Forbes – Lights Out For Earth Hour

28 Mar

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If green zealots get their way, we will be sitting in the dark for a lot more than an hour.

You would think that demonizing electricity would be a tough sell to a populace devoted to smartphones, gaming consoles, DVRs, flat screen TVs, iPhones, tablets, and the next “must have” gadget. But you’d be wrong. Earth Hour, an annual “turn off your lights” media event sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), continues to grow, despite the inherent contradiction between its purported goal of conservation-by-denial and how we and the developing world aspire to live today.

But it’s not just us here in America. How can the human race possibly achieve greater prosperity without bringing electricity to the billions of people on Earth who do not yet enjoy its blessings? The WWF’s campaign doesn’t say. Instead, it simply relies on the worn-out idea that humans once lived “in harmony” with nature and that “the planet” would be better off (for whom?) if we all returned to a simpler, less technologically dependent lifestyle.

Such musings have been a recurring theme in Western civilization for generations, particularly among wealthy elites. Fortunately, for centuries the consequences of back-to-nature evangelizing were restricted to a few intellectual poseurs reading some impenetrable books by some other intellectual poseurs who somehow convinced a slightly larger circle of poseurs that they had special insights on how the world should be.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – Can Booming Dubai Remind America How To Grow Again?

21 Mar

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If you despair for America, visit Dubai. If you fear our nation’s best days are behind us, visit Dubai. If you believe American entrepreneurship is being crushed by incompetent bureaucrats, crony capitalists, rabid regulators, and a growing dependent class, visit Dubai. If you worry that Detroit represents our future, that “equality” will triumph over excellence, and that redistributionist democracy has entered a death spiral, visit Dubai.

Visit Dubai to convince yourself that if an isolated, backward-looking culture in one of the most troubled regions of the world can shake off the fetters of stagnation and build a prosperous modern city where 25 years ago there was only desert, then surely America can regain much of what it has lost.

Dubai

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClear Radio Hour – Podcast interview, Zac Bookman OpenGov.com

16 Mar

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Private Company Enables Widespread Government Transparency

Zac Bookman, Co-founder and CEO of OpenGov, explains how his citizen-friendly web platform is making government budgets, tax, and spending data accessible online, and why politicians and municipal managers are taking to it eagerly.

To listen to the podcast click here.

Forbes – Can Silicon Valley Sic Shumpterian Disruption On Bloated City Governments?

14 Mar

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It’s one thing to ship your tax money off to Washington, resigned to the fact that you have little control over the distant bureaucracy that consumes our nation’s fisc. But when it comes to your own city or town, where spending decisions impact everything from garbage collection to your daily commute, such resignation costs dearly. So what to do?

Imagine you could quickly and easily pry the cover off your municipal government’s books and look inside. Imagine every citizen being able to hold politicians accountable down to the penny: Where is my tax money going? Are we getting our money’s worth? Should I believe the mayor when he tells me he needs to raise taxes? Are we overpaying our civil servants? Can some city services be outsourced? How come my friend in the next town over pays fewer taxes yet gets better services in return?

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Imagine bondholders getting the answers they need to accurately price risk: Can this city service its debts? Is it operating as efficiently as similar cities? Are expenses and revenue out of whack? Are ominous trends brewing?

Imagine every candidate running for office having the power to become as well-informed as the incumbent: Are the current officeholders doing a good job? Can I do better? Where are the improvement opportunities? Is the city in trouble? Is the mayor a crook?

Imagine no more. A Silicon Valley startup named OpenGov.com is putting city finances online, along with a suite of analytic tools that make it easy for both city managers and any citizen to dig into the details of their city’s finances, past and present.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – Dueling Visions for Taxing Times: Grover Norquist v. Robert Reich

11 Mar

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This is why I got into radio: A pairing of guests representing two competing visions for the nation’s economic future, each making their case in turn, no shouting.

Their policy recommendations are diametrically opposed. “No new taxes,” says one. “Tax the rich,” says the other. Their understanding of how our economy works, what drives innovation and growth, the proper role of government, the lessons of history, and what makes homo economicus tick couldn’t be more at odds. Their contrasting backgrounds—the precocious rebel who grew up to shame tax-raising  politicians vs. the bullied intellectual who reached the loftiest corridors of power—couldn’t be more revealing.

This week, I’m pleased to have Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, as back-to-back guests on RealClear Radio Hour, sharing their views on what each believes is wrong with America and how they propose to fix it.

1-The pledge

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClearRadio Hour – Debating Media Diversity

10 Mar

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In dueling podcasts I interview Darrell West from the Brookings Instituion and Mike Gonzalez from the Heritage Foundation asking them whether changes can and should be made in news reporting to reduce political polarization. Who should be the judge of journalistic credibilty and quality, the unguided masses or self-appointed elites?

Listen to Darell West make his case “Nudging News Producers and Consumers Toward More Thoughtful, Less Polarized Discourse” by clicking here and Mike Gonzales offer his rebuttal “The New Contras: Understanding the Left’s Grip On Media” by clicking here.

Forbes – Does Media-Enhanced Political Polarization Need To Be Fixed?

7 Mar

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“And that’s the way it is,” intoned Walter Cronkite, the “most trusted man in America,” at the end of each news broadcast. It seems like a different world, when a mere three television networks, the New York Times, Washington Post, and a few other major papers dominated public discourse. Yet, we still don’t seem to be over the nostalgia. As the story goes, after the end of World War II and before the dawn of the Internet, political debates were conducted with relative political comity, in stark contrast to our current era of increasing polarization.

Those bygone days weren’t as civil as we like to remember. In fact, the biggest difference is how information-starved were back then. Yet, the richness of our modern media landscape hasn’t dissuaded the Federal Communications Commission from trying to “fix” America’s media, through backdoor attempts to influence the content and delivery of the news.

Which brings us to this week’s key question: Does the media need to be “fixed,” and if so, how? That is no small matter. In dueling white papers, the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation offer competing perspectives. And I’m lucky to host them both this week on RealClear Radio Hour.

To read the rest of the column click here.

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