Monthly Archives: July 2016

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“The Line” for Green Cards Is So Long, You Might Die of Old Age Waiting – Article by David Bier

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

The New Renaissance Hat
David Bier
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Immigrants are often told to “get in line” if they want to stay in the United States. This demand is disingenuous for many reasons. Many immigrants have no line to get into. And even if they do, we are telling them to join these lines when no one even knows how long they are. In many cases, we could be asking immigrants to join a line that they will literally never live to see the end of.

Immigrants might face a line they will literally never live to see the end of. We don’t know much about who’s in these lines until they get to the front, but here’s what we do: Thousands of immigrants come to the United States each year on temporary work visas. While working in temporary status, some of their employers petition on their behalf to obtain green cards for them to stay permanently. If the employer has jumped through all the appropriate hoops, the worker can then apply for a visa, if — and this is a big if — the limit on visas that year has not been reached.

This is where the line — and the waiting — starts. For lawmakers trying to fix the immigration system, figuring out how many people are at this point in the process is critical. But even they don’t know.

5 million people are waiting abroad.We do have a good idea how many people are waiting overseas. The State Department keeps track of those numbers and publishes them annually, and we’re quickly approaching 5 million immigrants waiting abroad, which is an astounding number on its own.

But for temporary immigrants already in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t keep track — or doesn’t publish — the number of applicants who are prevented from receiving a green card due to the limits.

The State Department publishes a monthly visa bulletin that tells people in either line — here or abroad — whether they can apply for a green card. It lists a date, as seen below, next to a visa category. This date is the cutoff. If your employer’s petition was filed after the date listed, you cannot apply for a green card yet.

Figure 1: Visa Bulletin — Application Final Action Dates for Employment-Based PreferencesvisabulletinSource: State Department

These dates can sometimes create the misleading impression that immigrants from India, for example, will have “only” twelve years to wait for a green card. But that’s not right. That’s just how long immigrants who are currently receiving their green cards today have been waiting. We simply don’t know how many people applied since October 2004, so we don’t know how long someone applying today will have to wait.

Even the State Department doesn’t know who’s in line.Apparently, even the State Department doesn’t know who is in the line. When the department moves up the dates, it basically guesses how many people applied between the current date and the new date. When it moved the dates up for EB-2 and EB-3 categories from India (workers who have a Master’s or a Bachelor’s degree) to 2010 and 2007, the government was flooded with more applications than there were visas available, and so it moved the dates back again to 2004.

This mistake, however, gave us some small insight into who is waiting.

We cannot know for sure whether everyone who could apply submitted an application before the date moved back, but the Department of Homeland Security lists 46,098 Indians currently waiting at this stage. The State Department also lists almost 30,000 more waiting for employment-based green cards abroad, for a grand total of nearly 76,000 Indians. Because each country is limited to no more than 2,800 visas in each category, clearing just this backlog alone will take almost 10 years for EB-2 and more than 14 years for EB-3.

But that only gets us up to 2007 and 2010 for those categories. We simply have no idea how many people could be waiting beyond those dates. It would be nice to be able to estimate the number based on green card applications filed before those dates, but the list only gives us the number pending at any given time. It doesn’t show the total number submitted in a year. Some may have already been processed. Others may have been submitted later, after other older applications passed through.

A rough estimate shows 230,000 people in line, a fifty year wait.We know that in 2008, there were at least 19,512 green card applications under EB-2. For EB-3, the numbers haven’t gotten up to 2008 yet, but in 2006, there were at least 12,708 filed for that category. Simply carrying these numbers forward for each unknown year, there would be roughly 230,000 people in line, which would translate into an almost 50-year wait.

The situation is likely worse than that. We know that the number of Indian temporary workers has increased dramatically relative to the number of green cards issued to them in the past couple decades (Figure 2). We also know that roughly half of all employment-based labor certifications (the step employers complete prior to submitting most EB-2 and EB-3 green card petitions) are for Indian workers.

Figure 2: Total Cumulative Green Cards and L or H-1B Visas Issued to Indians Since 2007
h1bslsgreencardsSources: H-1B/Ls: USCIS/State Department; Green cards: DHS

Since 2002, 450,000 Indians received a green card, while roughly 2.4 million high-skilled immigrants from India and their families have entered under the H visa or L visa (for employees transferring to a U.S. branch of their company). Some portion of these workers could have been beneficiaries of an EB-3 green card petition after 2007, the last date on which we know anything about who is in line.

They’ll be waiting somewhere between 50 and 350 years. All we know is this: somewhere between 230,000 and 2 million Indian workers are in the backlog, so they’ll be waiting somewhere between half a century and three and a half centuries. It is entirely possible that many of these workers will be dead before they receive their green cards. And that’s just one country. The backlogs for Chinese immigrants and immigrants from the Philippines continue to grow as well.

America’s immigration system is broken worse than anyone can even know.

David_BierDavid Bier

David Bier is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Public Opposition to Biotech Endangers Your Life and Health – Article by Edward Hudgins

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Categories: Culture, Science, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
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Do you want to be smarter, healthier, and live longer? Remarkably, a new Pew survey found that most Americans answer “No!” if it requires using certain new technologies. This is a wakeup call for scientists, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, transhumanists, and all of us who value our lives: we must fight for our lives on the battlefield of values.

CRISPRWorries about human enhancement

We all understand how information technology has transformed our world with PCs, smartphones, the Internet, and Google. Nanotech, robotics, artificial intelligence, and, especially, genetic engineering are poised to unleash the next wave of wealth creation and improvements of the human condition.

But a new Pew survey entitled U.S. Public Wary of Biomedical Technologies to “Enhance” Human Abilities found that “Majorities of U.S. adults say they would be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ worried about gene editing (68%), brain chips (69%) and synthetic blood (63%),” technologies that in years to come could make us healthier, smarter, and stronger. While some say they “would be both enthusiastic and worried … overall, concern outpaces excitement.” Further, “More say they would not want enhancements of their brains and their blood (66% and 63%, respectively) than say they would want them (32% and 35%).”

Simply a reflection of individuals making decisions about their own lives, as is their right? Not quite. Their concerns about technology are already causing cultural and political pushback from left and right that could derail the advances sought by those of us who want better lives.

The Pew data reveals two ideological sources of opposition to new technologies.

Religion and meddling with nature

brain.chip_.grids_The survey found that 64% of Americans with a high religious commitment say “gene editing giving babies a much reduced disease risk” is “meddling with nature and crosses a line we should not cross.” Are you stunned that anyone could prefer to expose their own babies to debilitating or killer diseases when a prevention is possible?

And 65% with such a commitment have a similar opinion of “brain chip implants for much improved cognitive abilities.” Better to remain ignorant when a way to more knowledge is possible?

Obsession with inequality of abilities

When asked if “gene editing giving babies a much reduced disease risk” is an appropriate use of technology, 54% answered “Yes” if it results in people “always equally healthy as the average person.” But only 42% approved if it results in people “far healthier than any human known to date.” Similarly, 47% approved of synthetic blood if it results in physical improvements in individuals “equal to their own peak ability,” while only 28% approved if it results in improvements “far above that of any human known to date.”

Here we see the ugly side of egalitarianism. Better for everyone to be less healthy than for some to be healthier than others.

synthetic_blood-alamy_SmallThis inequality concern is another aspect of warped values we find in economic discussions. What if everyone enjoys rising levels of prosperity in a free-market system, but some individuals—Steve Jobs? Mark Zuckerberg?—become much wealthier than others through their own productive efforts? It’s win-win! But many would punish and demonize such achievers because they are the “top 1 percent,” even if such treatment means that those achievers produce less and, thus, everyone is less prosperous. Better we’re all poorer but more equal.

A disappearing digital divide

We saw this inequality concern in the 1990s when desktop PCs and the Internet were taking off. Some projected a “digital divide.” There would be more intelligent and advantaged individuals because they could access a universe of information through these technologies. And there would be those with little access who would fall further behind. Of course, what fell was the price of those technologies, which even then were accessible for free at most local libraries and now are in laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and affordable to most low-income individuals. The divide disappeared.

 Computers

There were early adopters prosperous enough to try new information technologies. Similarly, there will be early adopters of biomedical tech, which later will become accessible to all—but only if enough people value it rather than fear it and demand that the government stop it.

The fight for values

In a companion piece to the Pew survey, entitled Human Enhancement: The Scientific and Ethical Dimensions of Striving for Perfection, Pew senior writer David Masci offers a good overview of serious moral issues raised by biotech and other exponential technologies. And those of us who welcome these technologies must fight for the moral values on which they are based.

We truly value our lives, and the happiness and flourishing that we as individuals can get out of them through our own achievements. We must shake others out of their spiritual lethargy so that they too will not let their precious lives waste away.

We must promote the values of reason and science as the means to better technology and as guides for our individual lives. Misguided dogmas, whether religious or political, lead to social and personal stagnation.

We must develop and implement strategies to promote human achievement, including enhancement of our capacities, as a value in our culture through our institutions—schools, media—and our aesthetics—movies, art, music.

We must offer an exciting and compelling vision of a fantastic, nonfiction future, of a world as it can be and should be, especially to young people who thirst for a future that will be worth living.

The values on which this future is based will not sell themselves. We must not only create the technology that will allow us to live healthier, smarter and stronger. We must also create the culture that will encourage and celebrate the creation and use of such technology.

Edward Hudgins is the director of advocacy for The Atlas Society and the editor and author of several books on politics and government policy.

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

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What Goes On In The Depths Of Space? – Art by Alastair Temple

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Categories: Art, Technology, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

what_goes_on_in_the_depths_of_space__by_smiling_demon-d8wnz3yNote: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of art.

Created by digital artist Alastair Temple, this art was featured in the 26th Exhibition of The Luminarium, “Depth”. The entire exhibit can be viewed here.

Visit Alastair Temple’s DeviantArt page and view his other art.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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Towards a Greater Knowledge of Mitochondrial DNA Damage in Aging – Article by Reason

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

The New Renaissance HatReason
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Today I’ll point out a very readable scientific commentary on mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and the importance of understanding how these mutations spread within cells. This is a topic of some interest within the field of aging research, as mitochondrial damage and loss of function is very clearly important in the aging process. Mitochondria are, among many other things, the power plants of the cell. They are the evolved descendants of symbiotic bacteria, now fully integrated into our biology, and their primary function is to produce chemical energy store molecules, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), that are used to power cellular operations. Hundreds of mitochondria swarm in every cell, destroyed by quality control processes when damaged, and dividing to make up the numbers. They also tend to promiscuously swap component parts among one another, and sometimes fuse together.

Being the descendants of bacteria, mitochondria have their own DNA, distinct from the nuclear DNA that resides in the cell nucleus. This is a tiny remnant of the original, but a very important remnant, as it encodes a number of proteins that are necessary for the correct operation of the primary method of generating ATP. DNA in cells is constantly damaged by haphazard chemical reactions, and equally it is constantly repaired by a range of very efficient mechanisms. Unfortunately mitochondrial DNA isn’t as robustly defended as nuclear DNA. Equally unfortunately, some forms of mutation, such as deletions, seem able to rapidly spread throughout the mitochondrial population of a single cell, even as they make mitochondria malfunction. This means that over time a growing number of cells become overtaken by malfunctioning mitochondria and fall into a state of dysfunction in which they pollute surrounding tissues with reactive molecules. This can, for example, increase the level of oxidized lipids present in the bloodstream, which speeds up the development of atherosclerosis, a leading cause of death at the present time.

The question of how exactly some specific mutations overtake a mitochondrial population so rapidly is still an open one. There is no shortage of sensible theories, for example that it allows mitochondria to replicate more rapidly, or gives them some greater resistance to the processes of quality control that normally cull older, damaged mitochondria. The definitive proof for any one theory has yet to be established, however. In one sense it doesn’t actually matter all that much: there are ways to address this problem through medical technology that don’t require any understanding of how the damage spreads. The SENS Research Foundation, for example, advocates the path of copying mitochondrial genes into the cell nucleus, a gene therapy known as allotopic expression. For so long as the backup genes are generating proteins, and those proteins make it back to the mitochondria, the state of the DNA inside mitochondria doesn’t matter all that much. Everything should still work, and the present contribution of mitochondrial DNA damage to aging and age-related disease would be eliminated. At the present time there are thirteen genes to copy, a couple of which are in commercial development for therapies unrelated to aging, another couple were just this year demonstrated in the lab, and the rest are yet to be done.

Still, the commentary linked below is most interesting if you’d like to know more about the questions surrounding the issue of mitochondrial DNA damage and how it spreads. This is, as noted, a core issue in the aging process. The authors report on recent research on deletion mutations that might sway the debate on how these mutations overtake mitochondrial populations so effectively.

Expanding Our Understanding of mtDNA Deletions

A challenge of mtDNA genetics is the multi-copy nature of the mitochondrial genome in individual cells, such that both normal and mutant mtDNA molecules, including selfish genomes with no advantage for cellular fitness, coexist in a state known as “heteroplasmy.” mtDNA deletions are functionally recessive; high levels of heteroplasmy (more than 60%) are required before a biochemical phenotype appears. In human tissues, we also see a mosaic of cells with respiratory chain deficiency related to different levels of mtDNA deletion. Interestingly, cells with high levels of mtDNA deletions in muscle biopsies show evidence of mitochondrial proliferation, a compensatory mechanism likely triggered by mitochondrial dysfunction. In such circumstances, deleted mtDNA molecules in a given cell will have originated clonally from a single mutant genome. This process is therefore termed “clonal expansion.”

The accumulation of high levels of mtDNA deletions is challenging to explain, especially given that mitophagy should provide quality control to eliminate dysfunctional mitochondria. Studies in human tissues do not allow experimental manipulation, but large-scale mtDNA deletion models in C. elegans have proved to be helpful, showing some conserved characteristics that match the situation in humans, as well as some divergences. Researchers have used a C. elegans strain with a heteroplasmic mtDNA deletion to demonstrate the importance of the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt) in allowing clonal expansion of mutant mtDNAs to high heteroplasmy levels. They demonstrate that wild-type mtDNA copy number is tightly regulated, and that the mutant mtDNA molecules hijack endogenous pathways to drive their own replication.

The data suggests that the expansion of mtDNA deletions involves nuclear signaling to upregulate the UPRmt and increase total mtDNA copy number. The nature of the mito-nuclear signal in this C. elegans model may have been the transcription factor ATFS-1 (activating transcription factor associated with stress-1), which fails to be imported by depolarized mitochondria, mediates UPRmt activation by mtDNA deletions. A long-standing hypothesis proposes that deleted mtDNA molecules clonally expand because they replicate more rapidly due to their smaller size. To address this question, researchers examined the behavior of a second, much smaller mtDNA deletion molecule. They found no evidence for a replicative advantage of the smaller genome, and clonal expansion to similar levels as the larger deletion. In human skeletal muscle, mtDNA deletions of different sizes also undergo clonal expansion to the same degree. Furthermore, point mutations that do not change the size of the total mtDNA molecule also successfully expand to deleterious levels, indicating that clonal expansion is not driven by genome size. Thus, similar mechanisms may be operating across organisms. In the worm, this involves mito-nuclear signaling and activation of the UPRmt.

There is some debate over interpretation of results. One paper indicates that UPRmt allows the mutant mtDNA molecules to accumulate by reducing mitophagy. Another demonstrates that the UPRmt induces mitochondrial biogenesis and promotes organelle dynamics (fission and fusion). Both papers show that by downregulating the UPRmt response, mtDNA deletion levels fall, which may allow a therapeutic approach in humans. Could there be a similar mechanism in humans, especially since some features detected in C. elegans are also present in human tissues, including the increase in mitochondrial biogenesis and the lack of relationship between mitochondrial genome size and expansion? It is likely that there will be a similar mechanism to preserve deletions since, as in the worm, deletions persist and accumulate in human tissues, despite an active autophagic quality-control process. Although the UPRmt has not been characterized in humans as it has in the worm, and no equivalent protein to ATFS-1 has been identified in mammals, proteins such as CHOP, HSP-60, ClpP, and mtHSP70 appear to serve similar functions in mammals as those in C. elegans and suggest that a similar mechanism may be present.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries.
This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

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One of the Greatest Entrepreneurs in American History – Article by Daniel Oliver and Lawrence W. Reed

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

The New Renaissance HatDaniel Oliver and Lawrence W. Reed
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Introduction by Lawrence W. Reed
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One hundred years ago this May, James J. Hill, the subject of this fine 2001 essay by Daniel Oliver, passed away. Hill was 77 when he died on May 29, 1916, leaving a legacy of achievement surpassed only by a handful of the many great entrepreneurs in American history. He defied the now-infamous epithet, “You didn’t build that.”

James J. Hill was a “1 percenter” of his day who improved the lives of others not by giving speeches but by creating wealth.  

Hill was no Leland Stanford, who used his political connections to get the California legislature to ban competition with his Central Pacific Railroad. Hill was happy to compete because he knew he could. Perhaps he also had the conscience and good character that political entrepreneurs often lack. He built the only privately funded transcontinental railroad in American history. Unlike the ones that he competed with and that were government subsidized, his operation never went bankrupt.

Thirty years ago, I wrote a newspaper column about Hill. One of the papers that published it was the Havre Daily News in northern Montana. It turned out that the little town of Havre was the headquarters of the western division of the Burlington Northern, the successor railroad to Hill’s Great Northern. The division’s president contacted me to express appreciation and to invite me to give a couple of speeches in town. If I accepted, he promised to put me up in an old but restored executive rail car that Hill had built himself. How could I say no?!

For two nights, I lodged on the tracks in that beautiful car, marveling at its turn-of-the-19th-century fixtures and thinking how cool it was that all around me were vestiges of Hill himself. Only two other people were housed in the car during my stay — the cook who prepared my breakfasts and a security guard. After my speeches, Burlington Northern workers hooked the car to a locomotive. Accompanied by the division president and the local newspaper editor, I then experienced one of the most memorable rides of my life — west across northern Montana, through the Marias Pass that Hill himself chose as the best route for his tracks, ultimately arriving and disembarking at the town of Whitefish.

As Oliver explains, Hill deserves to be remembered as a builder, a risk-taker, and an innovator. He was a “1 percenter” of his day who immeasurably improved the lives of others not by giving speeches but by creating wealth.

— Lawrence W. Reed
President, Foundation for Economic Education


In 1962, Ayn Rand gave a lecture titled “America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business” (collected in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal), in which she identified two types of businessmen. Burton W. Folsom Jr. later called these “economic and political businessmen.” The first were self-made men who earned their wealth through hard work and free trade; the second were men with political connections who made their fortunes through privileges from the government.

Never before had someone tried to build a railroad without government land and grants. 

James Jerome Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railroad, was the only 19th century railroad entrepreneur who received no federal subsidies to build his railroads. All other builders, such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, received aid. Perhaps more than any other American, Hill helped to transform the American Northwest by opening it to widespread settlement, farming, and commercial development. In the process, he became one of the wealthiest men of the Gilded Age, amassing a fortune estimated at $63 million.

Some critics have charged that Hill did indeed receive federal subsidies to construct the Great Northern. But this charge confuses federal subsidies with land grants. Unlike a taxpayer subsidy, a land grant is the ceding of unimproved government land to a private developer. Critics wrongly assume that government has the power to acquire land by non-Lockean means — that is, by simply claiming to own it without “mixing one’s labor with the land.”

Early Career

Hill was born in the small town of Rockwood in southern Ontario, on September 16, 1838. Because his father died when Hill was young, he had to temporarily forgo formal education to help with family finances. Showing academic ability, however, he received free tuition at Rockwood Academy. Hill later lost an eye to an accidental arrow shot, which prevented him from pursuing the career in medicine that his parents had hoped for.

At age 18, Hill became interested in the Far East and decided on a career in trade. He headed west in hopes of joining a team of trappers, arriving by steamboat in St. Paul, a major fur-trading center, on July 21, 1856. However, Hill missed the last brigade of the year and had to stay in the city. Nonetheless, he grew to like St. Paul and decided to remain there.

Hill’s first job was as a forwarding agent for the Mississippi River Steamboat Company. He set freight and passenger rates and learned about steamboat operations. Unable to fight in the War between the States because of his eye, Hill organized the First Minnesota Volunteers. He also worked as a warehouseman, pressing and selling hay for the troops’ horses. It was there that he learned how to buy and sell goods at a profit and use the least expensive method to ship goods.

After the war, Hill became an agent for the First Division of the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad. At the time, the line used wood for fuel. Hill believed rightly that coal would be cheaper, so he made a contract with the company to supply it. He also formed a business with Chauncey W. Griggs, a Connecticut man in the wholesale grocery business. Together, they created Hill, Griggs & Company, a fuel, freighting, merchandising, and warehouse company.

Hill later became interested in the Red River of the North that flows north to Lake Winnipeg. Since Fort Garry (now Winnipeg) was an important Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, Hill began transporting personal belongings there. Later, Hudson’s Bay employee Norman Kittson left the company to join Hill in forming the Red River Transportation Company.

In 1870, Hill traveled up the Red River to investigate a French and Indian mob that had captured Fort Garry. During that trip and others, Hill saw the region’s rich soil while observing the St. Paul & Pacific’s steady decline. He became convinced that he could make the line profitable by extending it to Fort Garry. When the panic of 1873 put the railroad under receivership, he saw his chance to buy it and other lines in crisis.

Hill and Kittson went to Donald Smith of the Hudson’s Bay Company and told him their plan. Smith offered money and approached George Stephen, president of the Bank of Montreal. Together, the four bought the St. Paul & Pacific for $280,000 (millions in today’s dollars), which Hill estimated as only 20 percent of its real value.

Hill purchased rails, rolling stock, and locomotives and hired laborers who laid more than a mile of track a day. In 1879, the tracks were connected at St. Vincent, Minnesota, to a Canadian Pacific branch from Fort Garry. Since the Canadian Pacific’s transcontinental route was not yet completed, all traffic through Fort Garry had to use Hill’s route. He received two million acres of land through the Minnesota Land Grant for completing the rail line on time. He also renamed his railroad the St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Manitoba. His timing was perfect since the area experienced two exceptional harvests that brought extra business. In addition, a major increase of immigrants from Norway and Sweden allowed Hill to sell homesteads from the land grant for $2.50 to $5.00 an acre.

Expanding the Line

While planning the St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Manitoba, Hill was also involved in constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway. While Donald Smith and George Stephen led this transcontinental route, Hill gave advice about selecting routes and construction techniques. But because the Canadian Pacific would soon compete with his own planned transcontinental route, Hill resigned from the business and sold all his stock in 1882.

Only a year after purchasing the St. Paul & Pacific, Hill decided to extend his railroad to the Pacific. Many thought that he could never do it. Never before had someone tried to build a railroad without government land and grants. Railroads like the Union Pacific, Central Pacific, and Northern Pacific were all given millions of acres of government land to build their transcontinental routes. People thought that even if Hill could achieve his dream, he wouldn’t be able to compete with government-funded lines. His quest came to be known as “Hill’s Folly.”

The St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Manitoba reached Minot, North Dakota, in 1886. Because the Northern Pacific had steep grades and high interest charges and was saddled by high property taxes, the new railroad resulted in a much more profitable route.

A railroad line would obviously help the economy of any town it passed, so Hill was able to get good rights of way. However, one town, Fort Benton, Montana, rejected Hill’s request for a right of way. He decided to cut the town off by building around it. Showing his attitude toward those who tried to stand in his way, Hill left Fort Benton one mile from the railroad.

After speedy construction using 8,000 men and 3,300 teams of horses, the St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Manitoba reached Great Falls in October 1887. Hill connected it there with the Montana Central Railroad, which went on to Helena, bringing lots of new business. In 1890, he consolidated his railroad into the Great Northern Railroad Company.

Hill also encouraged settlement along the lines by letting immigrants travel halfway across the country for $10. In addition, he rented cheap freight cars to entire families. These strategies, rarely used by other railroads, encouraged even more business.

People thought Hill wouldn’t be able to compete with government-funded lines.

In 1893, the St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Manitoba reached Puget Sound at Everett, Washington. However, during the same year, a panic put the Northern Pacific as well as the Santa Fe and Union Pacific into receivership. Hill made an agreement with businessman Edward Tuck and Bank of Montreal associate Lord Mount Stephen to buy the Northern Pacific. A stockholder objected, however, arguing the deal would violate Minnesota law, and the agreement was stopped. But Hill got around this by having his associates help buy Northern Pacific stock as individuals instead of as a company. The Northern Pacific became part of the Great Northern in 1896. The lines came to be widely known as the “Hill Lines.”

Hill realized that the only eastbound traffic for the first few years would be lumber, and this limitation would make the line less profitable than it might be. Wishing to acquire a line to Chicago and St. Louis, where he could deliver the lumber, Hill researched the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy railroad that stretched from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains. This acquisition would also give him a line that could haul cotton to St. Louis and Kansas City and connect to the smelters of Denver and the Black Hills. The trains would be kept full at all times. Working with J.P. Morgan, Hill purchased the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy.

Hill began to expand his shipping empire internationally via Seattle. He supplied Japan with cotton from the south and shipped New England cotton goods to China. He also shipped northern goods such as Minnesota flour and Colorado metals to Asia.

Hill continued to expand his railroads in the early 20th century. He bought the Spokane, Portland, & Seattle Railway and added a 165-mile line from Columbia along the Deschutes River to the town of Bend. He also purchased several electric rail lines to compete with the Southern Pacific, and an ocean terminal at the mouth of the Columbia River near Astoria. He had two large steamships that operated between the terminal and San Francisco. This proved to be good competition for the Southern Pacific.

Conservation

Hill had many other business interests, including coal and iron-ore mining, shipping on the Great Lakes, finance, and milling. A major related interest was farmland conservation. Hill was widely known in his day as a leader in this area. Unlike most environmentalists today, Hill believed that natural resources should be privately owned and locally controlled, although in some cases he believed state-level ownership was justifiable. He considered the federal government too distant to competently manage resources. Indeed, he once criticized the US Forest Service, saying that “The worst scandals of state land misappropriation, and there were many, are insignificant when compared with the record of the nation.”

His interest in conservation stemmed both from his concern for the nation’s food supply, a popular philanthropic cause at the time, and from business concerns. Since his railroads largely transported agricultural products, Hill paid close attention to fluctuations in the grain markets. Falling grain yields in the Great Plains would mean fewer goods to transport.

Believing that better farming methods would both increase yields and conserve soil quality, Hill used his own resources for agricultural research and for the dissemination of findings to farmers. He even had his own greenhouse that served as a laboratory. He hired agronomy professor Frederick Crane to do soil analyses in Minnesota, Montana, and North and South Dakota. Farmers were paid to cultivate experimental plots on their land according to Crane’s instructions. These were a tremendous success, yielding 60 to 90 percent more than the conventional acreage of the time.

In a speech, Hill once said,

Out of the conservation movement in its practical application to our common life may come wealth greater than could be won by the overthrow of kingdoms and the annexation of provinces; national prestige and individual well-being; the gift of broader mental horizons, and best and most necessary of all, the quality of a national citizenship which has learned to rule its own spirit and to rise by the control of its desires.

In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Hill to a governors’ conference on conservation and appointed him to a lands commission. Hill was never pleased with the position, preferring action to talking, but he did make his views known.

Hill was also a major philanthropist. He supported the Roman Catholic seminary in St. Paul and endowed the Hill Reference Library, which operates to this day.

Views on Government

Hill was a great champion of free markets. He was particularly critical of tariffs, calling them “a great enemy of conservation” and pointing out that by prohibiting imports of such products as timber from other countries, the United States was accelerating the depletion of its own. Regarding the federal government’s ability to conserve resources, he once said, “The machine is too big and too distant, its operation is slow, cumbrous and costly.”

A 1910 speech to the National Conservation Congress in St. Paul summarizes Hill’s views on government. He remarked,

Shall we abandon everything to centralized authority, going the way of every lost and ruined government in the history of the world, or meet our personal duty by personal labor through the organs of local self-government, not yet wholly atrophied by disuse…? Shall we permit the continued increase of public expenditure and public debt until capital and credit have suffered in the same conflict that overthrew prosperous and happy nations in the past, or insist upon a return to honest and practical economy?

Hill once said, “The wealth of the country, its capital, its credit, must be saved from the predatory poor as well as the predatory rich, but above all from the predatory politician.”

A Classic Entrepreneur

In 1907, at the age of 69, Hill turned over leadership of the Great Northern to his son, Louis W. Hill. But he remained active in running his railroads and went to his office in St. Paul every day.

In May 1916, Hill became ill with an infection that quickly spread. He went into a coma and died on May 29 at the age of 77. At 2:00 p.m. on May 31, the time of his funeral, every train and steamship of the Great Northern came to a stop for five minutes to honor him.

“Shall we abandon everything to centralized authority, going the way of every lost and ruined government in the history of the world?” — James J. Hill  

Hill exhibited the classic traits of a successful entrepreneur. He diligently studied all aspects of his businesses, such as which mode of transport was best for carrying track to be laid: caboose, handcar, horse, locomotive, or passenger coach. He did all the analyses of grades and curves himself and often argued with his engineers and track foremen, demanding changes that he felt necessary. He insisted on building strong bridges made with thick granite and on using the biggest locomotives and the best quality steel.

At the end of his life, a reporter asked Hill to explain the reason for his success. He replied simply that it was due to hard work. His hard work earned him the title “the Empire Builder,” and at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, he was named Minnesota’s greatest living citizen.

Hill was remarkable because he developed an area that most people thought never could be developed. His railroads made Minnesota and the Dakotas major destinations for huge waves of immigrants. In fact, Hill sent employees to Europe to show slides of western farming in efforts to urge Scotsmen, Englishmen, Norwegians, and Swedes to settle in the Pacific Northwest. As a result, more than six million acres of Montana were settled in two years. And because of Hill, the small town of Seattle, Washington, became a major international shipping port.

James Jerome Hill has rightly earned a place as one of the greatest entrepreneurs in American history.


Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is a research associate at the Washington, DC-based Capital Research Center and a freelance writer. 

Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. Reed is President of the Foundation for Economic Education and the author of the forthcoming book, Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Brazil’s Lost Decade: We Must Free Our Economy – Article by Felipe Capella

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

The New Renaissance HatFelipe Capella
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It was a lost decade for Latin America. Years of populist governments combined with a commodity boom turned out to be our oil curse, our Dutch Disease. This disastrous mix made bad public policies look like temporary successes, pushing developing countries to an unsustainable path. The collectivist ideology monopolized the debate for more than 10 years, and now that the natural resource party is over, the harm of these policies have become clearer: deep economic crisis generated by a utopia whose greatest achievement was turning toilet paper into a rare-earth product.

Populist and authoritarian South American regimes have set up government bureaucracies aimed at pleasing special interest groups that provide political support while tirelessly harming the population as a whole. These groups are divided into several small groups with special rights and privileges: judges, civil servants, members of parliament, friendly businessmen. These factions are getting their more-than-fair share while the unprivileged citizen foots the bill.

Latin American politicians played it very well during these favorable times. Cronyism and populism greatly benefited some chosen groups, while the harms were diffused enough throughout the whole country and difficult to measure during favorable economic winds. Brazil is just the biggest and clearest example of that.

How We Got Here 

For many years Brazil’s road to serfdom was being paved by the left through a combination of the world’s worst ideas: a Venezuelan-like project to subordinate decisions of the Supreme Court to the ratification of Congress; an Ecuadorian will to regulate and control the free press; a Russian compassion for cronies handpicked by the executive; Greek style benefits for public servants; Southern European pension costs (for a much younger population); Argentinean barriers for international trade, and an American/EU taste for subsidies.

The former — and now failed — cherry-picked billionaire darling of the regime Eike Batista was showered with tax funds while ordinary entrepreneurs lacked governmental support; friendly national industries were heavily protected, while people were taxed up to 50 percent on food and health supplies. Oi Telecom, a multibillion dollar mobile company, is just the most recent example of Lula’s national-champion policy (the company has just filed for bankruptcy, with 17 percent of its debt held by state-owned banks).

That was the result of 10 years of left-populist government in Brazil, all of them enjoying the applause of the international press. For years The New York Times constantly published articles with a pro-Dilma/Lula tone. Right after Dilma’s reelection — which is now known to have been funded by money siphoned from state-owned companies — The NYT published a piece half-mocking 48 percent of voters that were concerned about Dilma’s economic and political approaches.

The good thing about bad journalism is that reality eventually catches up with it. Since that 2014 article, Dilma has since lost her job and is about to be impeached for illegal budgetary schemes and deep corruption. Her top aides are all in jail or about to be thrown there, accused of stealing dozens of billions of dollars, including former Ministers and three former treasurers of her Labor Party (which some people now deem to be the most dangerous job in the world). Brazil is in its worst economic crisis since the 1930s, which has been worsening since 2014 (while Dilma was coming up with her now-famous accounting tricks to fool the Brazilian voters). Lula had even become a frequent contributor of The Times after his presidency, but now faces criminal charges and has seen the federal police knock on his door with a coercive trip to the criminal courts.

In its recent opinion page about the failed Rio Olympic Games preparation, The NYT’s favorite Brazilian correspondent Vanessa Barbara wrote that “political turmoil has paralyzed the country and frozen the economy.” This rhetoric of blaming “political turmoil” for Latin American calamities does not help to set the record straight. The problems with the Olympic games stem directly from Dilma’s and Lula’s incompetence and corruption. But the problem also lies on media vehicles like The Times, always ready to turn a blind eye to mismanagement and corruption in the name of ideology.

So here we are. Brazil is a failing state after a decade of populist presidents, misguided policies and commodity boom, all under the auspices of the progressive press.

The Need for Laissez-Faire Liberalism

For a long time, Brazil has been a place where liberalism (i.e., the ideology of freedom and free markets) was mostly marginalized, despite its positive track-record. In the minds of most Brazilians, being liberal was conspiring for the wealthy, being socialist is taking care of the poor.

But if The Times does not want to recognize its mistakes, apparently the Brazilian population is more willing to deal with self-criticism. There is now a strong resurgence of liberalism throughout the country.

Partido Novo (“New Party”) is a new political party created with a clear liberal approach to the economy, and it is just one of the recent examples of how liberalism is growing in the country, waking up millions of Brazilians who were orphans of a liberal political leadership. Many creative and hardworking people that do not think that socialism (or heavy-handed South American social democracy) will make our countries more prosperous. There are substantial constituencies that want public policies driven by research, metrics and actual public interest.

Free Trade Is the Key

The European Union has no appetite and no urgency to negotiate any comprehensive trade agreement with Mercosur or other Latin American countries. The United States faces a choice between a populist protectionist and a trade-dubious democrat (to put it mildly).

It is essential for the world that someone — anyone — pushes forward the liberal pro-trade agenda. As we natives well know, it is never wise to bet on Brazil as a global force for good. But maybe — just maybe — because we are suffering first-hand the harms of a decade of interventionist, protectionist, and corrupted government, we can somehow understand that populism is an illusory lucky charm that actually curses a country for years to come; and maybe — just maybe — we can do something to redeem ourselves.

Now that international trade seems under constant attack from all places and political spectrums, and no big world economy wants to step up and bluntly defend the liberal track record — including the United States — maybe Brazil could become the champion of good policy at last, pushing for reforms throughout Latin America and holding the liberal torch high in these dark times.

As Roberto Campos advised decades ago, for us Brazilians there are only three ways out of the current mess: Rio’s airport, Sao Paulo’s airport, and Liberalism.

Felipe Capella is an attorney turned entrepreneur. He is a former law professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (Brazil), former attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell (New York) and the Inter-American Development Bank (Washington, DC), has Master degrees from UPenn/Wharton and Universidad Francisco de Vitoria (Spain), and holds an MBA from FGV (Brazil).

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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Apollo 11 on Human Achievement Day – Article by Edward Hudgins

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The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
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There are holidays and days of commemoration stretching from New Year’s to Independence Day to Christmas. A new one should be added to the calendar – informally rather than by government decree: Human Achievement Day — July 20th, the date in 1969 when human beings first landed on the Moon.

The most obvious benefit of living in society with others is that we can each specialize in the production of goods and services at which we are best and then trade with others, making us all prosperous. But in society we also have the opportunity to witness the achievements of others, which are constant reminders just how wonderful life can be. And among the greatest achievements in history, individuals using the three pounds of gray matter we each have in our heads figured out how to go to the Moon.

Think of the millions of parts and components and the engineering skills needed to make them function together in the Saturn V rocket, the Columbia Command module and the Eagle lunar lander that carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of another world. Think of the applications of old knowledge and the discovery of new knowledge needed to create those incredible systems.

Novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand understood the full moral meaning of these efforts when she wrote, “Think of what was required to achieve that mission: think of the unpitying effort; the merciless discipline; the courage; the responsibility of relying on one’s judgment; the days, nights and years of unswerving dedication to a goal; the tension of the unbroken maintenance of a full, clear mental focus; and the honesty.” It took the highest, sustained acts of virtue to create in reality what had only been dreamt of for millennia.

Ayn Rand‘s take on the landing was particularly instructive because of her novelist’s understanding of art, which, at its best, is a selective recreation of reality in light of the artist’s values. Thus Michelangelo’s David and Beethoven’s 9th portray humans as heroes. We go to art for emotional fuel and for the vision of the world as it can be and should be. In Apollo 11 she saw such a vision made manifest.

Concerning the pure exaltation from watching the launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Ayn Rand said that, “What we had seen in naked essentials – but in reality, not in a work of art – was the concretized abstraction of man’s greatness.” The mission “conveyed the sense that we were watching a magnificent work of art – a play dramatizing a single theme: the efficacy of man’s mind.” And “The most inspiring aspect of Apollo 11’s flight was that it made such abstractions as rationality, knowledge, science perceivable in direct, immediate experience. That it involved a landing on another celestial body was like a dramatist’s emphasis on the dimensions of reason’s power.”

Of course the Moon landings were government-funded; if the private sector had led the way we still probably would have traveled to the Moon, only some years later. Today it is private entrepreneurs — the kind who have given us the personal computers, Internet and information revolution — who are turning their creativity to the final frontier. Burt Rutan, who won the private X-Prize by placing a man into space twice in a two-week period on the private, reusable SpaceShipOne, follows in the spirit of Apollo. The celebration of those flights in late 2004 showed how healthy human beings relish the display of efficacious minds.

So on July 20th let’s each reflect on our achievements — as individuals and as we work in concert with others. Let’s recognize that achievements of all sorts — epitomized by the Moon landings — are the essence and the expected of human life. Let’s rejoice on this day and commemorate the best within us with, as Ayn Rand would say, the total passion for the total heights!

Edward Hudgins is the director of advocacy for The Atlas Society and the editor and author of several books on politics and government policy.

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

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Protectionism Will Not Make America Great – Article by Pierre-Guy Veer

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The New Renaissance HatPierre-Guy Veer
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At the end of June, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump made a fiery speech about trade in Pittsburgh. Using many of Bernie Sanders’ talking points on the subject, Trump said, among others, that he would hold China accountable for the manipulation of its currency and unfair trade practices, withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

Trade vs. Trade Treaties

There is some wisdom on Trump’s part about NAFTA. This agreement would deserve the label “bureaucratic agreement on trade” rather than “free trade agreement.”

For example, Annex 313 states that Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey can only be called as such (and be sold) if they are produced in Tennessee “in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States governing the manufacture of Bourbon Whiskey and Tennessee Whiskey.”

The same rule applies to Canadian Whisky in Canada and Tequila and Mezcal in Mexico. Annex 703.2.A.4, on its side, contains a truckload of products which are exempted from free trade, including Canada’s milk supply management which may cost the average family $267 a year.

Trump is also right about being hesitant to support the TPP. What has leaked out of it shows that the agreement has more to do about protecting intellectual property rather than genuine trade liberalization. Such protection would stifle innovation and slow economic growth – just imagine if there had been a patent on the wheel or iron casting when it was first invented.

Fairness is Buying What You Want from Wherever

However, Donald Trump is wrong to advocate for “fair” trade. In his platform he calls for a level playing field in order to have a “fairer” trading relationship with China, known for its heavy top-down approach on foreign businesses.

This amounts to protectionism that could set off a very costly trade war. American consumers will pay the price – a form of tax. It could set off a deep recession. When you consider the stakes here, you see that all of Trump’s valid complaints about trade treaties are designed to bring about something that is even worse.

If, however, Trump’s goal is really to “make America great again,” then he should not be caring about China’s trade practices, but embracing unilateral free trade.

Of course there would be unavoidable, short-term pain with job losses in industries that cannot compete with China and other industries. The steel industry, for example, would not be protected by the recently enabled 266-percent tariff imposed on Chinese steel and would shed many jobs.

However, people using steel (for construction, manufacturing, etc.) would save so much money by being able to import cheaper steel. This surplus money will not evaporate; it will return in the economy in the form of savings, job creation, and economic growth.

This is not trade theory: unilateral free trade has successfully happened. Famous French liberal Frédéric Bastiat has abundantly talked about England turning to unilateral free trade and how it helped the country become even richer.  It even “gave them bread” during a bad harvest 1847 thanks to wheat imports.

By walking down this “bold path,” to quote minister Peel who enacted free trade, America would truly be great. Government would stop subsidizing agriculture in every single form, thereby not only improving the quality of the water supply, but also reversing the contentious debate about undocumented Mexicans whose livelihood was destroyed by U.S. corn subsidies. Capital resources would be allocated in a more efficient way according to supply and demand – it might still be farming, but it could become manufacturing, mining, or even services – and save an average of $6.1 billion per year until 2019.

Trade liberalization, combined with Trump’s promises to lower business income tax to 15 percent and tackle the deficit and debt, would truly “make America great again.” Because after the unavoidable short-term pain of adjusting to new incentives, Americans will get back to work and better supply the world’s demand on their own.

Pierre-Guy Veer


Pierre-Guy Veer

Pierre-Guy Veer is a Linguistic Reviewer at Lionbridge

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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How Pokémon GO Brightened a Dark World – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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All weekend, I’ve fielded texts from people who are despairing about the state of the country. Is some kind of unsolvable civil war developing between police and people, even between races? And how can politics solve this when the candidates seem to have every interest in actually exploiting and even exacerbating the problem? The opinion pages overflowed with expressions of deep sadness and warnings that, once again, the center is no longer holding. The nation is falling apart.

What could possibly be the solution here? These problems seem so deep as to be insoluble.

Oddly, the answer might be in your pocket. Through our smartphones and the app economy, we are being given tools to allow us to reach the world and connect with others in ways that were previously unimaginable. This is not a political solution; in fact, it might be solution precisely because it is not political.

Pokémon Brings Us Together

Poetically, it was exactly this weekend – following so much terrible news and after a season in which two-thirds of Americans report being alarmed by their coming presidential choices – that millions downloaded and played one of the most delightful digital apps to yet appear: Pokémon GO.

It has broken all records on the numbers of downloads in such a short time. In only a matter of a few days, the mobile app had nearly as many real-time users as Twitter. It now lives on more smartphones that even Tinder. As a term, Pokémon is top trending. If you follow your Facebook home feed, you know all about this. If any application could be described as having swept the nation, this was it.

How can a silly game lift up our hearts and give rise to the better angels of our nature?

That something marvelous had happened was obvious to anyone living in dense population areas. Parks filled up with people playing the game. They were hanging out in public areas around malls, at bus stops, in parking lots, and just about everywhere.

People were holding their phones, playing the game, laughing and moving around. Crucially, people were meeting each other with something in common – people of all races, classes, religions; none of it mattered. They found new friends and came together over a common love.

And there was a common feature to all the people doing this. We smiled. We smiled at each other. Even now, even in the midst of a world in which “the center no longer holds,” we actually found that center again: a heart-felt affection for something we love and an awareness that others share that same aspiration.

It was absolutely beautiful to watch. With an element of fantasy and the assistance of marvelous technology, we experienced the common humanity of our neighbors and strangers in our community. This kind of experience is key for building a social consensus in favor of universal human rights.

Why We Love It

The integration between digital and physical in the Pokémon GO game go beyond anything most people have ever experienced. Turn on your camera and you suddenly find opportunities for catching and collecting pocket monsters all around you. Head outdoors and chase them around, going up level after level and eventually find yourself at a gym where you can digitally battle other players in real space.

Dazzling doesn’t quite describe it. It is fun and imaginative, tapping into the inner kid of all of us. All the technological and intellectual discoveries over the last decades are on display. It all feels so real, all this capturing, collecting, and battling.

The industry calls it “augmented reality.” It’s a new level of gamification, not just something that happens on a screen. It reveals a layer of fantasy within the existing structure of reality itself, meaning that it brings to life the most delightful imaginings of our hearts. It helps us see what we would otherwise not see, and allows us to interact directly with the digitally existing thing.

In this way, Pokémon embodies something that we’ve all begun to intuit but haven’t been able to frame up completely. It is this: there is no longer a separation between what we once called real and what we think of as being a pure Internet fiction. The two are blending in ways that are dramatically enhancing our lives. We are to the point where we can no longer even imagine how the world even worked – and how our minds worked – before market forces blessed humanity with digital innovations.

The Great Blurring

Market-driven technology is not some invading imposition that makes people change the way they live without their permission. Instead it seeks to serve us and make our lives better; that’s its whole purpose and ethos. In the whole course of the digital revolution that began some twenty years ago, we’ve seen the gradual blurring between the physical and digital realms. What was created through code started to become just as substantial and meaningful in our lives as anything that took up physical space and we could touch.

We see this not only in games but also in health care, in finding our way around cities, in opening businesses, in driving, in dating, and in millions of life activities. Crucially, such apps are available to everyone regardless of life station. They spread capital and productivity across all classes of people, and more and more of our lives are migrating to this realm to escape the frustrating limits of physical space.

Of course the doubters have kvetched for two decades now. Old timers have screamed about how all this fascination with the Internet was causing a breakdown in human relationships, how the old-fashioned letter was so much better, why ebooks could never replace the glorious romance of physical books, how online music would kill the industry, how dating apps were killing romance, how time-killing blather on Facebook and Twitter were killing productivity, and so on.

Oh, and remember how video games were going to wreck our health by making us all sedentary? Now we have Pokémon GO players romping over hill and dale to “catch ‘em all.” As a wit on Facebook said, “Pokemon GO has done more for childhood obesity in the last 24 hours than Michelle Obama has in the past 8 years.”

Indeed, none of these fears have panned out. In fact, the opposite has proven true. The digital revolution has connected people as never before and given rise to more of what we love in life, whatever that happens to be.

Such doubters were missing something crucial. The key to the digital realm is its unrelenting adaptability to consumer preferences, thanks to the capacity of innovators to learn from the successes and failures of others. Digital innovation allows the crucial element of discovering and innovating to be crowd sourced, creating an environment of exponentially fast progress.

Market-driven technology is not some invading imposition that makes people change the way they live without their permission. Instead it seeks to serve us and make our lives better; that’s its whole purpose and ethos. Whatever it is we want to do – read, listen, play, study, create – the technology is there to make it easier and more widespread. It democratizes the tools we need to live better lives.

And what does it make possible? Whatever the human mind is capable of creating. And the element of surprise is always there. Just when we think we’ve reached an insuperable limit to the possible, something appears that surpasses that limit.

The individual human mind is not capable of outsmarting the brilliance of a market process that operates without limits.The challenge became very intense when Bitcoin came about in 2009, and the cryptocurrency gradually took on monetary properties. Economists claimed this could never happen, since money absolutely had to originate in a form of real-world scarcity of something you could hold.

I recall a conversation I was having with one skeptic on Skype who kept saying that Bitcoin can’t be money because it doesn’t exist. Frustrated, I asked him if the conversation we were having right then really existed. He said yes. I reminded him that I was not standing next to him and everything we were looking at and hearing was nothing but code.

Our conversation was purely fictional by his standards, simply because its only existence was in the digital realm. And yet it seemed to me to be actually happening. He was speechless.

The lesson here is that the individual human mind is not capable of outsmarting the brilliance of a market process that operates without limits. And within digital spaces today, we experience the closest thing we have to a free market. It is making things no one thought possible, and doing it daily, and doing it for everyone.

Overcoming Power with Humanity

Mobile apps like Pokémon GO can of course be dismissed as just another game, distractions that do not address serious life problems like race conflict and the tit-for-tat killings between police and citizens. But actually there is more going on here.

A few weeks ago, Facebook rolled out its live video functionality for all users – and keep in mind that this is free for everyone on the planet to use. When a police officer shot Philando Castile with four bullets during a routine traffic stop, his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds took out her phone and live streamed one of the most dramatic and powerful moments yet seen on the subject of police power.

It shocked the consciences of millions. Facebook was her 911. Had private enterprise not been there, the world would not have known. Now that we do, change is made more likely.

That’s the serious side of technology while Pokémon GO represents the delightful side. They work together, each making a valuable contribution to enabling a better life. What they have in common is that both are non-state solutions to crying human needs. No politician in history has ever achieved so much for the cause of human rights and human happiness.

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education and CLO of the startup Liberty.me. Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Email

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Globalization’s So-Called Winners and Losers – Article by Chelsea Follett

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The New Renaissance HatChelsea Follett
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A recent Washington Post analysis has argued that political events as diverse as the Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump can be explained by a “revolt” of the world’s economic “losers.”

Before proceeding, it is important to keep in mind that all income groups in the world have seen gains in real income over the last few decades. That said, some have gained more than others. Between 1988 and 2008, for example, the lowest gains were made by people whose incomes fit beteen the world’s 75th to 90th income percentiles. That includes much of the middle and working class in rich countries.

The Washington Post calls the people in this group the bitter “losers” of globalization. But, are they?

follett1There are at least two problems with characterizing such people as “losers.” First, it seems to suggest that income growth rate matters more than absolute income level. Yet a person in the 80th income percentile globally would not want to trade places with or envy someone in the bottom 10th percentile, despite the latter’s much higher income growth rate.

Consider real GDP per person, adjusted for differences in purchasing power, in China and the United States. Between 1988 and 2008, China’s per person GDP grew by over 340 percent. America’s per person GDP, in contrast, grew by “only” 40 percent. China may be making gains more quickly, but it would be wrong to argue that the United States was a “loser,” for American GDP per person in 2008 was $52,704 and China’s $8,104.

chinagrowth

Poor countries are seeing faster income gains partially because their starting point is so much lower—it’s a lot easier to double per person GDP from $1,000 to $2,000 than from $40,000 to $80,000.

The second problem is that the Washington Post piece suggests that the incredible escape from poverty that has occurred in poor countries during my lifetime has come at the expense of the middle classes in the developed world. (This is a fascinating reversal of the more popular, but equally inaccurate, opinion that the Western riches came at the expense of poor countries).

Thus, the Washington Post piece claims, “global capitalism didn’t always work so well for workers in the United States and Europe even as—or, in some cases, because [emphasis mine]—it pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty everywhere else.”

Fortunately, prosperity is not a zero sum game.

When trying to understand the “winners” and “losers” of globalization, it is important that we do not compare income growth rates over the last few decades with some imagined ideal. Instead, we should compare income growth to what would have happened in a world without globalized trade. In such a world, hundreds of millions of people would have remained in extreme poverty. And the middle class of the developed world would also have made fewer gains. Just look at the amazing reduction in price of consumer goods that we have collected at HumanProgress.

A few individuals in select industries would benefit from protectionism, like the U.S. sugar industry does now. But on average everyone would be poorer, just as in 2013 Americans collectively paid 1.4 billion dollars more for sugar than they would have without protectionism. (The U.S. manufacturing industry, it may be worth noting, would not be among the “select industries” to benefit—most manufacturing job losses have come from mechanization rather than outsourcing, and have been offset by new jobs in other sectors).

Thanks to trade and exchange, people in all income percentiles have made real gains, and living standards for the middle class in advanced economies have soared in ways not captured by looking at income alone. America’s middle class is getting richer, and the people in the world’s 75th to 90th income percentiles are also winners.

Chelsea Follett is the Managing Editor of HumanProgress.org, a project of the Cato Institute which seeks to educate the public on the global improvements in well-being by providing free empirical data on long-term developments. Her writing has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and Global Policy Journal. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government and English from the College of William & Mary, as well as a Master of Arts degree in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia, where she focused on international relations and political theory.

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

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