Facebook's unveils its new digital cryptocurrency, Libra

Despite being heavily criticized over the past few years over its handling of personal data and privacy, Facebook says its new global digital currency, Libra, will be a currency that “works for everyone” and that people may be able to use it as early as 2020.

Some say the move into cryptocurrency could be a way to offset advertising losses. Facebook is also creating a subsidiary company, Calibra, that will offer digital wallets to spend the new currency. The wallets will be connected to other applications such as Messenger and WhatsApp.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency will be based on real assets, or what's known as a ‘stable coin’ that has either a traditional currency or government debt backing it, making it less volatile than, for example, Bitcoin. The independent association governing the currency from Geneva, Switzerland will be made up of representatives from an initial group of 28 companies including Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, Uber, Vodafone, Thrive Capital, and Spotify to name a few. Those companies will also contribute to the currency and each run a part of the currency's network.

The idea behind cryptocurrencies is to create a politically independent currency that would not be printed by any existing government. There are currently thousands of different cryptocurrencies in the world. A cryptocurrency is a type of virtual or digital currency designed to be secure for financial transactions, and isn’t run by a single bank or institution but instead by a computer network. It is built on a blockchain which is a distributed database, or ledger, that keeps track of who owns what that runs on, in some cases, thousands of computers.

Iran refuses to back down from nuclear advancement

Iran’s envoy to Europe, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, said last-ditch talks on Friday intended to persuade Iran to back off from its plans to breach limits imposed by its nuclear agreement with world powers were “a step forward, but it is still not enough and not meeting Iran’s expectations”.

In recent weeks, Washington has blamed Iran for attacks on ships in the Gulf, which Iran denies. Iran shot down an American drone last week claiming it had entered its air space. Washington said the drone was in international skies, and President Donald Trump ordered, then aborted, retaliatory air strikes on Iranian targets.

The talks came a week after Washington called off air strikes just minutes before impact, as American diplomats say Iran is days away from exceeding the maximum amount of enriched uranium allowed under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the United States walked away from last year. The Trump administration argues that the 2015 agreement reached under his predecessor Barack Obama was too weak because many terms are not permanent and it excludes non-nuclear issues such as missiles and Iran’s regional behavior. Washington says the aim of sanctions is to force Tehran to renegotiate.

Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and China are still on board with the nuclear agreement and held urgent talks with Iranian officials on Friday in Vienna in hope of persuading Tehran to hold off. The Europeans say breach of the agreement by Iran would escalate confrontation at a time when Tehran and Washington are at risk of a miscalculation that could trigger a war. Any move by Iran that violated the terms of the nuclear deal would put pressure on the Europeans to take sides, where a senior European diplomat said, “We want them to stay in the accord, but we won’t accept them messing us around.”

Iran said it is ramping up its nuclear program and had announced dates when this would push it past limits in the deal. The first big deadline passed on Thursday, the day Tehran said it would accumulate more enriched uranium than the deal allows. Another deadline falls on July 7 when Iran says it will have enriched some uranium to a purity forbidden under the deal. Tehran says it still aims to keep the deal alive and any breaches could be reversed.

Vladimir Putin says liberalism is "obsolete"

In an interview with the Financial Times prior to leaving for the G20 summit in Japan this weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin said "the liberal idea” that has underpinned Western democracies for several decades had "outlived its purpose" as the public turned against immigration, open borders, and multiculturalism, calling these ideas "no longer tenable".

The four term President pointed to the waves of immigration from conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East which had fostered crime and social strains, in turn fuelling an anti-establishment backlash in Europe, saying, "[Liberals] cannot simply dictate anything to anyone," and that liberalism conflicted with "the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population."

He criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing large numbers of refugees to settle in Germany as a “cardinal mistake” saying, "This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected."

President Putin said, “Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.” Likewise, President Putin praised United States President Donald Trump for trying to stop the flow of migrants and drugs coming through and from Mexico.

President Putin praised President Trump as a "talented person" who knew how to relate to voters. Regarding the US-China trade war and geopolitical tensions in the Gulf between the US and Iran, President Putin said the situation had become “explosive” and stem from American unilateralism and the lack of rules underpinning world order.

Despite a struggling economy, President Putin has sought to establish Russia as a counterweight to the liberal Western order. His remarks carry weight since the liberal order that was established in the wake of the World War Two is starting to crack apart. Western nations have experienced the failures of liberalism in a rapid succession of events over the last decade from an ongoing financial crisis, Brexit and the undemocratic nature of the European Union, the rise of China as a major economic force, and an American President who wants his nation to prioritize its own citizens.

President Putin said liberal governments had not acted to reassure citizens but instead pursued a mindless multiculturalism embracing, among other things, sexual diversity. “I am not trying to insult anyone because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia. But we have no problem with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish,” he said. “But some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles.” The President added, “Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”

Dalai Lama warns Europe to send Muslims and Africans back to their home countries

The Dalai Lama warned that the whole of Europe could become 'Muslim or African' if these economic migrants and refugees are not returned to their home countries. The Buddhist spiritual leader has been living as a refugee in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959. He said only a 'limited number' of migrants should be allowed to remain.

In an interview this week, the 83-year-old Dalai Lama said, “European countries should take these refugees and give them education and training, and the aim is return to their own land with certain skills.” When the interviewer asked what should happen to migrants and refugees who want to stay in their adopted countries, he replied, “A limited number is okay, but the whole of Europe [will] eventually become Muslim country, African country - impossible.

There are thought to be around 70 million refugees worldwide. In a speech last year in Malmo, Sweden, the Tibetan Buddhist said refugees should return to help rebuilt their own countries. In that speech, the Dalai Lama said, “Receive them [migrants], help them, educate them, but ultimately they should develop their own country. I think Europe belongs to the Europeans.” He said while Europe is “morally responsible” for helping “a refugee really facing danger against their life,” these people ultimately should be returned to their homelands.

Following the surge in migration from African and Muslim countries in 2015, the Dalai Lama said in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that “Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country,” and that there were “too many refugees” in Europe.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has lived in India, which granted him asylum in 1959, after fleeing the capital Lhasa during the Tibetan uprising.  He set up a government-in-exile in Dharamsala in northern India and launched a campaign to reclaim Tibet from China, which gradually evolved into an appeal for greater autonomy - known as the so-called 'middle way' approach.

Facebook gives user data to French courts over ‘hate speech’

In the first instance of a social media company formally collaborating with governments, Facebook has agreed to hand over to judges the identification data of French users who are suspected of so-called ‘hate speech’ on its platform.

According to Parliamentary Undersecretary for Digital Affairs Cedric O, the decision by the world’s biggest social media network comes after successive meetings between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and French President Emmanuel Macron, who want to take a leading role globally on the regulation of hate speech and the spread of false information online. Last week, Undersecretary O met with Facebook’s head of global affairs, former Deputy Prime Minister for the United Kingdom Nick Clegg. In a following interview, Undersecretary O said, “This is huge news, it means that the judicial process will be able to run normally. It’s really very important, they’re only doing it for France.”

Prior to this, Facebook had cooperated with French justice on matters related to terrorist attacks and violent acts by transferring the IP addresses and other identification data of suspected individuals to French judges who formally demanded it.

Undersecretary O, whose father is South Korean, was formerly an aide to socialist Minister Dominique Strauss-Khan. He is one of President Macron’s earliest followers and has been influential in shaping the President’s thinking on Big Tech as an advisor at the Elysee in the first two years of Mr. Macron’s presidency. Since his appointment in March, Undersecretary O has made the fight against hate speech online a key priority through regular contacts with Facebook’s top executives, including founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Last year, the discussions began on how to best regulate tech giants with a meeting between Mr. Zuckerberg and President Macron, which was followed by a report on tech regulation last month that Facebook’s founder considered could be a blueprint for wider EU regulation.

France’s parliament, where President Macron’s governing party has a comfortable majority, is currently debating legislation that would give a new regulator the power to fine tech companies up to 4 percent of their global revenue if they don’t do enough to remove hateful content from their network.

Undersecretary O also supports French startups being bought by larger American companies, saying, “My only goal is to spur the creation of a lot of companies. I have no problem with the fact that some of them are bought by U.S. companies, as long as they don’t have critical technology.” Undersecretary O is against the idea of breaking up Big Tech monopolies of companies such as Facebook or Google, whose size, weight on the Internet, and financial firepower have turned them into systemic players just as much as big banks.

Sonia Cisse, a counsel at law firm Linklaters, said, “It is a strong signal in terms of regulation. Hate speech is no longer considered part of freedom of speech, it’s now on the same level as terrorism.” With Facebook’s latest move, France is now a clear frontrunner in the quest to regulate big social media outlets, and other platforms might follow suite, Ms. Cisse said.

Why Measles Making the News Is a Sign of Progress

A set of measles outbreaks in Washington state, New York City, and elsewhere, is making national headlines and frightening parents around the United States. Counter-intuitively, measles making the news is a sign of progress. Not long ago, measles was so common that it was simply not newsworthy. Suffering from the extremely infectious disease, which causes spotty rashes and a hacking cough, was widespread and often deadly.

It was once the case that even royalty fell victim to diseases now easily preventable with routine shots given during childhood. Measles killed the un-vaccinated King Kamehameha II of Hawaii, and his queen, Kamamalu, in the 1800s. A century prior to that, King Louis XIV of France lost his brother, son, grandson, and great-grandson to smallpox. Smallpox once claimed approximately 400,000 lives annually in Europe in the late 18th century, and in the 20th century, it caused hundreds of millions of deaths around the world. Thanks to vaccines, smallpox was eradicated in 1980.

As recently as the late 1950s and early 1960s, nearly twice as many children died from measles as from the polio disease. Thanks, once again, to vaccines, polio was eliminated from the United States in 1979.

Recent coverage by the Washington Post of the current measles outbreaks contains an amazing anecdote of a measles victim’s visit to a doctor: “the doctor, who had never seen measles, misdiagnosed the man’s fever and cough as bronchitis.” That measles is now so rare that even a trained medical doctor cannot recognize it, when just a generation ago it was a common childhood ailment, is truly a triumph of medical progress.

As recently as 1990, measles caused over 22 deaths per 100,000 people globally. Thanks to the measles vaccine and rising global vaccination rates, that figure fell to just over 1 per 100,000 people by 2016, the most recent year for which there is data. That represents a decline in measles deaths of over 95 percent.

The current uptick in measles cases is troubling. But the fact that measles cases are making the news at all is a testament to medical progress.


About the Author

Chelsea Follett is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute and managing editor of Human Progress.

Heroes of Progress: Paul Hermann Muller

Paul Hermann Müller, a 20th century Swiss Chemist who discovered the insecticide qualities of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT). The effectiveness of DDT in killing mosquitoes, lice, fleas and sand flies that carry malaria, typhus, the plague and some tropical diseases, respectively, has saved countless millions of lives.

Müller was born on January 12, 1899 in Solothurn, Switzerland. At the age of 17, Müller left school and, one year later, began working as an assistant chemist for Lonza – one of the world’s largest chemical and biotechnology companies.

In 1918, Müller returned to school. In 1919, he started studying chemistry with a minor in botany and physics at Basel University. Upon completing his undergraduate degree in 1922, Müller stayed at Basel University to study toward a PhD in organic chemistry. Müller completed his PhD in 1925. That year, he started working for J.R. Geigy, a company that specialized in “chemicals, dyes, and drugs of all kind.” It would be here that Müller made his great discovery.

In 1935, Switzerland began experiencing major food shortages caused by crop infestations, and the Soviet Union experienced the most extensive and lethal typhus epidemic in history. These two events had a profound impact on Müller. Before the 1940s, insecticides were either expensive natural products or inexpensive but made from arsenic compounds that made them poisonous to humans and mammals.

Motivated by the need to create a cheap and long-lasting plant-protection agent that was not harmful to plants or warm-blooded animals, Müller decided to switch the focus of his work at J.R. Geigy from research on vegetable dyes and natural tanning agents, to plant-protection agents.

By 1937, Müller had developed a successful seed disinfectant named Graminone, which, when applied to seeds, protected them from soil-borne pathogens and insects. After this initial success, Müller turned his attention to insecticides. After four years of intensive work and 349 failed experiments, Müller found the compound he was looking for in September 1939.

DDT had first been synthesized by Viennese pharmacologist Othmar Zeidler in 1874. Unfortunately, Zeidler failed to recognize DDT’s value as an insecticide. J.R. Geigy took out a Swiss patent on DDT in 1940 and British, American and Australian patents followed in the early 1940s.

The discovery of DDT came at an important moment in history. It played a crucial role in protecting Allied troops in the Far East, where the shirts of British and U.S. troops were often impregnated with the compound. In 1943, DDT was used in Naples to bring a typhus epidemic under control in just three weeks. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, DDT was used to eradicate malaria from many countries, including the United States and most of Southern Europe.

The use of DDT declined after 1972, when it was banned, due to environmental concerns, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As Richard Tren of the public health advocacy group called Africa Fighting Malaria noted, “while there is evidence that the widespread, virtually unregulated agricultural use of DDT … did harm the environment, no study… has shown DDT to be the cause of any human health problem.”

In 2006, the World Health Organization reversed its stance on DDT. The WHO now recommends “the use of [DDT in] indoor residual spraying” as “DDT presents no health risk when used properly.”

After his discovery, Müller went on to become J.R. Geigy’s deputy director of research for plant-protection. In 1948, Müller received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The fact Müller was accorded this award even though he was not a physiologist or a medical researcher highlights the immense impact that DDT had in the fight against disease.

Later in life, Müller received many awards and honorary doctorates. In 1961, Müller retired from J.R. Geigy, but continued doing research in his home laboratory. In 1965, Müller died at the age of 65 in Basel.

Thanks to Müller’s work, billions of people have been able to avoid exposure to deadly diseases that have plagued humanity since the dawn of our species.


About the Author

Alexander C. R. Hammond is a researcher at a Washington DC think tank.

Fascism Has Always Been An Enemy of Private Property

The Left and mainstream political science identify Italian fascism and German national socialism as a right-wing ideology. Their motivation is clear — they do not want to be associated with regimes that brought civilization the horror and suffering of an unprecedented scale. The Left traditionally substantiates their point of view with two theoretical propositions. First of all, fascism and Nazism do not belong to the Left because those regimes did not institute total collective ownership on means of production as Marx prescribed. Secondly, nationalism and racism have traditionally been features of the Right, whereas the Left is perceived to be internationalist in nature.

Private Ownership in Name Only

Let us consider the first postulate about the failure of these regimes to carry out total socialization of private property. Thus, Stalin pointed out in his interview to American journalist Roy Howard, “The foundation of the [socialism] society is public property: state, i.e., national, and co-operative, collective farm property. Neither Italian fascism nor German National-‘socialism’ has anything in common with such a society. Primarily, this is because the private ownership of the factories and works, of the land, the banks, transport, etc. has remained intact, and, therefore, capitalism remains in full force in Germany and Italy.” That has been the notorious argument of Marxian socialists.

The great Ludwig von Mises attacked logical inferences of the Left by pointing out that in non-Marxian socialist regimes the private property was de jure allowed, but de facto the state was the principal owner of the means of production. “If the State takes the power of disposal from the owner piecemeal, by extending its influence over production; if its power to determine what direction production shall be, is increased, then the owner is left at last with nothing except the empty name of ownership, and property has passed into the hands of the State”, wrote Mises in Socialism.

Indisputably, his arguments authentically describe real economic affairs under these regimes. Indeed, entrepreneurs were deprived of the free commodity market, labor market, and international money market; the state established wage and price controls, and overall influenced all stages of production, distribution, and consumption. However, it should be recognized that Mises’s arguments do not find the proper understanding and effect in modern realities.

The thing is, the twentieth century was cracked by two bloody World Wars and the prolonged Cold War. Only a state can wage World Wars as it can gather and manage the necessary financial, economic, and people resources. Thus, for the last century, the state had been very firmly fixed in the economic sphere of society, and it reluctantly gave up its position. After all, many generations of people live in conditions where the state dictates the conditions of the economy. They do not even suspect that the state and the economy may have different relations. Contemporary industrial countries are guilty of conducting policies that resemble ones from the cookbooks of Italian and German governments. Indeed, the state has put in place various regulations that adversely affect the business and economy as a whole, including, among other things, control over the minimum wage, the establishment of social programs that are fueled by the substantial redistribution of wealth, and many other measures.

Mises pointed out that the state controlled the economic life, conducting various measures of coercion. He is undoubtedly right; however, the socialist regimes have utilized both methods: coercion and persuasion, and the latter occupied even more prominent importance. In contemporary settings, the outright collectivist indoctrinations in educational institutions became a primary form of persuasion.

Humans are the most adaptive species and easily affected by a skillful conviction. The majority of the corresponding population almost effortlessly accepted national ideas of fascists and Nazis. Gotz Aly mentioned in Hitler’s Beneficiaries that The Third Reich was not a dictatorship maintained by force. He gave a vivid example that in 1937, Gestapo had just over 7,000 employees, which sufficed to keep tabs on more than 60 million people. The vast majority of the population voluntarily subdues their thoughts toward ideas of the ruling party. Consequently, the population that underwent collectivization of mind eagerly supported any policies, including economic measures proposed by the government. German entrepreneurs were an integral part of the nationalist movement and did not mind accepting new game rules and enthusiastically took part in the social experiment.

As far as the “de jure-de facto possession” argument put forward by Mises, it is necessary to supplement it with the following propositions. If one owns the property, one should be able to control it. The reverse is also true: if one controls private property, one de facto owns it. It is easier and more effective to manage the property if one also possesses this property. Therefore, it was quite natural, that the fascist and Nazis states developed a tendency to become real owners, not only de facto but also de jure. The property ownership dichotomy “one owns, but deprived of full control – another one controls, but not owns” could not be considered as a stable paradigm. This construct had to collapse and be rested in the stable position – “one owns, one controls.” An ambiguity inherent in the “de facto and de jure possessions” would be inevitably resolved in favor of a stronger counterpart – a state. The history shows that the Fascist state was developing along this path. By 1939, Fascist Italy attained the highest rate of state ownership in the world other than the Soviet Union.

Therefore, the first argument put forward by the Left should be rebuffed along with the following reasoning. First of all, Italian Fascism and National Socialism belong to the Left as they are incarnations of the non-Marxian socialism that utilized collectivization of consciousness rather than the socialization of private property as the primary path toward socialism. Secondly, state control over the economy will ultimately lead to the socialization of private property, which will make the state de jure owner.

Nationalism Is Not Unique to the Right

The supposed exclusive nationalism and racism of the Right is a political myth propelled by the vicious leftist propaganda. It is known that the founders of Marxism were xenophobes that adhered to the Hegelian division of nations to historical and non-historical. The founder of revolutionary syndicalism Sorel was an ardent anti-Semite. Some currents of socialism preached outright chauvinism; others used internationalist rhetoric in order to gain political benefits. Moreover, nationalism was not a factor that divided the political spectrum into the Left-Right wings at the beginning of the 20th century. Instead, it was the attitude to property rights (or antagonism between capital and labor, in Marxian terms) that divided the political spectrum. Therefore, nationalism might be inherent in various political philosophies, in both the defenders of capital and the proponents of labor. No firm historical facts suggest that nationalism is a particular characteristic of the Right. On the contrary, as proponents of the free market, the Right promote an international division of labor and trade. At the same time, institutionalized regimes of the Left, including Italian Fascism and German National-Socialism, implemented an economy of national autarky.

Italian Fascism and German Nazism constitute anti-materialist, anti-positivist current of the socialist movement, which was extremely hostile toward ideas of Marxism and democratic socialism. Nevertheless, they shared a continuum bench of the socialist team. Communists occupy the extreme left, followed by the Social Democrats; the right flank belongs to fascists and Nazis — they are the right wing of the Left.


About the Author

Allen Gindler is an author with the Mises Institute.

The Romantic Idea of a Plentiful Past Is Pure Fantasy

On January 29, The Guardian ran a column that sparked an interesting debate on two continents. Jason Hickel from the University of London rejected the generally-accepted estimate of reduction in absolute poverty “from 94 percent in 1820 to only 10 percent today.” In “Bill Gates says poverty is decreasing. He couldn’t be more wrong,” Hickel critiqued academics, like Max Roser from Oxford University and Steven Pinker from Harvard University, journalists, like Nick Kristof from The New York Times and philanthropists, like Bill Gates, for suggesting that “global extension of free-market capitalism has been great for everyone.”

Pinker and Roser responded, and so did Hickel.

Hickel’s critique of the claim that absolute poverty in the world has drastically declined over the last 200 years rests on his belief that monetary income overestimates poverty in the past, when people enjoyed a lot of non-monetary benefits “from abundant commons” (more on that below) and underestimates poverty today. Incremental growth of income at the bottom of the global income ladder (the absolute poverty level is set at $1.90 per person per day), Hickel contends, falls far short of what’s needed for human flourishing. As such, he prefers poverty measure of at least $7.40 per person per day. As Hickel put it,   

What Roser’s numbers actually reveal is that the world went from a situation where most of humanity had no need of money at all to one where today most of humanity struggles to survive on extremely small amounts of money… [Roser’s] graph casts this as a decline in poverty, but in reality what was going on was a process of dispossession that bulldozed people into the capitalist labor system, during the enclosure movements in Europe and the colonization of the global south.

 

Prior to colonization, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor… In other words, Roser’s graph illustrates a story of coerced proletarianisation.

 

It is not at all clear that this represents an improvement in people’s lives, as in most cases we know that the new income people earned from wages didn’t come anywhere close to compensating for their loss of land and resources, which were of course gobbled up by colonisers. Gates’s favorite infographic takes the violence of colonization and repackages it as a happy story of progress.

I shall leave the mixed legacy of colonialism for another day. For now, let me suggest that many ex-colonies, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Botswana and Singapore, and ex-poor countries, including China, Chile, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan, have done rather well – a point emphasized by a number of conservative critics of globalization, who believe that it is the Western worker who is being shafted by international capitalism.

Instead, I wish to focus on Hickel’s assertion that people in the past didn’t need money “in order to live well.” In fact, lives of ordinary Western Europeans prior to the Industrial Revolution were dismal and fully in accord with Roser’s definition of “absolute poverty.” Put differently, poverty was widespread and it was precisely the onset of industrialization and global trade that Hickel bemoans, which led to poverty alleviation first in the West and then in the Rest.

There is, perhaps, no greater symbol of early industrialization and break with Western Europe’s not-so-bucolic agricultural past than the “satanic mills” that in the view of the English poet William Blake, pockmarked the face of the English countryside. As he wrote in his 1808 poem Jerusalem,

“And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

The main products of these mills (i.e., buildings that housed spinning or weaving machinery producing yarn or cloth from cotton) were easily washable cotton clothes and underclothes. That was revolutionary. In his Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy 1000-1700, Carlo Cipolla noted,

In preindustrial Europe, the purchase of a garment or the cloth for a garment remained a luxury the common people could only afford a few times in their lives. One of the main preoccupations of hospital administration was to ensure that the clothes of the deceased should not be usurped but should be given to lawful inheritors. During epidemics of plague, the town authorities had to struggle to confiscate the clothes of the dead and to burn them: people waited for others to die so as to take over their clothes – which generally had the effect of spreading the epidemic.

Up to the 19th century, poor people wore woolen clothes and underclothes that itched and did not wash easily. That practice or, to be more precise, necessity, exacerbated the across-the-board problem of poor hygiene. Lest we forget, most people lived, and slept with, their domestic animals, including chickens, cows and pigs (to guard the livestock from thieves and predators). Eggs, milk and occasional meat enriched the usually bland diet of bread, and animal waste was needed to fertilize crops. The dangers inherent in using waste as fertilizer were compounded by the fact that people seldom washed their hands and clothes. That led to epidemics, and contributed to sky-high mortality rates among our ancestors.

As late as the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, during which 55,000 men were either killed or wounded, the dead soldiers were stripped before burial. Why would anyone bother stripping the dead, when every hour increased the danger of putrefaction and spread of disease? The most likely reason for the practice was that clothing was still very expensive and the uniforms were washed, patched up and reused.

Jules Michelet, a 19th century French historian, who was a ferocious critic of capitalism, was honest enough to recognize the material benefits of the Industrial Revolution. In his 1846 book Le Peuple, he noted,

This [i.e., industrialization] was a revolution in France, little noted, but a great revolution nonetheless. It was a revolution in cleanliness and embellishment of the homes of the poor; underwear, bedding, table linen, and window curtains were now used by whole classes who had not used them since the beginning of the world. … Machine production … brings within the reach of the poor a world of useful objects, even luxurious and artistic objects, which they could never reach before. … Every [non-rich] woman used to wear a blue or black dress that she kept for ten years without washing, for fear it might tear to pieces. But now her husband, a poor worker, covers her in a robe of flowers [i.e., flowery designs] for the price of a day’s labor.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were no less fawning with regard to the material improvements taking place all around them. In the Communist Manifesto, which the two writers penned in 1848, they noted,

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground--what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?

In The Housing Question, which Engels wrote in 1872, the German businessman observed,

[The] industrial revolution...has raised the productive power of human labor to such a high level that--for the first time in the history of humanity--the possibility exists, given a rational division of labor among all, to produce not only enough for the plentiful consumption of all members of society and for an abundant reserve fund, but also to leave each individual sufficient leisure so that what is really worth preserving in historically inherited culture--science, art, human relations is not only preserved, but converted from a monopoly of the ruling class into the common property of the whole of society, and further developed.

 

The evidence from contemporary accounts and academic research does not support Hickel’s assertion that people in the past “lived well” without much monetary income. Compared to today, Western European living standards prior to industrialization were miserably low.


About the Author

Marian L. Tupy is a senior policy analyst at the Cato Institute and editor of HumanProgress.org

Canadian government approves Trans Canada pipeline expansion

On Tuesday, the Canadian government approved expansion of the 66-year-old Trans Canada crude oil pipeline that it bought last year for CAD $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan Canada. Hoping to appease energy supporters ahead of the October federal election, the Liberals angered environmental activists despite also declaring a climate emergency this week.

The Liberal government previously approved the expansion in 2016 but that decision was overturned last year after a court ruled the government had not adequately consulted indigenous groups. Though Ottawa expects legal challenges to this latest approval, construction will resume shortly. This is expected to take two and a half years and could be in service by the second half of 2022.

The project triples Trans Mountain’s capacity to carry 890,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s oil sands to British Columbia’s Pacific coast and alleviates congestion on existing pipelines and diversify exports away from the United States. Western Canada’s oil production has expanded faster than pipeline capacity, causing a glut of crude to build up.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been under intense pressure from both western Canadian Premiers and energy supporters who accuse him of doing too little for the oil industry, and from environmental groups who wrongly see the oilsands as a highly polluting source of crude production.

Trans Mountain still requires various permits and route approvals in British Columbia, where that province’s far-left New Democratic Party government opposes the project. BC Premier John Horgan said his government was “disappointed” with the federal government’s decision but would not unduly withhold construction permits. However, the BC government plans to appeal a recent BC Appeal Court ruling that the provincial government cannot restrict the flow of oil on pipelines that cross provincial boundaries.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association said in a statement that the decision will help create billions in economic benefits across Canada as it allows Canadian oil to reach higher-paying international markets. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, a frequent critic of PM Trudeau, said, “This is now a test for Canada to demonstrate to the rest of the world we are a safe place in which to invest. We will measure success not by today’s decision but by the beginning of actual construction and more importantly by the completion of the pipeline.

The pipeline is a vital conduit to help Canadian oil reach higher-priced international markets. According to a National Energy Board filing, eighty percent of the expanded pipeline’s total capacity has been contracted to companies including Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural Resources, and Exxon-owned Imperial Oil. Numerous indigenous groups have said they are interested in investing in it.

Trans Mountain has stockpiled about 30 percent of the pipe it needs and would resume construction where it left off a year ago, at the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, BC, and between Edmonton and Jasper, Alberta.

President Trump Kicks off his 2020 re-election campaign

Supporters of American President Donald Trump lined up 40 hours early ahead of his re-election campaign kickoff in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday. The President tweeted that the rally would be “record-setting” after the campaign received over 100,000 ticket requests for an arena that fits 20,000.

Under the new campaign slogan ‘Keep America Great’, President Trump said, “Our Country is doing great, far beyond what the haters & losers thought possible – and it will only get better!” Addressing his supporters, he said, “America will never be a socialist country. Ever. Republicans do not believe in socialism. We believe in freedom.”

President Trump said the Democratic Party is becoming “more radical,” dangerous, and unhinged than at any point in history. Illegal immigration cuts off the path of the most vulnerable Americans and schoolchildren are being threatened by illegal MS-13 gangsters, while mass illegal migration reduces living standards and strains public resources. The President said the Democrats’ embrace of open borders and illegal immigration is “morally reprehensible and it’s the greatest betrayal of the American middle class and, frankly, American life our country has as a whole…nobody has seen anything like it.” He lambasted California Democrats for giving health care to illegal migrants instead of helping homeless citizens.

Additionally, the President said Democrats do not want a border wall with Mexico now, contrary to earlier statements, simply because he the President at this time pushing for the move. “Democrats want to splinter us into factions and tribes…. They want us divided,” he said and added that the 2020 election is a verdict on whether Americans want to live in a country where people who lose elections want to spend two years shredding the constitution and ripping the country apart because they refuse to concede.

In terms of the economy, President Trump said his new tariffs are working and America has added 16,000 manufacturing jobs each month since he took office and that China took former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden for “suckers” to take advantage over the United States on trade.

President Trump asked the crowd to imagine what the “angry, left-wing mob” would do if they were in charge of the country in 2020, citing what the Democrats wrongly did to Brett Kavanaugh, where it wasn’t about the Democrats wanting to win but about wanting to “destroy him with false and malicious accusations.

Speaking the trend of the left-wing censoring those who disagree with them, the President also warned that the Democrats want to pack the courts and radicalize judges in order to “shut down your free speech” and “use the power of the law to punish their opponents.” He said the Democrats will “strip Americans of their Constitutional rights” while flooding the country with illegal migrants with hopes that they will expand their political base.

Ireland declares a Climate Emergency while encouraging third-world mass migration

Under the Irish government’s new climate plan, social engineering will force citizens into “higher density” cities to ‘revolutionise’ people’s lifestyle and behaviours. According to Ireland’s Transport Minister Shane Ross, who proposed banning fossil fuel vehicles nationwide, massive tax hikes, bans, and additional red tape will pave the way to a “vibrant” Ireland of zero carbon emissions by 2050. The goal is to avert a “climate apocalypse” by forcing people “out of private cars because they are the biggest offenders for emissions.

The proposal unveiled on Tuesday outlined more than 180 measures to decarbonise the Irish economy, including making private car ownership prohibitively expensive and petrol and diesel car sales will be banned by 2030, at which point the general carbon tax will be increased from 20 Euros per tonne to “at least” 80 Euros.

Last year, the government committed to increase Ireland’s population of 4.7 million people by an additional million people through mass migration from third-world countries, such as Africa and the Middle East. Prime Minister and leader of the globalist Fine Gael Leo Varadkar, who is of Indian origin, said “Our approach will be to nudge people and businesses to change behaviour and adapt new technologies through incentives, disincentives, regulations and information.”

Coal and peat-fired power stations are replaced with wind farms and other “green” energy sources in order to meet the requirement that 70 per cent of electricity will be generated from renewables by 2030. Scientists including Cambridge engineering professor Michael Kelly, who has previously explained that such proposals “represent total madness”, say the plans to dramatically slash carbon emissions by ditching tried and tested energy sources such as coal and nuclear in favour of renewables will necessarily result in a collapse in living standards.

In energy terms the current generation of renewable energy technologies alone will not enable a civilised modern society to continue,” Mr. Kelly asserted in a peer-reviewed paper published in 2016, pointing out that renewables such as solar, wind, and hydro power supply just seven per cent of electricity needs globally while “the rate at which fossil fuels are growing is seven times that at which the low carbon energies are growing”.

The Hughes Medal-decorated physicist cautioned, “The call to decarbonise the global economy by 80% by 2050 can now only be described as glib in my opinion, as the underlying analysis shows it is only possible if we wish to see large parts of the population die from starvation, destitution or violence in the absence of enough low-carbon energy to sustain society.

YouTube now censors political parties, starting with Spain’s Vox

In Spain’s national election in April, the new nationalist Vox Party (translated, ‘vox’ means ‘voice’) earned record gains and YouTube's parent company Google noted search enquires for Vox were three times higher than searches for the both left wing Socialists and Popular Party. In its latest purge this week, YouTube deleted the Spanish Vox Party’s entire channel as the Google-owned platform continues to target and censor right-leaning and conservative political content.

Vox demanded an explanation YouTube as to why their account has been closed or suspended without any explanation. The party tweeted, “The decision to remove the channel is a serious attack on the freedom of expression and dissemination of a political party.”

Later, they tweeted, “The three people who have denounced us are left-wing activists… We have found that other political parties and progressive channels use the same audiovisual resources without being denounced for it.

In another tweet, Vox said, “We call on these platforms, who claim to fight online abuse, to pursue groups of progressive trolls who report in an organized manner and for ideological reasons to all those accounts that do not conform to their unique thinking.

The Vox party later used the blacklisting to accuse YouTube of bowing to the demands of left-wing activists, saying, “We take advantage of this fact to show our outrage at the arbitrary actions of Twitter, Facebook and Google; hypersensitive to the requests of activists of totalitarian Marxism and the establishment. We show our support to all those who, like us, have been affected by these arbitrary actions by those responsible for these social networks in recent months.

Earlier this month, YouTube announced it was imposing a major crackdown on “hate speech”. Days before the election in April, Facebook removed numerous large pro-Vox pages which had a combined reach of millions at the request of Avaaz, a left-wing non-governmental organization (NGO) that is funded by George Soros.

In April’s general election, the Vox Party won 24 seats in the Spanish parliament, obtaining around 10 percent of the nationwide vote, as well as three MEP’s in May’s European Parliamentary Elections.

The world's largest Ocean Cleanup of garbage and plastic begins

While governments are distracted with the intangibles of climate change and carbon taxes, private innovation is creating positive results in environmental protection. In 2013, then-18-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat founded his start-up called The Ocean Cleanup with the mission to develop “advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.” Last weekend, his floating boom system was deployed from San Francisco Bay for testing and is estimated to clean up half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within its first five years.

Ocean Cleanup’s USD $20 million system aims to remove 90 percent of the 1.8 trillion pieces of trash floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex of trash discovered in the mid-1980s that is created from an ocean gyre in the central North Pacific, between Hawaii and California, by 2040. Each boom will trap up to 150,000 pounds of plastic per year as they float along the circulating ocean currents between California and Hawaii. The system takes advantage of natural oceanic forces to catch and concentrate the plastic. In terms of creating a system for cleanup, the gyre is a benefit by prevents the further distribution of the garbage patch.

The beta cleanup system of booms are comprised of 600-meter long floaters that can collect about five tons of ocean plastic per month. Following the present testing, the floating boom system will be towed out 1,400 miles to the garbage patch around mid-October and begin collecting trash. The floating boom drifts along with the local currents, creating a U-shaped formation. As the boom floats, it collects trash in the U shaped system, which has 10 feet of netting below it to collect smaller fragments of plastic. Once the boom is full, a vessel will meet the boom to collect the plastic and transport it to land for sorting and recycling. Its 10 feet of netting is not deep enough that fish are unable to swim below it, therefore the hope is the boom will collect trash and not fish.

There are five garbage patches in the world’s oceans, of which the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest. The Ocean Cleanup is backed by investors including Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce. The company will welcome corporations and philanthropists to sponsor their own cleanup system in coming years.

Chief Operating Officer Lonneke Holierhoek said, "We really see the urgency in starting the cleanup because there's so much harm that could happen with this plastic that's floating out there." According to the World Economic Forum, oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish by 2050. As noted on The Ocean Cleanup website, "Research shows the majority of plastic by mass is currently in the larger debris. By removing the plastic while most of it is still large, we prevent it from breaking down into dangerous microplastics" that can absorb toxic substances and travel up the food chain.

 

Flawed Assumptions of China's Disastrous Childbearing Laws

The Chinese government is finally considering ending all of its cruel and pointless limits on childbearing, after softening its one-child policy to a two-child policy in 2016. To increase the birth rate, a recent South China Morning Post editorial even recommended that China adopt an “at least one child” policy. That is because, in a dramatic reversal, the government is now worried that its citizenry is producing too few, rather than too many, children. Not long ago, the government feared just the opposite.

China’s birth limits were intended to shrink the population, based on the idea that “too many” people spelled disaster. Overpopulation fears became popular among Chinese officials in the 1970s, when the central arguments behind the Club of Rome’s report The Limits to Growth were translated into Chinese and promoted by a mathematician named Song Jian.

The book warned that population growth could deplete resources and lead to a “collapse” of global society. It relied largely on computer simulations based on a dubious set of assumptions.

Anti-population paranoia was not new. Thomas Malthus published an essay in 1798 expressing much the same fears, although without the elaborate calculations. But helped by alarmists like Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich and the members of the Club of Rome, overpopulation hysteria underwent a renaissance in the 1970s. The Limits to Growth also promoted the idea that planners could use “systems analysis” to compute a country’s sustainable population size. In 1978, Song Jian calculated that China’s ideal population was between 650 million and 700 million people — in other words, 280 million to 330 million less than its actual population at the time.

Hence in 1979, China imposed the infamous policy that restricted each family to one child. The consequences were tragic, with millions of sterilisations and abortions, many of them forced. Families who committed the grave crime of having more than one child could be forced to pay fines many times more than their annual income. The family size limits, combined with a cultural preference for sons over daughters, have also led to female infanticide, sex-selective abortions and a highly skewed gender ratio. In 2007, the ratio among newborns reached 1.17 boys for every girl. By 2015, the ratio improved slightly to 1.15 boys for every girl, still far outside the global rate of 1.05 boys per girl.

While the human rights abuses alone are reason enough to oppose birth limits, the premise that “overpopulation” is a problem at all is incorrect. More people in the world means more people to solve problems, and less resource scarcity. As economist Julian Simon has written: “For all practical purposes there are no resources until we find them, identify their possible uses, and develop ways to obtain and process them. We perform these tasks with increasing skill as technology develops. Hence, scarcity diminishes.”

Human beings, with their inventive potential, are themselves, in Simon’s phrase, “The Ultimate Resource”. Each child born today eventually grows up to make resources less scarce, on average, by contributing to innovation and the global economy.

But perhaps the saddest part is that the birth restrictions did not even achieve their stated goal — ill-informed though it was. While China’s birthrate did fall during the period in which these childbearing policies were in place, the birthrate of neighbouring countries fell too, sometimes even faster — all without authoritarian laws limiting procreation. In fact, most of the fall in China’s birth rate occurred before the one-child policy was even implemented.

It is true that China’s birth rate was higher back in the mid-1960s, when the average Chinese woman had more than six children on average. But by 1979, the year the one-child policy began, that figure had already dropped to just under three children. The decline since then has been less dramatic, and perfectly in line with trends in neighbouring countries.

South Korea, where the fertility rate was very similar (and in fact slightly higher than China’s) in 1979, has seen an even steeper decline since then and today has fewer births per woman than China. So too does Hong Kong, an autonomous region of China where families are free to have as many children as they choose.

The data clearly indicates that the birthrate would have fallen without coercive restrictions on family size. Demographers widely accept that after a country’s average income passes about $5,000,  families tend to have fewer children.

Regardless of what the Chinese Communist Party decides, their limitations (or lack thereof) are unlikely to meaningfully affect the birth rate. The bottom line is that regardless of their effect, these restrictions unethically limit women’s and families’ choices and should be removed as soon as possible. And if implementing an “at least one child” policy, as the South China Morning Post’s editorial board desires, would involve punishing the childless, then that too is an inhumane and appalling idea.


About the Author

Chelsea Follett is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute and managing editor of Human Progress.

Heroes of Progress: Malcom McLean

Malcom McLean was n American truck driver and, later, businessman who developed the modern intermodal shipping container. McLean’s development of standardized shipping containers significantly reduced the cost of transporting cargo across the world. Lower shipping costs significantly boosted international trade which, in turn, helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. McLean’s “containerization” remains a vital pillar of our interconnected global economy today.

Before McLean developed the standardized shipping container, nearly all the world’s cargo was transported in a diverse assortment of barrels, boxes, bags, crates and drums. A typical ship in the pre-container era contained as many as 200,000 individual pieces of cargo that were loaded onto the ship by hand. The time it took to load and unload the cargo often equaled the time that the ship needed to sail between ports. That inefficiency contributed to keeping the cost of shipping very high. This is where McLean enters our story.

Malcolm (later Malcom) McLean was born in November 1913 in Maxton, North Carolina. When he graduated from high school in 1935, his family lacked the necessary funds to send him to college. Instead he began working as a driver for his siblings’ trucking company.

In 1937, McLean made a routine delivery of cotton bales to a port in North Carolina for shipment to New Jersey. As McLean couldn’t leave until his cargo had been loaded onto the ship, he sat for hours watching dozens of dock hands load thousands of small packages onto the ship. McLean realized that the current loading process wasted enormous amounts of time and money, and he began to wonder if there could be a more productive alternative.

In 1952, McLean thought of loading entire trucks onboard a ship to be transported along the American Atlantic coast (i.e., from North Carolina to New York). Although this idea would dramatically reduce loading times, he soon realized that these “trailer ships” would not be very efficient due to the large amount of wasted cargo space.  

Mclean modified his original design so that just the containers – and not the trucks’ chassis – were loaded onto the ship. He also developed a way for the containers to be stacked on top of one another. That was the origin of the modern-day shipping container.

In 1956, McLean secured a bank loan for $22 million. He used the money to buy two World War II tanker ships and convert them to carry his containers. Later that year, one of his two ships, the SS Ideal-X, was loaded with 58 containers and sailed from New Jersey to Houston, Texas. At the time, McLean’s shipping company offered transport prices that were 25 percent lower than those of his competitor as well as the ability to lock the containers in order to prevent cargo theft, which also appealed to many new customers. 

By 1966, McLean launched his first transatlantic service and three years later, McLean had started a transpacific shipping line. As the advantages of McLean’s container system became clear, bigger ships, more sophisticated containers and larger cranes to load cargo were developed. 

In 1969, McLean sold his first shipping company for $530 million ($3.8 billion in today’s money) and went on to start a string of other business ventures. Most notably, he purchased the shipping company United States Lines in 1978 and built a fleet of 4,400 container ships. McLean continued to refine his shipping containers for the rest of his life. He died at the age of 87 in Manhattan in 2001. When he died, Forbes Magazine called McLean “one of the few men who changed the world.”

In 1956, hand-loading cargo onto a ship in a U.S. port cost $5.86 per ton ($55.58 in today’s money). By 2006, shipping containers reduced that price to just 16 cents per ton ($0.21 in today’s money). HumanProgress’ Board Member Matt Ridley has noted that “the development of containerization in the 1950s made the loading and unloading of ships roughly twenty-times as fast and thereby dramatically lowered the cost of trade.”

This dramatic reduction in shipping costs boosted international trade. That means that consumers now have access to goods from around the world at a price lower than was previously thought possible. Similarly, reduced shipping costs have helped to boost the living standards of hundreds of millions of people in export-oriented developing countries over the last few decades.

Without McLean’s containers, global trade would be far below the level that it is today, and nearly all of us would be less well-off.


About the Author

Alexander C. R. Hammond is a researcher at a Washington DC think tank.

The Progressive Critique of Free Markets: A Response | Part 5

Free Markets, Social Darwinism, and Christianity

The early Progressives leveled two additional and particularly sharp criticisms against the free market that sought to place it beyond any moral defense. First, they argued that it amounted to laissez-faire, a thoroughgoing form of free-market economics that permits very few, if any, economic regulations. This criticism was potentially devastating because it claimed that free markets amounted to a form of anarchy that refused to countenance many salutary regulations. The charge appeared to be credible in large part because there were indeed some very prominent and influential advocates of laissez-faire in the 19th century. These included such intellectuals as Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner. Henry Carter Adams, the influential progressive political economist, attacked Spencer’s call for “unregulated workings of the law of supply and demand.”The progressive Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. also famously attacked laissez-faire in his dissent in the Lochner decision, writing, “The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics.”

Laissez-faire advocates were in some cases tainted by their support for Social Darwinism, a system of ethics that advocates leaving poor and suffering people to their own devices. This morally callous philosophy has done great harm ever since to the cause of economic liberty. Even in our day, the charge of Social Darwinism is leveled by some critics of the free market, who allege that the free market means that “you are on your own,” and that no one need be concerned for the most vulnerable people. At times, such rhetoric is clearly exaggerated. For example, a congressional proposal for modest tax-and-spending cuts that left core welfare state benefits in place was described by President Barack Obama as “thinly veiled social Darwinism.”

The second sharp progressive criticism against free markets—one that we continue to hear in our day from progressive Christians—is that it is unchristian. Progressive Christians are joined in their religious attack on free markets by the secular left, which offers a post-Christian, quasi-religious vision of secular economic redemption. These contemporary religious and quasi-religious criticisms originated in the Progressive Era. Like the charge that the free market amounts to laissez-faire, the progressive religious critique was also potentially devastating because it claimed that the free market stood outside the sacred moral framework of Western civilization.

The early progressive Christian alternative to the free market took the form of the Social Gospel. The Social Gospel was a 19th- and 20th-century protestant reform movement, especially prominent during the Progressive Era, that sought the fulfilment of one’s full Christian duty by means of progressive social, political, and economic reform. Ely and the protestant theologian Walter Rauschenbusch were the two most prominent Social Gospel advocates. Ely’s position as a political economist gave him special influence in the Social Gospel movement because he could bring to his Social Gospel reform advocacy his scholarly authority as an expert in economics. Ely argued that, properly understood, Christianity requires us to aim first and foremost for the secular redemption of the earth rather than entrance into Heaven in the afterlife. In opposition to two millennia of Christian thought, Ely wrote that “Christianity is primarily concerned with this world.” He rejected as an “unfortunate error” the traditional Christian view “that Christianity is concerned primarily with a future state of existence.”

Progressive earthly reforms would be our best way of practicing the second commandment of Christ, “love thy neighbor.” The Social Gospel’s grand secular goals were hugely ambitious, yet they stood within reach because every significant human problem could be solved in principle by means of the new, modern discipline of social science. Social science was the great and efficacious instrument for analyzing and solving human problems, thereby fulfilling Christ’s second commandment. And so, in Ely’s words, “the second commandment…in its elaboration, becomes social science or sociology.” Ely was joined in his call for Christian reform by his fellow progressive technocrats, and especially by his former student John Commons.

The free market stood in the way of Social Gospel reforms. For Progressives, its unchristian selfishness and dogmatic resistance to social science–based reforms rendered it morally illegitimate for a Christian people. The free market prevented individuals from fulfilling their full Christian duty to others, and every good Christian was required to reject the free market and support social science and progressive reforms. While in our day the Social Gospel is not expressly mentioned, its echoes remain in progressive Christianity, which argues that interventionist economics is needed if we are to fulfill our Christian duty to others. Both Social Gospelers and progressive Christians can thus pose as exponents of moral views closer to the West’s Christian heritage.

These two charges—that the free market amounts to laissez-faire anarchy and that it is unchristian—are both false. Laissez-faire economics is not identical to the natural rights free-market economics that comes to us from the American Founding. Natural rights free-market economics is consistent with the founding principles of the United States because free-market economics rests on a political framework that includes the belief that all men are created equal and that government exists to protect our pre-existing natural right to life, liberty, and property. In consequence, the economy under natural rights free-market economics must be subordinate to politics, meaning that the economy cannot be permitted to subvert the free political order upon which it rests.

To be consistent with the principles of the American Founding, political economy must incorporate the moral goal of the maintenance of a free society. This means, among other things, that economic relations can be regulated if they subvert the moral conditions of freedom, because if the moral conditions of freedom are harmed, then the free political order that grounds free markets will also be harmed. In other words, the political economy of the Founders aims at both political freedom and economic prosperity as moral goals—and therefore efforts at increasing prosperity must not be permitted to harm efforts at preserving and advancing political freedom. For this reason, for example, the government can outlaw prostitution or regulate the sale of liquor. Moreover, the government can regulate the economy to prevent force, fraud, and physical harm, including harm to oneself by way of self-destructive contracts. Natural rights free-market economics therefore permits police power regulations intended to prevent moral, economic, and physical harms. It elevates morality above unqualified economic gain. Laissez-faire advocates either deny the police power or gravely restrict it, and in that sense they fall outside of the boundaries of natural rights free-market economics.

Another major difference between laissez-faire economics and natural rights free-market economics concerns the government’s treatment of the poor. Natural rights free-market economics permits some basic welfare programs on the grounds that we are morally obliged to preserve those too poor to help themselves. As the great natural rights theorist John Locke put it, “Every one…when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind.” And indeed, the early republic did make provision for some welfare. Thomas Jefferson favorably described assistance to the poor by Virginia: “The poor, unable to support themselves, are maintained by an assessment on the titheable persons in their parish.” The goals of such public support were the preservation of the person’s life and, if possible, his self-sufficiency. Jefferson described an early form of workfare: “Vagabonds, without visible property or vocation, are placed in workhouses, where they are well clothed, fed, lodged, and made to labour.” This arrangement was apparently used quite extensively in early America: “Nearly the same method of providing for the poor prevails through all our states,” Jefferson wrote. By contrast with this minimal, natural rights welfare, laissez-faire proponents typically argue against all welfare programs. To be sure, laissez-faire economics is compatible with voluntary charity. And in our day, laissez-faire advocates (a group including many libertarians) frequently display admirable personal generosity toward the poor.

The Progressive Era charge that natural rights free-market economics is unchristian rested on a flawed understanding of Christianity. Social Gospel Christianity, one may argue, was not genuinely Christian because it denied the key Christian belief in the primacy of the afterlife over life on earth. It also implicitly denied original sin and so sought a secular, earthly redemption that, to an orthodox Christian, is unattainable.

The central error of the Social Gospel was its subordination of religion to politics and economics. By understanding Christianity as being fulfilled through politics and economics, it reduced Christianity to politics and economics. Today’s progressive Christianity retains the eschatology of traditional Christianity, and so it avoids the worst theological error of the Social Gospel. But like their Social Gospel predecessors, progressive Christians continue to insist on economic interventionism and income redistribution, while providing no persuasive argument for the theological necessity of such policies. In fact, Americans can be good Christians if they support minimal public welfare and are privately generous to the less fortunate.

The Way Ahead

The early Progressives noticed and addressed many legitimate problems of industrial society—but arrived at erroneous conclusions and solutions, many of which are being implemented to this day. The poor have always been with us, but they became much more visible as they crowded into our growing urban centers. Their problems could have been addressed by a combination of the free market, police power regulations at the state level, private charity, and minimal public welfare.

Instead, the early Progressives captured the moral imagination of countless economic reformers. Though Progressivism went into abeyance after World War I, it resurfaced in the 1930s with Roosevelt’s New Deal, which echoed many progressive arguments and carried out many of their policies. The next great surge in progressive economics occurred as a result of the Great Society. Since the 1960s, we have seen the federal government steadily increase its role in the economy, with only a moderate claw-back during the Reagan years. To this day, the American political system takes its bearings from the fundamental criticisms of the free market made over a century ago by Progressives, expressed through various interventions such as minimum wage laws, agricultural and industrial subsidies, and efforts to “correct” an allegedly unjust gap between rich and poor by way of income redistribution.

Yet despite a century of political success, interventionists have steadily failed to confront the strongest moral, theoretical, and practical arguments for free markets and against interventionism. Their failure provides an opening to advocates of economic liberty. A responsible, natural rights free-market economy (and not an austere system of laissez-faire) can and should capture the moral imagination of a new cohort of reformers. We can recover the natural rights regime of the Founders and their successors. But that recovery will mean returning to the Progressive Era confrontation between free markets and interventionism, seeing the natural rights regime and natural rights free-market economics as real, living, moral options, and reversing the choice the nation made to depart from its Founding. Advocates of economic liberty might reflect on and promote the Supreme Court’s opinion in Lochner. In delivering the opinion of the Court, Justice Rufus Peckham wrote:

There is no reasonable ground for interfering with the liberty of person or the right of free contract by determining the hours of labor in the occupation of a baker. There is no contention that bakers as a class are not equal in intelligence and capacity to men in other trades or manual occupations, or that they are not able to assert their rights and care for themselves without the protecting arm of the State, interfering with their independence of judgment and of action. They are in no sense wards of the State.

Lochner v. New York, at 57.

When most Americans return to the belief that adults can be presumed to be able to take care of themselves, we will have taken a large step toward recovering our economic liberty. The rest of the journey may take as long as the progressive march through our government and economy. We can copy their formula for long-term success: A principled critique of the existing order, combined with a clearly articulated vision of the new order.


About the Author

Luigi Bradizza, PhD, is Associate Professor of Political Science at Salve Regina University and the author of Richard T. Ely’s Critique of Capitalism.

Government Laws Are Not Contracts

Despite what you were taught in school, governance is ugly; in all forms, and at all times. Don't believe me? Attend a meeting of a local governing entity. You will find the council — omnipotent by vote, omniscient by delusion — seated before you at the table. All night long, they'll bicker and battle all the while proposing and dissecting plans and schemes with shouts and pounding shoes; Khrushchev moments indeed.

This is the reality of man lording over man, and it's been that way for eons. Ugly, just plain ugly. And it doesn't matter the span or purpose of the governing entity. This ugly reality holds equally true for the fist-fighting Taiwanese legislator as for the insult-hurling band booster. Power corrupts at all levels.

One other aspect of governance appears to be consistent at every level: the broader the scope of the proposed plan or idea, the further they reach beyond the stated bounds of the entity, the more receptive a hearing that the entity's council will give to the idea. Everyone dreams grandiose dreams, whether during solitary reflective moments or while monopolizing the public microphone. But it's the bully at the public mic, entertaining the media and sparse audience, whose dreams we must fear.

Given that these aspects are inherent in the essence of power, the issue is not how to improve systems of governance, but how to control their scope.

Because enforced contract law and full property rights are the foundations of freedom, governance systems should be based on enforceable contracts that defend property rights. The concepts of general welfare and public good have no place in such systems, as the intent of those ideals is to break contracts and trespass on property.

Governance — government — must be limited in a manner that is akin to a legal, binding contract, where rights are understood and unchanging. While a contract-based system will not change the ugly aspects of the lording class, it will limit the effects that the omnipotent and omniscient have on your pursuit of happiness.

The best way to compare the current systems of unbounded authority with that of contract-based systems is to attend meetings of a homeowners association and meetings at a local township hall. Both entities have documents that define the span and purpose of their respective assemblies, yet only the contract-based system shows any real restraint. Certainly, both dream of utopia, but only the homeowners association must accept the inherent realities of signed agreements.

In Ohio, townships can pass comprehensive plans and zoning codes in order to create orderly communities. Zoning codes are supposed to provide hard, fast rules akin to a written contract between community members with township officials acting as enforcers. Yet, zoning codes are perceived by the marginal vote getters and their appointed minions as something else entirely. In the hands of the township officials, zoning codes are, in the words of Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean when referring to the concept of parley, "…more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules."

Consider this situation: You moved into an area that is zoned as a conservation district where developments are limited to 1 home per acre, with natural exteriors, and abundant green space. You desired to live in your neighborhood since it is within the conservation district, an area that meets the development standards you prefer. You had assumed that the zoning codes in place would protect you from development based on subjectively lower standards.

After living in your new home for a year or so, you catch a notice in the local paper that your township is considering a proposed development on the fallow farm fields and woods that abut your backyard. So, you attend the zoning hearings to see what will become of your backyard vista. At those meetings you quickly remember the prescient words of Barbossa.

The zoning commissioners are willing to trade homes per acre, natural exteriors, and green space for a donation of an offsite piece of land for a future community park or fire station. Sure, you hold the zoning codes — still in force — in your hands as if it is a contract to be enforced by the township, yet the zoning commissioners and township trustees see that document as the starting point for exactions and extractions; what the developer considers extortion by other means.

You can complain and shout, but the governance system that you have encountered has no consideration for your assumed contract. The commissioners and trustees only care about their grandiose plans for a utopian community. Your long-term vision of your local neighborhood, based on current regulations, just met their long-term vision of posterity; the one where future residents sing praises to the plans and vision of the current ruling elite.

Now, consider the homeowners association (HOA). Certainly, the same taste of power has corrupted the key players. They have dreams too, but their dreams are limited by the restrictive covenant that governs use of the property covered by the association. Sure, they send out a monthly newsletter with words of wisdom regarding how residents should live their lives, but they can't do anything about it. The concepts of general welfare and public good are not defined on the deed filed at the county offices as purposes of the association.

Now, I'm not saying that some residents will not suffer the occasional annoyance as HOA trustees hold the color pallet against your mailbox to verify the hue of the stain which you applied, but they can't change the usage of your neighbor's property from residential to commercial. Nor can they subdivide properties or dig up sidewalks. The HOA members have utopian dreams, but contracts limit their reality to mending fences and mulching entrance ways.

Other than showing excessive exuberance at times, the HOAs are typically indicted in the press when the singular property owner wants to turn his front yard into a memorial for the flag, replete with search lights and a continually repeating sample of Taps. What's worse, the property owner knowingly agreed to such restrictions prior to purchasing the property. The homeowner, attempting to trample on the agreement, is hailed as the last defender of Lady Liberty herself, while the HOA, defending its contract with all homeowners, is perceived as evil incarnate.

Such inconveniences and annoyances are nothing compared to the damaged resulting from unbounded governance. As you move up the governmental food chain, you will find that each subsequent level reaps more damage, more ills. At the federal level, it is as if no bounds exist anymore. Sure, the separate branches mention the Constitution, but only as a means to pervert its moral authority.

Some will claim that the Constitution is our written contract, binding rule of law, and restrictive covenant, yet its perversion would seem to imply that contract governments, whether constitutional public or anarcho-libertarian private, are bound to fail.

But, not so fast. For the private supplier of governance, the entrepreneur across the street offering a similar service is enough of a threat to keep private governing bodies in line.

On the other hand, the political class simply requires rumblings from the masses. Rumble, and they shall fear. Shout, and they shall bend. Scream, and they shall wither.

The ilk that sit at the head of the table, whether local, state, or national, are most concerned about keeping their power and status. These are not men and women of principles. They are simply power seekers. They will wither and do as told once this great nation says, "Stop! Respect the Constitution." They would rather flip and flop than risk the next election.

The ruling elite know this, that's why they utilize a coerced education system to perpetuate their nonsense. Yet, a simple booklet such as the comic version of Hayek's Road to Serfdom can turn enough minds to shake the tables of power. But, just because many have lost sight of "Don't Tread on Me," doesn't mean all is lost. A little more education, a stronger tug on the collar of the elected, and the direction toward socialism could reverse overnight.

So, whether your concept of government is constitutional public or anarcho-libertarian private, contract governments will work. They'll be messy, the public version will take conviction of the governed, but their scope will not creep onto your property and liberty.


About the Author

Jim Fedako is an author at the Mises Institute, business analyst, and homeschooling father of seven in Columbus.

UK comedian ‘jokes’ about throwing battery acid instead of milkshakes on opponents

On an episode of the BBC’s Heresy, British comedian Jo Brand said, “Certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they’re very, very easy to hate. And I’m kind of thinking, why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?” She added, “That’s just me. I’m not going to do it, it’s purely a fantasy. But I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry.” Ofcom said it had received 19 complaints, as well as the Metropolitan Police about the BBC Radio 4 comedy programme, which has resulted in an investigation being launched.

The BBC defended Ms. Brand’s comments on their panel show, which "challenges established ideas and questions received wisdom", in an episode dedicated to subject of Brexit and the trend of 'milkshaking' politicians such as Nigel Farage. Mr. Farage, Tommy Robinson, a UKIP candidate, and even a war veteran at a polling station had milkshakes thrown over them by protesters leading up to the recent European Parliament elections.

The live audience for Tuesday night’s show reacted with laughter. The host, Victoria Coren Mitchell, said at the end of the broadcast that Heresy was a series set up “to test the boundaries of what it’s ok to say and not say”. A BBC spokesman said: “Heresy is a long-running comedy programme where, as the title implies and as our listeners know, panellists often say things which are deliberately provocative and go against societal norms but are not intended to be taken seriously.”

Mr. Farage was not impressed with Ms. Brand’s comments, tweeting, “This is incitement of violence and the police need to act” and “This is way above any norms of free speech - it is appalling and the fact that the BBC spends £177 million a year on light entertainment and comedy… this was a pre-recorded programme which they still chose to put out.” He described the comments as “completely and utterly disgusting. Can you imagine if I was to tell a story like that, about somebody on the other side of me, an Anna Soubry or someone like that? I reckon the police would knock on my door within 10 minutes. I think it’s appalling.”

In response, Ms. Coren Mitchell replied, “Nigel! I’m genuinely disappointed. We don’t agree on everything, but I would totally have had you down as a free speech man. Especially when it comes to jokes,” and added that “all people should be free to make jokes about anything.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May asked the BBC to explain why it had approved the joke for broadcast, suggesting that it “normalised” violence against politicians, as in the case of Labour MP Jo Cox ‘s murder. There is an increasingly hostile environment for politicians requiring the need for bodyguards, when until recently the only politicians in Britain who required a security detail were the Prime Minister and Home Secretary. Mr. Farage has required private bodyguards for at least five years, which says something about the climate of intolerance that he faces.

For several years comedians have refused to have shows for fear of their retribution, pointing to the violent behaviour on college campuses. The far-left have set the standards for what is acceptable to say and think and who receives punishment by way of censorship and harassment. In the case of Ms. Brand’s comments, the tables are turning on them in their own game.

Europe’s nationalists form an "Identity and Democracy" coalition

A new European Parliament alliance was unveiled on Thursday called Identity and Democracy (ID). Uniting Eurosceptics who aim to transfer power from Brussels to capitals, the new alliance of nationalists holds 73 of 751 seats in the Parliament, putting them in fifth place. The ID brings together some of the former member parties of the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), the Europe of Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), and the Europe for Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) groups.

ID is an alliance between nine nations, including Marine Le Pen's National Rally of France, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini's League party, and Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD). Ms. Le Pen said, “We have changed the political chessboard of the European Union," adding that the group would "colour" future debates in the hemicycle like never before. "We're not carrying over the same dynamic. The fact that the members of the ID group are now participating in governments is evidence of our new maturity," she said.

Deputy PM Salvini's foreign affairs advisor Marco Zanni was elected as ID's chairman while the National Rally's Nicolas Bay was elected his deputy. The parties have bridged differences to unite around the broad goals of returning power to EU member states, curbing immigration and preventing the spread of Islam in Europe. Without full cohesion among other Eurosceptic parties scattered across different political groups in the EU assembly, including the Brexit Party, ID lacks enough seats to block or hold up legislation. ID is courting other nationalist parties, such as Spain's Vox, to join; "The message to all of those parties who have a radically different view of Europe, if we can work together ... that would benefit all of us," said Mr. Zanni.

The new bloc of 73 MEPs includes:

  • 27 MEPs from the League (Italy)

  • 23 MEPs from the National Rally (France)

  • 11 MEPs from Alternative for Germany

  • 3 MEPs from Vlaams Belang (Netherlands)

  • 3 MEPs from the Austrian Freedom Party

  • 2 MEPs from Freedom and Direct Democracy (Czech Republic)

  • 2 MEPs from the Finns Party

  • 1 MEP from the Danish People’s Party

  • 1 MEP from the Estonian Conservatives Party

Britain’s Brexit Party under Nigel Farage will not be joining the ID. Mr. Farage demanded to be named group President if he was to join, to which Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Salvini refused. Mr. Farage allegedly stormed out of a meeting as a result.

Earlier on Wednesday, the European Liberals' alliance with French President Emmanuel Macron's La République en Marche announced that the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group would be renamed Renew Europe.