Carpe Diem

Kevin Williamson on how progressives hold that the state, not the family or the market, is the central actor in our lives

…. is from Kevin Williamson, writing in National Review Online:

The Reverend Jesse Jackson is right about something: “A spark has exploded,” he said, referring to the protests and violence in Ferguson, Mo. “When you look at what sparked riots in the Sixties, it has always been some combination of poverty, which was the fuel, and then some oppressive police tactic. It was the same in Newark, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Los Angeles. It’s symptomatic of a national crisis of urban abandonment and repression, seen in Chicago.”

A question for the Reverend Jackson: Who has been running the show in Newark, in Chicago, in Detroit, and in Los Angeles for a great long while now? The answer is: People who see the world in much the same way as does the Reverend Jackson, who take the same view of government, who support the same policies, and who suffer from the same biases.

For years, our major cities were undermined by a confluence of four unhappy factors: 1) higher taxes; 2) defective schools; 3) crime; and 4) declining economic opportunity. Together, these weighed much more heavily upon the middle class than upon the very wealthy and the very poor.

Progressives spent a generation imposing taxes and other expenses on urban populations as though the taxpaying middle class would not relocate. They protected the defective cartel system of public education, and the union money and votes associated with it, as though middle-class parents would not move to places that had better schools. They imposed burdens on businesses, in exchange for more union money and votes, as though businesses would not shift production elsewhere. They imposed policies that disincentivized stable family arrangements as though doing so would have no social cost.

And they did so while adhering to a political philosophy that holds that the state, not the family or the market, is the central actor in our lives, that the interests of private parties — be they taxpayers or businesses — can and indeed must be subordinated to the state’s interests, as though individuals and families were nothing more than gears in the great machine of politics. The philosophy of abusive eminent domain, government monopolies, and opportunistic taxation is also the philosophy of police brutality, the repression of free speech and other constitutional rights, and economic despair. When life is reduced to the terms in which it is lived in the poorest and most neglected parts of Chicago or Detroit, the welfare state is the police state.

The more progressive the city, the worse a place it is to be poor and/or black. The most pronounced economic inequality in the United States is not in some Republican redoubt in Texas but in San Francisco, an extraordinarily expensive city in which half of all black households make do with less than $25,000 a year. Blacks in San Francisco are arrested on drug felonies at ten times their share of the general population. At 6 percent of the population, they represent 40 percent of those arrested for homicides. Whether you believe that that is the result of a racially biased criminal-justice system or the result of higher crime incidence related to socioeconomic conditions within black communities (or some combination of those factors) what is undeniable is that results for black Americans are far worse in our most progressive, Democrat-dominated cities than they are elsewhere. The progressives have had the run of things for a generation in these cities, and the results are precisely what you see.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson should not be surprised that places such as Ferguson, Mo., have feckless police departments. He himself has spent his career helping to ensure that they have feckless schools, self-serving bureaucracies, rapacious public-sector unions pillaging the municipal fisc, and malevolent political leadership that is by no means above exploiting racial sentiment in order to hold on to power. His allies have been running U.S. cities for a generation, and it takes a considerable measure of brass for him to come in decrying the results as though he had no hand in them.

Carpe Diem

Who’d a-thunk it? The customer is #1 at Walmart?

Here’s something you’ll never see at any government office like a Department of Motor Vehicles or the United States Post Office, etc., but you will experience it now at Walmart – a “Quick Checkout Promise“:

Our customers have told us one of their biggest frustrations is long checkout lines. They want to get in and out of the store fast, especially during those busy shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas.

We’ve listened and we’re making sure every register in our stores is open during the holiday season. We’re calling it our Checkout Promise.

Starting with the weekend after Black Friday and continuing each weekend through the final weekdays leading into Christmas, all of our registers will be open during peak shopping hours at our Supercenters and other stores that offer general merchandise like electronics, apparel, and toys. Customers can expect to find self-checkouts open and a cashier in every lane.

That’s a Walmart first. We want to do what’s best for our customers, and as Sam Walton always said – the customer is #1.  Shoppers want more convenience, and we’ll deliver so they can focus on celebrating the joy of the holidays with their family and friends.

Economic Lessons: a) Consumer sovereignty (consumers are treated like royalty by profit-seeking firms in a market economy) and b) the “invisible hand” (firms like Walmart, acting in their own self-interested quest for profits, are led by an invisible hand to serve the general public by offering low prices and great customer service).

Carpe Diem

Mark Steyn on how the remorseless militarization has corroded the soul of American policing

…. is from Mark Steyn:

To camouflage oneself in the jungles of suburban America, one should be clothed in Dunkin’ Donuts and Taco Bell packaging. A soldier wears green camouflage in Vietnam to blend in. A policeman wears green camouflage in Ferguson to stand out – to let you guys know: We’re here, we’re severe, get used to it.

This is not a small thing. The point about “the thin blue line” is that it’s blue for a reason. As I wrote a couple of months ago:

“The police” is a phenomenon of the modern world. It would be wholly alien, for example, to America’s Founders. In the sense we use the term today, it dates back no further than Sir Robert Peel’s founding of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. Because Londoners associated the concept with French-style political policing and state control, they were very resistant to the idea of a domestic soldiery keeping them in line. So Peel dressed his policemen in blue instead of infantry red, and instead of guns they had wooden truncheons.

So, when the police are dressed like combat troops, it’s not a fashion faux pas, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are. Forget the armored vehicles with the gun turrets, forget the faceless, helmeted, anonymous Robocops, and just listen to how these “policemen” talk. Look at the video as they’re arresting the New York Times and Huffington Post reporters. Watch the St. Louis County deputy ordering everyone to leave, and then adding: “This is not up for discussion.”

Really? You’re a constable. You may be carrying on like the military commander of an occupying army faced with a rabble of revolting natives, but in the end you’re a constable. And the fact that you and your colleagues in that McDonald’s are comfortable speaking to your fellow citizens like this is part of the problem. The most important of the “nine principles of good policing” (formulated by the first two commissioners of the Metropolitan Police in 1829 and thereafter issued to every officer joining the force) is a very simple one: The police are the public and the public are the police. Not in Ferguson. Long before the teargassing begins and the bullets start flying, the way these guys talk is the first indication of how the remorseless militarization has corroded the soul of American policing.

Carpe Diem

Paul Ryan on the liberal response to every social problem: More government, bureaucracy and taxpayer money

…. is from Rep. Paul Ryan’s op-ed int today’s WSJ “A Better Way Up From Poverty“:

Like many of the challenges we’re facing, the tipping point we’re approaching is the result of a liberal progressive mindset that seeks a larger, more active government and lets bureaucrats decide what’s best for everyone instead of allowing citizens to govern themselves. Its response to every social problem is more government, more bureaucracy and more taxpayer money.

This government-centered approach is at the core of modern-day liberalism and the Obama administration’s policy decisions.

Have a high unemployment rate? Pass a $787 billion spending bill. Got an energy crisis? Dump millions of taxpayer dollars into a boondoggle like solar-cell maker Solyndra. Need to lower health-care costs? Hand over decisions to a bloated bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.

Now, the problem isn’t bad motives; it’s bad ideas. All of these policies stem from an ideology that favors coercion over collaboration, that puts faith in government instead of in a free people. And the results speak for themselves.

Fortunately, there is an alternative: the Founders’ vision, which puts individuals, their families and their communities—not government—at the center of American life.
What does this vision look like in action? For starters, it favors choice and competition over government-run solutions.

It would make health care a true market with transparent prices and more choices. It would empower Americans to make their own health decisions. Instead of top-down price controls imposed by bureaucrats, we’d have bottom-up competition driven by millions of consumers. That won’t just lower health-care costs; it will improve the quality of care.

The vision would promote pro-market policies that benefit consumers instead of pro-business policies that favor the wealthy and well connected. It would roll back regulations that serve no purpose except to stifle enterprises, big and small. That will encourage competition and innovation, and get our economy growing so that people can start working again.

And instead of managing poverty, we’d actually be fighting it. Today, we’re spending almost $800 billion on 92 federal antipoverty programs—and yet we have the highest poverty rate in a generation. That’s because the solution can’t be found in a federal bureaucracy; it lies within individual Americans and the community that surrounds and supports them.

As it stands, we’re not empowering people; we’re overseeing them. That’s got to change. We need to see an individual’s problems and potential. Our goal shouldn’t be to simply meet their needs; we should help them tap into their talent and achieve their goals.

Carpe Diem

Violent crime is lowest in more than 40 years, so how did we become the United States of SWAT? NY Times explains

crimeA June 8 NY Times article “War Gear Flows to Police Departments” provides some excellent background and analysis of how US police departments have morphed into paramilitary organizations and cops have gradually become soldiers, despite the fact that violent crime is the lowest in more than 40 years (see chart above), here’s an excerpt:

NEENAH, Wis. — Inside the municipal garage of this small lakefront city, parked next to the hefty orange snowplow, sits an even larger truck, this one painted in desert khaki. Weighing 30 tons and built to withstand land mines, the armored combat vehicle is one of hundreds showing up across the country, in police departments big and small.

The 9-foot-tall armored truck was intended for an overseas battlefield. But as President Obama ushers in the end of what he called America’s “long season of war,” the former tools of combat — M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more — are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice.

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units. Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.”

As the nation’s wars abroad wind down, many of the military’s surplus tools of combat have ended up in the hands of state and local law enforcement.

When the military’s mine-resistant trucks began arriving in large numbers last year, Neenah and places like it were plunged into the middle of a debate over whether the post-9/11 era had obscured the lines between soldier and police officer.

“It just seems like ramping up a police department for a problem we don’t have,” said Shay Korittnig, a father of two who spoke against getting the armored truck at a recent public meeting in Neenah. “This is not what I was looking for when I moved here, that my children would view their local police officer as an M-16-toting, SWAT-apparel-wearing officer.”

A quiet city of about 25,000 people, Neenah has a violent crime rate that is far below the national average. Neenah has not had a homicide in more than five years.
Congress created the military-transfer program in the early 1990s, when violent crime plagued America’s cities and the police felt outgunned by drug gangs. Today, crime has fallen to its lowest levels in a generation (see chart above), the wars have wound down, and despite current fears, the number of domestic terrorist attacks has declined sharply from the 1960s and 1970s.

Police departments, though, are adding more firepower and military gear than ever. Some, especially in larger cities, have used federal grant money to buy armored cars and other tactical gear. And the free surplus program remains a favorite of many police chiefs who say they could otherwise not afford such equipment.

Related comment from Jonah Goldberg:

I think the Ferguson story has become more interesting and significant than the usual spectacle of this kind. The timing coincides with the ripening of an argument on the right against the militarization of U.S. police forces (led by Radley Balko as far as I can tell). It’s funny how unaware so many liberals are that this conversation was even taking place on the right. Liberals have been mocking libertarians for years as paranoid lunatics. Oh you want to live without government? Move to Somalia! Oh wait, when did the cops get tanks?

Related article in Slate: Liberals are up in arms about police militarization. Libertarians are saying: What took you so long?

Carpe Diem

Matt Ridley gives us 12 great reasons to be cheerful

On his blog, Matt Ridley has a great post today titled “Reasons to Be Cheerful.” In that post Mr. Ridley reminds us that:

Compared with any time in the past half century, the world as a whole is today wealthier, healthier, happier, cleverer, cleaner, kinder, freer, safer, more peaceful and more equal.

From Matt’s excellent article, I’ve grouped and summarized 12 of the reasons that we should be cheerful (emphasis added):

1. Income. The average person on the planet earns roughly three times as much as he or she did 50 years ago, corrected for inflation. If anything, this understates the improvement in living standards because it fails to take into account many of the incredible improvements in the things you can buy with that money. However rich you were in 1964 you had no computer, no mobile phone, no budget airline, no Prozac, no search engine, no gluten-free food. The world economy is still growing every year at a furious lick — faster than Britain grew during the industrial revolution.

2. Life Expectancy. The average person lives about a third longer than 50 years ago and buries two thirds fewer of his or her children (and child mortality is the greatest measure of misery I can think of).

3. Food. The amount of food available per head has gone up steadily on every continent, despite a doubling of the population. Famine is now very rare.

4. Disease. The death rate from malaria is down by nearly 30 per cent since the start of the century. HIV-related deaths are falling. Polio, measles, yellow fever, diphtheria, cholera, typhoid, typhus — they killed our ancestors in droves, but they are now rare diseases.

5. Education and IQ: Education is in a mess but consider: far more people go to school and stay there longer than they did 50 years ago. Besides, through a mysterious phenomenon called the Flynn effect, IQ scores keep going up everywhere, especially in those topics that have least to do with education, probably thanks to better food, richer upbringing and so forth.

6. Environment. The air is much cleaner than when I was young, with smog largely banished from our cities. Rivers are cleaner and teem with otters and kingfishers. The sea is still polluted and messed with in every part of the world, but there are far more whales than there were 50 years ago. Forest cover is increasing in many countries and the pressure on land to grow food has begun to ease.

7. Charitable Giving. We think we are getting ever more selfish, but it is not true. We give more of our earnings to charity than our grandparents did.

8. Crime. Violent crimes of almost all kinds are on the decline — murder, rape, theft, domestic violence. So are capital and corporal punishment and animal cruelty.

9. Tolerance. We are less prejudiced about gender, homosexuality and race. Pedophilia is no more prevalent, just hushed up less.

10. Political Freedom and Democracy. Despite all the illiberal things our governments still try to do to us, freedom is on the march. When I was young only a few countries were democracies; the rest were run by communist or fascist despots. Today there’s only a handful of the creeps left — they could all meet in a pub: fat Kim, Castro the brother, Mugabe, a couple of central Asians, the blokes from Venezuela and Bolivia, the Belorussian geezer. Putin’s applying for membership. The Chinese one no longer shows up.

extreme_wx_deaths_498x42511. Weather. The weather is not getting worse. Despite what you may have read, there is no global increase in floods, cyclones, tornadoes, blizzards and wild fires — and there has been a decline in the severity of droughts. If you got the opposite impression, it’s purely because of the reporting of natural disasters, which has become a lot more hysterical. Besides, thanks to better infrastructure, communications and technology, there has been a steep decline in deaths due to extreme weather. Globally, your probability of dying as a result of a drought, flood or storm is 98% lower than it was in the 1920s (see chart above).

And here’s maybe my favorite:

12. Technology. Technologies that seem indistinguishable from magic keep falling cheaply into our hands.

MP: Thanks to Matt Ridley for his ongoing rational, fact-based optimism and for inspiring many of us to remain cheerful despite the many reasons we can always find to be gloomy and pessimistic. To paraphrase Arthur Brooks, if you’re not optimistic and grateful, you’re not paying attention to the many reasons, like the 12 above, to be cheerful.

Carpe Diem.

HT: Dwight Oglesby

Carpe Diem

Another energy milestone for ‘Saudi Dakota’: Daily oil output in the Bakken surpasses one million barrels for the first time


Oil drillers in North Dakota pumped out 1.09 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) in June, setting another new monthly all-time record high for the state’s crude oil production (see blue line in chart), according to oil production data released today by North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources. It was the third straight month that daily oil production in the Peace Garden State exceeded one million barrels. Another important production milestone was reached in June, as crude oil output from the state’s shale-rich Bakken oil fields topped one million bpd for the first time (see brown line in chart), joining an elite group of only ten oil fields in world history whose daily output exceeded one million barrels at peak production. North Dakota has seen its oil production increase almost ten-fold over the last 8 years, from only 111,625 bpd in June 2006 to 1,092,617 bpd in June of this year.

Here are some other highlights of North Dakota’s record-setting oil output in June:

1) The state’s average daily oil production increased in June by 32.5% compared to a year ago, which was the largest year-over-year gain since a 33% increase last November. Remarkably, in only the last two and-a-half years, oil production in North Dakota has roughly doubled from 547,326 bpd in January 2012 to 1.093 million bpd in June.

2) Probably due to technology improvements, the daily oil produced from each well in North Dakota averaged 102 barrels in June. In 2009, the daily oil per well was only 52 barrels, so the productivity of oil extraction in the state has doubled in only five years.

3) For the eleventh consecutive month starting last summer, North Dakota’s oil production in June represented more than 12% of all US crude oil. Five years ago in June of 2009, North Dakota produced only 4% of total US crude output, and the state’s oil production was about half of oil production in both California and Alaska. Due to the phenomenal growth of oil output in the shale-rich Bakken oil fields, North Dakota surpassed California and Alaska in 2012 to become the country’s No. 2 largest oil-producing state and in June the state produced 13% of all US crude oil.

4) In dollar terms, the oil produced in North Dakota in June had a daily market value of almost $116 million at the average oil price during the month of $105.79 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate (WTI). For the entire month of June, that would put the market value of North Dakota oil at almost $3.5 billion, setting a new all-time record for the dollar value of the state’s monthly oil output.

5) The Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota produced more than one million bpd in June for the first time (see brown line in chart), setting a new all-time monthly output record, which also represented a new record high 94.1% of the state’s monthly oil production. In contrast, the Bakken region produced less than 9% of the state’s oil output at the beginning of 2007, before breakthrough drilling techniques (hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling) were able to tap into a bonanza of unconventional oil in the shale-rich areas of western North Dakota. As mentioned above, the Bakken now joins an elite group of only ten super-giant oil fields worldwide to ever produce more than a million barrels of oil per day.

Bottom Line: June was another stellar month in “Saudi Dakota,” with average daily oil production surpassing one million bpd for the third straight month, and establishing yet another new record high for the state’s oil output at 1.09 million bpd. The state’s shale-rich Bakken oil field reached an important energy milestone by producing more than a million barrels a day in June.

The shale boom continues to make the Peace Garden State America’s most economically successful state – with growth in employment and personal income that lead the nation, the lowest state jobless rate in the country for the last 66 months starting in January 2009 (2.7% in June), an enviable and whopping state budget surplus approaching $2 billion, the highest state GDP growth in 2013 of 9.7%, strong housing and construction markets (more than 1,000 permits for single-family homes were issued in just the month of June, setting a new all-time monthly record), thousands of landowners who have become millionaires from oil and gas royalties (estimated oil royalty payments of more than $17 million every day in June, at 15% of the approximately $116 million in market value calculated above), and jobless rates in eight of the state’s 53 counties below 2.0% in June (with Williams County at only 1.0%, the lowest county jobless rate in America).

North Dakota’s economic success, job creation, and energy-based prosperity is being driven by the development of the state’s vast energy resources, especially the vast oceans of shale oil and shale gas in the state’s Bakken region. The Peace Garden State, along with Texas, are the shining stars of The Great American Energy Boom, which continues to be the strongest reason to be optimistic about the US economy.

Carpe oleum.

Carpe Diem

Inconvenient fact: To produce the same energy, a windfarm requires 725X more land than a fracking site

energyProfessor David MacKay, Regius Professor of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, recently conducted a study to answer the question: How would the footprint of a shale gas operation compare with the footprint of wind and solar operations to deliver the same quantity of energy over a 25 year period? Prof. MacKay’s results are displayed above and here are a couple of his key findings:

1. For the “land area of the whole facility,” a wind farm requires 725 times more land than a fracking site to produce the same energy (9.5 TWh) — 1,450 hectares for a wind farm with 87 328-foot tall turbines (about 3,500 acres or 5.6 square miles) vs. 2 hectares (about 5 acres).

2. A solar park requires 462 times more land area than a fracking site: 924 hectares (about 2,290 acres or about 3.5 square miles).

What can we conclude from these results?

According to Prof. MacKay, “Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no silver bullet ­– no energy source with all-round small environmental impact. If society wants to use energy, it must get its energy from somewhere, and all sources have their costs and risks. I advocate deliberative conversations in which the public discuss the whole energy system and look at all the options.”

See related news report here from The Telegraph.

Carpe Diem

Quotation of the day on free trade and immigration….

…. is from Jonah Goldberg’s April 12, 2006 article in National Review Online “Fix Mexico“:

Free trade has been proven, time and again, as a reliable path to economic development. It pushes both the public and private sectors toward greater accountability and transparency. It lifts people out of poverty, and while it can force unsettling changes on a society those changes prove to be worthwhile in a very short time.

So here’s the funny part. As my colleague Rich Lowry has noted, liberals and Democrats tend to oppose free-trade agreements–most recently the Central America Free Trade Agreement–on the grounds that they “export American jobs” to underpaid Latin American workers. But the same people generally favor importing underpaid Latin American workers into the United States to take many of the same jobs. One hand giveth, the other taketh away. The cynicism in all of this is fairly breathtaking. It seems that what many liberals prefer is not preserving American jobs or bringing more undocumented workers, but importing undocumented Democrats.

HT: Dennis Gartman