One definition given for insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results; it might also be a definition of stupidity. Let's look at some cities where large percentages of black Americans live under poor conditions.
Experiencing a violent crime rate of 2,137 per 100,000 of the population, Detroit is the nation's most dangerous city. Rounding out Forbes magazine's 2012 list of the 10 most dangerous cities are St Louis; Oakland, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Stockton, Calif.; Cleveland; and Buffalo, N.Y. The most common characteristic of these predominantly black cities is that for decades, all of them have been run by Democratic and presumably liberal administrations. Some cities — such as Detroit, Buffalo, Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia — haven't elected a Republican mayor for more than a half-century. What's more is that in most of these cities, blacks have been mayors, chiefs of police, school superintendents and principals and have dominated city councils.
Suppose you buy a gallon of gas for $3. How much did it cost you? You say, "Williams, that's a silly question. It cost $3." That's where you're mistaken, because there's a difference between price and cost. To prove that price and cost are not the same, consider the following. Suppose you live and work in New York City and routinely pay $15 for a haircut. Imagine you were told that there's a barber in Boise, Idaho, who can give you the identical haircut for just $5. Would you start going to the Boise barber? I'm betting you'd answer no because even though the price is cheaper, the cost is greater.
We might think of price as the money that's actually given in exchange for the transfer of ownership. When you purchased the gallon of gas, you simply transferred your ownership of $3. What the gas cost you is a different matter. One way to determine the cost of a gallon of gas is to ask yourself what sacrifice you had to make in order to have $3 to buy it. Say that your annual salary is $75,000. Your total federal income tax, state income tax, local taxes and Social Security and Medicare taxes come to about 35 percent of your salary. That means that in order to purchase the $3 gallon of gas required that you earned about $4.60 in order to have $3 after taxes. That means a gallon of gas costs you $4.60 worth of sacrifice. But that's not so costly as it is to a richer person — for example, someone earning a yearly salary of $500,000. He has to earn more than $5 before taxes in order to have $3 after taxes to purchase gas.
A couple of weeks ago, Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson, speaking at The National Press Club, said the nation "would never tolerate white unemployment at 14 and 15 percent." Black unemployment has been double that of white Americans for more than 50 years. The black youth unemployment rate is more than 40 percent nationally. In some cities, unemployment for black working-age males is more than 50 percent. Let's look at this, but first let's look at some history.
From 1900 to 1954, blacks were more active than whites in the labor market. Until about 1960, black male labor force participation in every age group was equal to or greater than that of whites. During that period, black teen unemployment was roughly equal to or less than white teen unemployment. As early as 1900, the duration of black unemployment was 15 percent shorter than that of whites; today it's about 30 percent longer. To do something about today's employment picture requires abandonment of sacred cows and honesty.
Are women equal to men? Are Jews equal to gentiles? Are blacks equal to Italians, Irish, Polish and other white people? The answer is probably a big fat no, and the pretense or assumption that we are equal — or should be equal — is foolhardy and creates mischief. Let's look at it.
Male geniuses outnumber female geniuses 7-to-1. Female intelligence is packed much closer to the middle of the bell curve, whereas men's intelligence has far greater variability. That means that though there are many more male geniuses, there are also many more male idiots. The latter might partially explain why more men are in jail than women.
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. That would be almost a 25 percent increase. Let's look at the president's proposal, but before doing so, let's ask some other economic questions.
Are people responsive to changes in price? For example, if the price of cars rose by 25 percent, would people purchase as many cars? Supposing housing prices rose by 25 percent, what would happen to sales? Those are big-ticket items, but what about smaller-priced items? If a supermarket raised its prices by 25 percent, would people purchase as much? It's not rocket science to conclude that when prices rise, people adjust their behavior by purchasing less.
Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" has been a box-office hit and nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including best picture, best director and best actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, who portrayed our 16th president. I haven't seen the movie; therefore, this column is not about the movie but about a man deified by many. My colleague Thomas DiLorenzo, economics professor at Loyola University Maryland, exposed some of the Lincoln myth in his 2006 book, "Lincoln Unmasked." Now comes Joseph Fallon, cultural intelligence analyst and former U.S. Army Intelligence Center instructor, with his new e-book, "Lincoln Uncensored." Fallon's book examines 10 volumes of collected writings and speeches of Lincoln's, which include passages on slavery, secession, equality of blacks and emancipation. We don't have to rely upon anyone's interpretation. Just read his words to see what you make of them.
In an 1858 letter, Lincoln said, "I have declared a thousand times, and now repeat that, in my opinion neither the General Government, nor any other power outside of the slave states, can constitutionally or rightfully interfere with slaves or slavery where it already exists." In a Springfield, Ill., speech, he explained, "My declarations upon this subject of negro slavery may be misrepresented, but can not be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the Declaration (of Independence) to mean that all men were created equal in all respects." Debating with Sen. Stephen Douglas, Lincoln said, "I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of ... making voters or jurors of Negroes nor of qualifying them to hold office nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality."
There's a story told about a Paris chief of police who was called to a department store to stop a burglary in progress. Upon his arrival, he reconnoitered the situation and ordered his men to surround the entrances of the building next door. When questioned about his actions, he replied that he didn't have enough men to cover the department store's many entrances but he did have enough for the building next door. Let's see whether there are similarities between his strategy and today's gun control strategy.
Last year, Chicago had 512 homicides; Detroit had 411; Philadelphia had 331; and Baltimore had 215. Those cities are joined by other dangerous cities — such as St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., Flint, Mich., and Camden, N.J. — and they also lead the nation in shootings, assaults, rapes and robberies. Both the populations of those cities and their crime victims are predominantly black. Each year, more than 7,000 blacks are murdered. Close to 100 percent of the time, the murderer is another black person.
A senior Defense Department official said the ban on women in combat should be lifted because the military's goal is "to provide a level, gender-neutral playing field." I'd like to think the goal of the military should be to have the toughest, meanest fighting force possible. But let's look at "gender-neutral playing field."
The Army's physical fitness test in basic training is a three-event physical performance test used to assess endurance. The minimum requirement for 17- to 21-year-old males is 35 pushups, 47 situps and a two-mile run in 16 minutes, 36 seconds or less. For females of the same age, the minimum requirement is 13 pushups, 47 situps and a 19:42 two-mile run. Why the difference in fitness requirements? "USMC Women in the Service Restrictions Review" found that women, on average, have 20 percent lower aerobic power, 40 percent lower muscle strength, 47 percent less lifting strength and 26 percent slower marching speed than men.
Let's look at experts. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was a mathematician and scientist. Newton has to be the greatest and most influential scientist who has ever lived. He laid the foundation for classical mechanics, and his genius transformed our understanding of science, particularly in the areas of physics, mathematics and astronomy. What's not widely known is that Newton spent most of his waking hours on alchemy; his experiments included trying to turn lead into gold. Though he wrote volumes on alchemy, after his death Britain's Royal Society deemed that they were "not fit to be printed."
Lord William Thomson Kelvin (1824-1907) was a Belfast-born British mathematical physicist and engineer. Kelvin's major contribution was in thermodynamics, and he is widely recognized for determining the correct value of absolute zero, approximately minus 273 degrees Celsius. In his honor, absolute temperatures are expressed in Kelvin units. Being an expert in one field doesn't spare one from being an arrogant amateur in others. Based on his knowledge of heat dissipation, Kelvin criticized geologists of his day and claimed that Earth was between 20 million and 100 million years old. Kelvin also said that "X-rays will prove to be a hoax," but he changed his mind after he experienced an X-ray of his own hand. Kelvin also predicted, "I can state flatly that heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
When I attended primary and secondary school — during the 1940s and '50s — one didn't hear of the kind of shooting mayhem that's become routine today. Why? It surely wasn't because of strict firearm laws. My replica of the 1902 Sears mail-order catalog shows 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped.
Dr. John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime," reports that until the 1960s, some New York City public high schools had shooting clubs where students competed in citywide shooting contests for university scholarships. They carried their rifles to school on the subways and, upon arrival, turned them over to their homeroom teacher or the gym coach and retrieved their rifles after school for target practice. Virginia's rural areas had a long tradition of high-school students going hunting in the morning before school and sometimes storing their rifles in the trunks of their cars that were parked on school grounds. Often a youngster's 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to him by his father.
Nearly two years ago, U.S. News & World Report came out with a story titled "Educators Implicated in Atlanta Cheating Scandal." It reported that "for 10 years, hundreds of Atlanta public school teachers and principals changed answers on state tests in one of the largest cheating scandals in U.S. history." More than three-quarters of the 56 Atlanta schools investigated had cheated on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, sometimes called the national report card. Cheating orders came from school administrators and included brazen acts such as teachers reading answers aloud during the test and erasing incorrect answers. One teacher told a colleague, "I had to give your kids, or your students, the answers because they're dumb as hell." Atlanta's not alone. There have been investigations, reports and charges of teacher-assisted cheating in other cities, such as Philadelphia, Houston, New York, Detroit, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Washington.
Recently, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's blog carried a story titled "A new cheating scandal: Aspiring teachers hiring ringers." According to the story, for at least 15 years, teachers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee paid Clarence Mumford, who's now under indictment, between $1,500 and $3,000 to send someone else to take their Praxis exam, which is used for K-12 teacher certification in 40 states. Sandra Stotsky, an education professor at the University of Arkansas, said, "(Praxis I) is an easy test for anyone who has completed high school but has nothing to do with college-level ability or scores." She added, "The test is far too undemanding for a prospective teacher. ... The fact that these people hired somebody to take an easy test of their skills suggests that these prospective teachers were probably so academically weak it is questionable whether they would have been suitable teachers."
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, said: "The British are not coming. ... We don't need all these guns to kill people." Lewis' vision, shared by many, represents a gross ignorance of why the framers of the Constitution gave us the Second Amendment. How about a few quotes from the period and you decide whether our Founding Fathers harbored a fear of foreign tyrants.
Alexander Hamilton: "The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed," adding later, "If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government." By the way, Hamilton is referring to what institution when he says "the representatives of the people"?
Here's the first paragraph of my last year's column "Democracy Is Impossible":
"After Moammar Gadhafi's downfall as Libya's tyrannical ruler, politicians and 'experts' in the U.S. and elsewhere, including French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, are saying that his death marked the end of 42 years of tyranny and the beginning of democracy in Libya. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Gadhafi's death represented an opportunity for Libya to make a peaceful and responsible transition to democracy. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, 'Now it is time for Libya's Transitional National Council to show the world that it will respect the rights of all Libyans (and) guide the nation to democracy.' German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that 'Libya must now quickly make further determined steps in the direction of democracy.'"
Suppose you saw a building on fire. Would you seek counsel from the arsonist who set it ablaze for advice on how to put it out? You say, "Williams, you'd have to be a lunatic to do that!" But that's precisely what we've done: turned to the people who created our fiscal crisis to fix it. I have never read a better account of our doing just that than in John A. Allison's new book, "The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure."
Allison is the former CEO of Branch Banking and Trust, the nation's 10th largest bank. He assembles evidence that shows that our financial crisis, followed by the Great Recession, was caused by Congress, the Federal Reserve, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and was helped along by the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama White Houses.
For decades, it has been obvious that there are irreconcilable differences between Americans who want to control the lives of others and those who wish to be left alone. Which is the more peaceful solution: Americans using the brute force of government to beat liberty-minded people into submission or simply parting company? In a marriage, where vows are ignored and broken, divorce is the most peaceful solution. Similarly, our constitutional and human rights have been increasingly violated by a government instituted to protect them. Americans who support constitutional abrogation have no intention of mending their ways.
Since Barack Obama's re-election, hundreds of thousands of petitions for secession have reached the White House. Some people have argued that secession is unconstitutional, but there's absolutely nothing in the Constitution that prohibits it. What stops secession is the prospect of brute force by a mighty federal government, as witnessed by the costly War of 1861. Let's look at the secession issue.
President Barack Obama narrowly defeated Gov. Mitt Romney in the popular vote 51 percent to 48 percent. In the all-important Electoral College, the difference was larger, with Obama winning 303 electoral votes and Romney 206. Let's not think so much about the election's outcome but instead ask: What's so good about democracy and majority rule?
How many decisions in our day-to-day lives would we like to be made through majority rule or the democratic process? How about the decision to watch a football game or "Law and Order"? What about whether to purchase a Chevrolet Volt or a Toyota Prius? Would you like the decision of whether to have turkey or ham for Thanksgiving dinner to be made through the democratic process? Were such decisions made in the political arena, most of us would deem it tyranny.
Here's a which-is-better question for you. Suppose a New Jersey motel room rented for $125 a night prior to Hurricane Sandy's devastation. When the hurricane hits, a husband, wife and their two youngsters might seek the comfort of renting two adjoining rooms. However, when they arrive at the motel, they find that rooms now rent for $250. At that price, they might decide to make do with one room. In my book, that would be wonderful. That decision would make a room available for another family who had to evacuate Sandy's wrath. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others condemn this as price gouging, but I ask you: Which is preferable for a family seeking shelter — a room available at $250 or a room unavailable at the pre-hurricane price of $125?
It's not the intention of the motel owner to make a room available for another family. He just sees an opportunity to earn more money. It was not the intention of the family of four who made do with just one room to make a room available for another evacuating family. They are just trying to save money. Even though it was no one's intention to make that room available, the room was made available as if intended. That's the unappreciated benefit of freely fluctuating prices. They get people to do voluntarily what's in the social interest — conserve on goods and services that have become scarce.
Here's one usage of the term gentleman: The gentleman helped the fallen lady to her feet. Here's another, one we might hear from a newscaster or a police spokesman: Tonight we report on the arrest of two gentlemen who raped, sodomized and murdered an 80-year-old woman.
During earlier times, to be called a gentleman meant one was honest, brave, courteous and loyal. Today "gentleman" is used interchangeably in reference to decent people and the scum of the earth.
Dr. Thomas Sowell's "'Trickle Down Theory' and 'Tax Cuts for the Rich'" has just been published by the Hoover Institution. Having read this short paper, the conclusion you must reach is that the term "trickle down theory" is simply a tool of charlatans and political hustlers.
Sowell states that "no such theory has been found in even the most voluminous and learned histories of economic theories." That's from a scholar who has published extensively in the history of economic thought. Several years ago, Sowell, in his syndicated column, challenged anyone to name an economist from any economic school of thought who had actually advocated a "trickle down" theory. To date, no one has quoted any economist who ever advocated such a theory. Trickle down is a nonexistent theory. Those who use it simply argue against a caricature rather than confront an argument actually made.
Here's a question: If there's a disaster, a war, a severe drought or some other calamity that restricts future supplies of a commodity — such as oil, coffee or corn — what is the intelligent thing for people to do right away? If you said "use less now and try to produce more," you'd be absolutely correct. That's not rocket science, but understanding the machinery involved in getting people to do so is a bit more challenging.
The best way to get people to use less and produce more is to allow prices to rise. For example, say a Middle East conflict restricts oil supplies and causes prices to rise. The effect of higher prices for oil is that it gives individuals incentive to eliminate or reduce the low-valued uses of oil. For example, a low-valued use of oil is for homeowners to allow the heat that it generates to seep through walls and leaky windows. Higher oil prices create incentives to homeowners to install insulation. Higher gasoline prices force motorists to economize by taking measures such as carpooling and taking fewer low-valued trips.
Within the past decade, I've written columns titled "Deception 101," "Stubborn Ignorance" and "Exploiting Public Ignorance," all explaining which branch of the federal government has taxing and spending authority. So here it is again: The first clause of Article 1, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution, generally known as the "origination clause," reads: "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills." Constitutionally and by precedent, the House of Representatives has the exclusive prerogative to originate bills to appropriate money, as well as to raise revenues. The president is constitutionally permitted to propose tax and spending measures or veto them. Congress has the authority to ignore the president's proposals and override his vetoes.
There is little intellectually challenging about the fact that the Constitution gave Congress ultimate taxing and spending authority. My question is this: How can academics, politicians, news media people and ordinary citizens continually make and get away with statements such as "Reagan's budget deficits," "Clinton's budget surplus," "Bush's tax cuts" and "Obama's spending binge"? I know that the nation's law schools teach little about Framer intent, but I wonder whether they tell students that it's the executive branch of government that holds taxing and spending authority. Maybe it's simply incurable ignorance, willful deception, sloppy thinking or just plain stupidity. If there's an explanation that I've missed, I'd surely like to hear it.
Let's pretend that we have the political guts to expand economic opportunities for people at the lower end of the economic spectrum. What vested interests should be attacked, and what economic regulations should be targeted for elimination?
It doesn't take a lot of money to become a taxi owner-operator and earn more than $40,000 a year. One needs a car, an insurance policy and ancillary interior equipment to make a car a taxi. In New York City, to be a taxi owner you'd have to purchase a license -- called a medallion -- that in June 2012 cost $704,000. New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission restrictions that generate such a license price outlaw taxi ownership by people who don't have access to a $704,000 loan. By contrast, in Washington, D.C., the annual fee for a license to own a taxi is $125. I'll let you guess which city has more taxis per capita, cheaper fares and more black taxi ownership.
If you listen to America's political hacks, mainstream media talking heads and their socialist allies, you can't help but reach the conclusion that the nation's tax burden is borne by the poor and middleclass while the rich get off scot-free.
Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal, and I'm proud to say former GMU economics student, wrote "The U.S. Tax System: Who Really Pays?" in the Manhattan Institute's Issue 2012 (8/12). Let's see whether the rich are paying their "fair" share.
President Barack Obama recently wrote an executive order that established a White House initiative on educational excellence for black Americans that will be housed in the Department of Education. It proposes "to identify evidence-based best practices" to improve black achievement in school and college. Though black education is in desperate straits, the president's executive order will accomplish absolutely nothing to improve black education. The reason is that it does not address the root causes of educational rot among black Americans. It's not rocket science; let's look at it.
The president's initiative contains not one word about rampant inner-city school violence, which makes educational excellence impossible. During the past five years, Philadelphia's 268 schools had 30,000 serious criminal incidents, including assaults — 4,000 of which were on teachers — robberies and rapes. Prior to recent layoffs, Philadelphia's school district employed about 500 police officers. In Chicago last year, 700 young people were gunfire victims, and dozens of them lost their lives. Similar stories of street and school violence can be told in other large, predominantly black cities, such as Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, Oakland and Newark.
The agendas of liberals, progressives and assorted tyrants desperately depend on the aspects of human nature they often condemn, such as acquisitiveness, profit motive, self-interestedness and greed. This crossed my mind while reading "How Departures From Economic Freedom Can Affect Freedom In General," by Dr. John Taylor, a Hoover Institution scholar. Taylor tells how former Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich was forced to take Troubled Asset Relief Program funds even though Wells Fargo did not need or want the funds. Kovacevich was threatened that if he did not accept TARP money, regulators would declare his bank capital-deficient even though Wells Fargo had a triple-A rating. At the time, October 2008, Wells Fargo was in the process of acquiring Wachovia, and to be declared capital-deficient would have killed the deal. U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke could rely on acquisitiveness, profit motive and self-interestedness to bully Wells Fargo into accepting TARP money. They also knew that Wells Fargo's competitors would go after Wachovia. If all sound banks had refused TARP money, Paulson and Bernanke's tyrannical threats would have failed.
One of the more difficult lessons to teach economics neophytes — and, many times, trained economists — is that economic theory cannot say anything definitive about subjective statements, such as what's better, good, bad or worse. Let's try a few examples to make the point.
Cabernet sauvignon wine is better than fume blanc. Turkey is better than pork. Matter in the solid state is better than the plasma state. Each of those statements begs the question: Where's the proof? With subjective statements such as those, disagreements can go on forever. It's simply a matter of personal opinion. One person's opinion of what's better or worse is just as good as another's.
Back in 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said we were "a nation of cowards" on matters of race. Permit me to be brave and run a few assertions by you just to see whether we're on the same page. There should be two standards for civilized conduct: one for whites, which is higher, and another for blacks, which is lower. In other words, in the name of justice and fair play, blacks should not be held accountable to the same standards that whites are and should not be criticized for conduct that we'd deem disgusting and racist if said or done by whites.
You say, "Williams, what in the world are you talking about?" Mitt Romney hasn't revealed all of his fall campaign strategy yet, but what if he launched a "White Americans for Romney" movement in an effort to get out the white vote? If the Romney campaign did that, there'd be a media-led outcry across the land, with charges ranging from racial insensitivity to outright racism. When President Barack Obama announced his 2012 launch of "African Americans for Obama" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdjoHA5ocwU), the silence was deafening. Should the same standards be applied to Obama as would be applied to Romney? The answer turns out to be no, because Obama is not held to the same standards as Romney.
Some of the responses to my column last week, titled "Immoral Beyond Redemption," prove that Americans have been hoodwinked by Congress. Some readers protested my counting Social Security among government handout programs that can be described as Congress' taking what belongs to one American and giving to another, to whom it doesn't belong — legalized theft. They argued that they worked for 45 years and paid into Social Security and that the money they now receive is theirs. These people have been duped and shouldn't be held totally accountable for such a belief. Let's look at it.
The Social Security pamphlet of 1936 read, "Beginning November 24, 1936, the United States Government will set up a Social Security account for you. ... The checks will come to you as a right." (http://www.ssa.gov/history/ssb36.html). Americans were led to believe that Social Security was like a retirement account and that money placed in it was, in fact, their property. Shortly after the Social Security Act's passage, it was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, in Helvering v. Davis (1937). The court held that Social Security was not an insurance program, saying, "The proceeds of both employee and employer taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like any other internal revenue generally, and are not earmarked in any way." In a 1960 case, Flemming v. Nestor, the Supreme Court said, "To engraft upon Social Security system a concept of 'accrued property rights' would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands."
Benjamin Franklin, statesman and signer of our Declaration of Independence, said: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." John Adams, another signer, echoed a similar statement: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Are today's Americans virtuous and moral, or have we become corrupt and vicious? Let's think it through with a few questions.
Suppose I saw an elderly woman painfully huddled on a heating grate in the dead of winter. She's hungry and in need of shelter and medical attention. To help the woman, I walk up to you using intimidation and threats and demand that you give me $200. Having taken your money, I then purchase food, shelter and medical assistance for the woman. Would I be guilty of a crime? A moral person would answer in the affirmative. I've committed theft by taking the property of one person to give to another.
Our nation is rapidly approaching a point from which there's little chance to avoid a financial collapse. The heart of our problem can be seen as a tragedy of the commons. That's a set of circumstances when something is commonly owned and individuals acting rationally in their own self-interest produce a set of results that's inimical to everyone's long-term interest. Let's look at an example of the tragedy of the commons phenomenon and then apply it to our national problem.
Imagine there are 100 cattlemen all having an equal right to graze their herds on 1,000 acres of commonly owned grassland. The rational self-interested response of each cattleman is to have the largest herd that he can afford. Each cattleman pursing similar self-interests will produce results not in any of the cattlemen's long-term interest — overgrazing, soil erosion and destruction of the land's usefulness. Even if they all recognize the dangers, does it pay for any one cattleman to cut the size of his herd? The short answer is no because he would bear the cost of having a smaller herd while the other cattlemen gain at his expense. In the long term, they all lose because the land will be overgrazed and made useless.