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Does Your Vote Matter?
Wednesday November 14, 2018 | Robert Higgs

Aggregates of voters may swing an election by voting one way or the other or by not voting. But you, amigo, are not an aggregate of voters; you have only one vote. And how you cast that one vote will almost certainly fail to swing any large election. Why this simple reality flies over so many people’s heads is a bit of a mystery (various explanations may be offered), but if you don’t understand it, you really need to stop and think harder about the matter. By doing so, you will independently rediscover the following:

Higgs’s Law of How Much Your Own Vote Matters A = the state of affairs that will prevail if you vote
B = the state of affairs that will prevail if you don’t vote
A = B
Of course, saying that “your own vote doesn’t matter” is not the same as saying that “voting doesn’t matter,” although the latter may also be true in a different sense (e.g., elections are only rituals, and the deeper system will persist regardless of electoral outcomes).

*** Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, author or editor of over fourteen Independent books, and Editor at Large of Independent’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.

A Disarming New Governor Greets a More Dangerous State
Monday November 12, 2018 | K. Lloyd Billingsley

Hours after Ian David Long murdered 12 people in Thousand Oaks last week, California governor-elect Gavin Newsom pledged to “raise the bar” on gun control when he takes office in January. Outgoing governor Jerry Brown had vetoed “a number of things that I would have not vetoed,” Newsom told reporters. He offered no specifics, but some clues are at hand. Shooter Ian Long was “deeply troubled,” but “not prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms,” writes Garen Wintemute of the Baker-Teret Chair in Violence Prevention at the University of California, Davis. Wintemute wants to extend prohibition on gun purchases to include misdemeanors such as assault and battery. He also wants to recover firearms from “persons who purchased them legally, but then became prohibited from owning them,” but it may go farther. Wintemute also heads the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center, created in 2016, and funded with a five-year grant of $5 million from Governor Brown’s budget package. The Center’s first project was “a survey that looks at who owns guns, why they own them and how they use firearms.” So the Center, allegedly driven by data, not a policy agenda, wants “the names” of gun owners. As Stephen P. Halbrook showed in Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State,” the German National Socialists also wanted to know “who owns guns” and ruthlessly suppressed firearm ownership. In 2016, Jerry Brown signed bills mandating background checks to purchase ammunition and restrictions on the loaning of guns, even to close family members. Look for Gavin Newsom to “raise the bar” on all that while leaving in place new incentives for criminals. On January 1, 2019, Senate Bill 1391 takes effect. Under this measure, signed by Brown on September 30, any person age 14 to 18 could murder 12 people, face prosecution only in juvenile court “without weighing of factors,” as Yolo County Judge Samuel McAdam notes, and by law serve only until age 25. Under this law, California will be decidedly more dangerous. Under governor Gavin Newsom, law abiding citizens will be less able to defend themselves against violent criminals.

*** K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller.

The Fifty-Cent Fix for the Air Force’s Broken $1,200 Coffee Cups
Monday November 12, 2018 | Craig Eyermann

The story of how the U.S. Air Force found a fifty-cent fix for its broken $1,200+ coffee cups is one for the “you’ve got to be kidding me” section in the volumes of examples of how the federal government manages to waste such massive amounts of money each year. That story begins in the summer of 2018 when Victoria Leoni of the Air Force Times broke the story that the Air Force had spent $32,000 to replace 25 coffee cups whose handles had broken.

When a mobility airman drops a cup of coffee aboard an aircraft, the Air Force can be out $1,220. Since 2016, the replacement cost for some of the service’s coffee mugs, which can reheat coffee and tea on air refueling tankers, has gone up more than $500 per cup, forcing the service to dish out $32,000 this year for just 25 cups, recently reported. The 60th Aerial Port Squadron at Travis Air Force Base recently revealed that it has spent nearly $56,000 to replace broken hot cups over the past three years. The culprit, they say, is a faulty plastic handle known to break on impact. Each time a handle breaks, the Air Force is forced to order a whole new cup, as replacement parts are no longer made.

The National Debt and the Control of the House
Saturday November 10, 2018 | Craig Eyermann

Under the U.S. Constitution, all bills for raising revenue that determine how much Americans will be taxed must originate in the U.S. House of Representatives. By tradition, all appropriation bills that determine how much the U.S. government may spend also originate in the House of Representatives. That combination of taxing and spending power goes a long way in explaining why the U.S. government’s total public debt outstanding now totals in the tens of trillions of dollars, where over the years, the U.S. government has appropriated far more spending than it has proved capable of collecting in taxes. Since all the taxing and spending that has produced today’s multi-trillion dollar national debt is the result of appropriations and tax bills that started life in the U.S. House of Representatives, I thought it might be interesting to consider the track record of the party that controls the House in contributing to the growth of the nation’s total public debt outstanding in the modern era. (more…)

The E15 Mandate Is Poor Environmental Policy
Friday November 9, 2018 | William Shughart

Here’s an unpublished Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal: To the Editor: Concerning “Trump Gives Farmers a Jolt of Fuel” (Op-Ed, Oct. 16), it certainly is true that corn farmers and ethanol producers stand to gain from President Trump’s decision to allow year-round sales of E15 motor fuel (corn-based ethanol blended with gasoline). But raising gasoline’s ethanol content to 15 percent—E15 contains 50 percent more ethanol than today’s E10 blend—is costly both for consumers and for the environment. The so-called Renewable Fuel Standard has outlived its usefulness. At its inception in 2005, the RFS was promoted primarily as a means of reducing U.S. reliance on foreign oil. But we now are on track to become a net oil exporter. Thanks to technological advances that led to the shale revolution and more drilling offshore, U.S. oil production has grown significantly, while imported oil as a share of total domestic oil consumption has fallen sharply. (more…)

Identity Groups: Am I Eligible for This Award?
Thursday November 8, 2018 | Randall Holcombe

I am a faculty member at Florida State University, and received an announcement that nominations are open for the Martin Luther King Distinguished Service Award at my university. One criterion for nomination is: “Nominees from the faculty must demonstrate scholarly excellence and a personal commitment to diversity.” I do have a sustained record of scholarship, and at a university–an institution committed to the transmission of ideas to our students–my libertarian-leaning commitment to individual freedom and limited government (the ideas on which our nation was founded) puts me distinctly in the minority among faculty members and shows my commitment to diversity of thought in an institution whose faculty members often promote a left-wing ideology. Can one be any more committed to diversity than to teach the ideas of liberty at an institution of higher learning when so many faculty members advocate more government control over our lives? (more…)

Law of the Land: Feds Can Sell to Private Developers
Wednesday November 7, 2018 | K. Lloyd Billingsley

If the federal government wants to sell land in California, California’s State Lands Commission must have the first shot at purchase, not any private developer. That was according to Senate Bill 50, by Santa Monica Democrat Bill Allen and signed by Jerry Brown in October of 2017, but it’s not going to happen. Last week U.S. District Judge William Shubb tossed SB 50 which he ruled violates the Constitution’s supremacy clause and the property clause that gives the federal government the right to dispose of its own property. The properties include Admiral’s Cove in Alameda, which the Navy seeks to sell to a developer; 78 acres owned by the Army in Dublin, and U.S. Postal Service property in Sacramento, among others. The possibilities are indeed vast because the federal government owns 45.8 percent of California, 52.9 percent of Oregon, and a whopping 84.9 percent of Nevada, practically the entire state. The federal government owns 28 percent of all land in the United States and 47 percent of land in the western states. Farmers, ranchers, and developers support more sales of federal land, and the funds could help pay down massive government debt. Politicians often oppose sales of federal land, unless a state government is the exclusive buyer, per SB 50. Last year, when the Trump administration filed suit against the measure, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a member of the State Lands Commission, proclaimed: “We will use every legal and administrative tool to thwart Trump’s plans to auction off California’s heritage to the highest bidder.” Newsom is now seeking to replace the outgoing Jerry Brown as governor.

*** K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller.

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