Monthly Archive for December, 2004

Quote Of The Day

“People who believe in judicial activism often cite “good” policies imposed by judges and “bad” policies created by elected officials. But you could just as easily cite the reverse. It was the Supreme Court which enhanced the rights of slaveowners in the Dred Scott case and it was elected officials — the President and Congress — who abolished slavery”. —Thomas Sowell

Just stopping by…

Checking emails and what not. Only have time to post a couple quotes of the day that I had saved up…More later.

Quote Of The Day 2

“So where does all this leave us in understanding Bush? The first step is to abandon the original preconception of President Bush. He’s different. The second step is to accept that he’s attempting big things. And the third, as a result, is to get ready for a second presidential term like few we’ve seen”. —Fred Barnes, explaining President Bush

Quote Of The Day

“With the agenda of the political left increasingly rejected by voters at the polls, the only way to get the items on that agenda enacted into law is to have judges who will decree the liberal agenda from the bench. Too many judges have already done that on everything from gay marriage to racial quotas and the death penalty”. —Thomas Sowell

Hello Everyone

I am at an internet cafe in Chapala, Mexico, I thought I’d stop by and say a word or two.

I didn’t realize that the internet cafe’s were so cheap here, the last couple of times I was here I didn’t bother to go to one. But yesterday I stopped at one and was on a computer for twenty minutes and they only charged me 3 pesos, which amounts to about 30 cents. I was like WTF.

I am having a lot of fun so far except for the fact that I did not receive my luggage until today, my third day here. I flew on Aviacsa airlines, out of the TJ airport. Apparently, if the airlines reach a certain weight limit, they hold back whatever luggage they choose, to be flown in on another plane. So when I got to the airport here in Guadalajara, Mexico, I had no luggage to claim. They had told me that they would send it to where I am staying either that night, or the next day. When the third day came around and I still had not received it, I decided to go to the airport personally and see what I can do. It turns out they had it since the day before, and I was able to bring it home. Finally able to wear some clean underwear, after two days of the same ones, is a joy hard to put in words. 🙂 Things were not as bad as they seem though. Because, luckily for me, I brought my Hayek “The Road To Serfdom” book (a great book btw) on the plane with me. So I was able to pass the time enjoyably.

I am staying at a small town, Santa Cruz De La Soledad, about fourty minutes outside of Guadalajara, Mexico, and about five minutes from here, Chapala, Mexico. Most of the people in the small town do agricultural work, working on fields picking different stuff at different times of the year. I asked one of the workers how much he works and how much he gets paid. He said that they usually do 8 hour days, getting paid about 120 pesos, which amounts to a little more than 12 dollars a day (I guess that’s part of the reason the internet cafes are so cheap). It’s hard work, and certainly takes a toll on the body. A couple of the people here work for ‘sweatshops’ (American companies operating here). They have a bus come and pick them up at around 6 am that take the workers into the city (Guadalajara), and the bus brings them back around 3pmish, although somtimes they are required to stay later. I asked them how the companies treat them, and although they certainly had complaints (making them work on days they may have wanted off, forcing them to work overtime etc) they did say that overall they are pleased with the companies. They also said that they make a significant amount more than they would if those companies were not here. One female friend I know said that she, at age 23, makes more than her dad, who works in the fields, even though her dad works many times harder than her.

So it seems that my capitalist friends are telling the truth, ‘sweatshops’ are not big evil companies forcing people to work in horrible work conditions. In fact, these companies are the exact opposite, they are giving the people in the town extra income and opportunities that they would have not had otherwise. Instead of creating laws that discourage more companies from coming over here, the thing to do is create laws that encourage more companies to come over here. That would cause the pay to rise, and the companies would have no other option than to treat their employees better, by having them get the time off they want, or adding some other benefit that gives the company a competitive edge over others.

Aside from the obvious (monetary) living standard difference between Mexico and the United States, there is also another type of living standard measurement that comes as a big culture shock. This is an index hard to measure, but easy to see. One that economists don’t take into account; that of the family. I must admit that the families here in Mexico, especially those of the poor, are vastly better off than families in the United States. Having spent a greater part of my life in the poorest areas of the United States, and having spent a significant time in the poor areas of Mexico, I could easily see the huge difference in the family, and the care of children between the two countries. When I was growing up in Compton, California, it was very common to find divorced families. All of my friends that had both parents at home were friends that had recently arrived in the United States, or that had parents that grew up in Mexico. But most of my friends that are second generation Mexican, or my black friends, all had divorced parents. Some even had parents that sold drugs, parents that abused them, and even parents that were prostitutes or drug addicts. It was also not uncommon to find friends who didn’t even know who their fathers were. On the other hand, in Mexico, even in the poorest areas, it is very uncommon to find a divorced family. The family is the strongest and the source of love and companionship. Children help the parents out, and it is very uncommon, even when you go to the grocery stores and public areas, to find children ever talk back to their parents. You can see children in their teen years, being as obedient to their parents as children are when they are much younger. It’s a big culture shock for anybody who comes from the United States. The families are deeply Catholic, and have a strong Tradition in that faith. They publically celebrate every Catholic holy day, and often walk around the whole town singing and publically celebrating the specif holy day.

It’s a hard thing to figure out, how such differences arise. Some people claim that it has to do with poverty itself, but that clearly can’t be the reason. Since the families in Mexico are much poorer than the families in the United States, and it is these Mexico families that are the most united. In addition, I could tell you story after story of families that were doing fine in poverty either in the United States or here in Mexico, but as soon as they rose economically, shattered. So it’s a puzzle that I have been thinking about for some time now, but there is one thing I know for sure, it has nothing inherently to do with poverty. It is much more culture related, and has more to do with what goals the culture holds up.

Aside from that, it has been business as usual in this small town. Almost every small town, called a pueblo, in Mexico is a collection of homes and open yards for their horses and cows, all surrounding a ‘plaza’. Which consists of a Catholic Church and an open area for people to congregate. Usually when a family has a big event, be it a birthday party, quinceñera (when one turns fifteen), or a primera comunion (first holy comunion), they throw a big party and sometimes may even take up the whole plaza where the whole town can come and celebrate. During Christmas time, and other times of the year where there are big celebrations, the thing to do is go to different towns that have the plaza’s taken up by a band or some sort of celebration. It’s a time for the towns to get to know each other. Usually the towns take turns in celebrating, so at different times of the month, and different weekends, you can go to different towns and get a good feel for who lives in different towns. Another big entertainment activity is bull riding, and going to the bull shows. Where the bull, after being ridden by a bull rider, is set free amongst people riding horses. After the bull is set free, the horse riders try to catch him with their ropes, hoping not to get their horses ramed by the bull. These shows are usually accompanied by a band that plays and everybody stays around and dances after the bull riding has stopped. It’s a way for everybody to get to know each other, and believe me, everybody does. All the towns are almost like one big giant family where children are not just watched by their parents, but by everybody around.

As for my typical day, since it’s a small town, and many people in the small town don’t even have a phone line, let alone internet access, I usually spend time outdoors. Sometimes I go with the children in the neighborhood, grab a couple b b guns and sling shots, and try to make my mark on nature. Hunting down birds and lizards; although lizards are hard to come by this time of year. If I get bored of that, I try to find a nice quiet spot and read, finally able to escape the fast life of California.

Well, my time is up. Everybody has had more than enough time on the computer, as I have been here for almost three hours now (so far, my charges amount to about 36 pesos, a little more than $3.00). They all want to leave, immediately. Hopefully I will have time throughout my vacation to stop by again, and maybe post more.

Until next time…

Update: It has come to my attention that my description of the family in Mexico could be taken to imply all of Mexico is like that. I was primarily going off my experience in where I am in Mexico, and what I see in this area of Mexico. There certainly are areas in Mexico, especially in the bigger cities like Mexico City, where the picture is no where near as rosy as it is where I am staying at, and in fact, starts to mirror more closely to what you see in the United States. Please take that into account as you read my blog…With that said though, I still agree with the general statement that families in Mexico, especially if you compare poor area to poor area, are stronger than families in the United States, just not as rosy at what I described above.

Quote Of The Day

“If people are free to do as they wish, they are almost certain not to do as we wish. That is why Utopian planners end up as despots, whether at the national level or at the level of the local “redevelopment” agency”.–Thomas Sowell

Going South For The Winter

Blogging will be very limited the next two weeks (back on January 3rd) as I will be on vacation in Guadalajara, Mexico visiting some very close friends. I will try to stop by an internet cafe to check email and possibly blog a thing or two. But it will be difficult, since I am not staying in the main city, but in a small pueblo 40 minutes from it.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

An American Hero

Sgt. Rafael Peralta

A while back I read an article discussing what US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia defined as an American. It wasn’t the color of your skin, or even whether your ancestors came over on the Mayflower. What bound us all as Americans was our love and respect for the country that we live in, and specifically for the constitution of the United States.

If that is the case, those who have shown their love for this country like Sgt. Rafael Peralta deserve to be hailed as a true American. My online friend Peter Mork, from Economics W/ A Face, links to his story.

Here is a description of what makes Sgt. Rafael Peralta story so special, Continue reading ‘An American Hero’

Arguments Against Privatized Social Security?

Arnold Kling asks,

The question that I have for Krugman and other defenders of the status quo is this: how much of an increase in economic growth must privatization stimulate in order to make it worthwhile? What I thought that Kinsley was saying was that unless economic growth increases by enough to eliminate all of the unfunded liability of Social Security, then privatization does not “work.” To me, that sets the bar awfully high–in effect, you’re saying that unless privatization provides umpteen trillion in higher real GDP, you’d rather get nothing. But perhaps I misread Kinsley.

Quote Of The Day 2

“Rather than applauding Hillary Clinton’s telling them last summer that their taxes must be raised because “we’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good,” they prefer Newt Gingrich’s observation that the Declaration of Independence’s Pursuit of Happiness includes an active verb: “Not happiness stamps; not a department of happiness; not therapy for happiness. Pursuit.”

If the Democratic Party allows itself to be defined by Ted Kennedy, Michael Moore and the editorial page of the New York Times, while Republicans, their president and their strengthened congressional majorities encourage the pursuit of happiness in an opportunity and ownership society, then Mr. and Mrs. America will make sure conservatives are in power for a great many years to come. “–Pete Du Pont Writing In The Wall Street Journal

South Carolina And School Choice

South Carolinians for responsible Government writes,

South Carolina has sharply increased spending on public schools for forty years. The results have been disappointing. In the past ten years legislatures in Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida have passed school choice measures. Scholars have found results so positive that President Bush in January, 2004 signed a bill from Congress authorizing a school choice program in Washington, D.C. School choice not only leads to happier parents and students among those who choose independent schools, it leads to dramatic improvements in public schools. School choice frees principals and teachers to focus on teaching students rather than pleasing bureaucrats.

South Carolina is trying to create a school choice program, they write,

Although there are different types of school choice programs, SCRG supports the “Put Parents in Charge” proposal that uses a state income tax credit to create school choice. “Put Parents in Charge” will provide tax credits to parents who choose to home school, transfer to a different public school, or use a private school for their child’s education.

Those who do not have state tax liability due to low income are eligible to receive scholarships from Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs) that will be established by non-profit organizations.

If a child chooses to attend another school, the district he leaves will retain all federal and local education monies. Ultimately, school districts will have more money to spend on fewer students, thus increasing per pupil spending.(emphasis added)

They also give a good overview of how the program is designed to work.

Quote Of The Day

“The danger is that, in the wake of Iraq, liberals will turn inward, as many did after Vietnam. They will abandon the belief that U.S. power can positively change the Muslim world and instead argue that the United States should merely aggravate it less while killing terrorists where we can… It will leave liberals on the sidelines of the great ideological struggle in which the United States is engaged” — Peter Beinart New Republic Editor.

Achievement Gap IS Preparation Gap

Casey Lartigue, former policy analyst with Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom, writes what he believes are the causes of the achivement gap between black and white students,

While I’m on the subject: When it comes to the issue of the achievement gap and why black students are trailing, my view may be somewhat unorthodox. I don’t believe that there is an achievement gap. There appears to be a preparation gap. And by preparation gap, I don’t mean a lack of government-subsidized preschool programs.

By preparation gap, I mean:

1) Black kids show up to kindergarten behind.

2) Too many black parents send their kids off to school without knowing that they need to teach the kids anything, including the alphabet.

3) Black youngsters spend too much of their study time watching TV. Black students are much less likely to complete their homework assignments, even when they spend the same amount of time working on the homework.

I can’t play the piano. Others who have put time into playing it can play much better than I can. If black students were doing the same amount of homework, with the same inputs, and still not doing as well, then I’d be more worried.

There are all kinds of theories about why black students are trailing, but I’d like to just mention two:

Stereotype threat
Acting white

The stereotype threat theory comes from Claude Steele. I have a hard time taking “stereotype threat” seriously. As I mentioned above, black students show up to schools behind. Are black second graders already aware of stereotype threat?

Link Via A Constrained Vision.

Quote Of The Day 2

“What do liberals have to say about this singular achievement by the Bush administration? That Afghanistan is growing poppies. Good grief. This is news? ‘Afghanistan grows poppies’ is the sun rising in the east. ‘Afghanistan inaugurates democratically elected president’ is the sun rising in the west. Afghanistan has always grown poppies. What is Bush supposed to do? Send 100,000 GIs to eradicate the crop and incite a popular rebellion?” —Charles Krauthammer

Quote Of The Day

“One could argue that the major fault of the world’s only superpower is that we have not done enough. How can we tolerate the sheer hell of Haiti so close to our shores? Why is Mexico still bound in such poverty that its peoples are fleeing through our porous borders in record numbers? But Ellis[read: liberals] and his ideological colleagues will have none of that. Who are we to impose prosperity and democracy on others? We have no moral right. Let people suffer and die; it is the ultimate answer of moral relativism to the ills of the world”. —Thomas C. Reeves, retired history Professor, University of Wisconsin-Parkside History

The Economics Of Privatized Social Security

Arnold Kling, Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a great article on The Economics Of Social Security Privatization. It is a response to Michael Kinsley.