Thursday, September 14, 2017

Guest Post: Civil Asset Forfeiture Unjustly Targets the Poor

by Julian Adorney

Income mobility in the United States has stagnated, a fact that hurts the poor most of all. If President Trump wishes to keep his promises to help low-income Americans escape poverty, he should instruct his administration to jettison, rather than expand, non-criminal asset forfeiture.

civil asset forfeitureNon-criminal asset forfeiture lets government agents seize Americans’ assets (cash, but also cars and even houses) on the mere suspicion that they were involved in a crime. Asset forfeiture is intended to deprive criminals of their ill-gotten gains, but frequently enables police to take the property of Americans who remain innocent in the eyes of the law.

According to a Department of Justice report, they’ve seized $29 billion from 2007-2016 on the federal level. Twenty-three percent of this has been administrative asset forfeiture, meaning that the seizure was less than $500,000 and the victims were never convicted of—or often even charged with—a crime.

Administrative asset forfeiture alone thus translates to takings of $667 million per year. Because asset forfeiture has risen dramatically in the past decade, administrative asset seizure is likely to pass $4 billion during Trump’s first term if left unchecked.

This Injustice Hurts the Poor Most
Asset forfeiture primarily targets the poor. Most forfeitures are for small amounts: in 2012, the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that has focused heavily on asset forfeiture, analyzed forfeiture in 10 states and found that the median value of assets seized ranged from $451 (Minnesota) to $2,048 (Utah). Given that law enforcement routinely takes everything they find in a forfeiture case, these small values suggest the relative poverty of the victims.

The procedural hurdles for challenging asset forfeiture also mean that poor people are less able to get their money back. The average forfeiture challenge requires four weekdays in court; missing four days of work can be a prohibitive expense for Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Additionally, claims are challenged in civil court, where the right to counsel doesn’t apply, meaning that claimants need to hire their own lawyer.

Asset forfeiture is especially dangerous for the unbanked, because police and federal agents consider high amounts of cash to be suspect. 

In 2013, half of all households with incomes of less than $15,000 were either unbanked or underbanked. In a report on non-criminal asset forfeiture, the Center for American Progress argues that “low-income individuals and communities of color are hit hardest” by forfeiture.

Asset forfeiture functions as a regressive tax, which reduces low-income Americans’ economic mobility. A family that sees their savings wiped out has to start again from the bottom. A person whose cash rent payment is seized may turn to payday loans or the black market, or simply be evicted—none of which are conducive to upward mobility.


Civil Asset Forfeiture Is Just Cruel
Regressive taxation can also reduce high school graduation, as teens are forced to leave school to help make ends meet. In their book “Taxing the Poor,” Newman and O’Brien argue, “For every $100 increase on taxes at the poverty line, we saw…a quarter of a percentage point decrease in high school completion.” Taking money from poor families erodes teens’ futures and reduces intergenerational mobility.

Civil and administrative asset forfeiture also seizes cars, which can rob the poor of their ability to work. According to the Institute for Justice, Texas and Virginia seized 17,000 cars from 2000 to 2017–or about 1,000 per year. The average value of the car was $6,000, again suggesting that this tactic targets the poor.

When families lose their vehicles, their earning potential suffers. In a study on transportation access and economic opportunity, the Urban Institute, a leading liberal think tank, found that “keeping or gaining access to automobiles is positively associated with the likelihood of employment.” Without a car, many people cannot show up to work on time, so they often lose their jobs. Workers without cars also have a smaller geographic range in which they can find a new job.

Asset forfeiture also targets low-income business owners. In 2013, more than half of small business owners only accepted cash payments. These owners are more likely to be low-income, because a greater percentage of the poor are unbanked. A business that caters to white-collar workers is more likely to pay the substantial fees required to accept credit cards, because that’s the payment method its clientele prefers. A business in a poor neighborhood is more likely to get away with only taking cash.

Legal business owners who only accept cash are more likely to be victims of non-criminal asset forfeiture. They are more suspicious to police because of the large amounts of money that they carry. An asset seizure will also probably cost them more than it would a customer; one asset seizure could rob a business owner of a week’s worth of revenue. When every dollar of revenue matters for escaping poverty, asset forfeiture can trap the poor.

Trump promised to drain the swamp and reduce funding for federal agencies in order to help working-class Americans. Civil asset forfeiture enriches agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (which can wipe out citizens’ bank accounts) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (which took in $3.2 billion in civil forfeiture assets since 2007) at the expense of low-income Americans.

Rather than expand the practice, Trump’s Department of Justice should end an institution that punishes the poor and erodes due process.



Julian Adorney

Julian Adorney is a Young Voices Advocate. His work has been featured in dozens of outlets, including National Review, Fox News’ Nation, and Lawrence Reed’s best-selling economics anthology Excuse Me, Professor.

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





Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Guest Post: Natural Disasters Are Not Good for the Economy

by Nicolás Cachanosky

Every time there is a natural disaster old economic fallacies make their appearance. And they are usually always the same. In particular, the argument that a natural disaster is good for the economy. This should make little sense.

Hurricane Irma natural disasters economic fallacyWealth is not created by destroying things. A natural disaster destroys wealth, doesn’t create it. I doubt anyone affected by a hurricane would argue that he is better off after the natural disaster than before.

The argument that an event such as a natural disaster is good for the economy rests in the positive impact seen in GDP (as is argued) after the natural event. If GDP increases, then the economy is doing better. But this is a misreading of GDP. This variable is a flow of wealth, it is not a stock of accumulated wealth. It is possible that wealth creation (flow) increases at the same time the stock of wealth is decreasing. And this is what happens during a natural disaster.

Imagine that someone’s house caught fire and burnt down. Because of this situation, this person decides to start working extra hours to increase his income and be able to buy a new one. The extra hours makes his income (GDP) increase. But his situation is considerably worse because he lost his stock of wealth (remember Bastiat’s broken window fallacy…?). Arguing that a natural disaster (or a war, etc…) is good for the economy is like arguing that this person is better of because he has to work extra hours to recover his loss.

This is just another case of a too common fallacy in economics. We know that if the economy is doing better the result will be better GDP and unemployment indicators. But from observing a better GDP and unemployment indicators we cannot, and should not, conclude that the economy is doing better. More important than observing what is happening to GDP is understanding why is changing its behavior.

It could be argued that one of the problems of the Keynesian view of the world is the focus on what happens to output and unemployment rather than why these variables are moving. Not surprisingly, we get to the conclusion that going to war (or having a natural disaster) would be a good way to achieve full employment.

Reprinted from Notes on Liberty.




 Nicolás Cachanosky Metropolitan State University of Denver Libertas Segunda Época
Nicolás Cachanosky is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver, a co-editor of the journal Libertas: Segunda Época, and the manager of El Hub Económico, an index of Argentine economic series. He is a macroeconomist with interests in business cycles, monetary theory and policy, and comparative institutions.

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




Monday, September 11, 2017

From the Archives: Virginia businessman Tim Donner relates ‘eerie’ memory of 9/11 in New York City

Virginia businessman Tim Donner relates ‘eerie’ memory of 9/11 in New York City
September 10, 2012 7:38 PM MST

Like all Americans who were old enough to comprehend what happened on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, Northern Virginia businessman Tim Donner has vivid memories of that day. His recollection, however, includes what he calls a “chilling coincidence” that borders on the eerie.

Donner is the owner of Horizons Television in Great Falls, Virginia, which specializes in documentary, educational and promotional video production, and founder of One Generation Away, an educational and public policy organization. He was a candidate for the U.S. Senate before withdrawing from the race and endorsing Republican nominee George F. Allen. He also contributes commentary to the online journal of news and opinion, Bearing Drift.

It was his role as a video producer that placed Donner and his wife in Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Remember the Regency

Tim Donner 9/11 Horizons Television One Generation Away
As he related the story to the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner in a telephone interview, “[we] were in New York on business that day doing a historical documentary for a longtime client and we were staying at the Regency Hotel.”

The significance of the name of the hotel and “why that fits into the story,” he added parenthetically, would become clear “in just a little bit.”

Continuing, he explained, he and his wife got their “gear together for a video shoot that day and as we head out the door, the doorman at the hotel says a plane just hit the World Trade Center.”

Unperturbed by that news, Donner figured “that perhaps this was a light plane, similar to one that had flown into the White House months before that, so we didn’t make much of it.”

So they went about their business and, once they arrived at their client’s office, he recalled, “we sat there and watched on TV live as the second plane hit the World Trade Center.”

‘Chill up my spine’

At that point, he said, like so many others, “we realized we were under attack and at that moment it struck me -- it struck me hard, it sent a chill up my spine -- that I had been to the Regency Hotel [just] three or four times in my life.”

His first visit to the Regency, he said, was when he was about eight years old: “The first time that I had been there was having lunch with my grandparents on November 22, 1963.”

On that occasion, Donner said, “a waiter came up and told my grandmother, ‘The president has just been shot.’”

Two seminal moments

Tim Donner September 11th JFK assassination
Tim Donner
The spinal chill he felt eleven years ago, he explained, “came from the sudden realization that I was in exactly the same spot on November 22, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was shot and killed, that I was on September 11, when we were attacked in New York and Washington.”

Those dates, he went on, “are the two seminal moments that anybody our age will remember for the rest of their lives. They’ll remember where they were and what they were doing.”

For Donner, “this is a coincidence of incalculable proportions,” he said, “because you couldn’t even set any odds upon being in the same place for both of those events, especially when it was some random hotel that I’d not been to more than three or four times in my life.”

That coincidence, he concluded, “was eerie, to say the least, because the chances of that happening were so astronomical as to be off the charts. The realization of that just makes one wonder about larger metaphysical questions.”



Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on September 10, 2012. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

From the Archives: On 9/11, Muslim libertarian scholar Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad addresses religious freedom at Georgetown U

On 9/11, Muslim libertarian scholar Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad addresses religious freedom at Georgetown U
September 11, 2010 10:29 PM MST

At the invitation of Hoyas for Liberty, a libertarian student group at Georgetown University, Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad made a presentation on September 11, 2010, on the topic “Freedom of Religion and Speech: We can, but should we?”

Just before he took to the lectern, Dr. Ahmad, the president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, spoke briefly with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about the topic he was to address and the mission of his Maryland-based organization.

Sensitive to Others

9/11 September 11 Islam Muslims Minaret of Freedom Hoyas for Liberty Georgetown University
The topic, he said, poses “the question that, because America is unique in allowing any religion and any kind of speech, does that mean that we should always employ, should we not be sensitive to the feelings of others?”

He would also, he continued, “try to answer that question with regard to a number of topical issues going on right now.”

Ahmad used his presentation to “show how attempts to draw parallels in applying this question between, for example, the Manhattan Islamic center on the one hand and the burning of Qurans on the other, [are] rather misguided.”

'A provocative act'
Why is this? Because, he explained, “certainly the burning of Qurans” – such as the action threatened by Florida Pastor Terry Jones – “is a provocative act, deliberately intended to insult another people, whereas the building of the Islamic center in New York has as its intention to adopt the model of the Jewish community center there, which is to build a bridge between a minority community and the larger society.”

As for the Minaret of Freedom Institute, Ahmad noted that it “was founded in 1993 with a fourfold mission: to counter the distortions about Islam, to show the origin of certain modern values that came out of the Islamic civilization, to educate both Muslims and non-Muslims on the importance of liberty and free markets, and to advance the status of Muslims (whether they live in the east or the west).”

To advance this mission, he said, “we write papers for refereed academic journals, we do op-ed pieces for the mass press, we have educational programs, and we have a web site and a blog. On our web site, minaret.org, you’ll find virtually all our academic papers and links to about half of our op-ed pieces.”

Answering Skeptics
Imad ad Dean Ahmad Minaret of Freedom Institute
Acknowledging that there might be some skeptics who will say that as admirable as the mission of the Minaret of Freedom is, it’s an outlier and it’s not really representative of Islamic culture, politics, or economics, Ahmad said he would “first grant them a point in that, in the degree to which we are passionately devoted to the cause of liberty we are not in the mainstream, in the same way that the libertarian movement in America is not the mainstream of America.”

With that said, however, he added that, “if you look at the mainstream of the Muslim society, you will find that it is very compatible with our views, they’re just not as consistent as we are, in the same way as American society is very inclined towards liberty but just not consistent about it.”

Ahmad pointed out that he and his colleagues at the Minaret of Freedom Institute do not look for easy answers.

“The issues we deal with, we deal with in a nuanced manner,” he said. “We do not try to make things simple, bipolar, yes-or-no.”

Keeping that in mind, he concluded, he would encourage Examiner.com readers “to go to our web site and get an opportunity to study the nuances.”


Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on September 11, 2010. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.




Sunday, September 10, 2017

From the Archives: Higher gas prices won’t change American car culture, says transportation expert

Editor's note: One of the repercussions of Hurricane Harvey (and, to a lesser extent, Hurricane Irma) has been a spike in gasoline prices, by about 50 cents per gallon across the country (30 to 45 cents higher in the Charlottesville area). This seems like a good time to revisit the topic of fuel's price elasticity. This article from 2011 sheds light on the issue.

Higher gas prices won’t change American car culture, says transportation expert
May 25, 2011 4:42 PM MST

Higher gasoline prices will not fundamentally affect the travel habits of Americans, asserts transportation expert Alan E. Pisarski, author of the “Commuting in America” series for the National Academy of Sciences.

Pisarski spoke to the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner immediately after giving a presentation on livability and transportation issues at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on May 20.

$4 a gallon ‘sounds scary’

While four dollars a gallon “sounds scary,” Pisarski explained, that “is actually about the same as we were paying in 1980 -- even less if you take into [account] things like wealth and fuel efficiency.”

Even if gas prices move higher than that, “the benefits that people gain from the automobile are not really going to change,” he said. People will make minor accommodations to account for the higher prices, “but the fundamental change in the society will be trivial.”

As an example, Pisarski pointed out that the “last time we almost doubled the price of gasoline, in 2009, we had a three-and-a-half percent decline in travel.”

Virginia commutes

In his presentation, Pisarski had noted that Virginians commute to work outside of their home counties at a rate double that of the national average – about 52.1 percent travel outside their counties, compared to 27.4 percent nationwide. What accounts for that?

gas prices transportation Alan Pisarski
“One of the things that really matters,” he said, “is the fact that because of government, there’s a tremendous integration of activity, so people traverse long distances from their homes to their work sites. You see much more interaction between counties, in an economic sense, than you do in most other areas of the country.”

Arlington County, for instance, "exports" 80,000 workers each day and "imports" 130,000. In other words, only 33 percent of its workers stay in the county even though Arlington has 1.4 jobs per worker. In Fairfax County, to give another example, 50 percent of workers stay in the county for their jobs while 50 percent leave.

While it may seem like Northern Virginia – the suburbs around Washington, D.C. – skew the rate upward, the phenomenon is statewide. There are only two or three counties in the whole state, Pisarski explained, “that don’t send the majority of their people to another county to work.”

In fact, he added, “it’s more extensive in the rural counties” and exurban counties that are “two and three counties out from the metropolitan area,” and from those places, Virginians commute to metropolitan Richmond or metropolitan Washington.

Pisarski noted that the state that comes in second in this category is Maryland, which is also affected by the government jobs and economic activity generated by Washington, followed closely by Pennsylvania.


Livability and local budgets

Alan Pisarski transportation gasoline prices
Alan Pisarski
The theme of Pisarski’s presentation at the Heritage Foundation was the new emphasis on “livability” in the housing and transportation policies of the Obama administration. He said that “livability” is a “nonce word,” which has different meanings – and sometimes no meaning at all – depending upon who is using it and in what context.

“Those words come in and out of favor,” he explained, but the emphasis on livability comes from “the pressure on local governments to come up with money. This is another way for them to argue for what they see is their share, whether its of state money or federal money” to supplement their budgets to pay for community concerns, whether to solve traffic problems, improve neighborhoods, or build bike paths.

“These things” that local governments desire, Pisarski said, “are not unattractive or undesirable or even inappropriate.”

The problem, he explained, is that they do not “belong in discussions at the federal level,” because they are local concerns that should be dealt with on the local or state level.


Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on May 25, 2011. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Friday, September 08, 2017

From the Archives - Present at the creation: YAF co-founder Carol Dawson remembers the 1960 Sharon Conference

Present at the creation: YAF co-founder Carol Dawson remembers the 1960 Sharon Conference
September 8, 2010 11:52 PM MST

A noteworthy anniversary will be commemorated this Saturday, September 11.

Most people, of course, associate that date with the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. On that day 50 years ago, however, a group of young Americans came together to lay the foundation for a conservative revolution that transformed U.S. politics for the next two generations.

Sharon Statement YAF Carol Dawson Young Americans for Freedom 1960s conservative movement
On September 11, 1960, the Sharon Statement was issued. The Sharon Statement concisely listed the values and goals of the then-nascent conservative movement. Historian John A. Andrew says in his book, The Other Side of the Sixties, that it was “a short but definitive exposition of conservative principles that became their ideological compass.”

The Sharon Statement says, for instance, that “liberty is indivisible,” that “political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom,” and that the “purpose of government is to protect those freedoms.”

An immediate result of the Sharon Conference (so named for its location at William F. Buckley’s home, Great Elm, in Sharon, Connecticut) was the founding of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF).

Present at the Creation
Earlier this year – on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, by coincidence -- the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner had an opportunity to speak with Carol G. Dawson, one of the participants at the Sharon Conference and a founder of Young Americans for Freedom.

Dawson, who now lives in Lancaster County on Virginia’s Northern Neck, described the atmosphere at the meeting as electrifying.

“My feelings at the time,” she explained, “were of being overwhelmed because the intellectual caliber of all those people was just astounding. I learned a lot. Of course, some of the giants like Bill Buckley and Brent Bozell and others who were there became more real to me,” because of her subsequent interactions with them.

The meeting also abated feelings of isolation of that era’s young conservatives, she said.

“There’s a lot to be said for finding out you are not alone,” she said. “You’re not alone, there are other people who are like you, who feel the way you do, who are motivated” to take action to advance their shared values.

Early Days
In the early days of YAF, Dawson said, “a lot of time was spent in spirited debate about the by-laws of the organization, what kind of board of directors it would have, and how we would re-elect board of directors or replace them.”

There were challenges, too.

“The early days were a bit rough,” Dawson remembered. “There were a lot of people who were thrown off the board and that sort of thing.”

Despite bumps in the road, “it led to some really close friendships, as well. I would have to say that the people I knew through that organization today rank as my closest friends other than family,” she noted, smiling, “So we must have been doing something right.”

The Sharon Statement, Dawson said, remains relevant half a century later.

“I think it clarifies,” she explained. “It clarifies the issues that are still important and always will be important. To bring in the title of [M. Stanton Evans’] book, ‘The Theme Is Freedom;’ that’s still what it’s all about.”

The Legacy
Four years after Sharon, its momentum launched Barry Goldwater’s campaign for President.

In 1971, disaffected YAFers founded the Libertarian Party. Other YAFers set up and ran think tanks and advocacy groups.

By 1980, the movement begotten at Sharon triumphed in the election of Ronald Reagan.

Five decades on, echoes of the Sharon Statement can be heard in the chants of the Tea Party and seen on the placards carried at events like next Sunday’s 9/12 Taxpayers March on Washington.

As Dawson said, “the theme is freedom” and that’s what it’s all about.


Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on September 8, 2010. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Guest Post: Helping Hurricane Victims - There’s an App for That

by Nick Freiling

Everyone talks about changing the world. Gret Glyer is actually doing it.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Glyer contacted the “Cajun Navy”—volunteers from Louisiana who went to Houston to rescue flood victims. He asked how he could best support their efforts to rescue stranded Texans.

Hurricane Irma cone
Source: NOAA
After chatting, Glyer set up a new project on DonorSee, an app he himself created. Twenty-four hours later, he sent the Cajun Navy $5,000 to pay for gas. Three days later, $5,000 more.

Within three days of making contact, Glyer had put thousands of gallons of gas into their boats—the same boats many saw on CNN pulling people from flooded buildings.

How is that possible?

Glyer’s app, DonorSee, is a P2P app that connects donors with the needy in real-time, using video, photos, and direct money transfers. The concept is bafflingly simple: allow aid workers to post projects to the DonorSee feed as they would post a photo or video on Instagram. They explain the need, specify the funds needed, then provide real-time updates as donations pour in. Donors give with the press of a button, with all payments processed through Stripe.

When the project is funded, the post closes.

Glyer says, “DonorSee accomplishes two new things: Directly connects people with third-world and disaster-related needs, and ensures 100% transparency about where dollars are going.”

DonorSee now operates in 50 countries. The feed shows a huge variety of fundable needs, from life-saving medical supplies and procedures in Thailand to school tuition for promising students in Malawi. Often, projects are small enough that just a few donors can meet the entire need (often saving a life). Other times, hundreds of donors contribute to single projects, like building a well or water filtration system in poor villages.

Like GoFundMe, the app rewards high-quality posts. Donors can rate the quality of post authors and are told to expect real-time updates about how their funds are being used. If this doesn’t happen, donors can stop supporting those authors.

Glyer says his goal is to change the world—he says DonorSee is the answer to meeting acute, poverty- and disaster-related needs around the world.

After Harvey, it’s hard to disagree.

A 10-minute phone call. An 80-word post. A two-minute video. A few tweets and Facebook updates. This is all it took to collect $10,000 from more than 250 individual donors, from all around the world, to send directly and immediately to the Cajun Navy.

“This is 2017. If people want to give directly to the needy, they should be able to do that immediately, anytime, anywhere,” Glyer says. “That’s what DonorSee does.”

DonorSee is a realistically hopeful app. Glyer believes in the eagerness of people to help one another and uses the power of real-time video to make that happen. In that way, it relies on the same goodwill that underlies the sharing economy—trust in each other, and faith that continuous feedback loops will reward good, honest work.

But DonorSee is also a reaction to the grossly ineffective and corrupt “big charity” model that has the giving industry stuck in the twentieth century. While we can tip our Uber drivers directly and in real-time, we send aid to hurricane victims through massive, archaic organizations—thousands of employees, some paid millions annually, who all sit together in a neighborhood of limestone buildings just north of Capitol Hill.

“When Harvey was impending, the vultures started circling,” Glyer said. “NGOs, federal agencies and big box charities like Red Cross descended on Houston while asking for dollar after dollar from people who wanted to help—most of whom will never know what good their dollars accomplished.”

On UK television last month, Glyer highlighted the problems with big-box charity models—in particular, their inability to tell donors exactly where their dollars are going. Sure, they publish their financials, but they will, as always, fail to show how Harvey relief funds will be used in Houston. Frankly, much of those funds will probably end up back in DC, at Red Cross offices funding the more than 1,000 administrative support staff.

DonorSee is different. Users, not employees, post projects as they find people in need (typically in third-world countries). And money handling is automatic (handled by Stripe), requiring almost no overhead whatsoever. Glyer can monitor DonorSee donations—thousands of them—from his iPhone.

“Helping each other should be about just that—helping each other,” Glyer said. “Not sending checks to NGOs, nonprofits, ‘causes,’ etc. Those organizations might have their place, but when it comes to sudden disasters like Harvey, they’re honestly way out of their element. Helping in situations like Harvey is about how quickly and directly you can give to the actual person you want to help. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what P2P is about.”


Nick Freiling Hurricane Harvey Haven Insights GMU
Nick Freiling is Founder/Director of Haven Insights, a DC-based market research firm. He studied Austrian economics at Grove City College and George Mason University.

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






Tuesday, September 05, 2017

From the Archives: What is the DREAM Act, and why is it important? A conversation with Claire Gastañaga

What is the DREAM Act, and why is it important? A conversation with Claire Gastañaga
September 5, 2010 9:05 PM MST

At Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s town hall meeting in Harrisonburg on August 26, one of the questions from the audience was posed by a young lady wearing an academic mortarboard.

DREAM Act DACA immigration Claire Gastanaga Rick Sincere
According to the Harrisonburg Times, the questioner was Isabel Castillo, a magna cum laude graduate of Eastern Mennonite University. Castillo identified herself as an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States as a 6-year-old child. She asked McDonnell whether he supports the DREAM Act; he said he does not.

The DREAM Act (an acronym of the title of the Senate version of the bill, S. 729, the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act”) would help regularize the immigration status of undocumented students.

The day after McDonnell’s town hall, the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner spoke with Claire Gastañaga, a Richmond-based attorney and self-described “immigrant advocate,” who was attending the weekly Fridays After Five concert at the Charlottesville Pavilion.

‘Expedited path’
“What the DREAM Act does,” she explained, is to allow “an expedited path for children who were brought here by their parents, who made no decision on their own to come here, to regularize their status, to become legal by becoming full participants in our society and preparing themselves to make a meaningful contribution.”

The legislation, she said, “would allow somebody who had been to public schools in the United States, who had grown up here for a period of time, but who was technically not here with [legal] authority, to make commitments and make certain pledges and then be able to go to college and become fully functioning parts of our community and our society by becoming legal permanent residents and ultimately opening the door to citizenship.”

The proposed law would not create “reverse-chain migration” that would permit the affected students to serve as an anchor for other members of their families seeking to immigrate to the United States.

‘Live the American dream’
DREAM Act dreamers DACA immigration Rick Sincere
Most of those for whom the law would apply “have been paying taxes because they’ve been in the community,” explained Gastañaga. “They have strong connections. Many of them came here when they were 2 or 3 years old. They speak English. They have no affinity for their prior country. They consider themselves Americans. What it does is allow them to actually become Americans and to live the American dream.”

Passage of the DREAM Act has been held up because both sides in the immigration debate – those who want stricter laws and those who want more liberalized laws – have deferred action on it in favor of the types of comprehensive immigration reform that they prefer.

‘Being held hostage’
The bill has been “caught up in this kind of all or nothing environment,” Gastañaga lamented. “It’s being held hostage because some people think it’s so attractive for bipartisan support that it’s somehow a carrot to bring people into the conversation who wouldn’t otherwise participate.”

Gastañaga thinks “that’s a mistake,” mentioning that the DREAM Act is falling between the cracks just like the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act (HR 1136) and a proposal for agricultural jobs.

Both sides are responsible for this delay, she said.

“The Hispanic Caucus won’t let anything go forward if it’s not comprehensive, and the folks on the other side won’t let anything go forward unless it includes their secure borders” features of comprehensive reform. “So everybody’s holding these things hostage,” she said.

Bipartisan support
Neither of Virginia’s senators (Jim Webb and Mark Warner) have cosponsored the DREAM Act. The House version of the bill (known as the American Dream Act, HR 1751) has only one cosponsor from Virginia, Representative Jim Moran (D-VA8). Both bills have bipartisan support.

GOP cosponsors in the House include Joseph Cao (R-LA2) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL18). Senate Republican cosponsors include Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Nicole Allan, writing for Atlantic.com, called the DREAM Act “An Immigration Measure Republicans Could Get Behind.”



Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on September 3, 2010. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Guest Post: Price Gougers Actually Help Solve the Problem of Scarcity

by Tom Mullen

Whenever there is a natural disaster, we see two things: the best in human generosity, courage and resilience and the worst in economic ignorance.

The former includes individuals rescuing stranded neighbors, volunteers lining up to join charity relief efforts, and corporations marshaling their vast resources to pour needed items such as food, bottled water and clothing into devastated areas. The latter includes “economists” repeating the age old broken window fallacy and politicians denouncing and threatening so-called “price gougers.”

Emotions run high during disasters, which is a double-edged sword. The outpouring of sympathy for the victims leads to extraordinary efforts in assistance. But it also leads to irrational resentment of those whose actions are often vital to human survival, but whose motives are judged inferior. These are, of course, the aforementioned price gougers.

One of the weaknesses in rational responses to the accusation of price gouging is just that: they appeal to reason when the accusation is born of emotion. And that disconnect is an irrevocable one until the accuser can be persuaded to look at the situation reasonably. But once so persuaded, the accuser often voices the understandable objection that economic arguments rooted in supply and demand charts and theory are too removed from what the accuser considers “the real world.”

Real World Behavior
Here, then, is a “real world” scenario in which the actors respond to incentives just as anyone in similar situations have countless times in the past:

There is a hurricane and flooding. Drinkable water is in short supply. A man has $100. He needs a case of water to get his family of three through the week. He walks into the store, where water is $25/case. There are 4 cases left on the shelf. He needs one, but can afford 4 and he doesn’t know how long the emergency will last. So, he buys all 4 cases.

Immediately afterwards, a family of five walks into the store with $100. There is no water to buy at any price. This family is now in desperate straits and must look elsewhere to procure what they need to survive.

Can anyone dispute the actors in this little parable have acted rationally and precisely as they would in the real world? No. Neither have any acted in a malicious or overly selfish manner. All have made the best choices among the alternatives presented them.
Now, change the price of a case of water in the above scenario to $100/case. What would be different? Of course, the man with a family of three would now only be able to buy one case of water, giving him what his family needs, but not necessarily as much insurance against future uncertainty as he would like. He gives up a little, but the family of five whose survival was in grave danger in the $25/case scenario is now able to purchase at least one case of water.

In the latter scenario, both families have enough to survive and a strong incentive to conserve water, thereby reducing demand and lowering its price, all other things being equal.

The so-called “price gougers” may have acted in their own interests, but they have not only benefited society economically, they have saved the lives of the family of five. Thus, Adam Smith’s 241-year-old “invisible hand” is confirmed by the real world yet again.

Incentivizing Other Entrepreneurs
But there are still those who claim that, while the price gougers have acted rationally and within their rights and may even have inadvertently benefited others, they have still acted immorally. In the case of the recent hurricane in Texas, many say,
“No, you don’t understand. Many of these people aren’t even from Houston. They knew the hurricane was coming and bought up a bunch of water at regular prices, with the express intent of coming to Houston and selling it for huge profits, while others were giving water away for free. That’s immoral!”

First, anyone selling water at any price is obviously serving people who don’t have access to the free water. If the buyers had access to free water, they wouldn’t pay for it, at inflated prices or not. Second, this sanctimonious moralizing begs the question, “Why didn’t you buy up a bunch of water and go to Houston and sell it at regular prices?”

The answers to the latter question are many, but they can be summarized as follows: most people do not have the time, capital or expertise to do what the price gougers did.

Who can afford to take off from their own job or cease running their own business to start a whole new one on a few days notice, much less donate their time? Some can, but not most, which is why after all those who can be by charitable work are served, there is still a market for those seeking profits.

We Need Price Gougers
Lost in all the moralizing is the reality that the so-called price gougers face all the same challenges as anyone else, having to forego whatever income they otherwise would have earned if not for their disaster-relief project, and face the risk of losing future income because they took off from their jobs or put their own regular businesses on hold. These losses and risks must be compensated, which is another reason they sell products at a premium price, in addition to supply/demand realities.

Thus, in the real world, even with as many people as are able acting as charitably as possible, there is a need for those seeking profits from higher-than-normal margins, whose self-interested actions save lives and mitigate the devastating effects of disasters. Yet, the rest of the world condemn them and governments seek to punish them, threatening not only the price gougers, but those whose lives they may save or whose suffering they may lessen during the next disaster.

Reprinted from Tom Mullen.

Tom Mullen price gouging economics supply and demand


Tom MullenTom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? and A Return to Common  Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. For more information and more of Tom's writing, visit www.tommullen.net.


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








From the Archives: After the census: GMU political scientist Michael McDonald forecasts Virginia's 2011 redistricting

After the census: GMU political scientist Michael McDonald forecasts Virginia's 2011 redistricting
September 4, 2010 12:47 PM MST

The 2010 census was just the first stage in a process that will lead to the redesign of legislative districts all across the United States over the next two years. Districts for the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures, city councils, county boards of supervisors, and school boards will all be affected.

Michael McDonald political scientist GMU redistricting
Michael P. McDonald
In Virginia, the redistricting process is accelerated because it is one of only four states that hold their state legislative elections in odd-numbered years.

George Mason University political scientist Michael P. McDonald is an expert on reapportionment and redistricting. He has served as a consultant on redistricting issues, sometimes “helping jurisdictions produce redistricting plans that are in conformance with federal and state criteria,” sometimes serving as an expert witness in lawsuits on behalf of either the plaintiff or the defendant, “defending or challenging whether or not a redistricting plan is legal.”

After McDonald spoke to local election officials from across the Commonwealth at the State Board of Elections’ annual Election Uniformity Workshop, McDonald answered questions from the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about what Virginia voters can look forward to in the coming months.

Historical First
For the first time in Virginia history, redistricting in 2011 will be done by a General Assembly in which the House of Delegates is controlled by Republicans and the state Senate is controlled by Democrats. After the 1990 census, both houses were controlled by Democrats, and after the 2000 census, both houses had Republican majorities.

“How it’s played out in other states,” McDonald explained, “is that one chamber will draw its districts, the other chamber will draw its districts, and then the two will do a logroll,” in which each chamber approves the other’s proposal. In effect, McDonald said, “you will have two different partisan gerrymanders, one for each chamber.”

Virginia differs slightly from other states, however.

“The wrinkle that we have in Virginia,” McDonald pointed out, “is that the governor can amend legislation.” As a result, “there’s a little bit of concern on the Democratic side” that “even if the House passes their version of the Senate plan” the governor might not “keep his hands off of it.”

There is some discussion, McDonald said, that “the governor may form a commission or a committee of some sort to help assist him in evaluating the redistricting plans that come out of the legislature.” Such a commission, he explained, “may play a mediating role there.”

Time Constraints
Given how fast the state legislative elections are approaching (in November 2011), there is some concern about whether the General Assembly can pass a redistricting plan in time to meet the needs of the electoral calendar.

congressional redistricting legislative districts Michael McDonald
“Plenty of other states have done it,” McDonald said. “We’ve done it in the past in Virginia.”

Can the process be completed in time?

“Presumptively, yes, the answer should be yes, that we can do it in time,” McDonald noted, also pointing out that “if it is not done in time,” federal courts will intervene.

“That’s one thing that the voters of Virginia can know to be true,” he said, “that the federal courts will step in if the state government can’t produce a redistricting plan.”

The courts, he added, “will basically draw their own map or they will accept a map that was not considered during the legislative process.”


Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on September 4, 2010. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.