News reports on Tax Day suggest that the European Commission wants to nail Google Inc.’s scalp to the wall as punishment for committing alleged antitrust (competition) law violations. At issue is the way in which the company assigns priorities to the links consumers see when they “google” generic search terms like “booksellers”, “cameras”, and “watches”. The links that rank highest are to the sellers of goods and services who have paid Google for advertising space on its search engine.
More recent stories in the Wall Street Journal suggest that the core of the EU’s lawsuit is based on complaints from Nextag, Bizrate, LeGuide and other companies offering comparison-shopping services saying that they have been “crushed” by Google’s online search engine. Additional charges may be looming on the horizon contending that Google’s Android cell phone operating system likewise unfairly favors Google’s own apps over those available from other sellers.
The quality of economic journalism in the United States is terrible. Day after day, journalists write about the causes and consequences of economic conditions and events without understanding the underlying economics of the situation, and their articles are, as a rule, simply bunk. Here is an example.
I have not examined the actual report whose findings are described in the article, but I am familiar with many studies of the same question that economists have conducted over the years. Moreover, I myself have made many applied econometric studies in a variety of areas, and I know how delicate the findings of such studies are to a variety of details—sample period, sample size, sampling method, data collection details, model specification, estimation methods, and so forth. I know, too, that the best studies—those with the best data, most sensible model specification, and most exhaustive set of controls—have found virtually no difference in the amounts that men and women are paid for doing the same work. The key is “doing the same work,” which is another way of saying “providing equally valuable services to the employer” in the sense of adding equally to the employer’s net income.
Just within the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen Congressional Republicans join with Democrats to buy into the idea that the federal government knows how to pay doctors for “quality” and “value.” It is the main concept behind the misconceived Medicare “doc fix” bill that the Senate will consider this week. If adopted, it would add $141 billion to the national debt in ten years and increase federal control of the practice of medicine.
So, if we are going to surrender even more of this power to the federal government, it might be interesting to see what the Obama administration thinks is important:
“The challenges we face are real, and they are clear and present in people’s daily lives,” said senior presidential adviser Brian Deese in a telephone conference call with reporters on Tuesday. Seven in 10 doctors are seeing effects on their patients’ health from climate change that is “posing a threat to more people in more places,” Deese said. (Bloomberg Politics)
As the culture wars intensify in America, let’s consider some of the roots of these contentious conflicts.
With the “Age of Enlightenment” of the 17th and 18th centuries, a “modern” narrative was invented to explain the history of the West, the wider world, and humankind’s place in the universe. This narrative claimed that liberty, democracy, republicanism and religious tolerance could only be achieved through an “Enlightenment project” of secularism taking control of both the public square and the commanding heights of society and that the abandonment of metaphysics and religious tradition were essential for human progress. Proponents of this narrative then included Denis Diderot, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edward Gibbon, and David Hume, and in the 19th century such writers as John Draper and Andrew Dickson White. With some exceptions, this worldview came to dominate western elite and popular thinking. However many historians have since increasingly challenged this narrative as fundamentally fallacious. Such historians as J.G.A. Pocock, Dale Van Kley, Derek Beales, and Jonathan Israel have discarded the claim of an exclusively secular “Enlightenment” and shown that there have been multiple and far more causal Enlightenments, based in various Catholic, Protestant and Jewish traditions. In addition and since the 1970s, historians of science Ronald L. Numbers, David V. Lindberg, and James R. Moore have refuted the erroneous and indeed propagandistic, secular claims of Draper and White that Christianity and science are adversarial.
Indeed, it has been these religious traditions that were primarily responsible for the revolutionary economic, legal, technological, and cultural changes that have uplifted the West, and that such changes began well before the 17th century. Sociologist Rodney Stark has shown that it was the Judeo-Christian tradition that produced all aspects of progress in the West, including the ideas of objective morality and truth, free-market capitalism, reason and science, natural law, individual liberty and the abolition of slavery and infanticide, civic virtue, and the rule of law. (Among his many notable books are The Victory of Reason, The Triumph of Christianity, How the West Won, and For the Glory of God.)
In “The Secular Theocracy,” I have also discussed the “Enlightenment project”‘s hypocritical and intolerant crusade that “exalts a sovereign and powerful state that pervades all of life and compels obedience not just to its mandates but to the secular nationalism of the Zeitgeist itself, for which the populace is forced to conform to and fund.”
Stark and others have further shown that the “secular Enlightenment” narrative rests upon numerous historical falsehoods that today are still taken for granted and commonly taught in schools. The following video discusses one such fallacy—why the Middle Ages were not the “Dark Ages,” including the “urban legend” that people then believed in a Flat Earth:
Last Friday’s very weak jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was greeted as bad news, but it disguised more good news for the heath sector: Job growth in March kept its steady pace. Obamacare’s healthcare jobs boost appears to be trending nicely despite weakness in February.
Almost one in five of the 126,000 jobs added in March were in health care, as shown in Table 1. Ambulatory facilities continued to add jobs at a faster rate than hospitals, while nursing and residential care facilities lost jobs.
From March 2014 through last month, health jobs grew at 2.49 percent versus only 2.24 percent for non-health jobs, as shown in Table 2. Jobs in ambulatory settings accounted for seven of ten health jobs created in the last twelve months.
By Carl Close •
Tuesday April 7, 2015 6:01 PM PDT •
Is Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe trying to become the liberal who is most despised by other liberals?
It might sound odd to hear such a question asked about an academic who once mentored a young Barack Obama about the nuances of constitutional scholarship, who liberals once embraced as a potential nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, and who represented Al Gore in the former vice president’s Supreme Court lawsuit against George W. Bush following the 2000 presidential election—but consider the evidence.
Exhibit A. In 2008, Tribe wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, arguing that the Second Amendment protects an individual right that is more fundamental than any collective right to keep and bear arms as a member of a state militia or national guard unit. The piece was noteworthy for its iconoclasm and eloquence, but it was hardly the first shot the esteemed professor ever fired in the intellectual battle over gun rights.
Like you and every other person, I have no just right to prescribe for another person where he may come and go, with whom he may contract as employer or employee, and with whom he may buy, sell, and otherwise associate, so long as he does not violate anyone’s justly acquired private property rights or otherwise infringe on anyone’s natural rights. I don’t own other people; nor do you; nor does anyone else.
As everyone from John Locke to the Founders of the United States to the general run of political philosophers has recognized, the people are, in justice, the political sovereigns, and the government possesses no rights of its own, but only powers delegated to it by the sovereign people, who make this delegation solely to defend their natural rights more effectively.
This past year I was on the academic job market, applying for faculty positions at a variety of colleges and universities. As a woman making a critical career move, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in cover letters, resumes, statistics about cost of living, state income taxes, health insurance, and, of course, salary information.
Chances are you’ve heard the statistic on numerous occasions, “women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns—for exactly the same work.” I certainly heard this several times throughout my job search in various contexts. This issue of the supposed “gender wage gap” came up again recently during the 2015 Oscars when actress Patricia Arquette used the platform to call for wage equality stating,
To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.
Social media exploded. Bloggers, politicians, and others applauded Arquette for her statements. The familiar and rallying cry of “equal pay for equal work” was everywhere. While few would disagree with the sentiment that men and women should receive the same compensation for the same services, the position espoused by Arquette and others that women are systematically underpaid is just plain wrong. Of the many economic-related fallacies to be cited as gospel on a regular basis, this one drives me positively insane.
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s legendary statesman, who died last month at the age of 91, posed a challenge to those of us who believe in political and economic freedom (and all other freedoms). His combination of authoritarianism and economic freedom, of social engineering and self-reliance, worked. The result was a society that is more prosperous than most others, but free only in some respects.
For years, the best examples one could come up with to show that the marriage of economic and political liberty could work were the liberal democracies of the developed world, whose achievements originated in centuries past and different circumstances.
Lee Kuan Yew’s credentials became strong as many countries that also gained independence in the 1950s or 1960s opted for a mix of nativism and collectivism that kept them poor while tiny Singapore, with no natural resources, emerged as an economic powerhouse. While Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Castro—not to cite Mobutu, Idi Amin Dada, and others—destroyed the chances of a decent life for many generations, Lee Kuan Yew created the conditions for a 124-fold increase in Singapore’s per capita income in half a century.
The White House is starting to lose confidence that the Senate will uncritically swallow the Boehner-Pelosi-Obama so-called Medicare “doc fix”.
According to The Hill, the Obama administration is pleading with the Senate to pass the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) immediately after the Senate reconvenes on April 13. If not, the bill stalls, the administration will have to start processing doctors’ claims at a significantly lower rate of payment on April 15.
This pressure mirrors that of Obamacare supporters such as AARP and the American Hospital Association, which are lobbying hard toward the same goal: recruiting Republican legislators onto Obamacare’s B-Team by getting them to vote for this perpetual extension of the current Medicare payment system, which Obamacare made worse by centralizing decisions about “quality” and “value” in the federal government.
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