This Lady Needs To Read American History

The Herald Mail Media reported yesterday that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, speaking at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, stated the following:

“Capitalism is an ideology of capital — the most important thing is the concentration of capital and to seek and maximize profit,” Ocasio-Cortez said. And that comes at any cost to people and to the environment, she said, “so to me capitalism is irredeemable.”

Although she said she doesn’t think all parts of capitalism should be abandoned, “we’re reckoning with the consequences of putting profit above everything else in society. And what that means is people can’t afford to live. For me, it’s a question of priorities and right now I don’t think our model is sustainable.”

…While America is wealthier than ever, wealth is enjoyed “by fewer than ever,” she said.

“It doesn’t feel good to live in an unequal society,” she said, citing an increase in homelessness in New York City among veterans and the elderly while penthouses sit empty. “It doesn’t feel good to live in a society like that.”

Let’s look at those statements through the lens of American history. In November 2005, the Heritage Foundation published an article about communism in America.

The article included the following notes on American history:

Recalling the story of the Pilgrims is a Thanksgiving tradition, but do you know the real story behind their triumph over hunger and poverty at Plymouth Colony nearly four centuries ago? Their salvation stemmed not so much from the charitable gestures of local Indians, but from their courageous decision to embrace the free-market principle of private property ownership a century and a half before Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations.

Writing in his diary of the dire economic straits and self-destructive behavior that consumed his fellow Puritans shortly after their arrival, Governor William Bradford painted a picture of destitute settlers selling their clothes and bed coverings for food while others “became servants to the Indians,” cutting wood and fetching water in exchange for “a capful of corn.” The most desperate among them starved, with Bradford recounting how one settler, in gathering shellfish along the shore, “was so weak … he stuck fast in the mud and was found dead in the place.”

The colony’s leaders identified the source of their problem as a particularly vile form of what Bradford called “communism.” Property in Plymouth Colony, he observed, was communally owned and cultivated. This system (“taking away of property and bringing [it] into a commonwealth”) bred “confusion and discontent” and “retarded much employment that would have been to [the settlers’] benefit and comfort.”

The most able and fit young men in Plymouth thought it an “injustice” that they were paid the same as those “not able to do a quarter the other could.” Women, meanwhile, viewed the communal chores they were required to perform for others as a form of “slavery.”

On the brink of extermination, the Colony’s leaders changed course and allotted a parcel of land to each settler, hoping the private ownership of farmland would encourage self-sufficiency and lead to the cultivation of more corn and other foodstuffs.

As Adam Smith would have predicted, this new system worked famously. “This had very good success,” Bradford reported, “for it made all hands very industrious.” In fact, “much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been” and productivity increased. “Women,” for example, “went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn.”

The famine that nearly wiped out the Pilgrims in 1623 gave way to a period of agricultural abundance that enabled the Massachusetts settlers to set down permanent roots in the New World, prosper, and play an indispensable role in the ultimate success of the American experiment.

A profoundly religious man, Bradford saw the hand of God in the Pilgrims’ economic recovery. Their success, he observed, “may well evince the vanity of that conceit…that the taking away of property… would make [men] happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.” Bradford surmised, “God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them.”

There will always be inequities in wealth. A person who works 12-hour days will generally earn more than a person who works a 6-hour day. People who invent things or have new ideas generally do very well financially. Rewarding innovation provides an incentive for progress. Capitalism (or the free market economy) is not perfect, but it creates fewer problems than any other economic system. Those touting the wonders of socialism need only look at the economic history of Venezuela during the past ten years. Once the wealthiest country in South America, now a place of unspeakable poverty. That is the fruit of socialism or communism.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez, please learn your history.

South Africa Moves Toward Taking Land Without Compensation

On Tuesday U.S. News posted an article about the move to take land from South Africans without paying them any compensation. The parliament recently approved a report endorsing a constitutional amendment that would allow expropriations without compensation.

The article reports:

Land is a hot-button issue in South Africa where racial inequality remains entrenched more than two decades after the end of apartheid when millions among the black majority were dispossessed of their land by a white minority.

A parliamentary team last month recommended a constitutional amendment to make it possible for the state to expropriate land without compensation in the public interest.

The article continues:

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced Jacob Zuma in February, has prioritized land redistribution as he seeks to unite the fractured ruling African National Congress (ANC) and win public support ahead of an election next year.

But the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and some rights groups are critical of the government’s plans, saying it will jeopardize property rights and scare off investors.

“We support expropriation of land without compensation or zero Rand compensation in the public interest,” the ANC’s Vincent Smith said during the parliamentary debate.

Ahead of Tuesday’s debate, John Steenhuisen, the main opposition’s chief whip, said “the DA will not hesitate to approach the courts” should the report backing the expropriation of land be adopted.

Following Tuesday’s vote, a new bill proposing the change to Section 25 of the constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation would need to be drafted.

It would also require the public’s contribution before a debate and vote in the assembly. To become law, it would need passed by both houses of parliament and then signed by Ramaphosa. It is unclear how long this process would take.

Last week the High Court rejected a legal challenge brought by AfriForum, a group representing mainly white Afrikaners who wanted to overturn a parliamentary committee report supporting changes to the constitution.

There are some things the South African government might want to consider if they decide to move forward with the idea of seizing land without compensation. Although that might seem like a solution to the misdeeds of the past, it is simply a misdeed in the present. Taking anything from someone without compensation is not a path toward harmony. Because the land distribution seems to be so uneven, wouldn’t it be better to require people who hold large portions of land to sell portions of it under government supervision at a reasonable price. Otherwise, you are infringing on private property rights. In December 2010, I posted an article about the relationship between private property rights, the rule of law, and prosperity. You cannot have prosperity without private property rights or without the rule of law. To seize property without compensation violates this principle. It is the way to poverty for South Africa.

 

What Excessive Government Looks Like

If you own an outdoor cat, you understand that property lines and boundaries don’t hold a lot of meaning for these animals. As the owner of two indoor cats, I can say from past experience that there are some cats that are simply not capable of being indoor cats. That being said, I am here to inform you about the war on pet cats that is currently going on in Florida (Doesn’t the government have better ways to spend its money?).

Last Wednesday The Daily Signal posted an article about the war on pet cats that is taking place in Florida.

The article reports:

In 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service implemented a pest management plan designed to trap cats that the agency perceived as a threat to the Key Largo woodrat. The furry targets of this sting operation were accused of trespassing on federal land, which is a woodrat habitat, and doing what cats do best: hunt and kill rats.

Instead of focusing only on the large swaths of feral cats that pose the primary threat to the rats’ survival on the island, the Fish and Wildlife Service went overboard. Resident cat owners complained that agents set baited traps adjacent to the private property of the owners who live next to the federal park.

Then, Fish and Wildlife Service agents trapped Rocky, a pet cat to Spencer Slate, a Key Largo businessman who runs a scuba diving center. According to Slate, the traps “were all about 50 feet from [his] property” when Rocky was lured in one night. As a result, Slate said that “Rocky’s face was so bloodied by the trap’s spring-shut door that he did not recognize his pet.”

Slate discovered this after a Fish and Wildlife Service agent showed up at his business to serve him with a written citation threatening jail time for allegedly allowing Rocky to enter federal land. When delivering the citation, the agent neglected to return the captive kitten, instead depositing Rocky at an animal shelter nearly 15 miles away.

Thank goodness a federal judge dismissed the citation.

The article further reports:

As Mark Miller, managing attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Atlantic Center in Florida, explains, “when [Fish and Wildlife Service] agents prowl off of federal land to trap private citizens’ cats on private land, these agents’ actions implicate a number of constitutional clauses” that could make the agents’ actions unlawful.

Furthermore, the fact that Slate was threatened with jail time for the instinctive response of his baited cat is a gross misuse of government power. This tactic represents the phenomenon of overcriminalization, the use of the criminal law and penalties to punish every mistake and to solve every problem—including a pet cat wandering around Key Largo.

Someone should point out to the Fish and Wildlife Service agent that cats perform a service to humans in keeping the population of rats and other vermin under control.

This is not about cats–this is about government over-reach and bullying private citizens. Cats are not known to respect property lines and the cat may not have read the sign explaining that he was about to enter federal land. This was a waste of time, energy, and money on the part of the government. This kind of abuse of power needs to end.

Ten Years After Kelo v. City Of New London

This article is based on two articles, one posted Saturday and updated yesterday at The Day and one in the Wall Street Journal today. Both articles deal with the Kelo v. City of New London Supreme Court case ten years ago that allowed the city to take fifteen homes through eminent domain for the purposes of economic development.

The article at The Day reports some of the history of the taking of the property. New London was looking to add to its tax base because revenues were not meeting the needs of the city. The State of Connecticut was offering money ($70 million) to help with the redevelopment of the area where the houses were located. The fifteen houses in question were owned by seven people who filed suit against the taking of their property. The case went to the Supreme Court, and the property was taken by the City.

So where are we now? There have been some new roads added to the area; sidewalks and street lamps have been added. But things have not gone as planned.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The condemned land remains empty, housing only a few feral cats. After Hurricane Irene in 2011, the city used it as a dumping ground for debris. Yet the first real development since the Supreme Court’s controversial decision might now be on its way: New London Mayor Daryl Finizio, who was elected in 2011 as a critic of the government taking, recently announced a plan to turn the former site of Ms. Kelo’s house into a park that will “serve as a memorial to all those adversely affected by the city’s use of eminent domain.”

As I reported in December 2009:

So let’s look at where we are now.  The taking of the property was used to lure Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company to New London to build a research center.  Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company arrived, built its New London research center on the seized property, and this week announced that it was closing the plant.  Most of the plants 1,400 employees will be relocated to nearby Groton. 

Now the City of New London won’t even have the tax revenue from the people who once lived in that area of New London.  They will simply have a vacant research center.  Poetic justice at its best.

Private property rights are one of the sources of prosperity in our country. Violating them is foolish and does have consequences.

Just a side note. The Day noted that Pfizer got a 10-year tax abatement from the state of Connecticut. They moved their plant away from the area the day after that tax abatement ended. We need to remember that businesses are in business to make money and will do whatever necessary to protect their bottom line. What they did was legal, it just wasn’t in the spirit of the deal that was made.

The Results Of Socialism

A picture is worth a thousand words. This picture is from the Independent Journal Review:

You Can See Socialism From Space…

The heading of the article with the picture is, “You Can See Socialism From Space….”

The article points out:

In newly released nighttime photos from NASA, the disastrous economics effects of socialism can be clearly seen. Causes: North Korea’s stifling government control yields power generation and per-person economic activity that is less than 10% of that in South Korea. Still think socialism is “good on paper”?

If we lived in a world of perfect people, socialism would work. Unfortunately, we live in a world of flawed people–all flawed in different ways. Socialism was tried by the early settlers of America. The Puritans instituted a form of socialism–they abolished private property and stated that all property would be held in common. Half the colonists died of starvation. At that point, private property rights were restored, and each man farmed his own land. As a result of the decision to restore private property rights, more food was produced, and fewer people faced starvation. Americans can learn from their own history as well as the history of other countries. Socialism is a wonderful utopian idea that does not work. It’s really that simple.

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Exactly The Wrong Solution

It has been proven that when you tax an activity you get less of it. When you provide a tax break for an activity, you get more of it. We have seen over the past thirty years that when taxes on businesses are lowered the economy grows. When taxes and regulations are increased, the economy shrinks. Well, not everyone got the message.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that the United Nations has suggested a global tax on developed countries to help underdeveloped countries. The taxes would include a carbon tax, currency taxes, and taxes on billionaires. What the article fails to mention is that in many countries (if not all) poverty is political–not economic. In countries that are free with freely elected governments and private property rights, there is generally prosperity. In countries with dictators (who generally live rather well) and no private property rights, there is generally massive poverty. If the UN truly wanted to fight poverty, they would encourage democracy and private property rights in countries that have neither. All they really want to do is take money from countries that have earned it and give it to dictators in countries where it will never reach those who desperately need it!

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