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Friday, May 13, 2005

Trade With Them and They Will Not Come

I discussed protectionism last night with a conservative colleague. He said that Chinese "slave labor" makes us unable to compete with them anymore. So, I suppose, he was in favor of high tariffs on their imports. However, our wealth is measured by what we can buy, not what the pieces of paper add up to. If the Chinese make materials cheaply and American clothing manufacturers or foreign manufacturers sell the finished good to me at a low price, I have more money to buy other things. And I asked whether he liked Americans holding higher paying jobs in the service sector. We export our services around the globe like other countries do.

We then discussed one area George Bush angers conservatives-lax enforcement of illegal immigration.

Dick Morris makes a valid point regarding those who are both against CAFTA, the free trade agreement with Central America, and our lax immigration policy:

Those who oppose illegal immigration cannot have it both ways. Either you alleviate poverty in Central America and encourage would-be immigrants to stay home and share in the increasing wealth or you keep them in poverty and watch as they flock over our borders.

People have been immigrating to the U.S. for centuries in order to have a better life. If the life in the US is only say 25% better than where they are, people may not want to leave their families, roots and customs. Historically, the difference in the conditions of their lives in their original country forced people to come here. Trade with them, raise their living standards and the borders may need fewer patrols.

We Cannot Live Without The Governments Net

NYT economist Paul Krugman bemoaned the loss of safety nets for workers in America. Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek responded with a letter to the editor. That is followed by my reponse to Don:

13 May 2005> > The Editor, New York Times> 229 West 43rd St.> New York, NY 10036>

To the Editor:

Repeatedly dismissing opponents of nationalized health care as being motivated only by ideology, Paul Krugman avoids tackling intellectual> arguments against such a policy ("Always Low Wages. Always," May 13). Valid or not, such arguments do exist. For example, economics, not ideology, suggests that health-care costs are unnecessarily raised by a $309 billion Medicare budget that allows 40 million Americans to purchase medical services on other people's dimes. Also, economics rather than ideology advises that each of us knows our individual health-care needs and hopes better than strangers in Washington ever can - and therefore, the more power we give to government the more we sacrifice control over very personal matters.


Donald J. Boudreaux, Chairman, Department of Economics, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030

I emailed him the following:

And did you catch his comment "Yet our current leaders are trying to privatize SS and reduce benefits." This he later calls "The attack on the safety net". But, the private accounts do not go away. They replace the government's safety net with our own (with greater returns,etc.). He also says the workers "can no longer count on the private sector to provide them with economic security". How about workers forgetting about these nets from government or employers and just relying on themselves?

How Will MSM Report Good News On Environment?

The WSJ "What's New" blurbs had this one:

"The EPA reported overall chemical pollution released into the environment in 2003 fell more than 6% but mercury, PCB and dioxin levels rose."

How will the MSM report this. Here's how:


The self-proclaimed "Environmental President" George Bush, in charge of our nation's fragile ecology is dropping the ball. The EPA reports there is much more deadly mercury, PCB and dioxin in our fields and streams.

Blah, blah, blah.

Environmental groups are very critical. Spokesmen for 10 different environmental groups complain that Bush blah, blah, blah.

More environmental spokesmen said blah, blah, blah.

#s and scientific words.

Democrats said blah, blah, blah.

But overall chemical pollution was down 6%.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Buchanan Pushes the Buttons

Yesterday, I was going to write about Pat Buchanan's essay "Was World War II Worth It?" in Real Clear Politics because he made some excellent points. I was going to write that while I normally agree with 10-40% of what he writes, in this article he reached the 50% mark. Then I was going to mention that his review of WWII and specifically his belief that the Yalta post-war demarcations largely undid the war was on point. It was thought-provoking though Buchanan typically omitted the Holocaust and treated Hitler as an elected official of Germany. When one expects this treatment from Buchanan, one can still draw occasional insights from this highly intelligent though close-minded, (anti-semitic?) conservative.

Again, I thought much of what he said was on the mark.

These points warrant consideration:

If Britain endured six years of war and hundreds of thousands of dead in a war she declared to defend Polish freedom, and Polish freedom was lost to communism, how can we say Britain won the war?

If the West went to war to stop Hitler from dominating Eastern and Central Europe, and Eastern and Central Europe ended up under a tyranny even more odious, as Bush implies, did Western Civilization win the war?

Now I see Abe Foxman and the usual suspects are out getting publicity after Buchanan reiterated his opinion on the Imus Show. In this case, maybe a high profile article deserves public debate. But Foxman and Company are incorrect to think the reason the war was fought was to save Jewish lives. That may have been a prime factor of Hitler's conquests and, by winning the war, many of the world's Jews were saved. However, it was not why the Allies entered the war. As such, Buchanan may logically ask such questions in light of the Yalta give-away by FDR (and his assistant Alger Hiss).

Notably shrill was Ed Koch who said:

"I believe that no decent human being should ever sit down at the same table with Pat Buchanan and I am shocked that otherwise responsible, respectable citizens share platforms with him on Sunday shows."

For some reason I am more offended by Koch's comment that the whole of Buchanan's column.

NYT's Herbert Still Has No Answers

The NYT Bob Herbert writes his usual bromide bemoaning unemployment of the young today even though employment statistics (that he fails to mention) show a 5.2% unemployment rate nationally. Herbert cites, however, that:

“the employment rate for the nation's teenagers in the first 11 months of 2004 - just 36.3 percent - was the lowest it has ever been since the federal government began tracking teenage employment in 1948.”

He adds:

“Those 20 to 24 years old are also faring poorly. In 2000, 72.2 percent were employed during a typical month. By last year that percentage had dropped to 67.9 percent.”

He concludes without a suggestion to cause or resolution:

“Whatever the politicians and the business-booster types may be saying, the simple truth is that there are not nearly enough jobs available for the many millions of out-of-work or underworked men and women who need them.”

Herbert never has an answer because he never analyzes the cause that has stared us in the face for the part 70 years.

Herbert is right that “there are not nearly enough jobs available.” Certainly not for the young and unskilled. Minimum wage laws is why the young cannot get jobs.

Shawn Ritenour, writing in the Ludwig Von Mises website, explains:

... based on analysis of the effects of the increases in the national minimum wage that took place in 1990 and 1991, economists Kenneth Burkhauser, Kenneth Couch, and David Wittenburg concluded that for every 10% increase in the minimum wage, employment for teenagers and young adults in general decreased by 2.5%.[6] The decrease for teenagers themselves was 5.7%. Those hurt the most by increases in the minimum wage are young adults without a high school degree and young black adults and teenagers. Another set of economists have estimated that the total effect of that same two increases were quite pronounced among effected workers.[7] They estimated that, following the increase from $3.35 to $3.80 in April 1990, employment for teenage males and females fell 1.5% and 2.5% respectively. When the minimum wage was again increased to $4.25 in April of 1991, employment for male and female teenagers again declined, this time by 3.1% and 5.2% respectively. Although an increase in the minimum wage may not have much impact on those workers whose market wages are above the minimum, those groups with the fewest job skills are effected. Only some minimum wage workers will remain employed and receive more wages at the expense of others who will be laid off or not hired to begin with.

So those with no experience and low skills are just not desirable employees at hourly rates that exceed their value to employers. The minimum wage increases, like unionism, has had greatest harmful, effect upon black employment. Per Dr. Burton W. Folsom of the Mackinack Center:

The bias of minimum wage laws against disadvantaged minorities has been conspicuous ever since 1956, when the minimum wage shot up from 75 cents to $1.00 an hour. During the next two years, nonwhite teenage unemployment spiralled from 14 to 24 percent. The recent 1996 hike in the minimum wage to $5.15 an hour had a similar effect: unemployment among black male teenagers jumped from 37 to 41 percent almost immediately, at a time when the economy was doing well for almost everyone else. That’s why Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, once called the minimum wage "the most anti-black law on the books."

Herbert never has mastered simple economic theory and the laws of supply and demand as respects price controls. Whether we control prices against market conditions of houses, crops or labor, the result is always the same- a misallocation of of supply.

Per Thomas Sowell:

Controls that keep prices from falling to the level they would reach in response to supply and demand include not only agricultural price supports like those in India but also minimum wage laws, which are equally common in countries around the world.
Just as an artificially high price for wheat set by the government leads to a chronic surplus of wheat, so an artificially high price for labor set by the government leads to a surplus of labor -- better known as unemployment.
Since all workers are not the same, this unemployment is concentrated among the less skilled and less experienced workers. Many of them are simply priced out of a job.
In the United States, for example, the highest unemployment rates are almost invariably among black teenagers. But this was not always the case.
Although the federal minimum wage law was passed in 1938, wartime inflation during the Second World War meant that the minimum wage law had no major effect until a new round of increases in the minimum wage level began in 1950. Unemployment rates among black teenagers before then were a fraction of what they are today -- and no higher than among white teenagers.

So now that there is another minimum wage increase coming up, let's check all of these statistics over the next year or two. When the unemployment rates of teenagers and blacks rise, check the NYT for Mr. Herbert's next missive on the heartless employers and why we need to enforce more government controls of business. With politicians ready to intrude on the free market, Herbert will never run out of such editorials. I never thought of it before but maybe wages are raised specifically to keep unimaginative writers like Herbert employed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Build A Bailout And They Will Come

Do we need to read this again and again and again? Per the WSJ:

A bankruptcy judge approved a proposal from United Airlines parent UAL Corp. to transfer four underfunded employee pension plans to the federal government, paving the way for the largest pension default in U.S. corporate history.

Replace the first bolded words with whatever bank you use, replace the second set of bolded words with "its federally insured bank accounts" and replace the last bold word with the word "banking" and we have written the opening to a story we likely will read someday.

What is known as a "moral hazard" in the insurance industry has come to pass again. Instead of FSLIC bailing out profligate S&L managers like we saw in the late 80's, it is the private obligation of a business that gets picked up by you and me. And to what end does this help us in allowing UAL a competitive advantage ober its competitors by largely transferring this obligation from its books? With the government guarantee, the "negotiations" between unions and the Company are as bona fide as the ones between governors and public employee unions. They are using OPM rather than their own.

By the way, what dividends were paid to stockholders, stock options and bonuses were paid to key employees, and other expenses incurred during the period that money should have been escrowed or whatever is done to protect the pension obligations.

Do not lose sight of how this is a beautiful analogy to Social Security trust funds. If we do not privatize accounts, there will be nothing but debt to be picked up again by the taxpayers. To quote Michael Ledeen, "Faster, please."

The Sugar and Water Myths

Sugar does not make kids hyper, eating sugar actually leads to a slump in energy and there is no need to drink more than 1 glass of water a day, if even that. John Stossel explains it all. I cannot resist printing his conclusion:

The Institute of Medicine's food and nutrition board agrees with Valtin. It says drinking eight glasses of water is not necessary, because we get plenty of fluid from our food. When your body does need more fluid, it has a marvelous mechanism for telling you to drink up. It's called "thirst."

Retirees Take To the Stage

In another crime, the Stones have announced another final tour. Mick and Keith claim they are both 61 years old. It reminds one of the South Park episode where Rod Stewart performed using a walker.

Don't these guys know that rock and roll is for young people? Anyway, I hope I can get tickets.

He Paid His Debt

A man is given probation after being jailed for 2 years for attacking people with a chain saw. He was just arrested this morning. He is the likely murderer of his own daughter and her friend in some woods near her home. The girls were bludgeoned and stabbed repeatedly. The girls were both 8-year olds. The local DA was unsure whether they would seek the death penalty.

CBS television news reported the death of a teen-aged boy killed when his parent’s gun went off in his hands. The police said they will not press charges against the parents.

Which story will be publicized by the MSM and which one will be ignored? While the first story has enough gruesome details that it may be seen for a few days, the second story will be trotted out almost as much. But watch how MSM reports will skirt the out on probation angle.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

If I Work There, Can I Bring My Own Food?

The union workers at the government owned French utility Electricite de France is committing sabotage to try to stop the government’s sell-off of 30% of the company to private investors reports the WSJ. These workers have cut off power to 2 Paris train stations and the Chiraq’s palace.

Why do these workers fear privatization?

Let’s look at their benefits:

1. Lifetime employment;
2. Pensions: 75% of final year’s salary;
3. 32 hour work week;
4. 90% discount on power bills;
5. Free health care.

Pretty good? Oh, I forgot:

1. Subsidized housing, meals and vacations;
2. Early retirement for 55% of the workers.

No wonder the French economy is in the toilette. More than ¼ of the work-force is public-sector. The growth was 2.3% last year (almost 50% of the US growth). And all they do is grouse about the other European countries lowering their tax rates to lure in business and intelligent/skilled workers.

Abu Ghraib is Bad But N. Korea is the Real Deal- Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens wrote 2 articles recently for Slate that deserve mention.

His piece on Abu Ghraib reviewed the real tortures that occurred there under Saddam's regime. While what the few guards did during America's handling of prisoners was deplorable, Hitchens says that Abu Ghraib:

... became an improvised center for anyone caught in the dragnet of the "insurgency" and was filled up with suspects as well as armed supporters of Baathism and Bin Ladenism. There's no need to restate what everyone now knows about what happened as a consequence. But I am not an apologist if I point out that there are no more hangings, random or systematic. The outrages committed by Pvt. England and her delightful boyfriend were first uncovered by their superiors. And seven of Saddam's amputees—those whose mutilations were filmed and distributed as a warning—have been flown to Houston, Texas—Texas, capital of redneck barbarism!—to be fitted with new prosthetic hands.

Then about claims made about the American run of the prison by the MSM and the left:

The superficially clever thing to say today is that Lynddie England represents all of us, or at any rate all her superiors, and that the liberation of Iraq is thereby discredited. One odd effect of this smug view is to find her and her scummy friends—the actual inflicters of pain and humiliation—somehow innocent, while those senior officers who arrested them and put them on trial are somehow guilty. There is something faintly masochistic and indecent about that conclusion.

His essay on North Korea describing his impressions of North Korea during a recent visit could be called harrowing except we do not know the extent of how bad things are in that "slave state". Says Hitchens, President Bush deserves credit for speaking bluntly about the conditions there. However, the UN and the humanitarians have remained sickeningly silent. He writes:

It seems to me imperative that the human rights movement, hitherto unpardonably tongue-tied about all this, should insistently take up the case of North Korea and demand that an underground railway, or perhaps even an overground one, be established. Any Korean slave who can get out should be welcomed, fed, protected, and assisted to move to South Korea. Other countries, including our own, should announce that they will take specified numbers of refugees, in case the current steady trickle should suddenly become an inundation. The Chinese obviously cannot be expected to take millions of North Koreans all at once, which is why they engage in their otherwise criminal policy of propping up Kim Jong-il, but if international guarantees for runaway slaves could be established, this problem could be anticipated.

Kim Jong-il and his fellow slave masters are trying to dictate the pace of events by setting a timetable of nuclearization, based on a crash program wrung from their human property. But why should it be assumed that their failed state and society are permanent? Another timeline, oriented to liberation and regime change, is what the dynasty most fears. It should start to fear it more. Bravo to President Bush, anyway, for his bluntness.

I hope Kim recognizes that his time is over when the U.S. can move on from Iraq. His time may come even sooner than that. When Bush talks, actions usually follow.

LI Teacher Pay Exceeds $100,000

Bill Suda sent me this article from Newsday.com on teachers' salaries in Long Island exceeding $100,000. Overall school costs are increasing by 7.2%.

For instance,

Next year's raises are on top of an East Islip payroll that already totals $28.1 million, and includes more than 100 teachers -- out of about 400 -- making more than $100,000 apiece annually.


Teacher salaries also drive pension costs, which are climbing statewide. Next fall, school districts must make contributions to the state's pension fund equivalent to 5.63 percent of payrolls, in contrast to last fall's 2.52 percent. Districts also are supposed to set aside money in the next school year for the following year's contribution -- in effect, a double whammy.

Do not forget the ample vacation, short hours and TENURE.

And the high pay is going to elementary school teachers!

Fred Gorman, the organizer of Sachem Watch, a civic watchdog group, takes exception to the six-figure salaries paid some veteran elementary teachers."For the life of me," he said, "I can't understand why somebody teaching kindergarten, which is not a particularly sophisticated subject, is worth $106,000, when a brand-new science teacher is worth only $40,000."

It is so easy to spend OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY.

The Chosen People

The Jews are the "chosen people". Dennis Prager explains what "the chosen people" means. He says:

The Jews' mission is as it always has been -- to bring the world to ethical monotheism. Ethical monotheism means there is one God and therefore one moral standard that He has revealed, and He holds all humans accountable to it. This is the point of Jewish chosenness. God chose a people -- a particularly small undistinguished people (chosenness has never implied inherent superiority) -- to make the world aware of the God of ethical demands and moral judgment. Jews have never been required to bring the world to Judaism, but they were chosen to bring the world to God and to the values found in the Torah and the rest of the Old Testament.

Gays and Straights Are Different!!!

Oh , no! There is a biological difference between straight men and gay men? I thought there were no biologocal differences between ethnic groups, sexes or races. But here it is in the NYT! Writer Nicholas Wade should be fired. Get Larry Summers' lawyer!

Here is the lead paragraph:

Using a brain imaging technique, Swedish researchers have shown that homosexual and heterosexual men respond differently to two odors that may be involved in sexual arousal, and that the gay men respond in the same way as women.

What is next? Women's brains can't read road-maps? Men's brains can't ask for directions?

Nature's Cool. What was that noise?

Thomas Sowell zings leftists and their penchant for pursuing big causes while people who grew up poor enjoy all of the necessities provided by the American economy. He explains that the likelihood of an American to go from poor to much higher levels of income throughout their lives is an amazing, yuet likely, phenomenon worth celebrating. The leftists among us do not celebrate or even recognize this feat.

To Sowell, the leftists sometimes play at poverty taking up causes that the poor generally ignore because of more pressing issues (like eating, getting a job, avoiding crime).

He writes:

Environmentalism is another of the playgrounds of the affluent and the wealthy. "Nature" is wonderful when you can look out on it from your luxury cabin in the woods or from your upscale digs at the shore. ...

Real nature can be pretty ugly, as the pioneers discovered, and as the bleached bones of their animals or themselves on the old trails can attest. Even in more recent times, anyone who has had to get up on cold mornings, all winter long, to start a fire in the fireplace to heat the house is unlikely to regard it as a romantic experience.

It's romantic if you are doing it for a little while, by choice, knowing that it is only a matter of time before you return to your home with central heating, provided by the oil that you don't want drilled for off shore or in Alaska, or by the coal that you deplore seeing mined anywhere.

Personally, it has only been within the past few years that I have been able to enjoy starting a fire in the fireplace -- in my centrally heated home -- because it reminded me too much of when I was a kid down South and a fireplace was all we had to try to keep warm in the winter.

I suggest all read his lively autobiography. Here is the self-made man who has a clear view of the way the world works. To read how he began as a poor Harlem child to US Marine to student and professor is inspiring. He refused a position with government when he anticipated the liberal intent to Bork him in the "advise and consent" process when offered a position during Reagan's administration. (Can a qualified black candidate get a job in government if they are conservative?)

He is doing more good for all of us as the brilliant, curmudgeonly intellectual.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I'd Rather have Enron Stock Than the SS Trust Fund

Another great blog is Coyote Blog. I cannot resist quoting his latest on Social Security:

Congress has taken all the savings surpluses built up by Social Security over the past decades and it has spent them. Republicans have spent the money. Democrats have spent the money. It is gone, spent on cruise missiles and welfare moms and ethanol subsidies and PBS broadcasts and snail darter studies. No matter what verbal acrobatics people try to engage in to argue that there is a real "trust fund", the fact of the matter is that all that is in the Social Security till are IOU's that can only be redeemed by raising taxes.

The situation with Social Security is entirely equivalent to having invested your money in a mutual fund and only later finding the directors of the fund spent your money on themeselves rather than investing it in redeemable securities. The only differences are that:

1. The proprietors of that bogus mutual fund may go to jail, but Congress won't
2. Congress can raise taxes to get the money to bail themselves out of their malfeasance

Think of it this way:

1. There were more real assets of value remaining in Enron in its bankruptcy to divide up among investors and creditors than remain in the Social Security "trust fund" to divide up among program contributors.
2. There were more real assets of value remaining in the Teamsters retirement fund after years of being raped by organized crime than remain in the Social Security "trust fund"
Stop handing over our savings to such unsavory racketeers (ie. Congress).

We certainly can't do a worse job for ourselves.

Education Blog-Joanne Jacobs

Joanne Jacobs has such a great blog that the stories she posts are too numerous to do it justice. But, some of her reports are on:

1. A HS that spends gobs of money for their auditorium construction while the students are largely poor and lag behind the state average in math and English.

2. A GA. boy was suspended for talking to his Iraq-stationed mother on a cel phone during lunch-break. She gets one call per month!

3. Britain is also down with not teaching science. Their national curriculum teaches "science lite" which focuses on "lifestyles" rather than hard, boring endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria. Whatever they are.

Aussie Pies End Prison Seige

An Australian prison seige ended with the delivery of 15 pizzas. Are Australian pizzas that good? Or were they delivered from Benny Tudinos of Hoboken, home of the largest pizza slice?

Crusades a One Way Street?

I read Deb Schlussel's review of Ridley Scott's new Hollywood movie on the Crusades. She calls “Kingdom of Heaven” a white-wash. Apparently, it depicts everything Christian as evil and everything Muslim as courageous. I am no Crusades expert but I do know the history of Islam towards infidels (especially Jews) is particularly despicable. See Bat Ye'or's books on that subject. Any war of so many centuries does not seem likely to have been good showings on either side.

The great harm in a noted director like Scott portraying history inaccurately is that future generations may have only this movie as a resource. While Oliver Stone has been reduced to charicature, such movies can effectively misinform.

As Schlussel quotes Twain: "History tells us that the truth is not hard to kill, but a lie told well is immortal".

Sunday, May 08, 2005

McMansions and Busy-bodies

One of the world's greatest tyrants is the busy-body. Individually or in groups they are relatively harmless should they limit themselves to grousing over the Times at Starbucks. But when they assume power through membership of government or quasi-governmental agencies, their busy-bodiness is no longer amusing or tolerable. They use their power through government to coerce anyone in their way that offends their heightened sensitivities.

One such area that they have asserted their tyranny is over property rights.

In an article in the New Jersey section of the NYT by George James, we see how busy-bodies have asserted control in home sizes. “McMansions…” throughout NJ (and the rest of the country) irk busy-bodies. For some reason, they believe people should live in small homes built 50 or more years ago instead of homes people desire to live in.

Here are some scary quotes from busy-bodies:

"What people may be objecting to is the fact these homes are so out of sync with the traditional style and character of their towns," said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, an environmental group. "I think people recognize that a sense of place is very important and that at some level the negative reaction to these teardowns and out-of-scale houses is a reaction to that sense of place being destroyed."

Weren’t the homes built 50 years ago “out of sync with the traditional style” of those built centuries ago? Where are today’s outhouses?

In 2002, a report sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, "Taming the Teardown Trend," said that demolitions were approaching "epidemic proportions" in historic neighborhoods, and that 100 communities in 20 states had experienced significant numbers of teardowns.

An “epidemic” of large expensive homes? Oh, that Zimbabwe or Nigeria should be so lucky to have such “epidemics”.

Former Gov. James E. McGreevey came up with a plan to inhibit the growth of oversize houses when he reached for the word McMansions in his 2003 State of the State address and attacked them as contributing to "mindless sprawl."

Should we say Former Gov. McGreevey who was forced to leave office in scandals of monumental corruption? This genius sought to limit through taxation (the busy-bodies favorite way to assert their personal tastes) of $1 million homes. In NJ that is a $400,000 everywhere else.

"The houses make it a hazard for the children...and aesthetically, they're an eyesore.” Says Livio Mancino, a former mayor of Kenilworth upset with the proliferation of oversize houses

Mancino has watched many shows on HG-TV and knows eye-sores when he sees them.

Rising home prices are no friend of first-time buyers. Jeffrey Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, contended that the boom in teardowns and oversize houses was keeping buyers out of the market and middle-class families out of some towns that were once within their financial reach. "It squeezes the middle class and even the upper middle class," Mr. Tittel said. "A family of four making $150,000 a year can't afford a million-and-a-half-dollar home."

Maybe that family making $150,000 could afford a home if they were able to keep another 5-10% of their income from the tax man. The Sierra Club is so caring for home-buyers that they regulate every puddle as wetlands to stop developers from building. Great humanitarians.

But then we do hear from an economist representing the home builders. According to Michael Carliner, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders, the average lot size has gone down in square footage from 17,600 in 1987 to 15,788 in 2003.

"I think it's a change in culture and fashion," Mr. Carliner said. "People are willing to accept a small lot for more house."

And the free market allows people to follow their desires. Says Mrs. Harkins of the NJ Builder Association, such zoning restrictions "could drive away home buyers and builders wanting to do business in these towns.

"They would look elsewhere," she said. "They probably would not invest significantly in those municipalities."

Dr. Lang of Virginia Tech carried that thought further. "If you have houses built in the 1970's when 2,000 square feet was a lot of room and you set that against the modern standard which is 3,000 feet and larger, and then you frustrate the market's development, you may not be that upscale a town forever," Dr. Lang said. "You're also pushing people into new construction somewhere else rather than infill housing."

However, this busy-body has an opinion.

For his part, Ron Emrich, executive director of Preservation New Jersey, dismissed such reasoning and said people needed a sense of place that oversize houses could not give.

So this "place" that people need to "sense" cannot be experienced in large homes?

But, of all people, a town lawyer placed the issue in perfect perspective:

"A McMansion means different things to different people," Mr. Zenn said. "My definition of a McMansion is not your definition. You may say the ugly house with all kinds of turrets is a McMansion. I can say it's just in bad taste."

House size is a matter of choice. People decide how big a home they can afford and want to live in. Different taste is no reason that one group should deny others what they wish. If traditional homes with 2 bedrooms 10’ by 11’ and the master bedroom at 12’ by 14’ are what you want, buy it and enjoy. But, I call forcing your tastes on another tyranny.

Happy Mother's Day

As today is Mother’s Day, there is nothing I can (or will) write to criticize them. They brought us into the world through the pain of child-birth and the horrors that over-eating during pregnancy wrought. In their small families, they preside as CEO and chief decision-maker on aesthetic, economic and metaphysic issues with fairness and insight. They are experts on how we should live and, for their sacrifice and knowledge, they are the ones truly qualified to be busy-bodies over our lives. And one or two decades of therapy is a small price to pay for their indulgence.

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