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Social Issues

All articles with the "Social Issues" tag.

Published: Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2018 12:35:40 -0400


When Fixing the Problem Makes It Worse

Thu, 08 Mar 2018 06:00:00 -0500

In the front of the SUV, a man in a black T-shirt is unconscious, or nearly so, and slumped over the steering wheel. Next to him on the passenger side, a woman's bra strap slides off her thin shoulder as her head lolls. In the back, a 4-year-old is strapped into his car seat, looking oddly placid. The image, published by a local Ohio police department in 2016, is the most striking of the steady drip of such photos and videos, disseminated by well-meaning authorities with the goal of scaring the pants off of Americans and discouraging abuse of heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids. The opioid crisis—the sharp uptick in opioid-related deaths in recent years—provides endless human fodder for local newscasts. Newspapers and magazines publish story after story about the costs of addiction to families and communities. All of this creates a powerful feeling, even among those generally immune to drug panics, that this time things are different. A narrative has formed: Many of the people whose lives have been ruined or ended by their drug use were perfectly ordinary until they got a prescription for pain pills. The first bottle might have been legit, offered by a doctor after a wisdom tooth extraction or a broken ankle. But lurking in each pill is a bottomless chasm of physical, financial, and social ruin. In the face of very real suffering and dysfunction, it is a deeply human response to want to use whatever resources we have at our disposal to end the crisis. But there is another deeply human response as well: the desire for a simple solution. Luckily, according to the dominant narrative, the solution is simple. Take away the drugs and punish the people who sell them. Ta-da! Depending on your particular blend of prior ideological commitments, the drugs you are most anxious to take away will be the pain pills or the street dope; the sellers to punish first will be Big Pharma or Mexican heroin cartels. But as Senior Editor Jacob Sullum explains in his cover story (page 18), this powerful, compelling narrative is dangerously wrong. What started as a war on pain meds hasn't come close to reducing drug-related deaths. Instead, the crackdown has escalated the problem, killing addicts and leaving patients in agony. During the last election cycle, both campaigns treated this issue as a dire crisis that demands decisive and immediate action. When Donald Trump won, he said he'd make the opioid epidemic a priority. "My take," President Trump declared in February, "is you have to get really, really tough, really mean with the drug pushers and the drug dealers. We can do all the blue ribbon committees we want [but] we have to get a lot tougher than we are." His disdain is confusing, since he created just such a committee less than a year ago—the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis—and staffed it with key members of his campaign inner circle, including Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. That commission has mostly urged more drug enforcement and doubled down on the idea that a border wall will keep out illegal substances. It's not at all obvious that the best way to respond to the surge in drug fatalities is harsher interdiction or stricter regulation of prescriptions—so far those policies have driven the number of deaths up, not down. But when you're holding a massive law enforcement hammer, everything looks like a nail. The opioid crisis is far from the first time seemingly simple solutions have created a new nest of complicated problems. Go back exactly 200 years, and you'll find that our unfortunate biomedical conservatism springs from an erroneous reaction to a scary story. As Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey explains (page 56), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was misinterpreted from its very beginnings as a call to put the brakes on scientific progress. Worried about runaway experimentation? Take away new tech and punish the people who sell it. Cody Wilson's Defense Distributed, a company that disseminates information allowing civilians to make their own unregistered [...]

Diversity Is Not Enough. We Need Pluralism

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 12:00:00 -0400

It was bound to happen. Ben Borgman, who is gay, recently ejected a group of Christian anti-abortion activists from his coffee shop in Seattle. He took great offense at one of their flyers, which he found outside, and understandably so: It graphically links gay pride with a dismembered fetus. He told them to get out in no uncertain terms (and in very colorful language). "Heroic Gay Coffee Shop Owner Kicks Out Anti-LGBTQ Group," exulted Out magazine. "Gay coffee shop owner throws out Christian zealots whose leaflets feature rainbow hands dripping blood," is how Pink News put it. The parallels with a current Supreme Court case are obvious. The justices soon will decide whether a Christian baker can decline to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Gay-rights activists say refusing to do so amounts to blatant discrimination that violates public accommodation laws. Defenders of Masterpiece Cakeshop say the owner, Jack Phillips, is not discriminating against gay people—he will gladly sell them all sorts of baked goods—but rather, exercising a First Amendment right not to create cakes that violate his religious convictions. (He won't make Halloween cakes, either.) The degree to which religious believers deserve accommodation also turned up last week in two moves by the Trump administration. In one, Attorney General Jeff Sessions laid down new guidelines for federal agencies, directing them to protect the ability of religious people to live out their faith. In the second, the administration expanded religious exemptions to Obamacare's requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception. Liberal interest groups immediately went ballistic over both. Which is rather telling. And what it tells us is that "celebrating diversity" means somewhat less than you might think at first blush. It suggests there are really two kinds of diversity—and that only one of them is considered worth cheering. We might call the first kind shallow diversity. It's the kind that is only skin-deep: the kind that complains the Oscar nominations include too few minorities, or that not enough women major in economics, or that all-white juries are inherently suspect, or that Asians are overrepresented on college campuses. Shallow diversity is still important and useful: Diverse companies tend to make better decisions and higher profits, for example. Diversity also suggests the absence of discrimination (although organizations can use discrimination to achieve a diverse mix). This kind of diversity enriches everyday experience, fosters tolerance, and broadens understanding. But a superficially diverse community can still lack diversity in a deeper sense. Take higher education: Colleges and universities go to great lengths to pursue demographic diversity in the faculty and the student body. But over the past couple of decades campuses have grown decidedly more liberal—to the point that in some fields, conservative voices are nearly extinct. Yet there is no corresponding effort to increase ideological diversity in higher education. And this holds true despite the fact that while conservatives and liberals might disagree about, say, whether racism is a personal character flaw or a coordinated system of social control, they share many values and assumptions common to the American upper middle-class. They are apt to live in similar homes, read similar books, and—most importantly—share similar ideas of what the good society entails. Celebrating diversity gets harder the further down it goes. What happens when people disagree fundamentally about what the good society looks like? One answer involves the use of raw power to make others knuckle under. That is the answer preferred by many on the right: Build a wall. Make English the nation's official language. Lock up drug addicts. Ban pornography. Prohibit gay marriage. Fire every pro football player who doesn't stand during compulsory patriotic rituals preceding sporting events that mimic wars between nation-states. And so on. But it also seems to be the answer [...]

Social Justice on Display: Protest Art at the Democratic Convention

Thu, 28 Jul 2016 11:50:00 -0400

(image) The threats of gun violence, police abuse, and a rollback of reproductive-liberty loomed at Rock the Vote's "pop-up art exhibition" during the Democratic National Convention (DNC). The exhibit, "Truth to Power," featured work from Shephard Fairey and dozens of other artists from a 9,000 square-foot space on the edge of downtown Philadelphia. Folks like Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, Sen. Cory Booker and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes dropped by for  panels, which included sessions on robots, universal basic income, and the militarization of police. 

I liked the exhibit, even if I didn't agree the messages explicit in some of the works. Some pieces were silly, but some were powerful. None were even slightly critical of Hillary or Bill Clinton, however, nor of the Democratic party—something I didn't think about until I passed a guerrilla art exhibit/protest on the sidewalk near City Hall. It featured paper-mache drones and pictures of children killed by U.S. drone strikes, along with a sign that said "Hillary knows drones kill children, she's all for it." I passed the exhibit on the way to the official DNC "Women's Caucus," where Clinton's record as a champion of children's rights and well-being was touted once again. 


Rock the Vote says the Truth to Power campaign was designed "to engage and mobilize young people in the 2016 election." The works featured at the pop-up exhibition—which was partnered with criminal-justice reform groups like #Cut50, reproductive-health groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and tech startups with names like "Ideapod" and "Wikiburg"— reflected themes that Democrats have hit hard on this week at their convention: gun violence and the need for gun-control regulations; violence at the hands of police; violence against women; the importance of safeguarding reproductive rights; criminal justice reform; women's progress; and how race intersects with all of these things. Check out some of the Truth to Power pieces and some of the Philly street art below. 

Libertarianism, Yes! But *What Kind* of Libertarianism?

Thu, 09 Jun 2016 15:05:00 -0400

If you've been part of the broad-based libertarian movement for more than a few years, you know that it is growing in popularity, visibility, and influence throughout American politics, culture, and ideas. Once a smallish movement tightly identified with the likes of Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein, and Milton Friedman, rarely a day goes by now where some new writer, thinker, pundit, artist, or celebrity doesn't come out as libertarian (among the most recent: Jane's Addiction guitarist and TV host Dave Navarro and Republican political consultant Mary Matalin). "Libertarianish" politicians such as Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie are blazing a different path in the Republican Party and Rand's father Ron electrified college campuses during his runs for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012. Two years ago, The New York Times Magazine asked, "Has the 'Libertarian Moment' Finally Arrived?" and in the 2016 election cycle the Libertarian Party presidential ticket of former governors Gary Johnson and William Weld has already probably received more press than all previous tickets did put together. So libertarianism as a political and cultural force is on the rise. With that in mind, is happy to host a debate over "virtue libertarianism." William Ruger, a former college professor and Afghanistan war vet who is now vice president of research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute, and Jason Sorens, a lecturer in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College and the originator of idea behind the Free State Project, argue that libertarianism—"the political philosophy of free markets, property rights, toleration, and peace"—will grow even faster if its champions embrace "a duty to respect our own moral nature and to promote its development in others." In short, they reject what they call "libertine libertarianism," or a willingness to treat all lifestyle choices as essentially morally equivalent. Conservatives and progressives, they say, worry that a libertarian world in which the goverment is reduced to its simple "night watchman" functions will likely result in anarchy or a world in which the poor and defenseless are constantly degraded. Virtue libertarianism assuages these fears, they hold, by providing moral direction that will improve people's outcome and material support for those who can't help themselves. It's not just the right of libertarians to endorse and uphold particular ways of living, they say, it's the duty of libertarians to do so, as long as the state's coercive apparatus is not involved. This is a provocative thesis, to say the least, and Ruger and Sorens are answered by Steven Horwitz, a self-identified "bleeding-heart libertarian" and a professor of economics at St. Lawrence University; Deirdre McCloskey, who teaches economics, literature and communications at University of Illinois at Chicago and is the author of the new Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World; and Katherine Mangu-Ward, the managing editor of Reason magazine. Comments can be added below. Send email responses to—Nick Gillespie, The Case for 'Virtue Libertarianism' Over Libertinism William Ruger and Jason Sorens Over the past several decades, libertarianism—the political philosophy of free markets, property rights, toleration, and peace—has gone mainstream. The libertarian perspective on a wide range of policy issues—including growing support for educational choice, Second Amendment rights, marijuana legalization, and criminal justice reform—has not only become respectable but the one held by a majority of Americans. Liberating technologies at the heart of the "sharing economy" and new forms of money such as Bitcoin are also widely hailed (and demonized!) as libertarian. While the presidential ambitions of the "libertarianish" Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) were thwarted (at least in this election cycle) and people within and without the movement debate wh[...]

In Search of the Elusive Cultural Libertarian

Wed, 20 Apr 2016 14:29:00 -0400

What is a "cultural libertarian?" While young conservatives claim the term originated in a 2015 Breitbart article, it's actually a term that's been thrown around by libertarians and conservatives in the media since at least 2001. But does the "cultural libertarianism" debated in outlets such as Reason and the National Review back then share anything with the version espoused by the likes of Canadian activist Lauren Southern and Breitbart personality Milo Yiannopoulos these days? Yes and no.  Today's "cultural libertarians" claim to be concerned, first and foremost, with free speech and fending off the "illiberal" or "regressive left." Where they succeed, from a libertarian-no-qualifier perspective, is in igniting the passions of young people toward the protection of civil liberties. Where they fail is by turning off more people in the process than they win over, delighting in the kinds of tactics and stunts that provoke but little else. Going to a feminist rally and holding up signs saying "there is no rape culture" may seem edgy when you're 20, but most people realize that intruding on private events just to throw shade simply makes you an asshole, not a radical for free expression.  @enbrown Wasn't that a failed pre-altright branding attempt? — Chris Morgan (@CR_Morgan) April 19, 2016 Kevin Glass, policy director for the Franklin Center, calls the cultural libertarianism of today "warmed over 90s-style anti-politcal correctness in a new suit." Former Reason staffer Julian Sanchez, now at the Cato Institute, opined yesterday that "cultural libertarian is either redundant or just a dodgy way of saying 'I don't wanna talk about racism or sexism.'" If so-called cultural libertarians are just people who don't want censorship in the name of social justice, we already "have a perfectly good word for" that, noted Sanchez: civil libertarians.  Similar sentiment comes from writer Garry Reed, who explored cultural libertarianisn this week at Because classical liberalism is a philosophy that covers economic, political, and social realms, being a libertarian means "you're a philosophical libertarian, political libertarian, cultural libertarian, social libertarian, economic libertarian and libertarian in every other way possible," he writes.  Southern positions cultural libertarianism as a sub-branch of broader libertarian philosophy. "Libertarians who are not Cultural Libertarians would argue that the only suppression of speech and expression that is unacceptable is suppression that is perpetrated by the state," says Southern, making it sound like just another way of saying "thick libertarian." Thick libertarianism is a term used by liberty-movement types to describe libertarians who "concern themselves with social commitments, practices, projects or movements that seek social outcomes beyond, or other than, the standard libertarian commitment to expanding the scope of freedom from government coercion." But for the nouveau cultural libertarians, freedom from government coercion seems, if anything, an afterthought in the battle to "trigger" Twitter leftists and, at worst, an inconvenient obstacle in the election of President Donald Trump.  Breitbart's Allum Bokhari defines cultural libertarians in opposition to cultural authoritarians: "those who want to control culture versus those who want to liberate it." In this sense, we're not talking "the economic libertarianism of Hayek or Rothbard, nor the political theorising of Nozick," writes Bokhari. "Cultural authoritarians from both the left and right occupy most positions of power in government, academia and the media," he asserted in a subsequent article, "Rise of the Cultural Libertarians," and this is bad news for free expression. In contrast, cultural libertarians believe in open expression, viewing art as separate from its political overtones, and rec[...]

Supreme Court Prepares to Hear New Gay Marriage Cases

Sun, 18 Jan 2015 09:30:00 -0500

The US Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take up same-sex marriage cases from four states where bans have been upheld by a lower court, opening the possibility that the issue will be resolved nationally, once and for all.

As the video playlist below can attest, Reason TV has been covering the issue of marriage equality and legalization efforts for years. 

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Social Issues, Not Economics, Largely Define Political Labels for Millennials

Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:05:00 -0400

Reason-Rupe has a new survey and report out on millennials—find the report here.  Compared to Americans over 30, millennials are half as likely to identify as politically conservative (14% to 34%), and nearly twice as likely to say they’re liberal (25% to 14%). The latest Reason-Rupe study of millennials finds their political ideologies may largely be an expression of their social and cultural values more than their economic policy preferences. In fact their social values are what draws them closer to President Obama, more than their economic policy preferences. Overall, 30 percent of millennials say they are moderate, 25 percent liberal, 14 percent conservative, 7 percent libertarian, 7 percent progressive, and 17 percent say they are “something else.” Does Liberal Mean "Liberal"? The fact that millennials are so much more comfortable using the liberal label and less willing to use the conservative one raises several questions. Does the word “liberal” mean something different to millennials than older cohorts? Does it convey liberal policy preferences across both social and economic issues? It appears that liberal millennials do distinguish between social and economic liberalism: 67 percent indicate they are strong social liberals while only 49 percent say they are strong economic liberals. In fact, when liberal millennials used their own words to explain why they are liberal, only 32 percent mentioned both economic and social issues. Fully a third (33%) only described their liberal label based on social tolerance, inclusivity, and personal freedom. Ideology in Their Own Words To better understand what these political labels mean to millennials, they were asked to use their own words to explain why they describe themselves as a liberal, moderate, conservative, libertarian, or progressive. The results indicate that social issues largely define these terms, particularly for liberal millennials. Coding millennials’ responses reveals that for most liberal and progressive millennials, their ideological label primarily reflects social liberalism, not necessarily economic liberalism. Overall, 68 percent of self-identified liberals’ explanations mentioned elements of social tolerance and personal freedom, while only 35 percent mentioned economics. Progressives were similar on social issues (64%), but more mentioned economics (47%). Conservative millennials are considerably less likely than liberals to rely on social matters to define their label. Instead, conservatives’ affiliation equally conveys their views on both economics (41%) and social issues (41%). For libertarians, economic conservatism (67%) as well as social liberalism (48%) define libertarians’ label. Among all millennials, 37 percent mentioned something about social issues and 27 percent mentioned economics. (More found here). To read a selection of millennials actual responses, click through the following slideshow: src= "" width= "476" height="400" frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no"> A more in-depth analysis of their responses can be found here. To learn more about millennials, check out Reason-Rupe's new report. Read the full report here Read the toplines here 10 Findings About the Millennial Generation, found here Read detailed tables/crosstabs of the results here Survey methodology described here [...]

Immigrants Are Less Criminal Than Native-Born Americans

Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:30:00 -0400

Immigration, especially illegal immigration, leads to more crime, assert some anti-immigrant think tanks. A 2010 poll in Utah found that 62 percent of respondents  "definitely" or "probably" agreed that illegal immigrants are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime. A 2007 poll conducted on behalf of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice poll also reported that “62 percent of people polled believed illegal immigration is tied to rising crime.” The National Opinion Research Center’s 2000 General Social Survey asked whether “more immigrants cause higher crime rates.” Twenty-five percent of respondents said “very likely” and an additional 48 percent answered “somewhat likely.” In fact, most research today finds that immigrants, including undocumented ones, are less prone to crime than are native-born Americans. A 2008 study by researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California found that “the foreign-born, who make up about 35 percent of the adult population in California, constitute only about 17 percent of the adult prison population.” They further noted, “U.S.-born adult men are incarcerated at a rate over two-and-a-half times greater than that of foreign-born men.” A 2010 report from the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice observed that, between 1991 and 2008, when nearly 3.7 million foreign-born people, about a third of whom were “unauthorized” immigrants, moved to California, the state’s violent crime rate fell by 55 percent. The national violent crime rate also has fallen by more than 70 percent since its peak in 1993 even as the number of immigrants residing here swelled from 20 to 40 million over the past two decades. In fact, the findings in a 2010 study on immigrant populations in America’s larger cities “suggest that growth in immigration may have been responsible for part of the precipitous crime drop of the 1990s.” On the other hand, there are a few studies that do find a correlation between immigration and higher property crime rates. Using county-level crime and immigrant data between 1980 and 2000, University of Chicago researcher Jorg Spenkuch calculates that “a ten percent increase in the share of immigrants—roughly one percentage point based on numbers from the 2000 Census—is estimated to lead to an increase in the property crime rate of circa 1.2 percent, while the rate of violent crimes remains essentially unaffected.” In 2008, Arizona started enforcing its Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA), which imposed sanctions on businesses that hired undocumented workers. As a consequence of LAWA, lots of young noncitizen male Mexican migrants left the state. Using data generated by this natural experiment for his 2013 study, University of Cincinnati criminal justice researcher, Aaron Chalfin finds, “After 2008, Arizona's crime rate (particularly its property crime rate) declined by approximately 10 percent implying that the decline in the foreign-born Mexican share induced by LAWA resulted in a decline in property crimes of more than 20 percent.” Let’s set aside the dispute over what the relationship between crime and immigration is for now to consider an interesting new study by team of researchers led by Saint Louis University sociologist Michael Vaughn. That study aims to get beyond the “immigrant paradox” in which immigrants are more socially disadvantaged yet less likely to commit crime. They probe “the full depth of antisocial behavior” using data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Since there were two surveys, there is data on changes in antisocial behavior adjusting for the length of time immigrants had lived in the U.S. Good old-fashioned “root causes” sociology would suggest that since immigrants are more likely to be male, poor, younger, less educated and live in cities, [...]

Ronald Bailey Compares Immigrant and Native-Born Antisocial Behavior

Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:30:00 -0400

(image) Polls suggest that most Americans believe that higher immigration results in higher crime rates. After all, good old-fashioned “root causes” sociology would suggest that since immigrants are more likely to be male, poor, younger, less educated and live in cities, they should be more prone to crime and antisocial behavior. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey reports the findings of a new study that compares immigrant and native-born antisocial behavior, and the natives don't look so good.

There Should Be No 'Punishment' Phase When a Culture War Ends

Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:57:00 -0400

Dozens of supporters of gay marriage, including many noted journalists and scholars, have signed on to a statement today calling for an end to the kind of public outrage that haunted ex-Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich when people discovered he once donated money to the opposing side. The full statement is posted at Real Clear Politics, and the signatories include many names recognizable here at Reason: Jonathan Rauch, Paypal's Peter Thiel, Eugene and Sasha Volokh (and other contributors to The Volokh Conspiracy), Andrew Sullivan, Charles Murray, Reason Contributing Editor Cathy Young. The letter calls for advocacy and debate, but an end to retributive responses to those who have opposed (or still oppose) same-sex marriage recognition. In the section titled "Disagreement Should Not Be Punished," they argue: We prefer debate that is respectful, but we cannot enforce good manners. We must have the strength to accept that some people think misguidedly and harmfully about us. But we must also acknowledge that disagreement is not, itself, harm or hate. As a viewpoint, opposition to gay marriage is not a punishable offense. It can be expressed hatefully, but it can also be expressed respectfully. We strongly believe that opposition to same-sex marriage is wrong, but the consequence of holding a wrong opinion should not be the loss of a job. Inflicting such consequences on others is sadly ironic in light of our movement's hard-won victory over a social order in which LGBT people were fired, harassed, and socially marginalized for holding unorthodox opinions. During the debate over whether what happened to Eich was appropriate—and very frequently in the debate on recognizing gay marriage itself—supporters of how the conflict ended with Eich stepping down invoked interracial marriage. Would we have supported Eich if he was opposed to interracial marriage? How is opposing same-sex marriage different from opposing interracial marriage? Indeed, the issue was immediately raised in the comment thread after signatory Dale Carpenter posted an excerpt at The Volokh Conspiracy. Should a CEO opposed to interracial marriage be immune from any sort of consequences from such a position? Since the laws against interracial marriage were struck down so many years ago, it's appropriate to respond: Who, actually, was punished for being on the wrong side of that debate? Did people who opposed race-mixing lose their jobs for supporting the wrong candidates? Can anybody point to CEOs who were fired back in the '60s or '70s for supporting some racist candidate somewhere? I have done a bit of a stab at trying to track down any info that such outcomes happened, but that would seem to take a lot more time than I have as a blogger. To the extent that those particular civil rights battles ended, I don't recall there being a punishment phase afterward. The battles were certainly punishment enough. Those people on the wrong side—and there were millions of them—didn't go anywhere. They continued on with their lives under new laws and probably most of them eventually came around on the issue, or at least kept it to themselves. Winning a culture war isn't like winning an actual war. You're not stopping an invasion (or initiating one). When the war is over, the participants are still around and they still have to negotiate a way to live together. That realization is why the end of a culture war simply can't have some sort of Nuremberg Trials. There isn't an equivalent. You have to live next door to people who may have extremely different views from yours. Sometimes, those views were actually the majority view at one point. If you try to initiate a punishment phase, why would your opponents then agree to stop fighting and accept your victory? Nobody who knows the history of the gay movement in the Uni[...]

CPAC: Fred Thompson, Other Cons Totally Cool with States Legalizing Pot, Gay Marriage

Fri, 07 Mar 2014 16:18:00 -0500

On the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the biggest annual gathering of right-leaning activists, Reason TV correspondent Kennedy talks with former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and other attendees about decentralizing power to the states.

Surprisingly, the attendees she talked with were on board with letting states decide issues such as drug legalization and gay marriage. 

"We ought to have the diversity that the states give us," said Thompson, who as an actor appeared for years on Law & Order and in a variety of movies. "We'll see what works out. I'd like to see how that situation out in Colorado [regarding pot legalization] works out, for example....Obamacare...has...reminded us once again how difficult it is and how inappropriate it is for the federal government to take on these massive enterprises."

About 3 minutes. Produced by Meredith Bragg.

Scroll down for downloadable versions. Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel for automatic notifications when new material goes live.

Along with Reason's Matt Welch, Kennedy co-hosts The Independents, which airs at 9:00 PM ET on Fox Business every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Check out the show's website for more info.

Businesses Are Providing Solutions to Social Problems

Wed, 12 Feb 2014 12:00:00 -0500

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Technology and new market models are chipping away at the old idea that the government is the sole-solution provider to social problems, argues William Eggers, co-author of the new book The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises are Teaming up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems.

Pathological Altruism: The Road to Hell Really Is Often Paved With Good Intentions Argues New Study

Wed, 19 Jun 2013 09:31:00 -0400

In a remarkably interesting new paper, “Concepts and implications of altruism bias and pathological altruism,” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Oakland University systems engineer Barbara Oakley argues that intentions to help people all too often hurt them. Unintended harm is the outcome of she what calls pathological altruism.  She defines pathological altruism “as behavior in which attempts to promote the welfare of another, or others, results instead in harm that an external observer would conclude was reasonably foreseeable.” In her study Oakley explores the psychological and evolutionary underpinnings of empathy and altruism and how they can go wrong. It turns out that pathological altruism is a pervasive problem affecting public policy. As Oakley explains: Good government is a foundation of large-scale societies; government programs are designed to minimize a variety of social problems. Although virtually every program has its critics, well designed programs can be effective in bettering people’s lives with few negative tradeoffs. From a scientifically-based perspective, however, some programs are deeply problematic, often as a result of superficial notions on the part of program designers or implementers about what is genuinely beneficial for others, coupled with a lack of accountability for ensuing programmatic failures. In these pathologically altruistic enterprises, confirmation bias, discounting, motivated reasoning, and egocentric certitude that our approach is the best—in short, the usual biases that underlie pathologies of altruism—appear to play important roles. The above list of pathologies afflicting public policy sounds all too familiar. Although Oakley doesn’t bluntly say so, the modern welfare state can be conceived of as being largely a collection of enterprises conjured into existence by pathological altruism. Social security – discourages citizens from saving and is going bankrupt. Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, ObamaCare, employer based health insurance - a dysfunctional system of third party payments that boosts overall health care costs without fostering improved care or services. AFDC (now defunct but replaced by lots of other programs) – encouraged single motherhood and near-permanent unemployment. Subsidized student loans - enable university bureaucracies to enlarge without improving educational outcomes. Obviously some people have benefited from these programs, but it is at least arguable that the unanticipated consequences, e.g., bankruptcy, dysfunctional families, higher unemployment, worse medical care, and so forth, are likely to overwhelm the good intentions behind them. In the context of scientific research, Oakley notes… …that those possessing altruism bias would be most strongly biased to object to the very concept of altruism bias. Research has shown the near impossibility of reaching biased individuals using rational approaches, no matter their level of education or intelligence; such attempts can be likened to squaring the circle. In another vein, researchers from outside a given discipline, and who are thus less vested in the theories of that domain themselves, could initiate studies to determine whether insufficient statistics, exaggerated claims, drawing the wrong conclusions from other papers, or using data selectively to confirm hypotheses might differ among studies that relate to disciplinary biases or moral issues (many hard-science topics ultimately impact issues of deep moral concern) versus those that do not. Within scientific disciplines, the appearance of group-norm–enforcing signed petitions could be used as indicators of the potential for pathologies of altruism; such petitions might communi[...]

Under Wide One-Party Control, States Diverge on Social Issues

Thu, 13 Jun 2013 13:16:00 -0400

Nowhere has the red/blue divide between the states been more apparent than on contentious social issues such as gun control, abortion, gay marriage, and immigration.

With 37 states  under one-party control, lawmakers responded aggressively to national events and political developments in Washington.

After the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Democratic states such as New York, Connecticut and Maryland passed sweeping new gun laws. “Nothing focuses your attention like 20 babies being killed,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his state.

Republican-dominated states, meanwhile, looked to block federal laws and loosened numerous restrictions on guns and ammunition.

Arkansas and North Dakota enacted the strictest limits on abortion (at 12 weeks and six weeks from conception, respectively), in laws that may test Roe v. Wade. In 2014, North Dakota voters will consider a measure that would enshrine in state law the idea that life begins at conception, effectively outlawing abortion. But New York, Washington and California looked to expand abortion access, particularly in the new health insurance exchanges that will launch in October as part of the Affordable Care Act.

J.D. Tuccille Discusses Culture War on HuffPost Live

Fri, 29 Mar 2013 20:01:00 -0400

(image) Remember the 1990s, when Pat Buchanan went mano a mano with Barney Frank in a duel to the death over the drection of American society? No, neither do I. Yet the supposed "culture war" between liberals and conservatives keeps resurfacing as a concept, if only as a convenient way to frame evolving views on social issues in a partisan red/blue way sufficiently simplified so that even political journalists and government officials can understand. I appeared on HuffPost Live as part of a panel discussing just where the so-called culture war has taken us. Mostly, in a direction of greater tolerance and personal liberty, I would say, on social issues from gay marriage to guns. On economics ... well ... that's up in the air.

On the panel, hosted by Ricky Camilleri, I was joined by Mark Glaze, Director, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Matt Lewis of The Daily Caller and The Week, and Vickie Henry, Senior Attorney at the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

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