Monthly Archives: October 2015

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Today’s War Against Deflation Will Make Us Poorer – Article by Frank Shostak

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Categories: Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatFrank Shostak
October 29, 2015
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The yearly growth rate of the US consumer price index (CPI) fell to 0 percent in September 2015, from 0.2 percent in August and, 1.7 percent in September last year.

The yearly growth rate of the European Monetary Union CPI fell to minus 0.1 percent in September from 0.1 percent in the previous month and 0.3 percent in September last year.
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Also, the growth momentum of the UK CPI fell into the negative in September with the yearly growth rate closing at minus 0.1 percent from 0 percent in August and 1.2 percent in September last year.

The growth momentum of China’s CPI eased in September with the yearly growth rate falling to 1.6 percent from 2 percent in August.

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Deflation Fears Gain Steam
Consequently, many experts are expressing concern regarding the declining growth momentum of the CPI and are of the view that rather than tightening the monetary stance, central banks should loosen their stance further in order to counter the emergence of deflation, which is regarded as a major threat to economic well-being of individuals. For most experts, deflation is bad news since it generates expectations of a decline in prices. As a result, they believe, consumers are likely to postpone their buying of goods at present since they expect to buy these goods at lower prices in the future. This weakens the overall flow of spending and in turn weakens the economy. Hence, such commentators believe that policies that counter deflation will also counter the slump.
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Will Reversing Deflation Prevent a Slump?

If deflation leads to an economic slump, then policies that reverse deflation should be good for the economy, so it is held.

Reversing deflation will simply involve introducing policies that support general increases in the prices of goods, i.e., price inflation. With this way of thinking inflation could actually be an agent of economic growth.

According to most experts, a little bit of inflation can actually be a good thing. Mainstream economists believe that inflation of 2 percent is not harmful to economic growth, but that inflation of 10 percent could be bad for the economy.

There’s good reason to believe, however, that at a rate of inflation of 10 percent, it is likely that consumers are going to form rising inflation expectations.

According to popular thinking, in response to a high rate of inflation, consumers will speed up their expenditures on goods at present, which should boost economic growth. So why then is a rate of inflation of 10 percent or higher regarded by experts as a bad thing?

Clearly there is a problem with the popular way of thinking.

Price Inflation vs. Money-Supply Inflation
Inflation is not about general increases in prices as such, but about the increase in the money supply. As a rule the increase in the money supply sets in motion general increases in prices. This, however, need not always be the case.

The price of a good is the amount of money asked per unit of it. For a constant amount of money and an expanding quantity of goods, prices will actually fall.

Prices will also fall when the rate of increase in the supply of goods exceeds the rate of increase in the money supply.

For instance, if the money supply increases by 5 percent and the quantity of goods increases by 10 percent, prices will fall by 5 percent.

A fall in prices cannot conceal the fact that we have inflation of 5 percent here on account of the increase in the money supply.

The Problem Is Really Wealth Formation, not Rising Prices
The reason why inflation is bad news is not because of increases in prices as such, but because of the damage inflation inflicts to the wealth-formation process. Here is why:

The chief role of money is the medium of exchange. Money enables us to exchange something we have for something we want.

Before an exchange can take place, an individual must have something useful that he can exchange for money. Once he secures the money, he can then exchange it for the good he wants.

But now consider a situation in which the money is created “out of thin air,” increasing the money supply.

This new money is no different from counterfeit money. The counterfeiter exchanges the printed money for goods without producing anything useful.

He in fact exchanges nothing for something. He takes from the pool of real goods without making any contribution to the pool.

The economic effect of money that was created out of thin air is exactly the same as that of counterfeit money — it impoverishes wealth generators.

The money created out of thin air diverts real wealth toward the holders of new money. This weakens the wealth generators’ ability to generate wealth and this in turn leads to a weakening in economic growth.

Note that as a result of the increase in the money supply what we have here is more money per unit of goods, and thus, higher prices.

What matters however is not that price rises, but the increase in the money supply that sets in motion the exchange of nothing for something, or “the counterfeit effect.”

The exchange of nothing for something, as we have seen, weakens the process of real wealth formation. Therefore, anything that promotes increases in the money supply can only make things much worse.

Why Falling Prices Are Good
Since changes in prices are just a symptom, as it were — and not the primary causative factor — obviously countering a falling growth momentum of the CPI by means of loose a monetary policy (i.e., by creating inflation) is bad news for the process of wealth generation, and hence for the economy.

In order to maintain their lives and well-being, individuals must buy goods and services in the present. So from this perspective a fall in prices cannot be bad for the economy.

Furthermore, if a fall in the growth momentum of prices emerges on the back of the collapse of bubble activities in response to a softer monetary growth then this should be seen as good news. The less non-productive bubble activities that are around the better it is for the wealth generators and hence for the overall pool of real wealth.

Likewise, if a fall in the growth momentum of the CPI emerges on account of the expansion in real wealth for a given stock of money, this is obviously great news since many more people could now benefit from the expanding pool of real wealth.

We can thus conclude that contrary to the popular view, a fall in the growth momentum of prices is always good news for the wealth generating process and hence for the economy.

Frank Shostak is an Associated Scholar of the Mises Institute. His consulting firm, Applied Austrian School Economics, provides in-depth assessments and reports of financial markets and global economies. He received his bachelor’s degree from Hebrew University, master’s degree from Witwatersrand University and PhD from Rands Afrikaanse University, and has taught at the University of Pretoria and the Graduate Business School at Witwatersrand University.

This article was originally published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.

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On Soda Taxes and Purported Health Benefits – Article by Peter Van Doren

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Categories: Economics, Science, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatPeter Van Doren
October 27, 2015
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This week, the New York Times editorial board wrote in support of greater taxes on sweetened drinks, citing new research from a team Mexican and American researchers. They praise the novel design of the tax, which is levied on drink distributors rather than consumers. This caused the tax to be included in shelf prices, making the increase in total cost clear to consumers. The research found that soda consumption fell 12 percent in a year, and 17 percent among the poorest Mexicans.

The Times admits that we do not know whether any health benefits will actually result from soda taxes.  In this article in Regulation, the University of Pennsylvania’s Jonathan Klick and Claremont McKenna’s Eric Helland examined the effects of soda taxes. They conclude that a one percent increase in soda taxes led to a five percent reduction in soda consumption among young people.  But consumers substituted to other beverages.  A 6-calorie reduction in soda consumption was accompanied by an 8-calorie increase in milk consumption and a 2-calorie increase in juice consumption. Thus, the tax on soda led to an increase in overall calorie consumption, which offset the benefits of falling soda consumption. Moreover, there was “no statistically significant effect of soda taxes on body weight or the likelihood of being obese or overweight”.

Peter Van Doren is editor of the quarterly journal Regulation and an expert in the regulation of housing, land, energy, the environment, transportation, and labor. He has taught at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (Princeton University), the School of Organization and Management (Yale University), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From 1987 to 1988 he was the postdoctoral fellow in political economy at Carnegie Mellon University. His writing has been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Journal of Commerce, and the New York Post. Van Doren has also appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox News Channel, and Voice of America.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his master’s degree and doctorate from Yale University.

This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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House Benghazi Hearings: Too Much, Too Late – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
October 26, 2015
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Last week the US House of Representatives called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to appear before a select committee looking into the attack on a US facility in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. The attack left four Americans dead, including US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

As might be expected, however, the “Benghazi Committee” hearings have proven not much more than a means for each party to grandstand for political points.

In fact, I would call these Congressional hearings “too much, too late.”

Four years after the US-led overthrow of the Libyan government – which left the country a wasteland controlled by competing Islamist gangs and militias – the committee wants to know whether Hillary Clinton had enough guards at the facility in Benghazi on the night of the attack? The most important thing to look into about Libya is Hillary Clinton’s e-mails or management style while Secretary of State?

Why no House Committee hearing before President Obama launched his war on Libya? Why no vote on whether to authorize the use of force? Why no hearing after the President violated the Constitution by sending the military into Libya with UN authorization rather than Congressional authorization? There are Constitutional tools available to Congress when a president takes the country to war without a declaration or authorization. At the time, President Obama claimed he did not need authorization from Congress because the US was not engaged in “hostilities.” It didn’t pass the laugh test, but Congress did next to nothing about it.

When the Obama Administration decided to attack Libya, I joined Rep. Dennis Kucinich and others in attempt to force a vote on the president’s war. I introduced my own legislation warning the administration that, “the President is required to obtain in advance specific statutory authorization for the use of United States Armed Forces in response to civil unrest in Libya.”

We even initiated a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia asking the courts to rule on whether the president broke the law in attacking Libya.

Unfortunately we got nowhere with our efforts. When it looked like we had the votes to pass a resolution introduced by Rep. Kucinich to invoke War Powers Resolution requirements on the president for the use of force in Libya, Speaker Boehner cancelled the vote.

Why were there no hearings at the time to discuss this very important Constitutional matter? Because the leadership of both parties wanted the war. Both parties — with few exceptions — agree with the ideology of US interventionism worldwide.

Secretary Clinton defended the State Department’s handling of security at the Benghazi facility by pointing out that there are plenty of diplomatic posts in war zones and that danger in these circumstances is to be expected. However she never mentioned why Benghazi remained a “war zone” a year after the US had “liberated” Libya from Gaddafi.

Why was Libya still a war zone? Because the US intervention left Libya in far worse shape than it was under Gaddafi. We don’t need to endorse Gaddafi to recognize that today’s Libya, controlled by al-Qaeda and ISIS militias, is far worse off – and more of a threat to the US – than it was before the bombs started falling.

The problem is the ideology of interventionism, not the management of a particular intervention. Interventionism has a terrible track record, from 1953 in Iran, to Vietnam, to 2003 in Iraq, to 2011 in Libya and Syria. A real Congressional hearing should focus on the crimes and mistakes of the interventionists!

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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The Fed Can’t Raise Rates, But Must Pretend It Will – Article by Thorsten Polleit

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Categories: Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatThorsten Polleit
October 26, 2015
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Waiting for Godot is a play written by the Irish novelist Samuel B. Beckett in the late 1940s in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, keep waiting endlessly and in vain for the coming of someone named Godot. The storyline bears some resemblance to the Federal Reserve’s talk about raising interest rates.

Since spring 2013, the Fed has been playing with the idea of raising rates, which it had suppressed to basically zero percent in December 2008. So far, however, it has not taken any action. Upon closer inspection, the reason is obvious. With its policy of extremely low interest rates, the Fed is fueling an artificial economic expansion and inflating asset prices.

Selected US Interest Rates in Percent

Selected US Interest Rates in Percent

Raising short-term rates would be like taking away the punch bowl just as the party gets going. As rates rise, the economy’s production and employment structure couldn’t be upheld. Neither could inflated bond, equity, and housing prices. If the economy slows down, let alone falls back into recession, the Fed’s fiat money pipe dream would run into serious trouble.

This is the reason why the Fed would like to keep rates at the current suppressed levels. A delicate obstacle to such a policy remains, though: If savers and investors expect that interest rates will remain at rock bottom forever, they would presumably turn their backs on the credit market. The ensuing decline in the supply of credit would spell trouble for the fiat money system.

To prevent this from happening, the Fed must achieve two things. First, it needs to uphold the expectation in financial markets that current low interest rates will be increased again at some point in the future. If savers and investors buy this story, they will hold onto their bank deposits, money market funds, bonds, and other fixed income products despite minuscule yields.

Second, the Fed must succeed in continuing to postpone rate hikes into the future without breaking peoples’ expectation that rates will rise at some point. It has to send out the message that rates will be increased at, say, the forthcoming FOMC meeting. But, as the meeting approaches, the Fed would have to repeat its trickery, pushing the possible date for a rate hike still further out.

If the Fed gets away with this “Waiting for Godot” strategy, savings will keep flowing into credit markets. Borrowers can refinance their maturing debt with new loans and also increase total borrowing at suppressed interest rates. The economy’s debt load can continue to build up, with the day of reckoning being postponed for yet again.

However, there is the famous saying: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” What if savers and investors eventually become aware that the Fed will not bring interest rates back to “normal” but keep them at basically zero, or even push them into negative territory?

If a rush for the credit market exit would set in, it would be upon the Fed to fill debtors’ funding gap in order to prevent the fiat system from collapsing. The central bank would have to monetize outstanding and newly originated debt on a grand scale, sending downward the purchasing power of the US dollar — and with it many other fiat currencies around the world.

The “Waiting for Godot” strategy does not rule out that the Fed might, at some stage, nudge upward short-term borrowing costs. However, any rate action should be minor and rather short-lived (like they were in Japan), and it wouldn’t bring interest rates back to “normal.” The underlying logic of the fiat money system simply wouldn’t admit it.

Selected Japanese Interest Rates in Percent

Selected Japanese Interest Rates in Percent

The Fed — and basically all central banks around the world — are unlikely to accept deflation clearing out the debt, which would topple the economic and political structures built upon it. Fending off an approaching recession-depression with more credit-created fiat money and extremely low, perhaps even negative, interest rates is what one can expect them to do.

Murray N. Rothbard put it succinctly: “We can look forward … not precisely to a 1929-type depression, but to an inflationary depression of massive proportions.”

Dr. Thorsten Polleit is the Chief Economist of Degussa (www.degussa-goldhandel.de) and Honorary Professor at the University of Bayreuth. He is the winner of the O.P. Alford III Prize in Political Economy and has been published in the Austrian Journal of Economics. His personal website is www.thorsten-polleit.com.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Lifespan Challenge: Support the MitoSENS Mitochondrial Repair Project Research Fundraiser – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Announcements, Science, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
October 21, 2015
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Mr. Stolyarov, author of “Death is Wrong” and Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party (NTP), challenges all members of the NTP and the general public to donate to life-extension research – particularly, the ongoing MitoSENS Mitochondrial Repair Project for which crowdfunding is currently being conducted on Lifespan.io.

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References

MitoSENS Mitochondrial Repair Project Description
Updates and Stretch Goals for the MitoSENS Mitochondrial Repair Project
SENS Research Foundation
– “The #LifespanChallenge Starting on October 1 – International Longevity Day” – Article by Keith Comito
Death is Wrong – Official Home Page
Nevada Transhumanist Party – Constitution and Bylaws
Nevada Transhumanist Party – Facebook Page

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Giving Thanks and Looking Forward – Article by Bradley Doucet

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Categories: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatBradley Doucet
October 15, 2015
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Expressing gratitude, according to self-help gurus and neuroscientists alike, is a sure route to being a happier person. Thanksgiving, then, should be the happiest of all holidays—and not just because of the turkey dinner with all the fixings and the football-watching marathon. In addition to the good things this holiday brings, it also contributes to well-being by encouraging us to give thanks for the good things in our lives. And when I do stop and think about it, I am grateful for a great many things.

On a personal level, I’ve got loving and beloved friends and family, a happy and sane home life, relatively good health, and work that I find meaningful and stimulating. I grew up in an overwhelmingly French-speaking town, but went to English schools all my life, allowing me to become almost perfectly bilingual, and now I live in one of the safest big cities in the world. I had the pleasure of spending years formally studying music, philosophy, and economics, all of which I now have the privilege of continuing to study informally these many years later.

On a political level, I’m grateful to be living here and now, in this country and century. Canada is one of the most economically free countries in the world, and not coincidentally, one of the wealthiest. Thanks to a newfound liberty and dignity for inventors and businesspeople starting just a couple of hundred years ago in northern Europe, an explosion of innovation and rapid economic growth has made almost everyone much better off today than anyone could have conceived of back then. Furthermore, in much of the world, the lot of women and minorities has improved dramatically. And despite the impression left by a media formula that still favours bad news over good, violence of all kinds continues to decline.

If I sometimes complain—and I do, about things both big and small—I like to think it’s because I can see an even better world just around the corner, and I know we could get there a lot faster if we would only tweak a few things. Of course, as often as not, I complain because I haven’t been managing my sleep schedule properly and I’m just cranky. Assuming that my motives are always noble is an example of a self-serving bias, by the way, one of many that can get in the way of objectivity and clear-headedness, and thereby keep us from that better tomorrow.

I do see a better world, though, and I look forward to moving toward it, in fits and starts, as we humans are wont to do. I look forward to the continuing spread of Enlightenment values and sensibilities: reason, science, peace, and trade. I look forward to the further democratization of human life through that most democratic of institutions: the market. Instead of imposing majority (or plurality) preferences on each other in alternating cycles as the pendulum swings from left to right, the market allows multiple options to coexist peacefully. The more we can allow each other the freedom to live our lives as we see fit, without trying to force our values down each other’s throats, the more experiments in living we can carry out, with all the benefits that we know experimentation brings.

It is important to note that this better world does not rely, as Marxist and other utopias do, on a violation of human nature. We are flawed and fallible creatures, which is a good reason not to invest in some of us the power to rule over others. We tend to act for ourselves in the first instance, and for others only in widening and weakening circles of empathy, but how could it be otherwise? As long as we do not initiate force against each other, this egoism can spur us to serve each other through positive-sum trade, and can even be a fountainhead of creativity.

I look forward to a time when the legitimacy of peacefully pursuing your own interests is more widely recognized. On a related note, I look forward to a time when actions are not judged primarily by their “good” intentions, but by their actual effects. Many altruistic or seemingly altruistic acts do more harm than good, and many egoistic ones are immensely beneficial. To judge according to intentions alone is to care more about appearing virtuous than about actually working toward a better world.

We have already come so far, and I am truly grateful to the giants of the past who gave so much of themselves—altruistically perhaps, but with a deep and healthy egoism as well, I am convinced. And I look forward with optimism, in this age of information, that we will do what it takes to continue to evolve our institutions and bring them more in line with the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of humankind.

Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also is Le Québécois Libre’s English Editor.

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The Poison Apple Called TPP – Article by Jeffrey Tucker

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
October 14, 2015
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Let’s say you have a trade deal that completely eliminates 18,000 existing tariffs between 12 countries that are otherwise hectoring each other with punishing trade barriers. To a person with a brain, this sounds amazing. Unless you are a luddite, a nativist, or a unionist, there seems to be every reason to support it. Trade is good. Global commerce is good. Fewer trade barriers are a good thing.

But let’s say that this same treaty binds all 12 signatory nations to an egregious imposition of government privileges for reactionary corporations who are paying to keep their cartels in place. I’m speaking here of big media, big music, and big pharma. They all live and breath to keep their “intellectual property” and to crush and destroy what they call “piracy,” which is actually the same thing as free-market competition.

What if this wonderful trade treaty was just a stalking horse for the dramatic expansion of these corporate monopolies? What if the whole point of the treaty were to use the language of growth and globalism to fight and crush the pressures toward universal information sharing that are inherent in the digital age?

I’m speaking here of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Like the Nafta and WTO battles before it, the TPP is being marketed as a free-trade agreement. The partisans have lined up for and against it on that basis. But this is all so much distraction. The true core of the treaty is protectionist in the extreme. It protects a handful of powerful industry players against genuine market competition.

The rumors about the Intellectual Property provisions have been flying for years. But no one had seen the results of the endless and secretive negotiations. Then Wikileaks got involved. It released the full draft text of the IP sections. It turns out to be far more than the usual prattle and the expected sop to a few deep-pocketed industries.

The IP sections of the TPP attempt to impose — by force of blackmail  — the worst of American law as it applies to copyright, patent, and trademark, and do so in industries where there is otherwise some freedom left in the system.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, for example, puts the burden of proof on websites and internet service providers to make sure their content does not violate copyright. The book could be 75 years old and completely out of print but if a web bot discovers a PDF on the site, the government can force its immediate shutdown. This system pertains in the US right now but the TPP guarantees its enforcement in 12 countries in the Pacific Rim — some of whom host sites that are major sources of free information on the planet today.

The biggest revelation from the leaked document concerns big pharma. Their dream is pretty simple: they want to end generic drugs and the manner in which they distribute copies of named-brand products at much lower prices. In foreign countries, generics are a key to life. They are the way that people benefit from improved medical technology without paying exorbitant US prices.

The TPP would go a long way toward illegalizing generics for a whole class of pharmaceuticals. It all comes down to the rules that are used to decide whether generics can be produced at all. In the US, there is a practice called “linkage” that makes it impossible to produce drugs if there are any unresolved patent disputes. Linkage does not apply in most nations party to the TPP.

Politico explains:

Some of the most contentious provisions involve “patent linkage,” which would prevent regulators in TPP nations from approving generic drugs whenever there are any unresolved patent issues. The TPP draft would make this linkage mandatory, which could help drug companies fend off generics just by claiming an infringement…. In an April 15 letter to Froman, Heather Bresch, the CEO of the generic drug company Mylan, warned that mandatory patent linkage would be “a recipe for indefinite evergreening of pharmaceutical monopolies,” leading to the automatic rejection of generic applications. The U.S. already has mandatory linkage, but most other TPP countries do not, and Bresch argued that U.S. law includes a number of safeguards and incentives for generic companies that have not made it into TPP.

What’s even more remarkable is how the TPP would actually expand linkage to cover new classes of drugs in the US.

Politico explains again:

The opponents are also worried about the treaty’s effect on the U.S. market, because its draft language would extend mandatory patent linkage to biologics, the next big thing in the pharmaceutical world. Biologics can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for patients with illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis B and cancer, and the first knockoffs have not yet reached pharmacies. The critics say that extending linkage to biologics—which can have hundreds of patents—would help insulate them from competition forever.

The costs of this treaty, then, will not just be felt abroad. The costs will further institutionalize the pharmaceutical monopoly in the US, making people pay far more for drugs than they currently do, and even curbing research and development beyond what the major industry players are willing to endure to bring a product to market.

And it’s not just about the US. It’s about the countries party to this agreement. They are being blackmailed by the American ruling class, badgered and bribed to accept bad law in exchange for market access. This is not how trade is supposed to work.

But from the ruling-class point of view, this is the whole point of trade treaties. Any country can have free trade anytime it wants. It only needs to stop punishing imports and start making good stuff that others want to buy. You have to ask yourself: what is the real point of these thousand-page documents, the years of negotiations, and all this secrecy? Why did the first public appearance of any aspect of the TPP have to be released on Wikileaks?

What is it that they don’t want us to know?

Patent attorney Stephan Kinsella explains: “What is happening here is that the US, at the behest of the American RIAA (music industry), MPAA (Hollywood), and Big Pharma industry, is using its hegemonic/superpower status to foist American-style IP law onto other countries, for the benefit of these special interests. This has been going on for decades now… Once TPP is ratified, as I expect it will be, US-style draconian IP law will be put into force in countries that comprise about 40% of world GDP.”

Adam Smith nailed it: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Those who have watched these negotiations say that the American negotiators have basically operated as lobbyists from the American pharmaceutical industry. This is why Doctors without Borders has come out so strongly against TPP. And this is also why the Electronic Freedom Foundation has come out so strongly against it as well.

The best case for the TPP is that many bad guys are against it. But that doesn’t mean that true liberals should be for it. In politics, what looks like a shiny red delicious apple can be poisoned to the very core.

Jeffrey Tucker is Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me (http://liberty.me/join), a subscription-based, action-focused social and publishing platform for the liberty-minded. He is also distinguished fellow of the Foundation for Economic Education (http://fee.org), executive editor of Laissez-Faire Books, research fellow of the Acton Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, and author of six books. He is available for speaking and interviews via tucker@liberty.me.

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Politicians Exploit School Shooting While Ignoring Bombing Victims – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
October 14, 2015
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Following the recent Oregon school shooting, many politicians rushed to the microphones to call for new gun-control laws. President Obama even called on gun-control supporters to “politicize” the shooting, while some members of Congress worked to establish a special commission on gun violence.

The reaction to the shooting stands in stark contrast to the reaction to the US military’s bombing of an Afghanistan hospital run by the international humanitarian (and Nobel Peace Prize winning) group Doctors Without Borders.

Our Nobel Peace Prize winning president did apologize to his fellow Nobel laureate for the bombing. However, President Obama has not “politicized” this tragedy by using it to justify ending military involvement in Afghanistan. No one in Congress is pushing for a special commission to examine the human costs of US militarism, and the mainstream media has largely ignored Doctors Without Borders’ accusation that the bombing constitutes a war crime.

The reason for the different reactions to these two events is that politicians prefer to focus on events they can “politicize” to increase the federal government’s power. In contrast, politicians ignore incidents that raise uncomfortable questions about US foreign policy.

If the political and media elites were really interested in preventing future mass shootings, they would repeal the federal “gun-free” schools law, for example. By letting shooters know that their intended victims are defenseless, the gun-free schools law turns schoolchildren into easy targets.

Even some who oppose gun control are using the shooting to justify expanding federal power instead of trying to repeal unconstitutional laws. Some opponents of new gun control laws say Congress should expand the federal role in identifying, tracking, and treating those with “mental health problems.” This ignores the fact that many shooters were using psychotropic drugs prescribed by a mental health professional when they committed the horrible acts. Furthermore, creating a system to identify and track anyone with a “mental health problem” could deny respect for individuals’ Second Amendment and other rights because they perhaps once sought counseling for depression while going through a divorce or coping with a loved one’s passing.

While our political and media elites are eager to debate how much liberty people must sacrifice for safety, they are desperate to avoid debating the morality of our foreign policy. To admit that the US military sometimes commits immoral acts is to admit that the US government is not an unalloyed force for good. Even many proponents of our recent wars support using the US military for “humanitarian” purposes. Thus they are as reluctant as the neoconservatives to question the fundamental goodness of US foreign policy.

Anyone who raises constitutional or moral objections to the US use of drones, bombs, indefinite detention, and torture risks being attacked as anti-American and soft on terrorism. The smear of “terrorist apologist” is also hurled at those who dare suggest that it is our interventionist foreign policy, not a hatred of freedom, that causes people in other countries to dislike the United States. Which is a more logical explanation for why someone would resent America — a family member killed in a drone attack launched by the US military or rage over our abundance of liberty?

The disparate reactions to the Oregon school shooting and the Afghanistan hospital bombing shows the political class is unwilling and unable to acknowledge that the US government cannot run the world, run our lives, or run the economy. Clearly, politicians will never stop expanding the federal government and give us back our lost liberties unless and until the people demand it.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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The Martian – Movie Review by Edward Hudgins

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Categories: Fiction, Science, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
October 13, 2015
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The Martian, from director Ridley Scott, is an exciting film about an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet. It celebrates the heroism that comes from human reason. And it points to what it will take for humans in coming decades to make Mars a new home for humanity. With the film coming on the heels of NASA’s confirmation of liquid water on the Martian surface, that home could be closer than you think!

“I’m not gonna die!”

The Martian is based on a novel that author Andy Weir originally published himself online and offered as a free download. The author and the film take care to be as scientifically accurate as possible in the context of a fictional offering.

Martian_1The movie opens with the third crew to land on Mars rushing back to their landing craft ahead of a sudden sandstorm that threatens to destroy it and them. (In reality, Mars’s thin atmosphere would mean such a storm would annoy rather than kill. But then there’d be no story!)

Unfortunately, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris from some destroyed communications equipment and blown away. Sensors indicate his suit’s seal has been breached, meaning his oxygen has escaped and he’s likely dead. The rest of the crew takes off without searching for his body to avoid being killed themselves.

They begin their sad, year-long journey home after informing the world of the tragedy.

But Watney is alive! The breach in his suit was sealed by blood and the debris lodged in his side. He gets back to the habitat the astronauts had used as their base. But his future still looks grim. He is out of contact with Earth and his shipmates. The next Mars mission is not scheduled to arrive for four years and will land 3,000 kilometers from where he is. He has nowhere nearly enough food rations to survive that long. But he declares, “I’m not gonna die,” and we see his mind at work in the video logs he makes of his efforts.

Intelligence for survival

“Let’s do the math!” he says as he figures out that he must grow three years’ worth of potatoes on a frozen planet where nothing grows and find some way to water and fertilize his crops. But he’s a botanist and he declares, “Mars will come to fear my botany power!” He converts part of the hab into a makeshift greenhouse. Human waste—what the crew left in its short visit and what he will produce in the years ahead—will be his fertilizer. The water will come from a jury-rigged setup that extracts it from other substances at hand in the hab.

Martian_2

Watney contemplates how to get his tractor, which needs batteries recharged every 35 kilometers, to trek a hundred times that distance, how to carry enough supplies for that journey, how to contact Earth, and many other challenges. And he declares, “I’m gonna have to science the s**t out of this!”

Director Scott does not give us wishful thinking, mere muscles, unconvincing machismo, or deus-ex-machina miracles. He gives us intelligence as the key to survival.

Will they succeed?

Meanwhile, back at NASA, satellite photos show activity at the hab, meaning Watney is alive. Scientists on Earth observe him trekking out into the desert and guess, correctly, that he’s searching for a decades-old Pathfinder probe to try to revive its old radio system, which he does. Now they can communicate.

But Watney’s farming efforts are cut short by an accident, and NASA’s plan to send an unmanned resupply ship does not go as planned. The one slim hope, which NASA opposes, is for his shipmates to swing around Earth rather than land as they’re supposed to and return to Mars to rescue him. Will they do so? Will they succeed?

Optimism, intelligence, ingenuity

Many elements of The Martian are familiar from other movies. Gravity (2013) gave us drifting in space, trying to return to a ship. Apollo 13 (1995) was a film version of real-life astronauts with a disabled spacecraft trying to get home safely from an aborted lunar mission. The Martian, like Apollo 13, gives us a vision of the heroic that comes from the same source that allows humans to travel to other worlds to begin with: the human mind.

Some might think that a film about the how hostile Mars is to human life would discourage people from ever wanting to go there, much less live there. I disagree. Humans are explorers and achievers.

In 1996 Robert Zubrin published The Case for Mars, outlining an innovative plan for getting to the Red Planet for a fraction of the cost of a NASA mission. He founded the Mars Society, which runs conferences and simulations of Mars missions in the arctic, in preparation for the real thing. Other groups such as Explore Mars have sprung up in recent years. Other innovative mission models have been proposed, including one from Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin. And Mars One proposes to send settlers to the Red Planet on one-way trips, to be permanent occupants. Private entrepreneur Elon Musk founded his rocket company SpaceX with the goal of establishing permanent settlements on the Red Planet. And NASA’s confirmation of water on the surface of Mars opens further possibilities for future colonies.

The Martian is an uplifting film that does not minimize the challenges of life; indeed, Watney explains that he knew going in that space travel was dangerous and that he could be killed. But he says that once you acknowledge that you might die, you deal with the problem at hand and the next and the next. This is humanity at its best. Damon as Watney gives a fine performance. His character must keep up his optimism—without maudlin emotionalism or self-deceiving bravado. He must demonstrate intelligence and ingenuity. In all this we see the best of the human spirit!

Dr. Edward Hudgins directs advocacy and is a senior scholar for The Atlas Society, the center for Objectivism in Washington, D.C.

Copyright, The Atlas Society. For more information, please visit www.atlassociety.org.

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Economic Growth Slashed Global Poverty to Historically Unprecedented Level – Article by Marian L. Tupy

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Categories: Economics, Technology, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatMarian L. Tupy
October 6, 2015
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According to the World Bank, for the first time in human history, “less than 10 percent of the world’s population will be living in extreme poverty by the end of 2015.” The bank has “used a new income figure of $1.90 per day to define extreme poverty, up from $1.25. It forecasts that the proportion of the world’s population in this category will fall from 12.8 percent in 2012 to 9.6 percent.”
Global poverty rate, official and baseline scenario, percent

As scholars have noted, historically speaking, grinding poverty was the norm for most ordinary people. Even in the most economically advanced parts of the world, life used to be miserable. To give one example, at the end of the 18th century, ten million of France’s twenty-three million people relied on some sort of public or private charity to survive and three million were full-time beggars.

Thanks to industrial revolution and trade, economic growth in the West accelerated to historically unprecedented levels. Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, real incomes in the West increased fifteen-fold. But the chasm that opened up as a result of the Western take-off is now closing.

Life expectancy at birth, West and the Rest, years

The rise of the non-Western world is, unambiguously, a result of economic growth spurred by the abandonment of central-planning and integration of many non-Western countries into the global economy. After economic liberalization in China in 1978, to give one example, real incomes rose thirteen-fold.

As Princeton University Professor Angus Deaton notes in his book The Great Escape, “[T]he rapid growth of average incomes, particularly in China and India, and particularly after 1975, did much to reduce extreme poverty in the world. In China most of all, but also in India, the escape of hundreds of millions from traditional and long established poverty qualifies as the greatest escape of all.”

Marian L. Tupy is the editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He specializes in globalization and global wellbeing, and the political economy of Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. His articles have been published in the Financial Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, U.S. News and World Report, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The U.K. Spectator, Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, Reason magazine, and various other outlets both in the United States and overseas. Tupy has appeared on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CNN International, BBC World, CNBC, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, and other channels. He has worked on the Council on Foreign Relations’ Commission on Angola, testified before the U.S. Congress on the economic situation in Zimbabwe, and briefed the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department on political developments in Central Europe. Tupy received his B.A. in international relations and classics from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his Ph.D. in international relations from the University of St. Andrews in Great Britain.

This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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