‘No Evidence’ That Gun Buyback Programs Reduce Gun Violence, New Economic Study Finds

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The latest research dovetails with previous studies that found gun buyback programs were ineffective but popular with the public

Shortly before Christmas in 2018, a woman named Darlene voluntarily turned in a 9mm pistol to the Baltimore Police Department. It was just one of about 500 firearms the department collected that day as part of the city’s gun buyback program, which paid citizens somewhere between $25 and $500 in exchange for their firearms and high-capacity magazines.

Darlene, however, had a confession. She was turning in her 9mm, she told a local news reporter, so she could “upgrade to a better weapon.”

Like what? the reporter asked.

“I don’t know,” Darlene said. “I haven’t quite decided.

Do Gun Buybacks Work?

Supporters of gun buybacks, such as Baltimore’s mayor and police chief, say the program is an effective way to reduce violent crime.

“Our point here is, there are guns on the streets of our city,” said then Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. “We are signaling folks out there, we don’t care if it’s grandpa’s gun or your gun, we want it.”

Darlene’s story, however, was used as ammunition by skeptics of gun buybacks to show the programs are ineffective and a waste of taxpayer resources. Skeptics of gun buybacks have long argued that stacks of rifles, pistols, and gun magazines “look impressive when they’re displayed at news conferences,” but argue they do little to reduce gun violence.

“Researchers who have evaluated gun control strategies say buybacks—despite their popularity—are among the least effective ways to reduce gun violence,” USA Today reported back in 2013.

A newly released academic study reinforces the claim that gun buybacks don’t reduce gun violence.

‘No Evidence’ Gun Buybacks Reduce Gun Crime

Last week the National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper titled “Have US Gun Buyback Programs Misfired?”

The paper, which was authored by economists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, San Diego State University, and Montana State University, differed from previous studies in that it didn’t study a single city’s Gun Buyback Program (GBP), but an array of them.

Researchers said they identified 339 GBPs across 277 cities, examining public records to determine the number of firearms sold in each. They concluded the data is clear: gun buybacks do not reduce gun crime.

“Using data from the National Incident Based Reporting System, we find no evidence that GBPs reduce gun crime,” the researchers said. “Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, we also find no evidence that GBPs reduce suicides or homicides where a firearm was involved.”

The NBER paper dovetails with other studies that focused specifically on Seattle, Buffalo, and Milwaukee, which found buyback programs were ineffective but popular with the public.

“I think the evidence still suggests that if the goal is to prevent intentional homicide, the gun buybacks are not likely to achieve that objective,” Michael S. Scott, director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing and a clinical professor at Arizona State University, told The Democrat and Chronicle in 2016.

The Cost of Gun Buybacks

Some may argue that there is little harm in gun buybacks even if they don’t work, since they are voluntary. Yet this ignores the fact that gun buybacks are quite costly.

The first ever US gun buyback occurred in Baltimore in 1974. Citizens were paid $50 ($259 in 2019 dollars) for any firearms they turned in, researchers said, and the city collected some 13,500 firearms. The cost? Some $660,000.

This is just one city. Costs are substantially larger at the national level. Australia’s massive 1996 gun buyback program, for example, collected 640,000 firearms, costing taxpayers some $230 million. A buyback on that scale in the US would involve the collection of about 78.6 million firearms, researchers said. The cost would likely be tens of billions of dollars.

In the US, however, gun buybacks tend to occur at the local level. Nevertheless, costs can run surprisingly high, since there is little incentive to control spending. The lack of spending oversight has at times manifested itself in comical ways.

In 2019, for example, YouTuber Royal Nonesuch was able to make $300 by selling several “pipe guns” he made out of scrap—he described them as “the crappiest guns” he ever made— to the state of Missouri. Officials at the event didn’t seem to care or even notice, evidenced by the fact that the individual who paid Nonesuch never bothered to inspect the firearms.

Economist Daniel Mitchell offered an anecdote that is perhaps even more amusing. During Baltimore’s 2018 gun buyback, Mitchell noticed the city was offering people $25 for every “high-capacity” magazine they turned in.

The problem?

A quick online search revealed that some magazines could be purchased for between $11-$13. This meant a clever entrepreneur could have purchased a car full of magazines and turned them into the city to make a quick, hefty profit at the expense of taxpayers (and to the benefit of gun manufacturers).

Buybacks: Great Politics, Bad Policy

If a preponderance of evidence shows gun buybacks are ineffective and costly, it invites an important question: why are they so popular with local governments?

The answer can be found in public choice theory, an economic concept pioneered by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Buchanan that essentially says government officials make decisions based on self-interest just like everyone else.

Gun buybacks may not be good policy, but it turns out they are great politics—especially in cities plagued by gun violence.

For starters, an abundance of research tends to agree that buybacks are relatively popular with the public. The policies have the appearance of being “voluntary” (except, of course, for the wealth that was taxed to make the purchase), and are easier to pass and less controversial than gun control laws. This allows politicians and bureaucrats to show they are “doing something” to reduce gun violence in cities. Meanwhile, the only real costs of gun buybacks—tax revenues essentially wasted—are widely dispersed, which, as F.A. Hayek once pointed out, makes them “difficult to see.”

The economist Milton Friedman famously stated that “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” But people often do judge policies by their intentions (or their appearances)—which is no doubt why Friedman so often made this point.

The popularity of gun buybacks is yet another instance in the government arena of good intentions overshadowing dismal results.

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This article was published on May 14, 2021 and is reproduced with permission of FEE, Foundation for Economic Education

 

Regulatory Capture, Teacher Unions, and CDC Abuse

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

In his seminal article in 1971 on the economic theory of regulation, the Nobel Laureate George Stigler of the University of Chicago argued that government agencies were often “captured” by the industries they were designed to regulate. Before Stigler, the common view was that noble regulators worked assiduously to correct “market failures” with regulation, in order to promote the public interest. Stigler showed that if we assume that regulators have other goals in mind besides promoting the public interest (e.g., covering up their own government failure or enhancing their power, prestige, and budget) they will eventually represent the interests of the industry they are supposed to regulate. 

This is referred to as “regulatory capture.” Examples such as a “revolving door” between defense contractors and the Department of Defense and cozy relationships between pharmaceutical companies and the Food and Drug Administration and large energy firms and the Environmental Protection Agency come to mind. When there is regulatory capture, the interests of firms become more important than the public interest, which leads to a net loss to society.

Traditionally, capture theory applies mainly to private sector interests, i.e., firms and industries. However, thanks to several intrepid reporters at the New York Post, we now know that capture theory can also be applied to public sector unions. These reporters uncovered palpable evidence of explicit collusion between the American Federation of Teachers and the CDC. Similar types of explicit collusion between teachers unions and public health officials may also be occurring at the state and local levels. We know that it has also occurred in the U.K., where Boris Johnson appears to be defying trade union pressure to keep masks on secondary school children.

What motivates political appointees at the CDC to collude with teachers unions to prolong lockdowns and continue the confinement and deformity of our children? First, the Biden administration is beholden to teachers unions, who provide substantial financial support to Democrats and also constitute a major, reliable voting bloc. Second, CDC stands for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and thus, is responsible for the single greatest government failure of all time. Their ineptitude, inconsistency, and overall incompetence, both before and after the outbreak of the virus, has been staggering. Therefore, it is important that the CDC keeps its trade union friends for political cover. Third, public health police state officials, such as the CDC director, are basking in the limelight and flush with funds, power, and influence. For infectious disease experts, who have become our unelected rulers, these are the best of times. Pandering to teachers unions allows them to continue regulating all aspects of our family life. Note also that while the CDC is lionized by the media, they are also shielded by craven, cowardly politicians from any accountability for the damage they have inflicted on our economy, society, and physical and mental health, as a result of their misguided quarantines, lockdowns, and “reopenings.” 

A sad irony is that the agency responsible for the most massive government failure of all time is allowed to grow and prosper, while continuing its ongoing collective theft of private property, services, and economic, personal, and religious liberty. For example, thanks to the CDC, the entire cruise industry has been grounded for at least fifteen months. CDC guidelines have led to closures of public libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions for over fourteen months. The CDC Director’s recent message of “impending doom” is music to the ears of teachers union officials, who have a vested interest in maintaining maximal use of nonpharmaceutical interventions, such as school closures, physical distancing, and masks for children as young as four years old.

It is impossible to understate the dastardly actions of teachers unions in exerting undue influence on the federal agency charged with deciding how and when to “reopen” schools. Let’s start with the fact that teachers have already received more special treatment than any other type of worker. Recall that when our state-run Covid religion was established in March 2020, a totalitarian/Orwellian taxonomy of “essential” and “nonessential” workers and industries was developed. In most states, teachers are “essential” workers. Unlike many “nonessential” workers, teachers have received full pay during quarantines and lockdowns, with virtually no job losses in the sector. In some school districts, teachers have even received raises and additional benefits, while children remain at home to learn online, often with inferior Internet connections and overwhelmed parents to supervise them. Unlike almost all other “essential” workers, many teachers have not physically reported to work since March 2020. Also, in many states, teachers were vaccinated before many others in their age groups, since we were told that this step was necessary to reopen the schools. The forced masking of students as young as four years old for six hours a day is designed to protect teachers, not students. It has never been clearer that teachers unions aim to prolong the pandemic party for teachers while paying no heed to the physical and psychological damage to the nation’s students.

Now that the collusion between the teachers unions and the CDC has been exposed, we can no longer pretend that public health officials have the public interest in mind. Their claim to follow the “science” has been revealed as fallacious, since they are actually following “political science.” Since March 2020, we have all been human subjects in a grand social science experiment, which has been conducted without “informed consent.” As social scientists, when we conduct an experiment, we are required by law to obtain the informed consent of each of our human subjects. That is, we are required to explain to each subject, in great detail, precisely what we are trying to accomplish in our project, as well as its duration, cost, and risks. All of these protocols have not been followed. We also have to abide by an ethical code, which says that there should be no psychological or physical harm to the subject.

There is no doubt that this unprecedented and deviant child experiment has inflicted significant harm on its human subjects. Thus, while some might say that it is wrong to demonize public health officials, we say that their actions, especially as they relate to children, have been demonic. Regulatory capture of the CDC by teachers unions is a scandal of epic proportions.

For these reasons, we call on parents to reject CDC guidelines for schools and any semblance of the “new normal” at schools. We should no longer allow our children to be unwitting subjects in this deviant and unethical grand social experiment. CDC and teachers-union-enabled child abuse and its ongoing destruction of normal childhood development must end now. The next time your child is forced to wear a face mask for seven hours a day and prevented from interacting with her playmates, you should call child protective services on that teacher or school official. The CDC and the teacher’s unions are now officially guilty of child abuse.

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This article was published on May 12, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from the American Institute for Economic Research.

Dr. Donald Siegel is Foundation Professor of Public Policy and Management and Director of the School of Public Affairs (SPA) at Arizona State University.

Let’s Make A Deal: The Bourgeois Deal Among Many Others

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Editors Note:  Deidre McCloskey has written a brilliant trilogy attempting to explain why, from almost the dawn of recorded history, mankind made little progress and lived on roughly a few dollars a day in today’s money.  But around 1750, something happened in society, and material progress began to change and has continued to advance to this day.  Today, socialists and progressives threaten the very foundation which made this advance possible.  If you don’t understand the foundation of our progress, then you can’t appreciate its destruction and what it will mean to you and to mankind. Please view this video along with this article.

 

In her trilogy of books on what she calls “the Bourgeois Era,” Deirdre McCloskey argues that we owe our prosperity to the Bourgeois Deal, a broad social consensus that embraces market-tested innovation. In our book Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World, Professor McCloskey and I condense, elaborate, and illustrate. The Bourgeois Deal—in brief, “Leave me alone to buy, sell, innovate, and test my ideas in markets, and I’ll make you rich”—has, in fact, led to a Great Enrichment of the world that started in northwestern Europe and that now threatens to actually make poverty history. In contrast, the non-Bourgeois Deals—the Blue Blood Deal, the Bismarckian Deal, the Bolshevik Deal, and finally the Bureaucratic Deal—have bound us, limited us, and made us, ultimately, poorer than we would otherwise be.

Hierarchy and inequality unite the non-Bourgeois Deals, which are only “deals” insofar as the term can be applied to an understanding among non-equals, one of whom has a gun under the table. Lest you think this gun is a metaphor, I assure you, the gun is very, very real. Try breaking the Blue Blood Deal in the calamitous fourteenth century (OK, fine–it might not have been a gun in the fourteenth century) or the Bolshevik Deal in Russia after the Revolution or the Bureaucratic Deal of a highly-credentialed American License Raj and see where it gets you. Here are the Deals and what they mean, in brief.

The Blue Blood Deal: In her Bourgeois Era trilogy, McCloskey calls this the Aristocratic Deal. We call it the Blue Blood Deal for alliterative purposes. It extols rank and distinction, blood and birth. It is the Deal of Arthur’s Round Table, where the good and gentle do feats of piety and condescending service because they are great. In its harsher version, it is the presumption of Queen Jadis in C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew entering 20th century England and commanding Uncle Andrew.

“Procure for me at once a chariot or a flying carpet or a well-trained dragon, or whatever is usual for royal and noble persons in your land. Then bring me to places where I get clothes and jewels and slaves fit for my rank. Tomorrow I will begin the conquest of the world.”

The knights and Queen Jadis are not made great by their actions: rather, their greatness creates for them a handful of noble obligations and prerogatives. The Blue Blood Deal rallies British soldiers at Agincourt to the side of Henry V not because winning the battle will better the lives of the average British man or woman but because it will bring glory to Henry and gentle the condition of the soldier who in years to come can show the scars from the wounds he took on St. Crispin’s Day. The Blue Blood Deal embraces and praises feats of arms on the battlefield but laughs in amusement or contempt at the idea of dignity for the executive exhausted from a day of making very big decisions for the sake of nameless, faceless shareholders.

The Bolshevik Deal: Honor The Party and those who wish to plan every aspect of your life. They might be bloodthirsty tyrants, but their bloodthirst and their tyranny serves the very noble vision expressed in John Lennon’s “Imagine” and in progressive Twitter feeds. It is a Deal beset by obligation: we have done for you (even though you didn’t ask, or agree to the social contract). In its milder forms it points to the infrastructure that supports small businesses and says with Barack Obama or Elizabeth Warren “You didn’t build that,” ignoring all the while that the super-rich pay taxes out of proportion to their income. It says “You have, and by assumption, your having causes others to have not. Therefore, you owe us. Shut up, obey, don’t ask the wrong questions, and maybe we won’t put a bullet in your head or send you to starve or freeze to death in a gulag.”

The Bismarckian Deal: The deal, obviously, gets its name from Germany’s Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, and the social insurance schemes he implemented in order to fend off the socialists. It tells us, in short, to forsake the imperfectly-operating institutions of civil society. Ignore what the historian David Beito and the economic historian John E. Murray have found, and embrace the state as your caretaker from cradle to grave. The state is a substitute god or parent that will feed you and educate you. The state will care for you in old age and in the event of an accident that leaves you unable to work. Never mind that the money they put in your right pocket comes out of your left pocket, or someone else’s pocket. See The State as your noble, wise, and sufficient caretaker, and all will go well with you—in particular, the Bismarckian state will defend you from the bolsheviks and the bourgeoisie.

The Bureaucratic Deal: This is the Deal of the administrative state. It says “Honor me and defer to me by virtue of my expertise (as indicated by my master’s degree or my Ed.D or my other credentials). Follow The Science (which I produce and interpret), and seek permission at every turn for the times when you want to open a new store or introduce a new product or come up with a new way to produce an old product. It is the Deal of the nudgers, the deal of permission for everything. It is the Deal of applied behavioral economics that says, to paraphrase the philosopher David Schmidtz, “We run our own lives poorly, but we will run others’ lives well.”

The Bourgeois Deal: Meanwhile, the Bourgeois Deal says “Physician, heal thyself.” The Bourgeois Deal, we argue, is the appropriate Deal for a society of masterless men and women: it says leave me, a fully-grown adult, alone to blaze my own trails and try new things. Especially don’t expect me to ask you or the American Consolidated Mousetrap Company for permission to produce, sell, and market what I think will be a much better mousetrap than anything they offer. I grudgingly admit that people will imitate my innovations or at least come up with innovations of their own that lead to better mouse-catching, and hence, I don’t expect my unusual profits to last very long before I’m grudgingly forced to accept a normal rate of return—though I’ll admit when looking at a lot of those other deals that they look pretty good once I’ve got mine. By the time I’m finished, I will have made you—my customers, my shareholders, my bondholders, and my business associates—rich.

The Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan and his acolytes in the Virginia School of political economy sought to develop a political-economic analysis for a society of natural equals. Only radical egalitarianism of the Bourgeois Deal really fits the bill. The non-bourgeois deals seem to mask thinly-veiled contempt for other human beings who, if not controlled, will make the wrong choices. As H.L. Mencken famously said, the urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the desire to rule it. We’ve paid the butcher’s bill for generations of guillotine-operating humanitarians and kindly inquisitors. Perhaps we should grow up a little and take a different path.

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This article was published on May 8, 2021 and is reprinted with permission from AIER, American Institute for Economic Research.

University of Utah: ‘Systemic Anti-Black Racism Is A Public Health Crisis’

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

The University of Utah has committed to “becoming ardent anti-racists” and declared “systemic anti-Black racism” as a “public health crisis,” according to a tip obtained through YAF’s Campus Bias Tip Line.

An interview with Associate Vice President for Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion José E. Rodríguez published on the school’s website details their “commitment to health equity.”

“In health care, anti-racism work forces clinicians to examine their practices and recognize that health disparities are caused by systemic anti-Black racism,” Rodriguez says. He also says the school will prioritize hiring Black clinicians.

Rodriguez even goes so far as to suggest that the Disney movie classic, The Lion King, has examples of “implicit bias” against black people. “In The Lion King, the bad lion has a black mane but the good one has a reddish mane. Disney may not have done that intentionally, but it is a clear example of how deep the roots of anti-Black racism run,” he stated.

It’s apparent that this administrator, hired to promote “equity, diversity, and inclusion,” has become so focused on seeing everything through a racial lens that he can’t think critically. Suggesting prioritizing hiring based on race and absurdly claiming that racism is a public health crisis (during a pandemic, nonetheless!) is irrational and dangerous rhetoric for someone in the health care field.

It’s a sad day when Critical Race Theory has infiltrated even health care–one of the most important parts of society–that should be off-limits to hate and politicization.

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This article was published on May 6, 2021 and is reproduced with permission of YAF, Young America’s Foundation.

Swedish Hospital Bans Puberty Blockers, Cross-Sex Hormones for Gender Dysphoric Youths Under 16. We Should, Too.

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sweden, arguably one of the most politically and socially liberal countries in the world, has nonetheless taken a giant step toward protecting gender dysphoric minors and their mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

The Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine reported on Wednesday that the Astrid Lindgren’s Children’s Hospital—an arm of the one of the most renowned hospitals in Sweden, the Karolinska University Hospital—recently released a policy statement that included new guidelines for the care of youths with gender dysphoria under the age of 16.

The guidelines, which took effect April 1, are profound: They contradict many of the assertions of the transgender lobby, which encourage parents and children to accept that cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers are normal, healthy treatments for minors with gender dysphoria and should be pursued with little hesitation.

In the unofficial English translation of the original Swedish text provided by the Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine, the statement from the Children’s Hospital reads in part:

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In December 2019, the [Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services] published an overview of the knowledge base, which showed a lack of evidence for both the long-term consequences of the treatments, and the reasons for the large influx of patients in recent years.

These treatments are potentially fraught with extensive and irreversible adverse consequences, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infertility, increased cancer risk, and thrombosis.

This makes it challenging to assess the risk/benefit for the individual patient, and even more challenging for the minors and their guardians to be in a position of an informed stance regarding these treatments.

The guidelines appear to lean on the U.K. High Court’s Dec. 1 ruling in the Keira Bell case, saying it “established overarching problems associated with puberty-blocking treatment,” adding:

Further, the ruling specifically establishes that it is highly unlikely, if at all possible, for an individual under the age of 16 to give informed consent to this treatment.

Influenced by that ruling, the Children’s Hospital said that “it has been decided that hormonal treatments (i.e., puberty-blocking and cross-sex hormones) will not be initiated in gender dysphoric patients under the age of 16.”

Patients between the ages of 16 and 18 may only receive treatment within clinical trial settings approved by the Ethical Review Agency/Swedish Institutional Review Board. The Children’s Hospital said it would be doing a “careful individual assessment” of patients currently receiving puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to determine whether those treatments should continue.

Those new guidelines mean the Children’s Hospital has stopped following what the Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine called the “Dutch Protocol,” which it says “allows for administration of puberty blockers at age 12 (and increasingly, as young as 8-9, at the early stage of puberty known as Tanner 2), and cross-sex hormones at the age of 16.”

Even to liberal Sweden, that seemed astoundingly young.

The new protocol also makes Sweden the first country to officially deviate from World Professional Association for Transgender Health guidance, which continues to promote puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones on children under age 16.

It’s hard to fathom that left-wing ideology in American culture, dragging the medical community with it, has ceded so much ground to LGBTQ activists that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are even discussed as options—let alone healthy ones—for children.

For years, medical professionals didn’t even know what puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones would do to a child. Little research was available because it had rarely been tried, tested, and evaluated, yet now the medical community—bolstered by leftist ideologues—push them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses a “gender-affirming” approach that includes supporting insurance plans that include coverage for, “when appropriate, surgical interventions.”

Caution seems far more prudent when it comes to a child’s growing body, especially through puberty, but when it comes to transgenderism, prudence, research, and facts have been actively cast aside. Patience, talk therapy, and time are rarely discussed as viable options within the LGBTQ community.

On this issue, much of the medical community, and culture with it, has surrendered to the pressure of the LGBTQ lobby, which usually suggests that the only “cure” to gender dysphoric symptoms a child has is a medical transition via cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers.

Unfortunately, often the end result is akin to that of someone like Bell, whose case the Children’s Hospital guidelines alluded to (but without mentioning her name). She began a transition at the behest of medical professionals, and now lives as a biological female without breasts and regrets her decision.

Lawmakers, concerned parents, and medical professionals who seek to err on the side of caution need to come together and push for statewide bans of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for children under 18 years of age.

As the new Swedish Children’s Hospital guidelines stated, the medical evidence against utilizing these treatments is compelling. They are drastic treatments that deliver irreversible, life-altering results.

In April, Arkansas became the first state to ban cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers for minors. Other states should follow suit. Children’s minds and bodies must be protected before it’s too late.

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This article was published on May 7, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from The Daily Signal.

F.A. Hayek on ‘the Supreme Rule’ That Separates Collectivism From Individualism

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The principle that ends justify means is one where the ethics of individualists and collectivists collide, F.A. Hayek saw.

Born in Vienna on this date (May 8) in 1899, Austrian economist and political philosopher Friedrich August von Hayek lived to see almost the entirety of the 20th Century. He won a Nobel Prize for Economics in 1974 and died in 1992 at the age of 92.

The 20th was perhaps the most collectivist century since the Incan Empire of the 16th—a tragic irony since Hayek offered the world some of the most trenchant criticisms of the collectivist poison.

Hayek’s insights on collectivism are sprinkled throughout his many works and are expressed particularly well in his classic 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom. Excerpts are offered here as a tribute to him on this 122nd anniversary of his birth. (Additionally, I urge readers who have a special interest in this existential matter to consult the selection of readings I provide at the bottom of this essay.)

Collectivism is a perspective on human life and action. It views people as a blob requiring unified (if not unanimous) direction. Individualism is its opposite because it sees “humanity” as an abstract, composed of unique individuals, each one with a mind and rights of his own. While a collectivist would readily subsume the individual to such notions as majority vote or “the general will,” an individualist is wary of any person or group claiming to speak for others without their consent.

Hayek pointed out what ought to be obvious but is often glossed over, namely, that the “plans” of collectivist authority are bullied into place at the expense of the plans of individuals. That means that all forms of socialism are, essentially, collectivist and that all criticisms of collectivism apply to socialism in one form or another. Socialism invariably utilizes collectivist rhetoric and, most importantly, it attempts to achieve its ends by collectivist methods. Taken together, the contributions of Hayek and his mentor Ludwig von Mises constitute such a complete and powerful dismantling of the socialist vision that socialists’ only effective response has been to ignore them.

“Nearly all the points which are disputed between socialists and [classical, free market] liberals,” Hayek writes, “concern the methods common to all forms of collectivism and not the particular ends for which socialists want to use them…”

For example, almost everyone favors education in the abstract. An individualist would encourage a multiplicity of methods and institutions to acquire it through personal choice and private entrepreneurship. A socialist supports a collective approach—state schools, state curriculum, mandates from authority, one-size-fits-all. An individualist would never homogenize education by command. He might even quote Mao and really mean it: “Let a hundred flowers bloom!” A collectivist like the socialist Mao would see no purpose in a hundred flowers blooming except to cut them down to common, obedient stumps.

To a collectivist, leaving the flowers alone or permitting endless varieties of them is tantamount, Hayek notes, to no plan at all. The plans of individuals are chaos by definition, whereas the plans of centralized authority are somehow inherently rational. “What our planners demand,” says Hayek, “is a central direction of all economic activity according to a single plan, laying down how the resources of society should be ‘consciously directed’ to serve particular ends in a definite way.”

This distinction reduces to this: Shall there be competition or not? The individualist would answer that question with an enthusiastic “YES!” because competition implies individual choice, accountability, and a tendency toward efficiency. It implies experimentation, with consumers by their free selections ultimately deciding whose plans produce the best results. The collectivist is instinctively anti-competition because the plan he wants might not be the one that other people choose in a competitive arena. A free and individualist society, explains Hayek,

…regards competition as superior not only because it is in most circumstances the most efficient method known but even more because it is the only method by which our activities can be adjusted to each other without coercive or arbitrary intervention of authority. Indeed, one of the main arguments in favor of competition is that it dispenses with the need for ‘conscious social control’ and that it gives the individuals a chance to decide whether the prospects of a particular occupation are sufficient to compensate for the disadvantages and risks connected to it.

Collectivist policymaking is inescapably the summit of arrogance. It is not the wise undertaking of an omniscient, benevolent Wizard of Oz. As in the movie, the “wizard” turns out to be just another mortal (or his lackeys) behind the collectivist curtain, pretending to be smarter and bigger than the rest of us. Why should his plans take precedence over those of other humans? You can claim, as collectivists do, that he represents the majority plus one, or that he possesses superior intentions, or whatever, but you cannot explain away the fact that such claims are nothing more than arrogant presumptions. “Might makes right” is what collectivist planning is all about.

Students today are often taught that on the imaginary “political spectrum,” socialism and communism are “left of center” and capitalism and fascism are “right of center.” As I wrote in a recent essay, The Only Spectrum That Makes Sense,” this is frightfully misleading. Socialism, communism and fascism are all peas in the same collectivist pod. Hayek held that they all despised both competition and the individual, and he was precisely right.

“The idea of complete centralization of the direction of economic activity still appalls most people,” wrote Hayek, “not only because of the stupendous difficulty of the task, but even more because of the horror inspired by the idea of everything being directed from a single center.”

In Chapter Ten of The Road to Serfdom (“Why the Worst Get to the Top”), Hayek lands a blow from which collectivists will never recover. Why? Because it is rooted fundamentally in a moral argument:

The principle that the end justifies the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule; there is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves ‘the good of the whole,’ because ‘the good of the whole’ is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done. The raison d’etat, in which collectivist ethics has found its most explicit formulation, knows no other limit than that set by expediency—the suitability of the particular act for the end in view…There can be no limit to what [the collectivist state’s] citizen must be prepared to do, no act which his conscience must prevent him from committing, if it is necessary for an end which the community has set itself or which his superiors order him to achieve.

Friedrich August von Hayek was a giant of an intellectual. One need not be himself an intellectual to appreciate him. You simply must be an individual who appreciates the fact that we are all individuals, and that only God himself is fit to plan the lives or economies of others.

Happy Birthday, F. A. Hayek!

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This article was published on May 8, 2021 and is reprinted with permission from FEE, Foundation for Economic Education

 

 

Biden’s Universal Preschool Plan

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

There are four primary reasons that free, universal preschool should be vigorously opposed.

Last week, President Biden unveiled his “American Families Plan” that would dramatically expand the federal government’s role in education and family life. In addition to paid leave, subsidized child care, and two years of “free” community college for all Americans, the $1.8 trillion plan aims to provide taxpayer-funded universal preschool programs for all three- and four-year-olds.

Paid for by tax hikes on high-income earners and accumulated wealth, Biden’s proposed plan would actually cost closer to $2.5 trillion while increasing government debt and decreasing GDP, according to a new study released Wednesday by the Wharton School of Business. The Biden administration calculates that the “free” universal preschool proposal alone will cost $200 billion, although the Wharton model suggests that is a low estimate.

Here are four primary reasons that free, universal preschool–long a goal of progressive activists and politicians–should be vigorously opposed:

Championing his “American Families Plan” in last week’s speech to Congress, President Biden now “guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America, starting as early as we can,” with two years of preschool and two years of community college. “Twelve years is no longer enough today, to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century,” he said. Biden made the point that this is “school–not daycare,” which the teacher’s unions will fully embrace.

The president also added that our “nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century. It made us the best-educated, best-prepared nation in the world.” Yet, the data don’t support this assertion. In fact, US academic performance is rather mediocre compared to other developed countries. According to the results of the most recent international PISA exam for 15-year-olds that assesses academic performance in 79 countries, 30 countries outperformed the US in math, and reading scores have remained flat for years. These lackluster results occur even as the US spends more on education than other countries.

Within the US, academic performance in the nation’s government schools is similarly bleak. The 2019 results of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), which is often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, revealed that math and reading scores dropped for fourth- and eighth-graders since 2017. For 12th graders, 2019 math scores were flat overall and reading scores declined since the test was previously administered to seniors in 2015. Among the lowest-performing students, both math and reading scores dropped.

If the government can’t even ensure strong academic outcomes for the K-12 students currently within its purview, then why should its role be expanded to younger and older students, with taxpayers footing the bill?

I’ve written previously that there is no constitutional role for the federal government in education. As James Madison (known as “the father of the Constitution”) wrote in The Federalist Papers, no. 45: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

Expanding the federal government’s involvement in early childhood and higher education through Biden’s proposed plan will create long-lasting tentacles at the state and local levels that can be manipulated depending on who is in power in Washington, DC.

Education policy decisions should be made by individual states and communities, without federal meddling. Our country’s system of federalism allows for more localized decision-making, and facilitates mobility and choice. If someone doesn’t like a state policy or regulation, she can move elsewhere. This empowers tax paying parents to “vote with their feet” against bad policies and for good ones.

If states like California or cities like New York City want to adopt universal preschool programs, that is up to their citizens. If they achieve positive educational outcomes, they can serve as models of success to other states and locales. If not, they can offer cautionary lessons. But if the federal government imposes universal preschool across the nation, there will be less experimentation, less accountability, fewer options, and no escape.

We’ve had government preschool programs in place for decades and they have failed to produce sustained, positive outcomes for students while costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Some studies show positive results of public preschool programs for low-income children, but these results are often fleeting. And for most middle- and upper-income children, the long-term benefits of preschool programs are negligible.

The Brookings Institution explained back in 2017 that oft-cited studies showing positive gains from state pre-K programs are inadequate and that more in-depth studies of the lasting impact of public pre-K programs, including the Head Start Impact Study and the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K study, reveal that any short-term benefits were gone by the end of kindergarten.

More alarming, by third grade the academic performance of children in the Tennessee pre-k program actually lagged behind the control group of children who did not participate in the program. Similarly troubling, by third grade, the children in the Head Start program were found by teachers to have more behavioral and emotional issues than the control group of children who did not attend the program.

The Vanderbilt University researchers who conducted the Tennessee pre-k program analysis provide wise warnings for public preschool policy. They explain that “the inauspicious findings of the current study offer a cautionary tale about expecting too much from state pre-k programs.”

They continue: “The fact that the Head Start Impact study – the only other randomized study of a contemporary publicly funded pre-k program– also found few positive effects after the pre-k year adds further cautions (Puma et al., 2012). State-funded pre-k is a popular idea, but for the sake of the children and the promise of pre-k, credible evidence that a rather typical state pre-k program is not accomplishing its goals should provoke some reassessment.”

The “American Families Plan” is being touted as a program to strengthen families, but more government involvement in education will only weaken them. Parents who choose not to send their children to preschool, or individuals who choose not to have children, will bear the burden of subsidizing preschool for others. Universal preschool programs unnecessarily raise the cost of stay-at-home parenthood and impose additional costs on those who choose to remain childless. Only about half of three- and four-year-olds are currently enrolled in prekindergarten programs, but a government push for universal preschool may pressure more families to enroll their children in these programs even if they would prefer to delay school entry.

Moreover, government preschool programs will limit early childhood programming choices for parents and drive up costs. The government preschool programs will be required to pay their teachers a $15 minimum wage, use a state-approved curriculum, and conform to various “high-quality” standards, including set student-teacher ratios. Many parents might have a different definition of “high-quality” than the government does, but find that their early childhood options become narrower as the government assumes greater control of the education sector.

Government schooling already consumes more of childhood and adolescence than ever before, and it is failing many children. Now, it is poised to be expanded to ever-earlier ages and remain well into adulthood, buttressing a massive extension of the “cradle-to-grave” welfare state.

“The issue,” wrote economist and political philosopher Murray Rothbard, “which has been joined in the past and in the present is: shall there be a free society with parental control, or a despotism with State control?”

Rothbard continued:

“We shall see the logical development of the idea of State encroachment and control. America, for example, began, for the most part, with a system of either completely private or with philanthropic schools. Then, in the nineteenth century, the concept of public education changed subtly, until everybody was urged to go to the public school, and private schools were accused of being divisive. Finally, the State imposed compulsory education on the people, either forcing children to go to public schools or else setting up arbitrary standards for private schools. Parental instruction was frowned on. Thus, the State has been warring with parents for control over their children.” (Emphasis added.)

Biden’s “American Families Plan” is only the latest incursion in that war. No matter what taxpayer-funded freebies the government may offer as bait, parents must not yield another inch to the State when it comes to their sacred responsibilities to their children. To truly strengthen families and help children flourish, we should get the government out of our lives and our learning.

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This article was published on May 6, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from FEE, Foundation for Economic Education.

Does Tucson Deserve Similar Grades as Baltimore?

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

What comes to mind when you think of Baltimore?

What comes to my mind is high crime, high poverty, widespread blight, a corrupt one-party government, and the TV series “The Wire,” which is set in Baltimore.

What comes to mind when you think of my adopted hometown of Tucson?

What comes to my mind is dismay that the popular website AreaVibes.com rates Tucson about the same as it rates Baltimore, based on published demographics. The scores are important because a lot of people and companies go to the site to compare cities in deciding where to live and do business.

Below are the grades that AreaVibes gives to the two cities.

Tucson Baltimore
Crime F F
Employment F  D-
Schools F F
Housing  C- C
Cost of Living  B-  C-
Amenities  A+  A+

Something is not right with the above.

Sure, Tucson suffers from not being a port city or being on a navigable river. Sure, Tucson was a dusty, remote outpost when Baltimore was a major industrial and cultural center. Sure, Tucson has suffered from decades of shortsighted one-party government. Sure, Tucson has a history of provincialism and hostility to big business.  And sure, because of these factors, Tucson’s poverty rate of 21.9% is twice the national average and slightly above Baltimore’s rate of 21.2%.

But come on! Is it right to given Tucson similar grades as Baltimore?

Well, it doesn’t seem right to give it the same grade as Baltimore in crime.

Take the worst crime:  homicides. Tucson has 7.3 homicides per 100,000 residents, which, granted, is above the national average of 5.0. But Baltimore has 56 homicides per 100,000 residents or more than seven times as many as Tucson.

Baltimore’s homicide rate is more than twice as high as the 24.8 in Mexico and almost as high as the 61.8 in El Salvador, which is the top-ranking country in homicides.

Since 2011, nearly 3,000 Baltimoreans have been murdered. That comes to one of every 200 city residents over that period.

At the link, you can find details of the corruption and botched policing efforts in Baltimore, including its misapplication of the policing concept known as Broken Windows policing, which resulted in over 110,000 people being arrested in Baltimore in 2005. Now, the city is cutting funding for its police department.

Compared to Tucson’s police department, Baltimore’s police department appears to have some fat.

The City of Tucson and the City of Baltimore have about the same populations (520,116 versus 593,490). But Tucson has only 1,466 police employees (including 853 officers) while Baltimore has 3,900 police employees (including an unknown number of officers).

It is felt in some local quarters that the Tucson Police Department is underfunded and understaffed, but it would appear that it is much more effective in controlling crime than the Baltimore Police Department, at least relative to homicides.

Other crimes are another matter. For example, Tucson’s burglary rate is the same as Baltimore’s, which probably explains why so many Tucson residences and businesses have security bars on their doors and windows.

The touchy subject of race comes into play when comparing crime rates, as does the percent of young men without a dad in the household.

It’s a sad fact that, on average, blacks have the highest crime rates, which means that a city with more blacks will tend to have higher crime rates. That seems to be the case for Baltimore.

Baltimore is 62.4% black, 27.5% non-Hispanic white, and 18.5% Hispanic.  Tucson is 5.2% black, 43.9% non-Hispanic white, and 43.6% Hispanic. Tragically, approximately 95% of homicide victims and murderers in Baltimore are black.

The illicit drug trade and the dubious War on Drugs also come into play. Clearly, being close to the Mexico/U.S. border, Tucson has a drug trafficking problem; but comparisons to Baltimore are hard to come by.

Both Tucson and Baltimore would look better on such websites as AreaVibes if they were to annex the surrounding wealthier and safer suburbs, as many cities have. Statistically speaking, their crime and poverty rates would drop, and their school test scores would rise.

This is especially true for Baltimore because its suburbs are wealthier than Tucson’s. For example, the median household income in Baltimore County is $76,866, versus $53,379 for Pima County, which is the county where the City of Tucson is located. Income reaches the stratosphere for the entire metro area of Baltimore, a metro area encompassing 2.3 million people and several counties, versus one county and 1.08 million people for metro Tucson.

In any event, do you think that Tucson deserves the grades given to it by AreaVibes?

Confessions of a Privileged White Guy

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

A shameful story that begins at an exclusive country club

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was the epitome of white privilege as a kid, a privilege that carried over to adulthood.

When I was fifteen and sixteen, for example, summer days were spent at an exclusive country club in a leafy suburb of St. Louis, where blacks and Jews were denied membership—and where the kids of members would spend the day golfing, playing tennis, and sunning at the pool.

Italians and Catholics were also denied membership, which is why this Italian (aka papist, wop, dago, swart, greaser) hitchhiked to the club to work, not to play, or took a bus if I couldn’t hitch a ride.

Not permitted to work as a caddy or greenskeeper, I worked at the large clubhouse as a janitor and porter, on the lowest rung of an otherwise all-black staff. 

At the highest rung was African-American clubhouse manager Bill Williams. Wearing tailored suits and starched white shirts with cufflinks, he was the best-dressed and best-mannered man I’d ever seen. No man in my working-class hood wore a suit and probably didn’t own one, including my dad, who worked as a non-union tile setter. His dad, who worked as a coal miner upon emigrating from Italy, certainly didn’t wear one.

One step down from Bill Williams was head waiter Henry, who, like the waiters below him, was a former waiter on Pullman railroad cars. He and the rest of the wait-staff were also impeccably dressed and groomed, befitting the formality of the dining room.

Bill and Henry would drop off their big Pontiac Bonnevilles at my family’s tiny house during my off-hours so that I could wash and wax them for extra money. They and their cars were the talk of the neighborhood because black men and cars with power windows were rarely seen on our street. (My family’s car was an old Dodge with roll-down windows, a stick shift, and a large hole in the rusted-out floorboard.)

Next in the pecking order was the master chef, followed by the pastry chef and the cooks. Then came Jewel, who supervised me and the other janitors and porters, all of whom were on the same bottom rung as the dishwasher, an ex-prize fighter who had a long scar on his face, a drinking problem, and a disposition to match.

The employee break room, restroom, and locker room were in the dingy, dark basement of the clubhouse.

On my first day on the job, Jewel told me to clean the employee restroom, which looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned in years. Though young, I knew what this was about.  It was to show the white kid his place in the formal and informal hierarchy.

I happily dove into the task, figuratively speaking, and soon had the restroom sparkling. As I was finishing the job, the dishwasher walked in, and, clearly inebriated, peed on the floor. With a snarl, he said, “Clean it up, whitey.”

Seeing the incident unfold from the locker room, a strapping coworker leaped into the restroom quick as a panther, grabbed the dishwasher by his shirt, threw him against the wall, and said, “You clean it up, you black motherf****r!”

Not wanting the volatile dishwasher as an enemy, I said, “Thanks, but I’ll get it.”

The lesson I learned that day has stayed with me through the years:  that good and bad people come in all colors.

The lesson would prove invaluable in my adult career at the leading edge of equal opportunity, affirmative action, racial sensitivity training, and what came to be known in 1990 as diversity before it was corrupted by the grievance industry, race mongers, Marxist academics, the echo media, and virtue-signaling CEOs.

Another valuable lesson was learned, but it would become too politically incorrect to express publicly. It was a lesson about the importance of boys growing up with their father in the household.

I learned that lesson in getting to know the families of my coworkers at social events, such as picnics in St. Louis’ beautiful main park, Forest Park.

At the time, in the mid-1960s, in spite of all of the hardships faced by blacks in St. Louis and the nation, 70% of African-American children at least had the benefit of growing up in two-parent households.  With few exceptions, my black coworkers were good family men. They were not, in today’s parlance of the underclass, baby daddies, whose male obligations after insemination have been largely assumed by the government—a consequence of welfare that also affects poor whites.

In 1965, in his famous report on black families, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist with the U.S. Department of Labor who would later become a U.S. Senator, warned what would happen as a result of poorly designed welfare programs: that fathers would become superfluous in the raising of children.

He was prescient.  Today, 70% of black children (and 30% of white children) grow up in households where dad is missing. This is a major cause of crime, difficulties in school, and other social pathologies.

The pathologies don’t magically disappear when families without dads move to better houses and school districts in the suburbs.

The staggering increase in welfare and entitlements proposed by the Biden administration will make the problem of missing dads even more intractable.

The woke mob of miseducated whites with college degrees and little wisdom or historical perspective might try to cancel me for the foregoing.  They should cancel themselves.

Many of them are phonies who claim to value diversity, but what they mean is racial/ethnic diversity within their own socioeconomic class, in hip cities and gentrified neighborhoods, and in professional occupations in group-think workplaces, such as those in tech companies, newsrooms, financial firms, and academia.  They don’t mean the racial/ethnic diversity of the lower classes that clean their restrooms.

I say to them, Clean it up, whitey!

Poll: Hispanics Care More About Economy,Jobs Than Social Issues; Dislike ‘Latinx’

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

A year away from another election cycle, a nationwide poll of Hispanic Americans shows their opinions, interests and preferences don’t align perfectly with either of the country’s two major political parties.

A joint effort between Arizona-based OH Predictive Insights, Chris Mottola Consulting and MAS Consulting polled 2,000 members of the Hispanic community from March 18 to March 25. 

When asked what topics matter most to them, 29% said COVID-19 is the most pressing issue facing the nation. After the pandemic, 19% think the most important issue is jobs and the economy, followed by health care. Only 6% said immigration, race relations, and education are the most pressing issue.

Democrats hold advantages in terms of perception, according to respondents of the survey. More than one-third said the Democratic agenda is better for the economy, a topic where Republicans typically win over voters, who were 4 percentage points behind their counterparts. Democrats held outsized advantages over the GOP on how they address the environment, health care, and when asked to name “this party cares about me.” 

The majority of respondents came from four states: California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Each state’s respective respondents were split along ideological bents similar to others in their state. Thirty-four percent of Californians identified as “liberal,” where 20% considered themselves “conservative.” Hispanic Floridians were evenly split at 23%, identifying with each ideology.

One bright side for Republicans, according to Mike Noble, OH Predictive Insights chief of research, was that many Hispanics think neither party really cares about them, agreeing with the sentiment that they’re “disaffected” from either side. 

“The data reveals an entire swath of the electorate that isn’t being spoken to and the solution is straightforward: capture favorability by messaging on the pressing issues within the Hispanic community,” he said.

This large swath of voters considers themselves independent and moderate politically.

“It is a red flag for both parties and an opportunity for whoever cares to pay more attention to the largest minority group in the country, responsible for 52% of our population growth,” Cesar Martínez of MAS Consulting said.

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This article was published May 6, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.