Mapping The Tsunami Of Suicides Across America

Suicide is a very complicated public health issue, influenced by demographic characteristics, socioeconomic factors, as well as health- and crime-related factors. Since the Great Financial Crisis (GFC), a tsunami of suicides has swept across America, making it the tenth leading cause of death, and in 2015, accounted for more than 44,000 deaths.

Understanding the geographic patterns of suicide can better inform the nation that something is not quite right.

Although government researchers have presented state-level trends in suicide rates, data at the county-level has been widely overlooked. The ‘County-Level Trends in Suicide Rates in the U.S., 2005–2015‘ report, issued by a team of researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used county-level changes in suicide rates to examine geographic trends and identify urban-rural patterns in these type of deaths from 2005 to 2015.

Nationwide increase in suicide rates at the county level from 2005 to 2015

 (Source: Rossen et. al./The Washington Post)

The animation above, created by The Washington Post from figures in the report, shows a never before seen explosion in suicide rates at the county level during the period. Researchers said suicide rates increased by more than 10 percent from 2005 to 2015 for 99 percent of the counties across the nation, with a shocking 87 percent of counties registering increases of more than 20 percent.

“The highest [suicide] rates across the period were seen in parts of Alaska, Arizona, northern California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North and South Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming,” the report discovered. By contrast, the regions with the lowest suicide rates were consistently seen across southern California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, along the Mississippi River, western Texas, and along the eastern coast of North and South Carolina.

Comparison of model-based versus direct estimates aggregated over larger geographies, or over 2005–2015.

County-Level Trends in Suicide Rates in the U.S., 2005–2015. (Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine)

 Model-based county-level suicide rates in the U.S., 2005 (top), 2010 (middle), and 2015 (bottom).

County-Level Trends in Suicide Rates in the U.S., 2005–2015. (Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine)

Researchers note that suicide rates in rural counties are complicated to measure, however, for this study, statistical modeling methods to infer suicide rates for smaller counties, along with 50 sources of data helped to develop the most accurate estimate of suicides, to date.

“Although a more detailed understanding of geographic variation may be useful, attempts at estimating county-level suicide rate have been limited because the majority of counties report fewer than 20 suicide deaths per year. Direct estimates of suicide rate based on small numbers can be unstable and highly variable year to year, making it difficult to discern trends. To produce stable estimates, studies and web-based mapping tools, often aggregate over multiple years or states, potentially masking important trends and within-state variation, including urban–rural differences.”

Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the nation. The research presents an unprecedented view of the implosion of America. Judging by the trajectory and, of course, momentum, it is only a matter of time before the wave of death strikes the East Coast.

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Socialism Is No Longer A Dirty Word

Authored by Mark Thornton via The Mises Institute,

It has been often said that our future rests with the next generation. If that is true, then it is a scary prospect.

The millennial generation (ages 18-34) increasingly sees itself, politically, as socialist. I personally know a couple of young men who declare themselves Marxists! Although that is frightening enough, remember the context in which it occurs:

  1. The United States already faces several daunting economic problem such as the national debt, the unfunded future liabilities (related to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare), as well as the obvious potential for hyperinflation. You can set aside things like the possibility of nuclear war and killer robots. The economic problems are real and likely to happen and can only be avoided or dealt by returning America to a free market economy—not socialism.

  2. Moving our government and society towards socialism will only make matters worse. Worse yet, if socialists gain control—and some would likely argue that they already have—they are unlikely to relinquish power peacefully.

You would think that events in socialist Venezuela would knock some sense into these young people, but a new survey from GenForward shows increasing support for socialism. The report looks at how the millennial population thinks about politics and offers us a look at how the next generation thinks. Support for socialism is strongest among African-Americans and capitalism is supported by a small majority of white Americans. Among Asians and Latinos there is marginally more support for socialism. Given the support for the Bernie Sanders campaign this result is not surprising.

When asked questions about whether strong government or the free market is the key to solving social problems, respondents believed that government is the answer by two to one. The majority felt the government was doing a good job with the economy, especially those that identified as Republican.

How this can be is a mystery. The federal government deficit has averaged more than a $1 trillion over the last decade. Guess who will have to pay this bill? Every $1 trillion of increased government debt puts an approximate burden of $15,000 on every millennial. High government support among Republicans is probably just a reflection of the fact that their party is in power.

The millennial generation wants higher minimum wage laws, equal pay for equal pay, free tuition and for the government to pay off their student loans which indicates their Economic IQ is close to zero. I understand them not knowing that subsidies to higher education make a college degree even less attainable, but advocating a higher minimum wage is just stupid under all conditions.

Their gut feelings come from a variety of sources. Their education has brainwashed them about where our standard of living comes from. Lifestyle, for many of them, makes them feel guilty for the poor and downtrodden. Envy of the rich and famous also plays a role. They have been “successful” and “above average” all their lives. Why can’t they be rich and famous too?

I think a really big factor is that, under these conditions, they should feel betrayed and left out.

Their generation, taken as a whole, is the first to take a step back economically since the Great Depression. Their real ire should be directed towards the Baby Boomers — their parents and grandparents. They are the generation which allowed the government debt and entitlement programs to grow into the deadly monster that they have become. Moreover, the Boomers are the generation that has benefited from all that waste and they are the generation that will hand over these problems to the millennial generation.

I have always felt uneasy with the idea of defaulting on the national debt and Social Security, because I believe strongly in carrying out your obligations. However, I also know that there are very strong ethical and economic cases that can be made for defaulting.

According to one website, I myself come from the Generation Jones – which I had never previously heard of. Generation Jones comprises the late Baby Boomers born from 1954 to 1965.

However, this Jones Generation is also the generation that did much of the work while receiving shrinking benefits from things like Social Security. Meanwhile, it will only see greater attacks on its income and wealth, both in terms of rhetoric and in law. Therefore, I am now “jonesing” for default, which is slang for wanting — if not craving — for defaults.

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US Threatens Syria With “Firm And Appropriate Measures” After New Airstrikes

Washington is once again concerned about Syrian government expansion inside… wait for it… Syria.

The United States threatened to take “firm and appropriate measures” against Syrian government forces, claiming repeat “ceasefire violations” and concerned over reports that the Syrian Army may be poised for a new military operation to retake Deraa in the country’s south.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said late Friday, “As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations.”

The newly built US forces base in Manbij, Syria. Image source: TRT World via Reuters

Nauert referenced the thus far tenuously-holding deal between the US, Russia, and Jordan struck last November which among other stipulations proposed efforts for “the reduction, and ultimate elimination of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the area to ensure a more sustainable peace.” This was widely interpreted at the time as calling for an “Iran-free” zone in southern Syria, as Israel has long threatened to go to war should Iranian troops be present near its border.

The State Department warnings come at the end of a week in which Syrian state media claimed US fighter jets attacked Syrian Army positions in the eastern desert near the Iraq border overnight Wednesday, which reportedly killed 12 pro-government fighters.

The US, however, has denied any involvement: “We have no operational reporting of a U.S.-led coalition strike against pro-Syrian regime targets or forces,” CENTCOM spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement. And a separate Pentagon spokesman said, “These reports are false, the coalition did not strike any Syrian army positions in eastern Syria.”

And less than 24 hours later, another airstrike on a base in central Syria is widely reported to have involved Israel, believed to have targeted a Hezbollah weapons depot. 

Notably, a Reuters report acknowledges the US warning issued late Friday comes as 1) Syrian government forces have cleaned out the last ISIS pockets in the country’s south; and 2) Damascus is now “in its strongest position since the early months of the war in 2011”. Reuters notes further that the government has “recaptured all remaining insurgent areas near Damascus in recent weeks, including the densely populated eastern Ghouta area, as well as big enclaves in central Syria.” 

So essentially while warning against “Assad regime violations” and expansion, the State Department is reasserting the US position that Syria cannot “expand” within its own sovereign borders (borders obviously long recognized internationally and by the United Nations).

The Syrian Army is making preparations to move deeper into the southern province of Deraa where fighting began during the opening months the war starting in 2011. Syrian state media has reported that government planes are dropping leaflets over towns in the region, warning anti-Assad forces that they must disarm or face military attack. 

* * *

Meanwhile, the New York Times has published what purports to be a detailed account of a February 7th major clash between pro-government forces and Russian allies and pro-US forces, which we explained at the time was cause for “an acute international crisis” as it left up to hundreds on the pro-government and Russian side dead, and may have controversially included Russian mercenaries. 

The NYT description of what took place paints a glowing picture of US special forces successfully holding off a massive assault by hundreds of pro-government fighters, based on multiple interviews and documents given to the Times. Business Insider summarizes the NYT revelation as follows :

  • Roughly 40 US commandos held off about 500 forces loyal to the Syrian government — including Russian mercenaries — in an intense firefight in early February, The New York Times reports.
  • No US troops were harmed, but hundreds of pro-government forces were killed, according to The Times.
  • The firefight took place at an outpost next to a Conoco gas station in eastern Syria on February 7.

The New York Times sources described the outcome as follows:

In the end, 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters were killed. The others retreated under merciless airstrikes from the United States, returning later to retrieve their battlefield dead. None of the Americans at the small outpost in eastern Syria — about 40 by the end of the firefight — were harmed.

And further:

The firefight was described by the Pentagon as an act of self-defense against a unit of pro-Syrian government forces. In interviews, United States military officials said they had watched — with dread — hundreds of approaching rival troops, vehicles and artillery pieces in the week leading up to the attack.

If both this week’s reported foreign air assaults and last month’s massive US coalition strikes on Damascus are any indication, such direct clashes between Syria and the US forces will likely occur again. The only question that remains is the degree to which things will escalate in any future confrontation as the stakes are now even higher with Damascus feeling itself in a more comfortable security position compared to last year, and has a new confidence to respond militarily. 

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The “Axis Of Gold” Will Drive Gold Higher by the End of 2018

Authored by James Rickards via The Daily Reckoning,

A major blind spot in U.S. strategic economic doctrine is the increasing use of physical gold by China, Russia, Iran, Turkey and others both to avoid the impact of U.S. sanctions and create an offensive counterweight to U.S. dominance of dollar payment systems.

This is the Axis of Gold.

This gold-based payments system will dilute and ultimately eliminate the impact of U.S. dollar-based sanctions.

Gold offers adversaries significant defenses against these dollar-based sanctions. Gold is physical, not digital, so it cannot be hacked or frozen. Gold is easy to transport by air to settle balance of payments or other transactions between nations.

Gold flows cannot be interdicted at SWIFT, the international payment system. Gold is fungible and non-traceable (it is an element, atomic number 79), so its origin cannot be ascertained.

We have a lot of data to support the claim that the Axis of Gold exists and is gaining strength.

We know that for example, Russia has tripled its gold reserves in the last ten years. It’s gone from about 600 tons to over 1800 tons of physical gold, and is moving very quickly towards 2,000 tons. That’s an enormous amount of gold.

China is also amassing physical gold at an astounding rate. Like Russia, it has tripled its gold reserves, officially from 1,600 tons to 1,800 tons.

But we have very good reason to believe China actually has a lot more gold than that.

China might actually own up to 4,000 tons of physical gold. We don’t know the exact number because China is highly secretive about its gold acquisitions. But that’s a reasonable estimate. China is also the world’s largest gold producer with mining output of about 450 tons per year.

Iran also has an enormous amount of gold. Iran received billions of dollars in gold from the Obama administration as bribes to join in the now discredited nuclear deal (the “JCPOA” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) to limit Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Iran has also received gold imported from Europe via Turkey, but the exact amount is unknown.

We don’t have any insight into how much it has because it’s also highly nontransparent. But in the first quarter of 2018, Iranian gold bar and coin purchases more than tripled.

Turkey is also acquiring enormous amounts of gold, which should not be surprising given Turkish president Recep Erdogan’s recent comments questioning the role of the dollar in global trade.

The Turkish central bank has almost doubled its gold holdings since last May, according to the World Gold Council. And it was the second largest buyer of gold among central banks for the first quarter of 2018.

So that’s the Axis of Gold. Again, evidence for this Axis of Gold is overwhelming.

I have contacts in the national security industry community who have, in their own roundabout way, been able to confirm that to me, so it’s very clear that’s what’s happening.

This is the type of information you don’t see in the headlines. This is very granular, but it’s all going on behind the scenes.

I’ve explored the implications in many financial war games and other meetings as I’ve described in my books.

I’m also on the Board of Advisors of the Center for Sanctions and Illicit Finance, which is the leading think tank on this subject. I meet with others who are expert in this area, including current and former government officials.

I’ve warned the Pentagon and the Treasury Department about this threat for years. But the message has yet to sink in. The U.S. is still unprepared for this coming strategic alternative to dollar dominance.

Meanwhile, U.S. trade sanctions on China, Russia and Europe are just beginning to bite. Trump’s new sanctions on Iran may be the last straw in the world’s willingness to tolerate what is perceived as U.S. bullying through the use of dollar-based sanctions.

These headwinds are illustrated in the chart below. This shows the customers for oil exported by Iran. China is Iran’s largest oil customer by a wide margin. China’s need for imported oil is huge and Iran’s need for hard currency from its oil exports is existential.

If the U.S. makes it impossible for Iran to pay or receive dollars or other hard currencies for its oil exports and machinery imports, Iran will have to resort to other payment channels. China would be willing to pay Iran in yuan, but Iran’s appetite for yuan is limited.

As mentioned above, an obvious solution is for Iran and China to settle their balance of payments accounts in gold.

Trump’s sanctions on Iran are a double-whammy.

On the one hand, they impede global trade and growth; especially in Europe where growth was already slowing down before the sanctions. On the other hand, the Axis of Gold will create enormous demand for physical gold as an alternative to dollar payments vulnerable to U.S. sanctions.

At the same time, the Axis of Gold creates huge embedded demand for gold as the Axis nations build out an alternative to the dollar payments system.

But right now gold mining output is flat, western central bank sales of gold have ceased, and acquisition of gold by the Axis is increasing.

With limited output, limited western sales, and huge eastern purchases, it’s only a matter of time before a link in the physical gold delivery chain snaps and a full-scale buying panic erupts. Then the price of gold will soar regardless of paper gold manipulations.

Meanwhile, Fed tightening combined with weak growth will push the U.S. economy to the brink of recession later this year.

That will cause the Fed to reverse course and pause in their path of rate hikes. The pause will come possibly in September, and almost certainly by December. The perception of the Fed flipping from tightening to ease will remove a major headwind to higher gold prices and create a tailwind.

Future Fed easing combined with strong demand for physical gold will result in much higher gold prices by year end. The next few months could still be a bumpy ride for gold, but late summer and fall look promising for much a push to $1,400 per ounce or higher.

Last week’s drawdown in gold prices should be seen for what it is, a temporary reversal in a new bull market. The current gold price of about $1,300 per ounce is a classic “buy-the-dips” opportunity that won’t come again soon.

But before long it may be too late for investors to benefit because the ready supply of physical gold will be gone. The time to take a position is now.

The days of dollar dominance are numbered. The process won’t happen overnight, but the signs all point in one direction.

Got gold?

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Labor Unions Are About To Go Extinct, But An Unintended Consequence Emerges

Ever since the advent of collective bargaining not long after the industrial revolution made a generation of workers obsolete – a scenario which is being replayed now with the robotization of the workforce – libertarians have screamed bloody murder, accusing labor unions of artificially skewing the labor market and creating structural imbalances within the workforce.

And after a long and bruising battle, the libertarians (and not far behind them, the conservatives) of the world are finally close to declaring victory, even if the outcome may not be precisely what they desired.

As Credit Suisse explains in a recent analysis on growing deflationary forces prevalent in the labor market, as industry power becomes more concentrated, and employers move closer to becoming monopsony buyers of labor, the fundamental bargaining power of labor is diminished. The result has been a secular reduction in collective bargaining agreements to the point where they are virtually irrelevant.

Furthermore, the fall seen in workers’ union membership, and thus in coverage under collective bargaining agreements – a trend seen across all developed economies – has structurally weakened labor’s bargaining power to the point where unions are now generally seen by the broader public as parasites on the back of non-unionized workers (the collapse of the Detroit automotive powerhouses is rightfully blamed on labor unions).

But while one can judge – objectively or subjectively – the rise and fall of labor unions, one very distinct factual extension of the success (or failure) of unions is the very close relationship between union membership and the income share of the bottom 90% (i.e., those who derive the majority of their income from labor). All this is shown in the charts below:

The above observation suggests that one of the main reasons for the collapse of the Phillips curve, i.e., the lack of near-record employment to result in higher wages, greater wage growth, and thus inflation, is that the slow but sure death of labor unions is to blame.

Which is ironic: while on one hand libertarians can declare victory over hated collective bargaining, the flipside is that this only took place as a result of corporations growing increasingly more powerful, not only financially but also politically, thanks largely to their lobbying power which has never been as great as it is now.

There’s more: if indeed unions are to blame for the lack of emerging wage growth – and they are hardly alone, here one can also add the growing influence of part-timers and the gig economy; geographically flexible markets where advanced technology allows workers to work from home pushing down the NAIRU, the deflationary impacts of technology which creates much more competition and visibility on service pricing with technology enabling easier switching – one can indirectly blame the failure of labor unions for the biggest asset bubble in history.

After all, if wage inflation – measured in its traditional, if incorrect, way – had re-emerged by now, almost ten years after the launch of QE, the Fed and central banks would be far more aggressive in tightening financial conditions, i.e. sending risk assets shaprly lower, instead of debating whether to hike 25 bps at a time when there is still some $3 trillion in excess reserves sloshing around the system and resulting in the biggest liquidity bubble of all time, amounting to roughly $20 trillion in global excess liquidity.

Whatever the unintended consequence of the slow death of labor unions, it is now set to accelerate even more: late on Friday, president Donald Trump signed executive orders restricting the activities of unions that represent many of the U.S. government’s 2.1 million employees, the White House said.

As Bloomberg reports, one of the three orders signed on Friday limits the amount of official time federal employees can spend on union duties to no more than 25%. It also requires the federal government to start charging union members rent for using space in federal buildings, to stop paying employees for the cost of lobbying the federal government, and to more aggressively negotiate union contracts.

Trump’s move to curtail the activities of federal unions follows a wave of laws over the past decade restricting public-sector collective bargaining and weakening government unions – as shown in the chart above – moves that conservatives see as helpful in shrinking government and undermining political foes.

Meanwhile, America’s increasingly endangered labor unions are screaming bloody murder. The nation’s largest federal employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees  – which naturally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 – blasted that Trump’s decision “is more than union busting – it’s democracy busting. These executive orders are a direct assault on the legal rights and protections that Congress has specifically guaranteed to the 2 million public-sector employees across the country who work for the federal government.”

Public labor unions will have even more to rage about in the near future: among Trump’s most consequential moves for the future of organized labor was his appointment to the Supreme Court of Justice Neil Gorsuch, who is expected to vote with the court’s conservative majority next month to ban public sector union fees, making the entire public sector “right-to-work.”

And with corporations doing everything on their side to crush what little is left of private sector labor into submission, it is now only a matter of time before collective bargaining is a thing of the past. So yes, on one hand, the biggest manipulator of the labor market is on its last breath, but its death will only enable the biggest manipulator of asset prices to become even strong, because the death of unions and continued low wage growth, will be just what the Fed, and those who benefit from perpetually easy monetary conditions, ordered.

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Here’s How The Government Will “Calm” The Public If A Nuclear Attack Occurs

Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

The government has already prepared some scripts to use on the terrified public should the United States ever be attacked with a nuclear weapon. The US government prepares for all sorts of threats, but none match the pomp and circumstance they’ll display in the event of a nuclear explosion.

Prepared scripts for many disaster scenarios are already written ranging from biowarfare and chemical weapons to volcanoes and wildfires.  The good news is that the Cold War is over and a limited nuclear strike or a terrorist attack can be survivable (a direct hit notwithstanding). The bad news is that the government’s plans for survival don’t really include you anyway. Couple that with a new arms race which is already underway, albeit shrouded in secrecy, and one that may add small, portable nuclear weapons to the global stockpile. Lawmakers and experts fear such “tactical” or battlefield-ready devices (and their parts) may be easier for terrorists to obtain via theft or sale.

And even a small nuclear weapon on the ground can create a stadium-size fireball, unleash a city-crippling blastwave, and sprinkle radioactive fallout hundreds of miles away.

“Terrorist use of an actual nuclear bomb is a low-probability event – but the immensity of the consequences means that even a small chance is enough to justify an intensive effort to reduce the risk,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said in a September 2017 article, which outlines what might happen after terrorists detonate a crude device that yields a 10-kiloton, near-Hiroshima-size explosion in a city.

In this case, it’s important to be prepared for this scenario, even if it’s unlikely to play out.

According to Business Insider, a nuclear terrorist attack of this magnitude is one of 15 major disaster scenarios planned for by FEMA and other US agencies. (The same scenario also includes a dirty bomb explosion, though such an event would be dramatically less harmful.)

As part of the planning effort, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a series of manuals about how state and local governments should respond. A companion document anticipates 99 likely questions during a radiation emergency and scripted messages that officials can copy or adapt.

 “Ideally, these messages never will be needed,” the EPA says in its messaging document.

“[N]evertheless, we have a responsibility to be prepared to empower the public by effectively communicating how people can protect themselves and their families in the event of a radiological or nuclear emergency.”

Here’s an example of what the government will tell people to try to prevent widespread panic:

Lives have been lost, people have been injured, and homes and businesses have been destroyed. All levels of government are coordinating their efforts to do everything possible to help the people affected by this emergency. As lifesaving activities continue,follow the instructions from emergency responders…

The instructions are based on the best information we have right now; the instructions will be updated as more information becomes available.”

So basically, they demand you follow their orders.  Nothing out of the ordinary for the government. Comply and do what we say. This is why so many prepare in advance for a wide array of scenarios.  That way, they don’t have to “obey” and “comply with orders” or go to a FEMA camp just to survive.

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These Are The Cheapest Crash Hedges Right Now

With the “smart” money exiting the stock market in droves, yield curves collapsing, extreme speculative positioning in bonds, and a dramatically diverging economic reality from market market narratives, the possibility of a crash – Fed triggered or not – is rising.

What do ‘they’ know?

And with everyone on the same side of another boat…

 

So the question is – what’s the cheapest way to hedge against a crash scenario?

Bank of America’s Jason Galazidis has some answers…

Ranked by the average, the screen below shows that the hedges which are most underpricing historical drawdowns are:

Gold calls, US HY Credit hedges and EUR 10y receivers

 

Since the middle of January, gold implied vol has been notably, systemically lower than stocks…

And European equity vol has started to normalize back to its premium to US equity vol…

 

Cross asset risk is once more in benign territory relative to history as vols and credit spreads are all in their 1st 11y quartile…

 

Additionally, 12M cross-asset-class correlation has continued its climb since the Feb-18 equity-led sell-off, now reaching 5y highs

Historically there have been 3 distinct cross asset correlation regimes since 1995. Interestingly, we see a broadly upward trend since Oct-03, well before the Lehman bankruptcy in Sep-08. This is related to the liquidity driven crush in asset risk-premia that helped drive investment leverage higher.  Long-term correlation established a new regime since 3Q13, similar to the ’03 to ‘08 correlation environment.

And these are the two-month-forward historical stress peaks, compared to current levels, if that systemic crash should occur…

The chart illustrates why it is useful to consider the relative pricing of options across asset classes to hedge against tail events: option markets often underestimate the severity of market shocks, and to different degrees. In 2008, currency and equity vols were the most optimistic ahead of the Lehman crisis and the most surprised after (rose to the highest levels).

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“Freedom From Want” Is Slavery For All

Authored by James Bovard via The Mises Institute,

“Freedom from want” is one of the most frequently invoked notions of freedom in our time. However, it is a bogus freedom that politicians and socialists offer to lull people into accepting policies that destroy true freedom. Freedom from want has been most loudly advocated in this century by those who favored removing almost all limits from government power.

For example, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of British socialism and authors of The Soviet Union: A New Civilization?, asserted in 1936: “Personal freedom means, in effect, the power of the individual to buy sufficient food, shelter and clothing.”

The Webbs did not specify how many millions of people government should be permitted to kill in the name of “freedom from want.” But during Stalin’s bloodiest decade, they asserted that for government economic planning to succeed, “public discussion must be suspended between the promulgation of the decision and the accomplishment of the task” and that any criticisms of the master plan should be treated as “an act of disloyalty, or even of treachery.”

For government to be able to liberate people with food and clothing, it must have the power to execute anyone who criticizes the official economic plan. After visiting the Ukraine, the Webbs endorsed Stalin’s war on the kulaks (the least impoverished peasants), commenting that “it must be recognized that the liquidation of the individual capitalist in agriculture had necessarily to be faced if the required increase of output was to be obtained.”

(Output plummeted.)

Equating liberty with satisfactory living standards became far more common as the twentieth century went on.

“Real freedom means good wages, short hours, security in employment, good homes, opportunity for leisure and recreation with family and friends,” wrote Sir Oswald Mosley, the most prominent British supporter of Nazi Germany, in his 1936 book, Fascism.

James Gregor noted in his book The Ideology of Fascism that fascism aimed at “restraints which foster the increased effective freedom of the individual.”

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted in 1937 that “even some of our own people may wonder whether democracy can match dictatorship in giving this generation the things it wants from government.”

University of Chicago professor Leslie Pape noted in 1941 that “democracies readily admit the claims of totalitarian states to great achievements in the cause of positive freedom.”

British historian E.H. Carr, writing in 1951, observed that, for the modern era, “freedom from the economic constraint of want was clearly just as important as freedom from the political constraint of kings and tyrants.”

Carr justified the array of economic controls in postwar Britain: “The price of liberty is the restriction of liberty. The price of some liberty for all is the restriction of the greater liberty of some.”

However, with this standard, there is no limit to the amount of freedom that government can destroy in the name of creating “greater liberty for some.” The British Labour government that Carr championed advanced freedom by conscripting labor for the coal mines and empowering the Ministry of Labour to direct workers to whatever employment was considered in the national interest—empowering over 10,000 government officials to carry out searches (including of private homes) without warrants—prohibiting restaurants from serving customer meals costing more than 5 shillings (less than $2 in 1947)—and fining farmers who refused to plant the specific crops government demanded.

The government also “nationalized all potential land uses in the United Kingdom, permitting only continuation of existing ones and requiring ‘planning permission’ for any others,” as law professor Gideon Kanner noted.

The Labour government offered freedom via the solidarity of standing in the same rationing line—liberation via deprivation. (A 1998 New York Times article cited the Labour government’s postwar food rationing, which continued into the 1950s, as a contributing factor to the long-term decline of British cuisine.

The more politicians promise to give, the more they entitle themselves to take. Carr, serving in 1945 as chairman of the UNESCO Committee on the Principles of the Rights of Man, declared that “no society can guarantee the enjoyment of such rights [to government handouts] unless it in turn has the right to call upon and direct the productive capacities of the individuals enjoying them.”

Thus, the price of government benefits is unlimited political control over people’s paychecks and work lives.

Once freedom is equated with a certain material standard of living, confiscation becomes the path to liberation. Thus, the more avidly a politician raises taxes, the greater his apparent love for liberty. In the name of providing “freedom from want,” the politician acquires a pretext to destroy the basis of private citizens’ independence. “Freedom from want” becomes a license for politicians, rather than a declaration of rights of citizens.

Anyone who does not have certain possessions is assumed not to be free – and in need of political rescue. President Johnson, justifying a vast expansion of government social programs, declared in 1965, “Negroes are trapped – as many whites are trapped – in inherited, gateless poverty. . . . Public and private poverty combine to cripple their capacities.”

 Vice President Hubert Humphrey defined a poor person as “the man who for reasons beyond his control cannot help himself.” This perspective on poverty and self-help mocks all of American history. It implies that any individual who earns less than $7,890 a year (the official poverty line for a single person) is incapable of any discipline or resolution.

While advocates of positive freedom insist that government must intervene so that each person “can be all that they can be,” government aid programs are notorious for rewarding people for making the least of themselves. President Roosevelt warned in 1935 that “continued dependence on relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber.”

President Clinton declared in 1996: “For decades now, welfare has too often been a trap, consigning generation after generation to a cycle of dependency. The children of welfare are more likely to drop out of school, to run afoul of the law, to become teen parents, to raise their own children on welfare.”

A rising tide no longer lifts all boats when the government rewards people for scuttling their own ships.

Faith in freedom from want depends on a political myopia that focuses devoutly on only one side of the ledger of government action. This is measuring freedom according to how much government does for people, and totally disregarding what government does to people. Government provides “freedom” for the welfare recipient by imposing tax servitude on the worker. In an age of unprecedented prosperity, government tax policies have turned the average citizen’s life into a financial struggle and insured that he will likely become a ward of the state in his last decades.

Some statists insist that taxation is irrelevant to freedom. According to sociologist Robert Goodin,

If what the rich man loses when his property is redistributed is described as a loss of freedom, then the gain to the poor must similarly be described as a gain of freedom. . . . No net loss of freedom for society as a whole, as distinct from individuals within it, is involved in redistributive taxation. Thus, there is no basis in terms of freedom . . . for objecting to it.

What does Goodin mean by “freedom for society as a whole”? By this standard, slavery would not reduce a society’s freedom, since the slave’s loss of freedom would be equaled by the slave owner’s gain. Nor is there any difference, vis-à-vis freedom, between permitting people to retain their earnings and spend them as they choose, and government confiscating their money to hire more regulators, inspectors, and informants to better repress the citizenry.

What are the practical results of the modern “freedom from want”? Economist Edgar Browning, writing in 1993, examined the marginal cost of redistribution—defined as “the ratio of the aggregate loss to the top four quintiles of households to the aggregate gain to the bottom quintile of households.”

Browning estimated that the marginal cost to the most affluent 80 percent of households of increasing the income of the poorest 20 percent by $1 was $7.82.

The marginal costs of redistribution are much larger than people might presume because of reduced incentives to work, both among the taxpayers and recipients. Also, as Browning noted, “marginal tax rates must be increased very sharply relative to the amount of income that is redistributed.” Combining Browning’s analysis and Goodin’s definition, confiscatory redistribution destroys almost eight times as much “freedom” as it creates.

Once the notion of “freedom from want” is accepted as the pre-eminent freedom, it becomes a wish list justifying endless political forays deeper and deeper into people’s lives. Princeton professor Amy Gutmann, in her 1980 book, Liberal Equality, declared: “Liberal egalitarians want to say that freedom of choice is not very meaningful without a right to those goods necessary to life itself.”

​Gutmann’s elaboration of “necessary goods” reveals how government would be obliged to control almost everything: “Supplying the poorest with more primary goods will be insufficient if their sense of self-worth or their very desire to pursue their conceptions of the good is undercut by self-doubt.”

By this standard, freedom is violated when people suffer self-doubt, and the government is obliged to forcibly intervene to guarantee that all people think well of themselves.

Political scientist Alan Wolfe, a self-described “welfare liberal,” asserted in 1995 that “people need a modicum of security and income maintenance, underwritten by government, in order to fulfill the ideal of negative liberty, which is self-sufficiency.”

Government dependency is the new, improved form of self-reliance: dependency on government doesn’t count because government is a better friend to you than you are yourself. But the more dependent people become on government, the more susceptible they are to political and bureaucratic abuse. Freedom from want is conceivable only so long as people are allowed to want only what the government thinks they should have.

Freedom from want supposedly results from government taking away what a person owns so that it can give him back what it thinks he deserves. The welfare state is either a way to force people to finance their own benefits via political-bureaucratic bagmen, or it is a way to force some people to labor for other people’s benefit. In the first case, government sacrifices the person’s freedom to the fraud that government must tax him to subsidize him; in the second, government sacrifices the person’s freedom in order to “liberate” someone else—often someone who chooses not to work. If someone pays the taxes that finance the government benefits he receives, he is less free than he would otherwise have been.

Some “freedom from want” advocates imply that government is a great benefactor when it promises citizens “three hots and a cot” – the old-time recruiting slogan of the Marine Corps. But trading freedom for a full belly is a worse bargain now than ever before. As economist F.A. Hayek observed, “As the result of the growth of free markets, the reward of manual labor has during the past hundred and fifty years experienced an increase unknown in any earlier period in history.”

The average worker in industrialized countries can purchase the bare necessities of life with fewer hours of labor than ever before. Comparing current wages and prices with those of 1800, economist Julian Simon found that the average American worker today needs to labor less than one-tenth the time to earn enough to purchase a bushel of wheat than his predecessors did two centuries ago.

While the real price of food has plummeted (in spite of government farm policies), the “real price” of political servitude has not diminished.

It is understandable that some well-intentioned people assume that “freedom from want” is the most important freedom. It is difficult for many people to conceive of enjoying anything (much less their freedom) if they lack food, clothing, or shelter. However, freedom is not a guarantee of prosperity for every citizen; the fact that some people have meager incomes does not prove that they are shackled. It is a cardinal error to confuse freedom with the things that free individuals can achieve or produce, and then to sacrifice the reality of freedom in a deluded shortcut to the bounty of freedom. Freedom is not measured by how much a person possesses, but by the restrictions and shackles under which he lives.

Throughout history, politicians have used other people’s property to buy themselves power. That is the primary achievement of the welfare state. The danger of government handouts to freedom was clear to some political writers hundreds of years ago. The French writer Etienne de la Boétie, in his 1577 Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, noted of ancient Rome: “Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine . . . and then everybody would shamelessly cry, ‘Long live the King!’ The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.”

“Freedom from want” is not possible unless the government is allowed to control all things people want. Americans must beware of Trojan-horse definitions of freedom – definitions that, once accepted, allow bureaucrats to take over everyone’s life.

Government handouts insinuate political power into the deepest recesses of a person’s life. And when the time is ripe, politicians take command where they previously lavished their gifts.

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Tommy Robinson Arrested Outside UK Court, Jailed For 13 Months As Judge Orders Orwellian Media Blackout

UK activist and English Defence Leage founder Tommy Robinson was arrested on Friday outside of Leeds Crown Court for reporting on a pedophile grooming trial. Within six hours of his arrest, Robinson was handed a 13 month prison term for violating a prior suspended sentence for a similar offense, while media outlets were banned from covering the incident by the court – with several removing reports which had already been published. 

Footage shows Robinson, 35, being arrested while livestreaming to his Facebook page outside the courthouse. He can be heard shouting to a friend “Please, George, get me a solicitor, I’m on a suspended sentence, you see.”

A big police van with about seven police officers pulled up and arrested [Robinson] and told him to stop live streaming,” Robinson’s producer told RT (before their article (archived) was scrubbed from the internet). “They said it was incitement and a breach of the peace.

“No peace has been breached – there were two other people there and he’s been perfectly quiet talking into his phone. [The police] said nothing about the court proceedings. It’s very strange.” 

Disturbingly, the judge who sentenced Robinson, Geoffrey Marson QC, ordered an Orwellian media blackout – which resulted in several publications deleting their articles from the web covering Robinson’s arrest.  


Robinson was admonished last year by Judge Heather Norton for filming outside a gang rape case in Canterbury, who slapped him with a three month suspended sentence on the condition that he cease his coverage of the trials. 

you should be under no illusions that if you commit any further offence of any kind, and that would include, I would have thought a further contempt of court by similar actions, then that sentence of three months would be activated -Judge Heather Norton

“This is not about free speech, not about the freedom of the press, nor about legitimate journalism, and not about political correctness,” the judge told Robinson at the time.

#FreeTommy

In response to Robinson’s arrest, a large group of protesters gathered outside Downing Street – while the hashtag #FreeTommy has been used to coordinate a response, express outrage and share information about the situation. 

Robinson’s arrest has also sparked a free speech debate over social media, with  supporters and detractors alike standing up for the controversial activist’s right (or lack thereof) to express his opinion.


Pedophile grooming gangs

A group of 29 defendants are being tried  for historical sex offences against children, split into three trials. Robinson was arrested at the second trial, while the first is ongoing.

For more on the grooming gangs which have abused over 700 women and girls, click here.

Meanwhile, enraged Britons have been harassing the defendants as they make their way to court in the ongoing trials. 

Here is the full list of defendants via The Sun

First Trial

Amere Singh Dhaliwal, 34, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., is accused of 54 charges, including 21 charges of rape and 14 charges of trafficking with a view of sexual exploitation. Dhaliwal is accused of charges against eleven different girls from 2004 to 2011.

Irfan Ahmed, 32, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with nine offences including making an indecent image of a child.

Zahid Hassan, 28, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with 20 offences including six charges of raping a girl aged 13 or under.

Mohammed Kammer, 32, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with two offences including rape of a girl under 15.

Mohammed Aslam, 29, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with two offences including rape of a girl under 15.

Abdul Rehman, 30, from Sheffield, South Yorks., was charged with seven offences including raping a girl under 15.

Raj Singh Barsran, 32, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with three offences including sexual touching of a girl over 13.

Nahman Mohammed, 31 from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with three counts including trafficking a person for sexual exploitation.

Zubair Ahmed, 30, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with two offences including raping a girl under the age 15.

Hamzha Saleem, 37, from Old traddford, Gtr Mancs., was charged with three counts including human trafficking.

Second Trial (Robinson’s arrest)

Mansoor Akhtar, 25, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with three offences including attempted rape of a girl under the age of 13.

Mohammed Asaf Akram, 31, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with 14 offences including four charges of raping a girl of thirteen or under and one charge of threatening to kill.

Wiqas Mahmud, 36 from Huddersfield, West Yorks.., was charged with three offences of rape of a girl under 15.

Nasarat Hussain, 28, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with five offences including rape of a girl under 15.

Sajid Hussain, 32, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with five offences including rape of a girl under 15.

Mohammed Irfraz, 28, from Huddersfield, West Yorks.., was charged with eight offences including false imprisonment.

Faisal Nadeem, 30 from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with three counts including raping a woman 16 or over.

Mohammed Azeem, 31, from Bradford, West Yorks., was charged with three offences including rape of a girl under 15.

Zulquarnian Dogar, 29, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with two offences including sexual touching of a female aged 13 or over.

Manzoor Hassan, 37, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with four offences including inciting the sexual exploitation of a child aged between 13-17.

Third trial set to last for six weeks.

Niaz Ahmed, 53, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with three offences including sexual assault on a female.

Mohammed Imran Ibrar, 32, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with four offences including arranging the commission of a child sex offence.

Asif Bashir, 32, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with five offences, including three counts of raping a woman 16 or over.

Everton la Bastide, 50, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with two offences including sexual touching a girl of 13 or over.

Saqib Raheel, 30, from Dudley was charged with two offences including trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Usman Khalid, 29, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with three offences including assaulting a girl under 13.

Aleem Javaid, 27, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with two offences including supply of a class B drug.

Mrs Naveeda Habib, 38, from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged on one count of neglect of a child.

Mrs Shahnaz Malik, 55 from Huddersfield, West Yorks., was charged with one count of neglecting a child.

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Key Test Developing For Global Equity Rally

Via Dana Lyons’ Tumblr,

A key barometer of the global equity rally is facing an important test.

One of the interesting trendlines in this week’s edition of our regular #TrendlineWednesday feature on Twitter comes from the chart of the MSCI EAFE Index (EAFE). As a reminder, the EAFE Index represents developed countries in Europe, Australasia and the Far East. Like most equity markets around the globe, the EAFE has enjoyed a strong up-move of late, particularly over the past 2 years. The index did hit a snag, though, along with most stocks, early this year in the form of a post-January correction. And the resulting action has the EAFE testing an important line of bull market support.

Specifically, the EAFE is testing the Up trendline stemming from its Brexit lows and connecting the post-U.S. election lows and the lows from this past March-April.

As the chart indicates, the “test” level – near 2023 – also happens to signify the approximate convergence level of both the 50 and 200-Day Simple Moving Averages.

Obviously, if the EAFE wants to maintain the direction and pace of its current advance, it would behoove the index to hold this key cluster of support.

So keep an eye on the approximate 2023 level on the EAFE for a “tell” on the future direction of the global developed market equity rally.

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