Walter E. Williams
An American economist, commentator, and author of Liberty Versus the Tyranny of Socialism
Latest from Walter E. Williams
Immorality in government lies at the heart of our nation's problems. Deficits, debt and runaway government are merely symptoms. What's moral and immoral conduct can be complicated, but needlessly so. I keep things simple and you tell me where I go wrong.
My initial assumption is that we each own ourselves. I am my private property and you are yours. If we accept the notion that people own themselves, then it's easy to discover what forms of conduct are moral and immoral. Immoral acts are those that violate self-ownership. Murder, rape, assault and slavery are immoral because those acts violate private property. So is theft, broadly defined as taking the rightful property of one person and giving it to another.
If it is your belief that people do not belong to themselves, they are in whole or in part the property of the U.S. Congress, or people are owned by God, who has placed the U.S. Congress in charge of managing them, then all of my observations are simply nonsense.
How about this: The law of gravity is applicable to the behavior of falling objects on the U.S. mainland but not applicable on our Pacific Ocean territories Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands. You say, "Williams, that's lunacy! Laws are applicable everywhere; that's why they call it a law."
You're right, but does the same reasoning apply to the law of demand that holds: The higher the price of something, the less people will take of it; and the lower its price, the more people will take of it? The law of demand applies to wages, interest and rent because, after all, they are the prices of something.
Do federal, state and local governments have a right to intervene in our lives when it comes to choices affecting our health? Recently, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to forbid restaurants from giving gifts with meals that contain too much fat and sugar, a measure aimed at McDonald's Happy Meals. The reasoning of these tyrants is to prevent McDonald's from using toys to lure children into liking foods the board deems non-nutritious. Fortunately, San Francisco's mayor, Gavin Newsom, by no means a libertarian, has threatened to veto the measure saying, "Despite its good intentions, I cannot support this unwise and unprecedented governmental intrusion into parental responsibilities and private choices."
At the recent Group of 20 (G 20) meeting, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner called upon the largest industrialized economies to get their current account balance — whether a surplus or a deficit — below 4 percent of their gross domestic product by 2015. Four countries have current account surpluses exceeding 4 percent: Saudi Arabia (6.7 percent), Germany (6.1 percent), China (4.7 percent) and Russia (4.7 percent.) Countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia that are "structurally large exporters of raw materials" would be exempt from the 4 percent limit, so the pressure of the U.S. proposal falls mainly on China and Germany. Our annual trade deficit of $500 billion is less than 4 percent of our GDP.
Acting on behalf of various interest groups, politicians fret over trade deficits but is it something that ordinary Americans ought to worry about? What politicians and inept people in the news media, whose duty is to inform, never bring up is that in the international trade arena, there are two accounts. One is called the current account, which consists of goods and services exchanged between Americans and foreigners. That's the account where we have a large trade deficit. Americans buy more goods and services from foreigners than they buy from us.
Most people whom we elect to Congress are either ignorant of, have contempt for or are just plain stupid about the United States Constitution. You say: "Whoa, Williams, you're really out of line! You'd better explain." Let's look at it.
Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., responding to a question during a town hall meeting, said he's "not worried about the Constitution." That was in response to a question about the constitutionality of Obamacare. He told his constituents that the Constitution guaranteed each of us "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Of course, our Constitution guarantees no such thing. The expression "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is found in our Declaration of Independence.
The National Transportation Safety Board has again recommended that airlines require a separate seat for all children, regardless of age, eliminating the current practice of permitting children under the age of 2 to fly for free on the lap of a parent. Will mandating child restraint systems make air travel safer? The answer is probably yes but that's the visible.
Having to purchase an extra airplane ticket, some families will opt to drive to their destination instead. Thus, mandated CRS will force some families to switch to a less safe method of travel and some highway fatalities will represent the invisible victims of NTSB policy. By the way, if parents wanted a greater measure of safety for their infant, it's available to them right now. They can purchase a seat and seat restraint for their infant.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is charged with ensuring that drugs are safe and effective. Drugs must meet FDA approval before they can be marketed. FDA officials can make two kinds of errors. They can approve a drug that has unanticipated, dangerous side effects that might cause illness and death. Or, they can err by either not approving or causing huge delays in the marketing of a safe and effective drug. Statistically, these are known as the Type I and Type II errors.
FDA officials have a bias toward erring on the side of over-caution. If FDA officials err on the side of under-caution, approving an unsafe drug, they are attacked by the media, patient groups and investigated by Congress. Their victims, sick and dead people, are highly visible. If FDA officials err on the side of over caution, keeping a safe and effective drug off the market, who's to know? The victims are invisible.