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

Carpe Diem

Markets in everything: A sharing service like Lyft for moving

From TechCrunch:

Buddytruk is a peer-to-peer, on-demand moving and hauling platform that lets people with trucks or minivans apply to become a mover.

The iOS app lets users take a picture of the furniture item they wish to move, and the image is sent to all hired drivers in that area. The driver that accepts will arrive at the user’s location to pack the item and move it to a desired location.

Buddytruk, which only lets you move one or two items, is operating right now in Los Angeles, but CEO and founder Brian Foley says the company is looking to expand to New York City soon.

Carpe Diem

Thursday evening links, United States of SWAT edition

violent1. Chart of the Day: Violent crime in the US is the lowest in 44 years and half the rate in 1991, so why have we become the United States of SWAT?

2. Washington Post: Even before Michael Brown’s slaying in Ferguson, racial questions hung over police.

3. Rand Paul: We Must Demilitarize the Police.

4. USAToday: The Pentagon Gave the Ferguson Police Department Military-Grade Weapons and Helped Fuel the Ferguson Confrontation.

5. Nick Gillespie: Let’s Make Cops Wear Cameras – “Everyone behaves better when they’re on video.”

6. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash weighs in on Twitter:


7. Washington Post: A passport application has six pages. The form to apply for Social Security is eight pages, and the shortform Obamacare application is five pages. The form for a police department to apply for an armored tactical vehicle from the Pentagon? Just one page – even for multiple vehicles! See the one-page armored tactical vehicle request form here.

8. BBC News: “Is Ferguson the start of a ‘libertarian moment‘?”

9. Washington Post reporters have been arrested in two cities this year — Ferguson and Tehran.

10. VIDEO: The roots of unrest in Ferguson, explained in 2 minutes.

Carpe Diem

NYC taxi medallion prices have flatlined for the last year following a decade of steady increases – the ‘Uber effect’?

taxiFollowing years of steadily increasing in value with annual gains of 12% in 2011, 15.6% in 2012 and 30% in 2013, the prices of New York City individual taxi medallions suddenly flattened out about a year ago (see chart above, data here). Since reaching a peak price of $1,051,000 in June 2013, the price of individual taxi medallions has remained flat for the last 14 months through July, and actually fell slightly to $1,045,000 in June and July of this year. Likewise, corporate taxi medallions have been flat at a price of $1,320,000 for the last 15 months starting in May 2013.

As can be seen in the chart above, the sudden flattening out in NYC taxi medallion prices represents an unprecedented reversal of a decade of steadily rising medallions prices, which have typically increased in value at a rate much higher than the S&P500 Index of stock prices (see chart below).

taxi1MP: What has changed in the last year that would have stopped the historical rise in the value of NYC taxi medallions at a rate far higher than US stock prices? One word: Competition. Now that the NYC taxi cartel is being challenged by ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, the value of being a member of the NYC taxi cartel has stopped rising, and in fact will probably soon start falling.