Bob talks about the issues that affect our lives on a daily basis from a purely libertarian standpoint. He believes in small government, fewer taxes, and greater personal freedom.
America has lost its way, but it cannot and does not need to be reinvented. Our founders were correct about their approach to government, as were John Locke, Adam Smith and the other great political philosophers who influenced them. The country’s first principles are economic and social freedom, republicanism, the rule of law, and liberty. Bob believes we must take the best of our founding principles and work from them because a country without principles is just a landmass.
Rethinking Industrial Policy
We’ve been hearing about the end of globalization for the better part of the last decade, and yet rumors of its demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated. The latest calls for American energy independence and re-shoring manufacturing are part of this broader trend, which seeks to insulate the domestic economy from turmoil in faraway regions. COVID-19 also brought the idea of “industrial policy” back to the forefront. While it’s hard to pin down an exact definition, Scott Lincicome of the Cato Institute relates some key features behind the misguided notion that the government must steer critical industries for reasons of national importance.
Whether we’re talking about steel, oil, or semi-conductors, the proponents of a robust industrial policy argue that we’ve become too reliant on our potential foes for strategic resources, and must set national production goals through legislation rather than impartial market forces. This can range from Soviet-style central planning (which led to the ultimate collapse of the USSR), to the use of trade barriers, tax incentives and subsidies - i.e., “picking winners and losers.”
Even with the latter approach, Lincicome points out many flaws in modern American industrial policy. In a recent Cato white paper, Questioning Industrial Policy, he highlights the inefficiencies brought about by injecting politics into the market’s discovery process, and notes how most recent attempts to “improve” the outcomes of global competition have tended to hinder even our vital domestic industries.
Scott joined me to break down the report, and make the case for embracing globalization and free trade in the 21st century rather than hunkering down in our domestic silo.
Check out Scott’s excellent newsletter “Capitolism” at the Dispatch.
Evan Bernick on the Dobbs Draft
Politico’s publication of a leaked draft of the Dobbs decision has turned the Internet upside-down, with rampant speculation about who the leaker was, whether the decision is final, and what will happen next if early-term abortion once again becomes a policy issue for states to decide rather than a right upheld by the Supreme Court.
I find the details of the leak uninteresting (except insofar as it impacts the legitimacy of the court). I am much more interested in how the five Justices voting in the majority arrived at their tentative opinion.
Evan Bernick, a law professor at North Illinois University’s College of Law, is an expert on Originalism the judicial philosophy on which the Dobbs decision is ostensibly based. Bernick joined me to dissent from this assumption. Instead, he argues, Alito’s decision stems from a judicial philosophy that seeks to “stop the Court from recognizing unenumerated rights.” Bernick believes in a more activistic judiciary when it comes to defending individual rights, as we discussed [the last time he was on my show.
We discussed the constitutional considerations behind both the Roe decision and the *Dobbs* reversal of an almost 50-year-old precedent. I’ll also ask Evan how the policy issue is likely to play out in the states, with progressive states becoming destinations for women seeking abortions.
Follow Evan on Twitter, and check out his book, The Original Meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, co-authored with Randy Barnett.
Art Carden on Price Theory & Its Discontents
What do competitive markets have to do with truth? Ask a philosopher and you might get one answer. Ask an economist and you will get another. Ask an economist with a philosophical grounding, and you get Art Carden’s fantastic piece, The Misuse of Knowledge in Society: Intervention Means Prices are Lying.
Carden is a senior fellow with [the American Institute for Economic Research. He joined the show to discuss the article that caught my eye on AIER.org, which is one of the best explanations I’ve ever read of the price mechanism of free markets.
What happens when we stop the price system of competitive markets from working? In a word, untruth. It’s why price-gouging laws always fail, and increase human misery. A price control, Carden says, is a kind of institutionalized lie. Just because the government says it’s so, doesn’t mean that the underlying scarcity of the good has been altered.
You don’t have to be either a philosopher or an economist to understand the importance of having reliable information when making decisions. Hear Carden’s accessible explanation of the complex topic of price theory only on the Show of Ideas, not attitude.
California’s Food Fight
Hoover Senior Fellow and host of the Defining Ideas podcast “The Libertarian” , Richard Epstein returns to the program to discuss a new case making it’s way to the Supreme Court:
This past week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal in an important case that could determine the structure of American interstate markets for years to come. National Pork Producers Council v. Ross involves a constitutional challenge to Proposition 12, a 2018 California referendum that requires all pork products sold in the state be prepared in facilities meeting California standards of animal health and safety, no matter where they are raised. As the plaintiffs explain in their brief, virtually all of the pork products (some 99.8 percent) sold in California come from out of state. On the flip-side, California represents 13 percent of the national consumer market for pork products.
In its unique and inverted version of federalism, California seems to always find a way to impose its own strict regulations on the rest of the country—using its economic might to foist “progressive values” on other states. Can California legislate outside its own borders? Well, it’s complicated.
As usual, when I’m faced with a complex hybrid legal/economic questions, I turn to the Libertarian himself. And as usual, we will try to pack a semester’s worth of economics into an hour of radio. Epstein holds positions as a law professor at NYU, a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago, and Senior fellowship at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
Free Speech & the Scientific Method
“Science,” it has been said, “advances one funeral at a time.”
In other words, what was once heterodox only became accepted as orthodox truth when the defenders of the old paradigm died off, or could no longer maintain their position of authority in the face of clear new evidence.
Dr. Jeffrey Singer – senior fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor to Reason Magazine – has been my go-to guest on topics of medical science since well before the pandemic. His latest article in the May 2022 edition of Reason takes on a set of philosophical questions about the nature of scientific truth, and how we arrive at it. In it, Singer contrasts what he calls the “Priesthood” acting as gatekeepers of information, with the sole authority to decide which experts can be heard. Using examples from the pandemic, such as the silencing and smearing of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, Singer points out how often the “official” narrative has been proven wrong by subsequent studies, such as those confirming that in fact lockdowns did little to slow the spread.
Now, the California Assembly is debating a bill that would threaten doctors with the loss of their license for offering any medical advice that is considered contrary to official CDC guidelines regarding vaccination. As epidemiologist and noted COVID expert Jay Bhattacharya notes, the law would essentially take away a physician's ability to offer individualized care to their patients, who may have valid reasons (like prior immunity or other conditions) for not getting the vaccine.
It appears that politics has infected our public discourse around science. Someone call the doctor! The Doctor for Liberty, that is. Singer joined me to separate the real experts from the phony high priests of the public health establishment.
Checking in on Bail Reform
America’s high prison incarceration rates are known around the world – an embarrassment for an alleged beacon of liberty. Yet few realize that we have another problem associated with our jails. Those charged with a crime are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but our bail system disproportionately punishes the poor and reverses the formula – making them guilty until proven innocent.
I have previously covered the civil liberties issues associated with cash bail back in 2018, and how a wave of states was starting to test out alternatives. Since then, New York has joined that wave — eliminating their bail system for pre-trial offenders who are not deemed high risk. This is great news: other states have proven that it works to reduce jail populations and ensure that people who do not belong behind bars are released prior to trial.
But just when I thought it was time to celebrate, Reason Magazine’s Joe Lancaster informs me that these reforms are in jeopardy. New York Governor Kathy Hochul is working behind the scenes to roll back the reforms – expanding the number of crimes eligible for bail, against the findings of a new report that shows the change in the law is working as intended.
Joe Lancaster, an assistant editor at Reason, joined me to break down the findings of the report, and the status of other state-based bail reforms.
Terrific host, terrific guests
Bob is such a great host. So knowledgeable about so many issues and he always has smart guests on his show. Well worth the time.
Great guests, no fluff
Bob covers some of the least talked-about, but most important issues – mostly American politics, always from a libertarian perspective – and does so without watering down the content, or letting the conversations get too deep into the weeds. The show is especially solid when it comes to the Founding Fathers, and probing the logic of the constitution (original intent, etc.) as applied to modern issues.