A Libertarian View of Francis’ Laudato Si

3D render of moon with stars and a tree silhouette

Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si (“Be Praised”) has been acclaimed by the international media as a call to action on global warming, to combat its threat to world survival. It has been praised in New York Times editorials and by Progressive Catholic intellectuals like E.J. Dionne on the Left while garnering scathing or dismissive responses from libertarian, free-market types on the Right. The papal document, however, is not fundamentally about climate change (who questions that weather changes?) or even global warming. (The Pope merely follows the scientific “consensus” and even qualifies it as a trend that “would appear” to “indicate” that…

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Dodd-Frank’s Frankenstein Creeps Forward


Demand a Politics of Innovation

2016 is shaping up as an election in which one of our parties will emphasize the need for growth and the other will call for greater economic equality. These concepts are often seen in substantial tension with one another. In my view, however, if the government encourages innovation we can have both growth and greater equality in the relatively short run.

As I wrote in yesterday’s Washington Times for the celebration of Liberty Month:

In this age of accelerating technology, there is no more important policy than to encourage innovation. Innovation is the primary source of economic growth. New innovative businesses, like Google and Uber, transform our lives for the better. And innovation builds on innovation, compounding growth from generation to generation. As the Nobel Prize winning economist Bob Lucas once said: “Once one thinks about exponential growth, it is hard to think about anything else.”

Innovation in the modern era also tends to make us more equal. Innovation creates a stream of new ideas that are rapidly enjoyed by the great mass of people. Material goods are scarce, because individuals can by and large not enjoy the same material simultaneously. But ideas can be enjoyed by all. To be sure, some innovations are patented, but these patents expire. And, as better innovations come along, the old patents rapidly become less valuable. That is one reason that smart phones have so rapidly become available to people of modest means. Thus, the greater the supply of innovations, the great the common pool from which almost everyone can benefit quite rapidly.

We thus need to ask all Presidential candidates what they will do to promote innovation.

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The Party Can’t Comb Over Its Problems

Like a fever or an irregular heartbeat, Donald Trump’s surge in the GOP primary polls provides important information about the state of the party of Lincoln. Mr. Trump, a terrible candidate in many ways, is inexperienced as a politician. Rhetorically, his mode tends to excess, and only to excess. Moreover, as some have pointed out, given the positions Trump has held over the years, calling him a “Republican”  or a “conservative” is a stretch. That said, his current positions are conservative. Which is why his candidacy—in or out of the GOP—might harm the party’s chances of retaking the presidency, and this, in addition to his drawing so much attention away from better candidates, has angered many commentators.

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Global Warming: Lukewarmers, Consensus, and Personal Attacks

I am not a climate scientists, but like many others I have a position on global warming.  My position is that of a lukewarmer.  I believe that significant increases in carbon dioxide lead to increases in temperature.  I just don’t believe those increases in carbon dioxide lead to the dangerous amount of global warming that most global warming alarmists assert.  In other words, emissions of carbon dioxide lead to some global warming, just not dangerous amounts of such warming.

The main reason for my belief is that the alarmist argument does not rest simply on carbon dioxide leading to increases in warming.  Instead, the degree of warming asserted by alarmists involves much larger secondary effects – secondary effects, such as the claim that the initial degree of warming from carbon dioxide leads to additional warming from things like increased water vapor.  While the scientific case for the claim that carbon dioxide increases temperatures is strong, the scientific case for the much larger secondary effects is, to put it mildly, much weaker.

For an excellent discussion of the Lukewarmer position and for a variety of interesting aspects of the global warming debate, see this podcast with Matt Ridley at Econtalk, one of our sister sites.  

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Leave It to the States

Six or so out-of-town summer trips down, only four more to go before the start of the Fall semester—at which point I’ll be able to resume regular blogging, and maybe even some actual research and writing. Pending that merciful eventuality, here’s my Wall Street Journal review of Adam Freedman’s recent federalism manifesto, A Less Perfect Union: The Case For States’ Rights. I’ve met Adam occasionally at Manhattan Institute events. He’s a thoroughly good guy; creative thinker; great writer. Obviously I don’t agree with every chord in his federalism riff. Foremost: while Adam does a manful job in defense of “states’ rights,”…

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Make Voting Harder or Face the Rise of Pelosinomics

Voting ballot

Dispensing first with the obvious, that Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that 16-year-olds be allowed to vote is asinine, and second with the obligatory, that any malevolent impediments to grownups voting ought to be removed, we may proceed to the particular premises behind the House Democratic Leader’s brainstorm and what they disclose about the sorry state of American politics. Speaking to Generation Progress, Pelosi warmed the audience by emphasizing a plan to allow refinancing of student loans, then dived, or rather wandered, in: [T]here is a direct connection between legislation and the quality of life the people enjoy, and elections.  To achieve what we…

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School Vouchers are a Victory for Liberty

The last hundred years have witnessed a great struggle between state control and more libertarian forms of social ordering. Now that socialism—the hard-edged way of state control—has been largely discredited, a softer edged way—government control over primary and secondary education—is perhaps the most important fault line in this battle.

Thus, it is very welcome news that in Hart v. State the North Carolina Supreme Court last week upheld a school voucher program. The plan would provide $4,200 to parents with income at 133 percent or below the poverty line to send their children to a private school of their choice. The case turned on the state rather than the federal constitution, because happily the Supreme Court has already upheld school vouchers against an Establishment Clause challenge.

I am not an expert in North Carolina constitutional law, but one argument in particular interested me. The dissenters in the case contended that the voucher program did not serve only public purposes, because the private schools did not have to comply with government standards to assure that students “would participate and compete in society” by receiving a sound education. The legislation did require that schools receiving vouchers require attendance, meet certain health and safety standards, and provide periodic standardized testing.  But these requirements were not enough for the dissent.

What was remarkable in my view was that the dissenters dismissed the capacity of  parental choice to promote education accountability and indeed excellence.

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Overruling Abood Will Correct a Travesty

My first two posts in this series discussed, respectively, the origins of the concept of “exclusive representation” in the NLRA and the Supreme Court case law leading up to Abood in 1977.   In this post, I will analyze the decision in Abood (which, it will be recalled, was roundly criticized in Harris v. Quinn (2014) and may be overruled in Friedrichs). 

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