This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight…
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Happy 40th to the Staggers Rail Act, Which Deregulated and Saved the U.S. Rail Industry

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight rail and saved it from looming oblivion.

At the time of passage, the U.S. economy muddled along amid ongoing malaise, and our rail industry teetered due to decades of overly bureaucratic sclerosis.  Many other domestic U.S. industries had disappeared, and our railroads faced the same fate.  But by passing the Staggers Rail Act, Congress restored a deregulatory approach that in the 1980s allowed other U.S. industries to thrive.  No longer would government determine what services railroads could offer, their rates or their routes, instead restoring greater authority to the railroads themselves based upon cost-efficiency.

Today, U.S. rail flourishes even amid the coronavirus pandemic…[more]

October 13, 2020 • 11:09 PM

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Studies Show Connection Between Free Markets and a Cleaner Environment Print
By Ashton Ellis
Wednesday, February 16 2011
If promoting human rights and protecting the environment are the goals of so many on the Left, a growing economy must be their means.

Nice things cost money.  In the 2011 edition of its Index of Economic Freedom, the Heritage Foundation demonstrates that national wealth – not stringent regulations – is the key to creating a cleaner environment. 

The Index of Economic Freedom is a joint project of the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal that ranks 183 economies on 10 factors of economic freedom.  The measures evaluate an economy’s openness, rule of law and competitiveness. 

Heritage expert Ben Lieberman explains the correlation between prosperity and environmental protection:

“One can think of environmental protection as a good that only prosperous societies can afford.  People who lack the necessities do not have the luxury of worrying about endangered species or the health of forests, and even if they did, they would not have the wherewithal to do much about it.  However, as economies develop, a point is reached at which there is both the willingness and the means to address environmental concerns.  Most countries show increasing levels of environmental harm over time until a certain level of per capita wealth is achieved, and then the environment begins to improve.”

The point at which environmental protection becomes affordable for a growing economy is illustrated by the Environmental Kuznets Curve.  At first, as per-capita income increases the environment decays.  One cause is the environmental cost of industrialization where manufacturing gains are often tied to increased pollution.  However, when the turning point of personal income is reached, a wealthier society can now afford to demand (and pay for) cleaner production methods that improve the environment. 

The insight is applicable in other contexts.  When a person is poor and desperately hungry, he will consider just about anything edible.  With each step up the socio-economic ladder, one’s culinary standards increase, as do the costs associated with eating better prepared, cleaner food. 

Certainly, there is a place for government regulations guaranteeing the purity of food just as there is for policing blatant harm to the environment.  Contaminated drinking water and adulterated food are in no one’s interest.  Yet, the evidence from the Index of Economic Freedom suggests that policymakers should be careful not to put the regulatory cart before the economic workhorse. 

Indeed, the primacy of economic freedom on a society’s overall well-being was highlighted in a 1999 comparison between Heritage’s Index and the Freedom House scores for political and civil liberties.  According to Heritage’s Kim R. Holmes, the side-by-side analysis revealed two striking correlations:

1. “Countries that are more economically free also tend to be more politically free; and

2. “There is an even stronger link between economic freedom and civil rights such as freedom of assembly, an independent media and equality of opportunity.  That relationship was statistically significant at 99 percent.”

In other words, freedom cannot be confined to a discrete area of human action.  Whenever governing elites try to manage their citizenry’s access to freedom along a predetermined measure of success, the economy stagnates.  As Heritage’s Lieberman notes, the autocratic regimes in North Korea and Zimbabwe preside over two of the world’s worst economies, and have terrible environmental records. 

If promoting human rights and protecting the environment are the goals of so many on the Left, a growing economy must be their means. 

In a way, the Index of Economic Freedom is another reminder of what ought to be any government’s primary objective: enacting pro-growth policies that enable societies to pay for a better quality of life.  As elected officials across America race to cut spending on popular but expensive programs, the lesson to be (re)learned is that only wealthy societies can afford to spend resources maintaining living standards above subsistence.  After all, nice things cost money. 

Question of the Week   
Which one of the following was the first 20th century presidential candidate to call for a Presidential Debate?
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Quote of the Day   
"In nominating Barrett to the Supreme Court, [President Trump] kept his promise by choosing an undaunted originalist -- someone who interprets the Constitution based on the understanding held by its ratifiers.Trump's most profound effect on the Constitution will come when she and the other Trump Justices apply that originalism to the questions of liberty and equality."Read entire article here.…[more]
—John C. Yoo, Heller Professor Law at U.C. Berkeley School of Law
— John C. Yoo, Heller Professor Law at U.C. Berkeley School of Law
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