Last week, Japan pledged $100 million in grants to fight global climate change. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world's major leader in the struggle against climate change. The World Conservation Union has recently recognized the work of women from all over the world fighting against climate change. We might want to ask whether it's too late to worry about fighting climate change. Let's look at it.
About 65 million years ago, the Earth experienced one of the most rapid and extreme global climate changes recorded in geologic history. The period has been named the "Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum." The ocean was 18 to 27 degrees hotter than it is today. Antarctica, which is today's coldest place on Earth, was home to temperate forests, beech trees and ferns. The Earth had no permanent polar ice caps.
In the past 65 million years, the Earth's temperature has increased and decreased with no help from mankind. My questions to the anti-climate change warriors are: Can mankind really stop climate change, and what is the "correct" Earth temperature?
Now let's turn to gun control laws. What do Virginia Tech's 32 murders, Columbine High School's 13 murders, Jonesboro Westside Middle School's five murders, Germany's Gutenberg High School's 16 murders, the murder of 14 legislators in Zug, Switzerland, and the murder of eight city council members in a Paris suburb all have in common? Answer: All the murders were committed in "gun-free zones." So a reasonable question is: Does legislation creating gun-free zones prevent murder and mayhem?
In 1970, Israel adopted a policy to arm teachers and parents serving as school aids with semiautomatic weapons. Attacks by gunmen at Israeli schools have ceased. At Appalachian Law School in Virginia, a gunman who had already murdered three people was stopped from further carnage by two armed students. Gun possession stopping crime is not atypical, though it goes unreported by the media.
According to various research estimates, from 764,000 to as many as 2.5 million crimes are prevented by armed, law-abiding people either warning a criminal that they're armed, brandishing their weapon or shooting a criminal. In the interest of truth in packaging, I think we should rename "gun-free zones" to "defenseless zones."
Now let's consider income tax laws. This tax filing year found 20 million Americans having to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). That's up from fewer than 4 million last year. The AMT was legislated in 1969 to make sure that the rich paid their share of taxes by eliminating several legal tax avoidance means. Now a person earning $75,000, hardly rich, can be slapped with the AMT.
During the legislative debate on the 16th Amendment, congressmen argued that only the rich would ever be liable for income taxes. For that reason, getting the rich, the income tax had widespread American support. In 1917, only one-half of 1 percent of income earners paid income taxes of that .5 percent, those earning $250,000 a year in today's dollars paid 1 percent, and those earning $6 million in today's dollars paid 7 percent. Today, most income earners are liable for federal income taxes.One is tempted to argue that people are stupid to fall for congressional get-the-rich scams. As a good social scientist, I know that stupidity is a poor explanation for human behavior because people are not stupid in the long run. It might be historical ignorance from one generation to another, where one generation has no knowledge of the promises Congress made to the previous generation. That enables Congress to see each generation as new suckers for their get-the-rich scams.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.