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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Smokers Subsidize Non-Smokers

The Taxpayers League of Minnesota shows that smokers pay over $1 more than their costs to society in taxes on each pack of cigarettes they purchase. The AMA claims smoking's societal costs amount to between 27-43 cents a pack in 2005 dollars. Adding up taxes charged for the tobacco settlements with the feds and states plus sales taxes, they are subsidizing non-smokers over $1 per pack. Considering that people with lower-income in America are a high percentage of smokers, this is a very regressive tax.

No doubt the busy-bodies have their sights on the flabby bellies next. Then they'll chase down the dummies. Except by then, the busy-bodies will be suing and taxing themselves.

NYT Says "No" To Publicly Financing New Jets Stadium- Free Market? Guess Again

The NYT's sports columnist Dave Anderson in a top of the fold editorial in the most (only?) read section of the paper, the Saturday Sports section, comes out strongly against the development of the Jets West Side stadium. Unexpectedly voicing free market principles, Anderson says:

"If Woody Johnson, the Jets' invisible owner, wanted to build a stadium entirely with his own millions, that's his privilege. But to use $600 million of taxpayers' money for somebody's stadium is wrong...".

But, free marketers should be warned that this is no change of economic principle by the NYT. Do not take out a NYT subscription right away. Anderson is not against the public development deal because every private business project should be privately financed. Anderson does not say that if a deal will sustain itself through profit, free market financing will be found. Anderson does not say that government has no business involved in financing or regulating development of private property.

No, Anderson's reason is the public funding of the Jets' stadium diverts public money from other pet projects he prefers more. He says this is "a time when the city has a moral obligation to raise the salaries of its teachers, police officers and firefighters as well as to revitalize Lower Manhattan."

Moral obligations in his mind may be quite different from my idea of what is a moral obligation. The way he fulfills his moral obligations is by forcing everyone to pay for them regardless of how everyone feels about it. No, he is not for a free market. He merely has a disagreement where the allocation of scarce resources should go. The NYT and Dave Anderson know what our moral obligations are and they want to dictate its terms.

Anderson concludes by advising politicians to "do the right thing by the taxpayers and the fans." I agree. I just do not think Anderson really believes in his own words.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The MSM "Feel Good" Story of Israeli Discrimination

The USA Today covered a "Jackie Robinson" situation in World Cup soccer. The Israeli team, currently tied with France for the lead in Europe's Group 4, has 2 Arab Israeli stars, Abba Suan and Walid Badir.

While it was a nice story, the angle that these 2 Arab players face threats and pressures akin to a Jackie Robinson is ludicrous. As the report stated "there have been Arab players on the Israeli national soccer team since the mid-1970s." Writer Michele Chabin has her required discrimination angle firmly set and quotes other Arab-Israelis:

"There is systematic and continuous discrimination against the Palestinian minority in the realm of education, land allocation, infrastructure and budgets," asserts Ali Haider, the Arab co-executive director of Sikkuy, an Arab-Jewish organization that works for civic equality.
Jewish teams attract more corporate sponsorship and municipal funding than Arab teams.

Until now, Bnei Sakhnin has been unable to host games because it lacks a stadium or even a decent patch of grass on which to practice. The soccer field in relatively upscale Kfar Bara borders a grove of olive trees and the village's garbage dump. It has more dirt than grass, and razor-sharp thistles grow on its edges in the searing midday sun.

To give this tale of an oppressed minority the obligatory historical perspective writer Michele Chabin wrote:

Israel's Arab citizens descended from the small remnant of Palestinians who did not flee Israel during the 1948 and 1967 Middle East wars. Their status in a Jewish state has resulted in widespread social gaps between them and their Jewish neighbors.

My question for Ms. Chabin is what does she mean by "flee"? The local Arabs were advised to leave by their Egyptian and Saudi Arabian Arab brothers who expected they'd easily defeat the Jews and then the Arabs could move back to a Judenrein country. Some Arabs did not accept the propaganda and decided to stay and face the potential anti-Arab backlash that never occurred. I think using the term "flee" is very questionable.

Another question for Ms. Chabin is, how many Jews have ever played on any of the Arab country soccer teams. In the case of the Jews who inhabited Arab countries and moved to Israel in 1948, the term "flee" is appropriate.

Buchanan Stands Up Alone For Nixon

Given the lionizing of “Deep Throat” by the MSM, Pat Buchanan is doing his best to defend his former boss. There is something refreshing about his loyalty and there are fewer Nixon defenders still around who were alive in an adult capacity in 1973. Such allows myths to become accepted fact.

Buchanan defends Nixon’s pursuit of Communists such as the successful conviction of Soviet spy Alger Hiss. It was Nixon’s success in that prosecution and his winning elections against liberal icons that got the Democrats riled to the level of personal hatred (sound familiar?). The final straw was Watergate described by Scrappleface :

The dramatic stories of Republican burglars, who helped Mr. Nixon narrowly defeat Democrat George McGovern in a landslide, rocked the nation and established journalists as the chief defenders of American democracy.

Buchanan sees the MSM as hypocrites by destroying Nixon while ignoring the same or worse "crimes" committed by or on behalf of their own darlings. He writes:

Not one miscreancy committed by Nixon's men did not have its antecedent in the White Houses of JFK or LBJ. But they got away with it, including the distribution to the press of dirt on Dr. King, picked up by secret FBI photo and wiretap. What Segretti dirty trick remotely approaches that one, which the liberal press covered up?

Buchanan reduces the Nixon involvement in Watergate and other "dirty tricks" as:

And by his failure to act decisively and ruthlessly to clean his campaign and White House of loyalists who had blundered and, yes, committed crimes, he became ensnared in a cover-up that would destroy his presidency. He gave them a sword, and they ran it right through him. And when he went down, Southeast Asia and everything 58,000 Americans had bled and died for went down with him.

While I may not agree with the leniency he shows Nixon on Watergate, I agree with Buchanan's last point regarding the cowardly, dishonorable cut-and-run from a war initiated and escalated by the Democrats. Back when I was Democrat I always had trouble talking my way out of that fiasco. The MSM today favors a similar end to the Iraq War. Given that fecklessness, I support much of Buchanan's one-man response. And see something heroic in it.

Sweden Ain't Sweatin

The true unemployment rate in Sweden is 20%, not the 5% claimed by unions and government per a new study released by Jan Edling. Reports Sweden's English newspaper The Local:

Sweden's trade union organisation, LO, has been accused of trying to suppress a report that claimed that the real number of unemployed people in Sweden could be much higher than the five percent shown in official figures. .. Edling, resigned from LO last week claiming that the organisation was trying to block his report, which he had spent five years writing. He accused LO's leadership of being motivated by a desire to protect the Social Democratic Party from embarrassment.

From Swedish Blog State of the Nation , Edling reports:

- 11% of the Swedish population between 18 and 64 are retired for medical reasons. This despite the fact that Sweden has one of the longest life expectancies in the world.

- You are much more likely to be retired for medical reasons if the city in which you live has a high unemployment rate.

- 1,000,000 Swedes between the ages of 20 and 64 (20% of the population) are either unemployed or on sick leave (including premature retirement for medical reasons (IPRFMR).

Why work when you are incentivized to sit? Opines State of the Nation:

The Swedish model is a recipe for society. The base is a market economy, but it is amended with a high level of social security. The purpose is to ensure that no one should take a significant financial hit if they become ill, unemployed or choose to forego education. No matter what your circumstances are, the government will ensure you can lead a decent life with a high level of financial security. To many people, the Swedish (or Scandinavian) model is truly a model to follow, and it is constantly used as an example of an alternative to deregulated market economy.

Let's all say, no thanks.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Food's Bad, The Menu's Limited, The Hours Are Inconvenient But The Servers Are Cordial

When liberals talk about monopolies and how harmful they are, they only mean private businesses. We hear the stories of the Rockefellers or Bill Gates who destroyed competitors mercilessly. However, the most imposing, cut-throat monopoly today is the public school system. And like any entity facing no competition, the product can be of any quality (or none at all) and the consumers can either accept it or not. The hitch is that this monopoly's best friend (the government) forces consumers to either use the product or pay for it and then they can use another product. What chutzpah!

At least the public school monopoly must raise its standards with No Child Left Behind. And do you hear the caterwauling cries from the teachers' unions? They do not even want consumers to know how bad their product is. And how is the product? Actually, with increased demands by the consumer it is improving somewhat.

Jay Green and Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute write in the USA Today:

Less than half of public high school graduates in the class of 2002 met the course requirements and were eligible to enroll in a four-year college. Given that the graduation rate was only 71%, this means a mere 34% of all students who entered 9th grade ended up graduating college-ready.

Even so, these low numbers actually reflect progress. While the high school graduation rate has hardly budged — it was 72% in 1991 — the percentage of students who leave high school college-ready has increased by about 9 percentage points since 1991. Thus, schools are graduating about the same percentage of students, but those who graduate are more likely to have taken the courses required to go on to college.

So, there has been improvement. In NYC there is now choice in charter schools. Parents, I mean consumers, can actually be eligible to utilize the services of some competitors of the monopoly.

However, the Empire Strikes Back! Per Ryan Sager in TCS:

Faced with the success of the state's charter school movement -- where non-unionized, lightly regulated schools have been running circles around traditional public schools in poor neighborhoods -- the local teachers union has been looking to find ways to justify its incompetence-protecting contract. Their bright idea? Apply to start a charter school themselves.

However, the UFT charter schools do not stay open as long as the true charter schools, the employees are all union unlike the true charter schools and, writes Sager, while "successful charter schools have pursued a back-to-basics approach to the curriculum, making use of traditional, as opposed to 'progressive,' instructional methods... the UFT decided to use relatively 'progressive' math and reading curricula. "

Why do people who recognize the dangers inherent in monopolies look the other way when the damage done by the public school monopoly is not an inferior product that one paid for but is permanent damage to children? The public tends to equate this monopoly with the wonderful employees they regularly see. Without question many of the teachers are exceptional and motivated. However, I rarely go back to a restaurant with bad food because the waiters were nice. I'd never step into Home Depot again if my purchases constantly broke apart after use. After 40 years of incompetence, this is one monopoly that has to be forced to compete.

Discrimination Costs

I found this in a paper PREJUDICE IS FREE, BUT DISCRIMINATION HAS COSTS by Steven Farron in the Ludwig Von Mises website:

Jews constituted 16.5 percent of all German doctors and 52.1 percent of those in Berlin at the beginning of 1933, when Jews comprised less than 0.75 percent of the national population.

And Jews support Affirmative Action and quotas because why exactly?

NJ's Shot At Freedom- Bret Schundler

Marvin Olasky provides Bret Schundler some needed publicity in Townhall.com today. Schundler's excellent results as mayor of Jersey City, one of the largest cities in NJ, in the 90's is a testament to not only small government, free market ideas in action but also to the fact that a conservative Republican can gain votes from minorities in my adopted home state of NJ.

The youngest of nine children, Schundler graduated from Harvard in 1981, helping to pay his way by washing dishes and cleaning bathrooms. He worked for a liberal congressman and on Gary Hart's campaign in 1984, and those experiences helped him to see that, in general, "Democrats care more about the constituencies making money from social programs than about the people supposedly being helped." He saw government programs typically hurting rather than helping: "The government was making people homeless."

Schundler's proposals of governance is simple: Binding annual caps on state, county, municipal and school spending, with those caps to be exceeded only if voters approve. This would result in lower property taxes.

I have recently spoken with Schundler and he is well-read on libertarian solutions to economic problems. Given NJ's liberal majority, despite everyone hemorrhaging cash to property, state and sales taxes, my neighbors may follow their ideology rather than logic. But Schundler has beat the political odds before and may do it again.

Anti-snob Vote Not Anti-EU Tome Vote

Max Boot does a nice job in the LAT of analyzing the French vote of "No" defeating the ratification of the EU Constitution. Boot says there is no logical explanation of the vote other than comparing it with the guy in "Network" who screamed "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Boot says the Brits against the EU Constitution say it's too socialist and the French say it's too capitalist. (I'll add that the Spanish say it's too long to actually read and the Eastern Europeans are so busy working and making money after being shackled for 60 years that they could care less). Boot says the general anger at low growth, high unemployment, fear of losing the welfare benefits they now expect and the overall sense of the haughtiness of the EU leaders has developed an anti-Chiraq attitude that this vote was really about.

Says Boot:

The lives of ordinary French people are not dominated by dreams of lost glory; they simply want a decent job and public services that work. It was telling that only professionals and senior executives — i.e., France's top occupational rung — voted for the constitution last week. Everyone else opted for "non."

The only way to dispel the current climate of gloom on the continent is to get economies moving again. Margaret Thatcher showed how it can be done: Reduce the size of the state and break the power of the labor unions. But neither Chirac nor his hapless counterpart in Berlin, Gerhard Schroeder, has the guts to do that. Instead, like most European leaders in recent decades, they have thrown their energies into EU integration in the vain hope that this would deliver a shot of Viagra to a moribund continent.

That the Schroeders and the Chiraqs hold no solutions or, more likely, recognize the necessary changes that must be made but, like all of the remaining lefties, they hope that their socialist charter has a 9th inning rally in them. Some Europeans are "getting" it. Says Boot:

The good news is that in the wings in France and Germany are conservative leaders Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, respectively, who just might have the gumption to cure their countries' real woes rather than continuing to administer an anti-American analgesic.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Amnesty Ignoramuses

You can blow off the recent comparison by Amnesty International of our Guantanamo prison with Soviet gulags as just another left-wing smear of America. But that organization, as bastardized as so many originally above-board agencies that are now demeaned by its modern day ideologues, carries some weight in the world of public opinion (mostly due to name recognition). And our MSM repeats without critical analysis those charges.

Dennis Byrne wrote some compelling thoughts on the subject on Memorial Day. He wrote:

By labeling the U.S. anti-terrorism prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the "gulag of our times," the people of Amnesty International must think we're stupid or ignorant.Stupid or ignorant enough to fall for the assertion that whatever is happening at Guantanamo is the legal and moral equivalent of what happened in the hundreds of slave labor and concentration camps scattered throughout the former communist Soviet Union. Equivalent to a system that brutalized tens of millions, of which untold millions died of starvation, exposure, exhaustion, torture, illness or execution.

Either Amnesty International isn't aware of this history, or it knows of it but is lying for the sake of a good sound bite. In either case, the group has lost credibility to speak on behalf of the victims of human-rights violations. Moreover, Amnesty International has dishonored millions of gulag victims.

Byrne concludes with:

On this Memorial Day, it might be worth a moment to remember that Guantanamo Bay is run by Americans who do not deserve to be lumped together with a mass slaughter of historic proportions. Certainly, we must be vigilant to prevent any human-rights violations committed by all nations, including ours. But, we need not tolerate this slander against the men and women of the American military and the citizens who support them.

Here! Here!

Krugman Gets Skewered

Donald Luskin is having a wonderful laugh at the war of words between Paul Krugman and former NYT ombudsman Daniel Okrent. The gloves are finally off for Okrent, who gave Krugman the benefit of the doubt while serving as the reader's representative for over a year or so (I am guessing). Okrent is now giving the pompous economist a beating on the NYT Blog.

Luskin has been dogged in his publicizing both Krugman's lies and Okrent's avoidance of reporting same. Now, like Patton pissing in the Seine, Luskin is enjoying a well-deserved "cat fight". Don, this is your day.

Public v Private Conduct; Acceptable Speech

What is acceptable speech when we apply the 1st Amendment in this time of terror. What is proper speech that we see harms the public.

Robert Bork in a letter to the editor in Commentary disputes the constitutional rationale of Holmes and Brandies in Brandenberg’s “clear and present danger” test. Bork feels that earlier decisions like Gitlow v New York decided that courts are not where each utterance deserves an ad hoc hearing on content. He cites Chaplinsky v New Hampshire that upheld a conviction for offensive words likely to cause a breach of the peace. Bork quotes Chaplinsky:

“The unanimous Chaplinsky opinion gave the rationale for regulating speech by way of such categories: ‘[Some} utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth, that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and moralism’.

Bork then opines:

“Advocacy of terrorism surely fits that description; what social value is served by the fatwas of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman?”

As Allen Gorin expresses, we have these dilemmas when we try to squeeze our libertarian instincts into the most dangerous period of our existence. While the absolutists would rather go down upholding some free speech principle, I’d rather live another day to discuss it further.

Bill Suda poses the following question:

What is "a moral public culture" and how is it attained particularly given the notion of limited government and the ethos of free enterprise? Or is that where a strong military really kicks in on the domestic front?

Allen Gorin responds:


That's a good question, and I would have been somewhat disappointed if you hadn't pressed me for a clarification.

I think there is a profound difference between acceptable public and private behavior, when viewed from a moral perspective. Examples:

1) Swearing in public is almost never appropriate, especially when done by a role model, whereas a privately uttered four-letter word, especially among friends, can have a catharctic effect and animate the conversation without corrupting publicly accepted standards. What is accepted publicly tends to become the new norm--Daniel Patrick Moynihan's quip about defining deviancy down coming to mind;

2) Graphic sexual displays thrust onto the public--billboards, primetime TV, and the like-- are also, in my opinion, contrary to the best interests of the culture. Again, they define sexual standards down, cheapen sex, facilitate men viewing women simply as sex objects, and send terribly confusing messages to kids (while we're promoting abstinence education in schools). On the other hand, channeling the sex drive through private venues--especially within marriage--is often a healthy behavior, and at the very least, certainly one much less harmful to the public culture;

3) Hyphenated Americanism--aka multiculturalism--is a wonderful thing in the private sphere, but a terrible development in the public culture. It's great for folks to privately celebrate their own respective cultures, but not at the expense of abandoning the overarching, "melting-pot" American culture. The "salad bowl" metaphor for America's public culture is, at bottom, highly immoral, in that it tears at the glue holding Americans together and will eventually lead to the destruction of our country.

Bill, while some of these issues--the pubic culture vs. private behavior being the unifying theme--may require government involvement from time to time, quite often they can and should be addressed through society's expression of displeasure (stigma). I fully acknowledge that these issues create a tension between my conservative and libertarian instincts, and concede that good people can disagree as to where lines should be drawn.

Hope this helps,


Dogs See Through Bullies And Vice Versa

We have just adopted a 5-month old medium-sized mutt that we named “Lady”. While she is quite docile, though excited to meet new people, children are very attracted to her. Except for 2 children.

My wife asked me why these particular children are so afraid of Lady. The 2 children (one boy and one girl) who are afraid of “Lady” are bullies. Both of these children (ages 5 and 7 respectively) have never shown us much fear before.

I explained that it should be no surprise. Bullies are the biggest cowards. They prey on those people they can easily control. When they see that a person will not shrink in fear from them, they usually avoid them. When they see that a target is not likely to react in kind to their physical or emotional threats, bullies are empowered to show their bravado or outright sadism.

Bullies know they cannot “snow” a dog. Bullies fear the bite-back if they hit the dog. No amount of words will offend a dog. I think of Saddam in his hole in the ground when he was discovered by the American soldiers. The second coming of Saladin showed the world the face of cowardice.

Now That Tag Is Outlawed- Next On The Hit List Is "Go Fish"

I am big proponent of sports as a means of teaching valuable lessons and to motivate people to exceed their expectations. Todays education barons instead want children to avoid the experience of losing so scores are not kept in ballgames, everyone wins an award in science fairs merely for entering (and what about the feelings of those who suffer EDS or effort deficit syndrome), purple pens grade papers rather than the "harsh" red pen and, get this, the game of tag is outlawed in a California elementary school. As my 4-year old says, "For real".

Co-author of "One Nation Under Therapy", Christina Hoff Sommers writes in the USA Today:

Too many educators, parents and camp counselors today are obsessed with boosting the self-esteem of the children in their care. These adults not only refrain from criticizing their young charges when they perform badly, they also take pains to praise them even when they've done nothing to deserve it.

But two decades of research have failed to show a significant connection between high self-esteem and achievement, kindness, or good personal relationships. Unmerited self-esteem, on the other hand, is known to be associated with antisocial behavior — even criminality. Nevertheless, most of our national institutions and organizations that deal with children remain fixated on self-esteem.

My theory is that educators, being the most anti-capitalist, envy-ridden group in America, have very low self-esteem. Because they recognize this trait, they assume it is a trait in everyone. Why do they have this low self-esteem and hatred of capitalists? Because they see themselves as failures. Education majors, linguists and others who major in many of the other humanities need to feel they have accomplished more than the business, hard science and math majors have. However, the free market rightly rewards the producers. Educators' lower status economically makes them feel bad about themselves. Thus, self-esteem for all must be raised. And the reality of winners and losers so beautifully scored by capitalism is something they abhor. No wonder they tend towards socialism.

Sommers refers to a study in the Scientific American entitled "Exploding the Self-esteem Myth". The authors, Roy F. Baumeister, Jennifer D. Campbell, Joachim I. Krueger and Kathleen D. Vohs, write: "We have found little to indicate that indiscriminately promoting self-esteem in today's children or adults, just for being themselves, offers society any compensatory benefits beyond the seductive pleasure it brings to those engaged in the exercise."

Let's keep scores in ballgames. How else would we know whether Steve Nash should fire up a three or feed Amare Stoudemire for a jam to win tonight! (Some of you out there know what I mean).

Democrats Say Something Nice About White Men!

Great quote from Terry Golway in "Democrats Buying Electoral Snake Oil" on the Democrats:

At some point during last year’s Presidential campaign, several donkey watchers wondered aloud how the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy became the party of Michael Moore.

This, of course, was at the height of the hype over Mr. Moore’s film, Fahrenheit 9/11, and not long after he praised the Iraqi insurgency by comparing it favorably with the Minutemen of some local renown. While some were outraged, I found it heartening that the Minutemen at least merited a positive mention among the denizens of the Moore wing of the Democratic Party. There was reason to expect otherwise, what with the Minutemen being white, rural, male gun owners.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Memorial Day:Remembering that the Fight for America Occurs Beyond the Battlefield

Until recently, Memorial Day has been an excruciatingly painful day: reminding me more of my weaknesses than my strengths, my debts more than my credits, my regrets more than my hopes. All these conflicting thoughts and emotions would surface at a ceremony my family and I annually attended every May 30th, when veterans were honored at Pierce Cemetery in Westlake Village, CA.

As retired soldiers would be acknowledged for their service to America—especially the WWII vets, frail in body but still stout in spirit—I would endlessly fight back tears. Clearly, something in the Memorial Day experience was tearing me up inside, without my fully understanding why.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Because in order for you to understand my emotional reaction at those Memorial Day ceremonies, you need to know what prompted me to go there in the first place.

Prior to my having moved to Idaho in 1998, I lived in California for sixteen years. One of the great joys of living there was my listening to radio talk show host Dennis Prager, and benefiting from his great insights on life. Dennis would have a special program on Memorial Day, where he would discuss the original purpose of this holiday and how it dovetailed with his view of America’s unique role in the world. He encouraged his listeners to do more than just barbecue and nap the day away. Eventually, I decided to take his advice, without realizing the emotional can of worms I was opening inside my soul.

As I sat through each annual Memorial Day service—with baseball cap and sunglasses shielding my tear-soaked face—I would endless beat myself up. Why didn’t I serve my country? Why was I glad during college to be “saved” by that deferment, and then by a high enough lottery number? Who was drafted in my place? Why hadn’t I, at least, enlisted in the Reserves? What have I ever done as a sacrifice to the betterment of my country?

After one particular episode in self-flagellation, I came back to my house and turned on Prager’s radio program. He was asking listeners to share their Memorial Day experiences. I decided to call in and share mine.

As I recounted for Dennis my emotional reaction to the Memorial Day service, I summed it up by saying that I felt like a freeloader. I had partaken of the blessings of life in America, but had contributed little.

Dennis listened quite compassionately, and then shared with me the following story: He recalled a conversation with his father, not unlike the one he was now having with me. His dad, in reminiscing about his own WWII exploits, made Dennis envious. “I’ll never have the chance to fight for my country the way you did, Dad!,” Dennis responded. “Yes you will,” his father replied, “but it won’t necessarily be with a rifle and bullets. Maybe it’ll be with your intellect, your pen, or your mouth. There are many ways to fight for America, and you’ll just have to wait patiently until the right opportunity presents itself.”

Prager went on to say that when he became a talk radio host, he instinctively knew that that was his opportunity to fight for America. Likewise, there would come a time when Allen would have his opportunity.

Dennis Prager was right. Shortly after that last Memorial Day in California, I moved to Idaho and found myself drawn to public policy battles. Without having displayed much previous interest in politics, I began writing letters to the editor, op-eds, speaking at rallies, organizing groups, and generally taking high profile positions on controversial issues that most folks wouldn’t touch with a ten foot kosher salami.

In essence, without intending to, I became a culture warrior—a member of the Jewish conservative brigade. I count men like Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, David Horowitz, and Rabbi Daniel Lapin as my comrades, willing to fight tenaciously for the continuation of the American experiment in limited government, free enterprise, a moral public culture, and a strong military.

Yesterday, I attended the first Memorial Day service at the newly constructed Idaho Veterans Cemetery. This time there were no tears on my part, no knots in my stomach, no “freeloader” feelings. While I have no delusions that my contributions rival those of veterans who have lost life or limb, I know that I will have a good answer for my grandkids (yet to be born) if they ask me the following question: “Grandpa, when America was engaged in her second civil war—the culture war—were you part of that fight?”

Allen Gorin

We Can Learn From Europe-And Not Just What Not To Do

In Cato, David Salisbury reports on how school choice is actually succeeding in other countries. He writes:

In the Netherlands, nearly 76 percent of school-age children attend private schools with state money going to the chosen school. Sweden and Denmark also have liberal school choice policies with school funding following children whose parents choose private schools. In all three countries, student performance is higher than in the United States, where 15-year-olds scored twenty-first on mathematics literacy and twelfth in science, according to international performance audits.

The availability of public money to fund private schools at the parent's choice has led to public schools improving greatly in order to keep children from leaving. Much of this is seen in Sweden, Chile, Hungary and even in Canada.

He says:

Scholars who have studied the various types of educational systems in Europe conclude that students seem to perform better in countries where more schools are privately managed and where a larger share of the enrollment is in such schools.

Our Think Tank discussed the issue of looking outside of the US for guidance on matters. Wasn't SCOTUS criticized for mentioning other country jurisprudence in decisions recently?

There is a big difference between our SCOTUS going outside of the Constitution for its guidance and legislatures doing the same. The latter should be assessing real world solutions. The former must decide if the legislative acts fit our constitutional framework. The SCOTUS is no legislative body.

Allen Gorin found that considering experiences in other countries can be helpful:

I have no problem looking at what's going on in other countries, as long as we do so from the vantage point of that body of wisdom/ principles known as the Judeo-Christian/ capitalist tradition. One of the cornerstones of that tradition is that competition tends to promote excellence while lowering costs for consumers. The fact that some European countries (as well as others around the world), in specific instances, are applying some principles (e.g. competition) better than we are in the field of education should be a reminder of how far we've fallen away from our roots and a tried and true model for successfully educating our kids.

French Need Not Share Their Brie With The Poles

The French voted down the EU Constitution. While it may appear they did so because they grasped the over-reach of the government bureaucrats in their attempt to micro-manage every detail of the lives of every European, the "NON" vote had more to do with their xenophobia, socialist proclivities and overall arrogance than with an appreciation of the ideals of liberty and freedom. These people truly want none of that.

David Ignatius of the WaPo (as linked by Hit and Run) said:

"Whatever their class, age or political orientation," says Ignatius, "French people want to conserve what they've got. They want to maintain inflexible management and labor unions, six-week vacations, a 35-hour workweek -- and also to be a growing, dynamic, entrepreneurial economy. Chirac never had the guts to tell the French they couldn't have it both ways. He never explained that rigid labor rules had led to a high unemployment rate, currently 10.2 percent."

Without the fierce French fighting machine forming part of the EU military force, Boca Raton and Delray Beach can breath a sigh of relief. They need not worry about the EU armies mounting an invasion.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Upsetting The Balance of History

I am a big fan of those sci-fi movies where characters go back in time. Usually the idea is to go to the past and undo some error or kill someone evil to avoid a catastrophe of some kind. The main character will either kill Hitler to avoid Nazism, advise the Czar about the coming revolution to avoid Communism or break up the Bee Gees to avoid disco.

A small change appears insignificant but it can alter the chain of future events. Does the benefit outweigh the detriment that often results from the change? Or should we always fear upsetting the balance of history.

This relates to the economic law of unintended consequences. It is a law busy-bodies ignore all the time. Busy-bodies use government's coercive powers to tinker with the free market expecting marvelous results for the every man. Employees would have happier, more secure jobs. Industries would be able to employ more Americans. The rich can pay just a little bit more for luxuries and extra government revenues can assist the poor.

However, each of these changes to employment laws, trade relations and tax laws are impediments to the free market. They intrude on the voluntary decisions of consumers or coerce people to do that which they would prefer not doing. And the unintended consequences of their actions are often much worse than the problem or crisis being corrected.

While busy-bodies deserve to be ridiculed for their foolish decisions when the bad results are finally discovered, the irony is these know-it-alls usually double their efforts and then make things worse. Rather than cutting their losses, they say “we need more money to solve the problem” or use the MSM to confuse the public of the cause and effect of decisions.

In an insightful essay “In Defense of Employment-At-Will” by Arthur Foulkes, we learn that denying employers the right to fire employees “at will” has led to:

1. Increasing the cost of hiring resulting in “less hiring and therefore less overall employment.”
2. Employers chose temp" employees over full-time employees. The “’temp’ industry grew 5 times faster than other non-farm industries between 1979 and 1995.
3. The labor market became less flexible hurting job creation, economic growth and lowering wages.

I recall how Teddy Kennedy sought to stick it to the rich class by increasing “luxury taxes” on yachts and such. This obvious pandering to class envy probably bought him more votes in Massachusetts. However, the Cape Cod boatyards had to then lay-off workers because the rich were buying their fun boats outside of Massachusetts. After hearing the screams from his constituents who were losing business and jobs, the “Fat One That Lived” repealed the tax.

Today, we see the sugar tariff proponents looking to save jobs in Florida and Louisiana where the sugar beets are farmed. If CAFTA is not passed, all of us will continue to pay double what sugar from Central America would cost, This looks like small change when spread out among all consumers. However, let's remember how back in 1990 the Brachs Candy employees lost their jobs in Chicago. In “Does International Trade Kill American Jobs?” Douglas Irwin writes in The American Enterprise Magazine:

In 1990, Brachs Candy Company announced that due to the high domestic price of sugar it would close a factory in Chicago that employed 3,000 workers and expand production instead in Canada—which does not artificially inflate the price of sugar to protect its sugar producers. In 1988, the Department of Commerce estimated that the high price of domestic sugar due to U.S. protectionism cost almost 9,000 jobs in food manufacturing because of increased imports of cheaper sugar-containing products, and 3,000 jobs in the sugar-refining industry because of lower demand for sugar. At the time of this study, U.S. sugar-producing farms employed about 35,000 workers—but the sugar-processing and sugar-using sectors employed about 708,000 workers! A great many workers in the sugar-using industries were put at risk, in other words, to save the jobs of the few workers in the sugar-producing industry.

We do not need to go to sci-fi films to learn the economic lessons of unintended consequences anymore. Another ambitious German may have taken Hitler’s place to bring on Communism. The Czar may not have heeded additional warnings of the rebellion in his country. And, most important, something much more horrible could have hit the music world besides disco. Could we have handled rap’s onset 10 years earlier? Let’s not even consider that unintended consequence.

Christians Against Anti-Semitism

Contributor Allen Gorin is the organizer of Idahoans United for Israel, a diverse public policy group in the Gem state consisting of agnostics, Mormons, Evangelicals, liberal Jews, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, conservatives, libertarians, Democrats, Republicans.

He provides us this email from Germany that has been distributed world-wide among Christians.

Islamic Anti-Semitism

For some time I have been concerned about survey results that record a definite anti-Semitic tone in the European Union and also in Germany - mostly under the title of anti-Israelism. There is a limit to the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press in Germany when they incite hatred against a part of the population, attack the human worth of others or approve, deny or play down the Nazi holocaust. Anti-Semitic propaganda is unfortunately back on the agenda. In Turkey where, according to the official line, there has never been anti-Semitism and never will be, anti-Semitism is in fact a well known phenomenon. The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 had a direct effect on the consolidation of anti-Semitism in the Islamic world as a whole.

The film "Wider das Vergessen" (literally: Against Forgetting), Johannes Facius presents in an impressive way the close relationship between the anti-Semitism of the Nazi era and the anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism of today. We would like to suggest after prayerful consideration how this film can be used to reach those with influence in our society: public performances, private showings (in churches, home-groups, clubs, etc.), in schools and training colleges, etc.

See: www.deutschland-israel.de

· That anti-Semitism, in whatever form, cannot take hold once again in Germany. Fight against it - above all in prayer.
· Anti-Semitic propaganda that contravenes the basis of our constitution should be exposed and legally challenged when necessary. - G.B. -

Carnival of the Vanities #140

We are also in Carnival of the Vanities #140 at Alarming News.

Carnival of the Capitalists

We are in this week's Carnival of the Capitalists at Slacker Manager. Neal

Sunday, May 29, 2005

California Grows-Get Me Outta Here!

The NYT in the Week in Review analyzes the problems facing California in "California Looks Ahead and Doesn't Like What it Sees". The population added 539,000 residents in 2004 and now its population tops 36.5 million. The prognosis is its population will hit 46 million by 2030. Pessimism among the electorate is rife. Population growth is most intense in the out-lying areas away from the cities. There are infrastructure repair needs that the Governator is addressing. Sacramento pits pro-growth/low tax Republicans against new tax/increased government spending Democrats.

Missing from the analysis is the elephant in the livingroom. The NYT will not mention it because it supports the Republican view. While immigration has increased the overall population in California, the failure to enact pro-growth/pro-business legislation had led to the outmigration from 1995 through 2000 of 755,000 Californians to neighboring states. The trend continues at around 100,000 per year.

These are not apples to apples people. One group, the immigrants, are largely low-skilled/low-income people. The people who are leaving own businesses or have exportable skills. If business owners stay in California they find ways for technology to replace workers. If they cannot find alternative ways to reduce labor costs, the crushing costs of workers compensation premiums, the inability to fire bad workers due to employment practices litigation, land-use restrictions for expanding businesses and factories and the overall taxation of businesses leads these firms to their only choice- to leave.

Besides missing the biggest problem (the elephant) of the state, the NYT article failed to explain why the major cities are losing population. Yes, they mention that the cities are too expensive for people to afford, but why? It is largely the building restrictions enacted and enforced by the environmentalist bullies. While the wealthy can afford to live where they want, the lack of supply of houses drives up the cost of even small bungalos (that are "worth" in excess of $1 million).

My pessimism towards the future of California is the same as my pessimism for the fate of Old Europe. In both cases the socialists have won the heart of the electorate. They promulgate the laws. They oversee every facet of business. But their programs also lead to the outmigration of the productive and creative. Their programs reward the lazy. The demographics bode ill for both.

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