A Libertarian Universal Basic Income

A Libertarian Universal Basic Income
// Marginal REVOLUTION

Nobel prize winner Vernon Smith (our emeritus colleague at GMU) is a bold thinker. I have long proposed selling “government” land in the West but Vernon takes it a step further, privatize the highway network to create a permanent income fund. Essentially what Vernon is proposing is a libertarian method to fund a universal basic income. Can’t we all agree on that?

Even more than in the United States, there are many countries in the world today where the government holds trillions of dollars assets that are underutilized. Selling those assets to create a permanent income fund would be good for efficiency, liberty and equality.

…[T]he richly interconnected highway network really could be auctioned. Between major highway intersections there are alternative routes that could be auctioned to different bidders, assuring drivers of a choice of toll roads, along with state and local freeway alternatives. That competition would keep tolls affordable.

Perhaps most important, surface transportation rights of way would be opened to new mass-transit innovations at a time when driverless vehicles are making their entrance. A few autobahns might also compete more effectively with short- to medium-haul airline routes, but you will need to resist airline opposition.
You should also consider auctioning off the Bureau of Land Management’s extensive grazing lands. Better incentives through ownership, or long-term leases, mean better stewardship and innovation. But neighboring farmers and ranchers won’t like the impact on their land prices.

How could you use the money from highway and land sales to benefit all Americans—and improve your own popularity? By creating a new Permanent Citizens Fund, invested in stocks, bonds and real estate world-wide. Every citizen would hold an equal share, with annual dividends paid in cash.

Better highways, more land for productive development plus a permanent fund sending checks to every citizen. A guaranteed basic income financed from public assets waiting to be monetized and put to work. You might even get the progressives’ vote. Have you ever made such a great deal?

If you think it’s pie in the sky, ask an Alaskan. The Alaska Permanent Fund, initiated in 1976 to distribute oil revenue, has a market value I estimate at $72,000 for each Alaskan citizen. Annual dividends began in 1982, when the public corporation that administers the fund cut the first checks for $1,000. Little wonder that Alaska is second among all the states in income equality.

The post A Libertarian Universal Basic Income appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Germany passes controversial law to fine Facebook over hate speech

Germany passes controversial law to fine Facebook over hate speech
// The Verge

German lawmakers have passed a controversial law under which Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies could face fines of up to €50 million ($57 million) for failing to remove hate speech. The Network Enforcement Act, commonly referred to as the “Facebook law,” was passed by the Bundestag, Germany’s parliamentary body, on Friday. It will go into effect in October.

Under the law, social media companies would face steep fines for failing to remove “obviously illegal” content — including hate speech, defamation, and incitements to violence — within 24 hours. They would face an initial fine of €5 million, which could rise to €50 million. Web companies would have up to one week to decide on cases that are less clear cut.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas and other supporters of the bill have argued that it is necessary to curb the spread of hate speech, which is strictly regulated under German law. But digital rights activists have broadly criticized the law, saying it would infringe on free speech, and that it gives tech companies disproportionate responsibility in determining the legality of online content.

“Freedom of expression ends where criminal law begins.”

“Experience has shown that, without political pressure, the large platform operators will not fulfill their obligations, and this law is therefore imperative,” Maas said in an address Friday, adding that “freedom of expression ends where criminal law begins.”

“We believe the best solutions will be found when government, civil society and industry work together and that this law as it stands now will not improve efforts to tackle this important societal problem,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email statement. “We feel that the lack of scrutiny and consultation do not do justice to the importance of the subject. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure safety for the people on our platform.”

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the passage of the law.

Germany has in recent years intensified efforts to crack down on hate speech, amid a rise in anti-migrant sentiment that has been fueled in part by the ongoing refugee crisis. Facebook, Twitter, and Google agreed to remove such content from their platforms within 24 hours, under a 2015 deal with the German government, but a 2017 report commissioned by the Justice Ministry found that the companies were still failing to meet their commitments. Earlier this month, German police raided 36 homes over social media posts that allegedly contained hateful content, following a similar operation that targeted 60 people last year.

Social media companies are facing pressure to remove hate speech, fake news, and terrorist propaganda from European Union leaders, as well. Last month, the European Council approved a set of proposals that would require web companies to block any videos that contain hate speech or incitements to terrorism. Maas has also called for Europe-wide regulations on hate speech and fake news.

“This can only lead to privatized, unpredictable online censorship.”

Facebook and Google have launched campaigns to combat fake news and hate speech in recent months, with Facebook recently announcing that it would hire an additional 3,000 people over the next year to moderate flagged content. The social network explained the complexity in moderating hate speech in a recent blog post, as part of its “hard questions” series, but it faced renewed criticism this week after a ProPublica investigation detailed Facebook’s confusing internal systems that underpin its hate speech policy.

EDRi, a Brussels-based digital rights group, criticized the bill’s passage in a blog post published ahead of Friday’s vote. “[Social media] companies are, quite rationally, driven by the motivation to avoid liability, using the cheapest options available, and to exploit the political legitimization of their restrictive measures for profit,” writes Maryant Fernández Pérez, senior policy adviser at EDRi. “This can only lead to privatized, unpredictable online censorship.”

Update, June 30th 6:04AM ET: This article was updated to include a statement from Facebook.


Government Medicine: Court Declares Child Should Die Rather Than Receive Privately-Funded Health Care

Government Medicine: Court Declares Child Should Die Rather Than Receive Privately-Funded Health Care
// Zero Hedge

Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute

In a government-controlled healthcare system, the state determines who can receive treatment and when. This has long been admitted. But, what is less often discussed is that once a patient finds himself within a state-run healthcare facility, the state may deny him treatment — even if privately funded.

This was recently illustrated when Charlie Gard, a small child suffering from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, was denied privately-funded treament planned by his parents.

According to the BBC:

Chris Gard and Connie Yates lost their final legal bid to take their son to the US for treatment.

Specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital believe Charlie has no chance of survival…

European Court judges have now concluded it was most likely Charlie was “being exposed to continued pain, suffering and distress” and undergoing experimental treatment with “no prospects of success… would offer no benefit”.

They said the application presented by the parents was “inadmissible” and said the court’s decision was “final”.

The court “also considered that it was appropriate to lift the interim measure” which had required doctors to continue providing life support treatment to Charlie.

BBC health correspondent Fergus Walsh said it is likely Charlie’s life support machine will be turned off within a few days following discussions between the hospital and his family.

In other words, the court declared that the child should die rather than allow his parents to pursue privately-funded medical care in the United States.

Often when we see cases like this, it is a case of different family members arguing over treatment. This was the case in the Terri Schiavo case in which Schiavo was refused life-saving medical care according to the wishes of one family member — but against the wishes of other family members.

In the Charlie Gard case, both parents are in agreement in wishing to pursue treatment in the US. But, it appears that the state is acting on its own initiative here and demanding the child be left to die because some government-employed doctors — none of whom are related to the child — wish it.

Nor do the parents seek to continue using any of the hospital’s tax-funded resources. They merely wish to pursue treatment elsewhere.

The state says no.

Justin Murray reported on the case in April at mises.org, and noted:

[A] major feature of the free market, private charity, kicked in wonderfully. Within a month of denial and discovery of the treatment, Charlie’s parents managed to raise the entire amount to pay for the treatment and trip to the United States. In a normal world, this would have been the end of the story. Charlie would have gone to the United States, received his treatment and we would have discovered if his already dire situation could have been mitigated or treatment failed.

But the NHS [the British National Health Service] decided, for whatever reason, to interfere with this process. When Charlie’s parents attempted to withdraw him for this treatment, Great Ormond Street, a children’s hospital in Greater London run by the NHS, rushed to the British High Court to block his parents from doing so. As government court systems are wont to do, they sided with themselves and denied the parents’ wishes for further private treatment and gave an official court order that Charlie is to be removed from life support and left to die. This was a no-lose situation for Charlie and his family. If the treatment fails, the end result is the same and the parents can at least have closure that they tried everything possible. If the treatment is a success, he can live enough years to be able to learn what his parents look like, interact with them and be able to experience some joy in life. One can wonder, cynically, if the court system ordered his death to avoid risking embarrassing the NHS should the treatment they denied actually work.

Unlike the usual defects of public medical care, where resources are politically allocated leading to critical shortages for perfectly preventable diseases, such as the case of Laura Hiller in Canada, all the while claiming that medical care in a free market would be provided on a cut-throat system that denies the poor care. Charlie’s case shatters this self-proclaimed image. Here we have elements of the free market working as expected but with the government actively, and openly, doing everything it can to interfere with it.

The British NHS isn’t alone in making war on experimental treatments, either. The US government (via the FDA) for years has blocked use of various experimental treatments and technologies for extremely ill patients who quite reasonably conclude they have little to lose from using potentially dangerous treatments.

In response, some states have even taken localized action as in the case of Louisiana’s “Right to Try” law. Provided the treatments are privately funded, state law guarantees residents may use experimental non-FDA approved treatment under certain circumstances. (Insurance companies are not required to cover said treatments.)

Obviously, this more tolerant and rational philosophy has escaped the NHS and the British Parliament where it is apparently believed that all children belong to the state, even when their treatment options are to be funded by private charity.


Watch a Simulated Asteroid Hit the Atmosphere at 45,000 Miles Per Hour

Watch a Simulated Asteroid Hit the Atmosphere at 45,000 Miles Per Hour
// Gizmodo


Four years ago, an asteroid the size of a city bus screamed across the skies of Chelyabinsk, Russia, shattering glass around a 60 mile perimeter and sending 1,200 people to hospitals with related injuries. In an effort to learn more about these rare but dangerous encounters with objects from space, NASA has used a…

Read more…


College Gets Sued for Censorship, Complains About Being ‘Vilified’: New at Reason

College Gets Sued for Censorship, Complains About Being ‘Vilified’: New at Reason
// Reason.com Full Feed

Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) members were passing out pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution to fellow students at Kellogg Community College (KCC) in Michigan when college officials approached them and ordered them to stop. When the members refused—arguing that the First Amendment protected their actions—they were arrested for violating the school’s policies.

The charges were dropped 10 days later, but KCC students and YAL members Michelle Gregoire and Brandon Withers, along with the rest of the KCC YAL chapter, sued the community college, the Board of Trustees, and a few other administrators for violating their First Amendment rights, as Reason reported earlier this year.

Now, former Reason intern and Young Voices Advocate Lindsay Marchello reports, the administration is claiming that they are the real victims and have been unfairly vilified by the YAL lawsuit.

View this article.


Survey: Pain patients overwhelmingly prefer medical marijuana over opioids

Survey: Pain patients overwhelmingly prefer medical marijuana over opioids
// Ars Technica


Enlarge (credit: Getty | ShaunGoo)

When patients have a choice between opioids and medical marijuana for a painful condition, an overwhelming majority say they prefer marijuana, that it works just as well, and has fewer side effects, a new survey finds.

Though the survey, involving 2,897 medical cannabis patients, didn’t track actual drug use or efficacy, the findings fits with previous data. Decades of research suggest marijuana is effective for pain treatment. And recent studies have found that in states with medical marijuana availability, there are fewer opioid overdose deaths and doctors fill fewer opioid prescriptions.

The authors of the new survey, led by Amanda Reiman of the University of California, Berkeley, say the data furthers the need to examine marijuana as a “viable substitute for pain treatment,” particularly in light of the devastating opioid epidemic now gripping the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that opioids killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015, and estimates that 91 people in the US die each day from the highly addictive drugs.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs |

Oregon Wants to Regulate Flexible Work Schedules Out of Existence

Oregon Wants to Regulate Flexible Work Schedules Out of Existence
// Reason.com Full Feed

Art Lab punch clockState Sen. Michael Dembrow wants Oregon to be the first state in the union to micromanage workers’ schedules.

Denbrow’s ‘fair work week’ bill, requiring employers to provide worker schedules one week in advance (and two weeks by 2020) and pay workers extra if shifts are added, removed, or changed, is quickly working its way through the legislature.

Nearly identical laws have been passed locally in San Francisco and Seattle.

Dembrow (D-Portland) says his bill will give workers “stability to know when to schedule childcare, second jobs, college classes and other aspects of everyday life.”

Creating ‘stability’ through regulation, however, comes at a cost. Employers’ workplace needs change suddenly, sometimes shift to shift, for all sorts of reasons. Denbrow would like to penalize them for responding to those changes.

The penalty might be triggered by the request of an employee, according to a University of Washington (UW) study commissioned to measure the impact of Seattle’s “secure scheduling” ordinance. The study found 80 percent of managers had within the previous two weeks of being surveyed changed schedules at the request of employees.

The reasons were as simple as illness (28 percent), recreation time (18.6 percent), or caring for a sick child (18 percent).

“Flexibility is a benefit all our employees enjoy,” one West Seattle manager told survey takers. “Employees’ needs dictate our schedule.” Penalties for changing schedules on short notice, the manager said, would “take control of schedules away from the workers.”

In San Francisco, the only city to implement scheduling regulations so far, 35 percent of managers in a study said they had responded to their city’s scheduling law by reducing flexibility in hours.

The study found one-fifth of businesses reported hiring fewer part-time workers after the scheduling law went into effect. A similar number said they were making do with fewer workers per shift, and 17 percent said they had cut back employment of full and part-time staff.

Seattle workers—30 percent of whom said in the UW study that they’d want more work at their current jobs—will likely see similar hours reductions when that city’s “secure scheduling” ordinance is implemented July 1.

Jacob Vigdor, author of the UW study, said in an email to Reason, “Quite a few employees reported that their employer scaled back hours in order to avoid the ACA employer health care obligation.”

That means the many Oregon workers who wrote and testified in favor of Fair Work Week legislation in the hopes of getting more hours, would likely see the opposite should the bill pass.

Oregon employers, too would be less likely to grant days off for private or family matters if it meant having to call in a more expensive employee. They would also be more likely to simply hire fewer workers, and give their current ones fewer hours.

The attempt to give workers more hours through regulation also ignores the fact that many workers are not getting enough hours because of regulation. State level ordinances add to the problem. In the past year Oregon has passed a sizable minimum wage increase and mandated paid sick leave.

“To add more regulations requiring our payroll costs to go up will force us to reduce our staff to compensate,” said Cindy Ertell, of Oregon Coffee Roasters, in written testimony to the Oregon Senate. “We don’t want to have to do that.”

Despite these problems, Oregon’s Fair Work Week has received healthy bi-partisan support both in the Senate, which passed it last week, and in the House where its moved out of committee with near unanimous approval.

Should it pass as expected, some Oregonians might get a fairer worker week. Others might have no work week at all.