First, a quick response to the implication that Friedman supported segregation in calling for choice around the same time as Brown. Actually, “implication” is too generous a gloss on MacLean’s piece. While she leaves some doubt where Friedman stood, she nonetheless writes that Friedman and other major libertarians and conservatives “backed the White southern cause.” And even if Friedman’s desire truly was freedom, it was really only “White freedom.”
This accusation has been repeatedly debunked, but just as a quick recap, yes, Friedman wrote that he believed in freedom over force in his seminal 1955 book chapter, “The Role of Government in Education.” As a result, he condemned government‐forced segregation but also opposed government‐imposed “nonsegregation.” That said, he also wrote that if he had to choose between forced segregation and forced integration he would select the latter.
Not only did Friedman oppose forced segregation, he explicitly argued for choice as an integrator. That, of course, indicated a desire for integration. It was also consistent with burgeoning research on intergroup contact, which showed divisive effects when putting groups into competition with one another. Forced integration, well‐intended and morally compelling though it was, created just such competition.
Yet making Britain a villain for the crime of kick-starting a period of rapid technological advancement which laid the foundations of the modern world as we know it could hardly be more short-sighted. In the narrowest sense, perhaps, one might say the industrial revolution was “bad for the planet”: it was built on burning fossil fuels, after all, which is far from perfect. But, in a much broader sense, the industrial revolution is something about which Britain should be inordinately proud. It lifted our country – and eventually much of the world – out of poverty, saving billions from a life that was miserable, brutish and short.
George Will draws lessons from history. A slice:
Today, Democrats are ignoring Thomas Jefferson’s warning against large undertakings based on “slender majorities.” They seem entirely committed to progressivism’s equality aspiration. This is not equality of opportunity, which produces disparate outcomes that are intolerable because they are presumptively results of systemic racism. Rather, the up-to-date equality aspiration is equal dependence of an ever-larger majority on federal guarantees of material well-being.
President Biden insists that Americans want the social programs in which he is proposing to “invest” (“spend” has been purged from progressivism’s lexicon) with trillion-dollar tranches. He does not, however, think that 98.2 percent of Americans want these programs enough to ask them to pay even a penny for them. He insists that Americans with annual incomes less than $400,000 will not pay any of the new taxes that he favors to (partially) fund the spending.
This is preposterous (e.g., corporations do not pay taxes, they collect them from employees, shareholders and customers) but indicative of progressivism’s failure of nerve: Government blessings for almost everyone shall be paid for by an unpopular minority (the top 1.8 percent and corporations).
The Supreme Court opens its new term Monday with six nominal conservatives appointed by Republican presidents. But conservatives have been shaken in their confidence that those six will yield majorities on issues that deeply matter. That declining confidence comes along with a serious argument within the conservative family over the nature of “conservative jurisprudence.” Conservatives are united in taking as our coordinates the original meaning of the text of the Constitution. But some of us have argued for “a better originalism,” as opposed what we call the “truncated originalism” that has predominated. We see the latter as detached from the understanding that the American Founders, the true originalists, had of the moral ground of the Constitution and laws they were shaping.
In a new study, economists Daniel Mitchell and Robert P. O’Quinn estimated that the business tax effects of Biden’s plan would shift about 2 percent of the economy’s output into the hands of the government over several years, with an appreciable negative impact on private sector economic growth looking to the years ahead. They estimate a $3 trillion shortfall in national income from what it otherwise might have been over the next decade if Biden’s policies were not implemented.
Just this week, for example, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to a question about the tax impact of the $3.5 trillion spending plan now working its way through Congress by declaring that “there are some…who argue that in the past companies have passed on these costs to consumers…we feel that that’s unfair and absurd and the American people would not stand for that.”
When taxes are raised on corporations—the “companies” in Psaki’s response—corporations often respond by passing that tax on to others. In some cases, they pass costs to consumers. In others, as the Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome wryly notes on Twitter, they reduce the amount they would have otherwise spent on wages. They have to pay more to do business, and so they make adjustments accordingly. Costs create consequences and tradeoffs.
Empirical research has consistently shown that a large portion of corporate tax increases is actually paid by labor down the line. There are some reasonable academic debates about the precise percentage of the tax paid by labor, and how that might change under certain circumstances. But there is little real debate about whether or not some of the costs are passed on. The point is that it happens. Workers, not owners, pay at least some share of higher corporate taxes.
Yet Psaki’s position—the Biden White House’s position—is that this sort of thing is “absurd and unfair.”
One may feel that the omnipresence of gravity is unfair and absurd. Nevertheless, few people plan their lives around the ability to leap into the air and fly whenever they would like. We accept reality and make plans around its constraints, however absurd or unfair they may seem. To do otherwise would be foolish.
Yet that is essentially what Democrats are doing as they work to pass the Biden agenda.
Cutting fossil fuels as quickly as some environmentalists want will be tremendously difficult. In 2020 pandemic lockdowns forced the world to cut carbon emissions significantly. But to fulfill the Paris climate accords completely, the United Nations says that global emissions would have to plunge even further every year for the rest of the decade. In 2021 emissions would have to drop by more than double the lockdown-induced decline. By the end of 2030, they’d have to have fallen by 11 times what they did in 2020. Not exactly realistic.
Cato today published my new White Paper on the perils of American industrial policy, and the timing couldn’t be better. The Senate, for example, has passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill) and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, each of which contain numerous subsidies and other measures intended to boost American manufacturing and compete with China. Those bills now sit with the House, which is also considering a bunch of industrial policy proposals, such as special tax credits for union‐made electric vehicles, in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion “reconciliation package.”
As explained in my new paper, U.S. industrial policies have a long history of high costs (for the federal budget and U.S. economy), failed objectives, political dysfunction, and empty justifications. Prominent among those justifications, especially today, is that industrial policies have worked well in countries like South Korea, which has a long history of economic interventionism. I cite oodles of research showing why such claims are misguided (for Korea and others), but a brand new National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper provides some excellent additional support – and some broader lessons along the way.