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Updated: 2017-09-20T00:00:00-04:00


Documentarian Ken Burns on How Vietnam Explains the Current Political Moment


(image) Filmmaker Ken Burns is best known as the disembodied voice accompanying black-and-white photographs of everything from baseball players to whiskey bootleggers to Confederate soldiers. This fall, he's back with a new 10-part documentary for PBS, The Vietnam War, created with longtime collaborator Lynn Novick. In June, Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Burns to discuss the project.

Q: Why should we be talking about Vietnam now?

A: We think it's the most important event in American history in the second half of the 20th century. If we want to understand the political divisions and the lack of civil discourse that bedevils us today, the seeds of that were planted in Vietnam. If you could unpack the fraudulence of the conventional wisdom, and repack it benefiting from the testimony of people who lived through it and the recent scholarship that has taken place—and also to triangulate with the South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese perspectives, which are almost always left behind—you have an opportunity to understand it better and maybe pull out some of these fuel rods of discourse.

Q: In one scene from the documentary, General Westmoreland goes on TV and says, "I can give you a bunch of statistics on how we're winning," and it's like, "We're shooting this many bullets." But there was no real indicator of what success would look like.

A: Part of the tragedy is that many people in government, at high policy levels, understood this and did not reflect it. You can hear in the tapes the anguish of [Lyndon Johnson] or the anguish of Richard Nixon, and then they both go out the next day and say the exact opposite of what's going on.

Q: Looking back, the access that reporters got to troops in the field during Vietnam is stunning.

A: This is the key ingredient. During World War II, [press access] was really limited. In Vietnam, you got your credentials, you promised not to betray ongoing operations, and you were free. What happened is that the Vietnam War revealed itself to the press and they reported it back to the United States.

What the military learned is: We're not doing that anymore. So the "embed" idea is a way of babysitting a journalist. You're not going to ever get to watch [the war] as Morley Safer did: soldiers burning a village in retaliation for the fact that they'd received some fire from there, and then quite frankly saying, "We have no feeling for these people," even though the obvious calculus is that if you destroy the village you are creating more enemies.

Q: In one episode, the Marine Karl Marlantes says, "Think about how many times we get ourselves into scrapes as a nation because we are always the good guys. Sometimes I think that if we thought we weren't always the good guys, we might actually get into less wars." Has America changed its self-image when it comes to military interventions?

A: You know, we learned some lessons, and the military was very anxious to apply those lessons with Desert Storm [the 1991 invasion of Iraq]: to have a very clear rationale, a very clear sense of beginning, and middle, and end.

Q: And the importance of having a wide, multinational consensus.

A: Right, and we had a clear enemy who had done a bad thing, invaded another country, so it hearkened back to other very clear, delineated world wars that we fought.

But it's the policy makers who actually succumb, for domestic political considerations, but also because of sentimentality.…Our memories are very short with regard to the cost of war.

This interview has been condensed and edited for style and clarity.

Forget Price Gouging: Businesses React Altruistically To Disasters


With Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey in the news, the country is being treated to a real-time debate over the sins of so-called price gouging, or sharp hikes in the cost of food, water, fuel, and other essential items in affected areas.

Defenders of gouging, including many libertarians, stress that price hikes force customers to prioritize their purchases while incentivizing suppliers to bring necessities to market. So if jugs of water are selling at $10 a gallon, businesses have a motivation to truck them in. And at that price, no one's going to use them to wash their cars.

Critics, however, say that it's immoral to use the price mechanism to meter out essentials in a crisis.

Both sides ignore a far more-important reality: Local and national businesses routinely give away goods and services more efficiently than public-sector responders or charities can manage.

In the immediate wake of Hurricane Harvey slamming Texas, businesses pledged over $72 million in aid, with over three dozen giving more than $1 million a piece. Airbnb used its home-sharing network to set up places for people to stay, and the crowd-sourced mapping app Waze helped the displaced find shelters. Walmart, the left's favorite corporate bogeyman, pledged more $20 million and brought water and food to the needy. A dozen years ago, during Hurricane Katrina, the world's largest retailer trucked in relief long after FEMA convoys stopped running.

Private sector aid gets less press than empty shelves and gouging accusations, but it also makes good business sense.

In some cases, price hikes during a crisis are appropriate, but most retailers know they're better off showing that they care about their customers and aren't out to take advantage of a bad situation. Successful businesses safeguard their reputations.

In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote that he had "never known much good done by" people motivated by charitable aims, but providing aid in disasters is every bit as much a part of the free market as more obvious forms of profit seeking.

If critics and defenders of gouging are really interested in creating a better society, they'd do well to help make this part of the Invisible Hand visible to all.

Edited by Mark McDaniel. Written by Nick Gillespie. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Alexis Garcia.

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The Vietnam War Is the Key to Understanding Today's America: Q&A with Filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick


The Vietnam War led to more than 1.3 million deaths and it's one of the most divisive, painful, and poorly understood episodes in American history. Documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have spent the past decade making a film that aims to exhume the war's buried history. Their 10-part series, which premieres on PBS next week, is a comprehensive look at the secrecy, disinformation, and spin surrounding Vietnam, and its lasting impact on two nations. The 18-hour film combines never-before-seen historical footage, with testimonies from nearly 80 witnesses, including soldiers on both sides of the conflict, leaders of the protest movement, and civilians from North and South Vietnam. A two-time Academy Award winner, Burns is among the most celebrated documentary filmmakers of our time, best-known for the 1990 PBS miniseries The Civil War, which drew a television viewership of 40 million. He and Novick are longtime collaborators, and in 2011 she co-directed and produced with Prohibition with Burns. In 2011, Reason's Nick Gillespie interviewed Burns that film and the role of public television in underwriting his work. With the release of The Vietnam War, Gillespie sat down with Burns and Novick to talk about the decade-long process of making their new film, and why understanding what happened in Vietnam is essential to interpreting American life today. Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg, Austin Bragg, Mark McDaniel, and Krainin. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: This is an exhaustive comprehensive look at America's involvement in the Vietnam War, which you note began in secrecy and ended in failure. What prompted the project for you and why should we be talking about Vietnam now? Ken Burns: I think it's time to talk about it. It's some repressed memory for many of us and deliberately avoided subject for perhaps the rest of us. Lynn and I were finishing a film on the second world war called simply 'The War' and before it was done in 2006, we already knew intuitively that we would have to jump into Vietnam. We think it's the most important event in American history in the second half of the 20th century. If we want to know a little bit about the political divisions and the lack of civil discourse that beset us and bedevil us today, we think that a lot of the seeds of that were planted in Vietnam. If you could unpack, literally unpack the fraudulence of the conventional wisdom and repack it benefiting from the testimony of people who lived through it and the recent scholarship that's taken place, and also to triangulate with the South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese perspectives which are almost always left behind, that you have an opportunity to perhaps understand it better and maybe pull out some of these fuel rods of discourse and sort of get back to what we often do very well. Gillespie: Early on, and I think it's in the first episode, I can't remember if it's one of the commenters or the narration but- Burns: Our narration would never do that. We want to be strictly neutral, it is a talking head. Gillespie: Okay, so somebody likens the experience of Vietnam to living with an alcoholic father. How does that speak to this idea of a repressed memory or a ghost that's hovering everywhere but can never be fully acknowledged? Lynn Novick: When you're talking about a family living with an alcoholic, there's a lot of shame and not knowing what to say and just avoiding it and pretending it's not happening. I think those are very common to just work that metaphor that he uses, Karl Malantis, who's a marine. That was his personal experience of coming home and finding that no one talked about the war and you just shut that door and just move on, and if you really try to unpack that like Ken and I have done, I think it's an enormous trauma for our country that we just have never actually been able to talk about because it is so painful. We were curious to find out why and then just put the pieces[...]

Nicholas Sarwark on the Future of the Libertarian Party


"The Republican Party hates libertarians," says Libertarian Party national chair Nicholas Sarwark. "And as they show their disgust and distaste, and try to punish their legislators, what they're doing is driving them into our arms." Sarwark sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas to discuss the Libertarian Party's plans for 2018, Gary Johnson's impact as a presidential candidate, and Donald Trump's effect on libertarianism. "The Trump presidency so far has been tremendous," explains Sarwark. "It is pretty much the best recruiting tool for the Libertarian Party we've ever had." Edited by Andrew Heaton. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Hi, I'm Nick Gillespie with Reason, and today I'm talking with Nicholas Sarwark. He is the chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, or the LP, as we like to call it around here. Nicholas, thanks for talking to us. Sarwark: Thanks for having me, Nick. Nick Gillespie: The Trump presidency so far, does it bear out your worst fears of what he was going to wrought? Sarwark: The Trump presidency so far has been tremendous. It is pretty much the best recruiting tool for the Libertarian Party we've ever had. It's much better than anything I could develop inside the party. He's shown that the success of Republicanism is the death of liberty, which is a good way to show people that there's an option from the two-party system. Nick Gillespie: What are the things that he's done so far that particularly, you think, drive that message home? Sarwark: The nomination of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, a man who walked himself into lying to a senator during a hearing, which shows his incompetence as an attorney, and wants to bring us back to the failed policies of prosecuting the racist war on drugs, using civil asset forfeiture to steal money and things from citizens who haven't been convicted of a crime- Nick Gillespie: Or necessarily haven't even been indicted or charged with anything. Sarwark: Exactly. Basically highway robbery. Through bringing back an old failed program of adoption, he's able to work around state laws to try and prevent civil asset forfeiture abuse. Those sort of things are really putting a lie to the idea that the Republican Party or the Trump presidency is going to be any friend to somebody who favors individual liberty or small government. Nick Gillespie: What is the LP strategy for the midterm elections and 2020? Sarwark: We're laser-focused on the 2018 midterm elections. That's going to set the stage for 2020. Our goal right now is to have over 2,000 candidates running across the country as Libertarians to really show our presence as a national political party, to bring in a full-time person at the national office for candidate support and recruitment, to really go out there and take advantage of what's going to be a very unsettled midterm election. There are going to be a lot of people who voted for Trump, who had previously voted for Obama, looking for an alternative. Some of them will go back to the Democrats, but I think a lot of them will realize that that back-and-forth between right and left is not a productive strategy. Nick Gillespie: Do you see any high-profile Republicans or Democrats who might defect to become Libertarians either in the midterms or in 2020? Sarwark: Yes, we're already seeing that at the state legislative level with legislators in New Hampshire, Nebraska, Utah, Nevada, flipping over to being Libertarians. Oftentimes, it's not even them changing. What they're doing is more coming out of the closet and removing some of the baggage that they've been carrying in their old party and being who they are, actually showing their identity. I think that's going to happen more and more. The Republican Party hates Libertarians, both little-L libertarians in their party [...]

Libertarian Comedian Dave Smith on the Alt-Right, Christopher Cantwell, and How the Left 'Went Off the Rails'


New York comedian Dave Smith says he "became a libertarian through the Ron Paul movement. "He challenged all of my preconceived notions about what government was [and]...inspired me to read all of these people, like Rothbard, Mises, and Friedman." When Bernie Sanders became a national figure, what Smith hated most about the Vermont senator was that he was aesthetically like a carbon copy of Paul—"a kind of disheveled, older guy who's just a truth teller." "[The difference was that] Bernie would go around to these kids and be like, 'Hey, so you're a college kid in 2017, you're among the richest, freest, most privileged people who have ever existed, [so] billionaires should be paying your bills for you'...It was the difference between a propagandist and a truth teller." Smith, 34, is a regular on the New York City stand up circuit and hosts two popular podcasts on the GaS Digital Network, Legion of Skanks and Part of the Problem. On September 11, he'll release his first comedy special, Libertas, which will be available for download here. You can watch teaser clips of the special here and here. Smith sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to talk about how Trump manipulates the left, why the media's reaction to the Syria bombing was "the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life," how to turn millennials libertarian, and his decision to have alt-right lightning rod and "racist shock jock" Christopher Cantwell as a recent guest on his podcast. "I have to play this left-wing game," Smith says. "When I go on a Fox News panel with...a CIA killer, or somebody who's advocating for the next war...I never get accused of being chummy with them." Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Andrew Heaton. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Dave Smith: Thank you for having me. It's good to be here. I've made it. The libertarian Super Bowl. Nick Gillespie: Yeah, this is it. Well, the libertarian Buzz Bowl, which is a much maligned and ignored Reason TV video starring Chuck Schumer and Four Loko versus Juice back when they were caffeinated. Never mind. Talk about "Libertas." Smith: It's my first comedy special. I've been doing stand up for 11 years. I'm very proud of it. It was produced by GaS Digital Network, which is my Podcast network and Luis J Gomez, who is a hilarious comedian. Just a great entrepreneur, he's the guy who started GaS Digital and he directed it. Yep, it's out September 11th. He chose that date, not me, but I'm excited and I appreciate the nice words. Gillespie: So this is going to do for libertarian comedy what September 11th did for libertarian comedy? Smith: That's libertarian comedy. Yes, exactly. Gillespie: It was a redevelopment project according to Paul Krugman who literally, like less than a week after the 9/11 attacks said, "You know, the silver lining in this is that there's going to be a lot of building down there now." Smith: That's right. Why does Paul Krugman never give George W. Bush credit for being such a great president? I mean, the record high spending, the wars, what could you not love? I mean, how was it that we were left with such a wonderful economy? Gillespie: A crappy economy. It is strange. Well, talk about "Libertas." Why is it called that? And, I've watched and it's very funny. Smith: Thank you. Gillespie: What I love about it is that it's a critique both of Trumpism and anti-Trumpism. Smith: Yes. Gillespie: So, talk a little bit about how you came to say, "Okay, this is the set that I want to commemorate in a special." Smith: I think the special is, it's really ... like the first half of it is my take on the last year and the Trump moment in politics, and the second half is more my take on the big picture of the country. But yeah, I think we live in like the most profoundly hilarious times ever. I think[...]

Hey Libertarians for Trump, How Much More #Winning Can You Take?


It's almost nine months into Donald Trump's presidency and here's a question for the old "Libertarians for Trump" crowd: How much more winning can you take? There was a small but vocal band of limited-government folks who vocally supported the billionaire real estate mogul on the grounds that he couldn't possibly be as bad as Hillary Clinton or even most of the other Republican candidates, especially when it came to foreign policy. Leading the pack was economist Walter Block, who beat me in a competitive debate in New York City right before the election. Block's argument was that "the perfect is the enemy of the good" and "the Donald is the most congruent with [the libertarian] perspective" especially on foreign policy. Trump has turned out to be anything but an isolationist. He promised to bring fire and fury to North Korea, "the likes of which this world has never seen before." He bombed Syria on the same humanitarian grounds he explicitly denounced during his campaign. He escalated war efforts in Yeman and Iraq, And more recently, announced plans to "win" in Afghanistan. His secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, declared that while the United States might not walk away with a "battlefield" victory in the graveyard of empires, neither will the Taliban. That's not inspirational, it's stupid. Apart from his foreign policy follies, this anti-free-trader and nativist has turned out to be even less libertarian than advertised during the campaign. He's continued giving mealy-mouthed support to white supremacists and pardoned Joe Arpaio, "America's toughest sheriff," who was found in contempt of court after he continued to illegally racially profile and detain Latino suspects. And his attorney general is walking back a decade of incremental progress on criminal justice reform. There's no question that the Trump administration is doing some good things, such as deregulatory moves related to the FCC, the FDA, and the EPA. His Education department is supporting school choice to the extent that the federal government can do so. His deregulatory push is all to the good, but it's overwhelmed by Trump's other policies. There's also no question that at this point Trump is doing virtually everything else he can do to alienate libertarians who believe in shrinking the size, scope, and spending of government. And the excuse that Hillary Clinton would have been worse is getting older than Bernie Sanders. The perfect is the enemy of the good, but what Donald Trump has shown us so far just isn't good enough. Produced by Todd Krainin. Written by Nick Gillespie. Cameras by Jim Epstein. Production assistance by Andrew Heaton. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. [...]

Why Libertarians Should Want *More* Trust in Government


According to Gallup and most other other polling organizations, Americans have record or near-record low rates of confidence in government.

Just 39 percent of us approved of Donald Trump's performance in his second quarter as president, almost 25 points off the historical average. A mere 36 percent have a lot of faith in publis schools. Only slightly more than a quarter of us trust the criminal justice system and just 12 percent of us say we have a "great deal of" or "quite a lot of" confidence in Congress. Trust in most major institutions is lower than it was a decade ago.

A lot of libertarians and other skeptics of government see this trend and believe that people are finally waking up to reality. But there are good reasons to be concerned about persistently low levels of trust and confidence in government.

Researchers routinely find that "people in countries with bad governments want more government intervention" in all aspects of their lives, even though they don't trust the government to be fair or effective. One 2010 study found that 82 percent of former East Germans and 92 percent of Russians--two famously "low-trust" populations--favored wage controls. Residents in Scandinavia and North America--which are "high trust" regions--were far more trusting of market forces.

So it turns out that government may be growing not in spite of our lack of confidence in it, but because of our lack of confidence in it. This self-defeating spiral will only get worse if the United States fails to stem its slide toward being a low-trust country.

The solution to this doesn't have to be nihilism or anarchy. Instead, we need a government that does fewer things but does them better. Government spending is at an already swollen 21 percent of GDP and is predicted to climb to 30 percent over the next three decades. Libertarians rightly want a limited government and we should fight like hell to end cronyism, drug prohibition, and regulatory overreach that does nothing but increase the cost of doing business. We need to keep pushing back against defense spending wasted on elective wars and national security measures that put us under surveillance without making us safer.

But we should also point to places where government action is both legitimate and effective and praise policies--like school choice, for instance--that deliver better results at cheaper costs. Ironically, if we can get more people to trust the government, it just might be easier to shrink the size, scope, and spending of the state.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Written by Nick Gillespie. Cameras by Jim Epstein.

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Can Science Reverse Aging?


"In 30 years, I will be younger than today, not older," says José Luis Cordeiro, who's a founding faculty member at Singularity University, a Silicon Valley-based think tank devoted to futurism. "Why? Because we are going to have rejuvenation techniques, and these experiments are beginning right now." A mechanical engineer with a degree from MIT, Cordeiro has worked in fields ranging from monetary policy to petroleum engineering, and he created the first formal "future studies" course at the Austrian School of Economics in Venezuela, his birth country. Cordeiro is an extreme optimist, who says technological progress will solve most of the world's problems. He sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie at the annual libertarian conference Freedom Fest in Las Vegas to discuss immortality, artificial intelligence, and the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Edited by Ian Keyser. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Zach Weissmueller. Music: "Aspirato" by Kai Engel, Creative Commons. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Let's talk about the future of two things. One about Singularity University, and then also about Venezuela, your home country. Singularity University is a place that is dedicated to exploring, and analyzing, and coming up with what the future looks like, especially in terms of, kind of, life enhancements, human life enhancement, longevity, life extension. What's the most, what are the things that you're most interested about right now? José Cordeiro: Well, things are accelerating. We really live in exponential times, and medicine is being radically transformed. There is a disruption, and we are going to be living longer lives, healthier lives, probably indefinite life spans, very soon. Gillespie: Define very soon. Cordeiro: Well, we talk, delayed as by 2045. Gillespie: Okay. Cordeiro: Ray Kurzweil, who is the chairman of Singularity University, he says that he plans to become immortal by 2045, and I believe in that as well. In fact, I do not plan to die. Even more interesting, in 30 years, I will be younger than today, not older. I will be younger. Gillespie: Oh, so– Cordeiro: Why? Gillespie: Yeah. Cordeiro: Because we are going to have rejuvenation techniques, and these experiments are beginning right now. There are patients that are being rejuvenated with experimental treatments. Gillespie: What are some of those treatments, and how do we know that they will work, either immediately, or in the long term? Cordeiro: Well, one of the things that are being experimented with is increasing the telomeres at the end of the chromosomes. Actually, this is what cancer does. Cancer cells are biologically immortal. They do not age, so scientists are trying to understand why cancer has discovered how not to age, so that we can apply that to the rest of the body. This is one of the most interesting things that are being experimented, and there is already one human patient that has undergone this kind of treatment for over one year, and her cells, actually, are becoming younger, according to the length of the telomeres. They are regrowing, they are becoming longer, which means she is younger today. Gillespie: Wow. From a policy angle, what are the regulatory angles that most intersect and block this kind of research, or this kind of advancement? Cordeiro: Well, this is an excellent question because this experimental treatment cannot be done in the USA right now, because it is illegal. In order to do an experimental treatment, even in yourself, with your own money, you need approvals. So, this person that is undergoing this treatment, Liz Parish, who lives in Oregon state, she actually had to fly to South America. I helped her, also, to find some doctors that could help to start t[...]

Five Cities That Got F*cked by Hosting the Olympics


Every four years with the Olympics, municipalities compete to host the winter and summer games and virtually always plunge their cities and sometimes even their home countries into massive debt and insolvency. Why? Because host cities inevitably spend double or more over initial estimates, fewer people show up than expected, and the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, takes bigger and bigger cuts of TV and other revenue streams. Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist says that a typical Summer Olympics generates up to $6 billion in revenue, at least half of which goes to the IOC. Winter Games generate even less money despite often being more expensive to host than Summer Games. Cities routinely claim that whatever money they spend on new facilities will stimulate the local economy for decades to come. With the recent announcement that Paris will host the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Games, here are five cities that got fucked by hosting the Olympics. Athens, Greece, 2004. Athens is the birthplace of the ancient games that inspired today's modern municipal money pits. Its 2004, Games cost $16 billion, or 10 times the original estimate. By 2010, more than half the venues built for the event were underused, completely empty, or literally falling apart. Sochi, Russia, 2014. At $50 billion, the Sochi Winter Games cost more than all previous Winter Olympics combined, paid for by a dwindling supply of Russian petro dollars and gold bullion. Boris Nemtsov documented that $21 billion went to "embezzlement and kickbacks" for businessmen friends of Vladimir Putin. Nemtsov was later assassinated. Rio de Janiero, Brazil, 2016. Plagued by low ticket sales partly due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, the Rio games ended up costing $20 billion rather than the $13 billion backers claimed. The Olympics were hosted on the heels of the 2014 World Cup, which also cost a ton of loot, and the showplace Maracana stadium, which got a $500 million makeover, was "largely abandoned" soon after the games and had thousands of seats ripped out by vandals. Beijing, China, 2008. The Beijing Games cost $42 billion, a record at the time, even though Amnesty International charged that the Chinese government used forced labor to build many of the venues. The IOC didn't mind the stratospheric costs or crackdowns on dissent, though: It awarded Beijing the 2022 Winter Games. Montreal, Canada, 1976. The mayor of Montreal declared that the Olympics "can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby." Unfortunately, it took Montreal 30 years to pay off its debt just for the main stadium built for the 1976 Summer Games. If there's good news here, it's that cities seem to be wising up: Paris and Los Angeles were the only two cities to bid on the 2024 Olympic Games and IOC was so anxious that there wouldn't be enough applications for 2028, that it pre-emptively awarded it to LA. But just like with professional sports teams that extort tax dollars and subsidies for stadiums that never pay back their inflated costs, it's likely the Olympics will keep finding new suckers for one of the oldest scams in sports. Produced by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie, and based on an article by Ed Krayewski. Camera by Jim Epstein. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. [...]

Steve Forbes on Trump, Taxes, and 100 Years of Forbes Magazine


"We don't see business as evil," says Steve Forbes, marking the 100th anniversary of Forbes magazine, the iconic business publication started by his grandfather. "We see it as a noble undertaking." And thanks to capitalism, progress in the 20th century will pale in comparison to what's coming in the 21st. "In 2117," he says, "we'll be infinitely better off." Forbes sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas to discuss the legacy and future of the magazine, his assessment of President Trump, and where the legislative agenda for Republicans is falling short. Edited by Austin Bragg. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Justin Monticello. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy Nick Gillespie: Let's talk about turning 70. How does that feel, and looking back, what are the highlights of your public career? Steve Forbes: Well, 70, glad to have made it, and at this stage of life it's nice to have a guilt-free excuse for plenty of cake, cookies, and ice cream, so not going to complain. Gillespie: In terms of your achievements over the years, talk about your forays into the Republican nomination process for the presidency, and your advocacy of the flat tax. Do you feel like that accomplished what you hoped it would accomplish? Forbes: Well, I would have liked to have won. It's more fun to get more votes than the less votes. But I do think we got some good ideas out there, even though the US has not made much progress on the tax front. Forty countries and jurisdictions around the world, like Hong Kong, have had the flat tax, and it's worked fairly well. So this is no longer laboratory stuff, this is real world stuff. The disappointment is that in the last 20 years, we haven't had a presidential candidate make that a forefront issue. A couple of them in the last election had some variations of the flat tax, but they didn't put it out there, so nobody knew. It's like, the tree falls in the forest, but if you don't hear it, did it really fall? I'm just waiting for a political entrepreneur to do it. I would have thought in 2016, when Trump rose up, that the other 16 opponents would have said, "I got to do something a little differently, or I'm going to get steamrollered." Instead, they had all the same kinds of consultants. They made all the same calculations, and they all went down for the count. Shakespeare talked about killing all the lawyers, I think they should kill all the political consultants. But that's another subject. But in terms of the flat tax, tax simplification's out there. Republicans at least have to pay lip service to it. Another thing I think we got out there, the idea of medical savings accounts. Now they call them health savings accounts. The idea of being patients should be in control, and not government, not third parties, not bureaucrats, not big companies, but we the people, individually. So we got that idea out there. I think, too, we gave some credence to the idea of a new Social Security system for younger people. When I ran in '96 in Arizona, I shocked one of my campaign colleagues when I said, "We're going to Sun City, and I'm going to talk about Social Security." "Oh, we can't do that!" But once you make it clear you're not going to take anything away from them, this is about their kids and their grandkids, they'll listen. Gillespie: Explain a little bit of what your alternative Social Security plan was, because that's also something that has not advanced, even as the economics or the finances of both Medicare and Social Security have just gotten even more in the tank. Forbes: Well, in Social Security for younger people, they'll own their own accounts. Personal accounts. That way, if any[...]

Trump Denounces Racism in Charlottesville. Too Little, Too Late.


It's too little too late that President Donald Trump has finally called out violent white nationalists who marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. One of them deliberately drove his car into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 20 more.

It's pathetic that it took massive public backlash—including a lot from Republicans and conservatives—to spur the president to actually denounce neo-Nazis. Who still needs a teachable moment on this? Seventy-two years after the end of World War II and the president of the United States is slow off the mark to condemn white supremacists?

Rarely one for evenhanded rhetoric, President Trump's initial response referred only to "violence," and he pointedly refused to call out the protesters who beat a black man into the hospital.

The president even managed to squeeze in some political sloganeering over the weekend, declaring "we are all Americans first," echoing one of campaign themes.

There are three basic explanations for Trump's shameful response, one more troubling than the other. Maybe he's unaware that Nazis were responsible for murdering 11 million people. Or maybe he is so politically tone-deaf that he thought his original comments were adequate. Or maybe he just doesn't want to alienate those he considers an important part of his political constituency. Any way you look at it, it's not good.

President Trump surely isn't responsible for the car that killed Heather Heyer, but his rhetoric has helped to fill its gas tank. He wasn't slow to call out Black Lives Matter by name for supposedly "igniting" attacks on police even as he explicitly encouraged violence at his own campaign rallies, telling his supporters that he would cover their legal expenses if they got in trouble.

Just a few weeks ago, he encouraged police to rough up suspects.

If the president really is interested in curbing violence and restoring "law and order," it shouldn't be so hard for him to denounce neo-Nazis by name while upholding constitutional protections for free speech.

That's what we need from a chief executive in hyper-partisan and polarized times, but Donald Trump doesn't seem interested in being the president of most—much less all—Americans.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie.

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What Caused Venezuela’s Tragic Collapse? Socialism.


The collapse of Venezuela's economy is both horrifying and predictable, and the world needs to understand why.

Venezuela has the world's largest proven oil reserves, and it was once Latin America's richest country. Today, most grocery store shelves are empty, and Venezuelans are so hungry that they're killing zoo animals for sustenance. Toilet paper, diapers, and toothpaste are luxury goods. Venezuelan hospitals have disintegrated, children are dying because they can't get antibiotics, and the infant mortality rate is higher than Syria. The capital city of Caracas is the murder capital of the world, and just 12 percent of citizens feel safe walking alone at night, which is the lowest figure reported in the world.

The government blames slumping oil prices for the desperate situation. The real cause is the socialist economy. The government sets the price of staples such as rice, pasta, and flour, resulting in chronic shortages. Former President Hugo Chavez nationalized industries, confiscated property, and kicked out foreign companies. The government is trying to print its way out of the crisis, resulting in a 700 percent annual inflation rate. After a sham election, President Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of Hugo Chavez, is rounding up his opponents and putting them in jail.

Despite this, Maduro and his predecessor still have their defenders, ranging from Sean Penn to Michael Moore to Naomi Klein, who once signed a petition saying "We would vote for Hugo Chavez" and praised the autocrat in 2007 for creating "a zone of relative economic calm and predictability." In 2013, journalist David Sirota praised Hugo Chavez' "economic miracle," writing that the socialist leader had a "record that a legacy-obsessed American president could only dream of achieving.

The real lesson of Venezuela's tragic collapse is that real socialism always leads to economic breakdown and political repression. Those of us in wealthier, freer countries need to keep Venezuela in mind as we confront calls for more regulation and government control of all aspects of our own lives.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Written by Nick Gillespie. Camera by Jim Epstein.

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How Freedom Made Us Rich


"In [1492], if you were going to bet on who was going to have a 'Great Enrichment,'" says University of Illinois at Chicago economist Deirdre McCloskey, "you would have been crazy not to bet on China because China had the most advanced commercial institutions, the most advanced ship building technology, [and] the most advanced machinery all together." But it didn't work out that way. "My claim," McCloskey says, "is that liberty was the key to modern economic growth." In her new book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, the third volume in a trilogy, McCloskey argues that our vast accumulation of wealth over the past two hundred years— which she's dubbed "The Great Enrichment"—was the result of "massively better ideas in technology and institutions." Where did they arise from? &tag=reasonmagazineA"A new liberty and dignity for commoners," she argues, "expressed as the ideology of European liberalism." McCloskey sat down with Nick Gillespie at Freedom Fest, the annual convention for libertarians in Las Vegas, for a wide-ranging conversation on topics including the roots of "The Great Enrichment," why her gender reassignment surgery was an "expression of [her] libertarianism", and the importance of advocating policies that "actually help the poor" instead of just "making people feel good about helping the poor. McCloskey is also a Reason columnist. Her archive is here. Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Justin Monticello. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Hi, I'm Nick Gillespie with Reason and today we are sitting down with Deirdre McCloskey. She's an Emeritus Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the author most recently of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. She's also a columnist for Reason Magazine. Deirdre, thanks so much for talking with us. Long time contributing editor to Reason as well. McCloskey: I'm extremely pleased to be here and ... Gillespie: Well, your latest column, because I think this puts us right into a lot of current discussions, is titled The Myth of Technological Unemployment. McCloskey: Yeah. Gillespie: The subhead is, if the nightmare of technological unemployment were true, it would have already happened repeatedly and massively. In it, you take issue with a lot of libertarian or free-market economists who are talking about how we've reached the end of technological innovation or productivity growth and yeah, we're going to have to find something to do for people who are replaced by robots. McCloskey: Yeah. Gillespie: What's wrong with that? McCloskey: I think it's just completely wrong. My friend, Tyler Cowen, my friends at George Mason think maybe it's time for an intervention and Tyler, we think maybe we should send him to dry out somewhere because he seems to have gone crazy on this and he's not alone. I mean, there are people like Bob Gordon wrote a book last year, which was very successful. Gillespie: Which argued that basically say goodbye to 2%, ... McCloskey: Exactly. Gillespie: ... even 2% economic growth. McCloskey: Exactly. Innovation in the United States is finished and we've invented all the window screens and drop ceilings we're ever going to invent. There are a whole bunch of things wrong with it. One is that it doesn't make a lot of quantitative sense. In Tyler's book, which is called Average is Over, he's got a chart, which he says, "Summarizes my point." It's terrible. See the falling share of labor in[...]

Ending NAFTA Would Decimate American Jobs


"The intellectual backwardness of many of Trump's trade advisors contrasts dramatically with some of the very good advice he's gotten in terms of deregulation," says Roberto Salinas-León, president of the Mexico Business Forum and adjunct scholar at the CATO Institute. "Talking about your second most important trading partner in that [derogatory] vein—that's not the 'art of the deal.' That's just very bad business." Salinas-León, an expert on trade and monetary policy, says that if Trump ends the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it would decimate jobs on both sides of the border. "Does Indiana depend on jobs because of its trade with Mexico? Does Ohio? Texas? You want to shut down NAFTA? That turns Texas into a Democratic state overnight." Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Salinas-León at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas to discuss NAFTA's economic impact, his heated confrontation with Trump at Freedom Fest 2015, and how the president's anti-Mexico rhetoric propelled leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador ("a rabid, primitive, vitriolic, populist") to the top of the polls. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Justin Monticello and Meredith Bragg. Badass by Bensound is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist: Strange Stuff by Matt Harris is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. ( Source: Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Gillespie: Let's talk about NAFTA first and your role in it. Is NAFTA a good thing or a bad thing for Mexico, Canada and the US? It's getting a lot of heat lately. Salinas-León: In the early 1990s, we thought, "Well, wow! Mexico's already a story of trade liberalization. We're exporting 35 billion dollars a year worth of products and so on." Today that number is 365 billions, so from a trade perspective, and this is a trade agreement, from a trade perspective, I don't think there's any question that NAFTA has been a success in the sale side. And then you go to the purchase side, in other words, imports, and you find that you're also importing a vast amount. Guess where those imports come from? In about 80 percent, the United States. Gillespie: Yeah, exactly. Salinas-León: So those in Indiana depend ... I mean, speaking of Mike Pence, does Indiana depend on jobs because of its trade with Mexico? Does Ohio? Texas? You want to shut down NAFTA? That turns Texas into a Democratic state overnight. Gillespie: Where do you think the animus against NAFTA, particularly in the United States, and I mean, this is something that Donald Trump ran on. It's also something that Bernie Sanders brought up a lot, the idea that somehow free trade agreements suck jobs out of America and they put them in third-world countries, which due to a lot of economic ignorance, often times they're talking about Mexico as a third-world country, as well. Where does the resentment of something like that come from? Salinas-León: I think that was one of the great lessons of the Trump campaign, the Bernie Sanders campaign. It's not something that discriminates between Republicans and Democrats or between the right or the left or whatever. What you found out is that there is anger because there's displacement. There is job displacement, and that's a very serious concern. But are we going to addr[...]

Why Trump's 'Buy American, Hire American' Is Un-American


In his quest to "Make America Great Again," President Trump has spent a week encouraging us all to buy products "Made in America." That makes for a good slogan—who doesn't want to support home-grown businesses? But it's bad and incoherent policy. And it will do little or nothing to help Americans who have been put out of work by changes in technology and the economy. For starters, it's hard to even get a clean definition of what it means for a product to be made in America. Dozens of products that carry a "made in America" tag were largely assembled or sourced outside the United States, with only a little bit of labor added within our borders. The Jeep Patriot, for instance, pushes nationalism in its very name but its transmissions are made in Japan, Germany, and Mexico. The U.S. often has much higher labor costs than foreign countries, which means the same thing created solely in America would have an astronomical cost. According to one estimate, Apple iPads made totally in America would cost $967 a piece, or about three times today's basic price. The resulting fall in sales would cost about 67,000 manufacturing jobs. Pushing "Made in America" comes with other costs, too. To hype his "Made in America" policy, Trump invited 50 exemplary companies to the White House for a photo op. It turns out that 21 of them received various federal, state, and local subsidies worth about $600 million. If you're taxing Peter to subsidize Paul, chances are you're not creating much real economic activity. Pushing economic nationalism is also an affront to personal liberty and basic economics. Why shouldn't individuals be allowed to buy the products they think are best and cheapest regardless of where they come from? You might as well tell people to only "date American" or "vacation American." Virtually all economists agree that protectionism dampens economic activity and growth by increasing prices and keeping workers and resources in sunset industries that will need more and more help to stay afloat. One study of industry-specific protectionist policies found that trying to make people "buy American" led to consumer-losses per job-saved of over half-a-million dollars. And for all the talk Donald Trump and others have made about bringing "good-paying" manufacturing jobs back to America, the fact is that manufacturing jobs as a percentage of the work force peaked in 1943 and has declined ever since. We're truly a post-industrial nation. There's no question that even with historically low unemployment rates, many Americans are having trouble finding good-paying, rewarding jobs in a global economy that demands constant upgrades and changes from workers. But the best way to help them is by pursuing policies that help produce the sort of economic growth that creates new jobs, new opportunities, and new wealth for all of us: Lower government spending, flatter and less distorting taxes, and less regulation. Telling us all to "Buy American" is a cheap slogan best left on baseball caps made overseas. Edited by Todd Krainin. Written by Nick Gillespie. Cameras by Meredith Bragg. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. [...]