Archive for March, 2005

How The Minimum Wage Works

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

For those of you that still doubt raising the minimum wage is a bad thing, especially for the poor, you need to check this blog by Warren Meyer over at Coyote Blog, it is a must read on the topic.

Cafe hayek has more. I have also blogged on the minimum wage before.

Update: The heritage foundation has more and more.

Quote Of The Day

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

“I do not understand why people who want to save the whales (so do I) find campaigns to save humans so much less arresting. I do not understand their lack of passion. But the save-the-whales people are somehow rarely the stop-abortion-please people.

The PETA people, who say they are committed to ending cruelty to animals, seem disinterested in the fact of late-term abortion, which is a cruel procedure performed on a human.

I do not understand why the don’t-drill-in-Alaska-and-destroy-its-prime-beauty people do not join forces with the don’t-end-a-life-that-holds-within-it-beauty people.

I do not understand why those who want a freeze on all death penalty cases in order to review each of them in light of DNA testing–an act of justice and compassion toward those who have been found guilty of crimes in a court of law–are uninterested in giving every last chance and every last test to a woman whom no one has ever accused of anything”. —Peggy Noonan

Nearly Half of Blacks, Latinos Drop Out, School Study Shows

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

Now, for some depressing news. The LA Times reports:

Nearly half of the Latino and African American students who should have graduated from California high schools in 2002 failed to complete their education, according to a Harvard University report released Wednesday.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the situation was even worse, with just 39% of Latinos and 47% of African Americans graduating, compared with 67% of whites and 77% of Asians.

The troubling graduation rates are most alarming in minority communities, where students are more likely to attend what researchers call “dropout factories.”

Statewide, just 57% of African Americans and 60% of Latinos graduated in 2002, compared with 78% of whites and 84% of Asians, the report said.

Using enrollment data, researchers produced what they believe are the most definitive graduation rates for California and its largest school systems.

They cast aside the state’s method, which even California Education Department officials acknowledge is flawed. The state officials say they are forced by the federal government to use a formula that relies on undependable dropout data from schools.

The Harvard report found that African Americans and Latinos in the state were far less likely to graduate than their white and Asian peers, reflecting an achievement gap that first appears in elementary schools.

UCLA researchers noticed one troubling pattern in Los Angeles Unified: Most students who leave high school do so between ninth and 10th grades.

In several Los Angeles high schools, UCLA researcher Julie Mendoza found that less than one-third of ninth-graders graduated on time.

This has also been my experience. As many of my readers know, I grew up in Compton California until the age of 22. If you were to take a poll of my Compton friends, both black and hispanic, I would put the percentage at 10-20% that graduated (only one person currently comes to mind, and even he didn’t go out much). Even I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, only to later return to get my GED and than go onto college.

The people that graduated, those were typically the ones that didn’t go out much, had atleast somewhat strict parents, and stayed away from the spot light. So they had to pay the price of being less popular, less able to get the ladies, and sometimes picked on by others. It seems like small potatos, but a very big price to pay in your teenage years, when all you care about is the immediate world around you.

Sadly, I don’t think there is any quick fix for this, fundamentally it is a problem of culture. And unless the culture changes, the overall numbers aren’t going to move drastically in the upward direction. 🙁

Is Sending Your Child To Pre-School A Good Thing? Probably Not

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

According to an NBER report,

…early education does increase reading and mathematics skills at school entry, but it also boosts children’s classroom behavioral problems and reduces their self-control. Further, for most children the positive effects of pre-kindergarten on skills largely dissipate by the spring of first grade, although the negative behavioral effects continue. In the study, the authors take account of many factors affecting a child, including family background and neighborhood characteristics. These factors include race/ethnicity, age, health status at birth, height, weight, and gender, family income related to need, language spoken in the home, and so on.

HatTip: Arnold Kling and Tyler Cowen.

Update: HeadStart may be a different story.

Quote Of The Day

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

“The more your markets need government, the less your government will be able to do for your markets. Or, equivalently, the more your government is able to do for your markets, the less it will need to do. Pithier still . . . Government: if you need it, it won’t be good, and if it’s good, you don’t need it.” Will Wilkinson Describing a law that is ascribed to him, dubed Wilkinson’s Law

Sajak Knows (Extreme) Liberals

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Apparently, Pat Sajak has a blog and a rather interesting one at that. His latest post deals with why he has stopped arguing with liberals. If you have spent any amount of time arguing with extreme liberals, especially those on the far left, you will immediately understand Sajak’s frustration.

He writes:

Every time I argue with a Liberal, I’m reminded of quarrels I used to have with my parents. The battles never seemed fair because my folks decided what the rules were and what was out of bounds. In addition, because they were parents, they could threaten me in ways I couldn’t threaten them, and they could say things I could never say.

Recently, for example, I was discussing the United Sates Supreme Court with on of my many Liberal friends out in Los Angeles when she said, without any discernable embarrassment, that Justice Anton Scalia was “worse than Hitler”. Realizing she wasn’t alive during World War II and perhaps she may have been absent on those days when her schoolmates were studying Nazism, I reminded her of some of Hitler’s more egregious crimes against humanity, suggesting she may have overstated the case. She had not; Scalia was worse. As I often did when my parents threatened to send me to my room, I let the conversation die.

Aside from being rhetorically hysterical—and demeaning to the memory of those who suffered so terribly as a result of Hitler and the Nazis—it served to remind me of how difficult it is to have serious discussions about politics or social issues with committed members of the Left. They tend to do things like accusing members of the Right of sowing the seeds of hatred while, at the same time, comparing them to mass murderers. And they do this while completely missing the irony.

The moral superiority they bring to the table allows them to alter the playing field and the rules in their favor. They can say and do things the other side can’t because, after all, they have the greater good on their side. If a Conservative—one of the bad guys—complains about the content of music, films or television shows aimed at children, he is being a prude who wants to tell other people what to read or listen to or watch; he is a censor determined to legislate morality. If, however, a Liberal complains about speech and, in fact, supports laws against certain kinds of speech, it is right and good because we must be protected from this “hate speech” or “politically incorrect” speech. (Of course, they—being the good guys—will decide exactly what that is.)

Protests about Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor and self-proclaimed Native American, who, among other things, likened some Sept. 11 victims to Adolf Eichmann (there go those pesky Nazis again), were characterized by much of the Left as an effort to stifle academic freedom. But, when Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers’ job is put in jeopardy over a caveat-filled musing about science and gender, it’s okay, because what he said was sooo wrong (even if it has to be mis-characterized to make the point).

When Liberals want to legislate what you’re allowed to drive or what you should eat or how much support you can give to a political candidate or what you can or can’t say, they are doing it for altruistic reasons. The excesses of the Left are to be excused because these folks operate from the higher moral ground and the benefit of the greater wisdom and intelligence gained from that perspective.

In a different West Coast conversation, I complained to another Liberal friend about some of the Left’s tone concerning the 2004 elections. I thought it insulting to hear those “red state” voters caricatured as red-necked rubes. My friend asked, “Well, don’t you think that people who live in large urban areas, who travel and read and speak other languages are better able to make informed choices?” It turns out it is superiority, not familiarity, which breeds contempt.

The rhetoric has become so super-heated that, sadly, I find myself having fewer and fewer political discussions these days. And while I miss the spirited give-and-take, when Supreme Court Justices become worse than Hitler and when those who vote a certain way do so because they’re idiots, it’s time to talk about the weather.

HatTip: Catallarchy.

Picture Of The Day

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Social Security Runs Out

Quote Of The Day

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

“Our children have been reared in the age of abortion, and are coming of age in a time when seemingly respectable people are enthusiastic for euthanasia. It cannot be good for our children, and the world they will make, that they are given this new lesson that human life is not precious, not touched by the divine, not of infinite value.

Once you “know” that–that human life is not so special after all–then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla.” —Peggy Noonan

Higher Pay For Janitors?

Monday, March 28th, 2005

Several students at Georgetown University staged a hunger strike that coincides with Lent, the Christian season of sacrifice, until the university paid higher wages to service workers – which consists largely of contract janitors, food service workers and security guards. The University eventually succumbed to the strikers wishes.

What are your thoughts on such a protest? This is what economists responded to the event.

Don Boudreaux, Chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University, writes:

I have nothing against Georgetown U. raising the amount it pays to its janitors. But the full picture of this little episode is different than the cropped snapshots that I see in the newspapers and hear on the local radio stations. The pop image is of selfless, concerned students making a noble sacrifice to help voiceless, hapless janitors get a better deal from a penny-pinching University bureaucracy.

This pop image is distorted.

Why was the pre-strike janitorial wage as low as it was? Answer: because Georgetown University discovered that, at that wage, it got as many janitors as it needed, of sufficient quality, to perform the desired cleaning services. To pay more would have been an act of charity to the janitors and not a act of commerce.

Now there’s nothing wrong with charity; I applaud it (when it’s done wisely). But why, in this case, did the hunger-striking students single out Georgetown University as an alleged malefactor?

…Or why didn’t these hunger-striking students demand that Georgetown University increase its charitable contributions, not to its relatively well-off janitors, but to seriously poor people in sub-Saharan Africa?

I’m not being flippant. I’m quite serious. Because Georgetown University is no monopsonistic buyer of janitorial services, it must compete in the market to buy these services. The wages it pays for its janitors are, therefore, competitive. Paying anything more than these wages to secure the desired number of janitors is, therefore, charity. And while there’s nothing wrong with Georgetown University extending charity to its janitors (or to anyone else), there’s also nothing obligatory about it. The fact that Georgetown paid its janitors what it did was not, contrary to the hunger-striking student’s claims, a moral breach.

There is more here.

Mark Steckbeck, economics professor at Hillsdale College, writes:

Their group, Georgetown Living Wage Coalition, has been around for three years now. Obviously unsucessful in their efforts to change the university’s wage policy, how would things be different had they instead a) raised money for the workers themselves (know what it’s like to be a development officer begging for money to serve the needs of others), or b) been teaching these workers other skills like management or accounting or economics, thus enabling them to find alternative means of employment.

He also writes:

…I was attempting to make the following two points: 1) That it’s self-serving, not other-serving, to protest on behalf of one party that another party should be forced to subsidize the living standards of the first party. 2) That all too often people act on emotion rather than reason, and consequently their actions may fail to help—often hinder—the plight of those on whose behalf they are protesting. If these students cared for the plight of low skilled poor immigrants, which I believe that they do, there are other, more fruitful means of assisting them.

Economist Mark Steckbeck explains all of this a lot further, for those of you more interested in this topic. Go here, here , here and here if you want to read more.

Update: LivingWageTruth has more on this event.

Quote Of The Day

Monday, March 28th, 2005

“The great achievement of capitalism has not been the accumulation of property, it has been the opportunities it has offered to men and women to extend and develop and improve their capacities.” — Milton Friedman in “Capitalism And Freedom

Quote Of The Day

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

“Liberals’ newfound respect for “federalism” is completely disingenuous. People who support a national policy on abortion are prohibited from ever using the word “federalism.”

I note that whenever liberals talk about “federalism” or “states’ rights,” they are never talking about a state referendum or a law passed by the duly elected members of a state legislature – or anything voted on by the actual citizens of a state. What liberals mean by “federalism” is: a state court ruling. Just as “choice” refers to only one choice, “the rule of law” refers only to “the law as determined by a court.””–Ann Coulter

A Case Against Teacher Certification

Friday, March 25th, 2005

One of the greatest economist of our time, Milton Friedman, in his book Capitalism And Freedom wrote, “If one were to seek deliberately to devise a system of recruiting and paying teachers calculated to repel the imaginative and daring and self-confident and to attract the dull and mediocre and uninspiring, he could hardly do better than imitate the system of requiring teaching certificates and enforcing standard salary structures that has developed in the larger city and state-wide systems. It is perhaps surprising that the level of ability in elementary and secondary school teaching is as high as it is under these circumstances”.

I was reminded of that when I saw this article on A Constrained Vision blog.

In it, Robert Maranto, professor of political science at Villanova University, writes:

The actual research on teacher certification finds no evidence that students learn more from certified teachers than from uncertified teachers. As Andrew Wayne and Peter Youngs report in their recent review of the research in the prestigious Review of Educational Research, students learn more from teachers who studied at prestigious colleges, and from more intellectually able teachers. Yet “in the case of degrees, coursework, and certification, findings have been inconclusive except in mathematics, where high school students clearly learn more from teachers with certification in mathematics, degrees related to mathematics, and coursework related to mathematics.” In other words, except for high school math, certification does not make better teachers….

As former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, himself a former Education School Dean, reported in 2003 in Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge and as Frederick Hess also documents, most teacher certification programs offer “high barriers with low standards: certifications requirements annoy the talented without culling the turkeys.

The research rings true from my experience. As a University of Maryland sophomore back in 1978, I decided against becoming a high school teacher when an education professor very condescendingly explained that I need not understand what I taught since “the curriculum people will tell you what to teach.” This convinced me to spend six years in graduate school to become a college professor. Though I make less money than most high school teachers of comparable experience, as a professor I’m a respected professional. I decide what I teach and how I teach it. (Two friends who wanted to teach high school got identical advice from their education professors with tragic results — they became attorneys.)

He gives some common sense solutions:

Clearly, policy-makers and educators need to reform our schools of education so that their certified teachers are truly qualified teachers. Until that happens, however, we should make it easier for professionals from other fields to enter teaching, while carefully monitoring the performance of all teachers to reward excellence and terminate incompetence. In the long run, we need to move to a system of high standards with low barriers, rather than high barriers with low standards. This will require many changes, but our kids are worth it.

Quote Of The Day

Friday, March 25th, 2005

“Now that the real Arab street has risen to claim rights that the West takes for granted, the left takes note. It is forced to acknowledge that those brutish Americans led by their simpleton cowboy might have been right. It has no choice. It is shamed. A Lebanese, amid a sea of a million other Lebanese, raises a placard reading “Thank you, George W. Bush,” and all that Euro-pretense, moral and intellectual, collapses”. —Charles Krauthammer

Big Changes In Europe

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

While Democrats push us towards the European economic model, those in Europe are starting to abandon their model for a more conservative one. Here are two notable changes that have occured within the last couple of weeks.

French End 35 Hour Work Week

French lawmakers effectively abolished the country’s 35-hour workweek Tuesday by allowing employers to increase working hours — and pay — as the country struggles with high unemployment and stagnating living standards….

The shorter workweek was introduced on a voluntary basis in 1998 and made compulsory two years later in a bid to force employers to hire more people. But France’s current 10 percent jobless rate is testament to the policy’s failure to generate the promised millions of new jobs.

Update: CafeHayek has more.

Germany (like Europe in general) Dramatically Drops Corporate Tax Rate

Europes Tax Changes

Last week Mr. Schröder announced plans to cut the federal corporate tax rate to 19% from 25% — which just happens to be the corporate tax rate of Poland, one of the new EU member Mr. Schröder was so critical of last spring.

Robert Mundell, the intellectual father of the euro, predicted the tax competition now gaining steam in Europe. Writing on these pages in 1998, the Nobel Prize-winning economist said of the euro, then about to be launched: “Monetary union will not eliminate the unemployment problems of Europe, which are due to excessively high tax rates, overregulation of the labor market, and social safety net provisions that have overshot the bounds of allocation efficiency and fiscal solvency….

While the euro has helped steer Europe to the right policy choices, last year’s accession of Central and Eastern European countries made those reforms only more urgent. The flat-tax revolution in the former communist countries has contributed much to the pressure on Old Europe to lower taxes as well.

And those countries remain ahead of the curve compared with Western Europe. In Slovakia, which also has a 19% tax rate, the headline rate is the one you actually pay — no further levies payable — and it’s the rate applied to corporate profits, wages and VAT alike. Thanks in no small measure to the flat tax, the country is expected to become the world’s biggest car producer per capita in 2007….

The Baltic countries, which pioneered the movement in Europe, are planning further cuts as well. Estonia wants to lower its rate to 20% from 24% to stay competitive. In Poland, both the center-left government and the opposition Civic Platform are proposing flat taxes — of 18% and 16% respectively — ahead of elections later this year. And in Romania, which will likely join the EU in two years, the new prime minister pushed through last December a 16% flat tax in record time to ensure it took effect on January 1.

Those Feminsts Against Summers

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers, a specialist on feminism, gives us an overview of the feminists involved in the attacks on President of Harvard University Larry Summers.

She writes:

Angier and her sisters-in-arms, recognize only one explanation for why there are fewer women than men teaching math and physics at Harvard or MIT: sexist bias. That there are more male than female math prodigies; that women, as a group, are less obsessively focused on careers and more likely than men to find fulfillment in taking care of children, is not an acceptable explanation…

Think of these women: Nancy Hopkins, Natalie Angier, Megan Urry, and Virginia Valian. It is rare to meet such people in everyday life — but the academy is their natural habitat and there you find them in dismayingly large and indignant numbers. A few Harvard women have come to Summers’s defense: the literary scholar, Ruth Wisse, the economist Claudia Goldin. But few women and even fewer men stand up to the hard-liners in the academy, who are ever eager to show that “men just don’t get it.” Some male faculty have openly supported Summers (most notably, Steven Pinker and Stephan Thernstrom) but it appears that most have run for cover, or joined the pack of Summers’s tormenters….

Of course, offending feminist professors was not Summers’s only crime. He is outspoken, direct, and does not suffer fools gladly. Not only did he violate the holy dogma of social constructionism, he regularly violates a sacred commandment of modern education: Thou shalt be sensitive, nurturing, and protective of everyone’s self-esteem. Such “virtues” now count for more in an academic leader than integrity, intellectual vision, or a commitment to free inquiry and free expression. If Summers goes down at Harvard, it will seriously damage the standards and traditions of American higher education.

Reminds me of a saying I’ve heard more than once, “It takes a Phd to believe that bull shit”.

Picture Of The Day

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Feed me