Monthly Archive for January, 2006

Why Elections Matter

Alito And Bush

It has been a long fought battle, but well worth it, today, I am happy to tell you, Sam Alito was confirmed as the 110th Supreme Court Justice of the United States. The day is getting closer and closer when us voters can actually decide moral issues for ourselves, and not have them forced down our throats (more on that here), needless to say, liberals are in tears.

And some of you thought elections don’t matter? Bush has yet to complete his first year of his second term as president and he has already nominated and confirmed two Supreme Court Justices. Chances are high that before his three remaining years are up, atleast one more Supreme Court Justice will decide to retire…elections matter, and they matter a lot.

Congratulations Samuel Alito, may you live a loooooonnng and healthy life. 😀

Liberals In 1968 And Now – Ignoring The Lessons Of History

Economist Arnold Kling writes:

The Conventional Wisdom among well-educated liberals in 1968 included the following:

  • * Anti-Communism was a greater menace than Communism.
  • * The planet could not possibly support the population increases that would take place by the end of the twentieth century.
  • * Conservatives stood in the way of progress for minorities.
  • * Government programs were the best way to lift people out of poverty.
  • * What underdeveloped countries needed were large capital investments, financed by foreign aid from the rich countries.
  • * Inflation was a cost-push phenomenon, requiring government intervention in wage and price setting.

The degree of confidence in these beliefs was so strong that liberals in 1968 came to the overriding conclusion that:

  • * Anyone who is not a liberal must be incorrigibly stupid

Given the state of knowledge in 1968, I can understand why an intelligent person might have believed in the Conventional Wisdom at that time. However, since 1968, considerable evidence has accumulated that challenges the Conventional Wisdom. In some cases, the evidence turned out to be so overwhelming that beliefs were quietly discarded from the Conventional Wisdom.

A rational response to this record of powerful evidence against the Conventional Wisdom might be to reconsider one’s views, as I have done. Instead, it seems to me that liberals have become more close-minded and more dogmatic.

In 1968, liberals thought that that Communism could work reasonably well for some countries. The Soviet Union was thought to be ahead of us in engineering. Many liberal intellectuals considered Communism a viable option for achieving development in the Third World. A reader of Noam Chomsky’s article in the August 13, 1970 New York Review of Books would have thought that North Vietnam’s regime, while not perfect, was closer to the ideal than any other existing government. Anti-Communism, on the other hand, was seen by the Conventional Wisdom as only a pretext for misbegotten wars and hysterical blacklists of Hollywood screenwriters.

Since 1968, we have seen:

  • * a mass exodus from Communist Vietnam (the boat people)
  • * a large exodus from Cuba (the Mariel boat lift)
  • * the collapse of Soviet Communism, revealing that the system did much broader and deeper damage than most people realized
  • * an unmistakably large gap between North Korea and South Korea in terms of material well-being and personal freedom

In 1968, the Conventional Wisdom was that we would see mass starvation in another decade or two. It was still the conventional wisdom a dozen years later, when Julian Simon wrote a contrarian book arguing that population was The Ultimate Resource. Among economists, Simon’s views have gained adherents, and almost no economist believes that food scarcity is a material threat (although politically-induced famines are still possible).

In 1968, the Conventional Wisdom was that we would see mass starvation in another decade or two. It was still the conventional wisdom a dozen years later, when Julian Simon wrote a contrarian book arguing that population was The Ultimate Resource. Among economists, Simon’s views have gained adherents, and almost no economist believes that food scarcity is a material threat (although politically-induced famines are still possible).

In 1968, we were just a few years removed from the passage of Civil Rights legislation that ended Jim Crow segregation in the South. Conservatives had opposed the Civil Rights movement, and were caught on the wrong side of history.

Rather than declare victory, the Civil Rights movement declared perpetual war. Meanwhile, policies that might really help minorities, such as school vouchers to release them from the obligation to attend failed public schools, have become anathema to liberals.

Another perpetual war that began in the 1960’s was the War on Poverty. The programs that were enacted in the name of this war had little effect. Nonetheless, poverty had been greatly reduced over the past forty years, thanks to economic growth and the escalation of income.

Arguably, government welfare programs served only to corrupt the poor. In the case of foreign aid, a consensus is in fact emerging that aid serves to entrench corrupt governments. Instead, the keys to prosperity are institutional more than material.

The full article can be found here.

Update: Mungowit’s End has more.

Quote Of The Day

“Reflecting this culture, our legislators often behave as if business is a problem to be solved. On Jan. 17, they also overrode a gubernatorial veto of a $1-an-hour increase in the state’s minimum wage. Like the health-care mandate, the hike is a job killer–though not in affluent areas of the state, where strong labor demand long ago pushed the going wage above the minimum. In those areas, the law is largely symbolic and enables well-meaning voters and legislators to conclude that they are “doing something for working families.” Safely out of their view, however, at Maryland’s impoverished margins, already weak labor demand will be further diminished”. —Steve Hanke and Stephen Walters, Professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University and Professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland respectively, in a post in the Wall Street Journal detailing the attack on the poor by big labor

What Are Judges For?

Apparently, for liberals, judges are for pushing their liberal agenda:

“I think he is the wrong judge at the wrong time in the wrong place,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a longtime liberal stalwart. “I do not believe he is going to be part of the whole movement of the continued march towards progress in this country.”

And here I thought judges were supposed to – not push any agenda – but to honestly and faithfully interpret the constitution.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, liberals don’t want judges to faithfully interpret the constitution, they want judges to push their liberal agenda. They know that they can’t count on voters to vote in favor of their agenda, and so they use the court as a means to accomplish it instead. Kennedy himself admits it, I wish others would too.

You Don’t Say

Fox News reports:

To more effectively oppose Supreme Court nominees in the future, Democrats need to convince the public “their values are at stake” rather than use stalling tactics to try to thwart the president, said a senator who opposes Samuel Alito’s confirmation.

“We need to recognize, because Judge Alito will be confirmed, that, if we’re going to oppose a nominee that we’ve got to persuade the American people that, in fact, their values are at stake,” Obama said….

“There is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”…

“There’s one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court are judges that reflect our values. And that’s to win elections,” Obama said.

When you have filibusters being called from a Senator not even in the Senate at the time, but in Switzerland, you realize that Democrats see the filibuster not as a tool to be used in rare circumstances, but as one of any other tool to enforce their ‘no to everything’ party platform.

Quote Of The Day

“Education works by countering ignorance. That’s why initial anti-smoking education worked well. But after people knew that smoking caused cancer, telling them so again didn’t much deter them. Likewise, once people know how to get pregnant, and how to prevent it, telling them so more elaborately doesn’t get you much bang for your buck”.– Jane Galt, Defending her views that more sex ed will do little to nothing in reducing abortions

Big Labor’s Attack On The Poor In Maryland

Professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University Steve Hanke and Professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland Stephen Walters have a post in the Wall Street Journal detailing the attack on the poor by big labor:

Hard Line State
Big Labor’s war on Wal-Mart claims casualties among poor Marylanders.

BY STEVE H. HANKE AND STEPHEN J.K. WALTERS
Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

BALTIMORE–In Big Labor’s war against Wal-Mart, “collateral damage”–in the form of lost jobs and income for the poor–is starting to add up. Of course, since the unions and their legislative allies claim that their motive is to liberate people from exploitation by Wal-Mart, these unintended effects are often ignored.

Here in Maryland, however, that’s getting hard to do. The consequences of our Legislature’s override of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s veto of their “Fair Share Health Care Act” on Jan. 12 will be tragic for some of the state’s neediest residents. The law will force companies that employ over 10,000 to spend at least 8% of their payroll on health care or kick any shortfall into a special state fund. Wal-Mart would be the only employer in the state to be affected.

Almost surely, therefore, the company will pull the plug on plans to build a distribution center that would have employed 800 in Somerset County, on Maryland’s picturesque Eastern Shore. As a Wal-Mart spokesman has put it, “you have to take a step back and call into question how business-friendly is a state like Maryland when they pass a bill that . . . takes a swipe at one company that provides 15,000 jobs.”

Unfortunately, in Somerset, the new law looks more like a body blow than a “swipe.” The rural county is Maryland’s poorest, with per capita personal income 46% below the state average and a poverty rate 130% above it. Somerset’s enduring problem is weak labor demand that greatly limits its 25,250 residents’ economic opportunities.

There are just 0.8 jobs per household in Somerset, barely half the 1.5 figure that applies to the rest of the state. Somerset’s top 10 list of employers features sectors like food services (average annual compensation per employee: $9,637), poultry and egg production ($14,320) and seafood preparation and packaging ($19,190).

It is hard to exaggerate how much the planned distribution center might have meant to Somerset’s economy. Using an input-output model, we forecast the “ripple effects” of the new income and spending that could have emanated from Wal-Mart’s facility as follows:

• The center’s 800 employees would have created an additional 282 jobs among “upstream” suppliers and “downstream” retailers and service establishments; all told, the center would have boosted county employment by 14% and private-sector employment by 20%.

• Total annual employee compensation in Somerset would have risen by $46.5 million, or 19%.

• Annual output (or “gross county product”) would have risen by $128.3 million, or 19%.

• State and local tax receipts would have increased by $19.2 million annually; this would include $8.5 million in property taxes, $5.6 million in sales taxes, and $1.4 million in personal income taxes.

Those losses, though dramatic, probably understate the full extent of the damage in this case. They do not include forgone employment and income from construction of the facility and related infrastructure improvements. What is more, Wal-Mart’s tentative plans for a second distribution center in Garrett County, in mountainous western Maryland, also appear dead. Garrett, with a poverty rate that is 70% above the state’s, is only slightly better off than Somerset.

How could our legislators turn a blind eye to such areas? Partly, of course, they are simply eager for Big Labor’s votes and money and therefore subservient to its interests. The Service Employees International Union actually helped draft what became known as the “Wal-Mart bill.” Unable–so far–to organize workers at the company, the union’s immediate national strategy is to limit Wal-Mart’s competitive reach by raising its costs. Maryland was a shrewdly chosen place to kick off this campaign.

Some estimate that as much as a third of the state’s economic activity stems from federal employment and purchases. Over 150,000 Marylanders–six times the population of tiny Somerset–are on the federal (nonmilitary) payroll; they are concentrated in central Maryland, near the nation’s capital. Nearly 268,000 more Marylanders draw checks from state and local government.

With so many workers in a sector where revenues appear to arrive automatically and inefficiency never leads to bankruptcy, our state’s resulting political culture is quite predictable. Many Marylanders are simply unmindful of the necessities of survival in the private sector: pleasing customers, controlling costs and satisfying shareholders. Thanks to the federal tax dollars collected from the rest of the country and spent in Maryland, the prevailing view of economic reality is inverted: The public sector is seen as the engine of prosperity, with the private one along for the ride.

Reflecting this culture, our legislators often behave as if business is a problem to be solved. On Jan. 17, they also overrode a gubernatorial veto of a $1-an-hour increase in the state’s minimum wage. Like the health-care mandate, the hike is a job killer–though not in affluent areas of the state, where strong labor demand long ago pushed the going wage above the minimum. In those areas, the law is largely symbolic and enables well-meaning voters and legislators to conclude that they are “doing something for working families.” Safely out of their view, however, at Maryland’s impoverished margins, already weak labor demand will be further diminished.

What remains to be seen is whether Maryland will be a leading political indicator or an anomaly, for Wal-Mart bills have been drafted in 33 other states. Emboldened by success here, lawmakers in some states have set the threshold for companies to be hit with mandated health benefits as low as 1,000 workers.

In these upcoming battles, legislators should be mindful that companies like Wal-Mart are not the enemy but rather frontline soldiers in a real war on poverty. The profit motive leads them to seek out areas where there is much idle labor and put it to work. Where they are prevented or discouraged from doing so, the alternative job prospect is rarely a cushy spot in the bureaucracy. Rather, it is continued idleness and hardship.

Mr. Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University, served as a member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers in Maryland (1976-77). Mr. Walters is a professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland.

More on this here, here, here, here, here and here.

Quote Of The Day

“The Democrats are trying to “reframe” their message to make people think they believe abortion is wrong. I think this is going to be a hard sell if they plan to continue ferociously defending abortion-on-demand right up until the moment the baby’s head is through the birth canal”. —Ann Coulter

The Assumptions Made By (modern) Liberals – Part I

Economist Arnold Kling has started a new series of essays about the assumptions made by (modern) liberals that he would like liberals to read. His first one is about,

Liberals see the market as an arena in which evil corporations inflict their greed on innocent victims. I wish you would see that motives matter less than consequences. I wish you could see that greed is at work when laws are passed that regulate markets, because regulations always produce winners and losers. I wish you could see that those winners and losers are often not who you think they are. I wish you could see that competitive behavior and free choice are forces that operate in the market as a check against greed. Finally, I wish you could see that greed is most difficult to restrain when it is exercised through the medium of government.

The full article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

“In all times and in all places there has been too much government. We now know what prosperity is: it is the gradual extension of the division of labour through the free exchange of goods and ideas, and the consequent introduction of efficiencies by the invention of new technologies. This is the process that has given us health, wealth and wisdom on a scale unimagined by our ancestors. It not only raises material standards of living, it also fuels social integration, fairness and charity. It has never failed yet. No society has grown poorer or more unequal through trade, exchange and invention. Think of pre-Ming as opposed to Ming China, seventeenth century Holland as opposed to imperial Spain, eighteenth century England as opposed to Louis XIV’s France, twentieth century America as opposed to Stalin’s Russia, or post-war Japan, Hong Kong and Korea as opposed to Ghana, Cuba and Argentina. Think of the Phoenicians as opposed to the Egyptians, Athens as opposed to Sparta, the Hanseatic League as opposed to the Roman Empire. In every case, weak or decentralised government, but strong free trade led to surges in prosperity for all, whereas strong, central government led to parasitic, tax-fed officialdom, a stifling of innovation, relative economic decline and usually war….Sure, it is possible to have too little government. Only, that has not been the world’s problem for millennia. After the century of Mao, Hitler and Stalin, can anybody really say that the risk of too little government is greater than the risk of too much? The dangerous idea we all need to learn is that the more we limit the growth of government, the better off we will all be”. —Matt Ridley, science writer answering the Edge.org question of the year

The Gay Marriage Slippery Slope

Apparently, the slippery slope from gay marriage to polygamy is not too far fetched for countries that have already legalized gay marriage:

Study recommends repealing polygamy ban in Canada

OTTAWA — A new study for the federal Justice Department says Canada should get rid of its law banning polygamy, and change other legislation to help women and children living in such multiple-spouse relationships.

“Criminalization does not address the harms associated with valid foreign polygamous marriages and plural unions, in particular the harms to women,” says the report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

“The report therefore recommends that this provision be repealed.”

The research paper is part of a controversial $150,000 polygamy project, launched a year ago and paid for by the Justice Department and Status of Women Canada.

The paper by three law professors at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., argues that Sec. 293 of the Criminal Code banning polygamy serves no useful purpose and in any case is rarely prosecuted.

Instead, Canadian laws should be changed to better accommodate the problems of women in polygamous marriages, providing them clearer spousal support and inheritance rights.

The slippery slope just got steeper.

The full article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

“Walter Williams, who notes a formula that any American, regardless of race, can use to dramatically improve one’s life. I strip down Professor Williams’ erudite rhetoric:

– graduate from high school
– don’t have children before marriage
– stay out of jail
– don’t be a lazy ass

The 26% of black folks who remain poor have typically broken one of these rules. Usually several. A few, every one of these rules. This is not the Jim Crow era, with massive barriers facing black folks. Just addressing the marriage rate alone – which previous generations of blacks, while far poorer, put us to shame here – would promote great change in Black America. Being married particularly helps blacks: the poverty rate for married blacks with kids is 8%, single dads 19%, and single moms 35%. 85% of poor black children live in single-mom households. Thankfully, the low black marriage rate is starting to inch up again, because two-parent homes are significantly less likely to produce children who later commit crimes, have children of their own out of wedlock, not do well in school, and other concerns of the Covenant”. —Shay Riley, blogging over at the Black Professors Blog

Richard Epstein On Florida Vouchers Ruling

University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein weighs in on the Florida voucher decision earlier this month with an analysis of the state constitution’s uniformity clause, the issue the case was decided on.

He writes:

The battle between these two points of view, and the interest groups that they represent, took an odd turn recently n Bush (as in Governor Jeb) v. Holmes. There the Florida Supreme Court held that the state constitutional provision requiring the state to provide “by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education” knocked out the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program that allowed students in failing schools to use state funds to pay for a private education. The case shows what bad interpretation can do for unwise constitutional provisions.

On the question of constitutional design, Florida’s uniformity clause teaches many unhappy lessons. The first of these illustrates the danger of adopting hortatory constitutional provisions that promise particular level of state services as opposed to the allocation of powers and responsibilities that are the traditional fare of most constitutions. These Soviet-style provisions of positive rights are always honored more in the breach than in the observance, for there is no way that any constitutional document can guarantee the supply of the need level of resources or expertise, let alone the desired level of services. Here it seems evident that the ostensible state law requirements are all in tension with each other, for one sign of an efficient and high quality system is a level of flexibility and decentralization that cut against the demands of uniformity.

Second, the Constitution provides no hint of what should be done in the event that this guarantee is not kept, so that in most cases it operates solely on a precatory basis. That approach makes relatively good sense. Since these provisions are not capable of direct enforcement in any obvious sense, then by all means do not enforce them selectively. It would be bizarre if the Florida Supreme Court decided to throw the entire state system into receivership because it failed systematically to reach the standards set for it. So why then police other breaches.

Unfortunately, the Florida Supreme Court did not absorb these lessons when it decided Bush v. Holmes. Instead the majority of the Court held that the demand for uniformity precluded any experimentation in state vouchers which would drain off money from public schools. That conclusion seems odd in the extreme. First, the general rule in Florida requires deference to the legislature, which surely makes sense in connection with these provisions that seek to mandate public services as opposed to protecting individual rights. Second, it is unclear just how much intervention its constitutional approach would require. Is a system of public schools “uniform” if it has different graduation requirements in different schools? Different courses offered to students? Different hours for the school day? Different salary scales or conditions of employment for teachers? The logic of the argument could go that far, but so long as a threat to the state monopoly is kept safely in the distance it won’t happened.

…and to show how this was a partisan attack on vouchers by liberal judges, professor Epstein also gives this interesting commentary:

Worse still, there really was no need to insist on substantive uniformity in order to make sense of this provision. The United States Constitution contains two uniformity provisions in article I, Section 8, the first of which calls for uniform taxation and the second for uniform rules of naturalization and bankruptcy. In these contexts it is easier to supply rules with substantive uniformity than it is with educational services, even so the uniformity requirement has been held to demand at most geographical unity, which is easily satisfied by the this state-wide Florida program. And even on these geographical matters, the Supreme Court has held (more dubiously) that this requirement of uniformity allows for regional deviation from the uniform standard for reasons that meet the weak rational basis standard. Hence the windfall profit tax survived an exemption for Alaskan oil, and Amtrak did not have to operate uniformly on a nationwide basis. That geographical sense of uniformly could have been pounced on in the Florida case, but the federal analogies were not mentioned let alone discussed in either the majority or dissenting opinions.

Uniformity is ignored when it comes to liberals cherished government programs, but when it comes to poor minority kids getting a proper education, liberals fight to the end to prevent it.

He continues:

The last feature of Bush v. Holmes that is so distressing is its ready embrace of the story that the use of voucher programs necessary diverts needed resources from the public school system. That view of the world is hopelessly static, especially in connection with a constitutional provision that actually cares about efficiency and high quality education. Viewed dynamically, the removal of children from public schools has at least two effects above and beyond the simple diversion of resources. The first of these is that it reduces the obligations of the public school systems, especially when the per pupil cost of education within the state system is higher than the cost of education within the public system, as I suspect it is in Florida. What is so horrible about a higher level of funds on a per capita basis for the students left behind. In addition, the private school options, secular or religious, injects a measure of competition. The public school teachers and their unions now realize that they are in competition with a nameless set of some and versatile institutions that they cannot control with the drop of a hat. The only way they can maintain their market share is to provide, as the Florida Constitution requires, a high quality education in an efficient fashion.
For all its blunders, Bush v. Holmes has this silver lining. It is likely that this decision will be followed in other states whose constitutions contain similar language. Too bad that this won’t help the hundreds of kids who deserve better than being trapped in state run system that has proved itself, even after strenuous efforts of Jeb Bush, to be so unresponsive to its needs.

As the Wall Street Journal wrote on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr, “Today it’s liberal Democrats who stand in the schoolhouse door”.

Quote Of The Day

“I am a staunch advocate for school vouchers, and a recent controversy help reaffirm my support….School choice advocates say tax dollars should follow a child to the schools of their choice, not the school itself. We say school choice would drive reform in public education through competition. We say what stands in our way are liberal Democrats, who have strong ties to teachers’ unions. We are right on all three counts. And a Newsweek poll in 2004 which showed that 66% of blacks and 67% of Hispanics supported school vouchers. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black think-tank, has did polling a few years ago in this area and showed that 57% of blacks support school vouchers and 43% oppose it….If the Congressional Black Caucus, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and teachers can disproportionately send their own children to the schools of their choice, why deny Shaniqua Jackson the same right for her kid?” —Shay Riley, blogging over at the Black Professors Blog

A List Of 10 Media-Fed Myths

John Stossel, writing in ABC News, gives 10 media-fed myths,

  • MYTH #10 — We Have Less Free Time
  • MYTH #9 — Money Can Buy Happiness
  • MYTH #8 — Republicans Shrink the Government
  • MYTH #7 — The World Is Getting Too Crowded
  • MYTH #6 — Chemicals Are Killing Us
  • MYTH # 5 — Guns Are Always Bad for Us
  • MYTH # 4 — We’re Drowning in Garbage
  • MYTH # 3 — We Are Destroying Our Forests
  • MYTH # 2 — Getting Cold Can Give You a Cold
  • MYTH # 1 — Life Is Getting Worse

A full explanation of each along with the full article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

“That being said, I am a registered Republican because I cannot in good conscience vote for a Party which has largely been on the wrong side of history, with regards to its economic philosophy and its foreign relations policies, since Roosevelt. To be fair, however, Democrats held power for most of that time, so their reflexive response to any problem was to throw money at it and hope that the problem would go away. Republicans have so far proven to be not very much different in this area. Sigh”. —Stephen Nuño, my guest blogger responding to comments on why he is a Latino conservative