Friday, May 29, 2015

Does the Media Hold Anyone to a Lower Ethical Standard than the Clintons?

By Jonah Goldberg
Friday, May 29, 2015

Let’s say, just for kicks, you murdered your husband (or wife). Your neighbors have been suspicious ever since your nightly arguments suddenly stopped, right around the time you put something large in your trunk and drove off in the middle of the night. Now they see you driving his car and putting his suits and golf clubs up for sale on eBay. The police find your explanations implausible and contradictory, and then you tell the cops to direct all future questions to your lawyer.

The good news is that you have fans. Some neighbors think you’re the cat’s pajamas. They come to you and say they want to defend you against this terrible accusation. What should you tell them to say on your behalf?

Frankly, I don’t know what you should say, but I do have a good sense of what you shouldn’t say: “Tell them there’s no smoking gun.”

You see, when people suspect you’ve committed a crime, insisting that there’s “no smoking gun” is almost, but not quite, an admission of guilt. It is certainly very, very far from a declaration of innocence.

“I didn’t do it!” — that’s a declaration of innocence.

“There’s no smoking gun!” — that’s closer to, “You’ll never prove it, nyah, nyah.”

The origin of the phrase “smoking gun” comes from a Sherlock Holmes story, “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott.” In Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale, an imposter posing as a ship’s chaplain commits murder. “We rushed on into the captain’s cabin . . . there he lay with his brains smeared over the chart of the Atlantic . . . while the chaplain stood with a smoking pistol in his hand at his elbow.”

Figuratively, when you have a smoking gun, there’s no need for an investigation; you know for sure the culprit is guilty. But if the chaplain had thrown the gun out the porthole just in time, Holmes would not say, “Well, there’s no smoking gun. This shall have to remain a mystery for all time. Oh, and let’s give the chaplain here the benefit of the doubt.”

I bring this up because every time there’s a new revelation about the unseemly practices of the Clintons, every time a new trough of documents or fresh disclosures come to light, scads of news outlets and Clinton spinners insist that “there’s no smoking gun” proving beyond all doubt that Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation did anything wrong.

The guy who set the bar so low that it’s basically stuck in the mud was ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. In a now-infamous interview with Peter Schweizer, author of the investigatory exposé Clinton Cash, Stephanopoulos grilled Schweizer about his partisan conflicts of interest.

Despite Stephanopoulos’s hostile tone, it was perfectly proper to note that Schweizer worked for George W. Bush as a speechwriter for a few months. The irony, of course, was that Stephanopoulos worked in a far higher position, for far longer, for the Clintons — which Stephanopoulos did not mention. Nor did he disclose the fact that he was a donor to the very Clinton Foundation that was the focus of Schweizer’s book.

Since that story broke, thanks to the Washington Free Beacon, Stephanopoulos has apologized at least three times for his actions.

What he hasn’t apologized for is his yeoman’s work making a smoking gun the new burden of proof.

When the State Department released a sliver of a fraction of the e-mails Hillary Clinton hadn’t already deleted from her private stealth server, the Daily Beast ran a story with the headline “Sorry, GOP, There’s No Smoking Gun In Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Emails.” Ah yes, because the relevant news is whatever’s bad for Republicans.

This week, the International Business Times reported that then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approved a huge spike in arms sales to repressive countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, and that weapons contractors paid Bill Clinton huge sums for speeches at around the same time the State Department was approving their arms deals. Slate noted that “the IBT piece doesn’t reveal any smoking-gun evidence of a corrupt quid-pro-quo transaction.”

Now, obviously, if there is no smoking-gun proof of wrongdoing, the press should report that. But it might also note that many politicians and public figures have been prosecuted — and convicted — without the benefit of a smoking gun. Just ask former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell or, for that matter, Martha Stewart. The lack of a smoking gun in Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal hardly deterred the media mob.

Only in the Clintonverse could the lack of a smoking gun be touted as proof of innocence.

The Democrats’ Blatant Hypocrisy on Equal Pay and the Minimum Wage

By Deroy Murdock
Friday, May 29, 2015

Democrats’ relentless efforts to tell Americans what to do might be a few microns less annoying if they obeyed the rules and exhortations that they inflict on everyone else. Alas, hypocrisy has become a core Democratic principle.

Consider one pot that they pound loudly: raising the minimum wage.

“We owe it to workers across the country to make sure our minimum wage is set to a level that works for them and their families,” Senator Patty Murray (D., Wash.) insisted last month, as she introduced the Raise the Wage Act. It would boost the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $12.00 per hour by 2020 — a 66 percent hike. Added House co-sponsor Representative Bobby Scott (D., Va.): “We can’t build a strong economy on the backs of impoverished workers.” Thirty-two senators have co-sponsored this bill, as have 165 House members.

Amazingly, the Employment Policies Institute reports, 94 percent of these 197 Democrats pay their interns zero. Senator Murray pays her interns bupkis, as does Congressman Scott. According to EPI (, such minimum-wage-hike cheerleaders as Senator Al Franken (D., Minn.), House Democratic chief Nancy Pelosi of California, and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida also pay their interns nothing.

But wait. House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland responds, “Interns will gain practical experience.” Senator Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) says her interns will develop “communication, problem solving, and time management skills.”

True. But interns could do this and make more than $0.00 per hour if their liberal bosses did not subject them to what Karl Marx denounced as “the alienation of labor.”

Of course, if private employers tried to offer interns real-life know-how, marketable skills, and, say, $5.00 per hour, they would be prosecuted.

The Gang of 197 should explain why it’s okay for them to pay interns $0.00 per hour, yet it’s a federal crime for others to pay them up to $7.24, even if these young people want to make some money, rather than none. Any private-sector payment would be less exploitive than the “wages” of these Democratic “defenders of the downtrodden.”

Meanwhile, just days after pushing a $15-per-hour minimum wage through the Los Angeles city council, union bosses are trying to sledgehammer an exit out of the new law. They want to exempt unionized companies from the higher wage!

“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both,” the L.A. County Federation of Labor’s Rusty Hicks told the Los Angeles Times. “The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them.”

This, precisely, is management’s classic response to government price controls on the cost of labor. Rather than mandates, let employers and employees negotiate whatever compensation makes them both happy. In this sense, Hicks is indistinguishable from the alleged “heartless capitalists” whom he and his members excoriated just last week.

L.A.’s union bosses are two-faced enough to merit changing the Hollywood sign to read: HYPOCRISY.

For her part, Hillary Clinton banged a related skillet in South Carolina. “Too many women earn less than men on the job,” she said Wednesday. “When a woman is short-changed, the entire family is short-changed.”

Too bad Clinton short-changed her female staffers.

Although Clinton complains that “women who work full-time, year round, earn just 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes,” she paid her female Senate employees just 72 cents for every dollar their male colleagues saw. The Washington Free Beacon’s analysis of Clinton’s Senate expenditures demonstrated that her women earned median annual salaries of $40,791.55; all the senator’s men pocketed $56,499.93. Thus, Hillary Clinton’s $15,708.38 gender pay gap favored men over women.

“I don’t even know what to say right now,” one woman replied when a journalist gave her these facts. “I’m kind of shocked. That makes no sense. That makes no sense. Like, why? I’m stuck,” she told Caleb Bonham of the Centennial Institute and Campus Reform. “That makes her hypocritical, and that makes me less likely to vote for her. It’s like, why are you trying to fight for something, but you’re not doing it? That makes no sense.”

Obama also plays the equal-pay cowbell.

“Ensuring equal pay for women is a no-brainer,” Obama declared last month. He has failed this test.

“The average male White House employee currently earns about $88,600, while the average female White House employee earns about $78,400,” the Washington Post’s Zachary Goldfarb reported last July. “That is a gap of 13 percent.” Citing White House data, the Post added, “In 2009, male employees made an average of about $82,000, compared to an average of $72,700 earned by female employees — also a 13 percent wage gap.”

So, after five years of pay-gap chest-beating, Obama’s “change” equals zero. Literally.

Obama this month bellyached that “those who are doing better and better . . . are withdrawing from sort of the commons.” He further moaned: “Kids start going to private schools. Kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks.”

Just for sport, Obama should say things that are harder to knock down than hitting a dove with a bazooka.

Obama is the product of Honolulu’s Punahou School, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School — all elite private campuses.

Obama’s kids entered Sidwell Friends, Washington’s poshest private school, early in his reign. Obama almost simultaneously defunded the D.C. voucher program, dashing educational hope for thousands of poor, mainly black children. Thankfully, House speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and then-senator Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) secured money to save this initiative.

As for those evil private clubs, Farm Neck, Reflection Bay, and Royal Hawaiian are just three privately owned clubs where Obama has golfed as president. Surely some kids work out at those places.

Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, should stop making fools of themselves and follow her advice: “Our credibility depends on practicing what we preach.”

Columbia Students Triggered by Old Books Are the Ones Who Need Them Most

By Ian Tuttle
Friday, May 29, 2015

In 8 a.d., Ovid, the poet, the toast of Rome, was suddenly exiled to the remote outpost of Tomis. The reason remains a mystery. Ovid himself said only that his fate was caused by carmen et error — “a poem and a mistake.”

Two millennia later, a new effort to exile Ovid — not from Rome, but from Columbia University’s famed Core Curriculum — could be attributed to the same: carmen et error, where the poem is his Metamorphoses, and the error is that “like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.” So wrote four undergraduate students earlier this month in Columbia’s campus newspaper, the Spectator. They would like a “trigger warning” affixed to Ovid’s masterwork.

It is safe to say that these students (all members of Columbia’s “Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board,” by the by) overreached. Critics have been many and swift and savage. In her weekly Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan pardoned the students on the grounds that “everyone in their 20s has the right to be an idiot.”

But idiocy is notoriously infectious, and it is not obvious that the obvious rebuttals will suffice. For instance, critics have posed the natural reductio question, namely: If Ovid merits a “trigger warning,” doesn’t Shakespeare? Milton? Chaucer? The Bible? (Yes, yes, yes, and it doesn’t have one already?) But appealing to the power of Great Names — Shakespeare! — or repairing to mockery are sufficient responses only as long as a Great Name has the power to inspire awe, or mockery to inspire shame.

One cannot assume either today. The “trigger warning” crowd has placed the past on the defensive. The text must submit to the reader, not the other way around. Or as Columbia’s op-ed writers put it: “Students need to feel safe in the classroom, and that requires a learning environment that recognizes the multiplicity of their identities.”

Notably, Columbia’s administration has played somewhat into this view. On the website for its Core Curriculum, Ovid is advertised as “a particularly modern poet. He knew how to take genres apart, recognizing and exposing their codes and patterns,” writes Classics professor James Uden.  “Then he delighted in reassembling them in surprising ways.” The Metamorphoses is itself “a radical kind of epic poem.” So, to students who have said, “Look how old and primitive and cruel Ovid is! He is nothing like us, which is why we should not read him!” Columbia has responded, “Look how fresh and contemporary and subversive Ovid is! He’s just like us, which is why we should read him!”

In an age in which quashing dissent in political and cultural life is increasingly the norm, Columbia’s response is alarming. Maybe Ovid is old, primitive, and cruel (he’s not, but let’s say so for argument’s sake); he is still different. And that’s increasingly important.

In an introductory essay to St. Athanasius’s De Incarnatione (another very old book), C. S. Lewis made just this argument. “Every age has its own outlook,” wrote Lewis. “It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

Lewis is not suggesting (at least not here) that old books got things more right than new ones — Dante was not omniscient — but simply that they got things right (and wrong) differently: “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.”

Particularly in an age obsessed with “diversity,” such an observation is timely. Even a class of twentysomethings who hail from both Harlem and the Hamptons are likely to exhibit a consensus on a whole swath of fundamental questions. But older writers, not brought up in 21st-century America, won’t. They will think differently. They will use unfamiliar words in unfamiliar constructions; they will combat unfamiliar enemies and call upon unfamiliar friends; they will wrestle with unfamiliar questions and offer unfamiliar answers.

And that unfamiliarity is the point. Reading old books is a way of resisting the cultural and intellectual uniformity that develops when one’s intellectual horizon is one’s own birthdate. A great deal of such uniformity is evident in modern American political and cultural and intellectual life.

Being able to stand outside of it, to offer a detached and learned perspective on our present discontents, is much of the reason for education in the first place. Colleges that seek to turn out original thinkers, persons not bounded by their own time who can offer that substantive critique, are rare. But they remain — as do students up to the challenge.

Any of those students who attend Columbia may want to consider transferring.

The Best Conference in the World

By John Fund
Friday, May 29, 2015

Oslo — Many years ago The Economist published an article titled “The Best Think Tank in the World.” Its name and lost status atop the heap are not relevant, but the idea was sound. Some enterprises are so startlingly effective they need to be celebrated while they are in their prime.

Such is the case with the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual showcasing of human-rights activists from all over the world. They may spend the rest of the year in exile or shunted to the margins of their societies or, in some cases, in prison or on the run. But in Oslo they are celebrated, and they can network and swap ideas. Jay Nordlinger, my National Review colleague, files his trademark dispatches from OFF every year.

OFF offers vivid storytelling from a flashy stage, workshops focused on effective action to fight tyranny, a touch of Hollywood showmanship, entertainment by musicians and comedians, and a genuine effort to throw aside ideology and embrace anyone fighting for fundamental rights against government violence or intimidation. The result, year after year, is a stirring exercise in old-fashioned courage and hope.

Things also get done. The Human Rights Foundation, the New York City–based group that puts on the event, helps connect the most effective activists with foundations headed by the likes of Google executives or billionaire Peter Thiel. The 23-year-old North Korean defector Yeonmi Park has become a sought-after speaker owing to articles on her speech at last year’s Freedom Forum. She will tell the story of her harrowing escape from the Hermit Kingdom in a September book from Penguin, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.

The foundation has also helped smuggle dissidents out of prison, sent balloons carrying subversive videos across the border into North Korea, and facilitated the delivery of the latest portable communications and printing technology to dissidents.

The need for its activities has never been greater.

There has been a “democracy deficit” in the last decade, with a growing number of countries slipping into dictatorship or losing ground on basic rights. Backsliders include, of course, Russia and China, but there are now disturbing signs that nations such as Turkey and Malaysia are seeing the rule of law chipped away by would-be autocrats.

The collection of experts who attend the OFF is fascinating and wide-ranging. Nico Sell, a privacy consultant, holds seminars on how to avoid having government snoops monitor cell phones and computers. A group of cartoonists from around the world shared tips on how they puncture official lies with satire. Bill Browder, a grandson of former U.S. Communist Party chief Earl Browder and now a venture capitalist, speaks passionately about how his Russian lawyer was murdered in prison. He successfully crusaded for the Magnitsky Act, a law passed by Congress in 2012, which placed Western travel and banking restrictions on 32 Russian officials engaged in violating human rights. “If we could get 2,000 people on the list it would put enormous pressure on Russian elites to change,” he told me.

The growing shadow of Putin’s Russia was a major theme of the conference. “Putin is spending billions on the most sophisticated propaganda apparatus a dictator has deployed in memory,” says Thor Halvorssen, the 39-year-old president of the Human Rights Foundation and founder of OFF. “He has paid Western journalists to discredit critics, launched lavish news channels in other countries, and bombarded his population with highly effective nationalism.” For Halvorssen, a Venezuelan with Norwegian ancestry, the fight against the collapse of civilized norms has been personal. Last year, a Venezuelan uncle of his was killed in an apparent street crime in a country where the socialist government has increasingly ignored citizen safety in favor of plundering anything it can get its hands on. In 2004, Halvorssen’s mother was shot, though not killed, by Venezuelan security personnel during a demonstration against the Chávez regime.

The Oslo Freedom Forum displays diversity in every conceivable way, with a wheelchair-bound activist from Gabon sharing the stage with a gay activist from Morocco. But the conference is almost entirely free of the politically correct gender and racial rhetorical obsessions and selective outrage of United Nations human-rights talkfests.

Indeed, some of the speakers tackle head-on the hypocrisy of smug Western liberal elites. Zineb El Rhazoui is a writer for Charlie Hebdo who missed being massacred by Islamic terrorists along with her colleagues last January only because she was on vacation in her native Morocco. She has bitterly attacked Muslims who she says claim a right not to be offended, and she requires 24-hour security because of the death threats she gets. But she also passionately attacks Western liberals who think Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of Mohammed was “racist.”

“What is really racist is to tell me that in the West we want women’s rights but we should understand that in the Middle East they treat women differently, that they aren’t capable of the same universal values,” she told the OFF audience. “It is not liberal to patronizingly condemn people to be ruled by their own traditions when they violate human rights.”

The OFF’s emphasis on promoting basic rights in all nations at all times is its most refreshing aspect. “It’s pretty simple,” says Halvorssen. “We all should want freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom from torture, freedom to travel, due process, and freedom to keep what belongs to you.” Unfortunately, he explains, “the human-rights establishment at the United Nations is limited to pretty words because so many member countries kill or imprison or torture their opponents.”

Dictators and demagogues will always have the upper hand when it comes to crushing opponents. But the Oslo Freedom Forum allows a sharing of insights and ideals that many activists take back to their home countries or places of exile. Don’t be surprised if someday the civil-disobedience tactics or protest organizing you see on your TV screen in a foreign land will have its roots traced back to the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Bernie Sanders’s Dark Age Economics

By Kevin D. Williamson
Wednesday, May 27, 2015

As of yesterday afternoon, a nonstop round-trip flight from New York City to Los Angeles on Independence Day weekend cost $484. That the price is so low is an incredible story in itself, one that is more important than most of what our children are taught in their history classes and one that we should not fail to appreciate, but it is a subject for another day. Consider, though, that that $484 is a messy number; it isn’t an even $500 or rounded to $480 or $485. Messy numbers are a sign of real calculation, and they are the opposite of political numbers: the first 100 days in office, the five-year plan, the $15 minimum wage.

That $484 is easily expressed in non-U.S. dollar contexts: €445.08, £ 314.56, ¥ 5,9573.87, 2.0349 Bitcoin. (Damn!) On the commodities market, that’s 745.54 pounds of cotton or 338.5 pounds of coffee. It is 0.00000268888 of a Les Femmes d’Alger, the Pablo Picasso painting that recently set a new auction record at Christie’s.

There is no reason, in theory, that one could not buy a Picasso masterpiece and pay for it in coffee, or in coffee futures, or in barrels of West Texas Intermediate crude. But most sellers, and most buyers, prefer currency — a restaurant in Austin has a sign proclaiming that it “proudly does not accept the American Express Card, Visa, MasterCard, checks, chickens, or pesos.” Dollars do not have any inherent value; as my favorite presidential candidate, the mighty Cthulhu (“Why Vote for a Lesser Evil?”) put it, dollars are merely “pieces of green paper backed solely by religious dogma.” (Cthulhu’s fiscal policy? “He permits his devotees to collect as much paper in as many colors as they happen to like.”) Dollars have value because of the things for which we can trade them: Picasso paintings (or, ideally, paintings by some superior artist), coffee, cotton, cheeseburgers, sofa beds . . . checks, chickens, or pesos. This is an aspect of what in economics is known as Say’s Law, which holds that goods are paid for in goods — i.e., that we manufacture widgets or grow tomatoes or write novels because we wish to consume shoes and poached salmon and Buicks. The dollar or the euro is just a way to avoid the difficulties of trading a truckload of chickens (or a convoy of them) for Les Femmes d’Alger.

Money is a medium of exchange, and prices are a form of communication. What do prices communicate? How much we value certain things relative to other things. This is really helpful: Everything in the economy is in reality priced in terms of other things — everything is relative to everything else — and price tags would look like the Library of Congress if we had to list the price of an airline ticket in wheat, coffee, gold, Bitcoins, signed Andy Warhol prints, Hermès scarves, etc. The underlying hierarchy of relative preferences does not change if you go from U.S. dollars to Swiss francs; you can play with the means of exchange all you like, but you’ll never arrive at a place at which people value a No. 2 pencil (the miraculous No. 2 pencil!) as much as they do a Rolls Royce automobile.

Right now, we are embroiled in a deeply, deeply stupid debate over whether to raise the statutory minimum wage to $15 an hour. (I write “statutory minimum wage” because the real minimum wage is always and everywhere $0.00 an hour, as any unemployed person can confirm for you.) Because everything in the economy is in reality priced relative to everything else, using the machinery of government to monkey around with the number of little green pieces of paper that attaches to an hour’s labor manning the register at 7-Eleven or taking orders at Burger King is, necessarily, an exercise in futility. The underlying hierarchy of values — the relative weighting between six months’ work washing dishes and six months’ tuition at the University of Texas — is not going to change. Prices in markets are not arbitrary — they are reflections of how real people actually value certain goods and services in the real world. Arbitrarily changing the dollar numbers attached to those preferences does not change the underlying reality any more than trimming Cleveland off a map of the United States actually makes Cleveland disappear.

Dollars are just a method of keeping count, and mandating higher wages for work that has not changed at all is, in the long run, like measuring yourself in centimeters instead of inches in order to make yourself taller, or tracking your weight in kilograms instead of pounds as a means of losing weight. The gentlemen in Washington seem to genuinely believe that if they measure their penises in picas they’ll all be Jonah Falcon — in reality, their interns won’t notice any difference.

Bernie Sanders, the Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, generated a great deal of mirth on Tuesday when he wondered aloud how it is that a society with 23 kinds of deodorant and 18 kinds of sneakers has hungry children. Setting aside the fact that we must have hundreds of kinds of deodorant and thousands of choices of sneakers, Senator Sanders here communicates a double falsehood: The first falsehood is that the proliferation of choices in consumer goods is correlated with poverty, among children or anybody else, which is flatly at odds with practically all modern human experience. The reality is precisely the opposite: Poverty is worst where consumers have the fewest choices, e.g., in North Korea, the old Soviet Union, the socialist paradise that is modern Venezuela, etc. The second falsehood is that choice in consumer goods represents the loss of resources that might have gone to some other end — that if we had only one kind of sneaker, then there would be more food available for hungry children.

Lest you suspect that I am distorting the senator’s words, here they are:

    You can’t just continue growth for the sake of growth in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems. All right? You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country. I don’t think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on.

This is a very old and thoroughly discredited idea, one that dates back to Karl Marx and to the anti-capitalists who preceded him. It is a facet of the belief that free markets are irrational, and that if reason could be imposed on markets — which is to say, if reason could be imposed on free human beings — then enlightened planners could ensure that resources are directed toward their best use. This line of thinking historically has led to concentration camps, gulags, firing squads, purges, and the like, for a few reasons: The first is that free markets are not irrational; they are a reflection of what people actually value at a particular time relative to the other things that they might also value. Real people simply want things that are different from what the planners want them to want, a predicament that can be solved only through violence and the threat of violence. That is the first reason that this sort of planning leads to gulags. The second is that there are no enlightened planners; men such as Senator Sanders imagine themselves to be candidates for enlightened leadership, but put a whip in his hand and the gentleman from Vermont will turn out to be another thug in the long line of thugs who have cleaved to his faith. The third reason that this sort of planning always works out poorly is that nobody knows what the best use of resources actually is; all that the would-be masters know is that they do not approve of the current deployment of resources.

Markets adapt to political changes, and the hierarchy of values that distinguishes between an hour’s worth of warehouse management, an hour’s worth of composing poetry, an hour’s worth of brain surgery, and an hour’s worth of singing pop songs is not going to change because a politician says so, or because a group of politicians says so, or because 50 percent + 1 of the voters say so, or for any other reason. To think otherwise is the equivalent of flat-earth cosmology. In the long term, people’s needs and desires are what they are; in the short term, you can cause a great deal of chaos in the economy and you can give employers additional reasons to automate rote work. But you cannot make a fry-guy’s labor as valuable as a patent lawyer’s by simply passing a law.

This is not a matter of opinion — that is how the world actually works. One of the many corrosive effects of having a political apparatus and a political class dominated by lawyers is that the lawyerly conflation of opinion with reality becomes a ruling principle. Lawyers and high-school debaters (the groups are not alien to one another) operate in a world in which opinion is reality: If you convince the jury or the debate judges that your argument is superior, or if you can get them to believe that your position is the correct one, then you win, and the question of who wins is the most important one if you are, e.g., on trial for murder. But if you shot that guy you shot that guy, regardless of what the jury says — facts are facts. Galileo et al. were right (or closer to right) about the organization of the solar system than were Fra Hieronimus de Casalimaiori and the Aristotelians, and the fact that Galileo lost at trial didn’t change that.

Senator Sanders may insist on living in the dark ages, and his view is not without its partisans. But those views are crude, they are backward, and they are, objectively speaking, incorrect about the way the economic world works. They are barely a step above superstition, and they merit consideration for only one reason: “Voters — all they gotta be is eighteen.”