Conflicts of Interest at the Fed and Congress

The Federal Reserve is trying very hard to get ahead of a potential conflict-of-interest scandal. Several high-ranking Fed officials have investments in securities the U.S. central bank has been buying to stimulate the economy. Consequently, these officials have conflicts of interest in considering policies that might materially affect the value of their investments.

Reuters describes the action the Fed is taking to eliminate the inherent conflicts of interest that Fed officials have:

Two Federal Reserve officials said on Thursday they would sell their individual stock holdings by the end of the month to address the appearance of conflicts of interest.

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren issued statements saying they would invest the proceeds of those sales in diversified index funds and cash savings and would not trade in those accounts as long as they are serving in their roles.

The announcements come after the officials faced scrutiny over trades they made last year, according to their financial disclosure forms.

The Debt—Does Anyone Care?

The worst part about the U.S. federal debt is not how big it has become but the fact that its growth has now become so unstoppable that we now assume that piling debt on future generations is the natural thing for the authorities to do. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2051 the federal debt will equal more than 200 percent of gross domestic product, an outcome that will result from cumulative fiscal deficits of $112 trillion over the next thirty years. The debt projection leaves aside debt owed to the government by itself, such as the trillions owed to the social security trust fund.

August Inflation Lower than Expected: Look at the Numbers

The Consumer Price Index numbers for inflation showed a lower-than-expected increase in August, but as this article notes, we still have a lot of inflation. I’m drawing my information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government’s official measure of prices.

The good news is that prices increased by only 0.2% in August, but even that amount of inflation represents an annual rate of 2.4%, which is 20% higher than the Federal Reserve’s target inflation rate of 2%. Even the good news isn’t all that good.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Earns Its Blockbuster Stripes

One of the more surprising reactions to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings might be how “normal” it is. While Shang-Chi is part of the Marvel Superhero universe, the movie refreshingly draws more from fantasy and mysticism inspired Asian myth than science fiction. The movie, and audiences, benefit.

An Epic Chinese Tale

Xu Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is the son of Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung). Wenwu is a man of legend who uses the power given him by a magical set of ten rings to consolidate personal power. Wenwu’s thousand-year quest for domination and power is unrelenting. In contemporary times, he discovers clues to a power more fierce than the ten rings. But it’s hidden and guarded by the inhabitants of the mysterious village of Ta Lo.

Can an OSHA Vaccine Mandate Survive Judicial Review?

Last week, President Biden announced his plan to require private employers with 100 or more workers to mandate COVID vaccinations or require workers to be tested weekly. The mechanism to do this is the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), which is working on an emergency temporary standard (“ETS”). For OSHA to promulgate emergency regulations, it must, according to its website, (1) “determine that workers are in grave danger due to exposure to toxic substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or to new hazards” and (2) “that an emergency standard is needed to protect them.” As a matter of non-constitutional litigation, one can question whether COVID-19 is a “substance or agent” such as DDT ( the first of the modern synthetic insecticide). A virus is a living thing–not something we typically describe as a “substance or agent.” We’ve been living with COVID-19 for approximately two years. Can OSHA argue this is a “new hazard”? Does COVID-19 really count as a “grave danger” to workers when every worker in America, without cost to the worker, can get the vaccine today at a local clinic, and thus reduce the chances of contracting the virus and ensure that if contracted the case will be relatively mild?

Atheists and the Unborn

In his recent Beacon blog post “Abortion Extremities,” Graham H. Walker cites three tests for human life in the womb: living or dead tissue, human or non-human, and a distinct DNA fingerprint. As he notes, the pre-born entity also has a separate brain, nerve, cardiovascular, digestive, excretory, respiratory, musculoskeletal, immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems. These empirical tests do not exhaust the arguments for the preservation of the pre-born. 

The late Christopher Hitchens, an orthodox atheist and author of God is Not Great, argued that life begins at conception because there is no other place where it can begin. As an atheist, Hitchens had no use for the concept of “ensoulment,” at some point between conception and birth, that allegedly confers full human status. 

Abortion Extremities

Below you will find the con argument in our debate on Roe v. Wade and Abortion. The pro argument, written by James A. Montanye, can be found here.

Are nearly fifty years of precedent enough to insulate the abortion right established in Roe v. Wade from the challenges posed by restrictive new laws in Texas, Mississippi, and elsewhere?

The Texas law is drawing headlines because the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined, apparently on grounds of standing, to hear a first case challenging the law’s ban on abortion after six weeks. President Joe Biden immediately decried the Court’s demurral on the case as the onset of “unconstitutional chaos” requiring a “whole-of-government” response. His alarm about Texas may be overblown, since even staunch opponents of legal abortion, like Sen. David Cassidy (R-La.), predict that the Court may ultimately “destroy” the Texas law due to its novel enforcement mechanism, which prevents the state, but empowers individuals, to sue any person aiding in an illegal abortion.

The real action will come later this term when the Court hears oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which supporters of legal abortion contest a Mississippi law forbidding abortions when “the probable gestational age of the unborn human” is 15 weeks or more. (Limited exceptions are allowed for medical emergencies or “severe fetal abnormality.”) Mississippi explicitly asks the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and related decisions. Unlike the Texas case, the Justices have actually accepted this case for full consideration and are expected to rule by the end of June 2022. The Washington Post has sounded the alarm that the Dobbs case “could kill Roe. v. Wade.”

Roe v. Wade Reconsidered

This piece is the pro argument in our two-post debate on Roe v. Wade and Abortion. You can find the con argument, written by Graham H. Walker in response to this piece, here.

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear an appeal from Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law raises questions and concerns regarding the longstanding desire among conservative justices, jurists, politicians, and church groups to overturn the Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion. That opinion constrained the power of States to infringe upon a woman’s due-process “right” to choose abortion. Reconsideration of Roe by the Court’s present “conservative” majority could upend nearly fifty years of deftly circumscribed individual liberty by granting States greater latitude—as Mississippi’s attorneys assert—to “promote women’s health and preserve the dignity and sanctity of life” by restricting abortion beyond present limits.

The Court once again will pit the legal rule of stare decisis against jurisprudential and moral claims that Roe was falsely reasoned and wrongly decided. Two opposing concepts of individual liberty are at issue. The first is former Justice Anthony Kennedy’s classical-liberal dictum in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 851 (1992): “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The second concept is conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s curiously progressive characterization of aborted fetuses as “unborn victims.”

9/11, Independent Institute and 20 Years of the “War on Terror”

Literally on 9/11/01 and throughout the 20 culture-destroying years since, the Independent Institute has stood hard and fast for the difficult but essential principles that undergird liberty, human dignity, and the rule of law.

While many whom we had thought shared our devotion to liberty were doing things like removing the word “Peace” from their mastheads and calling for “sand to be turned into silicon,” (that is, nuking the desert countries), we were among the precious few responsible voices calling for responses in accordance with peaceful, prosperous and free societies, grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity.

Here’s a recap of some of those efforts:

Entrepreneurial Economies

Academic institutions increasingly are recognizing the importance of entrepreneurship to the performance of an economy, and in response, many (including my own institution, Florida State University) have established entrepreneurship programs to give students some skills that can help them succeed as entrepreneurs. I’m supportive of these efforts, but the degree to which individuals in an economy are entrepreneurial is affected more by an economy’s institutions than by characteristics of individual entrepreneurs.

Some economies are more entrepreneurial than others.

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