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  • Tucker Carlson Says Corporations Are Now the Biggest Threat to Your Freedom. He’s Wrong


    tucker

    Sundar Pichai, Jack Dorsey, and Mark Zuckerberg have no prisons. They’ve never run an internment camp or seized anyone’s home for failure to mow their lawn. Their body counts are a combined zero. Yet in a recent keynote address at the National Conservatism conference, Tucker Carlson suggested that big corporations—like Google, Twitter, and Facebook—are a greater threat to your freedom than the government.

    “The main threat to your ability to live your life as you choose does not come from the government anymore, but it comes from the private sector,” the Fox News host said.

    Echoing recent praise for Senator Elizabeth Warren and her brand of economic nationalism, Carlson declared that her book on the two-income trap is “one of the best books on economics he’s ever read.” (Might we recommend a bit of Sowell, Hayek, or Smith?)

    Is Carlson’s claim defensible? Not by a long shot.

    The genius of the Constitution is a result of the American Founders’ understanding that our freedoms and rights precede government and that an unrestrained government is the biggest threat to those freedoms. The Founders limited the power of the government through an intricate system of enumerated powers, separation of powers, explicit rights, and rights retained by the people to impede the abuse of governmental power.

    Limiting the potential for governmental abuse was fundamental to the design of our constitutional order and remains an abiding concern. No such concern existed for “big corporations” because businesses do not wield the power to promulgate civil and criminal laws and exact punishment for violations of them. The state, not business, has a monopoly on compelled coercion.

    While laws and law enforcement are essential in a free and orderly society, government abuse at all levels has riddled our history (from FDR’s internment camps to Jim Crow laws in the South) and is the stuff of daily headlines.

    Government has the legal authority to incarcerate you, allocate your tax dollars how it sees fit, and foreclose on your home if you fail to mow the lawn.

    You may recall the Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission involving Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop. Phillips was asked by a same-sex couple to create a wedding cake for their upcoming ceremony. Jack politely refused. A complaint was filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which led to a years-long struggle for Jack as he sought to protect his business, his brand, and his reputation. Even though the Supreme Court ultimately sided with Jack, the state of Colorado sought to punish him for exercising his freedom of speech and association.

    Much of the nationalist right’s recent lambasting of big business seems focused on social media. A few media personalities like Alex Jones, Louis Farrakhan, Laura Loomer, and Milo Yiannopoulos have been de-platformed for violating terms of service or community standards, but where is the widescale conservative or nationalist purge? Even when users from the right have been suspended “permanently,” social media has reversed course and reinstated their accounts, sometimes within 48 hours. (Ask your attorney if you can appeal a conviction or civil judgment brought by the government within 48 hours.)

    The reality is that no person has a constitutional or natural right to a social media account. A user must agree to the terms of service and comply with community standards to enjoy the services offered by these platforms. No user can compel Facebook or Twitter to tolerate what it deems hateful or offensive language any more than they can compel Fox News to give airtime to pro-Antifa screeds.

    Where else is big business threatening conservatives’ freedom? Are banks refusing mortgages to conservatives? Are hospitals refusing to treat them? Are auto dealers refusing to sell F150s to boomers because of MAGA memes? Certainly, there are unfortunate stories of well-known conservatives being refused service at local restaurants, but the multi-year investigation into the IRS’s unfair treatment of conservative groups reveals where the greater threat lies.

    Carlson’s speech at the conference was titled “Big Business Hates Your Family.” While Carlson has railed against American companies for any number of reasons in recent years, his latest bête noire is Oreo. Nabisco, a parent company of Oreo, was in Carlson’s crosshairs for advertising that suggests kids “choose their pronoun” with their Pride Month “pronoun pack” cookies.

    Tucker dismissed the idea that people can start their own competing business if they don’t like a company’s practices. This dismissal of entrepreneurship is puzzling coming from an entrepreneur; Carlson is the co-founder of an online publisher. But there is an even simpler course of action than starting your own cookie company. If you are not happy with Nabisco’s business practices, buy different cookies… or bake your own at home with your family.

    It’s not clear what policy Carlson would suggest in response to Oreo, but Carlson’s characterization of big companies as monopolies may give a clue.

    Carlson has blasted social media giants as “digital monopolies.”

     

    Despite the national media celebrity’s histrionics, there are dozens of social media platforms and search engines. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram might be the most popular for now, but if a conservative doesn’t like these companies’ policies, they can unplug, deactivate their account, or try other emerging platforms like Codias, MeWe, Ricochet, or an alternative search engine like DuckDuckGo.

    Decrying social media companies as monopolies suggests that the companies should be broken up under antitrust laws. However, the Federal Trade Commission enforces antitrust laws where there’s a showing of anti-competitive practices. It isn’t enough to say that a company is too large or the company’s practices are not pleasing to pundits like Carlson.

    If companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook engage in anti-competitive practices, such as price-fixing or exclusionary contracts, they should be forced to comply with applicable law like any other company. But rather than fearmongering that these companies are a greater threat to freedom than the government, we should narrowly tailor a remedy.

    For instance, these tech companies’ greatest competitive advantage is that they have collected extensive data over the years. Rather than trying to break up these companies, users could be given the statutory right of data portability, where a person can delete their account and take all of their personal data with them. Giving users greater control over their own information would be one way to give consumers more power without breaking up the companies they enjoy using on a regular basis.

    Ultimately, it’s an odd time to rail against American capitalism. Unemployment has dropped to its lowest level since 1969, and worker wages are on the rise. Capitalism, including big business, is a source of economic prosperity for American workers and families.

    Rather than weaponizing antitrust prosecutions for political or social purposes, policymakers should eliminate the anti-competitive privileges of crony capitalism. Concerns about data privacy are real but can be addressed with focused remedies rather than the blunt tool of “breaking up big tech.”

    Americans are not at the mercy of businesses that don’t share their values. Like Tucker Carlson, we are free to start a competing business, or we can simply choose another supplier. By contrast, we can’t “log out” of laws and regulations—even ones we disagree with. Violating federal law or disobeying the instructions of a law enforcement officer can come with severe and sometimes deadly consequences.

    Our Founders wisely recognized that our greatest threat isn’t Nabisco or Facebook. With the memory of an overreaching British monarch fresh in their minds, they sought to establish a republic that ensured government—not private business—was properly constrained. We ignore their wisdom at our own peril.

    Doug McCullough

    Doug McCullough is a corporate attorney at the Texas law firm, McCullough Sudan, and is a director of the Lone Star Policy Institute. Doug is a co-host of The Urbane Cowboys, a podcast on policy, society, and innovation. He is a National Review Institute Regional Fellow and Better Cities Project Fellow. He is a regular contributor to Foundation for Economic Education, and has been published in Entrepreneur, The Hill, Washington Examiner, Arc Digital, Houston Chronicle, and San Antonio Express.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


  • There’s No “Lost” Economic Growth During Government Shutdowns

    According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) data, the federal government spent $3.9 trillion in 2017. In Argentina, total federal spending in 2017 was $161 billion.

    The above statistical disparity rates mention in consideration of all the hand-wringing related to the partial federal government shutdown in the U.S. Supposedly, an elongated one would slam the brakes on the U.S. economic expansion. No less than J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon observed this week that a prolonged shuttering of one quarter of the federal government could “reduce growth to zero.”

    Dimon would be wise to relax. So would others convinced that government spending is a substantial driver of U.S. economic vitality. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Implicit in what’s wholly false is that Argentina’s economy is a fraction of the U.S.’s simply because its politicians are quite a bit more parsimonious than are the members of Congress. Such a view isn’t serious, but it’s a reminder of just how much statistics can obscure reality.

    Simply put, Argentina’s federal spending is a fraction of U.S. federal spending precisely because its economic output is a fraction of what takes place stateside. Just the same, federal spending in the U.S. dwarfs that of other countries precisely because the U.S. economy is quite a bit larger than other countries’ economies.

    Governments only have money to spend insofar as the private sector in countries produces wealth for them to spend. Congress was able to spend $4.1 trillion (according to CBO data) in 2018 because American output is many multiples of $4.1 trillion.

    Governments can’t stimulate economic growth with spending; rather, their spending is only possible because of economic growth. Applied to the partial shutdown of the federal government, what limits government spending logically cannot limit economic growth. Figure that if there were a permanent cessation of a quarter of federal activity, the result would be trillions worth of extra resources for private actors to put to work.

    Readers might think about the above for a moment. When our federal government spends, it means that Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump are playing a substantial role in the allocation of trillions worth of wealth first created in the private sector. On the other hand, when fewer dollars flow to Washington, it happily means that people like Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, and Travis Kalanick have more in the way of resources to experiment with. Yet defenders of the big government status quo persist.

    In a client report written last week, Regions Bank chief economist Richard Moody lamented that the partial shutdown would disrupt the “flow of economic data” at a “most inopportune time given increased uncertainty about over the course of the U.S. economy.” Moody unwittingly makes the case for a more permanent shutdown.

    Lest he forgets, arguably the most scrutinized of all economic statistics produced by the federal government is the one that measures the rate of unemployment in the U.S. Yet too often unsaid here is how totally unnecessary the report is. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employs 2,500 people at a cost of $640 million annually to produce its monthly unemployment report. Each month, meanwhile, the private company ADP releases a report two days ahead of the BLS’s that nearly mimics the BLS’s, all at no expense to the taxpayer. There is a market demand for reliable employment data, and the market is providing it. What works for unemployment can logically work for any other statistic that economists claim to be necessary for them to do their jobs. If it’s necessary, private actors can do it without burdening every American with the cost.

    The point of all this is that true believers in limited government would be wise to not let this partial government shutdown go to waste. Instead, proponents of a shrunken federal footprint should seriously address whether or not many people in a country populated by over 300 million have actually noticed a difference in their lives in the past few weeks.

    Indeed, arguably the most vivid lesson of the shutdown is being overlooked. Eight-hundred thousand furloughed federal employees, and what, exactly, is the noticeable harm? The media trumpet the federal employees’ missed paychecks and niche difficulties faced by the citizenry (economists and financial types lacking economic data, for instance), but what goes unreported is that for 95 percent of the population, life goes on essentially unaffected in any material way. What better evidence that our government spending is mostly waste and make-work?

    So while alarmists will continue to promote false notions about the “lost” economic growth that will result from the political class wasting fewer dollars, reality will continue to intrude on what’s not serious as most get on with their lives properly indifferent to what at least temporarily limits the activities of one quarter of our federal behemoth.

    Which brings up a challenge that is also an opportunity. What hasn’t affected voters after three weeks will similarly not affect them after three years. If Republicans really want to prove how unnecessary our $4 trillion federal government is, they should keep it shut down through 2021. The economy will boom in the interim thanks to a shrunken federal burden, and a long-term point will have been made about the good of shrinking Leviathan to all of our betterment.

    This article was reprinted from RealClearMarkets. 

    Source: There’s No “Lost” Economic Growth During Government Shutdowns – Foundation for Economic Education


  • The Sectors Driving America’s Cost of Living Spike All Have One Thing in Common: They’re Heavily Regulated by Government

    In a recent extract of her book Squeezed, Guardian columnist Alissa Quart documented in detail the insecurities faced by many ordinary American families. Student loan debt, housing costs, and health care bills can be crippling even for those on decent enough incomes. For the struggling poor with job insecurities, the situation can be worse still.

    Even with the US labor market tightening, concern about working- and middle-class living standards has left politicians reaching for radical solutions. In the past year, mainstream politicians have advocated federal job guarantees, universal basic income, huge minimum wage hikes, attempts to boost union power and membership, expanding tax credits, co-determination laws, universal single-payer health care, and much else besides.

    A better first step is surely to ask why certain things are expensive in the first place.

    Putting aside the legion risks of such policies, these proposals have one major thing in common: they could be described as “income-based approaches” to trying to raise living standards. They all assume that markets, left to their own devices, cannot provide adequate living standards, necessitating interventions to raise households’ disposable incomes (through affecting income via pay or transfers directly, or reducing household payments for certain goods or services).

    For sure, some policies in this mold can help to alleviate financial hardship. But Quart highlighting out-of-control costs of different goods or services surely suggests a better first step is surely to ask why certain things are expensive in the first place, before reaching for compensatory interventions or transfers.

    In a recent research paper for the Cato Institute, I did precisely that for basic goods and services which poor households spend disproportionately on. And I found that nine types of intervention alone in housing, food, child-care, transport, clothing, and sectors governed by occupational licensing combine to raise the cost of typical poor households directly by anywhere between $830 and $3,500 per year. All these “income-based approach” things we do, in other words, are compensating households for cost-inflating government policies elsewhere.

    The average household in the bottom income quintile puts 25.2 percent of total spending per year towards direct housing costs, for example. Yet land use planning and zoning laws imposed at local levels of government, particularly in desirable metropolitan areas, impose a significant regulatory tax. This costs households anywhere up to around $2,000 per year, depending on location. This not only has direct financial consequences but makes it more difficult for poor households to move to good job opportunities.

    The best evidence suggests too that state-level child-care regulation, including staff-child ratios and qualification requirements for center staff, raises prices by $500 per year or more across the country, not to mention making it more difficult for low-income parents to return to work.

    In fact, in area after area, one sees misguided interventions raise the costs of everyday items. Ethanol mandates and protectionist sugar and milk programs raise the cost of everyday groceries. Regulations relating to fuel efficiency and car dealerships raise the cost of cars and hence driving. Tariffs on clothing and footwear are extraordinarily regressive because the poor spend disproportionately on these goods, and lower-quality variants of products tend to attract the highest tariffs. It’s well established too that occupational licensing raises wages in sectors and the price of associated services.

    Any analysis of this type has to stop somewhere. Mine focused on basic goods and poorer families, but one could make similar arguments for other sectors, not least health care and utilities, and some of the analysis applies even more forcefully for those further up the income scale.

    A recent Cato book, Overcharged: Why Americans Pay So Much For Healthcare, documents in lucid detail how the whole US healthcare system encourages high costs for services, for example. It’s not my area of expertise, but no doubt similar logic applies to the university sector, too.

    With the federal budget deficit already large, and most of the ideas floating around all coming with risky unintended consequences, now seems an opportune time for a cost-of-living agenda which examines and undoes these cost-inflating interventions at all levels of government.

    Some goods and services will always be expensive, and there may be a role for government to supplement the incomes of the unfortunate. But we should at least, from a regulatory perspective, aim for a “first do no harm” approach which does not raise living costs for families unnecessarily.

    Rather than treating the symptoms of the financial struggles outlined in Squeezed and talked about every day, let’s do what we can to address the underlying causes.

    Source: https://fee.org/articles/government-is-behind-the-cost-of-living-spike-in-the-us/