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The Bob Zadek Show

Jeffrey Singer: The "Doctor for Liberty" on Opioid Abuse, Harm Reduction, and ObamaCare

The Bob Zadek Show - 7/15/2019 12:00:00 AM

Dr. Jeffrey Singer, an Arizona surgeon and Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, has a message that some Americans will consider a bitter pill to swallow: People will always use drugs, and many will harm themselves and others in the process. The government’s response to this fact of life has been a multi-billion dollar failed War on Drugs. The best evidence suggests that not only has this war failed to achieve its intended aim, it has actually made the problems of drug abuse and overdose worse. The “Doctor for Liberty” returned to the show to update me on the latest research into so-called “harm reduction” strategies that have proved much more successful than the War on Drugs in limiting addiction and fatalities from heroine overdose.  We also discussed the latest challenge to ObamaCare, which is working its way through to courts and appears likely to reach the Supreme Court before 2020. If you’ve worried about the Supreme Court becoming too political, you haven’t seen anything yet. Twitter: Subscribe: youtube:

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Defining the "Deep State", with Jeffrey Bergner

The Bob Zadek Show - 7/3/2019 12:00:00 AM

5 things to know about The Vanishing Congress: The Book - The Vanishing Congress: Reflections on Politics in Washington [Amazon] The Topic - Former FBI Director James Comey recently denied the existence of a “deep state.” Rather, he says there is a “deep culture” of so-called meritocratic technocracy. That sounds like deep euphemism to me, but it’s worth asking what this vague and sinister term actually means before asking whether it exists. Jeffrey Bergner, author of The Vanishing Congress, is a long-time Washington insider who has found the roots of something like a deep state in the legislative branch’s abdication of its one job: to make the laws. This might sound like a dream come true for libertarians, but since nature abhors a vacuum, this vital function ends up getting usurped by unelected bureaucrats and unaccountable district judges. The Guest - Jeffrey Bergner served as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs from 2005 until July 2008. He is the President and Managing Financial Partner of Bergner Bockorny, Inc., as well as an adjunct professor at the National Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. The Problem - Bergner says that Congress has ceded too much of its authority to the executive branch — with its mutant bureaucratic army — and broken down the checks and balances that the Founders designed to ensure that government represents the people and not its own entrenched interests. When the executive branch is given such broad leverage to implement laws without express authorization of Congress, presidents and executive agencies are encouraged to legislate by fiat. Then come the executive orders… The Solution - For starters, Bergner suggests that Congress would be 20% more efficient with 20% fewer staff. I’m conflicted, since I like the idea of shrinking government, but I’m not so sure about increasing congressional “efficiency.” Is getting more stuff done always a good thing? I’ll question Bergner on this idea, as well as his proposal to reduce debate on cabinet nominations from 30 hours to 2 hours, and how direct election of senators forever changed the political landscape in America.

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Frank Buckley on Regulating Social Media Censorship

The Bob Zadek Show - 6/24/2019 12:00:00 AM

MY TAKE: YouTube should be free to discriminate. Change my mind. The debate over online free speech continues, with YouTube's decision to "demonetize" the channels of hundreds of controversial personalities, including conservative comedian and provocateur Steven Crowder. I spoke to Frank Buckley about his idea for a governmental check on "woke" social media censorship. As a libertarian, I hold that private corporations can decide what content they allow on their platforms, but Buckley thinks social networks are more like public utilities - i.e., monopolies in need of oversight. Unlike traditional monopolies, however, YouTube can't just be split up into a bunch of smaller online video streaming websites. Instead, Buckley says Trump should appoint a "Social Media Commissioner," in the mold of the Federal Election Commission or Board of Broadcast Governors to investigate bias in the algorithms.

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Veronique de Rugy on the Gender Pay Gap

The Bob Zadek Show - 6/17/2019 12:00:00 AM

Over 60 years ago, University of Chicago economist Gary Becker laid out the economic logic of discrimination and noted how the market punishes arbitrary discrimination through competition. Robert Murphy summarizes it as follows: “In a free market, the owner has the legal right to hire whomever he wants. After all, it’s his restaurant, and the wages he pays are (initially) his property. But if he allows nepotism to influence his hiring decision, he suffers an implicit fine of $1.50 per hour. He makes less money if he makes employment decisions based on factors, such as family relationships, that have nothing to do with the job.” — The Economics of Discrimination

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Gentrification and Rent Control with Charlie Deist

The Bob Zadek Show - 6/10/2019 12:00:00 AM

San Francisco - a city notorious for its lack of affordable housing - will celebrate the 40th anniversary of rent control policies next week. Meanwhile, homelessness and housing shortages have reached crisis levels in the city. While some may look at the housing crisis as evidence for the need for more sweeping protections for tenants, those who study the subject say that such policies are in fact responsible for the current crisis. Even the socialist Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck noted that, "In many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city - except for bombing it."

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On Foreign Policy, will Trump heed the Restraining Constituency or John Bolton?

The Bob Zadek Show - 6/3/2019 12:00:00 AM

In his State of the Union address in February, President Trump sounded like a non-interventionist when he said, “Great nations do not fight endless wars.” Since then, he has begun to draw down America’s military presence in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Due to the growing unpopularity of drawn-out wars in the Middle East, and Trump’s focus on reelection in 2020, he probably does not want to start another endless war with Iran. However, much of his rhetoric has been hawkish — perhaps influenced by his national security advisor, arch-hawk neocon John Bolton. The latest news is that he is growing disenchanted with Bolton, who helped design the Iraq War and has even called for a pre-emptive strike on Iran.

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What Part of Illegal Immigration Are You Against?

The Bob Zadek Show - 5/27/2019 12:00:00 AM

Conservative blogs are fond of spreading statistics like, "Most Federal Crimes Involve Immigration, Drugs and are Executed by Hispanics" [Judicial Watch] to support policies that would restrict immigration to the U.S. from Mexico. These articles are highly misleading. In most cases, the crime in question is the illegal immigration itself, which says little about immigrants rates of violent crime. In fact, if there is a link between immigration and crime, it seems to be inverse - i.e., immigrants are on average less likely to commit crimes. Articles like the one linked above unintentionally illustrate a point I often make about immigration, using the Socratic method. I ask opponents of illegal immigration which part they oppose - the "illegal" part, or the "immigrant." If it's the illegal part, there is a simple solution. It's naturalizing more immigrants, and it's the opposite of what President Trump is asking of Congress to do. After watching their bizarre contortions for a minute or so, I usually declare victory.

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The Bob Zadek Show - 5/13/2019 12:00:00 AM

Sebastian Edwards on a forgotten episode in U.S. history The United States Treasury Bill is an IOU issued by the federal government. It has long been considered a risk-free asset, and while it may not offer a high return these days, at least they promise your money back. After all, they say the U.S. has never defaulted on its debt in its 240-year history. In studying the 16-year long saga of Argentina’s default (which began in 2001), UCLA economics professor Sebastian Edwards frequently heard this view expressed, only to discover that it was not true. His new book, American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle over Gold (Princeton University Press, 2018) documents a forgotten episode in which the U.S. technically defaulted on its debts in the form of President Roosevelt’s 1934 devaluation of the dollar.

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Hugo Chavez: Failed Messiah

The Bob Zadek Show - 5/6/2019 12:00:00 AM

When we last heard from Clif Ross, Venezuela’s socialist dictatorship seemed to be on the brink of collapse. Months later, Nicolás Maduro has managed to cling to power throughout the blackouts and riots that have darkened a country with so much natural wealth and potential for prosperity. Clif, a poet, film director, and former Bolivarian revolutionary, lost many of his former “comrades” when he conclusively rejected socialist ideology once it became impossible for him to ignore its failure in Venezuela. His memoir, Home from the Dark Side of Utopia: A Journey through American Revolutions, documents this conversion and was the subject of Bob’s discussion with him back in January. However, that conversation left little time to dig into the current situation in Venezuela, which is deteriorating more and more each day. Since January, Clif published a lengthy mea culpa of sorts in Quillette, documenting how he “had drifted — at first gradually, but then definitively — into the camp of my former ‘enemies,’ persuaded by their narrative and by the evidence before my own eyes.” The article was publicized by Jordan Peterson and others whose praise further eroded whatever remaining sympathies the hard-left may have had for Clif. Despite the adulation from conservatives and libertarians, Clif remains an independent thinker who won’t be pigeonholed into any ideological camp. Neither left nor right, Clif’s worldview is rooted in more nuanced theological and philosophical ideas. He subscribes to Thomas Sowell’s view, laid out in The Vision of the Anointed, which pits the unconstrained, or utopian worldview against the constrained, or tragic worldview. The latter assumes that people behave in their self interest, and that governments should not be too ambitious in trying to change human nature. Clif returns to the show this Sunday with producer and guest host Charlie Deist to pick up where he left off, discussing the similarities between Bolivarian socialism and other versions of “Apocalyptic Utopian Messianic Millenarianism (AUMM)” seen throughout history. When the tragedy in Venezuela is viewed through the lens of mankind’s religious yearnings, Hugo Chavez emerges as a kind of false messiah — one anointed by himself and his followers to usher in heaven on Earth (paging Dr. Muravchik). When the ailing Chavez failed to bring about the promised socialist utopia, he hand-picked Nicolas Maduro as his replacement in an alternative form of apostolic succession. The remaining true believers are scrambling to resuscitate the failing revolution, accusing the opposition leader John Guiado of being a puppet of U.S. imperialists, and calling the popular protests an illegitimate coup. Charlie and Clif discuss the “synoptic delusion” of socialist dictators, which leads them to believe they can steer markets and society through centralized control. They will also touch on the dangers of holding too strong a political identity, and how ideology hampers the quest for objectivity.

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Bill Ottman on Social Media Censorship

The Bob Zadek Show - 4/29/2019 12:00:00 AM

Earlier this week, President Trump sat down in the Oval Office with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to talk about, among other things, Twitter’s censorship policies, and his own follower count. Trump asked if Twitter had discriminated against him — his 45 million followers pale in comparison to Barack Obama’s 105 million, not to mention Katy Perry’s 108 million. Perhaps Trump’s ego is interfering with his ability to see clearly on this issue, but social media censorship is still a vital topic of concern for all Americans who value free speech.

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Joshua Muravchik on Socialism Reincarnated

The Bob Zadek Show - 4/15/2019 12:00:00 AM

In his 2003 book Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism, World Affairs Institute fellow Joshua Muravchik documents the many faces of socialism throughout history, and none of them are pretty. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal this week, Muravchik notes that even the best case scenarios for socialism have been disasters (or else morphed into something that was no longer socialism). Now he’s publishing a new edition that includes “the Afterlife,” on the recent reincarnation of the bad idea that just won’t stay dead.

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Demystifying the Supreme Court

The Bob Zadek Show - 4/8/2019 12:00:00 AM

During the Kavanaugh hearings, pundits and journalists mused whether the circus around his nomination hearings might be leading to a crisis of legitimacy on the Supreme Court. Notably, these musings mostly came from the left and those who opposed Kavanaugh ideologically. Their very utterance was an instance of further politicizing and de-legitimizing of the judicial branch. The Supreme Court was intended by the founders to remain "above the fray." But the political tit-for-tat around increasingly divisive confirmation hearings is just the tip of the iceberg of a legitimacy crisis that has been brewing for much longer. David Kaplan's new book, The Most Dangerous Branch, is a deep dive into the history and personalities that have turned the Supreme Court into the hyper-politicized and self-aggrandizing institution it is today. He takes readers into the heart of the "Marble Palace," where the nine black-robed justices have sat enthroned since 1935, deciding some of the most controversial issues in American life. How did we get to a place where nine individuals hold so much power - where Supreme Court Justices are viewed as demigods? Against the narrative of "Supreme Court as Jedi High Council" comes Kaplan's revealing and occasionally unflattering portrait of the Trump Court. The Supreme Court is not and ought not be our only hope, he says. The book provides a fascinating glimpse into the personalities and egos of judges - both those who have ultimately been confirmed and those whose enthusiasm and jockeying for a nomination ended up disqualifying them. It's a sobering reminder that the justices on the Supreme Court are not deities, but merely lawyers - and humans at that.

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David Henderson on Trumponomics, Deficits, and Optimism

The Bob Zadek Show - 4/1/2019 12:00:00 AM

Back in October, Bob spent an hour with Stephen Moore – former president of the Club for Growth, and author of *Trumponomics.* Moore is a supply-side economist, meaning he thinks that many tax cuts pay for themselves in the long run. He and Bob talked about why the drop in the corporate income tax from 35% to 20% was good news for average Americans, and Bob asked why not drop it even lower? Arthur Laffer, Moore’s co-author on Trumponomics, is famous for the Laffer curve, which counterintuitively holds that you can raise even more revenue by lowering taxes, since that creates higher growth and more incentives to produce wealth, which means a bigger tax base. Naturally, a businessman like Donald Trump would be interested in that kind of idea, so he has consulted Moore on a number of his key economic policies — including, thankfully, free trade. Moore has pushed Trump to remove tariffs, and for the time being we seem to be angling in that direction. Now, President Trump has nominated Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve Board, which many take as a sign that of the on-going politicization of the central bank. Moore wrote an oped in the Wall Street Journal which called the Fed a “threat to growth,” and by some measures it does look like the recent tightening is going beyond what’s necessary to keep inflation in line. Professor Emeritus David Henderson of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California joined this show’s producer, Charlie Deist, to give an update on how Trumponomics is playing out in the economy, and analyze whether the growth we have seen under Trump’s presidency is sustainable. They also discuss whether Moore is a suitable candidate for the Federal Reserve Board, or whether his pro-growth, free-market optimism would be better utilized in a different position. Lastly, the talk about the unusual proposition of a strategic default, which would let taxpayers off the hook and leave bondholders holding the bag for the risk they took in trusting such an undisciplined spender like the U.S. government.

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Libertarian Anti-Poverty Policy with Michael Tanner

The Bob Zadek Show - 3/25/2019 12:00:00 AM

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth Nolan Brown explained how the War on Sex Workers is making the problems usually associated with prostitution worse. I noted that it seems like a rule that whenever government declares war on something, bad things happen. The War on Poverty has been no exception. In the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson sought prevent and even cure poverty, much like Nixon unsuccessfully sought to cure cancer. Some 60 years later, the poor are still with us and bad policies alleviate poverty effectively trap them there. The Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner has written the definitive book on a libertarian anti-poverty policy. The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor is both readable yet scholarly. It plots the history of welfare from the Middle Ages to the present, and shows how the current system arose from two conflicting outlooks about why poverty exists. Both liberals and conservatives have missed the mark in their diagnosis and, more importantly, their cure for poverty. Free markets and exponential growth have lifted millions of Americans out of poverty, but government continues to create artificial barriers that keep people stuck on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. We can start by pointing out the harmful effects of minimum wages, occupational licensing and the like, but it goes much beyond this.

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Making Congress Do Its Job

The Bob Zadek Show - 3/18/2019 12:00:00 AM

You would think that politicians, once in power, would relish the opportunity to wield it. Yet Congress has increasingly abdicated its basic responsibility to make law. Instead, it delegates "rule making" responsibility to administrative agencies - part of the executive branch. The rules these agencies come up with often have nothing to do with the intent of the laws Congress has passed, and overreach into the lives of private citizens with no accountability. Against this anti-democratic process, the Congressional Review Act was signed into law in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton. It requires administrative agencies to submit rule changes to Congress for an up-or-down vote. Congress doesn't have to vote, and they frequently don't, but they do have to be given the choice. Sometimes, agencies have failed to submit rule changes or tried to circumvent the CRA because they find the requirements to be vague. Now, Democrats are even calling for the repeal of the CRA. Congressional laziness is turning regulators into lawmakers, and giving the executive branch far more power than the Founders ever imagined. Frank Buckley calls the presidency an "elective monarchy." Philip Hamburger says that the power given to a runaway administrative state has morphed into the new "royal prerogative." I've covered the overreach of the administrative state nearly a dozen times on my show, including the "midnight regulations" passed into law by President Obama during the last week of his presidency. Since 2017, Congress has begun to renew its constitutional vocation as the legislative branch and exercise its authority under the Congressional Review Act to strike down questionable rule changes. Jonathan Wood, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, has been leading the charge in the courts to hold administrative agencies accountable. He recently won a victory on behalf of an Idaho ranch that was threatened by a controversial rule, which the Bureau of Land Management had not submitted to Congress for review. The sweeping rule change would have altered the status of 70 million acres of federal lands to protect the greater sage grouse - a fascinating bird by all measures, but not an endangered species. This change would have threatened the livelihood of ranchers and cost billions to the economy. But lest anyone criticize Wood for having it in for the poor Grouse, he has also written a report on how we could improve the Endangered Species Act in The Road to Recovery. Basically, Wood says we should be rewarding property owners who keep rare species alive on their property, not punishing them with regulations and command-and-control style preservation efforts that don't get results. Fortunately, the court smacked down the administrative agency and required them to go through Congress to have the rule approved or rejected. One question still remains: will Congress do its job and vote on the rule, or will they continue abdicate power once again? Jonathan will join me this Sunday (3/17) and take your calls on the show of ideas, not attitude.

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The War on Sex Workers

The Bob Zadek Show - 3/11/2019 12:00:00 AM

It seems like a rule that whenever government declares war on something, the problem gets worse. Elizabeth Nolan Brown is an award-winning journalist and Reason editor who writes about how hysteria around human trafficking has created a "War on Sex Workers" to complement the failed Wars on Drugs, Poverty, and Terror. The co-founder of Feminists for Liberty, she belongs to the wave of feminism that believes women are capable of making their own choices, freely, without harassment. Consider the unseen effects of criminalizing prostitution. Where it's illegal, women who would otherwise voluntarily become sex workers face the possibility of being abused by their clients with no recourse to law enforcement. Meanwhile, those who are being trafficked are forced to continue to meet inevitable black market demand. Also consider that moral theologians from Augustine to Aquinas have supported legalized prostitution. Many countries operate regulated brothels to protect sex workers, but in our Puritan-founded country, we often fail to distinguish between the clear crime of sex trafficking and the victimless crime of voluntary prostitution. Historically, U.S. law enforcement has conflated the two in order to scare the public into supporting a ban on prostitution.

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Free Banking vs. Free Money

The Bob Zadek Show - 3/3/2019 12:00:00 AM

George Selgin on the Mind-Bending Methods of Modern Monetary Theory: You know you’re in trouble when your economic theories are so far to the left that Paul Krugman calls you out for neglecting the dangers of too much government spending. Such is the dilemma of the Modern Monetary Theorists — best known for providing Bernie Sanders with the intellectual ammo for his big-spending agenda. Modern Monetary Theory holds that we don’t need to worry about deficits, since government can always pay for its programs by making more money. When asked about the nightmares of Zimbabwe, the Weimar Republic and former Yugoslavia, the MMTers must admit that we need taxes to drain currency from the economy just before hyperinflation kicks in.

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Here Comes the Storm: John McGinnis on the Threats to Classical Liberalism

The Bob Zadek Show - 2/25/2019 12:00:00 AM

I was careful not to be too dour in my "Progress Report for Liberty: 2018," noting that many subtle victories for liberty were achieved at the state level while the vitriol of national politics raged around us like a storm. Classical liberals should be cheerful about the ongoing reforms to our drug laws, the forward march of technology, and some notably positive developments in the Supreme Court (including the landmark decision of Janus v. AFSCME). However, I also noted the frightful prospect of a national political scene in which Elizabeth Warren scores points for proposing full-on socialism sneakily disguised as the "Accountable Capitalism Act." John O. McGinnis, the George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law and author of Originalism And The Good Constitution (among other books), has an even more pessimistic take in his recap article, 2018: A Gathering Storm for Classical Liberalism. He notes, first, the ominous trend toward populism, and the popularity of politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who promise to "protect" Americans from the very same forces of competition and free-market dynamism that have built America into the most prosperous nation on earth. 2018: A Gathering Storm for Classical Liberalism - Law & Liberty Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Classical Liberalism, Dear Colleague Letters, deregulation, Donald Trump… Second, although President Trump has ostensibly done some good for free markets, his persona has contributed to what Gene Healy calls "the Cult of the Presidency," and placed government right at the center of American social life. Based on these dual forces, McGinnis forecasts a gathering storm, in which aggrandizement of the state acts as the engine for a future collectivist revival. McGinnis joined me this Sunday to discuss how the President's recent emergency declaration sets a dangerous precedent for future administrations. Your calls are welcome on the show of ideas, not attitude.

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