Previous Articles

  • Thinking About Things: Questions for Presidential Candidates October 28, 2019 by John DeQ. Briggs - As an interested voter, it has been depressing to see the debate moderators continue to skim the surface of policy questions without coming close to addressing the implications of the answers to those questions. The moderators have also failed to challenge candidates on matters on which, in more normal times, one hopes the candidates would want to be challenged. Not in any divinely inspired order, here are questions that I would like to see each of the Democratic (and Republican where applicable) candidates answer. Few candidates will answer these questions but their manner of avoiding answering would itself be informative. 1. On unifying the country. The country is now seemingly more divided than at any time over the last 100 years. Some 63 million voters voted for President Trump, a great many of whom still apparently support him. Can you address them now and tell them why they should vote for you in the general election, and how it is that you will try to address their concerns and also seek to unify the country? 2. On Foreign Policy. Virtually all of you have decried the way President Trump has carried out foreign policy in this country, whether it be…
  • Hunting is Central to Wildlife Conservation October 15, 2019 by W. David Montgomery - Reports that an American hunter paid $400,000 for a permit to hunt a black rhino in Namibia sent social media and anti-hunting activists screeching with outrage. Yet he was doing exactly the right thing for preservation of endangered species. Revenue from trophy-hunting is indispensable to wildlife conservation in Southern Africa. Sentimental and ill-informed efforts to ban imports of legally-obtained lion, rhino and elephant trophies undercut successful programs in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana that provide incentives for local communities to protect wildlife resources. Namibia’s market-based wildlife conservation program is recognized as Africa’s greatest conservation success. During a recent trip, my wife and I visited these community-based wildlife conservancies and talked to leaders of anti-poaching efforts. The Namibian program was started shortly after the country became independent from South Africa in 1994. The initial impetus for Namibia’s program came even before independence, when Garth Owen-Smith started working with tribal to find ways to make wildlife conservation in the practical interest of their communities. The solution worked out in Namibia started with devolution of property rights in wildlife and other resources to the communities in which they were located. Then a governance structure for the conservancies that would be vested with those rights…
  • One State Should Not Dictate Nationwide Fuel Economy Standards October 1, 2019 by W. David Montgomery - A few weeks ago, the Administration announced its intention to revoke a waiver that allows California to set its own fuel economy standards for motor vehicles. This action is the final step needed to correct a series of decisions made in the Bush and Obama administrations that would have put undue burdens on auto manufacturers and drastically increased costs and limited choices for motorists. About one year ago, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) announced revised fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks to be applied in model years 2021 – 2026. The revised standards would replace standards set by the same two agencies in 2012, well before the revolution in oil drilling technology that moved the U.S. to the top of the list of oil producing countries and caused gasoline prices to fall dramatically. I wrote about these standards in the Talbot Spy at the time, and summarize those opinions here.
  • Thinking About Things: Money, Demographics, and Politics September 17, 2019 by John DeQ. Briggs - This is my inaugural column for The Chesapeake Observer. My topic will always be “Thinking About Things”. I do not know what I will be thinking about any given day, week, or month. In general these days I intend think about the ongoing breakdown and accelerating dysfunction of our political parties and, more broadly, our entire political system. I intend to think and write about these things (among others) in small bites, and in a reasonably orderly way. I expect to stay grounded in facts to support views. --Money: Where It Goes-- The expenditures of our country are hiding in plain sight in this mesmerizing website. The captivating first page will tell you at a glance that federal spending is approximately $4.5 trillion; federal tax revenues are approximately $3.5 trillion; the US national debt is more than $22.5 trillion; the ratio of federal debt to GDP has increased from 34.7% in 1980 to 105.6% today; and much more. And you can see that total student loan debt is more than $1.6 trillion while total credit card debt is just a smidgen over one trillion dollars. Such numbers are at the center of most policy issues.
  • The Ugly Face Behind the Mask of Socialism September 2, 2019 by W. David Montgomery - As American politics becomes more polarized, a number of candidates jockeying for position around the leftward pole label themselves “Socialists.” Others, not quite so ideological, travel with them by supporting policies found in the socialist package. Polls of voters also show surprising numbers in favor of socialism, though digging deeper reveals that the respondents’ understanding of socialism is weak. In particular, few seem to understand the cultural devastation and poverty that full-blown socialism has produced in practice. The classic definition of socialism is a system based on abolition of private property with government ownership of the means of production, free provision of many goods and services, and a planned economy. Socialists today advocate policies that are part of the classic definition -- such as wealth taxes, Medicare for all, universal guaranteed income, free college education and other services -- but they do not mention the abolition of private property and control of incomes and industry. As a result, a 2018 Gallup poll revealed that 37% of the American population had a positive view of socialism, rising to 51% for the 18-29 age group. C. C. Pecknold stated it well: “Socialism is in vogue because no one is sure what it…
  • Mass Shootings: What Next? September 1, 2019 by Matthew Daley - With 5-10 million so-called "assault rifles" and a far larger number of functionally equivalent firearms legally owned in the US, the push to outlaw certain types of firearms is unlikely to deprive aspiring mass shooters of weapons. Indeed, long guns of all types represent a very small fraction of the weapons used in either homicides or suicides in the US. We argue below that one of the serious gaps in our system for preventing these terrible events is the absence of a credible and workable system for limiting the access by the small number of seriously mental ill individuals with a history of violence and substance abuse to firearms. No single solution for mass shootings in the US is at hand, but there are steps that could help ward off future tragedies. Mass shooters fall into three - often overlapping - categories: severely mentally disturbed individuals, domestic terrorists and evil individuals who are neither insane as defined in law nor motivated by political beliefs. Disrupting future attacks arguably will require departures from current practices of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor social media to identify those who display attributes of extreme hatred or mental instability. This will require new…