Thursday, March 31, 2005
I very much doubt that there's a single anti-Semite among the entire Columbia faculty. The MEALAC professors who've lately sparked controversy don't hate Jews; no, they're just very, very left-wing. They're left-wing all the way down the line, on every topic from corporate "greed" to affirmative action.
Could anyone expect these cloistered academics to switch worldviews when it comes to Israel? Well, apparently, some aspiring MEALAC majors did -- and what bitter disappointment they must have tasted.
No amount of committee deliberation, rule-passing, or tolerance-building will change the fundamental problem with most of Columbia's faculty: namely, that these people are on the wrong side of everything.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
When Social Security was enacted in 1935, life expectancy hovered around 65, the retirement age. So there was a point in time at which outliving your ability to take care of yourself was unlikely, but possible, and therefore a "risk" to guard against.
But not today. Retirement, like paying the mortgage, is an inevitability to prepare for, not a risk to insure against. As [Henry Rogers] Seager put it [in 1910], "If the need is one the wage earner clearly foresees as certain to arise, then I should be the last person to wish to relieve him of responsibility for meeting it."
Now that's what I call shocking and almost unbelievable, that 1,300 scientists from 95 countries, working under the auspices of the United Nations, seem to have drunk the free market Kool-Aid. The end result of this years-long investigation is that us free market tree hugger and greenie types are actually correct in our contention that it is not the presence of markets, or the failure of markets, that leads to the devastation, it is the absence of markets. Just as we have had to, in centuries gone by, work out a system of laws that allows markets to flourish, thereby leading to the most efficient usage of resources, so now the task is to do the same for those areas of life where there are no markets. In water, pollution, fishing quotas, tropical forestry, in, in fact, all those sectors where we face the Tragedy of the Commons.Indeed.
Delegate Anne Healey, a Maryland state legislator, is proposing a law that "would require school health officers to make sure students are allowed to wear sunscreen when they go outdoors on sunny days, a right that is not universally recognized in schools, according to cancer prevention advocates," the Washington Post reports. Why is such a law necessary? Because school systems in some Maryland counties consider sunscreen a form of contraband:
Montgomery County schools treat sunscreen as an over-the-counter medicine. A student must bring in a doctor's note to apply it, and only older students are allowed to carry it with them at school.
"If you had a very young kid, and they put it in their eyes, it could hurt them," said Judith Covich, Montgomery's director of health and student services.
Montgomery County is a tony Washington suburb, just the kind of place you'd expect to find officials so nannyish that they want to shield kids from sunscreen. Putting someone's eye out with sunscreen may be less of a risk than skin cancer, but of course the latter doesn't usually develop until later in life--long after the Montgomery County school system has lost interest in a kid.
[from James Taranto's Best of the Web]
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Monday, March 28, 2005
Most interesting about Anrig's remarks, I thought, was the eery similarity to Paul Krugman's performance at a debate against Michael Tanner (of the Cato Institute) in Manhattan a few weeks ago. Same talking points: It's an insurance program, not welfare, so we musn't quibble about the fact that some people reap fewer in benefits than they contribute. What kind of society would we be if we each went our own way and didn't care about everyone's survival? After all, life in the United States is riskier than ever before.
Risker than ever? That's a hard claim to make with a straight face. Unemployment is negligible. Americans live longer than ever, enjoy more sterile environments (thanks to anti-bacterial soaps, pesticides, and asbestos litigation), and don't worry about starving to death (quite the opposite, for many of us). In fact, we've eliminated so many of the old *risks* that we have time to read magazines that urge us to get enough beta carotene and fiber or else. And don't forget to sleep 8 hours a night.
It's odd to hear a Democrat defend Social Security so, well, defensively -- "it's NOT a welfare program" -- as Krugman did in his debate, and as Anrig did tonight. Oh, so there's a problem with welfare? A problem with means testing, which, I heard an audience member protest tonight, stigmatizes the poor?
We free-marketeers may not win every political debate, but at least we speak frankly about our own position. No mincing of words here.
A white woman with a bachelor's degree typically earned nearly $37,800 in 2003, compared with nearly $43,700 for a college-educated Asian woman and about $41,100 for a college-educated black woman, according to data being released today by the Census Bureau.
Have the university professors seen this? Nobody's a-flutter with resolutions and proposals -- not yet, as far as I know.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
...the four hundred richest U.S. taxpayers had a combined income in 2000 that exceeded the combined incomes of four of the countries of Mr. Bush's tropical tour. The difference was astounding: the $57 billion in combined income of Botswana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda [TC: Botswana and Senegal are relative success stories in Africa, and Nigeria has oil] was the income of 161 million people, who average $350 in income per year, whereas the $69 billion was the income of four hundred individuals.
That is from Jeffrey Sachs's new The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. And you got it right, there is no typo, that is 400 people richer than 161 million people.
Left-wingers think: "My goodness, how can so few have so much? They were lucky anyway. Let us raise marginal tax rates."
Randians think: "Hail the productive powers of capitalism!"
Rawlsians think: "They didn't produce that wealth, we did."
think: "My goodness, Africa is screwed up."
The economist? The economist wonders why there is not more trade between the two groups...
For Greg's take on the MEALAC fiasco, check out his Spectator submission.
The position pays a monthly stipend and will last eight weeks.
Applicants should send a cover letter and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Several answers in the guide were wrong. There were also sloppy diagrams and improper notation of exponents. There were at least 18 errors in the guide, and grammar and spelling issues proved just as problematic as the math. For example, the word "fourth" was misspelled on the cover of the 4th-grade manual.
School officials blamed the mistakes on an ineffective fact-checker.
"We have a clear protocol for review of all materials," Carmen Farina, deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, said in a statement. "In this case, a member of my staff inexcusably failed to follow our protocol, and I have written a letter of reprimand to the person's file. We recalled the materials within hours, corrections to the guide will be made, and it again will be distributed digitally."
As hard as it is to believe that the mispelled "Fourth" on the cover could have gotten past the authors, the editors, and the printers, it begs to ask the question: Is there any chance that something like this could have been done by Princeton Review or Barrons? Of course not. At a real company you can't just blame all of your problems on some mythical "member of my staff" who didn't follow protocal.
Who wants to trust these people with our retirement, Health Care, and economy??
Friday, March 25, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005
It's Good to Be the Chancellor King (3/23)
State University System of New York chancellor Robert King has not one but three full-time drivers, paid a total of $174,700 a year to drive him and other top university officials. King is also paid a $250,000 annual salary and receives a $90,000 housing allowance. He recently proposed a $600 a year tuition hike.
PS: Check out Shadegg's bold initiative to create a national market in health insurance: campaign website and Cato event. Shadegg would make a great junior Senator from Arizona, serving along Jon Kyl (and replacing a noted enemy of the First Amendment, John McCain).
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Here are some highlights:
"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing," said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility."
Bob Levy, a fellow with the Cato Institute, argued that Democrats and Republicans alike were being "incredibly hypocritical" in this case: Democrats by suddenly embracing states' rights and Republicans by asserting the power of the federal government.
"These questions are not the business of Congress," Mr. Levy said of the Schiavo dispute. "The Constitution does not give Congress the power to define life or death. The only role for the court is once the state legislature establishes what the rules are, the court can decide if the rules have been properly applied.
And an op-ed:
Justice Scalia went on to say that he would have preferred that the court had announced, "clearly and promptly, that the federal courts have no business in this field." The problem, he insisted, was that "the point at which life becomes 'worthless,' and the point at which the means necessary to preserve it become 'extraordinary' or 'inappropriate,' are neither set forth in the Constitution nor known to the nine justices of this court any better than they are known to nine people picked at random from the Kansas City telephone directory."
Monday, March 21, 2005
Saturday, March 19, 2005
An Agence France-Presse news story described European objections to Wolfowitz. "He is also held in suspicion as a central figure in the U.S. neoconservative movement, which would like to see the U.S. vision of liberal democracy and free-market economics take root around the world."
Oh, perish the thought!
If Wolfowitz's views are unpopular in European liberal democracies, they have supporters in countries that aspire to become liberal democracies. . . . Wolfowitz attended a dinner for Sfeir at the Fairmont Hotel on Tuesday night, the day before the White House announced his candidacy for the World Bank job. Some 600 Lebanese Americans were in attendance, both Christians and Muslims. When Wolfowitz entered the ballroom, the crowd erupted in applause. He had not yet been introduced. "They hadn't even had a chance to say his name," says David Ramadan, a Lebanese Shiite Muslim who attended the dinner. "He literally got a standing ovation. The screams were louder even than the ones for the patriarch."
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Make sure you watch the video with the sound on.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Monday, March 14, 2005
Here's a fellow who took matters into his own hands, resisting the airport Gestapo by refusing to show ID to anyone but the personnel of his airline. Wow. What a freedom fighter.
Reason, from whence I stole this link, takes a more positive view of the passenger's antics.
UPDATE: There are more where that man came from, reports the Times.
"After checking out more than 100 sites with names like dontflycontinentalairlines.com and fordlemon.com, we rated the best of them on a scale from one to five in six different categories: ease of use, frequency of updates, number of posts, hostility level (angrier is better), relevance, and entertainment value (Hey! Angry and funny!)."
Gee thanks, Susan. Political pundit Susan Estrich has launched a venomous campaign (links here and here and here) against the Los Angeles Times’s op-ed editor, Michael Kinsley, for alleged discrimination against female writers. As it happens, I have published in the Los Angeles Times op-ed pages over the years, without worrying too much about whether I was merely filling a gender quota. Now, however, if I appear in the Times again, I will assume that my sex characteristics, rather than my ideas, got me accepted.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
"Success in ending the poverty trap," Sachs writes, "will be much easier than it appears." Really? If it's so easy, why haven't five decades of effort gotten the job done? Sachs should redirect some of his outrage at the question of why the previous $2.3 trillion didn't reach the poor so that the next $2.3 trillion does. In fact, ending poverty is not easy at all. In those five decades, poverty researchers have learned a great deal about the complexity of toxic politics, bad history (including exploitative or inept colonialism), ethnic and regional conflicts, elites' manipulation of politics and institutions, official corruption, dysfunctional public services, malevolent police forces and armies, the difficulty of honoring contracts and property rights, unaccountable and excessively bureaucratic donors and many other issues. Sachs, however, sees these factors as relatively unimportant. Indeed, he seems deaf to the babble and bungling of the U.N. agencies he calls upon to run the Big Plan, not to mention other unaccountable and ineffectual aid agencies.
So, in Sachs's eyes, what does matter in producing poverty? His book blames the perception of bad government in Africa on racial prejudice in the West, an insult to the many courageous Africans who have protested against their often appalling rulers. To Sachs, poverty reduction is mostly a scientific and technological issue (hence the technical jargon above), in which aid dollars can buy cheap interventions to fix development problems.
An excellent review--worth reading in full, if you have a WP subscription.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Friday, March 11, 2005
However, when alarmed Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail raised it with US officials in Khartoum, it turned out to be a typing error.
The report should have said Sedan, a test site in the US state of Nevada.
Don't you hate it when that happens--when you read about people dropping bombs on you, and then it turns out to be a typo? Via Best of the Web.
PRESIDENT BUSH regularly calls on Congress to restrain spending. But he has yet to put his pen where his mouth is by using his veto - a blunt instrument, to be sure, but one that very few American presidents have failed to wield, especially during times of high deficits. Mr. Bush says he prefers a sharper veto power: the ability to cut spending programs within larger bills. He called for line-item veto power in his first press conference after his re-election and in his 2006 budget.
But such a statute is not only out of reach - it would probably require a constitutional amendment - it is also unnecessary. Why? BecauseMr. Bush can already cut individual programs out of larger legislation with a scalpel that's almost as sharp as the line-item veto. An obscure law passed during the Nixon administration gives the president extraordinary power to stop any discretionary spending. All he has to do is persuade Republicans on Capitol Hill to go along.
It's called rescission. Under the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the president can select any appropriated federal program for reduction or elimination by sending a message to Congress, which then has 45 days to approve his decision with a simple majority in each house. If Congress agrees, the president can reshape federal government to his liking. If Congress disagrees, or fails to act, the cut disappears.
This law gives Mr. Bush more power than he has sought for his battles on trade promotion or new federal judges. With it, he can pick his targets, put fast-track pressure on Congress to respond, and win by gaining a simple majority approval - in other words, rescission is filibuster-proof.
So why haven't presidents been vigorously using the Impoundment Act to manage the budget in the last 31 years? The reason is that different parties usually controlled the White House and Congress, making large cuts impossible. For example, President Clinton won 111 of the 163 rescissions he requested from a divided Congress, but was able to save only several billion dollars.
Although Republicans now control both the House and Senate, Mr. Bush has not asked for any rescissions, large or small. Why has Mr. Bush kept this knife in a dusty drawer, especially given the staggering deficit, his public stance on the need to curb spending and his close ties with the Republican Congressional leadership? Surely he knows how often Mr. Clinton resorted to it.
Perhaps his unwillingness stems from the knowledge that, with rescission, Americans know who wielded the knife and what programs were cut or kept. But to govern is to choose. If Republicans really want to cut spending and reduce the deficit, they have more weapons than any political party has had in decades.
The usually fractious members of the House of Representatives on Thursday found something they nearly all shared: an appetite for millions of dollars for home-state road, bridge and transit projects.
On a vote of 417 to 9, House members approved a $284 billion, six-year measure that would pay for transportation upgrades around the nation, including more than 4,000 projects sought by individual lawmakers at a cost of more than $12 billion.
It's one thing if you want to build roads (let's leave the idea of privatized road-building thing aside for a moment), but this is ridiculous:
Among the scores of other projects singled out by the organization were: $3 million for improvements to a museum in Warren, Ohio, dedicated to the Packard automobile; $7 million for snowmobile trails in Vermont; almost $35 million for landscaping around freeways in Houston; $3.2 million to build an interpretative center and improve trails in the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Corridor; and $500,000 to improve streets, sidewalks and curbs outside the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
I think the response to this is put best by Jeff Flake:
Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who is a persistent critic of federal spending, said, "Bipartisan porkfests like this bill make me long for the days of gridlock."
Item: comparison of avg.GPD growth in 2004, during Clinton's first term, since Bush's second tax cut, etc.
More recent item: comparison of the trade deficit and the price of the dollar in various measurements.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Many members of Congress forget that welfare is not just one federal program — it’s more than thirty separate handouts, ranging from food stamps, to Medicaid, to child care subsidies, to home heating assistance, to cash income supplements. A few years ago, a Cato Institute study calculated the “value” of the whole package of welfare benefits versus the value of working. It found that workers in some states would have to find jobs that paid more than $30,000 a year just to break even.
You can read this article here and the actual report here. Check out these great articles about DDT and malaria: one from in the Washington Monthly that a TA of mine wrote here and another from the NYT Magazine here. The DDT scare is a prime example of what happens when environmental hysteria gets accepted as hard science - people die (here is a more eloquent and researched discussion of that thought by Ron Bailey).
The number of malaria cases worldwide may be close to double that previously estimated, according to a new tally of the killer disease. The study, which is one of the most comprehensive efforts to map the prevalence of malaria, shows that over half a billion people could have the disease. This elevated count could increase pressure on governments to pump money into prevention efforts...
The researchers reckon that there were around 515 million clinical cases of malaria in 2002, although the actual figure could lie anywhere between 300 and 660 million. This is not far off double the estimate of 273 million cases produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1998. And in areas outside Africa, the new figures are at least three times as high as those previously estimated by the WHO. Snow's numbers are still only a rough approximation of malaria's prevalence. But "it's probably the best estimate wehave", says Andrew Spielman, a specialist in tropical infectious diseases at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. "It's known to be a terrible burden and now it appears it's even more terrible than we thought."
Recently, after a teacher of mine told me that she supports a worldwide ban on DDT, I asked her if she would reconsider her position in light of the fact that malaria kills over 100,000 people in Africa each year and DDT is the best known way of controlling it; she responded, "Do you know what DDT does to the environment?" I was speechless.
This issue definitely deserves more thoughts, but time is at a premium right now - so read some of the links, they are all good.
Am I right? Now, it seems, the WaPo has changed its tune -- but according to Nick Gillespie the Post isn't telling the whole story in its reversal.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
You can find a copy of the flyer here (thanks to my roommate for hosting the flyer, check out his great photoblog). If anyone can print out copies and put them up that would be amazing, but please note where you are going to put them up in the comment section. We especially need someone to put up flyers at Teacher's College. Any help is greatly appreciated.
UPDATE: I'll be in Butler Cafe untill 6:00PM. I have about 150 flyers if anyone wants to pick some up, i'll be the guy agonizingly reading Marx.
Two takes on this issue, each posted to NRO.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
The puppets in "Avenue Q" brought back many precious memories, including this one, which I've long wanted to share:
It was 16 years ago and my daughter, Emily Cooperman, age 2½, was an avid "Sesame Street" fan. Seated on the floor in front of the television, she spent a blissful hour watching her favorite show. When it ended, she continued to face the screen as a disembodied voice announced, "'Sesame Street' has been brought to you by Playorena, sponsors of gymnastics programs throughout the tristate area."
Emily turned to me, blue eyes brimming with tears. "Oh, Mommy, that's so sad!"
Confused, I asked her, "What's sad, Em?"
"They threw out the tristate area."
This may be one of the scariest articles i have read in a long time. What's worse, propaganda saying that Stalin was great or propaganada saying that what they are experiancing is a real market economy?
Although several decades younger than most of those around him, Yuri Vassilyev, 33, was happy to admit to their common cause: a fondness for Joseph Stalin, the dictator whose purges are blamed by Western historians for the deaths of up to 20 million Soviet citizens.
"Look, everyone makes mistakes," Mr Vassilyev said. "Stalin wasn't a saint, but he was a great man who built up a strong state.
"After years of lies about him, the truth is coming out. We owe a lot to him. He turned the Soviet Union into a superpower that was feared and respected. A man like Stalin is what Russia needs now."
Increasing numbers of Mr Vassilyev's countrymen are taking a similarly sepia-tinged view of the dictator in the run-up to May's 60th anniversary of his finest moment, the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Once dismissed as the rabid opinions of a few eccentrics and elderly nostalgics, statements glorifying Stalin can now be heard among those born long after his death in 1953.
At least three Russian cities have announced plans to erect monuments marking his war record – almost half a century since they were torn down in a program of de-Stalinisation initiated by his successor, Nikita Khrushchev.
A recent poll found that 50per cent of Russians consider Stalin a "wise leader", while one in four say they would vote for him if he were standing for office today...
Another, Generalissimus, claims fewer than 2.5 million were killed during the more than two decades of Stalin's rule, and only on the orders of his political rivals.
The tone was set at a ceremony in December marking the 125th anniversary of Stalin's birth. Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of parliament and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, admitted "the deaths Stalin had ordered did not make him look good" but praised him "as a leader who had done much for his nation".
Mikhail Gorbachev, who as Soviet leader from 1985-91 did much to demolish Stalin's legacy, declared himself "shocked" by such an assessment.
But such views are finding an appreciative audience among poverty-stricken Russians disillusioned by market reforms and Western values.
Seasoned Russia-watchers are worried by the latest bout of revisionism. British historian Norman Davies, author of Europe: A History, said people were falling into a propaganda trap of which Stalin would have been proud.
"The war is the only good thing the Russians have to report after 75 years of communism," he said. "It's the only source of self-respect left. I don't think you can expect the Russians to be objective about their history. It's a weapon. It's about not feeling humiliated about the collapse of communism."
Unlike in Germany, where the struggle to come to terms with Hitler's legacy still haunts public debate, in Russia there has never been a clean break with the evils of the past.
Whole thing here, but i basically included all of it.
[Hat Tip: FND]
Even where they did survive, the laws had unintended and often crudely ironic consequences. In Canada, which in 1992 adopted MacKinnon and Dworkin's definition of pornography, it was used largely to prosecute gay and lesbian bookstores and even to seize copies of two of Dworkin's books because they ''illegally eroticized pain and bondage.''
Don't you wish all Leftist efforts turned out that way?
Monday, March 07, 2005
On Feb. 12, Democratic Party leaders elected Howard Dean party chairman because he would bring change. Election 2004 proved that the status quo isn’t working for Democrats. The situation is even worse than many Democratic Party leaders might have you believe. Yes, a switch of 60,000 voters from Bush to Kerry in Ohio would have made Kerry president, but a switch of 60,000 voters from Kerry to Bush in Pennsylvania would have made the election a blowout. Meanwhile, Democrats lost all but one competitive Senate race.
Howard Dean needs to bring the party a new message. Actually, the party just needs a message, period. It’s not hard to figure out the Republican agenda. They want to stabilize democracy in Iraq. They want to reform Social Security. They want to make abortions harder to get. They want to ban gay marriage. They want to cut taxes, as well as the budget. Agree with their agenda or not, you have to agree that they have an agenda. Now, what is the agenda of the Democratic Party? They want to prevent permanent tax cuts. They want to stop the war. They want to keep Bush from appointing the judges that he wants. They want to stop Bush from reforming Social Security.
Do you see the pattern here? All the Democratic Party seems to stand for is the status quo. That may appeal to the party base, but it certainly doesn’t appeal to the moderates whose votes are the ones that really matter on election day. It doesn’t matter how riled up people are, because unless they live in King County, Washington, they can only vote once each...
Things may look dire for Democrats, but up is not the only place that the party can go. With empty Senate seats looming in Minnesota and New Jersey, Democrats could lose even more ground in 2006. If Dean is going to take back America, his first step should be to draft a new agenda.
Sales of second homes last year made up more than a third of all residential sales, according a new study by the National Association of Realtors. Of those, 13 percent were bought as vacation homes and 23 percent as investments. The total is up 16.3 percent over 2003.
. . . The typical vacation-home buyer is 55 years old and earned $71,000 in 2003, while investment-property buyers had a median age of 47 and earned $85,700.
bizarre...idiotic...cruel...naive...contemptuous. Paleoconservative Robert Locke uses these words to describe and debunk--he imagines--libertarianism.
Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.
As my free-spirited English professor says, "What is this mythical beast, society?" If Locke strives to defend plain ol' tyranny of the majority, he shouldn't mince words.
Taken to its logical conclusion, the reduction of the good to the freely chosen means there are no inherently good or bad choices at all, but that a man who chose to spend his life playing tiddlywinks has lived as worthy a life as a Washington or a Churchill.
"Worthy" is an awfully loaded term, but I'd argue that the underachiever has just as much right to play games all day -- assuming he isn't stealing to fund his unproductive lifestyle -- as the next guy has license to think lofty thoughts and spur a nation to action. Who's to decide which life is more worth leading?
Libertarians rightly concede that one’s freedom must end at the point at which it starts to impinge upon another person’s, but they radically underestimate how easily this happens. . . . Consider pornography: libertarians say it should be permitted because if someone doesn’t like it, he can choose not to view it. But what he can’t do is choose not to live in a culture that has been vulgarized by it.
Well, that's the price you pay for living in a truly tolerant society. You just might brush up against someone on the street and see him wearing a bow tie--ugghh--or hear him talking about catching the latest Kiss concert. Or making dinner plans with his gay lover. Oh, the agony!
Empirically, most people don’t actually want absolute freedom, which is why democracies don’t elect libertarian governments. Irony of ironies, people don’t choose absolute freedom. But this refutes libertarianism by its own premise, as libertarianism defines the good as the freely chosen, yet people do not choose it.
This proves something, but it isn't the fact that people yearn to be bossed around. The pattern of voting for collectivism proves that people will take as much as they can, even if if means robbing another of the fruits of his labor. In other words, people are selfish. In a libertarian society, we'd acknowledge that and address it head-on, instead of dressing it up as altruism and concern for "the community".
Based on the facts of history, Locke claims that a libertarian state can only arise through a kind of coup. I disagree. The future will bring more individual liberty -- heck, it's already happening -- most likely through incremental changes. As a few towns/states/nations scale back the shackles of authority, they reap the visible rewards that only freedom yields. Other communities say, "I'll have what they're having." It's happened within the U.S., and within the world as a whole (usually propelled by American strides toward freedom).
Libertarians are also naïve about the range and perversity of human desires they propose to unleash. . . . They assume that if people are given freedom, they will gravitate towards essentially bourgeois lives, but this takes for granted things like the deferral of gratification that were pounded into them as children without their being free to refuse.
I was waiting for him to compare rational human beings to children. Really, just waiting.
They forget that for much of the population, preaching maximum freedom merely results in drunkenness, drugs, failure to hold a job, and pregnancy out of wedlock.
As countless scholarly works have shown, these terrible, terrifying side effects (Is that all he's got on freedom-as-risky? That's it?) of individual liberty are more often the direct consequences of government action. Liberal politicians decades ago implemented a welfare system that rewarded joblessness and illegitimate children; we're still paying for this mistake. The artificially high cost of drugs induces addicts to steal for money. If Locke thinks this sort of behavior is typical of rational human beings guided only by their internal value systems to pursue happiness and amass wealth, he needs to get out more.
Already, the author -- a more entertaining writer than his Nobel laureate father -- has convinced me that children as young as nine should be able to switch families if they don't like their lots. I'm also sold on Friedman's plan to radically remodel American universities in the image of the free market, with students free to choose their professors from among all willing instructors.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
WASHINGTON, March 3 - The United States suffered a final defeat Thursday in its dispute with Brazil over cotton subsidies at the World Trade Organization.Whole thing here.
The organization's appellate body upheld a ruling last year by trade judges who said American subsidies to cotton farmers broke international trade rules by depressing world prices and harming cotton farmers in Brazil and elsewhere.
The decision on Thursday could force the United States to lower the subsidies it pays farmers to grow cotton and, eventually, other crops.
Representative Clay Shaw, the Florida Republican who leads the trade subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, said: "If we want to keep exporting American cotton, we're going to have to abide by the W.T.O. ruling. It
certainly gives you cover to make some of the corrections needed."
An idea that failed to gain purchase in the United States is, however, fast winning converts right across central Europe. At the 2003 capitalist ball Mart Laar, a former prime minister of Estonia, was given a special award to celebrate the fact that, in 1994, his country had become the first in Europe to introduce a flat tax, of 26%. At the time, developments in Estonia, a tiny Baltic country which was not then even a member of the EU, did not seem particularly significant. True, Latvia and Lithuania, the two other Baltic countries, swiftly followed suit, but nothing much happened for a while after that.Of course, not exactly everyone is as elated about this:
Then in 2001 Russia, facing widespread tax evasion, moved to a flat tax of 13% on personal income. Over the next two years Serbia and Ukraine followed, with rates of 14% and 13%, respectively. Much as advocates of the privatisation of pensions were sometimes embarrassed to have Pinochet's Chile as their laboratory, so Russia, Serbia and pre-Yushchenko Ukraine were not the ideal poster children for flat taxes. But then Georgia, fresh from a democratic revolution, introduced the lowest flat tax yet: 12%. And the flat-tax experiment that has attracted most attention in the EU has been in Slovakia, where a 19% rate for all personal, corporate and sales taxes was introduced in 2003.
Slovakia's flat tax became a lot more significant when the country joined the EU a year later, thereby gaining complete and unfettered access to Europe's single market. As advocates of the flat tax had long predicted, Slovakia's fiscal innovation helped to spur foreign investment and economic growth, while actually leading to a slight increase in tax revenues. Encouraged by Slovakia's experience, Romania, which is supposed to join the EU in 2007, has just introduced a flat tax of 16%. The centre-right opposition parties in Poland and the Czech Republic are both now pushing the idea of flat taxes set at 15%.
To many in the rich, high-tax countries of western Europe, all of this smacks of the dreaded “race to the bottom”, long forecast by those who feared that the enlargement of the EU would lead to a loss of jobs and an erosion of the welfare state. Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, has argued that it is intolerable for his country, struggling with a rising budget deficit and unemployment of over 10%, to finance EU subsidies to countries that are luring investment and jobs out of Germany by slashing taxes. As Mr Fischer sees it, the Slovaks and others can afford to set low flat taxes only thanks to big EU subsidies. Reality is more complex. That tax revenues have actually risen in Slovakia makes it a lot harder to sustain the charge of “fiscal dumping”. The main cost advantage that central Europe has over Germany and France is not low taxes, but low wages: an average Slovak worker is paid about a fifth as much as his German counterpart.Whole thing here.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Greenpeace should choose its targets more wisely. When 35 protesters invaded London’s International Petroleum Exchange — where open-cry trading in the rough-and-tumble pits is practiced — sounding fog horns, setting off alarms, and blowing whistles to signal their disenchantment with the oil business and capitalism and stuff, they were not greeted with the polite, bourgeois response they receive in more respectable quarters. Instead, dozens of young traders, refreshed by several lunchtime drinks, tackled the protesters and gave them a good kicking — all the way out the door and onto the sidewalk. Several protesters claimed that their foes had tried to push heavy filing cabinets onto them. “We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow-boy spivs. Total thugs,” complained one nice, middle-class Greenpeacer nursing a bruised skull. “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.” Call us persnickety, but didn’t Greenpeace pick on them by trespassing and disturbing their business?
I especially like his rebuttal of Keynes and his effort at cheering up students who've experienced early setbacks in their careers.
“All right, all right. But apart from liberating 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, undermining dictatorships throughout the Arab world, spreading freedom and self-determination in the broader Middle East and moving the Palestinians and the Israelis towards a real chance of ending their centuries-long war, what have the Americans ever done for us?”
This is a MUST-READ.
Julian Simon: The facts are fundamental.
Garrett Hardin: The facts are not fundamental. The theory is fundamental. - from a 1982 debate with the UC Santa Barbara biologist The doomslayer-doomsayer
debate, Simon thinks, is an opposition between fact and bad theory, a case of empirical reality versus abstract principles that purport to define the way things work but don't.
"It's the difference," he says, "between a speculative analysis of what must happen versus my empirical analysis of what has happened over the long sweep of history."
The paradox is that those abstract principles and speculative analyses seem so very logical and believable, whereas the facts themselves, the story of what has happened, appear wholly illogical and impossible to explain. After all, people are fruitful and they multiply but the stores of raw materials in the earth's crust certainly don't, so how can it be possible that, as the world's population doubles, the price of raw materials is cut in half?
It makes no sense. Yet it has happened. So there must be an explanation.
And there is: resources, for the most part, don't grow on trees. People produce them, they create them, whether it be food, factories, machines, new technologies, or stockpiles of mined, refined, and purified raw materials.
"Resources come out of people's minds more than out of the ground or air," says Simon. "Minds matter economically as much as or more than hands or mouths. Human beings create more than they use, on average. It had to be so, or we would be an extinct species."
The defect of the Malthusian models, superficially plausible but invariably wrong, is that they leave the human mind out of the equation. "These models simply do not comprehend key elements of people - the imaginative and creative."
As for the future, "This is my long-run forecast in brief," says Simon. "The material conditions of life will continue to get better for most people, in most countries, most of the time, indefinitely. Within a century or two, all nations and most of humanity will be at or above today's Western living standards.
"I also speculate, however, that many people will continue to think and say that the conditions of life are getting worse."
But you don't have to be one of those people, one of those forever Glum and Gloomy Gusses. All you've got to do is keep your mind on the facts.
The world is not coming to an end.
Things are not running out.
Time is not short.
Enjoy the afternoon!
I got all this from randomly sifting through Wikipedia.
Friday, March 04, 2005
Chocolate releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins. It is also full of magnesium, which cuts mood swings, and heart-protecting substances.
Move over, Prozac!
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Here are a few of the self-anointed:
The “Cereal Killer” Category
Awarded to New York University professor Marion Nestle for insisting that 19-year-old college students aren’t smart enough to pick their own breakfast cereal. She stated: “It’s asking far too much of late adolescents to exercise that kind of choice.”
The “Biggest Loser” Category
Awarded to Yale professor and father of the “Twinkie tax” Kelly Brownell for continuing to deny the importance of personal responsibility while admitting his significant paunch comes from remaining inactive and snacking too much while writing a book about ... (drum roll) obesity.
There's plenty more where this comes from -- including a few celebrity PETA advocates who admit to snacking on fried chicken and spare ribs on the side.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
"It is of crucial importance to conduct research on establishing a multilateral governance mechanism that is more rational and just and more conducive to the Internet development in a direction of stable, secure and responsible functioning and more conducive to the continuous technological innovation"
Read that paragraph 5 times and tell me if you can discern even the slightest point out of it. I've seen 4th graders bullshit essays with more substance than that. Of course, if there's any place in the world to make speeches with large words and little substance, it's the UN.
The article goes on to explain what parts of the "American monopolized" Internet upset the Chinese:
"China's communist government fears the Internet would dilute Beijing's control over its population, as information passes unfiltered throughout the country and outside of strict government censorship."
Wouldn't that be a shame. Luckily the government is already doing something about it:
"China strictly prohibits any public criticism of the ruling communist party and closely monitors and censors Internet usage. Periodically, Chinese security forces raid Internet cafes and arrest people who violate Chinese rules."
Social Security: Is It Really a Crisis?
Tuesday, 15 March 2005 - 7pm-8:30pm
2 W 64th Street, New York, NY 10023
(on the corner of Central Park West)
Featuring Michael Tanner, Director of Health & Welfare Studies, The Cato Institute,
and Paul Krugman, author and columnist for the New York Times.
More info at Cato's Project on Social Security Choice. Hat tip: Hunter (MBA '99).
We could have our own debates at Columbia, but only if the other political student groups get their act together.
Prof. Randy Barnett, a regular contributor to the Volokh Conspiracy, recently argued the case of Raich v. Ashcroft in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
(co-sponsored by the Columbia Law School Chapter of the Federalist Society, SSDP, and FEHDP)
Stewart: Do you think that the people of Lebanon would have had, sort of, the courage of their conviction, having not seen--not only the invasion but the election which followed? It's almost as though that the Iraqi election has emboldened this crazy--something's going on over there. I'm smelling something.
Soderberg: I think partly what's going on is the country next door, Syria, has been controlling them for decades, and they [the Syrians] were dumb enough to blow up the former prime minister of Lebanon in Beirut, and they're--people are sort of sick of that, and saying, "Wait a minute, that's a stretch too far." So part of what's going on is they're just protesting that. But I think there is a wave of change going on, and if we can help ride it though the second term of the Bush administration, more power to them.
Stewart: Do you think they're the guys to--do they understand what they've unleashed? Because at a certain point, I almost feel like, if they had just come out at the very beginning and said, "Here's my plan: I'm going to invade Iraq. We'll get rid of a bad guy because that will drain the swamp"--if they hadn't done the whole "nuclear cloud," you know, if they hadn't scared the pants off of everybody, and just said straight up, honestly, what was going on, I think I'd almost--I'd have no cognitive dissonance, no mixed feelings.
Soderberg: The truth always helps in these things, I have to say. But I think that there is also going on in the Middle East peace process--they may well have a chance to do a historic deal with the Palestinians and the Israelis. These guys could really pull off a whole-
Stewart: This could be unbelievable!
Soderberg:---series of Nobel Peace Prizes here, which--it may well work. I think that, um, it's-
Stewart: [buries head in hands] Oh my God! [audience laughter] He's got, you know, here's-
Soderberg: It's scary for Democrats, I have to say.
Stewart: He's gonna be a great--pretty soon, Republicans are gonna be like, "Reagan was nothing compared to this guy." Like, my kid's gonna go to a high school named after him, I just know it.
Soderberg: Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's hope for the rest of us.
Taiwanese factories in Dongguan [a city between Hong Kong and Guangzhou and a major centre of manufacturing] are facing a problem. According to a news report in the United Daily in Taiwan, over a thousand workers at a factory, which produces goods for big brand names such as Nike, demonstrated for two days and damaged equipment and factory cars. 500 armed police arrived and quashed the riot. Several leaders were arrested. The main cause for the riot was the limitation [sic] on working hours at the factory. The shorter hours have been requested by US companies so as to avoid criticism from various groups on long working hours. However, the mainly migrant workforce want to work longer hours so they can earn more. Consensus had been reached by the US companies, the Taiwanese-invested factory and local government that the maximum working hours per week should be set at 60 hours [which is still a breach of Chinese Labour Law, but less than other manufacturing plants]. However, this reduction in hours was unsatisfactory for the workers and the resulting riot was serious [emphasis added].
Whole thing here. [Hat tip: MR]
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
EDMONTON - An Edmonton man will end his month-long McDonald's-only diet tomorrow the same way it began: with a Big Mac. Les Sayer has lost 17 pounds and lowered his blood pressure while trying to prove to his Grade 12 biology students that the Academy Award-nominated documentary Super Size Me is biased. Unlike filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, whose film did not take home an Oscar on Sunday, Mr. Sayer added an hour of exercise per day to his daily regimen during the experiment. It's that variable, says the self-described coach potato, that led the popular movie down a predictably skewed path.
Hat tip: Hit and Run.
Despite government efforts to improve the living conditions of poor children, the UK still has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, Unicef reported today.
Approximately one in seven children grow up in poverty in the UK, defined by Unicef as households with income below 50% of the national average. With 15.4% of British children falling into that category, the UK ranked seventh from bottom of a list of 24 industrialised nations studied by Unicef.
If the liberated above-avg. income earners of Britain would simply cut back on birth control, Britain could rise to lead Europe in the proportion of young haves to young have-lesses.
UPDATE: Oops, sort of. See comments....
PovertyFighters.com is a vital, growing, on-line community of kids, adults, families, and companies giving poor families the chance they need to work out of poverty.
Povertyfighters “click” and corporate sponsors “donate” money to microcredit charities around the world. Microcredit gives poor people a hand up, not a hand out, by loaning them money to start their own little businesses. These are called “microloans.” Microloans work for people who work all around the world.
You can click twice a day for Columbia here. For those of you who don't know about microloans, you should check them out; they are an amazingly effective form of charity.
"Once again blowback strikes the US. Training poorly paid foreign units in
counternacotics and interdiction also means we inadvertently teach them how
to avoid law enforcement and traffickers will always be able to outpay
them. I'm sure the traffickers are very grateful for the elite training US
taxpayers provided for their new hired guns."
Stay tuned - surely Congress will vote for additional funding in no time.
Xenophobes sometimes seem hard pressed to decide which they dislike more: who don't work, acting as a drain on social services, or immigrants who do work, thereby "stealing" jobs from domestic workers and driving down wages. But the United Nations' "World Economic and Social Survey 2004," available at www.un.org/esa/policy/wess, suggests that neither caricature provides much cause for concern. The report finds that "migrants do not have a significant impact on the labor market" because they add to consumer demand as well as labor supply, while some create jobs through entrepreneurship. They also "tend to be net contributors to fiscal revenue," paying more in taxes than they cost the welfare and educational systems.From the now online March issue of Reason.
Just out of curiosity, how do you think the CCL ranks with respect to other political clubs with regard to percentage of members who are first generation American?
Chris Kulawik writes an opituary for the Democratic party. As well as being pretty funny, he is spot on.
The election of Howard Dean as Democratic Party Chairman makes the party’s transition to the underworld both markedly clear and undeniable. The Democrats have turned to far-left socialism and will not turn back. Although a surprise to many, those of us who oppose this socialist creep are, outside the walls of Columbia, the majority.And Dennis Schmelzer, head of the College Republicans, writes:
Some 40 years ago, Ronald Reagan made the same observation at the height of the failed “War on Poverty.” He cited a depression-era politician, “Mr. Democrat” himself, Al Smith, who, “came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his party was taking the party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And he walked away from his party, and he never returned until the day he died—because to this day, the leadership [is taking that] honorable party down the road in the image of the labor Socialist Party of England.” The Democrats cannot and will not win any election outside of San Francisco and Vermont until they make a concerted effort to change, to truly make a move to the center and not just take radical liberals and rewrite their careers. Democrats and Republicans alike must admit, Dean is not the man to accomplish this. Dean may be able to raise money from his base of ideological cohorts, but as we all saw in Iowa (a sad finish in third), he cannot even connect with his own party—never mind American voters. As the leader and spokesman of a party in shambles, Dean will continue to push left, issue press blackouts and make idiotic comments (apparently in Dean’s world everyone in the South drives pickups and all minorities work as hotel staff) and in doing so, further ruin an organization established long ago to actually protect man’s rights from an overbearing state.
As a solution for Democrats, I propose an alternative to Flaxman’s vision: “more talk and more activism.” Take action to help the candidates you support, but also talk more with Democrats that you disagree with, even when they diverge from the party line. Accept their differences as legitimate. Rather than deny their existence, openly debate their ideas. More importantly, in pursuing your own efforts, do not try to stifle theirs.Wow.
Upon becoming Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean outlined his vision of the Democratic Party, noting that “We all know that we’re the party of the big tent and new ideas.” In light of the Democrats for Bloomberg debacle, I say to those in the College Democrats: prove it.
Stephen Rhoads, author of a compelling and well-researched book called Taking Sex Differences Seriously, says males and females aren't suited (on average) to childrearing in equal degrees.
The roots of these differences are in biology. Testosterone inhibits nurturing both within and between the sexes. Thus, for example, females exposed to high levels of testosterone are less interested in babies, and those with a defect such that they have no testosterone show an exaggerated interest in babies.
Oxytocin is the chemical that promotes bonding and a calm, relaxed emotional state. In virgin female monkeys, injection of this hormone produces maternal behavior and a friendly demeanor. In humans, women have more neural receptors for oxytocin than men do, and the number of receptors further increases during pregnancy.
Mothers' love for their young children is fully reciprocated. Young children find mom more comforting than dad. Moreover, mothers are better than fathers at distinguishing a cry of pain from one of hunger or of anger, and women in general are better than men at reading body language and other nonverbal signals.
Rhoads drops more cool statistics -- like the percent of females who find motherhood rewarding, compared with that of working women who get a kick out of their jobs. Why must the government guilt these women into feeling like failures for ensuring the continued survival of our species?