Constitutions, Central Planning, the Paranormal, Regrets, & Bounties (24m) – Editor’s Break 109

Editor’s Break 109 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: the effectiveness of state constitutions and the reason for an amendment process; how enforcing borders is central planning; his belief in paranormal mystery and the existence of UFOs; a somewhat better way to look at regrets about the past; how free societies would deal with brutal foreign political leaders via bounties; and more. (Apologies for the audio quality.)

Listen to Editor’s Break 109 (24m, mp3, 64kbps)

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On Borders

The moment a group of people who call themselves “government” enforce their arbitrary border around their supposed jurisdiction is the moment they begin central planning who may live where and who may trade with who. Any libertarian versed in economics can tell you the likely disastrous effects of centrally planning the economic decisions of others. Among other problems is that which is described by Ludwig von Mises when he argued and showed that central planning intervention begets more intervention. The Welfare State is one such central planning intervention, and the problem of immigrants exploiting their new home’s Welfare State seemingly requires yet more central planning intervention. Should libertarians be cheerleading the central planning of arbitrary borders and Welfare State management? Or should libertarians be educating others on the disastrous and inhumane effects of central planning any economic decision made by other people, and calling for its abolition? If you’re going to be loud on policy as a libertarian, please for the love of your liberty do not pretend that your advocacy for central planning is anything less than giving your arsenal to the enemy and begging them to use it wisely. And that’s today’s two cents.

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Why Teen Suicide Is Lower in States That Have More School Choice

Freedom is the precursor to happiness. When we’re free, we feel in control of our lives and able to direct our own path. If we’re unhappy, we can make changes and make different choices. If we are not free, we cannot make these choices. We cannot be our own agents, and so we suffer.

This suffering due to lack of freedom is becoming increasingly apparent throughout our mandatory system of mass schooling. Young people are required to attend their assigned district school under a legal threat of force. If they are fortunate enough to have access to a local charter school or have a parent or guardian who can remove them from school for homeschooling or a private school, they can escape the confines of their government-mandated schoolroom. But the vast majority of children in the US (approximately 85 percent) are locked (literally, these days) in a conventional public school classroom.

It’s no wonder that as mass schooling consumes more of American childhood than ever before, beginning earlier and extending longer than at any other time in our history, young people are growing increasingly depressed.

Add to that a much more standardized and test-driven school curriculum over the last two decades, and you have a generation of young people pushed to the brink of their own emotional adaptability. They are hurting.

The statistics speak for themselves: According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the suicide rate of boys ages 15-19 increased 31 percent between 2007 and 2015, and the suicide rate of girls in that age range doubled during that same time period. What’s more alarming is that a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that suicidal thoughts and actions among children and adolescents decline during the summer months and spike during the school year—a pattern different from adults who experience higher suicide rates in summertime.

The finding that children are happier during the summertime when they have more freedom and more depressed during the school year when they don’t should be a wake-up call to parents, educators, and policymakers. Freedom is the precursor to happiness. Adding weight to this correlation is new research showing that when children are granted the freedom to leave compulsory mass schooling through school choice mechanisms, their mental health dramatically improves.

Researchers Corey DeAngelis and Angela Dills found that states with generous charter school and voucher policies saw declines in adolescent suicide rates and that children who attend private schools have better long-term mental health outcomes. Their research is the first to link school choice mechanisms with improved childhood mental health.

The findings should come as no surprise. When we have the freedom to leave an unhealthy or unsafe environment, our mental health should improve. When parents are empowered to employ their protective instincts to remove their child from a harmful place, their child should be happier. Freedom is the precursor to happiness.

If we care about children’s emotional well-being and hope to stall the rising teen suicide rate, then we should embrace strategies that grant children more freedom and parents more choice. If we want happier young people, freedom is the best policy.

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Immigration isn’t a Real Problem

Emotions are running hot on the topic of immigration these days, both for and against, with most of the current drama surrounding birthright citizenship and migrant caravans.

Immigration is a government-caused problem that can’t be solved with more government.

I’m not talking about people being imported and settled by government; that’s not immigration. I completely oppose such government programs. I’m only talking about people making their own way to a new place.

People tend to move from places with less liberty to places with more. More liberty also creates prosperity. Despite the best efforts of the Department of Homeland Security and the government’s other alphabet soup agencies, America still has more liberty than some other places. I’m sure they’ll close this loophole as soon as possible so no one will want to come to America anymore.

Until they succeed, people will want to move here.

An inconvenient fact for those claiming to oppose only “illegal immigration”: there’s no such thing.

Regulating immigration isn’t allowed by the Constitution.

The parts commonly used to justify immigration control only allow government to regulate the importation of slaves and to set the rules for becoming a new citizen. Immigration restriction isn’t permitted. I’m not saying this is good or bad, but as it stands government immigration control isn’t legal.

Any government employee who enforces a law that isn’t allowed by the Constitution is a criminal, while those who break unconstitutional laws aren’t.

If you don’t like this, petition for a constitutional amendment, which allows government to control immigration.

Honestly, though, there’s no such thing as immigration. There are only people moving around. Either a person is where they have a right to be, through property ownership or an arrangement with the property owner, or they are trespassing. “Public land” can’t, by definition, be trespassed upon, regardless of the claims of government. Whether you allow others to use your private property is your choice, not the choice of your neighbors or voters.

If newcomers are a problem, there are ways to fix it.

  • Abolish all tax-funded welfare and replace it with voluntary charity.
  • Stop allowing politics, and votes, to violate rights. Natural human rights are never legitimately up for a vote nor subject to a law, no matter how many voters believe otherwise.
  • Stop criminalizing defense of life, liberty, and property, and encourage everyone to carry the proper tools of defense at all times.

Immigration isn’t a problem, unless you allow government to keep making it a problem.

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Great Misinterpretations

Suppose you publicly declare, “X causes Y.”  If people have strong emotions about X or Y, they’re likely to misinterpret you in at least one of the following ways.

1. Misinterpretation of certainty: “So X certainly causes Y.”

Reply: Who said anything about certainty?  In normal English, assertions are not certain.  That’s why people will often hear a statement, then request further information about your confidence.  As in: “Are you certain of that?” or even “Are you absolutely certain of that?”

2. Misinterpretation of necessity: “So X necessarily causes Y.”

Reply: Who said anything about necessity?  In normal English, assertions describe what is, not what must be.

3. Misinterpretation of universality: “So every X causes Y.”

Reply: Again, who said anything of the kind?  In normal English, assertions describe what typically happens, not what invariably happens.

4. Misinterpretation of monocausality: “So every Y is caused by X.”

Reply: In normal English, naming one cause does not preclude the existence of endless other causes.

5. Misinterpretation of hyperbole: “So even a grain of X causes tons of Y.”

Reply: Again, naming X as a cause of Y says nothing about how responsive Y is to X.

Given how childish all of these misinterpretations seem, why do they run rampant?  The best story, in my view, is that these misinterpretations are offshoots of simpler forms of motivated reasoning.  As Jonathan Haidt observes, when we hear a statement we want to believe, we usually ask ourselves, “Can I believe it?”  When we hear a statement we don’t want to believe, in contrast, we usually ask ourselves, “Must I believe it?”

My extension: When we want to believe that “X causes Y,” we rarely impute any of the preceding misinterpretations to the speaker.  After all, misinterpretations make it harder to answer “Can I believe it?” affirmatively.  In contrast, when we don’t want to believe “X causes Y,” the Great Misinterpretations are exceedingly helpful.  Once we inject the humble claim that “X causes Y” with spurious certainty, necessity, universality, monocausality, or hyperbole, the answer to “Must I believe it?” is bound to be “No.”

What’s the better epistemic path?

The obvious step: Don’t selectively ask “Can I believe it?” or “Must I believe it?”  Instead, just ask, “What’s the probability?”

The less obvious step, though, is: Before you assign probabilities, listen to the speaker’s precise words.  If he didn’t claim certainty, necessity, universality, monocausality, or hyperbole, he probably believes none of them.  So don’t pretend otherwise!

The post Great Misinterpretations appeared first on Econlib.

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Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?

On the evening of November 7, administration officials suspended CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s “hard pass.” A hard pass allows its holder “access to areas designated for journalists in the West Wing, on Air Force One, and in other secured areas during presidential trips, which are routinely covered by the White House press corps.”

The suspension followed a combative press conference during which US president Donald Trump repeatedly slammed reporters, referring to Acosta as “an enemy of the people,” and during which Acosta  refused to hand a White House mic back to the intern who came to collect it when his haranguing — er, questioning — time ran out and either (depending on who you ask) accidentally brushed, or intentionally struck, the intern.

On November 13, CNN sued Trump and several other White House officials, accusing them of violating Acosta’s First Amendment (freedom of the press) and Fifth Amendment (due process) rights.

Insofar as the White House has specific and supposedly objective standards for granting hard passes to reporters, Acosta might indeed have a due process claim if yanking his pass didn’t conform to those standards. The First Amendment claim, on the other hand, seems pretty sketchy.

The First Amendment protects not only a free press but freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of peaceable assembly to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Does this mean that anyone who wants to report, speak, pray or just have a non-violent political get-together must be allowed to do so at the White House, on demand?

Well, maybe so. In Thomas Jefferson’s time, Americans could stroll the White House grounds at will and even visit with the president and first lady at lunchtime or after each day. Of course, things have changed since then, but I have no problem with the principle of the thing. The White House supposedly belongs to “the public.” Why shouldn’t we drop in any time we please?

That, however, is not what CNN contends.  They’re not upset that you and I can’t plop ourselves down in White House press room chairs and start firing off questions at the president any time the spirit moves. Their lawsuit argues, rather, that because CNN is a popular cable channel and its White House correspondent is very special and important, Jim Acosta is entitled to a chair, a desk, and face time with Donald Trump.

I suspect a lawsuit on similar supposed First Amendment claims from, say,  Caitlin Johnstone, Alex Jones, Chris Hedges, or the “White House Correspondent” of a small-town Kentucky newspaper  would get laughed right out of court (and out of the “mainstream press”), even if they all agreed to hand the microphones back over when their time ran out.

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