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Saturday August 18, 2018 @ 06:51:18 PM mt

The Debasement of Human Rights




Back in May I invited Aaron Rhodes to come over from his home in Hamburg, Germany, to talk about his new book from Encounter Books, The Debasement of Human Rights: How Politics Sabotage the Ideal of Freedom. The Wall Street Journals James Taranto was in town to interview Rhodes, which he did after our forum. The interview appears in todays Journal. Its a tour de force, pulling together the many threads of a huge, complex argument and presenting them in a short, readable format.

If youve ever wondered whats wrong with the UN Human Rights establishment but have never quite been able to put your finger precisely on what it is, this interview will answer many of your questionsand the book will spell out the details. The origins of a world in which dictators sit of the UN Human Rights Council, immune from criticism while condemning free societies, can be found in progressivisms conflation of natural and positive law, which Franklin Roosevelt mastered with his Four Freedoms and his wife Eleanor helped institute in 1948 in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With that foundation, equating rights to liberty with rights to social security, rest and leisure, periodic holidays with pay, job training, and more, it was only a matter of time before tyrants would find their immunity in their purported provision of such services, invariably at the expense of liberty, leading to the debasement of real rights.

During the Reagan administration I served for a time as director of policy for the State Departments Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs where I saw human rights hypocrisy up close. During the annual meetings in 1987 in Geneva of what was then the UN Commission on Human Rights, for example, we introduced a resolution condemning Cubas human rights record, only to be met with objections from European nations, effectively excusing those abuses by pointing to Cubas health care record. With the end of the Cold War, which tended to sharpen the difference between these two kinds of rights, the distinction has become increasingly blurred, as Rhodes explains, drawing on his experience as director of the International Helsinki Federation from 1993 to 2007 and his present position as president of the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe.

Can anything be done? Taranto asks at the end of the interview. I wish that the Trump administration would talk about human rights once in a while, Rhodes answers. They should talk about freedom.

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Friday August 17, 2018 @ 01:27:06 PM mt

Faith Libertarianism and the Common Good




How best to reconcile faith with the common good and libertarian thinking poses challenges. Stephanie Slade of Reason argues that those challenges are often merely in how other people perceive libertarian approaches to maximize human flourishing.
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Friday August 17, 2018 @ 12:42:21 PM mt

Sen. Warren's Confiscatory Corporate Governance Proposals




Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has introduced legislationthat would radically overhaul corporate governance in America, requiring that the largest (over $1 billion) companies obtain revocable charters from the federal government to do business, instituting rules reminiscent of German-style co-determination under which workers would be entitled to at least 40% representation on boards of directors, placing directors under a fiduciary obligation to serve stakeholders as opposed to owners as currently, prohibiting political expenditures by corporations unless approved by at least 75 percent of directors and shareholders, and restricting directors and officers from reselling incentive stock within five years.

Lets be clear, none of these are new ideas, writes leading corporate governance expert Stephen Bainbridge of UCLA. They are either academic utopian schemes or failed European governance models. There are very good reasons none of these dusty relics of eons of progressive corporate thought have made it into law. His series of posts picking it apart in detail begins here.

Our friend James Copland of the Manhattan Institute points outthat Sen. Warrens proposal would pull down three main pillars of U.S. corporate governance: shareholder primacy, director independence, and charter federalism.Each has long been a subject of extensive research and debate, and the alternatives, European or otherwise, simply do not have as good a track record of supporting a dynamic economy that generates world-beating enterprises across a wide range of business sectors (as opposed to, say, the kind of specialty manufacturing at which Germany does well.) Worker board representation, in particular, shapes incentives in ways that discourage important forms of risk-taking and reallocation of capital across sectors.

All of which helps explain why few startups would willingly accept Warren-style rules in drafting their by-laws. But theres a big additional problem in applying the rules, as Warren would, to existing companies that have already been capitalized under different assumptions: it would in effect confiscate at a stroke a large share of stockholder value, transferring it to some combination of worker and community interests. This gigantic expropriation, of course, might be a Pyrrhic victory for many workers and retirees whose 401(k) values would take a huge hit in exchange for new rights of uncertain value to install board members. Already, some early enthusiasts for the Warren plan are treating the collapse of shareholder value as a feature rather than a bug, arguing that it would reduce wealth inequality.

Whether or not it would accomplish that, it would test the restraints the U.S. Constitution places on the taking of property without compensation. Alas, the courts have been inconsistent about the extent to which they will recognize as takings, and provide a remedy for, legislative enactments that strip away much of the value of financial instruments or other property rights without expropriating fully 100% of their value. Cato over the years has been very much part of that legal debate, arguing for a strong interpretation of the Fifth Amendments language: nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Confiscatory proposals like Warrens make it more important than ever that we be prepared to defend this element of liberty in the courts.

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Thursday August 16, 2018 @ 06:04:21 PM mt

Big Private Platforms for Speech and Alex Jones




Several big internet platforms removed or hobbled conspiracy slinger Alex Jones, but any concerns that raises do not implicate the Constitution. John Samples comments.
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Thursday August 16, 2018 @ 02:11:48 PM mt

How One Company Got the FDA to Ban All Its Competitors




John Kelly, who writes a local column for the Washington Post, set out to investigate a century-old milk bottle claiming medicinal qualities and discovered a mid-20th century story of rent-seeking and crony capitalism:

But the big change for Burton-Parsons came in the late 1960s, when it entered the burgeoning soft contact lens market not the lenses themselves, but the solution used to clean them.

And thats where things took an interesting turn.

Up until 1974, consumers could purify their contact lenses by boiling them for 10 minutes in distilled water with salt tablets. But that year an Food and Drug Administration microbiologist namedMary Bruch known as the first lady of contact lenses gained oversight of that product. Bolstered by FDA ophthalmologistArnauld Scafidi, Bruch started disallowing soft lens manufacturers from utilizing salt tablets, decreeing that consumers risked eye infection.

The only cleaning solution she approved was made by Burton-Parsons, which by then was headquartered in Seat Pleasant, Md., and owned by theManfusofamily, which also owned horse-racing tracks around the state. Its product Boil-n-Soak cost four times as much as the simple salt tablets.

It emerged during congressional hearings in 1980 that Bruch and Scafidi had been repeatedly wined and dined by Burton-Parsons executives. The Washington PostsJohn F. Berrywrote: Expense records showed that top executives bought Bruch more than 50 meals at places ranging from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and Brennans in New Orleans to Maison Blanche and LAuberge Chez Francois in the Washington area ... [Bruch] also told the congressional committee that she exchanged vintage wine with one of the Manfusos who shared her interest in fine wine.

Scafidi was unable to provide research to substantiate his claims that salt tablets were unsafe.

In 1974, Burton-Parsons had annual sales of about $5million. In 1979, after five years of a near monopoly, it was sold to Alcon Laboratories, a subsidiary of Nestle S.A. of Switzerland, for $110million, according to industry estimates.

Bruch and Scafidi were investigated by the FBI for the favors they allegedly gave the firm. Scafidi resigned, and Bruch was fired.

More on rent-seeking, crony capitalism, and lobbying regulators.

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Thursday August 16, 2018 @ 12:51:25 PM mt

Fractional Reserve Banking and Austrian Business Cycles Part I




Several times on these pages (e.g., here and here), and elsewhere (e.g., here and here) Ive tried to refute the claim, championed by certain Austrian-school economists and their many fans, that fractional-reserve banking is inherently fraudulent, because whenever the sum of readily-redeemable bank deposit balances and (when they exist) redeemable commercial banknotes exceeds the quantity of bank reserves, the difference must consist of so many fake warehouse receipts or property titles.

Although the popularity of the fractional reserves equal fraud (FR=F) thesis seems to be on the wane, many still remain in thrall to it, and Im pretty darn sure that no further exertions by myself, Larry White, or anyone else will ever suffice to change all of their minds. Although I wish this werent so, I worry less and less about it. After all, there are still several Flat Earth societies, complete with dues-paying members, yet reputable geographers dont seem to be losing any sleep over it.

There is, however, a second prong to the Austrian attack upon fractional-reserve banking which has also won many adherents, and which hasnt been so thoroughly debunked as to make one wonder about those adherents powers of ratiocination. I mean the argument that fractional reserve banking inevitably causes business cycles by allowing banks to finance levels of investment exceeding those warranted by voluntary savings, at interest rates driven below their equilibrium of natural levels. The ensuing malinvestment boom, financed by forced rather than voluntary saving, inevitably leads to a bust, when unsustainable investments are liquidated, and economic activity is painfully redirected along sustainable paths.

In fact this second fractional reserves equal Austrian business cycles (FR=ABC) prong of the Austrian assault on fractional-reserve banking is just as unfounded as the first. The difference is that, while trying to win over the last, staunch adherents to the FR=F thesis may be futile, getting many who now believe that FR=ABC to see the error of their ways may not be so difficult, because the counterarguments havent been aired as often.

Those counterarguments are, on the other hand, more involved than the ones that can be brought to bear against the against the FR=F argument. Consequently Ive chosen to devote several posts to them. I begin this first post with a review of conventional Austrian arguments concerning the meaning of excessive monetary expansion. I then consider the bearing of fractional reserves on an economys rate of monetary expansion. In two follow-up posts I use this background information to critically assess the claim that fractional reserve banking is an important cause of Austrian-style boom-bust cycles.

Monetary Expansion and the Austrian Theory of Business Cycles

To asses the claim that fractional reserve banking is an important cause of booms and busts of the sort described by the Austrian theory of the business cycle, we have, first of all, to recognize at least two popular versions of that theory that supply grounds for this claim. Both versions attribute cycles to excessive monetary expansion. But each defines excessive monetary expansion differently. According to one version, a constant money supply alone is capable of averting cycles. As Murray Rothbard explains, in summarizing Austrian monetary theory,

once any commodity or object is established as a money, it performs the maximum exchange work of which it is capable. An increase in the supply of money causes no increase whatever in the exchange service of money; all that happens is that the purchasing power of each unit of money is diluted by the increased supply of units. Hence there is never a social need for increasing the supply of money, either because of an increased supply of goods or because of an increase in population. People can acquire an increased proportion of cash balances with a fixed supply of money by spending less and thereby increasing the purchasing power of their cash balances, thus raising their real cash balances overall .

A world of constant money supply would be one similar to that of much of the 18th and 19th centuries, marked by the successful flowering of the Industrial Revolution with increased capital investment increasing the supply of goods and with falling prices for those goods as well as falling costs of production. As demonstrated by the notable Austrian theory of the business cycle, even an inflationary expansion of money and credit merely offsetting the secular fall in prices will create the distortions of production that bring about the business cycle (my emphasis).

The other version of the theory maintains instead that cycles are caused, not by growth in the money stock per se, but by growth in the supply of unbacked (fiduciary) bank money. According to Frank Shostak, one of several adherents to this view, what sets in motion these cycles is not fluctuations in the growth rate of money supply as such, but the fluctuations in the growth rate of money supply generated out of thin air. By money out of thin air we mean money that is created by the central bank and amplified by fractional reserve lending by commercial banks.

An increase in the money supply out of thin air provides a platform for non-productive activities, which consume and add nothing to the pool or real wealth. Money out of thin air diverts real wealth from wealth generators to non-wealth generating activities, thus weakening the wealth-generating process.

In this alternative version of the theory, what matters is whether new money is either made of or backed by some commodity, like gold, or not. In a gold standard system, growth in the stock of gold, no matter how rapid, can never set off a cycle; in contrast any decline in the ratio of gold reserves to readily-redeemable bank liabilities can set a cycle in motion. In the case of a fiat money system, the two versions of the Austrian cycle theory coincide, for in this case there is no question of any commodity-money driven growth in the total quantity of money, whether that growth is due to central bank expansion or to a reduction in commercial banks reserve ratios.

Fractional Reserves and Monetary Expansion

The next step in countering the FR=ABC thesis consists of showing that a banking systems reserve ratio and its rate of monetary expansion are largely independent of one another. One might have a banking system that rests on slimmest of reserve cushions, in which the monetary supply doesnt grow at all. Alternatively one could have a 100-percent reserve system in which the money stock grows at a rapid rate.

These conclusions follow from the simple fact that, in any banking system with a given reserve ratio, the growth rate of the supply of bank-created money (or, if one prefers Austrian terminology, money substitutes) consisting of readily-redeemable deposits and, perhaps, commercial banknotes, will be approximately equal to the growth rate of the supply of basic money or bank reserves. That will be so whether these reserves consist of some commodity like gold or of the liabilities of a central bank. Nor does it matter how low the reserve ratio is: as Ill show in a moment, although the growth rate of the money supply does depend on whether and how rapidly the banking system reserve ratio itself changes, is doesnt depend on the absolute value of that ratio.

I say approximately above because some basic money may also circulate outside of the banking system, in which case movements of basic money into and out of the banking system will also influence to total money supply. To simplify the discussion, lets assume that basic money consists of gold coins, but that instead of actually using these coins, the public prefers to hold banknotes and deposits, so that the supply of bank reserves is always equal to the supply of basic money. Lets also assume that there are no mandatory reserve requirements. These circumstance make life relatively easy for the bankers, who need never fear having customers withdraw gold, and can presumably expand their liabilities more readily as a result. The assumption is therefore meant to allow as much scope for fractional-reserve based monetary expansion as possible.

The banks still need some gold, however, to settle accounts among themselves, especially when the amounts involved are too small to cover with other assets. Consequently they must maintain some positive ratio of reserves, though the ratio may fall well below 100 percent. Letting r stand for that ratio, with R and M standing for the quantities of reserves and bank-created money, respectively. Then

(1) M = R(1/r).

Differentiating (1) with respect to time after taking logs gives

(2) M = R r,

where the italics stand for rates of change. Equation (2) shows that the growth rate of the money supply depends, not on the absolute value of r, but on how that value changes over time. A falling reserve ratio will be associated with a growing money stock, other things equal; but a small reserve ratio, if constant, doesnt imply a more rapidly growing money stock than a high one. Instead, if the reserve ratio is constant, the money stock will grow only as rapidly as the supply of bank reserves, regardless of the value of the reserve ratio.

Real and Pseudo Money Creation

Austrian accounts of the money-creation process often exaggerate the ability of fractional reserve banks to create money out of thin air, even while sticking to a fixed reserve ratio, by looking at only one part of the bank money creation process. Consider the following, typical account, from a paper by Walter Block and Kenneth M. Garschina. Banks, they write,

are able to increase the money supply due to the system of fractional reserve banking. For example, if a deposit is made of one hundred dollars, the bank is only required to hold in reserve or on hand a small fraction of this amount. The rest can be granted as credit to customers who will inevitably follow the same deposit process with their newly acquired funds. In this way, in a decentralized system, money travels from bank to bank, multiplying each time it is lent out. And the original depositor, of course, is still able to draw on the funds entrusted to the bank on demand. As the process continues, the volume of money increases, lowering the money rate of interest below the natural rate.

But is it really true that a deposit to any bank in a fractional reserve system leads to substantially greater increase in the total money stock, and a correspondingly large increase the the money stocks fiduciary component, with all the business-cycle repercussions that follow from such?

Actually, it isnt, for the simple reason that, more often than not, a deposit made at one bank involves a corresponding withdrawal of funds from another bank, as when the deposited sum takes the form of a check. In that case, the process of deposit expansion that Block and Garschina describe will have as its counterpart a like process of deposit destruction, where the ultimate result (assuming the simple case in which all banks maintain the same, given reserve ratio) is an unchanged total money stock, with the only actual change consisting of a change in the distribution of bank deposits among the various banks.

In order for the total money stock to increase, as Block and Garschina suggest it will, the initially deposited sum, instead of consisting of funds transferred from a different bank, must consist of basic money, meaning either cash that had been circulating outside the banking system, or basic money that has freshly entered the economy, in the shape of newly produced or imported metallic money or, alternatively, the fresh fiat money emissions of a central bank. But in that case the fundamental cause of growth in the money stock is, not the fractional value of r, but the increase in R, just as our previous equations suggested. Provided that the system reserve ratio itself stays constant, so long as the supply of bank reserves itself remains unchanged, the total quantity of bank deposits wont change.

It follows from whats been said so far that, to assess the claim that fractional reserve banking causes business cycles, we must ask two questions. The first question is, To what extent have historical money-fueled booms been associated, not with growth in the supply of either commodity money or central-bank supplied bank reserves, but with declining banking system reserve ratios? The second question is, When a banking system does manage to operate on a lower reserve ratio, does its doing so necessarily contribute to an unsustainable boom? Ill answer these questions in subsequent posts.

[Cross-posted from Alt-M.org]

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Thursday August 16, 2018 @ 12:51:18 PM mt

Prohibition Is the Obvious Cause of Opioid Crisis as CDC Releases Preliminary Casualty Numbers for 2017




Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releasedpreliminary estimatesof the opioid overdose rate for 2017. The total overdose rate rose to approximately 72,000, up from a total overdose rate of 63,600 in 2016, an increase of roughly 10 percent. The total overdose rate includes deaths from numerous drugs in addition to opioids, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and benzodiazepines. The opioid-related overdose rate increased as well, from a little over42,000 in 2016toover 49,000in 2017. This increase occurred despite a 4 percent drop in heroin overdoses and a 2 percent drop in overdoses due to prescription opioids. A 37 percent increase in illicit fentanyl-related overdoses explains the jump in the death rate.

All of this is happening while the prescribing of high-dose opioids continues to decrease dramaticallyover41 percentbetween 2010 and 2015, with arecent reportshowing a further decrease of 16 percent during the year 2017.

This is more evidence, if any more was needed, that the opioid overdose problem is the result of non-medical users accessing drugs in the black market that results from drug prohibition. Whether these users drug of choice is OxyContin or heroin, the majority have obtained their drugs through the black market, not from a doctor. A 2007studyby Carise, et al in the American Journal of Psychiatry looked at over 27,000 OxyContin addicts entering rehab between the years 2001 and 2004 and found that 78 percent never obtained a prescription from a doctor but got the drugs through a friend, family member, or a dealer. 86 percent said they took the drug to get high or get a buzz. 78 percent also had a prior history of treatment for substance abuse disorder. And the National Survey on Drug Use and Health has repeatedly found roughlythree-quartersof non-medical users get their drugs from dealers, family, or friends as opposed to a doctor.

Media and policymakers cant disabuse themselves of the false narrative that the opioid problem is the product of doctors hooking their patients on opioids when they treat their pain, despite the large number of studies showingand the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abusestatingthat opioids used in the medical setting have a very low addiction rate. Therefore, most opioid policy has focused on decreasing the number of pills prescribed. Reducing the number of pills also aims at making less available for diversion into the black market. This is making many patients suffer from undertreatment of their pain and causes some, in desperation, to turn to theblack marketor tosuicide.

Since 2010, opioid policy has also promoted the development of abuse-deterrent formulations of opioidsopioids that cannot be crushed and snorted or dissolved and injected. As a just-released CatoResearch Briefas well as myPolicy Analysisfrom earlier this year have shown, rendering prescription opioids unsuitable for abuse has only served to make non-medical users migrate over to more dangerous heroin, which is increasingly laced with illicit fentanyl.

This is how things always work with prohibition. Fighting a war on drugs is like playing a game of Whac-a-mole. The war is never-ending and the deaths keep mounting.

The so-called opioid crisis has morphed into a fentanyl and heroin crisis. But it has been an unintended consequence of prohibition from the get go.

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Wednesday August 15, 2018 @ 04:02:04 PM mt

The U.S. Trade Beef with China




The big picture of U.S. - China trade tensions can be difficult to sort out. How problematic are Chinas trade practices, as compared to those of other countries? What is the appropriate U.S. government response? These are not easy questions to answer (although we do have some views).

Sometimes it can be helpful to focus on particular sectors instead. One such sector is beef, which U.S. farmers would like to export more of to China. At a recent Senate hearing, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was asked about this(starts around 20:00):

Sen. Jerry Moran: Let me get another question in before my time is fully expired. I applauded the administration for successfully concluded negotiations with China in 2017 to allow the US beef exports resumption into China after they were blocked in 2003. However, the 25% retaliatory tariff on US beef, which stems from the USTR 301 investigation, threatens to halt those exports and certainly any expansion. So on one hand, we had the opportunity to high five and brag about beef going to China. That seems that opportunity seems to have disappeared and most concerning is what the growth potential that exists in China, what it does to our opportunities for increasing US beef sales.

Lighthizer: So, if I can, let me speak for a second about beef with China. I think it is a good example of what we are facing with China. So, the Presidents strategy, as was the strategy of prior administrations, was to initially engage in a dialogue with China. We clearly have a chronic problem with China, we have a trade deficit with China, which was unsustainable, 375 billion dollars. A lot of which is not the result of real economics but really is a result of state capitalism. So, ten years ago as a result of negotiations because of their unfair practices, China agreed to allow US beef in certain circumstances, ten years ago. Over the course of the next ten years they didnt let in beef because they made the promise but didnt keep the promise. The President, during the 100-day period, when the President decided I will try a dialogue first, had that dialogue and as a result of that they agreed to let beef in. Lets be clear though. The amount of beef US beef that was eligible to come in was less than 3% of US production. So it wasnt like it was going to be a panacea, although a lot of people thought it was. The result is that after the last time I saw the numbers, which were eight or nine months in, this was something like $60 million worth of beef sold in all of China. So I guess to me the China beef situation is more an example of what were facing with China than it is actually a solution. We really thought we would (a) be able to sell beef with hormones, the normal US production of beef into China for a long period of time. We dont think they have a WTO right to keep us out. So while we made some headway in there, youre right, they did take it away. That raises the question, this is going to be the question not with beef, but with all of the members and all of the retaliation, this may not be the appropriate time to raise it, Ill do it on someone elses time if youd like, but we have to at some point discuss why were doing any of this. Because there clearly is pain associated with what were doing and the President is very sympathetic to not only cattle ranchers but to everyone else and a lot of ag but a lot of over people who are being, we believe, unfairly treated as a result of our attempt to really level the playing field.

Last year we wrote about the problems faced by U.S. beef exporters. (Its worth noting that the 2003 ban mentioned by Senator Moran was in response to concerns about mad cow disease, and other countries also blocked U.S. beef exports). In our paper, we had some data showing how much beef imports into China have increased in recent years, and how well other countries were doing selling their beef in China:

Since we put together this data, China removed its ban on U.S. beef as part of a broader U.S.-China agreement, and U.S. exports of beef to China have grown. U.S. Meat Export Federation data show that, after the ban was lifted,there have been just over $60 million in sales of U.S. beef in China, over the past year or so. That figure matches pretty closely to the one Lighthizer referred to in his answer above. However, this figure is still dwarfed by the imports from other countries.As the table shows, imports come mostly from countries other than the United States.There are a number of reasons for the expansion of non-U.S. beef imports into China in recent years, but it is worth pointing out that Australia and New Zealand have a price advantage over their competitors, because those countries have negotiated trade agreements with China under which China cut its beef tariffs. Some of the other major beef exporting countries are also negotiating with China. Beyond tariffs, a trade negotiation provides a forum to talk about regulatory barriers.

If you dont like numbers, we now have some visual evidence as well, as one of us (Huan) just went over to China, and while there she took a picture of the beef for sale in a Chinese grocery store in downtown Guangzhou, one of the most developed cities in China:

This picture illustrates that imported beef is available for sale in China, but the market is dominated by non-U.S. beef. As can be seen in this picture, beef from Australia (indicated by an Australian flag and a yellow boundary) far exceeds the beef from anywhere else. Canadian beef (indicated by a red boundary)is a distant second. And American beef (indicated by a blue boundary) is pulling up the rear.

When there is a situation where nobody can sell a product or service in China, it is clear that the problem is with China. But when other countries are selling a lot in China, it is worth thinking about what other countries are doing right and what the United States might need to improve.

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Wednesday August 15, 2018 @ 04:01:57 PM mt

The Chance of Being Murdered or Injured in a Terrorist Attack in the United Kingdom




On Tuesday, a Sudanese immigrant to the United Kingdom named Salih Khater crashed his car into cyclists and pedestrians in a terrorist attack in London. Fortunately, Khater did not murder anybody in his attack but he did injure three pedestrians, one of whom was so lightly wounded that he was treated at the scene and released. The other two wounded people have since been released from the hospital.

Terrorism has been relatively common in the United Kingdom for decades, from the Irish Republican Army to al Qaeda to ISIS. However, there is little research on the actual risk of a British person being killed or injured in a terrorist attack. This post is an attempt to quantify that risk.

According to data from the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, the RAND Corporation, and online sources for 2018, terrorists murdered 2,402 people in the United Kingdom from 1975 through August 14, 2018 (Figure 1). Despite increases in the number of murders committed by terrorists in recent years, especially a series of horrible attacks in 2017 that murdered 42 people, the long run trend is a decline in the number of people murdered by terrorists in the United Kingdom. Figure 2 shows that 5,267 people were wounded in terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom during the same period. Figures 1 and 2 only include victims and exclude the terrorists themselves from the death and injury statistics. Using existing data sources, somebody with knowledge and a lot of time could use the GTD and RAND databases to identify the nativity, ideology, and other characteristics of each terrorist like I did for the United States.

Figure 1: Annual murders committed by terrorists in the United Kingdom
Figure 2: Annual injuries committed by terrorists in the United Kingdom

From 1975 through August 15, 2018, a British persons chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack on British soil was about 1 in 1.1 million per year. But that annual chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack obscures big shifts over time. Over the last decade, the annual chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack on British soil was about 1 in 11.4 million per year, far lower than the entire 1975-2018 period. Especially relevant is the number of injuries given that Khater only injured people in his attack. The annual chance of being injured over the entire time was 1 in 496,464 per year, but only 1 in 1.4 million per year over the last decade.

Figure 3 tries to show how the risk has changed over time by using a moving three-year average of the annual chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack. I used a three-year moving average because zero people were killed by terrorists in many years and one cannot divide by zero. A note about reading Figures 3 and 4: the Y-axis is the annual chance of being murdered or injured in a terrorist attack, so the 2011 number of63,280,444 in Figure 3 means that the chance of a British person being murdered in a terrorist attack was 1 in63,280,444 that year. Thus, the higher the number, the lower the chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack.

Figure 3 shows that the annual chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack fell rapidly from 1975 through 2004, rose over the next several years, fell again, and has been increasing since about 2012. Dropping the moving gives sharper divides: In 2016, 2017, and 2018 (so far), the annual chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack was about 1 in 7.3 million per year, 1 in 1.8 million per year, and zero (so far), respectively.

Figure 3: Annual chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack in the United Kingdom

Figure 4 shows a similar decline in injuries inflicted by terrorists from 1975 through 2003 that abruptly reverses in 2004, falls again in the following years, and then starts to increase over the last few years.

Figure 4: Annual chance of being injured in a terrorist attack in the United Kingdom

These above figures show that the chance of dying or being injured in a terrorist attack in the United Kingdom is small. Yet terrorism succeeds in terrifying people. None of the numbers above would give comfort to the actual victims of terrorism or their families because what happened to them is the equivalent of winning an evil anti-lottery. But the above numbers should show British citizens, their government, and the world at large that terrorism is a relatively small problem in the United Kingdom.

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Wednesday August 15, 2018 @ 03:24:40 PM mt

The Feds Dial Back on Regulating Higher Ed




Changing the way the feds oversee higher education may be helpful, but it's not clearly a win for liberty. Neal McCluskey comments.
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