From the Department of Unintentional Humor

I found this article at Politico hilarious:

Importing prescription drugs from Canada has long been seen as an easy solution to skyrocketing drug prices for U.S. patients.

But now that President Donald Trump and Democrats are pushing to make those cross-border sales legal, Canadian health experts are issuing a dire warning: It could destroy Canada’s drug market.

Attempting to fill the United States’ needs with pharmaceuticals from its much smaller northern neighbor could sap supplies in Canada, creating shortages and driving up prices in a government-run health system that itself is struggling to make drugs affordable, opponents of the import proposals say. And the result, they say, would be little if any relief for high prices in the United States.

Yep. That’s the way that markets work all right. Supply and demand. That is the complaint that Americans are expressing. Companies have been granted monopolies and they’re using those monopolies to gouge consumers. Consumers quite understandably seek to evade the companies’ predatory pricing by buying from lower-priced sources.

There are multiple solutions to this problem. We could (and IMO should) reform our intellectual property laws. We could impose price caps. We could subsidize consumers (and, coincidentally, producers). We could impose a complicated regime of of subsidies, regulations, and taxes (thereby maximizing the opportunities for graft—it’s the American way!).

Or Canadians could pay the prevailing U. S. market prices for pharmaceuticals. They are presently being protected by U. S. law. What U. S. law hath given U. S. law can take away.

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Earlier Than That

At Law and Liberty Jeremy A. Rabkin muses about impeachment and the conditions under which a president may have “forfeited the public trust”:

In 1998, all House Democrats and even some House Republicans accepted the argument of Clinton’s lawyers that mere abusive conduct in the Oval Office was not proper grounds for impeachment. Accordingly, the House rejected a proposed impeachment article for “abuse of power” and focused on charges involving perjury.

But the Framers were well aware that Britain’s Parliament had, in the 17th century and for centuries before that, used impeachment to address offenses we might now describe as malfeasance or betrayal of trust. Federalist 66 seems to say that the Senate would be justified in removing a President for “perverting the instructions or contravening the views of the Senate” in a foreign negotiation. And what the Clinton impeachment experience actually shows is that even a crime—Clinton’s lawyers did not deny that he was guilty of perjury—would not be enough, unless it were clear that the incumbent’s behavior had actually forfeited public trust.

So before Robert Mueller’s team has its say, we might do better to reflect on what we regard as unacceptable or untrustworthy presidential conduct. The immediately preceding administration offers the most obvious comparison. A recent book by Louis Fisher, President Obama: Constitutional Aspirations and Executive Actions (2018), is a good place to start. A useful companion volume in this exercise is an earlier book by my colleague at George Mason University, David E. Bernstein. Reviewed in these pages at the time (by Mark Pulliam), and featured on Liberty Law Talk, Lawless: The Obama Administration’s Unprecedented Assault on the Constitution and the Rule of Law (2015) is worth another look as an interesting counterpoint to the Fisher volume.

He’s a lot more optimistic than I am. I think a president has forfeited the public trust when he lowers his right hand after having taken the oath of office.

We have accumulated a deep, dense thicket of laws, customs, and practices and there is always a tension between those and what the president has been elected to accomplish or what he thinks he has been elected to accomplish. Every president violates norms. It comes with the territory. Supporters or detractors just pick and choose the norms they care about.

I would prefer a weak president and a strong Congress, as was established by the Constitution, over a strong president and studiedly weak Congress as we have now. And the less said about executive deference the better.

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Convert’s Fervor

I want to draw your attention to a post by “C. K. Ryan” at Quillette here’s a telling snippet:

There’s an episode from my own past that illustrates this general principle nicely. I’m young and arguing with my stepfather about politics. In Canada, where we live, our nation’s treatment of Indigenous peoples is a shameful stain on our history. The Indigenous population remains marginalized, their communities being often poor and isolated. We were discussing what needed to be done to remedy this. My stepfather argued that there is only so much the government can do to improve the lot of any group, and that states should create the conditions in which people can lift themselves up, before getting out of the way entirely. It’s a perfectly reasonable position, one I’m sympathetic to now. But at the time, I was having none of it. Not only was he on the wrong side of the issue, he was on the wrong side of history. Frustrated and angry after a lengthy, emotional exchange, I called him a racist, practically spitting the word at him. In fact, my stepfather is nothing of the sort. I’ve never heard him utter an unkind word, let alone one that betrayed an attitude of bigotry. This wasn’t a case of him denying historical wrongs. He simply disagreed what steps could best be taken to address a problem we both recognized as real. Thinking back on the encounter still makes me feel ashamed.

There is a fundamental injustice in judging people based on groups to which they belong, indeed, in making final judgments about people at all. Assess based on people’s words and actions (especially their actions) rather than their race, religion, or what you assume they believe. People are individuals and treating them as proxies for groups you despise is unjust, a rejection of their dignity as human beings.

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I Want To Disbelieve

If there is one message that should be taken away from the events of the last several weeks, indeed, the events of the last several years, it is that skepticism should be the order of the day. Neither acceptance nor rejection of claims but patience and a willingness to allow the facts to emerge in the fullness of time. Credulity, whether in acceptance or rejection, has costs, not just in financial terms as the Washington Post and numerous other organizations and individuals are finding out to their sorrow, to those against whom false claims are lodged as well as to those who make real, true accusations.

Do we really want a country sort of like a giant East Germany or Romania in which no one can trust anyone else and that anyone’s life can be blighted by false accusations? Or in which people are afraid to make real, true accusations? I’m afraid that’s where we’re heading.

The last thing we need is affiliational truth, a situation in which “your truth”, as Oprah might say, is determined by your affiliations rather than by evidence and reason.

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The Next Shoe Drops

The family of the young woman who ran off to join DAESH and who is presently cooling her heels in a refugee camp in Syria is suing to allow their daughter’s return. From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The father of an Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State in Syria filed suit against the Trump administration Thursday in an effort to allow her return to the United States.

Ahmed Ali Muthana argues in the suit filed in federal court in Washington that his 24-year-old daughter, Hoda Muthana, is an American citizen by birth and should be allowed to come back to the U.S. with her toddler son.

Hoda Muthana is now in a Syrian refugee camp with the 18-month-old boy after fleeing the remnants of the Islamic State.

Her lawyers said in a statement that she expects to be charged with providing material support to terrorism if she is allowed to return to the U.S.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The father of an Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State in Syria filed suit against the Trump administration Thursday in an effort to allow her return to the United States.

Ahmed Ali Muthana argues in the suit filed in federal court in Washington that his 24-year-old daughter, Hoda Muthana, is an American citizen by birth and should be allowed to come back to the U.S. with her toddler son.

Hoda Muthana is now in a Syrian refugee camp with the 18-month-old boy after fleeing the remnants of the Islamic State.

Her lawyers said in a statement that she expects to be charged with providing material support to terrorism if she is allowed to return to the U.S.

as well she should be. The Obama Administration determined that the young woman was not a U. S. citizen in 2016. If she was not a citizen at the time of his birth, her son is not a U. S. citizen, either, and, frankly, should not be allowed into the United States. It is a fact of life that one reckless action at age 19 can blight your entire life and those your family. That fact should be a deterrent to acting recklessly.

The first question is whether she’s a citizen. If she’s not a citizen, neither she nor her child are any of our concern. If she is a citizen, she should be remanded to the custody of the federal government and tried for treason. If convicted which, given her public statements and evidence on tape, would seem to be straightforward, she should be incarcerated for a lengthy period, possibly for life and should lose custody of her child permanently.

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The Innocence of Jussie Smollett

The major media outlets are abuzz with accused hate crime hoaxer Jussie Smollett’s protestations of his innocence. Which is the greatest likelihood?

  1. He’s telling the truth. He didn’t do it.
  2. He’s lying. He’s maintaining his innocence hoping to beat the rap.
  3. He’s lying. He’s maintaining his innocence to extend his 15 minutes of fame.
  4. He’s nuts. He did it but he doesn’t know that he did it.

There’s no business like show business.

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The Object Lesson

There’s at least one good thing that can be said about Illinois. It serves as an object lesson. Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen has noticed:

Pritzker’s budget address Wednesday was an opportunity to do what President Bill Clinton did in similar circumstances in the mid-1990s: restore fiscal discipline while protecting Democratic spending priorities. Instead, he is proposing what every Democratic contender has promised: new spending programs, protections for all existing spending and increased taxes on the rich.

The speech itself is a combination of hope and chutzpah. Pritzker hopes that legalizing marijuana and sports gambling will bring the state an extra $370 million a year. He hopes that a new tax on managed care companies will bring in an additional $390 million a year and more federal money for Medicaid on top of that, without increasing insurance premiums that might drive more people to use government-finance programs. He hopes that legislators getting to know each other as people will lead to more bipartisan cooperation, by which he clearly means Republican support for his proposed tax hikes. That’s a lot of hope for what, in the context of a $39 billion budget and $15 billion in unpaid bills, is pretty small change.

The chutzpah comes from his complete unwillingness to slow down the growth of government. He exempted virtually all existing government spending from significant cuts. He proposed nearly $500 million in new program spending — on child care subsidies, preschool subsidies, colleges and more. And, to top it off, he proposed hiking the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $15 an hour, as if that sharp hike wouldn’t cause havoc among small businesses and restaurants.

The classic definition of chutzpah is murdering your parents and throwing yourself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. Pritzker’s audacious gambit has to be the fiscal version of that legendary act.

One of the reasons that a $15/hour minimum wage is such a feckless idea for Illinois is geography. All of Illinois’s population centers with the exceptions of Peoria and Springield (combined population: 300,000) are on the state’s borders and all of Illinois’s neighboring states already have lower minimum wages than Illinois and businesses are already fleeing Illinois for those states—it’s just a matter of moving a few miles or even a few feet to avoid Illinois’s regulations and minimum wage.

However, Mr. Olsen learns the wrong lesson. He notes that Wisconsin has a graduated income tax while Illinois does not, ignoring that Illinois also has the highest sales and property taxes in the nation and is now one of the highest taxing states in the union. It has become a high tax state without the amenities of other high tax states. It doesn’t have the ocean or the mountains or a benign climate and it isn’t home to fast-growing industries. Illinois’s per capita taxes are 30% higher than Wisonsin’s but per capita income is only 9% higher here than in Wisconsin.

Update

The editors of the Wall Street Journal are hating on Illinois today, too:

New Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan? Refinance the pension debt and tax plastic bags, marijuana and sports betting, which will supposedly cover the shortfall until voters approve a referendum next year replacing the state’s flat 4.95% income tax with a progressive tax. Mr. Pritzker says a progressive tax will spare the middle class, though there may be a reason he hasn’t proposed a specific higher rate.

Research outfit Wirepoints calculates that the top rate would have to rise to 11.2% on millionaires and at least 8.5% on everyone earning more than $50,000 to finance Mr. Pritzker’s spending proposals. The progressive model is California, where individuals earning more than $56,000 pay a top marginal rate of 9.3%.

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The New Order

Apparently, today is Outrage Day. When is the Two Minutes Hate? In his Washington Post column Fareed Zakaria is outraged that the new cadre of progressives don’t believe the same things that the Democratic moderates of 25 years ago did:

Universal health care is an important moral and political goal. But the U.S. system is insanely complex, and getting from here to single-payer would probably be so disruptive and expensive that it’s not going to happen. There is a path to universal coverage that is simpler: Switzerland has one of the best health-care systems in the world, and it’s essentially Obamacare with a real mandate. No one on the left is talking about such a model, likely because it feels too much like those incremental policies of the past.

Or consider the tax proposals being tossed around on the left, including a wealth tax championed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). I understand the appeal of tapping into those vast accumulations of billionaire loot. But there is a reason nine of the 12 European countries that instituted similar taxes have repealed them in the last 25 years. They massively distort economic activity, often incentivizing people to hide assets, devalue them and create dummy corporations. Faced with a wealth tax, most rich people would likely value and transfer assets the questionable way that Fred Trump did in passing his fortune on to his children.

There are smarter, better ways to address inequality — raise the capital gains tax to the same level as income taxes; increase the estate tax; and get rid of the massive loopholes that make the U.S. tax code one of the most complex and corrupt in the world. But again, this is less stirring stuff than burning the billionaires.

But they aren’t smarter, better, more experienced or even well-informed. They don’t care what works and the only experience that may be gleaned from other countries in which they have any interest is whatever promotes their ideas and objectives of today. Welcome to tne New Order. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Bill Clinton was as much a member of a dying breed as Nelson Rockefeller was as a northeastern liberal Republican. Clinton is what used to be called a “‘bidness’ Democrat”. They’ve become Republicans practically everywhere in today’s South.

As an aside Switzerland is so different from the United States it is absolutely no model for the United States for anything. It is a tiny, very prosperous country with few immigrants. It hasn’t attacked any other country in 150 years but every adult male joins the military, is in the reserves for most of his adult life, and keeps an automatic weapon at home. It maintained its neutrality during WWII. It has a very nearly unique system of family structure, very different from our absolute nuclear families. It operates almost entirely by consensus. All legislation of importance is turned over to the people for referendum. Women got the vote a little over 40 years ago. Recently, the Swiss rejected a national mininum income.

Meanwhile, partisan politics makes strange bedfellows.

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Other Countries

The editors of the New York Times express outrage:

Until last Nov. 19, Carlos Ghosn was the stuff of legend — a citizen of Brazil, Lebanon and France who created a global car-making empire uniting Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault, and who regularly appeared on television and in glossy magazines. Since Nov. 19, Mr. Ghosn has been locked up in a small cell in a Tokyo detention center with a toilet in the corner, endlessly grilled by prosecutors without the right to have his lawyer present. Whatever Mr. Ghosn did or failed to do, this is not how justice is supposed to work.

Basically, their gripe is that Mr. Ghosn is not being treated according to U. S. law. Japan is not the United States, U. S. law is irrelevant there, and, in what must come as a bolt from the blue to the editors, there are no universal standards of law or justice. As long as Mr. Ghosn is being treated as prescribed and allowed by Japanese law, justice is being served. If you don’t like Japanese justice, don’t go to Japan.

Other countries are other countries. They do things differently there. The world is not Disneyland. There really are differences among countries that extend far beyond national dress and cuisine.

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What’s Happening to Pluralism?

While we’re on the subject, you might find this report on pluralism and democracy from PRRI interesting. It’s chockful of interesting graphs and charts.

Consider this one:

It tells me that my life experience is very different from that of many if not most Americans. I spend most of every day as one of the few people I encounter who is of European descent. I interact with people who differ from me on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, and politics very nearly on a daily basis. I’m nearly always the oldest person in the room. I’m generally the only Catholic. It doesn’t bother me at all. I navigate it with aplomb, armed primarily with a commitment to treating everyone I encounter with courtesy and consideration.

What does bother me is bigotry and bias. I also experience bias on very nearly a daily basis although generally not at work.

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