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Charlie Gard’s Parents Are Forced to Stop Fighting for Their Dying Baby – Article by Marianne March

Charlie Gard’s Parents Are Forced to Stop Fighting for Their Dying Baby – Article by Marianne March

The New Renaissance Hat
Marianne March
July 27, 2017
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I cannot imagine the pain Charlie Gard’s parents are feeling now, as they savor their last moments with their precious child. Charlie is 11 months old and he’s dying.

Chris and Connie have been fighting for months to get treatment for Charlie, ever since he was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. But they have been forced to give up that fight.

I can’t imagine their pain, but I can imagine their fury because I share it.

From the Hospital to the Courts

Charlie is not mine. I’ve never met him or anyone who knows him. Yet I am furious with the British government for refusing to allow his parents to take their dying son to the United States for treatment: a therapy trial, his last and only hope.

No further recourse was available in the UK, but an American doctor was ready to try to help him at Columbia University Medical Center. Charlie’s parents raised £1.4 million through crowdfunding; they had the money to take him to the US by air ambulance.

But doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London didn’t like that idea. They said it wouldn’t help, that the American therapy was experimental. They said the baby’s life support should just stop.

On April 11th, a British High Court judge ruled with the doctors, empowering them to turn off Charlie’s life-support machines. His mother screamed “no” when she heard the verdict.

There was a petition with more than 110,000 names on it. People wrote letters to the Prime Minister, calling on her to release Charlie from Great Ormond Street’s care. The pope said he was praying for Charlie’s parents, “hoping that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end is not ignored.”

And now Charlie is out of time.

Even US President Trump tweeted that “If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.”

Charlie’s parents challenged the decision in the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court, and the European Court of Human Rights.

All to no avail. The Courts would not allow them to try to save their baby’s life.

Who Can Call This Justice?

And now Charlie is out of time. According to the BBC, “US neurologist Dr. Michio Hirano had said he was no longer willing to offer the baby experimental therapy after he saw the results of a new MRI scan last week.”

It’s possible that Charlie’s doctors were right, that experimental treatment wouldn’t have helped (although his parents don’t think so, nor do American and Italian doctors). But what harm could it have done when he’s dying anyway? And if his parents had the means to give him one last chance, why shouldn’t they exercise their right to do so? They belong to Charlie just as he belongs to them, and no one but Chris and Connie should get the final say on his medical care.

I never really knew what people meant by the phrase “death panels” before. It was just a term bandied about by talking heads and political personalities. It’s chilling how well it applies in this instance: a group of bureaucrats that sits around deciding who is worthy of medical care.

I don’t know how the power slipped away from the individual, whether taken by force or given away with applause, but this is outrageous. And it’s wrong.

Read with a Box of Tissues

I will leave you with the words of Connie Yates, Charlie’s mom:

Due to the deterioration in his muscles, there is now no way back for Charlie. Time that has been wasted. It is time that has sadly gone against him.

We want people to realise that we have been speaking to parents whose children were just like Charlie before starting treatment and now some of them are walking around like normal children. We wanted Charlie to have that chance too.

All we wanted to do was take Charlie from one world renowned hospital to another world renowned hospital in the attempt to save his life and to be treated by the world leader in mitochondrial disease. We feel that we should have been trusted as parents to do so but we will always know in our hearts that we did the very best for Charlie and I hope that he is proud of us for fighting his corner.

Charlie had a real chance of getting better. It’s now unfortunately too late for him but it’s not too late for others with this horrible disease and other diseases. We will continue to help and support families of ill children and try and make Charlie live on in the lives of others. We owe it to him to not let his life be in vain.

Despite the way that our beautiful son has been spoken about sometimes, as if he not worthy of a chance at life, our son is an absolute WARRIOR and we could not be prouder of him and we will miss him terribly. One little boy has brought the world together and whatever people’s opinions are, no one can deny the impact our beautiful son has had on the world and his legacy will never ever die.

We are now going to spend our last precious moments with our son Charlie, who unfortunately won’t make his 1st birthday in just under 2 weeks’ time, and we would ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time.

Mummy and Daddy love you so much Charlie, we always have and we always will and we are so sorry that we couldn’t save you.”

Marianne March is a recent graduate of Georgia State University, where she majored in Public Policy, with a minor in Economics. Follow her on twitter @mari_tweets.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Will the Trump Administration Overdose on Authoritarianism? – Article by Ron Paul

Will the Trump Administration Overdose on Authoritarianism? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors in drug cases to seek the maximum penalty authorized by federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Sessions’s order represents a setback to the progress made toward restoring compassion and common sense to the sentencing process over the past few years. Sessions’s action also guarantees that many nonviolent drug-law offenders will continue spending more time in prison than murderers.

Sessions’s support for mandatory minimums is no surprise, as he has a history of fanatical devotion to the drug war. Sessions’s pro-drug-war stance is at odds with the reality of the drug war’s failure. Over forty years after President Nixon declared war on drugs, the government cannot even keep drugs out of prisons!

As was the case with alcohol prohibition, the drug war has empowered criminal gangs and even terrorists to take advantage of the opportunity presented by prohibition to profit by meeting the continued demand for drugs. Drug prohibition enables these criminal enterprises to make profits far above the potential profits if drugs where legalized. Ironically, the so-called “law-and-order” politicians who support the drug war are helping enrich the very criminals they claim to oppose!

The war on drugs also makes street drugs more lethal by incentivizing the creation of more potent and, thus, more dangerous drugs. Of course, even as Sessions himself admits, the war on drugs also leads to increased violence, as drug dealers cannot go to the courts to settle disputes among themselves or with their customers.

Before 9/11, the war on drugs was the go-to excuse used to justify new infringements on liberty. For example, laws limiting our ability to withdraw, or even carry, large sums of cash and laws authorizing civil asset forfeiture were justified by the need to crack down on drug dealers and users. The war on drugs is also the root cause of the criminal justice system’s disparate treatment of minorities and the militarization of local police.

The war on drugs is a war on the Constitution as well. The Constitution does not give the federal government authority to regulate, much less ban, drugs. People who doubt this should ask themselves why it was necessary to amend the Constitution to allow the federal government to criminalize drinking alcohol but not necessary to amend the Constitution to criminalize drug use.

Today, a majority of states have legalized medical marijuana, and a growing number are legalizing recreational marijuana use. Enforcement of federal laws outlawing marijuana in those states is the type of federal interference with state laws that conservatives usually oppose. Hopefully, in this area the Trump administration will exercise restraint and respect state marijuana laws.

Sessions’s announcement was not the only pro-drug-war announcement made by the administration this week. President Trump himself, in a meeting with the president of Colombia, promised to continue US intervention in South and Central America to eliminate drug cartels. President Trump, like his attorney general, seems to not understand that the rise of foreign drug cartels, like the rise of domestic drug gangs, is a consequence of US drug policy.

The use of government force to stop adults from putting certain substances into their bodies — whether marijuana, saturated fats, or raw milk — violates the nonaggression principle that is the bedrock of a free society. Therefore, all those who care about protecting individual liberty and limiting government power should support ending the drug war. Those with moral objections to drug use should realize that education and persuasion, carried out through voluntary institutions like churches and schools, is a more moral and effective way to discourage drug use than relying on government force.

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.

Oregon Man Fined $500 for Challenging Timing on Red-Light Cameras – Article by Melissa Quinn

Oregon Man Fined $500 for Challenging Timing on Red-Light Cameras – Article by Melissa Quinn

The New Renaissance HatMelissa Quinn
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Mats Jarlstrom’s trouble all began with a red-light camera.

In April 2013, Jarlstrom’s wife, Laurie, received a ticket after driving her Volkswagen through an intersection in Beaverton, Oregon, that was equipped with a traffic camera.

His wife paid the fine, but the timing of the traffic lights at the intersection piqued Jarlstrom’s interest, so he decided to look into a formula created in 1959 to calculate the length of yellow lights.

Jarlstrom says he realized the original formula failed to take into account the extra time it takes for a car to slow before making a right-hand turn safely.

“Currently, people are getting tickets for running red lights because they’re slowing down when they’re making turns,” he tells The Daily Signal. “It’s a safety issue because any time we run a red light, we’re in the intersection for the wrong reason, and there is cross traffic, and especially pedestrians are in danger.”

Jarlstrom, an electronics engineer from Sweden, revised the formula to take the deceleration into account, and decided to take his findings public.

But doing so, he quickly learned, came with a risk, and a costly one at that.

Jarlstrom shared his findings with local media, policymakers, the sheriff, and Alexei Maradudin, who helped craft the original mathematical formula in 1959. He also emailed his theory to the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying, in hopes it would take a look at his research.

The Oregon panel said it didn’t have any jurisdiction over traffic lights. But it did have jurisdiction over the state’s engineering laws. And it decided to open an investigation into Jarlstrom because of “his use of the title ‘electronics engineer’ and the statement ‘I’m an engineer,’” according to an order from the board.

After investigating Jarlstrom for two years, the board fined him $500.

The reason?

Jarlstrom, according to the board, practiced engineering without a license each time he “critiqued” the traffic-light system and identified himself as an engineer in correspondence with the panel.

“You don’t need to be an engineer to understand this,” Jarlstrom says in an interview with The Daily Signal, adding:

I read something that was already public and understood it, and I wanted to share that information with the public talking about it. I felt completely shocked when I contacted them that they weren’t interested in listening to the problems that I presented to the board. They accused me of being illegal by saying I was a Swedish electronics engineer.

Jarlstrom paid the $500 fine, and the board closed its investigation. But now, the public-interest law firm Institute for Justice is fighting alongside the Oregon man in federal court to challenge the state’s engineering laws.

“The issues are classic First Amendment issues,” Sam Gedge, an Institute for Justice lawyer who is representing Jarlstrom, tells The Daily Signal. “The government can’t punish people for expressing their concerns. The government can’t take words and redefine them and then punish people for using them in a way the government doesn’t like.”

‘Unusual’

Jarlstrom does have education and experience in engineering.

He has a degree in electronics engineering from Sweden, which is the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in engineering in the United States.

Jarlstrom, 56, also worked for Luxor Electronics before immigrating to the United States in 1992.

But in Oregon, anyone who engages in “creative work requiring engineering education, training, and experience” under the state Professional Engineer Registration Act is required to be licensed as a professional engineer.

Nearly every state requires professional engineers to have a license. However, those licenses typically are reserved for engineers who build skyscrapers or design electrical plans for buildings.

The Institute for Justice is challenging the vague definition of what constitutes a professional engineer in Oregon, which in effect allows the board to regulate the exchange of ideas and of the word “engineer,” Gedge says:

What makes Oregon so unusual is they’ve taken the licensing regime for professional engineers and are applying it to people like Mats, who are talking about issues that concern them. That’s unusual.

There are two issues for Jarlstrom, Gedge says: He used the word “engineer” to describe himself, and he talked about technical topics.

“There have been a number of instances about the board going after people simply because they used the word engineer to describe themselves,” the lawyer says. “There are also examples of the board going after people who have never used the word engineer to describe themselves, but are nonetheless going out in public and speaking about technical topics.”

“That word isn’t off-limits to people,” he says. “The laws can’t be used to stop people from sending an email to his sheriff for safety.”

Other Incidents

Indeed, Jarlstrom’s experiences with Oregon’s Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying aren’t exclusive to him.

Last year, the board opened an investigation into Allen Alley, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, who stated in campaign ads: “I’m an engineer and a problem solver.”

Alley received a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and worked as an engineer for Ford and Boeing. But he isn’t a licensed professional engineer in Oregon.

The board’s investigation into Alley is ongoing.

In another instance, the panel investigated a woman profiled in Portland Monthly’s “Oregon Woman 2015” edition.

Included in the magazine was an article about Marcela Alcantar and a headline about “the incredible story of the engineer behind Portland’s newest bridge.”

The board opened a “law enforcement case” against Alcantar based on the line, since she wasn’t a registered professional engineer.

Ultimately, the case was closed after the board’s staff spoke with the journalist who wrote the article. The board determined “engineer” was a designation given not by Alcantar, but by the article’s editors.

“The definition of the practice of engineering is so broad according to the board, and the board has shown itself to be so aggressive,” Gedge says. “Expressing your concerns on technical topics certainly leaves you at the risk of being investigated.”

‘Whistleblower’

Although Jarlstrom ultimately paid the fine, he says he believes the board’s decision violated his freedom of expression.

And while he does have engineering experience, Jarlstrom contends the skills he used to craft his revised formula relied on 6th- and 7th-grade math:

It’s interesting that just because students here in Beaverton or elsewhere are using math and looking at some traffic-flow issues in school, they would be considered practicing engineering according to the board. We can’t have laws having that kind of power or overreach.

Jarlstrom says he considers himself a whistleblower and is surprised something like this could happen in the United States. But he vows to continue working to “improve our civil rights and freedom of speech so individuals like myself can share ideas, whether they’re good or bad.”

“We still need to be able to express them,” he says. “If we can’t, there won’t be any ideas to choose from.”

Melissa Quinn previously worked for The Daily Signal as a senior news reporter.

This article was originally published by The Daily Signal. It is reprinted here with permission.

Why the Government Cannot Ban All Immigrants from a Certain Country – Article by David Bier

Why the Government Cannot Ban All Immigrants from a Certain Country – Article by David Bier

The New Renaissance Hat
David Bier
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I previously reviewed the exceptionally poor arguments that the Trump administration used to defend its blanket ban on immigration from seven majority Muslim countries in the State of Washington v. Donald Trump. Now, in its appeal of the district court’s temporary restraining order to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the government has added a new argument in favor of its position that is still fatally flawed. It claims:

The State continues to argue that Section 3(c)’s temporary suspension of the entry of aliens from seven countries contravenes the restriction on nationality based distinctions in [section 202(a)(1)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)]. But that restriction applies only to “the issuance of an immigrant visa,” Id., not to the President’s restrictions on the right of entry [under section 212(f)].

The government was right not to attempt this argument initially. Their argument is that a visa does not entitle the recipient to entry in the United States, but merely to travel to the United States. Therefore, they are free to discriminate at the border. To bolster the argument, INA 101(a)(4) does specifically distinguish between admission and visa issuance.  Essentially, they are defining “visa” in section 202 to include only the visa document that permits travel to the border, but does not grant status in the United States. And status is what grants a person the legal right to reside inside the country.

The problem is that the definition of a “visa” in section 202 includes “status” that grants a right to enter and reside in the United States. The State Department’s regulations define visa in section 202 to mean visa or status and have for as long as the INA has been around. Eligibility for status is either determined by an adjustment of status application for immigrants residing inside the United States or at the border for immigrants entering the United States on an immigrant visa for the first time. It is the act of granting entry that confers legal permanent residency status.

Thus, the government would be violating the prohibition on discrimination in section 202(a)(1)(A) just as much by denying entry as by denying visas. An immigration officer cannot deny entry based on nationality without also discriminating in the issuance of status to an immigrant at a port of entry.

Why “visa” cannot be interpreted narrowly

Not only is this interpretation based on the government’s own longstanding regulations, the interpretation of section 202 that the government offered during appeal would require it to adopt a variety of other positions that are at odds with the statute and regulations.

If “visa” in section 202 was interpreted to mean only the visa document, then adjustments of status applications for persons inside the United States would be exempt from the numerical limitations on visas in that section and in section 203. The clear intent of Congress was to control the number of persons who are entering the United States, not visa documents issued, and so the department has always held this view. Thus, the U.S. attorney in oral arguments before the district court admitted that per-country limits were about allocating how many people the United States allows “to come into the country.”

If the person is determined ineligible to enter, the visa is revoked at this point, and the State Department considers it not to have been issued at all. In other words, the department only counts “status” determinations against the visa caps, despite the fact that the section never mentions status. It is interesting to note on this point that the original version of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 actually had consular officers grant immigrants “status” abroad, which could be revoked at entry if they were deemed ineligible.

Why the government cannot be biased in entry but not in visa issuance

This interpretation does not undermine the distinction between visa issuance and admission in section 101(a)(4) because a determination of inadmissibility under section 212 applies equally to admission at the border as it does to visa issuance abroad. Immigration officers inside the country rely on the same criteria to determine eligibility to enter that consular officials use to determine eligibility for an immigrant visa. A person granted an immigrant visa in an unbiased manner would not be entitled to enter at the border. He would just be entitled to similar unbiased treatment.

This proves that the law forecloses the idea that the government could be unbiased in visa issuance but not in entry. This is also why all presidential proclamations under 212(f) are immediately printed in the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual. The manual explains, “Aliens who have engaged in conduct covered by a Presidential Proclamation issued under the authority of section 212(f) may also be inadmissible under other sections of the INA or other statutes. These statutory inadmissibilities are to be considered prior to determining whether a Presidential Proclamation applies.”

The executive order itself admits that the State Department will be enforcing it by suspending visa issuance just as much as the Department of Homeland Security by suspending entry, and indeed, it has suspended visa issuance to nationals of those seven countries.

Another problem for the government’s view is that it implies that Congress intended to create a system in which it required non-discrimination for applicants abroad, but not applicants at ports of entry or inside the United States. Indeed, their argument would free the government to discriminate based on nationality in adjustment of status applications for immigrants who are residing inside the United States right now, even without a presidential determination that they are a “detriment.”

Not only is this plainly absurd, this would create the bizarre result that immigrants adjusting in the United States would have fewer protections against discrimination than immigrant applicants abroad. This leaves the government arguing that immigrants abroad have fewer constitutional rights than immigrants in the United States, while somehow also having more statutory rights.

This obviously cannot have been what Congress intended. In fact, as I have previously explained, Congress debated this very question of whether ending discrimination would allow unvetted individuals to enter the United States from certain countries where information is difficult to obtain. They rejected this argument. No member of Congress in 1965—whether they were for the bill or against it—believed that President Johnson could then have immediately undone their work with a presidential proclamation.

David_BierDavid Bier

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

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

Banning Refugees Is Cowardice, Not Vigilance – Article by Sean J. Rosenthal

Banning Refugees Is Cowardice, Not Vigilance – Article by Sean J. Rosenthal

The New Renaissance HatSean J. Rosenthal
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Donald Trump’s ban on people of certain nationalities entering the United States – now buffeted about by court orders, clarifications, and defiance – is a systematic rejection of the principle of Freedom of Movement with no impetus other than unacceptable, widespread cowardice.

The September 11 terrorist attacks cannot excuse such a grievous violation of rights. Terrorism is domestically a statistically trivial threat. The countries banned by Trump had little relation to 9/11, and the people denied entry to the United States are just as harmless (if not more so) than the average American. Neither reasons nor sudden trauma justify Trump’s actions – only cowardice.

In opposition to courageous principles like Freedom of Movement, discretion is courage’s institutional nemesis. Fear-induced discretion splits principles like scientists split atoms, producing explosively dangerous results.

Except to the extent courts stop him, Trump has undermined Freedom of Movement through an order to keep out people from Middle Eastern countries designated as countries of concern by the Obama administration.

Refugees already thoroughly vetted as safe, including business owners and participants in the Iraq war who have lived for years in the United States – all denied entry, all forced to beg for the government to wisely exercise its discretion in the face of an arbitrary burden.

Trump’s immigration policies are unwise and unjust. More tellingly, Trump’s restrictions on movement suffer more fully from another sin – a lack of courage.

Individual or Systemic Courage

At an individual level, it’s true that courage tends to be an overrated virtue. The image of “courageous” people often looks like warriors courting danger guns-blazing because they lacked the patience and ingenuity to find better solutions. Thus, courage is for the warrior fighting to the death.

Among non-violent “courageous” acts, contrarians who “stand up for what they believe in” often get courage points for being edgy or brutalist, as if people deserve praise for offering unconvincing evidence against social pressure. Generally, courage tends to be praised relative to the inactions of other people, forgetting that people often avoid doing certain things because they should not be done.

Moreover, fear is often unreasonable in ways immune to argument, making courage a weak appeal. For instance, traveling by planes is much safer than traveling by cars, but planes paralyze people in ways that statistics cannot cure because the fear of flying is a feeling, not a fact.

Similarly, terrorism is a statistically trivial cause of death in the United States, even including 9/11 and especially excluding that outlier, but terrorism causes widespread fears orders of magnitudes more crippling than the actual violence. To give a personal example, I have a totally unreasonable aversion to walking over storm drains and similar parts of sidewalks that leads me to walk around them.

Condemning fear rarely assuages it, and demanding courage rarely emboldens, because personality, ingrained perceptions and idiosyncrasies matter more than reasons for explaining fear and courage.

The Courage to be Free

Nevertheless, good institutions require courage.

For example, Freedom of Speech is a courageous principle. Freedom of Speech allows people to profess the wise and unwise, just and unjust, beautiful and vulgar. The dangers of the government deciding which speech falls into which categories justifies overriding particularized fears because of the courageous belief that free people can generally promote a better, more beautiful world through discourse. The courage required to permit others to speak, not knowing what they may say, far exceeds the courage of merely saying something unpopular.

Historically, fear commonly led to censorship. The Athenians sinned against philosophy by executing Socrates for corrupting the young, a fear of the influence of discourse. Similarly, the Pope compiled an Index of banned books and sought to censor them, fearful of the influential power of written words. Fear governed the world’s old order.

After weighing the liberating potential and corrupting dangers of pamphlets, America rejected the old order and institutionalized courage as common sense. Freedom of speech is the courage of a brave new world.

(To digress briefly into unimportant news stories, you should not punch Nazis merely for expressing their views. Only cowards without such faith in discourse and alternative peaceful methods would do so – and the cowardly types who have forgotten Ruby Ridge.)

Similarly, the Bill of Rights institutionalizes one courageous principle after another. The Bill of Rights trusts people with guns, protects potential criminals through warrants and other procedures, and generally imposes substantial burdens on the government before it can override individual freedoms, all because of the courageous general faith in free people.

The Freedom of Movement

Along with the above principles, the United States has a long history of embracing the courageous principle of Freedom of Movement.

America was formed by immigrants who courageously journeyed thousands of miles to leave European persecution and seek wealth and freedom. Without passports or other border restrictions, America promoted friendship and growth across state boundaries by allowing Freedom of Movement. Though the Constitution does not explicitly include such a right, the Supreme Court has correctly recognized that people have the right to travel freely between states.

Freedom of Movement between states is such a strong principle that nobody even considers imposing border restrictions. People from St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, and other American cities that rank among the world’s most dangerous can freely traverse anywhere else in America without legal barriers, even as national borders prevent the impoverished immigrants of safer foreign cities from doing the same.

Internationally, America also used to embrace such a broad principle. From the late 1700s until the late 1800s, though citizenship was unconscionably selective, the federal government allowed all foreigners to enter the United States – and, with the understanding that the naturalization clause only gave Congress control over citizenship, had no choice but to do so. To celebrate a century of such Freedom of Movement, France gifted America the statue of liberty with a famous poem dedicated to such American courage.

Unfortunately, around the same time, the federal government’s fear of the Chinese led it to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Supreme Court mistakenly upheld it. Thus, Freedom of Movement split from a courageous principle to a discretionary privilege, literally allowing fear to determine the borders of freedom.

Outside the context of the Chinese, such discretion remained largely unexercised for decades. Unencumbered by national borders, by World War I, two million Jews successfully fled Russia’s pogroms to freedom and safety in America.

However, by the 1920s, the dangers of discretionary power took hold, and the United States severely reduced legal immigration with its national origin quota systems. By World War II, the United States and the whole world had rejected immigrants.

The greatest victims of Freedom of Movement’s demise were the Jews that the world rejected at the Evian Conference and thereafter. Americans widely opposed Jewish refugees out of fear that some of them may secretly be communists or Nazis.

Unlike the millions saved by a courageous embrace of Freedom of Movement through World War I, fear undermined this principle and led to the death of millions during the Holocaust in World War II.

Refugees and Skittles

Without the courageous principle of Freedom of Movement, people’s fears determine and limit how many refugees can escape despotism and warfare. Just as fear trapped Jewish refugees during World War II, such fear traps Syrian refugees now.

Emphasizing the underlying fear, a thought experiment that opponents of Syrian refugees commonly ask goes something like: imagine you have a bowl of 1,000 skittles, only ten of which are poisonous. Would you eat the skittles? If not, then you understand why Syrian refugees must be so carefully restricted. Most alleged refugees might not be dangerous, but the government cannot know which ones are harmless and must prevent them all from entering to stop poison from seeping over our borders.

In reply to this thought experiment, most defenders of refugees argue over the numbers. Statistically, as mentioned above, refugees are vetted carefully and virtually all harmless, and almost none have been murderers or terrorists. Moreover, basically all studies on immigrants (legal, illegal, refugees, etc.) show that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than typical Americans. So, if you increase the bowl size to like 3,200,000 skittles with 20 poisonous, then yeah, the chance is justified.

In contrast to this response, I do not think the exact proportion matters much because of the agreement that almost all the refugees should ideally be allowed to enter. The skittles thought experiment is the coward’s game for people lacking the courage to accept Freedom of Movement as a principle.

Courageous principles sometimes allow bad outcomes. Freedom of speech allows for some noxious ideas to spread. Gun rights allow for some bad people to more easily engage in violence. Requirements for warrants allow for some criminals to hide their crimes. And freedom of movement allows for some bad people to travel where they can do harm.

Such courageous principles do not create perfect worlds. They create structures in which people have the freedom to shape the world, for better or worse – with better usually winning. Depriving the vast majority of people’s freedom to prevent a small minority from spreading evil impoverishes and threatens everybody.

Courageous Americans who embrace the existing dangers of speech, guns, and warrants should also similarly embrace the dangers of movement. Fear-induced discretionary restrictions on freedom of movement mean 99 ash-ridden Syrian children suffering from poverty, warfare, and death for the chance of maybe keeping out one bad person.

In sum, to paraphrase Shakespeare, cowards kill many times before their deaths; the valiant’s tastes let others live.

Thus, cowards ask how many poisonous skittles might sneak in with a broad rainbow and fear the tiny shadows that enter with the radiant light. In contrast, the valiant ask how many Anne Franks will die if we fear these tiny shadows and instead courageously opens the golden door for the rainbow, realizing today’s Anne Franks are in Syria.

Sean J. Rosenthal is attorney in New York.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

The ADA Attack on Online Courses Hurts the Disabled, Too – Article by Alex Tabarrok

The ADA Attack on Online Courses Hurts the Disabled, Too – Article by Alex Tabarrok

The New Renaissance HatAlex Tabarrok
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The Department of Justice has sent a letter to UC Berkeley threatening a lawsuit unless the university modifies all of its free online educational materials to meet conditions of accessibility. In response the Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education writes:

…we have attempted to maximize the accessibility of free, online content that we have made available to the public. Nevertheless, the Department of Justice has recently asserted that the University is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because, in its view, not all of the free course and lecture content UC Berkeley makes available on certain online platforms is fully accessible to individuals with hearing, visual or manual disabilities.

…We look forward to continued dialog with the Department of Justice regarding the requirements of the ADA and options for compliance. Yet we do so with the realization that, due to our current financial constraints, we might not be able to continue to provide free public content under the conditions laid out by the Department of Justice to the extent we have in the past.

In many cases the requirements proposed by the department would require the university to implement extremely expensive measures to continue to make these resources available to the public for free. We believe that in a time of substantial budget deficits and shrinking state financial support, our first obligation is to use our limited resources to support our enrolled students. Therefore, we must strongly consider the unenviable option of whether to remove content from public access.

In short, the DOJ is saying that unless all have access, none can and UC Berkeley is replying that none will. I sympathize with UC Berkeley’s position. The cost of making materials accessible can be high and the cost is extremely high per disabled student. It would likely be much cheaper to help each disabled student on an individual basis than requiring all the material to be rewritten, re-formatted and reprogrammed (à la one famous example).

An even greater absurdity is that online materials are typically much easier to access than classroom materials even when they do not fully meet accessibility rules. How many teachers, for example, come with captions? (And in multiple languages?) How about volume control? How easy is it for the blind to get to campus? In theory, in-class materials are also subject to the ADA but in practice everyone knows that that is basically unworkable. I guarantee, for example, that professors throughout the UC-system routinely show videos or use powerpoints that do not meet accessibility guidelines. Thus, by raising the costs of online education, the most accessible educational format, the ADA may have the unintended consequence of slowing access. Put simply, raising the costs of online education makes it more difficult for anyone to access educational materials including the disabled.

Addendum: By the way, if you are wondering, all of MRU’s videos for our Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics courses are captioned in English and most are also professionally captioned in Spanish, Arabic and Chinese.

This post first appeared at Marginal Revolution.

Alex Tabarrok is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at Marginal Revolution with Tyler Cowen.

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

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

The New Renaissance Hat
David Bier
******************************

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.

4 Ways to Misuse Gun Statistics – Article by Daniel Bier

4 Ways to Misuse Gun Statistics – Article by Daniel Bier

The New Renaissance HatDaniel Bier
******************************

There are a lot of false, misleading, or irrelevant numbers being thrown around about guns and crime, so here’s a brief guide to four potentially misleading types of statistics.

1. “The United States has a gun for every person.”

It’s practically a rule that every report about guns has to mention some version of this statistic. There are “300 million guns in the United States,” “one gun for every person,” “more guns than people.”

This number is problematic not just because the estimates are dodgy (nobody really knows how many guns there are — estimates range from 250–350 million) but also because of the way guns per capita is used interchangeably with the rate of gun ownership.

Confusing the two is a common mistake. Reported increases in guns per capita often makes it appear that a tidal wave of guns is washing over the country. The Washington Post’s Wonkblog sounds the alarm that there are now “more guns than people.” Sounds scary — we’re outnumbered!

But the General Social Survey finds that 2014 actually marked an all-time low for gun ownership in the United States. (Gallup finds different numbers, but recent surveys by Pew and YouGov essentially confirm the GSS estimate.)

Yes, maybe if you collected all the guns in the country, you could give one to each man, woman, and child, and maybe there’d even be some left over. But this isn’t how gun ownership works. Just because there’s “one gun for everyone” doesn’t mean everyone has a gun. (Easy way to check this: look around you — see any guns? No? Okay then.)

The “one gun for every person” factoid is ubiquitous because it’s easy to remember and hammers home just how many guns there are. There’s some value in pointing out the huge total number of firearms in the United States — it captures the sheer scale of the issue when people are talking about trying to regulate, control, or confiscate them.

But it’s misleading to use the per capita figure to measure the kind of prevalence of guns that matters: how many people actually have firearms?

According to the GSS, just 31 percent of Americans live in a household with a gun — down from over 50 percent in the late 1970s — and only 22 percent personally own a gun. How can this be? Because most gun owners have more than one (and stores and collectors have a whole bunch).

 2. “The US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world.”

Kinda, sorta, probly, maybe? This again is based on the number of guns per capita. This, at least, is unequivocally clear: whatever estimate you use, the United States has more guns per person than anywhere else.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the rate of ownership is higher here than in other countries, even countries with a lot fewer guns per capita.

How could that be? First, survey data for a lot of countries (particularly poor or repressed countries) is dodgy, hard to collect, outdated, and there are lot of unreported or illegal firearms. But more important, again, is the issue with conflating guns per capita with the rate of gun ownership.

Depending on the year and the estimate, the US has between 79 and 113 guns per 100 people. (Note the difficulty of getting an accurate figure, even in a developed country like the United States.)

For simplicity’s sake, let’s use the most commonly cited estimate from the 2007 international Small Arms Survey (SAS): about 88 guns per 100 people.

In the same SAS, Yemen comes second with an average estimate of about 55 guns per 100 people (low estimate: 29; high estimate: 81).

Yet this doesn’t necessarily mean that the US has a higher rate of gun ownership. Remember, in the US, only one third of people live in households with guns, and only about one fifth personally own guns.

There are several ways that Yemen could have a higher rate of gun ownership.

First, guns could be more evenly distributed: Yemen is poor, and guns are expensive, so it might be that in poor countries, more families have guns, but each owns fewer on average. (For instance, some sources claim, even under Saddam Hussein, most Iraqi households had a gun.)

Second, the average American household has 2.6 people; Yemen has 6.7 — meaning that if someone owns a gun, three times more people live in that household in Yemen than in the US, on average, meaning that the household gun ownership rate could be a lot higher.

Third, the median age in Yemen is 18.6 years; in the US, it’s 37.6 years. Relative to population, Yemen has a lot more children than the US, so the rate of gun ownership among adults could be higher than in the US.

Serbia is also sometimes cited as having the second most guns per capita, but it’s hard to know because estimates vary so widely. According a report from Radio Free Europe, “Some 15 percent of Serbia’s citizens legally own firearms.” Serbs have 1.2 million legally registered firearms, but some estimates of illegal firearms more than double that figure to 2.7 million guns.

Assuming that the legal gun owners don’t also own all of the illegal guns, illegal weapons could easily make the actual rate of gun ownership among Serbia’s seven million people higher than the US rate of 22 percent.

The same could also be true in developed countries like Switzerland and Finland (each with an estimated 45 guns per 100 people).

It’s definitely true that the US has the most guns in the world, but it isn’t certain that it has the highest rate of gun ownership.

What does this imply? I suspect it means very little — making uncontrolled international comparisons is generally deceptive — but given the ubiquity of the claim, a lot of people seem to think it matters a great deal to their argument. That it isn’t clear this claim even is a fact should, perhaps, give them pause.

3. Conflating suicides with homicides

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave President Obama “two pinocchios” (signifying “significant omissions and/or exaggerations”) for his claim that “states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.”

Setting aside the ambiguity of what it means to have the “most gun laws,” let’s pay attention to that last phrase. You’ll hear “gun deaths” or “gun-related deaths” referenced a lot when discussing statistics on shootings and gun control.

But, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum points out, about two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides.

While suicide is an important issue, it has nothing to do with crime, murder, or mass shootings. (And the research is mixed about whether restricting gun ownership reduces suicide.) Lumping suicide in with murder roughly triples the number of “gun deaths,” but it’s a deceptive way to look at the problem of violence committed with guns.

Both Sullum and WaPo’s fact checkers found that when you only look at states’ rate of gun homicides, excluding suicides, it makes a huge difference:

Alaska, ranked 50th [the highest in rate of gun deaths] … moved up to 25th place. Utah, 31st on the list, jumped to 8th place. Hawaii remains in 1st place, but the top six now include Vermont, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Iowa and Maine. Indeed, half of the 10 states with the lowest gun-death rates turn out to be states with less-restrictive gun laws.

Meanwhile, Maryland — a more urban state — fell from 15th place to 45th, even though it has very tough gun laws. Illinois dropped from 11th place to 38th, and New York fell from 3rd to 15th.

Suicide and murder have very different causes, consequences, and solutions, and they should always be discussed separately. When they aren’t, it’s a good time to be skeptical.

4. Juxtaposing two random numbers

This is a popular genre of pseudo-statistics, in which people throw together two totally unrelated numbers to try to inflate or downplay one of them.

For instance, the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof claims, “In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013).”

This is so irrelevant and so meaningless that I’m at a loss as to how it even occurred to Kristof to make this comparison. It serves no purpose at all but to emotionally rig the conversation.

There are maybe several hundred thousand police officers in the United States. There are 20 million children under age five.

What on earth could it mean that there are more preschoolers who die from guns than police killed in the line of duty? Do we have some reason to expect there should be a relationship, higher or lower or parity, between those numbers?

Or is it just that any number of tragedies above zero is going to churn up people’s emotions?

We’re not even comparing the same things: 27 felony murders of police with 82 gun-related deaths of children under five. According to the CDC, 30 of the gun-related deaths were accidents and one was “undetermined intent,” so there were actually 51 felony shooting deaths (typically, stray bullets from other crimes).

Kristof also used the 2013 figure for police murders, but 2013 was an aberrantly low year for cop killings. In 2014, 51 officers were killed in the line of duty; in 2011, it was 72. Presumably he thought it made a better comparison, but it’s just false to say 27 police are killed “each year.” Since 1980, the average is 64 officers killed each year.

What does this prove about the risk of gun violence? Absolutely nothing. And it is precisely as meaningful as Kristof’s comparison, or the common refrain that “more Americans have been murdered with guns in the last X years than in X wars.” There’s not even a suggestion about how these numbers should be related.

In America today, there are more preschoolers who drown (416 in 2013) than firefighters who die in the line of duty (97 in 2013).

What does this mean for the debate about water-related activities? Less than nothing.

Numbers don’t tell us what to do; at best, they tell us what we can do.

There’s no denying America has a lot of guns and a lot of gun crime (although much less than it used to). But numbers won’t tell us what to make of these facts. First, the raw facts of our situation are not as clear as we think, and to the extent we understand them, they don’t tell us much about our policy options. They won’t tell us what we should do about gun crime, or if there’s anything we constitutionally can do (with respect to gun ownership), or if those things sacrifice other important values.

Yet, too often, the debate consists of flinging random numbers and dubious statistics around and then emoting about them. Noting these problematic figures doesn’t prove anything one way or another about any particular policy; instead, let’s first clear out the rubbish so we can actually see the ground we’re fighting over.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of FEE.org. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

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

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Banning “Assault Weapons” Will Not Save Lives – Article by Corey Iacono

Banning “Assault Weapons” Will Not Save Lives – Article by Corey Iacono

The New Renaissance HatCorey Iacono
******************************

Last weekend, America regrettably witnessed one of the deadliest mass shootings in the country’s history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were murdered and over 50 injured. The atrocity was carried out by a fanatic who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, using a civilian semi-automatic rifle, the Sig Sauer MCX. (Early reports that it was an AR-15 were mistaken.)

In the wake of this attack, many people have laid the blame on America’s relatively lax gun laws, arguing that so-called “assault weapons” (more appropriately known as semi-automatic rifles) and high-capacity magazines should be banned from civilian use.

They note that many of the deadliest shootings in American history have involved rifles like the AR-15, and they propose that such rifles should be banned to prevent heinous crimes like the Orlando massacre from occurring in the future.

Homicides Dehomogenized

But while it may be true that many mass shootings involved semi-automatic rifles, these events are rare. In fact, the latest data (2014) from the FBI show that all types of rifles were only confirmed to have been used in 248 homicides, down from 351 in 2009. Given the total number of homicides (11,961), rifles were confirmed to have been used in only two percent of murders.

You’re more likely to be stabbed, strangled, or beaten to death with bare hands than killed by someone with a rifle.

It’s impossible to know the true number of murders involving “assault weapons,” because the term is so nebulous, and because the FBI only looks at the categories of rifle, shotgun, and handgun. There are also nearly 2,000 gun murders in which the type of firearm used is unknown. But a rough estimate of 328 homicides with all rifles (extrapolated from rifle’s share of gun murders where the type of weapon is known) is probably close to the truth.

To be very generous to the assault weapon ban argument, let’s assume that all of these 328 murders were done with assault weapons. That would imply that such weapons were involved in less than three percent of all homicides in the United States, at most.

Such deaths are as terrible as any murder, but it is also true that knives, blunt objects, and hands/feet were confirmed to have been used in 1,567, 435, and 660 murders respectively. You are much more likely to be stabbed, strangled, or beaten to death with bare hands than killed by someone with a rifle, and the chances of being killed with an “assault-type rifle” are necessarily lesser still.

Bans Don’t Work

There is also little evidence that these weapons bans have worked in the past. From 1994 to 2004, Congress banned the manufacture, sale, or transfer of a large number of “assault weapons” (including some handguns and high-capacity magazines). An assessment study commissioned by the Department of Justice in 2004 found no evidence that the ban had had any effect on gun violence and concluded that “should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”

Violent ideologues will not be deterred from their paths of destruction by minor inconveniences.

Research by economist Mark Guis of Quinnipiac University revealed no evidence that either state or federal “assault weapons” bans reduced firearm-homicide rates. Carlisle E. Moody of the College of William and Mary found no evidence that the federal ban on high-capacity magazines had any effect on homicide rates.

Regarding terrorist attacks like the one in Orlando, it’s not clear, even in retrospect, that they would be prevented by more restrictive gun control measures. Stringent gun laws in California and France failed to prevent the recent massacres in San Bernardino and Paris. People driven to violence by ideology will not be easily deterred from their paths of destruction by minor inconveniences; it is simply naïve to believe that smaller magazines or not having a folding stock would have stopped them.

In any event, keeping in mind the horrors that mass shootings entail, “assault weapons” are not even connected to a significant amount of crime in the United States. Even if confiscating and banning them completely erased homicides with committed with them, and the perpetrators didn’t substitute them with other legally available firearms, the effect on homicide rates would be statistically very small.

Many Americans simply don’t believe that some of the most popular rifles in America (overwhelmingly owned for legal and peaceful reasons) should be banned or that tens of millions of Americans’ rights should be infringed upon for so little to show for it. If you care about violence in America, you shouldn’t waste your time on the red herring of “assault weapons.”


Corey Iacono

Corey Iacono is a student at the University of Rhode Island majoring in pharmaceutical science and minoring in economics. He is a Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) 2016 Thorpe Fellow.

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

Nazis on Twitter? That’s What Blocking Is For – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Nazis on Twitter? That’s What Blocking Is For – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
******************************

I’ve followed the fascinating case of Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times’s deputy Washington editor, and his conflagration with the legions of Nazis on Twitter. After he tweeted an essay about the rise of fascism in the U.S. — an essay not unlike the one I wrote this time last year — he was dogpiled by a variety of crazy alt-right accounts, and bombarded by some deeply malicious messaging.

You wake in the morning and find 100 notifications from people calling you a tool of the Jews.It might have been new to him, but for most curious Internet users of a certain generation, this is nothing new. For Weisman, it came as a shock, and understandably. The tweets featured photoshopped images of Weisman being marched to the gas chambers, for example. They threatened him with vile anti-Semitic and hard-core racist rhetoric.

He knew that if he merely claimed that this happened, he would be met with incredulity by a mainstream audience. To make sure that people believed him, he spent the day retweeting the vile messages to his followers, as if to say: “this stuff really does exist.”

I know exactly what he means. After my first critical article on Trump last year, one in which I reported on an early campaign speech I watched, I was trolled hard too. You wake in the morning and find 100 notifications from people calling you a tool of the Jews, slamming you with racist cartoons, telling you that you have sold out the white race, and even calling for your death.

These are people who perhaps begin their trajectory with some harmless anti-PC racial banter, but it escalates to become a full-scale political ideology, one that eventually crowds out all concern for human rights and decency. What they have joined isn’t a real army with guns, but when you are targeted it is still emotionally draining and politically frightening to say the least.

It’s supposed to be. That’s why they do it. The point is to shake you up, and make you feel like you are being bombarded.

When I told people about it, they didn’t believe it, or didn’t want to believe it. I too ended up screenshotting and posting in private messages, just to make the point that these vile movements do indeed exist. Even then, people doubt, probably because the sheer aggressiveness of this crowd is rather new in public life, at least in the US.

Hatred, Left and Right

For most of my writing career, I’ve been called a corporate shill by the left, a puppet of the Kochtopus, an apologist for capitalist exploitation and frankenfood. None of the attacks from the left have matched the sheer vitriol of those from the supposed opposite side. These days, though I hold the same libertarian perspective I always have, I’m being denounced as a witting dupe of the rootless commercial class, a shill for the global banksters and usurers, a cuckservative (look it up), and probably a secret Jew myself.

Welcome to Twitter in 2016.

The world truly does seem to be dividing between authoritarians of the right and left, and the rest of us. At some point in last year, hundreds of bitter people left their 4chan caves and became Twitter mavens. It became the choice venue for the far right, which has developed its own internal signaling systems such as putting the signs ((( ))) around ostensibly “known Jews.” They use swastikas as avatars. They post Nazi-era caricatures of Jews. And the rhetoric is a revival of interwar hate that most people believe was vanquished from the earth with the defeat of the Nazis 70 years ago.

Not all the accounts are so blatant. Some prefer the dog-whistle approach in their own posting and merely retweet the more hard-core material. After a while, you can become very talented at spotting the members of this internet junta, and have it confirmed with only one or two degrees of separation from the more overt deniers and/or celebrators of the actual Holocaust (strange how deniers and celebrators hang out together).

Just as left socialism never seems to go away, no matter how many economic disasters it brings about, so it is with national socialism with a rightest tinge. In fact, it seems to be growing, both in Europe and the US, posing a serious challenge to those of us who consider ourselves classical liberals: hard opposition to the left and to the right. As I’ve written elsewhere, the world truly does seem to be dividing between authoritarians of the right and left, opposed consistently by a small but growing group of genuine liberals all over the world.

Terms of Use

Now, to be sure, Jonathan Weisman was exactly right to wonder why Twitter puts up with this stuff. As he points out, banning such accounts is not censorship; this is a private venue that can set its own rules, same as a restaurant or movie theater. And Twitter does indeed have rules against “hateful conduct” that threatens people based on religion and ethnicity, as well as a policy on harassment that prohibits targeting people and inciting others to do the same. There’s no question that these accounts are in violation.

Why doesn’t Twitter act? Well, it sometimes does. After the Weisman articles, Twitter banned some 30 or so accounts. What happened to them? It’s pretty easy: they can easily come back again with another user name. In this sense, Twitter is, by design, much easier to game than Google or Facebook, both of which have much stricter policies. Sockpuppeting is a way of life here.

How does a digital venue decide how strict to be on these matters? It is all about the value of the platform for users. Sometimes tighter is better and other times it is not. In the case of Twitter, a main contribution it makes to global culture is its openness to all. You can find and see and hear just about anything. You can curate your feed. You can include or exclude. Sure, that takes a bit of work, but it is more than worth it.

For Facebook and LinkedIn, matters are very different. Permitting hate, harassment, sex solicitation, porn, and so on, is a problem for the kind of culture they want to create for members. And so it is more carefully policed. Again, this is not censorship anymore than a restaurant that demands shoes is violating human rights. You have the human right to be a Nazi all you want on your own property, but you don’t have the right to do so on property that belongs to others.

What To Do?

As it turns out, the nasty junta of hate-spewing freaks is not an army after all.When this started happening to me, I was initially disoriented and, I admit, a bit shaken. But then it struck me that Twitter surely has permitted a way to deal with this. Sure enough, there is a little gear that allows you to select a pretty little option: block. With the block, that account can no longer contact you or post among your notifications. Quite simply, you stop hearing from them.

I spent about a month doing this to trolls. Oddly, it is very satisfying. Someone tags you in a hate-filled post. With one click, you can blast them out of your curated universe. Once I got the hang of it, it became a game. Instead of getting mad, you just get even. Well, not really. But it sort of feels like it.

You know what? It works. After blocking about 100 accounts over the course of the fall, the problem almost entirely vanished. As it turns out, the nasty junta of hate-spewing freaks is not an army after all. In the end, we might in fact be talking about a few hundred accounts. Maybe it is more. And maybe after this article, they will all be back.

It might not be possible to make them all go away, but there is a way to reduce the influx and almost eliminate the stress. That’s not to minimize the alarming rise of fascism in politics here and abroad, but only to say that we are wise to distinguish between reality and digital illusion.

Blocking Is Betting than Beatings

And this is a much better option than leaning hard on Twitter to do more enforcement of its own terms of use. As much as these people disgust me, I would actually prefer to live in a world in which even deranged Nazis have access to widely available communication channels. I won’t invoke the right of free speech here because that’s not what this is about.

I will, however, say a good word for openness to all – and I mean all – points of view, access to media by all the world’s people (this is a wonderful miracle), and, above all else, the right of individuals to exclude through blocking. This is the way the opinion market should work. This is how we curate our own intellectual lives.

What we absolutely do not need – which Europe has tried to do – are government controls on what types of opinions one is allowed to hold and what books one is allowed to read. If you want violent extremism to grow, this is a great path towards guaranteeing that it will. Shutting people up by force is not the solution. The block button is far more effective than any censor.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, 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. 

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.