Unconventional monetary policy—characterized by “zero interest rate policy” (ZIRP) and “quantitative easing” (QE), along with macro-prudential regulation—has increased the power of central banks in the United States, Japan, and Europe. In the new issue of Cato Journal, contributors revisit the thinking behind unconventional monetary policy and the “new monetary framework,” make the case for transparent monetary rules versus foggy discretion, and point to the distortions generated by ultra-low interest rates and preferential credit allocation.
When the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in 2005, Denmark found itself at the center of a global battle about the freedom of speech. The paper’s culture editor, Flemming Rose, defended the decision to print the 12 drawings, and he quickly came to play a central part in the debate about the limitations to freedom of speech in the 21st century. In The Tyranny of Silence, Flemming Rose provides a personal account of an event that has shaped the debate about what it means to be a citizen in a democracy and how to coexist in a world that is increasingly multicultural, multireligious, and multiethnic.
The Cato Institute has released its 2015 Annual Report, which documents a dynamic year of growth and productivity. The thousands of individuals who contribute to Cato are passionate about freedom and committed to ensuring that future generations enjoy the blessings of liberty, unencumbered by an overreaching state that seeks to control their lives. This is Cato’s optimistic vision for the future, and it would be unimaginable without the Institute’s longstanding partnership with its Sponsors. We will continue our diligence and dedication to seeing this vision realized.
As President Obama counts down the days of his last year in office, one positive step he could take for his legacy would be to halt the federal government’s use of civil asset forfeiture and make the suspension of the equitable sharing program permanent.
Civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government to seize your cash and property without ever charging you with a crime, is rife with abuse and violates many cherished principles such as due process, separation of powers, federalism, and private property rights. The predatory practice has become so prevalent that in 2014, for the first time on record, law enforcement officers took more money from Americans under federal forfeiture law than burglars stole from their victims. More than $5 billion was deposited into the Treasury Department and Justice Department forfeiture funds, and that astonishing figure doesn’t include seizures that were purely state-based.
Further compounding the abusive nature of civil forfeiture is the federal government’s equitable sharing program, which allows state and local cops in states with restrictive forfeiture laws (or none at all) to circumvent their state laws and seize property under more-permissive federal law in exchange for an 80% kickback of the proceeds. The Department of Justice recently suspended the equitable sharing program, citing a budget shortfall, but it’s clear from the suspension statement that the Justice Department plans to restart the program in the future.
Civil asset forfeiture creates an inappropriate profit motive for predatory policing, it distorts the priorities of law enforcement, and it tramples our constitutional principles. President Obama should take the time to end these practices before he leaves office.