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Is The World Getting More Or Less Violent?

This morning in church, our pastor asked what had happened to war and violence, since Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Had it gone up or down? What would Longfellow think of our world today?

I immediately responded that, of course, violence had gone down. Longfellow would love the our world. I was surprised when Pastor Chris said that things had just gotten worse and worse since then. He showed this depressing graph, taken from a History Today post on the alarming increase in wars.

Pairwise Conflicts

That confused me. I've been hearing that world violence is at an all time low. PBS aired an interview on this exact topic, two years ago.

Despite news of terrorist bombings and crackdowns in Syria, two recent books argue the world has never seen so little war and violence. Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Joshua Goldstein, author of Winning the War on War, discuss.

... CONAN: Well, saying that there are fewer war deaths this past decade than at any time in the past 100 years, isn't that another way of indicting the past 100 years and maybe this decade is the anomaly?

GOLDSTEIN: Well no because the past 100 years were - there was a big explosion of violence in the early part of the 20th century, but the 17th century was no picnic, either. The Thirty Years' War destroyed a third of the population of Germany, and back through history, there have been terrible wars much of the time.

And even in prehistoric times, as many as a quarter of the men in a society, not infrequently, died in wars. So it's actually a new thing and something that's developed in the least 60 years and especially the last 20 years.

... PINKER: Yes, the decline of war that scholars such as Joshua Goldstein have documented is one of a number of historical declines of violence. Others include the plummeting of rates of interpersonal violence, one-on-one homicides, which have fallen by about a factor of 35 since the Middle Ages in every European country for which statistics are available.

Another example is the abolition of cruel and barbaric institutionalized practices like human sacrifice, like chattel slavery, like the use of the death penalty for trivial infractions, the burning of heretics, bear-baiting, the list goes on.

And yet another one is the even more recent targeting of violence on smaller scales directed against vulnerable sectors of the population like racial minorities. So we've seen an elimination of the practice of lynching in the United States, which used to take place at a rate of about 150 a year and fell to zero by 1950. Rates of rape have fallen, rates of domestic abuse. Popularity of spanking and other forms of corporal punishment have gone down.

Even more recently, practices that wouldn't even have been categorized as violence in previous decades, like bullying, have now been targeted for elimination. A few years ago, bullying was just childhood, boys will be boys. Now we've brought it in under the umbrella of violence and sought to minimize it for the first time in history.

CONAN: Yet we always hear: the 20th century, the most violent, the bloodiest century in human history.

PINKER: Well, people who make that claim never cite numbers from any century other than the 20th, and as Joshua Goldstein has pointed out, the 17th century with its wars of religion, the 14th century with its Mongol invasions, many other centuries have atrocities that can hold their head high when compared against the 20th century.

The annihilation of native peoples of the Americas and Australia and Africa, the Islamic and Atlantic slave trades racked up horrific death tolls.

What's the story behind that scary graph? Where did that come from and does it contradict Goldstein and Pinker? I looked into it and I don't think it does contract them. Here is how History Today described the study.

The graph below illustrates this increase in pairwise conflicts. It only includes wars between states and does not include civil wars. Conflicts range from full-scale shooting wars and uses of military force to displays of force (sending warships and closing borders, for example). Although Harrison and Wolf’s study does not measure the intensity of violence, it reflects the readiness of governments to settle disputes by force.

According to Harrison and Wolf, this increase in the frequency of pairwise conflicts can be explained by two principal factors: economic growth and the proliferation of borders. The number of countries has thus almost quadrupled since 1870, rising from 47 countries in 1870 to 187 in 2001.

Harrison continued: ‘More pairs of countries have clashed because there have been more pairs. This is not reassuring: it shows that there is a close connection between wars and the creation of states and new borders.’

This study has three flaws. One, it includes displays of force rather than actual uses of force. Thus, India and Pakistan are considered to be at war, even though they're not actually in a state of war. The U.S. is considered to be at war with Iran, etc. This isn't good, but it's different than what most people expect when they hear of an increase in wars.

Second, the study leaves out civil wars, rebellions, coups, etc. As the authors note, the number of countries has quadrupled in the last 150 years. All of the earlier civil wars and unrests that formerly occurred internally now have the potential to be wars between separate nations. The actors and grievances haven't necessarily changed, but the way they're measured has. The left side of the graph understates violence compared to the right side of the graph.

Thirdly, the report doesn't measure the intensity of violence. World War I and World War II each count as one war. So does Desert Storm and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The first two wars claimed orders of magnitude more lives than the latter two wars. In this study, they both count exactly the same. Again, that's not what most people would think of when they think about a more violent world.

I think this report (and accompanying graph) are misleading. They give the impression that violence has been steadily increasing over the last 150 years. In fact, the opposite is true. We live in a wonderful time of decreasing violence. War hasn't ended. There are still wars, rebellions, and conflicts. There are still abuses of power and tyranny. But we are far less likely to die from violence than during any other time in human history. I think that's something worth celebrating.

This entry was tagged. Government

The Weirdness of Majority Rule

The Weirdness of Majority Rule →

A. Barton Hinkle, writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, talks about why democracy is such a lousy form of government.

A mere 43 percent of registered Virginia voters cast a ballot this year. Even if the winners received 100 percent of the votes, they still would have the support of less than half the electorate. In the governor’s race, Terry McAuliffe won only 48 percent, making him the first governor to enter office with a plurality in half a century. His 48 percent of the 43 percent who voted gives him the support of only 20 percent of the state’s electorate — and that is before you take into account the fact that, according to one poll, 64 percent of his supporters said they really were voting against Republican Ken Cuccinelli, rather than for McAuliffe. If the poll is accurate, then less than one voter in 10 cast an affirmative ballot in the Democrat’s favor.

And yet someone has to be governor, so it is on such slender reeds as these that history is built. McAuliffe might not have won the Executive Mansion were not the current occupant, Bob McDonnell, sidelined by an ethics scandal that spattered Cuccinelli as well. McDonnell himself probably would not be governor had he not beaten Creigh Deeds for attorney general eight years ago by 360 votes, or one one-hundredth of 1 percent.

I really like his conclusion.

Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities, said Jefferson, but from the Iraq war to Obamacare, they almost always are. For those who care about the consent of the governed, that is one more reason to limit government’s scope: Democracy is just about the worst way possible to run a country. Except, of course, for all the others.

Peru cop who Tased Alzheimer's patient won't get his job back

This closes the loop on a story that I first noted back in July 2012.

According to police reports, Officers Gregory Martin and Jeremy Brindle entered Howard’s room in the locked-down Alzheimer’s unit and told him to enter the ambulance.

When Howard did not respond to commands, Martin unholstered his Taser and told him he would be Tased if he didn’t comply.

Brindle attempted to gain control of Howard’s arms to restrain him, and a struggle ensued. When Howard turned towards Brindle, Martin then Tased him, which caused Howard to drop to the floor.

Howard was then Tased by Martin two more times while on the ground after ordering him multiple times to roll onto his stomach. Police said Howard resisted constraint and attempted to fight them while on the floor.

Brindle then handcuffed Howard, which left a large, bloody gash on his wrist and escorted him to Duke’s Memorial Hospital. Officers said he was combative in the ambulance until his wife arrived at the hospital and calmed him down.

Howard’s wife, Virginia, ... said her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 13 years ago and doesn’t understand the simplest directions or commands like “sit down or pick up a book.”

In August 2012, the Peru, IN police department fired Gregory Martin. Martin immediately appealed his firing and the case went to court. On September 5 2013---more than a year later---the appeals court denied Martin's appeal. It's now official that Martin won't be going back to the Peru, IN police force.

I'm glad this case is finally over and that justice ultimately was served. But this case illustrates why I believe that police unions are a bad idea. In a normal business, you could fire an employee for this kind of overreaction and walk away, confident that the firing would stick. The city of Peru fired Martin and then had to fight multiple battles to ensure that the firing would stick.

This kind of long drawn process gives too much power to the police department, to our civil "servants". It mights it too costly to get rid of bad actors and makes it more likely that the bad actors stick around, causing more problems down the road.

Union defenders claim that the government unions are necessary, to protect employees against abusive employers and managers. But the city of Peru is ultimately responsible to its citizens. Police who think they are wrongly treated can make their case at the ballot box. They shouldn't be able to use the coercive power of unionization to dictate terms to the citizens who ultimately pay their salaries and employ them.

Jury convicts Minneapolis SWAT team leader for knockout punch

Jury convicts Minneapolis SWAT team leader for knockout punch →

Last June, I wrote about an office duty Minneapolis policeman, who'd sucker punched a restaurant patron straight into a coma. Joy Powell recently reported, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that Sgt. David R. Clifford was convicted for this crime.

Clifford faces a term of seven years under state sentencing guidelines. Two-thirds of that would be served in prison, the rest on supervised release. He was convicted of first- and third-degree assault, both felonies, and fifth-degree misdemeanor assault. Convicted felons are not eligible to hold a Minnesota peace officer license.

“Everyone assumes we’re going to give him a break because he’s a police officer,“ prosecutor Blair Buccicone said. “We treat everyone the same. David Clifford is no different from anybody else.”

This is fantastic news. It's always good to see police held accountable for their crimes. No one should be above the law—especially not the people charged with upholding the laws.

Australian Travel Notes from a Policy Wonk

Australian Travel Notes from a Policy Wonk →

From Alex Tabarrok, at Marginal Revolution:

Australia farmers pay for water at market prices. Water rights are traded and government water suppliers have either been privatized or put on a more stand-alone basis so that subsidies are minimized or at least made transparent.

Australia has one of the largest private school sectors in the developed world with some 40% of students in privately-run schools.

Australia has a balanced-budget principle (balanced over the business cycle) which has been effective although perhaps more important has been a widely held aversion to deficits combined with an understanding of sustainability and intergenerational fairness (factors which also played a role in the decision to create private, pre-funded pensions).

If things go badly in the USA, I may have to head for Australia. (The scenery's nice too.)

The Pizza Police

The Pizza Police →

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Congressman Fred Upton, writing in National Review:

The nutritional boards may cost a lot of dough, but at least the pizza-loving populace will be exposed to the caloric details of their feast, right? Hardly. Ninety percent of Domino’s customers never see the menu sign. That’s because they place their orders on the Internet or over the phone; whether the pie is delivered or picked up in-store, at best the consumer would see the calorie sign only after the order is placed.

Thanks to an Obamacare provision, restaurants will have to spend thousands of dollars putting up government mandated signs that few of their customers will ever see. All in the name of bullying you into eating healthier. Who's your nanny now?

Government Money

Government Money →

From Daniel Greenfield, at Sultan Knish:

Do you know of any company in America where for a mere few billion, you could become the CEO of a company whose shareholders would be forced to sit back and watch for four years while you run up trillion dollar deficits and parcel out billions to your friends? Without going to jail or being marched out in handcuffs. A company that will allow you to indulge yourself, travel anywhere at company expense, live the good life, and only work when you feel like it. That will legally indemnify you against all shareholder lawsuits, while allowing you to dispose not only of their investments, but of their personal property in any way you see fit.

There is only one such company. It's called the United States Government.

This is gangster government at its best. Politicans can spend billions of dollars to gain control of trillions of dollars. Then they can enrich themselves, their friends, and their friends' friends. And we wonder why our representatives are corrupt? They wouldn't have so many opportunities for corruption if we drastically cut federal spending and took away their goody bags.

Feds admit FBI warrantless cellphone tracking 'very common'

Feds admit FBI warrantless cellphone tracking 'very common' →

From Shaun Waterman, at the Washington Post:

FBI investigators for at least five years have routinely used a sophisticated cellphone tracking tool that can pinpoint callers’ locations and listen to their conversations — all without getting a warrant for it, a federal court was told this week.

The use of the “Stingray,” as the tool is called, “is a very common practice” by federal investigators, Justice Department attorneys told the U.S. District Court for Arizona Thursday, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Installed in an unmarked van, Stingray mimics a cellphone tower, so it can pinpoint the precise location of any mobile device in range and intercept conversations and data, said Linda Lye, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California in a blog post about the case.

The FBI looks like a criminal organization, not a law enforcement organization. They're okay with spying on anyone and everyone for any reason at all. They don't believe that they're constrained by judges or the law.

Tar, feathers.

Domestic Drones Are Coming Your Way

Domestic Drones Are Coming Your Way →

Reason argues, very persuasively I think, that commercial drones could be immensely useful and innovative. The argument against hasty changes to law is even, dare I say it, a conservative one.

Six hours into his epic filibuster last week, Sen. Rand Paul had to settle for Mike & Ike’s from the Senate candy drawer to quell his hunger. But is there any question he would have much rather had some delicious carnitas delivered by quadrocopter?

...

Restrictions on private drones may indeed be necessary some day, as the impending explosion of drone activity will no doubt disrupt our current social patterns. But before deciding on these restrictions, shouldn’t legislators and regulators wait until we have flying around more than a tiny fraction of the thousands of domestic drones the FAA estimates will be active this decade?

If officials don’t wait, they are bound to set the wrong rules since they will have no real data and only their imaginations to go on. It’s quite possible that existing privacy and liability laws will adequately handle most future conflicts. It’s also likely social norms will evolve and adapt to a world replete with robots.

By legislating hastily out of fear we would be forgoing the learning that comes from trial and error, trading progress for illusory security. And there is no clearer sign of human progress than tacos from the sky.

Indiana May Soon Mandate Police Training on Alzheimer's Disease

I've been following a story from Peru, IN. In June of last year, we learned that a local policeman had tazered a 64-year old man, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. In late August, we learned that the police departmant had fired the man involved.

Former patrolman Gregory Martin is currently appealing his firing. I'm watching that case, for any developments. Meanwhile, the Indiana legislature has gotten involved. Representative Bill Friend (R-Macy) introduced a bill "requiring all law enforcement officers in the state to receive training regarding people with Alzheimer’s disease". That bill passed the Indiana house unanimously.

I think this is probably a good idea. I know I don't know how to handle a violent Alzheimer's patient. I know that tazering someone with mental dementia is a bad idea, but I don't know what the right approach is. The "peace officers" on call should.

Is Obama's relentless use of the espionage act keeping whistle blowers silent?

Is Obama's relentless use of the espionage act keeping whistle blowers silent? →

Bloomberg News reported on October 17 that Attorney General Eric Holder “prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.” :

The Justice Department said that there are established avenues for government employees to follow if they want to report misdeeds. The agency “does not target whistle-blowers in leak cases or any other cases,” Dean Boyd, a department spokesman, said.“An individual in authorized possession of classified information has no authority or right to unilaterally determine that it should be made public or otherwise disclose it,” he said.

However, when leaks to the press benefit the administration, prosecutions from the Jusitce Department are absent. For example, AG Holder was not prosecuting anyone over who leaked information about the killing of Oasma bin Laden. The Justice Department has yet to charge anyone over leaking information regarding the U.S. involvement in cyberattacks on Iran as well as an al Qaida plan to blow up a U.S. bound airplane. In fact, the Justice Department ended up appointing one of two attorneys to the cyberattacks investigation who was an Obama donor.

“There’s a problem with prosecutions that don’t distinguish between bad people -- people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money -- and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions,” said Abbe Lowell, attorney for Stephen J. Kim, an intelligence analyst charged under the Act, to Bloomberg News.

... On October 10, nearly one month after the deadly Benghazi attack that took the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, President Obama issued a policy directive on whistle blower protections.

The directive expanded the protections of the House’s Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which was designed to protect federal employees if they reported waste, fraud, or abuse through government officials-- to executive branch agencies. National security and intelligence staffers would be included in the legislation through the directive. It. passed the lower chamber in September. The bill has yet to be passed by the Senate.

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center of Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, told Bloomberg News that the Obama policy directive does not go far enough, because it “doesn’t include media representatives within the universe of people to whom the whistle-blower can make the disclosure.” Basically, the administration can still continue to prosecute intelligence staffers who disclose information to the media.

Spending on White House dinners soars under Obama

Spending on White House dinners soars under Obama →

President Obama has spent far more lavishly on White House state dinners than previous chief executives, including nearly $1 million on a 2010 dinner for Mexico's president, according to documents obtained by The Washington Examiner.

But current and former government officials said the documents obtained by The Examiner point to an unprecedented upsurge in White House spending on such events.

The Obama extravaganza two years ago for Mexican President Felipe Calderon, which included a performance by pop star Beyonce, cost $969,793, or more than $4,700 per attendee, the documents show.

The Calderon dinner was held on the South Lawn in a massive tent adorned with decorated walls, hanging chandeliers, carpeting and a stage for Beyonce's performance.

Guests rode private trolley cars from the White House to the tent. Celebrity guest chef Rick Bayless from Chicago’s Topolobampo restaurant was imported to prepare Oaxacan black mole, black bean tamalon and grilled green beans.

Of course, that much extravagence wouldn't be complete unless unseemly whiffs of crony capitalism were wafting about.

The documents also reveal that the Obama White House retained an outside planner for the dinners. Bryan Rafanelli, a Boston-based celebrity event planner who was retained last year, managed former first daughter Chelsea Clinton's 2010 nupitals. His firm's website boasts that he produced "State Dinners hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama."

Rafanelli's business partner, Mark Walsh, is deputy chief of the State Department's Office of Protocol, which reimburses the White House executive residence for the events.

But I'm sure that there was absolutely nothing wrong with a government official paying his business partner to plan lavish dinners.

Raise the Speed Limit

Raise the Speed Limit →

Yes, please.

There were 32,310 traffic fatalities in 2011, the fewest there have been since 1949. More importantly, fatality rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled have dropped substantially over the years, falling from 24.09 in 1921 to 1.09 in 2011. In addition, while interstate highway speed limits have risen since Congress repealed all federally imposed speed limits in 1995, fatalities categorized as “speeding-related” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have declined since then. Specifically, there were 13,414 speeding-related fatalities in 1995 and 10,591 in 2011. Of the 10,591 speeding-related fatalities in 2011, just 964 occurred on interstate highways with speed limits “over 55 MPH.”

So even as critics contend that an 85 MPH speed limit will increase fatalities, it’s no surprise that Texas is implementing the higher limit: Driving in America has never been safer than it is now.

This entry was tagged. Cars Government

Why Firing a Bad Cop Is Damn Near Impossible

Why Firing a Bad Cop Is Damn Near Impossible →

Hey, look! It's yet another area where public sector unions are making the world a worse place. I'm 100% in favor of getting rid of police unions.

All of these Rhode Island cops, and many more like them across the county, were able to keep their jobs and benefits—sometimes only temporarily, but always longer than they should have—thanks to model legislation written and lobbied for by well-funded police unions. That piece of legislation is called the "law enforcement bill of rights," and its sole purpose is to shield cops from the laws they're paid to enforce.

The inspiration for this legislation and its similarly named cousins across the country is the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights, introduced in 1971 by New York Rep. Mario Biaggi (D), at the behest of the Police Benevolent Association. Having once been the most decorated police officer in the country, Biaggi didn't need much convincing to put forward the union-friendly bill.

Biaggi pushed for the POBOR until March 1987, when he received two indictments back-to-back. The first was for accepting a paid vacation from Brooklyn Democratic Leader Meade H. Esposito in exchange for using federal funds to bail out a company in Esposito's neighborhood. A second indictment handed down three months later charged Biaggi with extorting $3.6 million in cash and stock options from a small Bronx machine shop called Wedtech. Both charges resulted in convictions and Biaggi's resignation from Congress.

While Biaggi's bill never made it through Congress, police unions didn't wait for city managers or police department higher-ups to write their own. Benevolent associations in Maryland successfully pushed for the passage of a police bill of rights in 1972; Florida, Rhode Island, Virginia, New Mexico, and California followed suit before the 70s were over. The 1980s, 90s, and 2000s saw still more states adopt police bill of rights at the behest of police unions.

A Whiff of Weimar: The Greek Crisis Gets Worse

A Whiff of Weimar: The Greek Crisis Gets Worse →

Things are getting very bad in Greece.

One of the best sources of news about the Greek social crisis has been the dispatches sent by the BBC correspondent Paul Mason. So we should pay attention when Mason decides to ring the alarm bell.

Last month, the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, warned Europe that his country was on the edge of a Weimar Germany-style social collapse. What I have seen on the streets of Athens convinces me this is not rhetoric. There is a violent far-right party, its MPs committing and inciting violence with impunity; a police force that cannot or will not prevent Golden Dawn from projecting uniformed force on the streets. And a middle class that feels increasingly powerless to turn the situation round.

Is it really that bad? Yes.

How deep is the economic hole? The Greek statistics agency EL.STAT is reporting that the 2011 deficit stood at 9.4 percent of GDP and the public debt at a staggering 170.6 percent. Greece is begging the EU and IMF to release the latest tranche of aid—a staggering 31.2 billion euros ($39.7 billion). Forget trite talk of Greeks losing only their feather-bedded pensions and early retirement. The cuts are deep, the pain real, and the anger white-hot.

The neo-fascist party Golden Dawn won 6 to 7 percent of the vote in the Greek elections of May and June 2012 and is polling at twice that today, as anger rises against the economic austerity measures of the coalition government of Conservatives, Socialists and the Democratic Left.

Recently, the theater director Laertis Vassiliou saw Golden Dawn thugs shut down the play Corpus Christi, assaulting actors while the police—large numbers of whom openly support Golden Dawn—stood by and watched. Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas was filmed “de-arresting” a demonstrator—removing him from police custody. Vassiliou caught the whiff of Weimar. “People went home with broken bones. Every day they phone me now, they phone the theatre, saying: your days are numbered,” Vassiliou said. “This was the Greek Kristallnacht.”

This is what happens when a nation spends money that it doesn't have for years on end. It's what happens when an increasingly large share of the population depends on that government money (whether through government contracts or through welfare) to survive.

Obama’s Auto Bailout Was Really a Hefty Union Payoff

Obama’s Auto Bailout Was Really a Hefty Union Payoff →

GM did go bankrupt – filing for Chapter 11 protection against its creditors on June 1, 2009. It’s what happened next that the president can take credit for – a handout of $49.5 billion in taxpayer money to GM, some $27 billion of which remains outstanding, and another $17 billion to its financial arm Ally Financial, which still owes $14.7 billion.

Where did that money go? Mainly, it went to paying off debts owed by GM and Chrysler, and – in an historic distortion of our bankruptcy proceedings – to securing the pensions and livelihoods of UAW workers. It turns out the real debt was that of Mr. Obama to organized labor, which had ponied up some $400 million to help him defeat John McCain.

The Obama administration strong-armed the auto companies’ creditors into accepting undeniably unfair terms – terms that saw pensions obliterated for non-union workers but saved for those carrying a UAW card. Terms that saw non-UAW shops close but UAW factories stay open. Terms that doled out ownership in GM with political favoritism as a guiding principle.

These charges are not at issue. In the government-managed reorganization of GM, bond holders (secured bond holders, who normally are at the top of the pay-out chart) were given equity in the carmaker at a price of $2.7 billion per one percent ownership. The government ended up paying $834 million for every one percent it claimed; the UAW paid only $629 million.

It was not only the ownership share that was skewed towards the UAW. As jobs began to come back, it was the UAW plants that kicked into high gear. Workers at GM’s plant in Moraine, Ohio, who had been laid off in 2007, were not included in the re-hiring. Why? Because they did not belong to the UAW. The Moraine plant was reportedly one of GM’s most productive, but under the terms of GM’s reorganization, its workers were “banned from transferring to other plants,” according to Sharon Terlep at The Wall Street Journal.

Moraine was not the only non-UAW facility to fall under the knife; a truck plant in Ontario organized by the Canadian Auto Workers also went down.

Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors

Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors →

The Cato Institute recently released the 2012 version of their annual report card on the nation's governors. As a supporter of the Tea Party movement, it's gratifying to see that the Republican governors are actually improving and are growing more fiscally responsible.

Wisconsin's own Scott Walker earns a "C", for some very good reasons. I hope he can pull that up to an "A" over the next 2 years.

Are Republicans and Democrats Any Different?

Advocates of smaller government often lament that politicians of both major par- ties tax and spend too much. While that is certainly true, Cato report cards have found that Republican governors are a bit more fiscally conservative than Democratic governors, on average. In the 2008 report card, Republican and Democratic governors had average scores of 55 and 46, respectively. In the 2010 report card, they had average scores of 55 and 47, respectively.

This pattern is even more pronounced in the 2012 report card. This time around, Republican and Democratic governors had average scores of 57 and 43, respectively. And, as in prior report cards, the difference between the two parties is slightly more pronounced on taxes than on spending.

The fiscal differences between governors of the two parties have increased a bit. In this year’s results, there are fewer governors than in prior reports who are out of step with the typical policies of their parties. In both the 2008 and 2010 reports, for example, Democrat Joe Manchin earned an “A,” while Republican Jodi Rell earned an “F.” But in this year’s report, all four “A” governors are Republicans and all five “F” governors are Democrats.

A Reminder of How Bad the Farm Bill Is

A Reminder of How Bad the Farm Bill Is →

Veronique de Rugy sheds some light on the farm bill. Here's a small taste.

here is a little reminder of what is in the farm bill, how big it is, and other details relevant to this discussion:

The farm bill is massive; it would spend almost $1 trillion over the next decade.

For the most part, farmers are doing very well. As Drew White at Heritage reminds us, in spite of and partially thanks to this year’s drought, net farm income is estimated to set a new record of $122.2 billion in 2012.

Charles G. Koch: Corporate Cronyism Harms America

Charles G. Koch: Corporate Cronyism Harms America →

Charles Koch speaks out against the bipartisan corruption of crony capitalism.

Far too many businesses have been all too eager to lobby for maintaining and increasing subsidies and mandates paid by taxpayers and consumers. This growing partnership between business and government is a destructive force, undermining not just our economy and our political system, but the very foundations of our culture.

So why isn't economic freedom the "default setting" for our economy? What upsets this productive state of affairs? Trouble begins whenever businesses take their eyes off the needs and wants of consumers—and instead cast longing glances on government and the favors it can bestow. When currying favor with Washington is seen as a much easier way to make money, businesses inevitably begin to compete with rivals in securing government largess, rather than in winning customers.

We have a term for this kind of collusion between business and government. It used to be known as rent-seeking. Now we call it cronyism. Rampant cronyism threatens the economic foundations that have made this the most prosperous country in the world.

This entry was tagged. Government Subsidy