I thought, my chance to regain control of my life. “Le macaron grec” became a huge success, as I was in demand to cater parties and weddings. …I felt like I was on my way.

Until the visible foot of government interfered with the invisible hand of the market.

…as happens so often in Greece, the bureaucrats had other plans. In a country where you are viewed favorably when you spend money but are considered a criminal when you make it, starting a business is a nightmare. The demands are outrageous, and include a requirement that the business pay taxes in advance equal to 50 percent of estimated profit in the first two years. And the taxes are collected even if the business suffers a loss. I needed only 20 square meters for my baking business, but inspectors told me they could not give me permission for less than 150 square meters. I was obliged to have a separate toilet for customers even though I would not have any customers visit. The fire department wanted a security exit in the same place where the municipality demanded a wall be built.

So what happened? Was she able to satisfy the costly requirements of big government?

Alas, we don’t have a happy ending.

I, like thousands of others trying to start businesses, learned that I would be at the mercy of public employees who interpreted the laws so they could profit themselves. And so in the winter of 2013, my business was finished before it had a chance to take off. The website and a couple of empty boxes in the top of my closet are now the only evidence of the inglorious end of a dream.

Stories like this get me angry. Heck, I’m outraged that taxpayers from around the world have bailed out the Greek government so that bad policy can continue.

Having gotten ourselves all agitated, let’s now enjoy some good news.

It appears that the American people have figured out that our statist president is not doing a very good job. Indeed, they actually have decided he’s the worst president of the past 70 years according to new polling data.

Ironically, even though Obama is probably the most ideologically left-wing president since World War II, I wouldn’t put him in last place. I think Nixon actually did more damage, and Bush II definitely was a bigger spender.

But it’s still good that voters have soured on Obama. As he becomes more and more unpopular, that probably increases support for pro-market policies – such as genuine entitlement reform and real tax reform.

Sort of the way Jimmy Carter paved the way for Reaganomics.

And speaking of Reagan, I’m very happy that he is the runaway winner as America’s best post-WWII president.

P.S. So with Obama now considered the worst and Reagan considered the best, I wonder what the results would be if someone updated this Reagan vs. Obama poll.

P.S.S. Returning to the issue of Greece, that nation’s crazy politicians actually give disability payments to pedophiles.

P.S.S.S. Which is yet another reason why I’m incredulous that so many American politicians want us to mimic Greece’s profligacy (as illustrated by this Henry Payne cartoon).

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I’m ecumenical on tax reform. I’ll support any plan that rips up the internal revenue code and instead lowers tax rates, reduces double taxation, and cuts out distorting loopholes.

And as I explain in this interview, both the flat tax and national sales tax have a low tax rate. They also get rid of double taxation and they both wipe out the rat’s nest of deductions, credits, exclusions, preferences, and exemptions.

You’ll notice, however, that I wasn’t very optimistic in the interview about the possibility of replacing the IRS with a simple and fair tax system.

But perhaps I’m being needlessly gloomy. New polling data from Reason-Rupe show that there’s very strong support for reform. At least if you favor a flat tax.

This doesn’t mean we can expect genuine tax reform tomorrow or the next day.

President Obama is viscerally committed to class-warfare tax policy, for instance, and special interest groups would vigorously resist if there was a real possibility (they would say threat) of scrapping the current tax code.

But it does suggest that tax reform – at least in the form of a flat tax – could happen if there was real leadership in Washington.

So maybe my fantasies will become reality!

And one of the best arguments for reform is that the internal revenue code is an unfair mess.

Consider how rich people are treated by the tax code. The system is so complicated that we can’t tell whether they’re paying too much (because of high rates and pervasive double taxation) or paying too little (because of special preferences and tax shelters).

Regardless, we do know that they can afford lots of lobbyists, lawyers, and accountants. So even though they are far more likely to be audited, they have ample ability to defend themselves.

But the real lesson, as I explain in this CNBC interview, is that the right kind of tax reform would lead to a simple system that treats everyone fairly.

I’m also glad I used the opportunity to grouse about the IRS getting politicized and corrupted.

But I wish there had been more time in the interview so I could have pointed out that IRS data reveal that you get a lot more revenue from the rich when tax rates are more reasonable.

And I also wish I had seen the Reason-Rupe poll so I could have bragged that there was strong support for a flat tax.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have been able to make the same claim about the national sales tax. I haven’t seen any recent public opinion data on the Fair Tax or other similar plans, but a poll from last year failed to find majority support for such a proposal.

And a Reason-Rupe poll from 2011 showed only 33 percent support for a national sales tax.

That won’t stop me from defending the national sales tax. After all, it is based on the same principles as a flat tax.

But the polls do suggest (as do anecdotes from the campaign trail) that a flat tax is a more politically viable option for reformers.

The moral of the story is that it makes more sense to push for the flat tax. After all, if I have an easy route and a hard route to get to the same destination, why make life more difficult?

Though the ultimate libertarian fantasy is shrinking government back to what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Then we wouldn’t need any broad-based tax of any kind.

P.S. Here’s my choice for the strangest-loophole award.

P.P.S. Since I shared a poll today with good news, I may as well link to a tax poll that left me somewhat depressed.

P.P.P.S. Let’s end with some IRS humor.

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I’ve been asked whether I’m a hypocrite because I support decentralization while at the same time being critical of state and local governments.

I don’t think there’s any inconsistency in my position. Here’s some of what I wrote last July.

I’m a strong believer in federalism, but not because I think state and local governments are competent. Politicians and interest groups are a toxic combination in all circumstance. But at least people have considerable ability to cross borders if they want to escape greedy and despotic governments at the state and local level. And when the geese with the golden eggs can fly away, this facilitates competition between governments and forces politicians to restrain their appetites.

Maybe I’m just daft (as my leftist friends often claim), but I think that’s a perfectly defensible position.

Anyhow, I feel compelled to give that bit of background because it’s once again time to mock state and local governments.

Here’s an excerpt from the Detroit News that tells you everything you’ll ever need to know about the stupidity of government. The city actually loses money on parking enforcement.

The city is paying $32 to issue and process a $30 parking violation, and it hasn’t adjusted rates since 2001. On top of that, about half of Detroit’s 3,404 parking meters are not operating properly at any given time, says Orr’s spokesman, Bill Nowling.

Wow, this must be an all-time record. A local government can’t even fleece people competently.

The only thing more shocking is when the government is too incompetent to give away money, which actually happened with one boondoggle in the United Kingdom.

Now let’s travel a few thousand miles and look at another example of how Washington isn’t the only place where government does strange things.

I’ve written many times about the lavish pay and gold-plated benefits of bureaucrats, but cops in Hawaii may have set a new record for fringe benefits. Or maybe this is a new version of friends with fringe benefits, to coin a phrase.

Here are the fun (and PG-13-rated) details in Jacob Sullum’s article in Reason.

Hawaii’s prostitution law includes an exemption for “any member of a police department, a sheriff, or a law enforcement officer acting in the course and scope of duties.” …That’s right: Cops insisted that they must be free not just to receive blowjobs and handjobs from prostitutes but also to engage in vaginal and anal intercourse with them. Evidently the police also need permission to engage in “flagellation or torture by or upon a person as an act of sexual stimulation or gratification” (Hawaii’s definition of “sadomasochistic abuse”). Just in case. Since an entire chamber of the state legislature agreed to this request, the cops must have had a pretty persuasive argument.

Hmmm…makes me wonder if the legislators also added an exemption for themselves. Based on the state’s tax rates, we already know they screw taxpayers for money, so it’s not much of a leap to suspect they’re doing the same thing on a one-on-one basis.

Though, as shown in this cartoon, they’re not used to spending their own money.

All kidding aside, Jacob makes the very sensible point that the real problem is that politicians have enacted laws against a victimless crime.

…the double standard demanded by police highlights the utter absurdity of prostitution laws. Police do not commit murder to catch killers or knock over banks to catch robbers. Yet here they are insisting that they need the leeway to have sex with prostitutes in order to stop people from having sex with prostitutes. Even if cops never take advantage of that freedom, they routinely commit the crime of agreeing to pay for sex, except that in their case it is not treated as a crime. That exemption is considered acceptable only because exchanging money for sex, unlike murder and robbery, does not violate anyone’s rights. But if so, why not broaden the exemption to cover everyone?

I agree. I find the whole business of prostitution very distasteful, just as I feel nothing but disdain for illegal drugs. But prohibition just makes matters worse.

P.S. Since this post looks at both parking meters and prostitution, you’ll be amused by the way the Germans combined those two topics.

P.P.S. I periodically share polling data that strikes me as significant. Most recently, for instance, I noted that crazy left wingers openly admitted they want higher tax rates even if the government doesn’t raise any revenue. That was a depressing result, but I was encouraged to see that a vast majority of Americans view big government as a threat to the nation’s future.

Here are a couple of new polls that caught my attention.

1. I’m rather worried that a new Rasmussen poll found that “for the first time, fewer than half of voters believe tax cuts help the economy.” For what it’s worth, I suspect this is because politicians often gravitate to “tax cuts” that fail to reduce the burden on productive activity. Instead, they make the code more complex by expanding credits, deductions, exemptions, preferences, and exclusions.

If they started pushing for lower marginal tax rates or fundamental tax reform, the polling numbers would probably be better.

2. Let’s now cross the ocean and look at some remarkable Gallup data on the role of government in thwarting small businesses.

Gallup Europe Entrepreneurship

I already knew Greece had stunningly absurd barriers to entrepreneurship (click here for an unbelievable example), so one can only imagine the types of nonsense imposed by Italy’s feckless government.

3. Let’s close with some very good news. It seems that young people are beginning to realize that Ronald Reagan was right (see second video) when he said government is the problem rather than the solution.

Check out this excerpt from a report by National Journal.

Millennials who may have voted with youthful exuberance in 2008 seem to have grown fatigued with the government’s inability to get things done. In 2009, 42 percent of millennials said government programs are usually inefficient and wasteful, according to Pew data. By 2012, that number had increased to 51 percent. And young people say they’re losing trust in the government to Do the Right Thing. In 2009, 44 percent of millennials said they trust the government to do what’s right all or most of the time. By 2013, that dropped to 29 percent.

Makes me think maybe these youngsters finally figured out that programs like Social Security are empty Ponzi schemes.

By the way, here are the best poll numbers I’ve ever seen.

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Why do statists support higher tax rates?

The most obvious answer is greed. In other words, leftists want more tax money since they personally benefit when there’s a larger burden of government spending. And the greed can take many forms.

They may want bigger government because they’re welfare recipients getting handouts.

They may want bigger government because they are overpaid bureaucrats administering ever-growing programs.

They may want bigger government because they’re lobbyists manipulating the system and it’s good to have more loot circulating.

They may want bigger government because they’re one of the many interest groups feeding at the federal trough.

Or they may want bigger government because they are politicians seeking to buy votes.

But greed isn’t the only answer.

Some statists want higher tax rates for reasons of spite and envy.

Consider this poll from the United Kingdom. It shows that an overwhelming majority of Labour voters want higher tax rates even if the government doesn’t collect any money.

Class Warfare UK Tax Poll

These numbers are remarkable.  It’s not just that the Labour Party is filled with people who want to punish success, I’m also dismayed to see that 16 percent of Tory voters and 35 percent of UKIP voters also want class-warfare tax hikes solely as an instrument of envy (though, given the mentality of some of their leaders, I’m pleasantly surprised that “only” 29 percent of Lib Dems are motivated by spite).

What about Americans? Do they have the same mentality?

We don’t have identical polling data, so it’s hard to say. But it would be very interesting to show leftists the IRS data from the 1980s, which unambiguously demonstrates that rich people paid more tax after Reagan dramatically lowered the top rate, and then see how they would answer the same question.

If they’re motivated by greed, they would favor Reagan’s tax cuts. But if they’re motivated by envy, like leftists in the United Kingdom, they’ll be against Reagan’s lower tax rates.

Unfortunately, there’s at least one prominent statist in America who has the same views as England’s Labour Party voters. Pay close attention at the 4:20 mark of this video.

Yes, you heard correctly. President Obama wants higher tax rates and class-warfare tax policy even if the government doesn’t collect any additional money.

Which means, of course, that he’s willing to undermine American competitiveness and reduce economic output solely to penalize entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners, and other “rich” taxpayers.

Remarkable.

P.S. By the way, the poll of UK voters wasn’t merely a theoretical question. UK Laffer Curve Class WarfareThe previous Labour Party government raised the top tax rate from 40 percent to 50 percent near the end of last decade and there’s very strong evidence that this tax hike failed to raise any revenue. In all likelihood, the then-Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, imposed the class-warfare policy in hopes of gaining votes in the upcoming election.

P.P.S. Notwithstanding their many flaws, at least the folks who work for left-leaning international bureaucracies acknowledge the Laffer Curve and generally argue against pushing tax rates above the revenue-maximizing level.

Since it takes a lot to be to the left of the United Nations, that gives you an idea of where Obama (and UK Labour Party voters) are on the ideological spectrum. Which is why I made the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Birthers accuse Obama of being born in Denmark rather than Kenya.

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After nearly five years in office, what’s President Obama’s most significant accomplishment?

This is a serious question, so no jokes about the Nobel Prize he received for not being Bush. And no partisan GOP answers about the 2010 election, either.

Put yourself in the position of a future historian and think about what you would put in a book to describe Obama’s biggest accomplishment.

I don’t think anyone, regardless of ideology, would pick the so-called stimulus. Advocates of small government say it was a waste of money based on deeply flawed Keynesian theory.

Proponents of big government, by contrast, also aren’t big fans of the stimulus, though they’re dissatisfied because they think Obama should have wasted even more money.

Another potential answer is Obamacare. Libertarians and conservatives, needless to say, would say it was a significant accomplishment in the same sense that the Titanic had a significant maiden voyage.

Leftists, by contrast, obviously can’t be pleased by the way Obamacare is imploding  in the short run, but they nonetheless may think that it will be worth it in the medium run because more people will be dependent on government (though they may regret their choice in the long run).

Killing Osama bin Laden is probably a good answer, but if terrorism and conflict with the Islamic world are still big issues in the future, then I suspect the achievements of Seal Team Six won’t be seen as making that much of a difference.

For what it’s worth, I think the change in public opinion may be the President’s most long-lasting and significant accomplishment. Take a look at these remarkable results just published by Gallup. A record share of the population now say that big government is the biggest threat to the nation’s future.

Gallup Big Government Polling Data

Wow. I’m tempted to say that this is strong evidence of the effectiveness of the Cato Institute (and there is independent data to support that position), but I feel compelled to admit that Obama also deserves a good bit of the credit.

Even more amazing, President Obama has done something that is probably beyond even the ability of Cato. He’s convinced partisan Democrats that big government is a serious threat. Look at how the numbers have dramatically changed since 2008.

Gallup Big Govt Democrat Polling Data

What’s particularly amazing about the shift among Democrats isn’t that 56 percent now view big government as the major threat today, compared to 32 percent about five years ago. What’s shocking is that this change happened with a Democrat in the White House.

This is newsworthy because partisan Republicans and Democrats have a tendency to say things are good or bad depending on whether “their team” is in charge.

While these numbers are remarkable, I suppose it’s too early to say the growing concern about big government is the most significant accomplishment of the Obama presidency.

That being said, anxiety about big government may lead to big political changes in 2014 and 2016, and those political changes may then lead to big policy changes such as entitlement reform and tax reform.

And if that happens, then the shift in public opinion during the Obama years may turn out to be profoundly important. In other words, Obama may turn out to be another Herbert Hoover – a politician whose statist policies set the stage for dramatic changes in public policy.

And if that happens, Obama truly will deserve to be named “libertarian of the year.”

P.S. While big government is the biggest threat to the country’s future, big business and big labor can be very dangerous to liberty when they get in bed with big government.

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I was very pleased to report the other day that the people of France overwhelmingly favor spending cuts, even when they were asked a biased question that presupposed that Keynesian-style spending increases would “stimulate” the economy.

Now I have some polling data about British voters, though I confess I’m not sure whether to be pleased or worried.

You’ll see below two slides that were presented earlier today at the Bucharest stop on the Free Market Road Show. They’re not from my presentation, but rather from the speech by Matthew Sinclair of the UK-based Taxpayers Alliance.

As you can see from this first slide, the good news is that only 12 percent of British people think government taxes and spends too little.

Sinclair 1

On the other hand, it’s a bit worrisome that nearly 1-in-5 Brits believe in UFOs.

What a bunch of idiots.

Then again, nearly 1-in-3 Americans believe that higher taxes would be used for deficit reduction instead of more spending, and that’s an even more preposterous conclusion.

So I shouldn’t make fun of our English cousins.

Here’s some more good-news/bad-news polling data.

The good news is that only 12 percent of Brits think that the government can pay promised benefits (and I bet that number would fall even lower if they saw this shocking data on the U.K.’s long-run fiscal outlook).

Sinclair 2

The bad news is that 13 percent of Brits think the moon landings were faked.

But since 17 percent of Americans actually admit to having positive feelings about the federal government, I’m reluctant to throw stones since my country is a glass house.

Let me close on a positive note. I’ve expressed considerable pessimism about the future of the United Kingdom, and I think the current leadership of the supposed Conservative Party is terrible.

But maybe there’s reason to hope. It wasn’t that long ago that I shared a very encouraging story from England about civil disobedience against a revenue-hungry government.

And now we know from Matthew’s data that the British people have appropriately jaundiced views of their government.

So perhaps if they ever find another Margaret Thatcher, there’s a 5-percent chance that they can pull themselves back from the fiscal abyss.

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I like the think I’m a reasonably savvy observer of public opinion and international economics, but every so often I’m stunned by some bit of data.

Several years ago, for instance, I was very surprised to see that more than half of the French people would consider moving to the United States if they had the opportunity.

Well, the French have shocked me again. According to new polling data from Pew, the people of France support spending cuts over spending increases by a margin of 81-18, an astounding result.

Pew European Spending Cuts

I’m also surprised that the Spaniards and Italians support spending cuts. The polling results are especially impressive considering that Pew asked the question in a very biased way, presupposing that Keynesian economics actually works.

The fact that so many European saw through this inaccurate wording is very encouraging.

By the way, I can’t resist sharing this part of the Pew survey. It shows that the people of all eight nations think they’re the most compassionate.

Pew European Stereotypes

On a humorous note, the folks from every nation chose the Germans as the most trustworthy – except the Greeks, who chose themselves.

With my twisted sense of humor, this reminds me of the funny (but un-PC) maps showing how the Greeks (and folks other nations) view the rest of Europe.

And since we’re being politically incorrect, here’s some English humor about terror alerts in other nations.

P.S. It turns out the French people also supported spending cuts by a very strong margin in a 2010 poll. So there’s something nice about the country other than attractive women. But given those poll numbers, why the heck do they elect big-government statists such as Sarkozy and Hollande?!?

P.P.S. Since I’m a proud America, I can’t resist linking to this poll which shows people in the United States favoring spending cuts by a margin of more than 8-1. So why do we elect big-government statists such as Bush and Obama?!?

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It’s a challenge to be a libertarian in Washington because you have to swim against the tide.

The vast majority of people in town are looking for excuses to spend money and amass power, and a small band of us are trying to convince them that the federal government should be limited in size and scope.

It may seem like a hopeless task.

*Libertarians argue against big expensive entitlement programs like Medicaid, explaining that it’s not a proper function of the federal government.

*Libertarians argue against stupid little publicity stunts like steroid hearings, explaining that it’s not a proper function of the federal government.

*Libertarians argue against emotional gestures such as disaster relief, explaining that it’s not a proper function of the federal government.

*Libertarians argue against the entire Department of Transportation, explaining that it’s not a proper function of the federal government.

I could provide more examples, but you get the idea. It seems as if libertarians are stuck with a Sisyphean task, urging “no” in a town filled with people who want to say “yes.”

But I don’t think our work is hopeless. I’ve already shared many reasons to be hopeful, and we now have some new polling data that should make us more optimistic. According to the folks at Pew, Americans have very low opinions of the federal government.

Here are the key details from a Washington Post story about the poll.

…28 percent of the public views the federal government favorably, down five points from a year ago and also the lowest percentage ever in a Pew survey on the topic. The lowly rating for Washington compares to 63 percent of people holding a favorable opinion of their local governments and 57 percent expressing a favorable view of their state governments. Even among Democrats, who tend to show more support for government, the numbers have dipped on the federal side. Fewer than half of Democrats– 41 percent– said they hold a favorable opinion of the federal government, representing a 10-point drop from the previous year.

These numbers should be very good news for anyone who wants to push a “federalism” agenda. And Gallup also has found considerable – and growing – hostility to the federal government.

In other words, the American people are on our side. Or, to be more precise, they broadly realize that Washington has too much power and money.

Our job is to translate that sentiment into public policy.

By the way, Switzerland has the strongest system of federalism, and it is doing very well by world standards. Canada also has a decentralized system that has produced some very good policy in recent years.

P.S. For those who care about the Constitution, it’s worth noting that America’s Founding fathers explicitly limited the powers of the central government.

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Early in the year, I shared a powerful video about the right to keep and bear arms. It featured the Sheriff of Milwaukee County in Wisconsin, who made a public service announcement advising citizens that gun ownership was important for self defense.

That’s such a common-sense point that it presumably shouldn’t have merited any comment, but it was newsworthy because the establishment press frequently tries to promote the narrative that law enforcement officials are opposed to the Second Amendment.

But in virtually every instance, the “officials” are big-city police bosses who are parroting the views of the political masters who appointed them to their positions.

So what do regular cops think about gun control?

I’ve always assumed they favored the right to keep and bear arms. Simply stated, cops have a practical understanding that there are bad people in the world. Moreover, they know it’s impossible for them to be everywhere at once, so armed citizens are the first line of defense.

And the cops that I know are strong defenders of private gun ownership, but I haven’t wanted to extrapolate from that anecdotal evidence.

So I’m not surprised that police officers are against gun control, but I had no idea that cops were so overwhelmingly solid on the Second Amendment until I saw the polling data from this survey of 15,000 law enforcement officials.

Here are two of the most startling findings, beginning with a question on whether magazine limits will be effective in reducing crime. An astounding 95.7 percent of respondents say no.

Gun Survey 2

Makes you wonder whether Andrew Cuomo and other sleazy politicians understand that they’re pushing policies that will have no positive impact? Or whether they even care?

Perhaps all lawmakers should be required to read Larry Correia’s article on the real-world impact of such policies.

But what about “assault weapons”?

Well, 91.5 percent of cops said a ban on these semi-automatic weapons would either be useless or the policy would have a negative impact on fighting crime.

Gun Survey 1

Indeed, almost three times as many cops said the effect would be negative compared to those who thought a ban on these guns would have a moderate or significant positive effect!

In other words, cops understand instinctively and through practical experience what scholars such as John Lott have discovered through research.

Interestingly, it appears cops are even better on the Second Amendment than ordinary Americans. According to this polling data I shared back in January, “only” 58 percent of Americans understood that more guns would reduce crime.

But I’m still proud of these ordinary Americans. An overwhelming 65 percent of them said they would disobey laws designed to confiscate their guns.

P.S. While I’m very glad that police officers support the Second Amendment, there are some cops who deserve scorn because of what they do to me and what they do to innocent 10-year old kids.

P.P.S. If you enjoy anti-gun control humor, here are lots of amusing images and funny videos.

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I periodically share public opinion data, either because I’m encouraged by the results or because I think that the research helps show how to frame issues.

Examples include polling data on personal retirement accounts, the dangers of big government, support for spending caps, and viability of class warfare tax policy.

But I’ve been very narrowly focused. Just about all the polls I’ve shared have been about some aspect of fiscal policy.

So I was very interested to see a new poll about issues related to the Second Amendment, and I was particularly gratified to see that an overwhelming majority of gun owners would not surrender their constitutional rights if the jackals in Washington approved a gun ban.

Second Amendment Poll Defy Govt

For more information, here’s part of a Washington Times report on the new polling data.

Question 46 in the wide-ranging survey of more than 1,000 registered voters asks if there is a gun in the household. Overall, 52 percent of the respondents said yes, someone in their home owned a gun. That number included 65 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of conservatives, 38 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of liberals. But on to Question 47, addressed to those with a gun in their home: “If the government passed a law to take your guns, would you give up your guns or defy the law and keep your guns?” The response: 65 percent reported they would “defy the law.” That includes 70 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of conservatives, 52 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of liberals.

These results don’t tell us why people would defy the government, but the poll I conducted suggests that a plurality of Americans support the Second Amendment because they want the ability to resist tyranny.

I’m also happy to see that most Americans understand that gun bans are a very ineffective way of fighting crime. Heck, they realize that we need more guns in the hands of law-abiding people.

Second Amendment Poll Reduce Crime

In other words, ordinary Americans have a lot more common sense than the buffoons in the media. They know that you get less crime when you increase the expected cost of criminal behavior.

P.S. If you want to enjoy some good gun control cartoons, click here, here, and here.

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I periodically share polling data, in part because such information tells us what people think, but also because this type of research warns us where we need to focus our educational efforts and also gives us guidance on better ways to frame our message.

In recent months, for instance, I’ve gleefully noted that voters disagree with Paul Krugman on the economic impact of government spending.

But I also was shocked to see another poll that found French and Italians were more supportive of spending cuts than Americans.

Here’s some new polling data that seems very encouraging. Americans, by an overwhelming margin, think that Washington is causing serious harm to the nation.

Gallup Poll - Washington serious harm

But it’s important to look at this data dispassionately.

Maybe people merely object to gridlock, meaning that it would be a mistake to interpret these results as being a reflection of widespread libertarian sentiment.

So it’s important that advocates of freedom build upon these polling results to educate people about the risks of giving more money and power to a dysfunctional town.

The good news is that we do see significant skepticism about policies to expand the size and scope of the federal government.

I recently shared some data showing that most Americans wisely suspect that higher taxes would result in bigger government rather than less red ink.

I also found similar results in a Reason poll from 2011.

Reason Poll - spend new tax revenue

That same poll also found strong support for a limit on federal spending, which warms my heart since I’ve been trying to build support for a Swiss-style spending cap in America.

Reason Poll - spending cap

Here are some other encouraging pieces of polling data.

But let me close by stating that our goal is to preserve the freedom we have and restore the liberties that we have lost.

Public opinion data is useful in that it tells us how people think and suggests ways to frame our message.

But it should never cause us to change our principles.

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President Obama and other statists in Washington want a big class-warfare tax hike. They claim the additional revenue is necessary to reduce red ink.

But their ideological crusade is based on some blatant distortions.

In other words, the Obama tax hike will make government bigger, even if some naively support the tax hike because they want smaller deficits.

That being said, I’m not overly optimistic that Obama’s divisive proposal can be stopped, largely because I don’t think Republicans will take my advice on how to win this fight.

But at least the American people have an appropriately jaundiced view about what will happen if Obama does prevail.

Here are the results of a recent poll showing that a strong majority understand that more revenue will lead to an expansion in the burden of government spending.

Though I suppose these numbers don’t necessarily show that people are against higher taxes. Perhaps some of the 57 percent want higher taxes because they want more government.

After all, that’s the most logical interpretation of the election results in California, where voters approved a referendum to rape and pillage upper-income taxpayers.

But I suspect – and definitely hope – that most of the 57 percent understand that making America more like Europe is not a desirable outcome.

By the way, I shared some polling data last week showing that CPAs think that changes in tax rates lead to substantial Laffer Curve effects.

They were also asked their opinion on whether higher taxes will be used for deficit reduction.

As you can see, they were even more skeptical than the general public, with more than 60 percent definitely thinking that more revenue in Washington will lead to more spending.

To be sure, there’s no particular reason to think that CPAs have any special insight on this issue. On the Laffer Curve question, by contrast, they presumably do have insider knowledge of how taxpayers respond when tax policy changes.

But I’m digressing. The point of this post is to explain that higher taxes will lead to bigger government.

And if you don’t believe me, then why did the New York Times unintentionally admit that the only budget deal that actually resulted in a budget surplus was the one that cut taxes instead of raising them?

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I’ve repeatedly expressed my concerns that Romney would be another Bush, expanding the burden of government spending and failing to engage in desperately needed entitlement reform.

I’ve even shared some R-rated anti-Romney humor, so folks know I’m not a knee-jerk Republican.

But I have to confess that this new global poll is the most persuasive pro-Romney information that I’ve seen. Simply stated, if the nation that elected an idiot like Hollande overwhelmingly supports Obama, then maybe the alternative is acceptable.

On the other hand, I’m mystified why the Aussies are so in the tank for Obama. I thought they were rather sensible, based on their good economic reforms.

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When I first saw this polling data, I thought we had some great news. After all, it shows that Americans – by a margin of more than 4-to-1 – want to reduce the burden of government spending.

This comports with data from previous polls, including the recent survey showing nearly three-fourths of Americans don’t think Obama’s spending helped the economy, the 2011 poll showing Americans overwhelmingly view big government as the greatest threat to the nation, the strong support for spending cuts in a survey earlier that year, and the 2010 poll revealing that Americans saw excessive spending as the real fiscal challenge facing the country, not deficits.

But then I noticed that Americans in this new survey are to the left of both the French and the Italians. That’s embarrassing. Sort of like losing a foot race to 500-lb elderly lady with one leg.

This isn’t the first time that Americans have lagged some of their European counterparts.  Back in 2010, I reported on a survey showing people in the U.S. were to the left of both the Germans and the French.

How shameful. Now the old lady is blind as well, but still beating us.

But let’s conclude by looking at the glass as being half full. At least the American people are to the right of Obama. His most recent budget proposed to increase the federal budget by $2 trillion over the next 10 years.

Only 14 percent of the population is crazy enough to think that’s a good idea.

P.S. The United Kingdom is the only country where more people want to increase spending rather than cut spending. Not a good sign for that nation’s future. Seems I was quite prescient back in August.

P.P.S. As you can see from this post, if we simply freeze spending (i.e., keep the current level of spending), the budget is balanced in about six years.

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As shown in the video series on the economics of government spending, I’m not a big fan of the welfare state, which is big government in the long run.

I’m also not a fan of bigger government in the short run, which is what we get from Keynesian economics and so-called stimulus.

But truth doesn’t matter in Washington if voters don’t agree with your position. Actually, truth may not matter even if voters are on your side. But there’s at least a chance to prevail against the prevailing culture of statism when voters support your position.

So let’s enjoy these details about some encouraging new polling data.

Three quarters (74%) of voters do not believe federal government spending has helped the economy, and 86% do not believe government spending has helped their own personal financial situation.  This pessimism over the impact of government spending is consistent throughout many key demographic groups that are frequently mentioned as “target” voters in the upcoming Presidential election. Nearly three quarters of both men (75%) and women (72%) do not believe government spending has helped the economy, along with eight in ten (80%) seniors.  A majority (54%) of seniors say spending has “hurt” the economy.  Also, a majority of Independents (55%) and married women (59%) believe government spending has hurt the economy.  Three quarters (76%) of middle class families do not believe spending has helped the economy, with 58% believing government spending has actually hurt the economy.

For those who want to take comfort in some additional good public opinion data, here are some additional numbers from previous polls.

These good numbers are why I think it’s actually possible to implement entitlement reform. People see what’s happening in Europe and don’t want America to suffer a similar fate.

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I’ve written posts revealing horror stories of government abuse and argued that people should become libertarian.

I’ve commented on research ostensibly showing that conservatives and libertarians don’t necessarily share moral premises.

And I’ve even speculated on whether libertarianism and patriotism are somehow inconsistent (this Penn & Teller video gives the right answer).

But I’ve never done a poll to gauge libertarian sentiment, so let’s do an experiment. Here’s an excerpt from a BBC report.

A farmer in the US state of Vermont who was facing a minor drugs charge is now in more serious trouble after driving a tractor over seven police cars. Roger Pion crushed the county sheriff’s cruisers on Thursday before making his getaway on the farm vehicle. The 34-year-old was stopped by police in Newport city, northern Vermont, not far from the crime scene. Sheriff’s deputies were unaware of the destruction in their department car park until a resident called 911. Orleans County Sheriff Kirk Martin said they were initially unable to give chase as their cars had been wrecked.

Now share your anonymous reaction.

If you’re so disposed, feel free to augment your vote in the comments section.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I’m torn between the third and fourth options.

When I think about it logically and dispassionately, I know I should pick the third choice. But my rebellious inner child wants to cheer for somebody who fights back, so I’m tempted to take the last option. That same inner child, by the way, was quite amused that the cops couldn’t even give chase because their cars were totaled.

Maybe this makes me a libertarian chicken hawk. I cheer for people who fight back even though I wouldn’t do the same thing.

Sort of like my attitude toward tax evasion. I applaud people who take that risk (assuming they live in nations with unjust governments), but am too cowed by the IRS to do it myself.

But I’m not a complete coward. I almost got thrown in a Mexican jail for opposing the tax-hungry bureaucrats at the OECD. That has to count for something.

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