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Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

Two years ago, I shared a map looking at how heavily wine was taxed in different states.

What is showed was that you shouldn’t sip your Chardonnay or guzzle your Merlot in Kentucky. Unless, of course, you wanted to give politicians a lot more money to spend (or you slip across the border like Michael J. Rodrigues when buying booze).

Now the good people at the Tax Foundation have a related map. It shows which states have the highest and lowest taxes on beer.

Kentucky is still a high-tax state, but the “winner” of the beer tax contest is Tennessee.

At the risk of drawing too many conclusions, it does appear that southeastern states generally have high taxes on booze. Along with Alaska.

Maybe that’s a “Bible Belt” phenomenon. Though I’m somewhat forgiving of Tennessee for high excise taxes since the Volunteer State at least avoids the huge mistake of imposing an income tax on the wages and salaries of residents. No wonder it’s been growing faster than neighboring states.

Returning to the main topic, the Tax Foundation explains, taxes amount to a big share of the final price.

The Beer Institute points out that “taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in beer, costing more than labor and raw materials combined.” They cite an economic analysis that found “if all the taxes levied on the production, distribution, and retailing of beer are added up, they amount to more than 40% of the retail price.”

P.S. Since we’re looking at states, I can’t resist sharing bad news from one state and good news from another state.

We’ll start with some grim news from Minnesota. I’ve already commented on the insanity of using the State Department’s refugee program to subsidize terrorists.

Well, the Daily Caller reports that terrorists also have learned to bilk other programs to finance that hate of the modern world.

Two Somali-American men living in Minnesota are facing fraud charges — in addition to terrorism charges — after they allegedly used federal student loan money to purchase airline tickets to get them to Syria in order to join ISIS. …

This doesn’t quite entitle them to join the Moocher Hall of Fame, but it should outrage taxpayers anyhow.

Our good news come  from California.

J.D. Tuccille of Reason speculates that gun control has basically become impossible in the Golden State because there are simply too many guns.

California is a state where officials pride themselves on tightening the screws on gun owners. …But it’s a losing battle. Even in a political environment where villainizing guns and gun owners is a winning tactic, the ranks of the same are beyond officials’ grasp, and growing. Last year, almost one million firearms were sold in the state…it’s a good bet that California’s gun owners, and their guns, are here to stay.

Here’s a chart he including showing gun sales.

And J.D. reminds us that these are just the legal sales. As illustrated by the amusing t-shirt at the bottom of this post, there are doubtlessly lots of undocumented weapons in the state.

The bottom line is that future gun control efforts in California will probably run into the same problems that have thwarted the schemes of despicable politicians in Connecticut. Three cheers for the Americans who disobey bad law!

And since it’s Memorial Day weekend, it’s a good time to be thankful the all the folks in the military who fought to preserve our freedoms. Including the freedom to engage in civil disobedience when politicians try to trample our rights.

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Bad ideas definitely have the ability to cross borders.

The income tax first appeared in England, on a temporary basis during the Napoleanic wars and then permanently in 1842. It then spread like a cancer to other parts of the world, eventually reaching – and plaguing – the United States starting in 1913.

Government-run Social Security schemes were started by the Germans in 1889 under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Similar programs then were adopted elsewhere, including the United States as part of FDR’s misguided New Deal in 1935.

Now we have another example.

I wrote last month about how the State Department’s refugee program is a trainwreck because it is bringing Somalis (many of whom have an anti-Western ideology) to America and trapping them in government dependency with a plethora of handouts (and also creating a breeding ground for terrorists).

Well, our cousins in the United Kingdom also have a refugee program that is similarly counterproductive.

I don’t know which country was dumb enough to first create its program, but the Brits win the prize for subsidizing the most infamous terrorist (and new member of the Moocher Hall of Fame).

Here are some excerpts from a story in the U.K.-based Daily Mail.

Jihadi John and his asylum-seeking family have milked the British benefits system for 20 years, the Mail can reveal today. Housing the Islamic State executioner and his relatives in affluent parts of London has cost taxpayers up to £400,000. One landlord said Mohammed Emwazi’s family were ‘parasites’ and ‘tenants from hell’. Incredibly, they are still believed to be pocketing £40,000 a year in handouts despite there being no sign of them in Britain. …Westminster City Council is still paying the rent on the family’s £600,000 flat even though the rules say housing benefit should normally be stopped after 13 weeks.

So did all these handouts to the Emwazi family turn them into good citizens?

Hardly. One of the kids, Mohammed Emwazi has gone to the Middle East to fight for ISIS and is now infamous at “Jihadi John,” the psychopath that beheads innocent people.

MPs said they were horrified that the child of a family given refugee status, citizenship and benefits had returned the favour by orchestrating the murder of two of its citizens. …In sickening propaganda videos, his son led the beheadings of Britons Alan Henning and David Haines.

But even if Jihadi John hadn’t turned into a nutjob, British taxpayers still got a very bad deal from the Emwazi clan.

The family apparently is still on the dole, continuing an unbroken 20-year tradition of mooching off British taxpayers.

During their time in Britain, neither Jasem nor Ghaneya officially worked. …With a 12-year-old daughter, Hana, they are still believed to be claiming an estimated £7,821 a year in child benefits and child tax credits. That is on top of annual claims of about £23,400 in housing benefit, £678 in council tax support and £5,929 in jobseeker’s allowance.

Looking at this result, logical people might be tempted conclude that it’s time to rethink refugee programs.

Or, at the very least, change the rules that funnel these people into government dependency.

But since many politicians aren’t logical, there are probably British versions of Barack Obama who are urging job training programs or similar nonsense (for a humorous take on that topic, see the cartoons at the bottom of this post).

P.S. Jihadi John featured in one of the most effectively snarky anti-Obama cartoons I’ve ever seen, which is at the end of this post.

P.P.S. Switching to a different topic, I’ve written (some would say ad nauseam) about disproportionately generous pay and benefits for government bureaucrats. Particularly for the gilded class in Washington.

I think the evidence for excessive bureaucratic compensation is ironclad, particularly if you look at “quit rates” by sector.

But now we have yet another piece of evidence that the federal workforce is living on Easy Street. Check out this new polling data from Gallup.

Remember, this is polling data with federal workers describing their own status, not what taxpayers think.

So let’s give 44 percent of bureaucrats credit for honesty, which is ironic because bureaucrats in polls have acknowledged they’re more likely to be dishonest! And lazy as well.

Though the real moral of the story is not compensation. As I explain at the end of this video, the real problem is that many government jobs shouldn’t exist in the first place.

P.P.P.S. If you want to enjoy bureaucrat humor, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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While immigration is a very contentious issue for the politicians in Washington, there’s actually some level of agreement among people in the real world.

Almost everybody agrees that it would be foolish and short-sighted not to allow some immigration, particularly from young, educated people with valuable skills.

Similarly, there is widespread agreement that you can’t have completely open borders, particularly for those who are unlikely to be net contributors to the economy.

So the real debate (and this is where there is a lot of room for disagreement) is who gets to come to America and under what conditions.

I don’t raise this issue because I have any wise words – much less proposed solutions – on the overall issue of immigration.

Instead, let’s look at the profoundly perverse way that the federal government is using the refugee program to expand the problem of dependency.

Here are some excerpts from a disturbing story in the Washington Times.

The State Department has helped to relocate tens of thousands of refugees from the war-torn African nation of Somalia to Minnesota, where they can take advantage of some of America’s most generous welfare and charity programs. …Most of Minnesota’s Somali population started off as legal refugees through a program administered by the U.S. State Department through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Minnesota was selected among the nation’s states for relocation primarily because of its robust entitlement offerings.

Gee, isn’t that wonderful. We’re bringing people into the country and settling them where they can get the largest amount of handouts.

And apparently that’s Minnesota, the France of America.

“Minnesota is exceptional in many ways but it’s the closest thing in the United States to a true social democratic state,” said Ahmed Samatar, a professor of international studies at Macalester College, in St. Paul. “That translates into the way Somali refugees have been received here they’ve been given a secure environment, housing, education, health care, perhaps even some minimum income to sustain them until they can stand on their own feet. That’s all provided by Minnesota,” said Mr. Samatar, who has tracked the State Department’s refugee program. Outside Alaska, Minnesota spends more per low-income person on public welfare than any other state in the U.S., according to a report by the Center for the American Experiment, a think tank located in Minneapolis. The report found Minnesota outspent its average peer state in welfare subsidies by nearly $4,000.

Oh, just in case you’re thinking that maybe the situation isn’t so bad because at least private charities are involved, it turns out that those organizations are simply contractors for the government.

…the…charitable organizations operating within the state with which the State Department contracts …In addition to its generous welfare subsidies, Minnesota also has a number of charitable organizations that contract with the State Department like Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, and World Relief Minnesota.

In other words, taxpayers are getting hit twice, once for official welfare payments and once for coerced “charity” laundered through groups jostling for space at the public trough.

At this point, you may be wondering whether all this spending is having a desirable effect?

As taxpayers, are we getting value for our money?

Yes, but only if you define dependency and unemployment as valuable.

Even though Minnesota has a good job market, that doesn’t seem to have translated into jobs for the Somali refugees. Minnesota’s state demographer’s office reports that only 41 percent of Somali men are working and 54 percent of Somali women are employed, meaning many may rely on the state’s handouts to survive, and are more susceptible to extremists pull. “It seems safe to assume that if they’re not working, then they’re likely receiving public welfare benefits,” said Peter Nelson, director of public policy at the Center of the American Experiment.

Amazingly, the left-wing governor of the state has doubled down on failure, expanding handouts.

Gov. Mark Dayton has expanded the state’s entitlement programs, although he remains mum on the state’s expense at doing so.

Though, to be fair, maybe he doesn’t care because Uncle Sam is the sugar daddy, picking up a big part of the tab.

“The state of Minnesota receives funding through the federal Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement to promote the successful resettlement and integration of refugees in Minnesota,” said a spokeswoman at the state’s Department of Human Services. …Minnesotans have also welcomed them onto their entitlement rolls, with the state’s cash assistance and food stamp programs, skyrocketing in recent years. The number of Somali adults and children who participated in the Minnesota’s family cash assistance program jumped 34 percent from 2008 to 2013, according to the state’s statistics. Likewise, Minnesota’s food assistance participation increased 98 percent, to 17,300 adults and children, which does not include U.S.-born Somalis, in the same timeframe.

At this point, you’re probably very upset. At least if you’re a taxpayer.

After all, haven’t we learned from painful experience that redistribution subsidizes poverty?

But I’ve saved the “best” for last.

…the effort is having the unintended consequence of creating an enclave of immigrants with high unemployment that is both stressing the state’s safety net and creating a rich pool of potential recruiting targets for Islamist terror groups. This population is…being targeted by Islamist terror organizations like the Islamic State and al-Shabab, a Somalia-based group with links to al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials. Among Minnesota-based Somali-Americans, American converts to Islam or Somali refugees, there have been numerous convictions for various levels of collaboration with Islamist terror groups, plus reports of fighting with al-Shabab or other Islamist groups.

Yup, tax dollars for terrorists.

It seems that these bums want a little excitement in their lives.

So they’re joining al-Shabab.

Since 2008, as many as 40 men from Minneapolis have joined Islamist groups after being pulled in by jihadists through social media, federal officials say. Last year, an American youth named Douglas McAuthur McCain died in Syria fighting for the Islamic State. Mr. McCain was recruited in Minnesota, where he lived. In 2009, another Minnesota youth, Troy Kastigar posted a recruiting video for al-Shabab before he was killed fighting for the terrorist group in Somalia. Kastigar and McCain are thought to have been friends. That same year a Somali man who left Minneapolis joined al-Shabab and blew himself up in a suicide bombing at an Ethiopian consulate in Somalia, killing 24 people.

Just like the Tsarnaev brothers. Just like the deadbeat scrounger from Australia, the nutjob moocher from the United Kingdom, and the wacko sponge in France.

So now let’s circle back to our main question. Why is the federal government bringing people into the country, luring them into dependency, and subsidizing terrorism?

Leftists sometimes like to tell us that “Government is simply the name for the things we do together.”

Well, “we” do some really stupid stuff when we act “together” through government.

Instead of a misguided refugee program that steers dodgy people into dependency, why not – with a condition of no handouts or dependency – open the door to Chinese engineers? Romanian software experts? Or Indian scientists? How about Nigerian businessmen? Maybe French doctors?

But I guess people who would assimilate and contribute to our economy aren’t as attractive as welfare recipients who despise our culture.

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Over and over again, I’ve shared evidence showing that gun ownership deters crime.

As I pointed out in my IQ test for criminals and liberals, even stupid criminals don’t want to get shot, so they are less likely to go after victims who may be armed (if you don’t believe me, check out this feel-good story from Ferguson, Missouri).

But what if the bad guys don’t care if they get shot? What if they’re these crazies who want to shoot up schools or movie theaters, fully expecting to kill themselves or get shot when police eventually arrive?

Even in that case, gun ownership by innocent people presumably has a positive impact. Research on mass shootings reveals that these nut jobs gravitate to “gun-free zones.” That way, they figure there won’t be any immediate resistance and they’ll be able to maximize casualties.

Let’s take our analysis to the next level. What if the bad guys are lunatic Islamofascists who think they get a bunch of virgins in paradise if they butcher so-called infidels?

These evil scum presumably aren’t deterred by the possibility of death, but it’s also logical to assume that they want to maximize the carnage they inflict before that happens.

So if potential victims are armed, that presumably will have a positive impact. After all, terrorists generally don’t try to take on Israeli soldiers. Instead, they go after people with far more limited ability to fight back.

In a humane and just world, lawmakers would agree that these folks should have some ability to defend themselves. But that’s not how the real-world works, at least in European nations that impose severe gun control.

Maybe it’s time to change that misguided policy, which is exactly what some European Jews are proposing.

Here are some excerpts from a story in the U.K.-based Daily Mail.

One of Europe’s largest Jewish associations has written a letter to EU ministers asking for gun laws to be relaxed to allow Jews to arm themselves to protect against terror attacks. Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the European Jewish Association, made the request in the wake of the Paris attacks in which four Jews were killed inside a deli in the French capital. …The letter speaks about the need for protection after Islamist Amedy Coulibaly gunned down four Jewish shoppers in cold blood in a Paris deli last Friday before he was shot by armed police. …Police later found he had maps showing the locations of Jewish schools in Paris. …Nobody from the European Council of Ministers was immediately available for comment on the letter when contacted by Mail Online this afternoon.

Needless to say, I’m not expecting European politicians to give the right answer to this request.

Instead, they’ll offer platitudes and assure people that the government will protect synagogues and Jewish schools.

That better than nothing, of course, but why not let individuals have the right to self defense?

John Hinderaker of Powerline adds his two cents to the issue.

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris shed some light on this question. In the case of the Charlie Hebdo murders, two armed guards were present, but were quickly overwhelmed by the well-trained (and no doubt better armed) terrorists. It is unlikely that civilians armed with pistols would have fared better. The kosher grocery attack was quite different. It was carried out by a single terrorist and, rather than being executed rapidly and with military precision, the terrorist held something like 30 people hostage for a matter of hours. This is a good example of a situation where civilians armed with concealed weapons could likely make a difference. If one of the hostages had a gun (or better yet, two or three hostages had guns) he could well have had an opportunity to get off a clean shot and kill or disable the terrorist.

Very well stated, though I’ll disagree in one respect. It’s quite possible that well-armed terrorists would have prevailed in their attack on Charlie Hebdo even if some of the employees were armed.

But if I worked at that magazine, I would still want the option of self defense. Far better to go down fighting than to cower under a desk.

I suspect John would agree, so we probably don’t have any real disagreement.

In any event, John’s has more good information and analysis in his blog post.

…a critical mass of armed civilians can change criminals’ behavior dramatically. In the United Kingdom, burglars generally look for homes that are occupied so that they can force the occupants to direct them to the family’s valuables–and, in the process, commit a rape or other heinous crime. In the United States, burglars almost always seek out unoccupied homes, because if the homeowner is present there is a possibility the burglar could be shot. The American experience suggests that as the citizenry becomes armed, street crime declines. The causes are hotly debated, but violent crime rates have steadily gone down in tandem with liberalized gun carry laws and broader ownership of handguns. …In parts of Europe, it is common for Jews to be attacked by gangs of young Muslims when they are out in public. Such attacks would decline rapidly if it were known that Jews are arming themselves, and if, in only a few instances, thugs attempting to perpetrate such attacks were shot in self-defense. In my view, deterring street attacks would be the largest potential benefit of wider firearms ownership. …if I were a European Jew would I arm myself to the maximum extent permitted by law, and seek legal changes to make self-defense more effective? Absolutely.

Actually, I’ll disagree with another minor aspect of John’s post.

If I were a European Jew, I would arm myself regardless of the law. My family’s protection would matter more than the foolish/evil laws of politicians.

P.S. Don’t forget that Jews were victimized by the Nazi’s gun control laws, visual depictions of which can be seen here, here, here, and here.

P.P.S. On a less somber note, here are two very amusing Chuck Asay cartoons (here and here) about so-called gun-free zones. And here are some more amusing images on that issue.

P.P.P.S. Sticking with the humor theme, here’s an interview featuring a well-deserved lesson for a left-wing journalist (presumably an urban legend, but still funny). And here a post on the difference between conservatives, liberals, and Texans. Last but not least, I hope these are the virgins waiting in paradise to greet the terrorists.

P.P.P.P.S. To end on a serious note, I will continue my tradition of sharing the very powerful testimony of a true gun expert, as well as the admissions of two leftists (here and here) who admit that gun control is grossly misguided. All three of these links should be widely shared.

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Selection to the Moocher Hall of Fame is a special award that is bestowed upon “the individuals who best exemplify the culture of loafing, laziness, and dependency that is being subsidized by our vote-buying political class.”

But it’s not limited to Americans. Previous winners of this prestigious award include Brits, Austrians, Greeks, and Danes.

Now it’s time to pick a new honoree. But we’re going to make this a contest. We have two families living in the United Kingdom, both of which impose a big fiscal burden on taxpayers, but only one of which gets to join the Moocher Hall of Fame.

Here’s contestant number one. As reported by a British tabloid, a Romanian couple, along with their 15 kids, are imposing a very heavy cost on British taxpayers.

Mihai Toma and his brood live in a three-bed home after moving to soft-touch Britain two years ago. They rake in £2,500 a month in tax credits, £1,400 in housing benefits and £700 in child benefit… That adds up to £55,200 a year in handouts – the equivalent of a £90,000 salary… It means Mihai is making more than many doctors, senior police officers and MPs. …the Toma family want even more. They are demanding to be moved to a bigger taxpayer-funded house for their children aged four months to 19. And they cannot understand why so many hard-working Brits unable to afford their own homes are angry. Mum Veronica, 37, said: “…People will judge us but we have not done bad because we have come here to get a better life than in Romania.” …The Tomas are among thousands of immigrant families who have flocked to Britain as “welfare tourists”.

I have nothing against big families, but demanding a bigger house that will be financed by other people definitely rubs me the wrong way.

And here’s contestant number two, as described in another story also from the Daily Star. The Sisarovas are a Slovakian family with 11 kids.

Katerina Sisarova, 43, left Slovakia in 2007 and has worked for just one month after settling here. …But with her £23,000 annual income from handouts, gypsy Katerina doesn’t want a job. She said her life was “very nice” and she’ll never go home. Katerina bragged: “We have a good life here. We have everything that we want. …Her husband Peter, who has not worked for two years, added: “I like England. England give me house, give me doctor, give school, benefit. England good, thank you so much England.” …Her daughter Petra, 20, lives in a council house nearby with her son Peter, three. She also lives on handouts, collecting £650 a month, and said: “I get child benefit, tax credit, housing benefit. I’ve got a better life here than in my country.

So which family is more deserving of entering the Moocher Hall of Fame?

It’s a judgement call, but my vote goes to the Sisarova family. The Toma family is disqualified because Mihai actually does something productive. He earns “£1,800-a-month wage as an electrician.”

To put this in American terms, the Sisarova family is akin to a household where everyone goofs off while collecting welfare (and assorted additional benefits based on no income).

In the Toma family, by contrast, someone is working, so that makes them akin to an American household that is eligible for the earned-income credit (and assorted additional benefits based on modest income).

And the difference is that welfare is money you get from the government for doing nothing while the EITC is money you get from the government for working.

Getting back to our contest, Mihai’s decision to be partially self-sufficient means he and his family don’t get to join the Moocher Hall of Fame.

By the way, there’s also a Terrorist Wing of the Moocher Hall of Fame. It features repugnant people like the Tsarnaev family in the United States, as well as Abdul, the million-dollar moocher from Australia.

We don’t have any new nominees for the Terrorist Wing, but here are a couple of stories that should probably be in the honorable mention category.

First, the Daily Telegraph from the U.K. reports that home-grown terrorists are using government handouts to wage jihad.

Terri Nicholson, from the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism command unit, said that taxpayers’ money was being claimed fraudulently and used by terrorists in countries such as Iraq and Syria. She said there had been “a number of cases” recently of terrorists making fraudulent student loan claims to fund their activities. …“We are seeing a diverse fraud, including substantial fraud online, abuse of the benefits system, abuse of student loans, in order to fund terrorism,” she said.

I’m particularly struck by the use of student loans. Many of the people I knew in college used such payments for beer, but they obviously weren’t thinking big enough.

I guess we should count fighting for ISIS with taxpayer money as some sort of self-directed independent study.

We have similar problems in the United States.

I’ve already mentioned the Tsarnaev brothers, but we also have two men who wanted to blow up the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and kill two officials. But they had one small problem. They couldn’t afford to buy the bombs they wanted until one of their girlfriends received her next installment of handouts from Uncle Sam.

Two men indicted last week on federal weapons charges allegedly had plans to bomb the Gateway Arch — and to kill St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson — the Post-Dispatch has learned. …the two allegedly did buy what they thought was a pipe bomb in an undercover law enforcement sting. The men wanted to acquire two more bombs, the sources said, but could not afford to do it until one suspect’s girlfriend’s Electronic Benefit Transfer card was replenished.

Gee, if only handouts were even more generous. Then those two guys could have planned more efficiently.

Though I shouldn’t joke. If these guys hadn’t been such morons, some people might now be dead.

Let’s close on a more serious note about public policy. It should go without saying that the vast majority of welfare recipients aren’t terrorists, or even criminals. And most of them presumably don’t have the extreme entitlement mentality illustrated by the Sisarova family.

But that doesn’t mean welfare should be an acceptable way of life. It’s bad for taxpayers when that happens, of course, but it’s also bad for recipients.

And this is becoming apparent even to some foreign politicians who are far from being libertarian. Here are some excerpts from a story published by the Independent in Ireland.

Social welfare has become a “lifestyle choice” for many leaving school, a situation which is totally unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has said. “What we are getting at the moment is people who come into the system straight after school as a lifestyle choice. This is not acceptable, everyone should be expected to contribute and work,” Ms Burton said. Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Ms Burton said those who failed to cooperate with her department by not taking job or training opportunities would lose up to €44 a week.

My gut reaction is that they should lose everything, but I guess this is a big step from a Labour Party politician.

It appears Ms. Burton recognizes that people can be trapped into a life of dependency if the welfare system is too generous.

Which is a revelation that also has occurred to at least one American leftist.

P.S. Guess what happened when politicians in Washington declared “war on poverty” and started spending lots of money?

P.P.S. On the other hand, guess what happened while politicians in the U.K. decided to make dependency a less attractive lifestyle?

P.P.P.S. Here’s a map showing which states have the biggest welfare benefits.

P.P.P.P.S. I can’t help but wonder if the British press focuses on immigrant households that collect welfare while paying inadequate attention to the equally disturbing anecdotes of home-grown welfare families. The problem is welfare, income redistribution, and dependency, not the race or nationality of the recipients.

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I feel a bit like Goldilocks.

No, this is not a confession about cross-dressing or being transsexual. I’m the boring kind of libertarian.

Instead, I have a run-of-the-mill analogy. Think about when you were a kid and your parents told you the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

You may remember that she entered the house and tasted bowls of porridge that were too hot and also too cold before she found the porridge that was just right.

And then she found a bed that was too hard, and then another that was too soft, before finding one that was just right.

Well, the reason I feel like Goldilocks is because I’ve shared some “Rahn Curve” research suggesting that growth is maximized when total government spending consumes no more than 20 percent of gross domestic product. I think this sounds reasonable, but Canadians apparently have a different perspective.

Back in 2010, a Canadian libertarian put together a video that explicitly argues that I want a government that is too big.

Now we have another video from Canada. It was put together by the Fraser Institute, and it suggests that the public sector should consume 30 percent of GDP, which means that I want a government that is too small.

My knee-jerk reaction is to be critical of the Fraser video. After all, there are examples – both current and historical – of nations that prosper with much lower burdens of government spending

Singapore and Hong Kong, for instance, have public sectors today that consume less than 20 percent of economic output. Would those fast-growing jurisdictions be more prosperous if the burden of government spending was increased by more than 50 percent?

Or look at Canadian history. As recently as 1920, government outlays were 16.7 percent of economic output. Would Canada have grown faster if lawmakers at the time had almost doubled the size of government?

And what about nations such as the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, all of which had government budgets in 1870 that consumed only about 10 percent of GDP. Would those nations have been better off if the burden of government spending was tripled?

I think the answer to all three questions is no. So why, then, did the Fraser Institute conclude that government should be bigger?

There are three very reasonable responses to that question. First, the 30 percent number is actually a measurement of where you theoretically maximize “social progress” or “societal outcomes.” If you peruse the excellent study that accompanies the video, you’ll find that economic growth is most rapid when government consumes 26 percent of GDP.

Second, the Fraser research – practically speaking – is arguing for smaller government, at least when looking at the current size of the public sector in Canada, the United States, and Western Europe. According to International Monetary Fund data, government spending consumes 41 percent of GDP in Canada, 39 percent of GDP in the United States, and 55 percent of GDP in France.

The Fraser Institute research even suggests that there should be significantly less government spending in both Switzerland and Australia, where outlays total “only” 34 percent of GDP.

Third, you’ll see if you read the underlying study that the author is simply following the data. But he also acknowledges “a limitation of the data,” which is that the numbers needed for his statistical analysis are only available for OECD nations, and only beginning in 1960.

This is a very reasonable point, and one that I also acknowledged when writing about some research on this topic from Finland’s Central Bank.

…those numbers…are the result of data constraints. Researchers looking at the post-World War II data generally find that Hong Kong and Singapore have the maximum growth rates, and the public sector in those jurisdictions consumes about 20 percent of economic output. Nations with medium-sized governments, such as Australia and the United States, tend to grow a bit slower. And the bloated welfare states of Europe suffer from stagnation. So it’s understandable that academics would conclude that growth is at its maximum point when government grabs 20 percent of GDP. But what would the research tell us if there were governments in the data set that consumed 15 percent of economic output? Or 10 percent, or even 5 percent? Such nations don’t exist today.

For what it’s worth, I assume the author of the Fraser study, given the specifications of his model, didn’t have the necessary post-1960 data to include small-state, high-growth, non-OECD jurisdictions such as Hong Kong and Singapore. If that data had been available, I suspect he also would have concluded that government should be closer to 20 percent of economic output.

I explore all these issues in my video on this topic.

The moral of the story is that government is far too large in every developed nation.

I suspect even Hong Kong and Singapore have public sectors that are too large, causing too many resources to be diverted from the private sector.

But since I’m a practical and moderate guy, I’d be happy if the burden of government spending in the United States was merely reduced back down to 20 percent of economic output.

P.S. Though I would want the majority of that spending at the state and local level.

P.P.S. Since I’m sharing videos today, here’s an amusing video from American Commitment about the joy of being “liberated” from employment.

And if you like snarky videos about Obamacare, here are some based on sex and mockery, and there’s even a Hitler parody.

P.P.P.S. This has nothing to do with public policy, but I got a good chuckle from this news out of Iraq.

A group of Sunni militants attending a suicide bombing training class at a camp north of Baghdad were killed on Monday when their commander unwittingly conducted a demonstration with a belt that was packed with explosives, army and police officials said. …Twenty-two ISIS members were killed, and 15 were wounded, in the explosion at the camp.

One of the reasons I laughed is that I recalled a cartoon that was sent to me many years ago. And when I dug into my humor folder, it was still there.

I think you’ll see the obvious connection.

Terrorist School

And since we’re venturing into humor about self-detonating terrorists, here’s another joke from my treasure trove.

===================================

Guy goes into a sex shop and asks for an inflatable doll.

Guy behind the counter says, “Male or female?”

Customer says, “Female.”

Counter guy asks, “Black or white?

Customer says, “White.”

Counter guy asks, “Christian or Muslim?”

Customer says, “What the hell does religion have to do with it?”

Counter guy says, “The Muslim one blows itself up.”

===================================

And here’s another joke that’s worth sharing.

Garfield Terrorist

If this isn’t enough terrorism-related humor for you, we also have this collection of stereotypes I received from an English friend.

This image, meanwhile, doubtlessly has caused a few nightmares in certain quarters.

And this Jay Leno joke is one of the best examples of anti-political correctness I’ve ever seen.

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Last June, in response to a question about indiscriminate spying by the National Security Agency, I made two simple points about the importance of judicial oversight and cost-benefit analysis.

I want – at a minimum – there to be judicial oversight whenever the government spies on American citizens, but I also think some cost-benefit analysis is appropriate. Just because a court has the power to approve snooping, that doesn’t mean it’s a sensible use of law enforcement resources.

Nothing since then has changed my mind.

Indeed, I’m perhaps even more skeptical of untrammeled government power and ability to spy on citizens for the simple reason that I don’t trust politicians.

Just look at how the White House turned the supposedly professional IRS into a partisan political operation. The government had power, ostensibly for a legitimate reason, but politicians and bureaucrats then used the power is a grossly improper fashion.

On the other hand, I know there are people out there who hate America. And they don’t just hate us because we’re intervening in the Middle East. I suspect many of them would want to kill us even if we had a perfect libertarian foreign policy of non-intervention and peaceful global commerce.

Now we learn from a report in the Washington Post that government has become bigger and more powerful and that our privacy has been violated as part of the NSA’s spying, yet there have been no benefits. As is zero. Nada. Zilch.

Here are some excerpts.

An analysis of 225 terrorism cases inside the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has concluded that the bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.” In the majority of cases, traditional law enforcement and investigative methods provided the tip or evidence to initiate the case, according to the study by the New America Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit group.

But perhaps, you may be thinking, this is merely the predictable conclusion of a group that is predisposed to be skeptical. That’s a fair concern, but the article also has some very compelling corroborating evidence.

The study, to be released Monday, corroborates the findings of a White House-appointed review group, which said last month that the NSA counterterrorism program “was not essential to preventing attacks” and that much of the evidence it did turn up “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.”

So not only do outsiders find little to no value in NSA spying, but even hand-picked insiders couldn’t come up with any evidence to show that the program was effective.

But you won’t be surprised to learn that defenders of the NSA have come up with a can’t-miss way of defining success.

Senior administration officials…say it has been valuable in knocking down rumors of a plot and in determining that potential threats against the United States are nonexistent. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. calls that the “peace of mind” metric.

Yes, your eyes did not deceive you.You actually read correctly. The government wants us to acquiesce to a loss of privacy because we will learn that there are no threats and we’ll have “peace of mind.”

That has to be the lamest justification for government power that I’ve ever read.

This is even more preposterous than asserting that we should squander $1 trillion per year on anti-poverty programs, not because that redistribution will help the poor, but rather because it makes leftists feel better about themselves.

That being said, supporters do have a somewhat powerful comeback.

Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director and a member of the panel, said the program “needs to be successful only once to be invaluable.”

Indeed, I suspect this is the main reason why ordinary people might support the NSA.

But I disagree with Mr. Morell because he asserts that a single example of success would be invaluable. The article, for instance, cites one “victory” for the NSA surveillance program.

…the program provided evidence to initiate only one case, involving a San Diego cabdriver, Basaaly ­Moalin, who was convicted of sending money to a terrorist group in Somalia. Three co-conspirators were also convicted. The cases involved no threat of attack against the United States.

I’m glad that a foreign terrorist attack was blocked, but is that really “invaluable”? Does that “victory” justify a very expensive and very intrusive NSA monitoring regime?

As I’ve acknowledged before, I don’t know enough about terrorism to offer an informed viewpoint. But I have studied a similar issue, money laundering laws, and that research leads me to be very suspicious about the NSA.

These laws were put in place with the excuse that government would collect and analyze large amounts of data to help deter crime.

All the evidence, however, shows that these laws are a costly failure. The invade our privacy, hurt the poor, impose high regulatory costs, and have little or no impact on underlying crimes.

Just something to keep in mind when people argue that government should have more power and authority.

P.S. At least the revelations about NSA spying have generated some first-rate political humor.

P.P.S. Keep in mind that the NSA is just one cog in the machinery of government. So if you’re worried about the NSA’s intrusion and power, then you should also worry about the power of the IRS. If you’re concerned about the IRS’s authority, then you also should fret about the Obamacare exchanges. And if you think the Obamacare exchanges give the government too much knowledge and power, then you should be agitated about “know-your-customer” laws that require banks to spy on their customers. And if you’re not happy about those money-laundering rules, then you surely should be dismayed about asset-forfeiture rules. And if you don’t approve of government stealing property, then maybe you don’t like government accumulation of power for the Drug War. And if the failed War on Drugs rubs you the wrong way, then perhaps you…I better stop now. I think you get the point.

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