Searching for ways to ‘Tame Leviathan’

The federal government has grown much larger than any of its founders ever anticipated, and it continues to grow at an alarming rate.

Stopping that growth, or “Taming Leviathan,” was the theme of George Mason University economist Peter Boettke’s Hayek Lecture Monday afternoon at Duke University.

Click play below to watch the hourlong presentation.

Explaining the global warming ‘pause’

Greg Jones devotes a Federalist column to an inconvenient fact for global warming alarmists: “the Earth’s average surface temperature has failed to significantly increase in nearly two decades, and all this despite ever-increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

Jones then documents efforts to explain this so-called “pause” in the warming trend, including new research involving hockey-stick high priest Michael Mann.

This isn’t the first time researchers have attempted to explain what they have previously denied. To date, there are more than 52 scientific theories attempting to solve the pause that doesn’t exist, from a lazy sun to trade winds to the wrong types of El Niño’s. But for some reason Mann’s explanation is the one; 53 is apparently the magic number.

Yet Mann’s paper blames the pause on ocean currents that have been simulated in climate models for years. And the “natural variability” that he refers to is exactly what many skeptics have proposed just might be missing. In fact, very qualified researchers have been insisting that the role of the sun—you know, the star that warms the planet—has been vastly understated.

Mann’s paper encapsulates perfectly the issue between skeptics of climate change and the hard-core believers: something in the models is always missing that is later found. What was wrong last time has been corrected, even though last time nothing was wrong. The same models that are considered gospel always come up short, only to be revised as gospel yet again.

Everyone understands that climate change research is tricky; countless variables constantly interacting with one another at ever-changing time and distance scales. And studying the Earth’s climate is indeed a worthwhile pursuit. But there is nothing scientific about denying actual, physical data, in this case the global average temperature over two decades. And nothing is academic or open-minded about demonizing an entire portion of the population pointing out the obvious by labeling them “deniers” as if they doubt the Holocaust.

If climate science is to truly progress, we need real acceptance that areas of the research are flawed. And that’s okay; refining and improving experiments lies at the very heart of scientific endeavor.

Sending political messages through the budget process

Ken McIntyre of the Daily Signal reports on the political implications of a recent U.S. Senate budget vote.

The first budget resolution to clear the Senate in four years exposed a divide between four lawmakers who look to be rivals for the Republican nomination for president.

Although largely symbolic and perhaps short-lived, the split had Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida voting in favor of the Republican budget plan around 3 a.m. Friday while Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky voted no.

“We need meaningful entitlement reforms, without budget gimmicks, and I cannot support a budget that claims to balance in the year 2025 by utilizing revenue increases generated by Obamacare taxes,” Cruz, the first major Republican or Democrat to announce for president, said in a statement explaining his vote.

Although crediting fellow Republicans for their efforts to mitigate what he called “unrealistic spending increases and continually expanding deficits” under President Obama, Cruz sought to appeal to conservatives by saying it wasn’t enough “given the gravity of the debt facing our children and grandchildren.”

Paul didn’t explain why he voted against the Republican plan, and his office did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Signal.

On the Senate floor earlier, however, Paul argued that he supported increases in military spending but they should be offset by cuts in other programs.

“America does not project power from bankruptcy court,” he said. “We need a strong national defense, but we should be honest with the American people and pay for it.”

Those interested in hearing Cruz’s policy priorities can sign up for the John Locke Foundation’s April 13 Headliner luncheon with the Texas senator.

Entitlement reform: Reality or myth?

Brian Hughes of the Washington Examiner looks into suggestions that a recent deal on the Medicare “doc fix” represents a real step toward federal entitlement reform.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the “doc-fix” deal the “first real entitlement reform in decades,” and the White House framed the rare compromise as proof that Obama had not abandoned his pledge to find ways to fix benefits programs.

Yet those most vociferously pushing for entitlement reform argue that the bipartisan pact hardly improves prospects for a major deal on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, especially since the alteration in how Medicare pays doctors actually increases deficits in the short-term and over time, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The agreement struck by Republicans and Democrats, though a rare sign of bipartisan consensus on entitlements — and perhaps a fix to bad policy — did not carry as heavy a political price as overhauls that experts say are necessary to reverse budget-busting trends.

“I think they’re not reading the fine print on this,” argued Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who focuses on entitlement programs. “Essentially, they did something that had to do with an entitlement reform, but there’s going to be less budget reforms than had they left [the original formula] in place.” …

… Even if the modification works as supporters predict, it still doesn’t bode well for the prospect of entitlement reform in the near future.

Tanner floated the possibility of disability insurance reform as an area where conservatives and progressives might find common ground but said he was not optimistic about even that isolated development.

Furthermore, the appetite for wide-ranging entitlement reform is virtually nonexistent at the White House, with Obama insistent that an uptick in the economy has changed his calculations for the need to alter entitlements.

Teaching immigrants (legal or otherwise) to unionize

Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner probes an unusual form of outreach from the federal government to a handful of foreign states.

The federal government has signed agreements with three foreign countries — Mexico, Ecuador and the Philippines — to establish outreach programs to teach immigrants their rights to engage in labor organizing in the U.S.

The agreements do not distinguish between those who entered legally or illegally. They are part of a broader effort by the National Labor Relations Board to get immigrants involved in union activism. …

… The agreements are substantially similar, with several sections repeated verbatim in each one. All three documents state that the No. 1 outreach goal is “to educate those who may not be aware of the Act, including those employees just entering the work force, by providing information designed to clearly inform [that nation’s] workers in the United States of America their rights under the Act and to develop ways of communicating such information (e.g., via print and electronic media, electronic assistance tools, mobile device applications, and links to the NLRB’s web site from the [country’s] web sites) to the … workers residing in the United States of America and their employers.”

The board has said the law’s protections for workers engaged in union organizing extend even to people who are not legally authorized to work in the U.S. An employer who fires an illegal immigrant worker — which is required under federal immigration law — can be sanctioned by the board if it decides the worker’s union activism was the real reason for the dismissal.

Hillary as ‘the Democrats’ Nixon’

John Fund‘s latest column for National Review Online compares Hillary Clinton to one of the most controversial American political figures of the late 20th century.

Ever since Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal broke earlier this month, comparisons between her secretive style and that of Richard Nixon, whom she ironically pursued as a young lawyer on the House impeachment committee, have been frequent. But with Friday’s revelation that she wiped her private e-mail server clean after her records were requested by the State Department last year, the comparisons are becoming more concrete. Washington wags note that even Nixon never destroyed the tapes, but Hillary has permanently erased her e-mails.

Exactly what would a Hillary presidency look like, and could it plunge the nation into another round of debilitating Clinton scandals? That’s a question Democrats should ask themselves before they hand the nomination over to her with barely a fight. Indeed, while a new CBS poll finds more than eight out of ten Democrats want her to run, a surprising 66 percent want to see her run with strong competition in the primaries.

Many Democrats have reservations about Hillary’s cozy relations with Wall Street, her 2002 vote for the Iraq War, and the Clinton couple’s “flexibility” on issues. “They love winning. They’re both masters of it, Hillary maybe even more than Bill. But that’s not the same as having a belief system,” noted the liberal Rolling Stone magazine this month. But some Democrats also want Hillary to be challenged on her Nixonian penchant for slipperiness and questionable fundraising.

A strong primary challenge would provide clues as to how she would run in a general election — something Democrats should know. After all, the first Clinton presidency was good for the Clintons, but not for the Democratic party, which lost both houses of Congress along with a majority of the nation’s governorships — and during a time of economic prosperity and peace.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Don Carrington reports for Carolina Journal Online on a tax preparer who is helping to expose tax refund fraud.

Dan Way’s Daily Journal highlights massive changes in the news media landscape.

The problem of ‘emergency room’ economics

Even people who see the value of basic economic principles might dispense with those principles during times of emergency. They shouldn’t.

George Mason University economist Peter Boettke made that argument during a presentation to the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury Society. In the video clip below, Boettke outlines a key problem with “emergency room” economics.

2:05 p.m. update: Click play below to watch the full 53:05 event.

You’ll find other John Locke Foundation video presentations here.