Office: Valencia College, West Campus, Bldg. 11, Room 200-C
Mailing Address: Valencia College
1800 South Kirkman Road
Orlando, FL 32811
Thoughts on the World Around Us
June 10, 2012 Orlando Sentinel
For the past 21 years I have taught economics to more than 14,000 college students here in Central Florida.
During that time I have made a concerted effort to glean information from my Valencia students as to their educational background preceding their arrival in college.
Drawing from a sample size this large multiplied by two decades multiplied by hundreds of thousands of test answers has put me in a good position to offer the following advice to any reader of this paper with children in Florida's K-12 public schools.
Get them out now before you ruin their life.
While this may seem to be a bit harsh, let's look at the facts.
First, my best students every year are in order — Chinese, Eastern European, Indian and home-schooled Americans, and it is not even close when comparing this group to American public-school kids.
Since it is highly unlikely that any of you plan to move to Beijing, Warsaw or Bangalore, you might want to look at the facts concerning public vs. home-schooled American students.
(In Florida, more than 60,000 students in about 42,000 families study in home education programs, which meet the requirement for regular school attendance and were protected under state law in 1985.)
All of us have seen or heard about the annual disaster that is called FCAT results. Thanks to government officials in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee, kids in government-run schools are failing miserably in a wide range of subjects while teachers face bureaucratic nightmares that strip them of their status as professionals and relegate them to servants of standardized testing.
It is also a fact of public education that incidents of bullying, teacher-student sexual misconduct, abusive behavior by teachers and incessant protection of poor teachers by education unions have put students in public schools in the unenviable position of dealing with issues that no learning environment should impose on them.
Moreover, the public education system in Florida and other states is one of the worst forms of monopoly power.
Everywhere in our lives as citizens we have free consumer choice as to where we shop for food, clothes, cellphones and more. However, if you are economically disadvantaged you rarely have this choice in education.
Poorer families in Florida are instead given the school district that their children are forced to attend. Rather than give poor parents choices so that competitive pressure is imposed on public education, we have lower-income families — mostly minorities — who are condemned to 13 years of inferior education just because they live in the wrong zip code.
Everywhere in America where vouchers or other forms of school choice exists, we see competition forcing the unionized public schools to adapt, or lose students.
This used to be the case in Florida, but those options are now lower than in past years and the victims show up in my classes woefully unprepared for challenging college course work.
It is routine that students from Florida's worst high schools make failing grades in college. These kids have been lied to by a system that tells them that a diploma from an "F" school will not impact them in college.
Meanwhile, the more than 2 million home-schooled kids around America (my two sons included) routinely appear in America's colleges with an education that prepares them for virtually anything.
The home-education movement has unleashed the forces of capitalism in such a way that anyone can find dozens of types of curricula for any grade level to help educate their kids in areas where one might not be an expert.
Home-school conventions like the one coming at the end of this month in Orlando offer thousands of options and professional speakers who can help guide willing parents through their child's formative years.
The home-schooled kids who show up in my classes usually arrive at the age of 16 or 17, score in the high 90's on their exams and then go off to places like Harvard, Penn and other world-class universities.
Trayvon Martin aftermath: Blacks should look deeper at perceived white contempt
March 28, 2012 Orlando Sentinel
In his column Saturday, Darryl Owens lamented that he has legitimate concerns over the safety and well-being of his 11-year old son who is African-American ("Revisiting The Talk black parents give to keep kids safe"). Owens contends that his son lives in a country where just being black creates dangers associated with driving, looking at people wrong or just innocently walking down the street.
I, too, have an 11-year old son whom I love and whose safety is of paramount concern, but my son and I are white. We will never understand what it is like to be Owens or his son. Perhaps we should count ourselves as fortunate, if Owens' perceptions of America are indeed reality for African-Americans.
Yet, I do not feel fortunate. I do not feel that my son has a special invisible shield coated with his racial characteristics. In fact, I feel that my son lives in a country where a great deal of misunderstanding and stereotypes will be cast in his direction as a result of belonging to a race of people whose ancestors bought and sold human beings in America.
I have taught all three of my kids about the economics and history of slavery. My kids know — as do my students at Valencia College — that any taking of another person's right to life, liberty or property is an abomination of everything freedom means.
However, today I feel a great deal of frustration over the fact that so many people have once again indicated that there is an implicit plot in America that pits white people against our black brethren. The shooting of Trayvon Martin seems to have once again proved that we white people are never above suspicion in the eyes of many. Yet, so many important questions and facts seem to be ignored.
First, I just learned that the pastor of my church left for Ethiopia to finish the adoption of four black children. My pastor is white. How many other white families have adopted black children from all over the globe in recent years? I have seen far more of this than I have read about white people shooting black children.
Second, do I get to ask — is it ever all right to ask — how many young black people are shot and killed every year by other young black people? Where is the outrage when this happens?
Third, how many young black men have died because politicians have refused to allow black families to escape from horrible public schools? Many studies show that poverty kills more people than pollution, car accidents or murder. A bad education is a ticket to poverty.
In America, black families are allowed to shop around for food, clothing, shelter and anything else. However, when it comes to having the liberty to pick the school of their choice, the government tells them that while racial segregation was supposed to have ended in 1954, it is still alive in the form of the school-district monopoly. That monopoly keeps black Americans largely behind white Americans in educational achievement and therefore economic status. That economic status contributes to a far greater chance of poor health, dangerous neighborhoods, broken families and even early death.
Where are black leaders when it comes to government policies that have created a drug war that kills hundreds, if not thousands of black people every year and imprisons blacks at a higher rate than whites?
What has happened to Trayvon Martin is clearly a tragedy and I, like millions of other Americans — white and black — hope that justice and the truth prevail.
However, as a white citizen who is trying to help my children grow up to be colorblind, I would like to ask my fellow citizens, who do not look like me, to look deeper, at the real source of death among young black men, before falling back on the stereotype that white people in America still harbor some hidden hatred and contempt for black Americans.
The Orlando Sentinel, October 9, 2011
On the first day of class this semester, I asked my students to spend 10 minutes writing a brief essay explaining their definition of the American Dream and what they expected the federal government to do to help them achieve their version of this dream.
The first part of all of their essays was pretty standard stuff. They wanted to have a good job, a home, a family and enough money to enjoy their lives for decades to come
It was the second part of the majority of these essays (from a population of 180 students) that left me discouraged and bewildered.
When contemplating the role of Washington, D.C., in helping them achieve their goals in life, my students — most of whom were educated in America's public schools — wrote that they wanted government to "pay for my tuition," "provide me with a job," "give me money for a house," "make sure I get free health care," "pay for my retirement," "raise taxes on rich people so that I can have more money" and so forth.
One student who thought her American Dream could be best achieved with more government regulations went so far as to say, "We all know that there are many bad side effects when regulations take place, but as human beings, we are not really responsible for our own acts, and so we need government to control those who don't care about others. It makes sense that our freedom is reduced every day with the new regulations."
Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that for the first time in our nation's history, 51 percent of Americans will not pay income taxes this year. It should also be noted that in 1983, just over 29 percent of Americans received some form of government assistance. Today the figure is 44.4 percent.
These figures are noteworthy and arguably linked to my students' concept of what the role of government should be in their lives.
After all, it makes intuitive sense that in a nation where fewer and fewer Americans are net contributors to our prosperity, the children of those who increasingly live off their fellow citizens would develop the perception that part, if not all, of the American Dream involves taking money away from a working, productive American in order to fill the financial gaps in our lives.
On the second day of class, I asked my students to pull out their purses and wallets. In each class, I approached one student, and with their permission, received all of the cash they had in their wallet.
I then told the shocked student that part of my American Dream is to have a cabin on a lake in northern Minnesota someday so that I can enjoy my retirement in this beautiful part of the country.
My students listened to a mini-lecture on our Founding Fathers' view of our rights — especially as it pertains to the pursuit of happiness.
Many seemed to comprehend, perhaps for the first time, that all of us have every right to pursue access to high-quality health care, a good job, a home, cars, retirement and whatever else we might want to peacefully acquire, but that no one has an inherent right to use the arm of government to forcibly take the private property of another citizen in order to obtain our desires.
In effect, with every dollar we receive by force in order to gain our dream, we are diminishing, by one dollar, some other person's dream.
I hope they understood, and I hope I remembered to give those kids their money back.
An Economist's Guide to Surviving Valentine's Day
The Orlando Sentinel February 13, 2011
I hate Valentine's Day. All men do. We hated it back when we were in elementary school and were forced to give those goofy little cards to the girls and boys in our class. Talk about confusing kids before they have even reached puberty. I knew my dad married a woman but the teachers basically said I could not pick one or two cute girls and just give them a card. I had to let everyone in the class believe that I might be secretly in love with them.
Years later, I once took a beautiful young lady out to an expensive dinner on Valentine's Day, along with her mother (you do this when you are single and really trying to impress people), and then surprised my date with tickets to some really elaborate (translation - awful to any male) ice skating show, only to have her inform me that she had promised a friend that she would go to a dance with him later that night.
Somewhere around 10PM - and about $400 down the drain later - I watched her leave to go meet this male friend who did not have to buy sushi or watch ice skating that night.
Seven months later I married that same girl and we have had nearly 14 glorious years together, but she knows that on Valentine's Day there will be no sushi, no eating with my mother-in-law and no ice skating.
What she will get is some flowers I picked from a field next to our house, a homemade card where I draw a couple of squirrels with the caption, "I am nuts about you" and maybe some buy one, get one free candy corn left over from Halloween. This should cost me around $2.36.
To my fellow sufferers, let my behavior be a guide to you this year. It is time that all men - single, married, gay or straight - stand up against this national Fake Love Day that exists only because corporations know that we are scared. Very scared.
Notice what your local grocery store will look like at 5:30 on Valentine's Day. Standing bleary-eyed in front of the Valentine's cards you will see desperate men, arranged by height (5'6" and under in front, basketball players in back) staring at the 4 remaining damaged cards that have chimpanzees or George Bush on the front with messages like, "Grandma, you are still my favorite Valentine". How do you give your wife the grandma card? You don't.
Go home and tell your significant other that you are standing up against this oppression. Tell them that you would rather show your love spontaneously throughout the year with roses, expensive chocolates, new cars or offers to do the laundry without ruining it. Tell the one you love that true love means never being forced to express it. Tell them devotion cannot be covered in chocolate and that a dozen roses only means that you are saying, "I think you are dumb enough to believe that I really care about February 14th".
If you will join with me, we can make this horrible day just another meaningless 24 hours. Now excuse me while I start drawing my squirrels...
JFK and Clinton can be Tax Role Models for Obama
February 7, 2009
In 1962 the federal budget deficit stood at $7.1 billion – the third largest shortfall since World War II. The U.S. was on the precipice of even greater funding shortfalls as the combined effects of the space race, Cold War outlays and the Vietnam conflict loomed.
Faced with the reality that the economy would not be able to sustain the tax revenues necessary to fund these endeavors, John F. Kennedy stood before the Economic Club in New York in December of 1962 and said, “It is increasingly clear that…an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenues to balance our budget just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits. In short, it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now.”
The following year Mr. Kennedy said, before Congress, “The tax on capital gains directly effects investment decisions, the mobility and flow of risk capital from static to more dynamic situations, the ease or difficulty experienced in new ventures in obtaining capital, and thereby the strength and potential for growth in the economy.”
Ultimately, President Kennedy was successful in producing legislation that would lower the top income tax rate from a staggering 91% to 70%.
From 1963 to 1966 total federal tax revenues increased by 16%. Tax collections from those individuals earning more than $50,000 per year shot up by 57%, while revenue from people who made less than $50,000 increased by 11%. During that same time period, the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 5.5% to 3.6%.
In 1997 President Clinton signed legislation that cut the capital gains tax rates to 20%. In addition, Mr. Clinton helped eliminate the capital gains tax on many home purchases, launched the widely successful Roth IRA and managed to oversee a level of budgetary discipline that kept federal spending from rising at a rate that would damage private sector incentives.
While many economists predicted that the capital gains tax reductions would lead to a loss of $50 billion in revenue over five years, the reality was an increase in capital gains tax revenue of over $100 billion.
It is somewhat ironic today that Barack Obama has already backed away from his pledge to raise income tax rates on Americans who create at least $250,000 per year. After all, Mr. Obama argued that is was a simple matter of fairness to raise rates on those who are more fortunate. It is also a bid odd that while the U.S. economy continues to starve for new capital, Mr. Obama has not yet backed off his campaign promise to raise the capital gains tax back to 28% - again, under the ostensibly debatable argument that “fairness” calls for it.
I share the hopes of other Americans that our nation will soon return to a level of prosperity that will be commensurate with our expectations as agents of innovation and capitalism. This will only take place if our new president ignores the calls for growth killing increases in income and capital gains taxes and instead charts a course that other Democrats have seen fit to pursue.
The High Price of Republican Socialism
November 3, 2008
In 1806 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published his famous work, Faust, about a man who sells his soul to the devil for a life of pleasure and for ultimately the right to control the world.
Since the publication of Faust, many decisions by prominent and rather common men have been compared to this story. The moral of the story, of course, is that often times the gifts that appear to be the most appealing, come with the greatest price.
As the Republican Party braces for what most likely will be an epic blowout in polling places all over America, it strikes me that the party of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan is about to be wiped out for what amounts to a Faustian deal the GOP made when George Bush first campaigned for the White House.
The deal, in this case, was not for pleasure or world domination. Instead it was a deal with those who would pursue socialism as a course for America.
It all started when Mr. Bush began campaigning as a “Compassionate Conservative.” The moment he imposed this label on his ideology he condemned his party to being perceived has heretofore lacking in compassion for human beings and to being painted in a corner where he had to go along with every benevolent expansion of government lest he be deemed a disingenuous compassionate conservative.
When he was elected he made good on his promise. In his eight years in office, domestic spending has doubled. Mr. Bush became the first president since the 1800s to refuse to veto one spending bill in his first term. Republicans have taken to calling Barack Obama a Socialist, for, among other things, offering taxpayer dollars to support health care. However, Mr. Obama’s attempt to increase spending on health care pales in comparison to the $1 trillion – plus – prescription drug benefit plan that was championed by President Bush.
Republicans say they hate regulations that stifle entrepreneurship. Under the Bush Administration the Federal Register – the rule book that businesses must adhere to – has grown to more than 75,000 pages in length.
We also have record increases in steel tariffs that destroyed jobs in the steel-using industries; huge increases in farm subsidies while farmers were enjoying record high prices; the refusal to speak out against the Supreme Court in the Kelo v. New London, CT decision that gave businesses more power to use eminent domain against private homeowners and of course, his blanket approval of the $700 billion bailout payment to people who call themselves capitalists but really amount to well-dressed welfare recipients.
In a last, desperate grasp for the White House, Mr. McCain has repeatedly accused Mr. Obama of pursuing a quasi-Marxist agenda. Yet John McCain voted against cutting income taxes in 2003; repeatedly sings the socialistic song of “greed on Wall Street”; and has his own $300 billion bailout for homeowners who were too irresponsible to acknowledge that with no credit, no job and no clue as to how they would afford a house, that they should have kept renting a little while longer.
Republicans need to admit one salient fact: There is no real Republican sitting in the Oval Office today and there is no traditional small-government, pro-free market Republican to vote for in this election.
Reagan Republicans should be thrilled when Obama wins. It will mean that the Socialist Republicans of the last eight years will be cast out into the wilderness where perhaps some semblance of a backbone can grow and their roots can be rediscovered.
Until the Republican Party realizes that they sold their soul to the devil of big government, they will continue to see their party die under the weight of bad ideas.
Relax, America, and learn to enjoy $4-a-gallon gas
The Orlando Sentinel
May 18, 2008
Memorial Day will soon be here, and with it the kickoff to the unofficial start of the summer driving season. With gasoline prices seemingly on a collision course with what seemed impossible only a few short years ago, now might be a good time to step back, decompress and reflect on all of the good things we will get from $4-per-gallon gasoline.
First, as we all know, human beings are the worst creatures for the planet who have ever existed. With apologies to cows and other large-quantity methane producers, there is simply no other species that has created more waste, burned more energy and damaged the planet more. These days you cannot swing a dead cat without finding some expert, or Al Gore, telling us that the polar bears will have only 3 feet of ice left and Orlando will be under water within the next six or seven years because of our horrible use of fossil fuels.
Somewhere around 100 percent of all Americans, give or take an oil executive or two, now believe that "going green" is our only salvation. Since burning gasoline is the moral opposite of going green, we should all cheer as prices hit $4 per gallon -- and $5 or $8 would be even better. As gas prices increase, eventually SUVs will all be parked in the Museum of Bad Ideas -- and we will all be so happy to ride in aluminum cans that get 50 miles per gallon but don't fare so well when hit by trucks, flying birds or large wind gusts. No matter. Because unless we are all colossal hypocrites, higher prices for gas will save the planet from melting -- and that's a far more valuable goal than, say, having money at the end of the month to enjoy our lives.
Second, think about how great $4 per gallon will be for our grocery shopping. A few years ago, Congress and President Bush got together and decided that burning corn was the answer to starving Middle Eastern nations of our money. The key to fighting terrorism, they told us, was to move to ethanol. After all, none of the nations we are mad at grow corn next to their oil wells. There is no way they can add this crop to their cartel.
So, we are all now forced to burn perfectly good sources of popcorn in our cars. This has dramatically increased the demand for corn -- and thus corn prices. The farmers of the Midwest are now building mansions, and everything made with corn is far more expensive in our stores. What's so good about that?
We all know that Americans are the largest bipeds on Earth. People from other countries visit here and think that we eat 20 pounds of pork rinds at every meal. I don't recall the exact number, but the experts tell us that the average child is around 97 pounds overweight and parents can no longer get in and out of bed without the assistance of a forklift.
Thus, $4 per gallon -- created by our diet-friendly ethanol laws -- will help all of us lose the weight that we have been trying to shed all these years. If we cannot afford to buy as much food, then we no longer need Jenny Craig or liposuction.
Finally, as we get to $4 per gallon we get to be closer to our European brethren. How so?
For years we have heard how the Europeans pay somewhere around $13 per liter or hectare or yard -- or however they buy gasoline.
We have all heard that Europeans have great buses and trains and subways. Now is our chance to sit next to people on Lynx buses that pull up near your home at 4:15 a.m. and get you to work at about 3 p.m. We can now enjoy riding our bicycles down to the train station of the future and sit, packed like sardines, next to our fellow passengers who have not bathed regularly.
With any luck, we can all become as happy as all of those heavily taxed, heavily regulated French and German folks who have enjoyed the benefits of lower net incomes for years.
I am so excited that I might have a party once we get to $4 per gallon.
If I can afford the popcorn and my guests can make it to my house on their bicycles.
Using Jesus to Justify Theft
April 6, 2008
The most casual reader of this newspaper cannot help but notice that a trend seems to be developing among those who advocate greater assistance to Floridians who have low incomes, disabilities, illnesses, advancing age or any number of other maladies. The trend is to presumptuously delve into the mind of Jesus in order to guilt all of us into believing that our private property can justifiably be taken to aid our fellow citizens.
Recently, Linda Chapin, Northland Pastor Joel Hunter and Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas – among others – have taken to these pages to claim that Jesus would be appalled by the fact that Florida’s budget problems are about to translate into immoral cuts in programs for Florida’s economically disadvantaged citizens.
While it is admirable that these respected citizens – or anyone for that matter – would seek to use the New Testament as a guide for how to extend our wealth to the neediest among us, it is also ironic that this use of the teachings of Jesus also means that supporters of such aid are advocating behavior that Jesus explicitly disapproved of. That is to say, that anyone who seeks to use the arm of government to aid anyone, for any reason, is supporting force, coercion and theft.
No where in the teachings of Jesus or his disciples can you find any commandment that involves forced will, rather than free will. Jesus taught people to freely love one another, to help one another and put our own well-being behind the well-being of others. However, he never told anyone to use force to aid anyone.
What are taxes if not an extension of the use of force? Government is the only institution that is legally allowed to compel people to give up their private property. Every government program is backed up by force, or the threat of it. If you do not pay your taxes you will lose your freedom. When taxes are taken from one person to directly aid another it is an act of benevolent theft.
What if I, a private citizen, decided to begin robbing people along I-drive for the express purpose of giving the money to unemployed single mothers who are ill? Would I be commended for an act of benevolence, or would I be arrested? What is the difference between this act, and government-aid? Both take away the free will of the plundered in order to engage in forced philanthropy. Yet when government does it, we find people who will say that it is democracy in action and that we must have government programs like these because charity is not enough.
Perhaps charity would be enough if two things were true. First, if we did not have to pay involuntary taxes like federal income and local property taxes there would be much more money available to aid our fellowman – and there is ample evidence to suggest we would gladly do it. Last year, U.S. citizens gave just over $290 billion to charity. That figure is larger than the entire gross domestic product of many western and northern European nations. Moreover, before government got into the business of transferring income and wealth, there were mutual aid societies all over the country, where local communities extended aid to poor people in exchange for work or service to the community by those receiving aid.
Second, if those who advocate government programs would give more of their own money and morally persuade others to do the same, we might not have to rely on the spiritually lazy way out that lets government bureaucrats take care of our neighbors that we should be taking care of.
The hardest part of course – that many ministers and other social do-gooders seem to never mention – is that Jesus also used many parables that taught people to bear responsibility for themselves. Part of the equation in the formula for a just society is that those we call the poor live up to their obligation to their fellowman and not engage in the types of behavior that creates forced charity to begin with.
Ronald Reagan would be shocked and disturbed by McCain
February 7, 2008
The Orlando Sentinel
On February 6th – the 97th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan – I awoke to the news that John McCain has all but sewn up the nomination as the Republican candidate for president this year.
Given the fact that he and some of the other Republicans have been embroiled in a campaign to prove who is the most like Reagan, the choice of McCain is both shocking and a bit disturbing to those of us who remember the Reagan years fondly.
As a registered Libertarian/former Republican I must confess that I have utter contempt for any suggestion that McCain carries the mantle of Reagan Republicanism. If Republicans are honest – and remember anything about the 80’s – they can only conclude that McCain is a militaristic socialist.
Reagan came to power at the height of the Cold War, with 45,000 nuclear weapons in the hands of the expansion-minded Soviet Empire. He managed to expedite, if not win outright, the Cold War without invading the Soviet Union in an a preemptive war like the one McCain supported in Iraq. Mr. Reagan also dealt with Middle-Eastern terrorism in a pragmatic way.
When Libya bombed a club in Europe, Reagan bombed Qaddafi’s compound, but did not invade Libya. He reflagged oil tankers when Iran acted aggressively and protected this resource without invading Iran. He also rationally left Beirut when the Marines where killed in 1983.
McCain, if one listens closely, seems much more likely to stay in Iraq until today’s middle school children are old enough to go over there and fight. His words and demeanor also seem far removed from the humble qualities we consistently saw in Reagan. Rather, there seems to be even more bravado towards Vladimir Putin in Russia and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran than we have seen from George Bush.
On economic issues, just two weeks ago Mr. McCain said, “I really don’t know as much about economics as I should.” Wonderful. Just as the American economy is struggling with the outset of a recession in the short run and challenges from the global economy in the long run, we have Republican voters picking someone who doesn’t understand the economy?
His record on economic matters confirms he is telling the truth. While Reagan pushed for the second largest tax cuts in our history (John F. Kennedy’s were the biggest), Mr. McCain voted against far smaller cuts in income tax rates in 2001. He also has supported much of George Bush’s enormous expansion in the welfare state – an expansion unprecedented in size over the past 40 years.
Should John McCain win the nomination in September and eventually the election in November, he will simply continue what has become a trend in the Republican party since the elder George Bush was in office. That trend will be undoubtedly one of more government involvement in the lives of citizens in foreign lands – and thus more enemies to fight over time – while at the same time more bloated government spending at home, with less of a belief in the long-term tax relief we need for true prosperity.
I hope Ronald Reagan cannot see what has happened to his party. He would be ashamed.
Barry Bonds: Baseball’s best Economist
The Orlando Sentinel
December 13, 2007
Over the past several years the good citizens of this country have speculated as to whether or not Barry Bond’s villainously took steroids to approach and then break one of our most “sacred” records – most home runs ever.
Millions of dollars later, it appears that our suspicions were most likely correct. With the Mitchell investigation complete and Bond’s credibility in serious question, we now prepare for the possibility that Bonds and Michael Vick will become penitentiary pen pals for the next couple of years.
Yet, what seems completely lost in our zeal to lock Bonds up is the fact that he was simply acting on what Adam Smith would have called the beauty of the invisible hand of free market economics.
Consider the facts. In the wake of the 1994 player’s strike that cancelled the World Series for the first time in 90 years, the overall demand for major league baseball sunk dramatically. Fans actually honored their threats to stay away from the ballparks and the television and delivered a sizable drop in profits to our national pastime.
Compounding matters was the fact that baseball was already declining in popularity with young people in our country. With the proliferation of fast-paced video games, extreme sports like skateboarding, bicycle stunt performances and trick snowboarding, the youth of America were sending a message that spending three hours waiting for someone to bunt the winning run into scoring position was boring and not worthy of our shortening attention spans.
In the meantime, the NFL and NASCAR continued to grow in popularity with men and women, further carving up the sports fan’s dollars away from baseball.
The response on the part of baseball’s owners and players was predictable. Facing the prospects of earning revenues akin to professional soccer, the owners began a stadium building campaign that made virtually every new park in America much more “hitter friendly.” With fences moved in, combined with what many baseball experts believe was a more tightly-wound ball, the owners sent a clear message that home runs and higher scores was necessary to win back fans.
The players rationally responded to this Darwinian adaptation by looking for every means possible to get bigger and stronger. This meant more time in the weight room, but also more time opening packages from less than scrupulous chemical suppliers as well.
The evidence from 1995 through 2005 is unquestionable. Home run totals increased by 50 percent during this time period. More players hit more than 50 home runs during this span than at any time in the 120 years preceding 1995. And, of course, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds – none of whom who had ever hit more than 49 home runs in one season – ended up surpassing 60 and even 70 home runs at the end of their careers, when baseball players, like the rest of us, see a drop off in their productivity.
What resulted was a huge increase in the demand for baseball games in America. Attendance increased every year of the so-called steroid era. Baseball revenues increased accordingly, and player salaries – especially for those with enlarged biceps and craniums – routinely shot past $15 million per year.
Any economist worth his or her salt would respond to this with a hearty, congratulations for a job well done.
The owners of baseball’s teams have one primary obligation. That is to sell a product that the customer wants in order to maximize the return on their investment. The players have a responsibility to provide their employer with the greatest productivity possible, where productivity is defined by the employer. The fan has an interest in being served in such a way where the difference between the benefits of their purchase is as great as possible when compared to the costs.
Steroids created a win, win, win situation for all three principle parties. The only damage done in this era is to the long-run health of Mr. Bonds and others who took these substances and to the integrity of baseball’s home run records.
However, if we consider the fact that Mr. Bonds is an emancipated adult human being who has ownership over himself then we are left questioning the wisdom of banning any substance that he freely chooses to put in his own body. If he is willing to risk premature death for the sake of home run records and a higher salary, he should be allowed to do so without interference from the government.
If the owners and fans really care about the sanctity of baseball records the fans would stay away from the parks and turn off the television. The owners would then seek to get rid of steroids on economic grounds rather than out of political pressure.
Ultimately the Mitchell investigation and the possible imprisonment of Barry Bonds will be another colossal waste of time and money in an effort to alter the unalterable laws of supply and demand.
In defense of Michael Vick
He 'deserves' to lose his job, but what beyond that?
The Orlando Sentinel
August 24, 2007
Now that the saga of Michael Vick is coming to a close and his days as a free man are numbered, it seems an ideal time to suggest that we take a step back. We are about to lock up the Atlanta Falcons' former quarterback for heinous acts against animals when it might make more sense to use society's scarce resources to let him walk around free -- and face society -- while looking into other acts that violate the beings we are supposed to be stewards over.
That Michael Vick "deserves" to lose his job, his endorsements and his chance of being gainfully employed by the National -- or even Canadian -- Football League is inarguable. After all, Vick has a constitutional right to pursue happiness, not a guarantee that he will be happy. If the owner of the Atlanta Falcons or all of the privately owned NFL teams decide to avoid him for the rest of his life -- thus driving his value to zero to EA Sports, Nike and other firms -- this is the appropriate price he must pay in our quasi-capitalistic economy that seeks to maximize the value of an individual for the profit of the company. Vick may never have much economic value for the rest of his life.
But what about his value as an American with constitutional rights? If we ignore, for a moment, that men make laws that are gross violations of our rights to life, liberty and private property, by all means, he broke the law. So send him to prison.
However, what seems to be perversely lost in all of the arguments that he has created is that human beings have rights under our Constitution, and animals do not. If they did, we would not see the national hypocrisy we are now witnessing in this case.
On the day Vick goes to prison, there will be people attending rodeos where animals are arguably not being treated humanely. The cowboys will not go to jail. People will look at imprisoned animals in zoos and mistreated animals in circuses, and not be arrested when they buy a ticket. Greyhounds and thoroughbreds and show horses will be forced against their will to do things they would otherwise not do. Ranchers will castrate bulls, cut off their horns and brand them with no penalty. Ducks will have grain forced down their gullets to create foie gras for restaurant patrons. I might go bass fishing, which I start by running a hook through the back of a large piece of live bait so I can hook and kill a bass that does not want to be hooked and killed.
Inasmuch as humans are allowed to own animals, we implicitly acknowledge that Messrs. Jefferson, Madison and the other Founding Fathers did not intend for human beings to be jailed for dispensing with our property in the manner in which we see fit, so long as we do not violate the rights to life, liberty and property of others. In order to guarantee that this cannot occur, would zoos, rodeos and other for-profit, animal-laden ventures be outlawed? It seems so, since no beings with "rights" can be forced to do anything against their will.
Humans, however, do have rights -- yet few in our country would be willing to apply that fact to Vick, even though he did not kill a person or deny any other human their rights to liberty or property. It would seem that the free-market penalty of his lost jobs and national humiliation is enough. Sending him to jail is simply an irrational act of revenge by a tyrannical democracy that does not regard his rights as meaningful.
Compounding the problem is that part of his prison time will be associated with gambling on dogfights. Gambling! Imagine! All of you who hate Vick, yet play poker, go to Las Vegas, the dog track, the horse track, bet on NFL games, etc. -- imagine what the Founders would say about imprisoning people for making bets on animal fights.
We need to face the facts: We are somewhat disingenuous to demand that he go to prison, when pregnant women who smoke are allowed to be free and parents who verbally abuse their children are left alone. Perhaps it would make more sense to let Vick's sentence be a lifetime of living with his conscience.
He has paid society enough.
More Guns, not fewer, would have saved lives
The Orlando Sentinel
April 17, 2007
In the wake of the horrific massacre that took place at Virginia Tech, newspapers around the country wasted no time in reporting that Virginia has some of the most lenient gun laws in the United States. According to the International Herald Tribune, “Ownership requires only passing criminal background checks, which can be bypassed by buying from an unlicensed dealer. And unlicensed dealers can sell their wares at gun shows without requiring criminal checks. Guns need not be registered unless the owner wants to carry a concealed weapon.”
For the next several weeks we can expect more of this type of intellectual laziness as reporters, politicians, soccer-Moms and everyone else who is convinced that guns are bad lines up to offer up the latest “proof” that school shootings are “caused” by the lack of “gun control”.
As it turns out, the exact opposite is a fact. School shootings – and many other shootings for that matter – occur because we do not have enough law-abiding, armed citizens.
Let’s look at the evidence. John Lott, a University of Chicago economist, collected data from every one of the 3,054 counties in the United States over an 18-year period and examined changes in the rates of nine different types of crime. He also accounted for the effects of dozens of other variables, including variations in arrest rates, in the age and racial composition of a county’s population, in national crime rates, and in changes made to gun-control laws, including the adoption of waiting periods. Lott’s findings show that concealed weapons laws significantly reduce violent crime. On average, the murder rate fell by ten percent, rape by three percent, and aggravated assault by six percent.
By concealed weapons laws, we are talking of course about citizens who legally carry firearms to provide for their Constitutional protections before the police show up. Ask any law enforcement officer and they will tell you that it is far more common for the police to appear after someone is dead than a few seconds before the trigger is pulled. Society does not have the resources or the power of premonition to place our law officers in the right place at the right time. Therefore, the citizens, as our Founders believed, have the right and responsibility to prevent massacres like the one that has tragically occurred at Virginia Tech.
Every parent who cares about the long run safety of their children should actively pursue gun safety courses, gun training and a home environment that respects guns for what they are meant to do. If more parents did this, rather than listen to the histrionics of people who are ignorant about guns and our rights, then at some point during the Virginia Tech shootings the gunman would have faced the barrel of a gun being held by a responsible citizen. That could have been after one death or twenty, but it would have dramatically increased the probability of lives being saved.
It would have also given future gunmen that much needed moment of pause if more of them realized that there were many potential defenders of life out there among the citizenry.
When Saving One Life Makes No Sense
The Orlando Sentinel
February 7, 2007
In the Tuesday edition of the Orlando Sentinel, two My Word authors made the argument that tornado sirens should be put up all over Central Florida. Each author contended that if “it saves just one life” it is worth the millions of dollars of expenditures of the taxpayers money. I would respectfully suggest that the authors – and anyone else who uses the “just one life” defense are not only completely wrong, but are unwittingly suggesting public policies that could cost more lives than are saved.
As a resident of Oklahoma and Texas for more than 20 years I can certainly appreciate the sentiment that leans towards the construction of sirens in our state. After all, Florida is not far behind Oklahoma in tornado activity. What all Floridians need to think about before we irrationally begin putting up sirens all over the place is the fact that the money could save more lives put in other places. Moreover, when we make the “just one life” argument, we are ignoring the responsibility we have as citizens to live with, and rationally adjust to the risks that are associated with living in Florida.
Consider this. Around 350 Florida children under the age of 5 die in swimming pools each year. That is a far greater total than die in tornadoes. Under the “just one life” argument, the state of Florida would save hundreds of lives by banning the ownership of backyard pools. From 1949 to 2005 sixteen people were killed by alligators and eight by sharks. To save just one life, how many alligators and sharks should be eliminated? Each year almost 200,000 Floridians are injured by nails, screws and bolts. Over 1,500 a year are hurt by toilet bowl cleaners and over 100 a year die in bike accidents. That is a much higher injury and death toll than tornadoes too. Should we pursue a just one life model in those areas as well?
If you are ever in Oklahoma please take a good look in the back yard of most residents. While Floridians put in swimming pools, Oklahomans put in tornado shelters. Does this mean Floridians are dumb? No. It means Oklahomans and Floridians have an inherent understanding of probability theory and therefore different levels of risk acceptance. Tornadoes that hit in Oklahoma are usually much bigger and hit more often than here. Therefore it is rational to put in a shelter. With a much lower probability of killer tornadoes here, a pool is a more economical use of ones hard-earned money.
I understand why politicians and their voters are now clamoring for sirens. Disasters always throw cost-benefit analysis right out the window. The problem is that life is a random walk that carries with it risk. If we want to save lives we need to look at how many people die from red-light runners, drunk drivers and drug deals gone bad. Instead of allocating our scarce resources to sirens that would help us once ever ten years, we should be putting those dollars into the day-to-day causes of death and destruction.
Maybe we should have'House-Gouging' Laws
The Orlando Sentinel
September 21, 2006
The September 19th edition of USA Today revealed the results of a Gallup Poll that found 42% of Americans believing that gasoline prices were being manipulated downward by the Republican Party so that the GOP would get more votes in November.
It’s official. At least 42% of Americans are stupid.
As an economist I have had to listen to approximately 32,971 theories on why gas prices go up and down. No one I talk to ever asks why prices change. Since everyone I meet is already an expert on the vagaries of international oil markets there is no reason to do more than spout the conspiracy theory of the week.
The ‘experts’ that make up the 42% have told us (so far) that oil prices go up because big oil companies have conspired to gouge us; because OPEC is gouging us; because the government has secretly paid off people who can turn water into gasoline; because the Bush Administration is secretly in love with the Saudi Royal Family and on and on and on.
Every time any economist I know points out the facts – demand is up because Chinese and Indian consumers have decided bicycles and donkeys are not as good as cars; no new refineries have been built in thirty years; hurricanes damaged key production facilities; we drive Hummers 92 mph down the highway, etc. – no one seems to listen or believe us.
Therefore, I would like to try a completely different approach to this problem of economic illiteracy. Let’s play a game called, “You own a house”.
Suppose you own a house that you paid $150,000 for several years ago. Over the last several years more and more people have decided to move to the area where your house sits. They want houses too. However, even with all this new demand for a house, there is a problem. There are fewer and fewer places to build houses in the area where the new people want to live.
You get a knock at your door some day. The person on your porch tells you that they love your house and want to pay you $400,000 for it. What do you do then?
Curious about why they would offer so much more than you paid, you query them on their motives. They tell you that your town is great, your neighborhood is great and there are many people who would be willing to pay that. They also mention that there are not many houses like yours around.
If you take the higher price should you be called a ‘price gouger’? Should newspapers interview your neighbors to gauge whether or not you are greedy or mean? Or, since the house is your private property, should you be congratulated on your good fortune?
Unless you are a colossal hypocrite, you know your answer. Every American who cashed in on the housing boom implicitly paid homage to the forces of supply and demand that allowed them to make a killing. Now those same Americans are saying that people who have private property rights over their oil should not be allowed to do the same. Worse yet, they want the government to come in and regulate the greed of those who are reaping the benefits of an oil drinking global economy.
The next time you fill up your car, ask yourself, would you want the government to determine a “fair” price for your house? If not, then please pay whatever the market price is at that moment, shut up and drive away.
Pay for your own evacuation
July 28, 2006
In 1794 Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia.
James Madison – the principal author of the U.S. Constitution – stood on the floor of the House to object saying, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
I wonder what Mr. Madison would think of his country now.
In the wake of the turmoil that has engulfed Israel and Lebanon, hundreds of American citizens have found themselves in the unenviable position of being the in the crossfire of an increasingly deadly conflict. Now, those Americans – who all used their freedom to pursue money and happiness in Lebanon – are getting a taxpayer-financed trip to safety.
It should not come as a surprise that as soon as the Bush Administration came under criticism for their plan to have these people pay for their safe transit, that it would cave in and bilk the taxpayers instead.
After all, President Bush was the first president since the 1800s to wait this long to use his veto authority on a spending initiative.
What all Americans should be asking at this point is when will we ever see our government return to the principles our Founders gave us with respect to spending our tax money?
The enumerated clauses of Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution do not provide for any use – ever – of our money to aid people who have made bad decisions. The people who went to Lebanon – or built homes in New Orleans, or along the coast of Florida – had the freedom to move where they thought they would be better off.
Now that those people are facing a conflict between two foreign nations or really bad weather coming in from the Atlantic, they expect the taxpayers who did not make such bad decisions to pay for their mistake.
Unfortunately for taxpayers in the short run, and liberty in the long run, we have a president who campaigned as a “Compassionate Conservative.” This means that Mr. Bush must show us, over and over again, with our money, that he is compassionate about all that might befall us.
In the short run, such compassion comes at the cost of plundered tax dollars going towards inefficient causes. This means we face a mounting deficit and greater interest payments on the debt.
In the long run, Mr. Bush is charting a course that tells every American that freedom no longer comes with any personal responsibility whatsoever. This can only lead to the day when every person in this nation believes that they have a right to demand other peoples’ money when their pursuit of happiness falters.
When that day comes, the word liberty will become meaningless and America’s days will be numbered.
An Immigration Policy for 'Real Americans'
April 5, 2006
Here we go again. It seems that every few years someone looks around and starts shouting that too many people are showing up on our shores, in our airports and in our labor markets.
Round 132 in the "Are Immigrants Destroying America?" debate is upon us, and politicians from both sides of the aisle are frantically sticking their wet fingers in the political winds to see what Americans want this time.
What is unfortunate in this debate is that we keep ignoring all of the historical and contemporary analysis that has been applied to this question, and we keep finding the same facts. We may not like the facts we are finding, but as Aldous Huxley once said, "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
So, what are the immutable truths about the folks who walk, fly and swim to get here?
First, they create jobs, not destroy them. Immigrants from up and down the wealth scale have proved to be incredibly entrepreneurial. Many technologically savvy immigrants from Western Europe and India helped create thousands of jobs in Silicon Valley. One in six of these companies was started by immigrants.
Many of America's best scientists, economists and engineers are not originally from Kentucky or Florida or Maine. They are from Beijing, Moscow and Bangalore. This reality is because American kids can't do math and science, so Microsoft and Google have had to find these geniuses somewhere else.
Poorer immigrants have created thousands of restaurants, retail shops and other service-based companies. One visit to San Francisco, New York or Chicago will show you how many native-born Americans are earning a paycheck because of the incredible efforts immigrants have put into our quasi-capitalistic market.
Immigrants without money and business plans have filled jobs in meat packing, textiles, lawn care and restaurants that Americans simply won't take. Sadly, it is beneath the dignity of the average American to pick onions or cut fat off a pig 10 hours per day. Who is supposed to fill this gap?
Immigrants have also helped keep our rate of inflation down by supplying valuable labor in areas where shortages would otherwise exist. Imagine what the price of housing or restaurant meals would be if not for immigrant roofers and dishwashers with tremendous work ethics.
We can also thank immigrants for having lower crime rates, higher graduation rates and lower participation in the welfare state than native-born Americans. Routinely, immigrants from the Caribbean show up, look around and find opportunity where many native-born Americans look around and give up on the chance to advance over time.
If I were president of the United States, I would fly to New York and read the plaque on the Statue of Liberty. Then, I would go on television and announce to my fellow Americans that every one of us is a descendant of someone who originally was not from here. I might also mention that if we want to help India and China pass us up in the economic superpower game, the surest way of achieving that is to keep immigrants from those nations out.
I would also suggest that we are never going to win the war on terror if we do not let liberty-loving people from the Middle East come over here to find out why America is a nice place to live.
Finally, I would suggest that if we want to kick out the immigrants, we might want to look at our own history with respect to the first Americans, "real Americans." I seem to recall that when we showed up from Europe -- as immigrants -- we took away their property, forced them to move to less desirable places and killed many of those who resisted.
Perhaps then the best immigration policy of all would be for everyone who is not an American Indian -- also known in politically correct terms as a Native American -- to leave at once.
Reagan's Biggest Mistake
January 26, 2006
Although I am a Libertarian and not a Republican -- and fight with those who are more conservative than I would like -- I do pause for a few minutes to reflect on a man born 95 years ago this Feb. 6 whom I believe to be the greatest president of the 20th century.
When Reagan came into office, there were 14 income-tax brackets, the highest of which was a staggering 70 percent. In eight years, Reagan pushed through two massive income-tax cuts that led to only two tax brackets and a top rate of 28 percent. Many economists have pointed out that the past two decades saw unprecedented economic growth and increasing government tax revenues due to the efforts of Reagan to free Americans from the shackles of the Internal Revenue Service tax code.
In addition, Reagan is also largely responsible for freeing hundreds of millions of citizens around the world from the grip of communism. If we believe Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan played a far greater role in the demise of the Soviet Union than people give him credit for. With 45,000 nuclear weapons aimed at the U.S. and Western Europe, Reagan used his brilliant negotiating skills, faith in American technology and understanding of the economic struggles facing the USSR as a tool to force the Soviets to give in to virtually all of his requests. By the time he left office, much of the tyrannically controlled eastern half of the world was on the course of freer markets and freer republics.
When we consider that during the past 276 months, the United States has had merely 15 months of recessions and a robust 43 million jobs have been created, we should ask: How many recessions would we have had if not for these historic tax cuts and expanded free trade with nations that were formerly closed off to the world?
For such liberty, Reagan should never be forgotten. However, he did make one colossal mistake that threatens to undo much of his work.
On April 10, 1980, George H.W. Bush -- a rival of Reagan's for the Republican presidential nomination, was asked his view of Reagan's tax-cutting agenda. Bush called the idea "voodoo economics," and the term stuck with Reagan's critics.
Many have observed that on both economic and foreign-policy issues, Reagan did not view the elder Bush as strong enough to push liberty forward. Yet, Bush Sr. was a moderate voice from Texas. Reagan selected Bush as his running mate to help balance the ticket. The rest is history.
The first Bush presidency gave us the second-largest tax increase in our history along with a dramatic increase in expensive regulations of American businesses. Moreover, his tax hike began an era of increases in the number of tax brackets, which now total six.
These policies contributed greatly to the 1990-91 recession. In addition, the U.S. military set up shop in Saudi Arabia, which fueled hatred and resentment in the Arab world.
Real conservatives should understand that our current president is not much different from his rather ineffective father. Yes, George W. Bush has cut our taxes -- twice. But if Republicans are honest, they must admit that non-military government spending has increased at a faster pace under George W. Bush than under any president since Lyndon B. Johnson.
Bush's domestic spending should make Reagan Republicans long for the fiscally conservative presidency of Bill Clinton.
Overseas, Republicans should also find reasons to grimace. Instead of expanding liberty around the world by humbly showing people the moral superiority of freedom as Reagan did, the younger Bush has contributed to the notion that the U.S. is the imposer of our definition of freedom.
I wonder if Ronald Reagan would have approved of the Patriot Act, runaway spending on seemingly every program that hits his desk and foreign wars where the enemy has not yet been identified.
Yet, before we blame too much on the three terms that men named Bush have occupied, we should also ask:
Where we would be if Reagan had never picked the first Bush to begin with?
Liberals and Gas Prices
December 7, 2005
One of the first requirements of being an economist is that you must be - by nature - a curious person. You have to want to understand things and you must be willing to ask questions that other people might not ask, even if it offends people to ask. So here goes.
I would like to ask my readers who are liberals for some help with a problem that I am having. The problem is figuring out what you want to happen to gasoline prices.
I recall when gas prices fell below $1 a gallon a few years ago that many of you liberals were complaining about all of the SUVs people were driving. You griped about how big the SUVs were getting and you said that cheap gas had encouraged us to not only ruin the environment by belching out air pollution but had also helped pay for terrorist activity in the U.S. and abroad.
This makes sense on many levels. As the price of gasoline falls, it naturally follows that people will buy more of it - often by purchasing bigger cars. You liberals are also right that burning gas causes air pollution and if we buy things that burn extra gas, nastier things will go into the air in larger and larger quantities. Finally, you are economically correct that the more fuel we buy the more money we unwittingly send to nations that use oil revenue to finance people who want to blow us up in our SUVs. So, on all counts, your economics is airtight. Congratulations.
Now we come to 2005. Gas prices rose to more than $2 per gallon and stayed there. After the hurricanes, the average price of unleaded gas topped $3 per gallon, but did not stay there. Today, gas prices are inching below $2.25 per gallon in many parts of the country and you are mad about gas prices again.
Why are you mad this time? Oh, I understand. Now that prices are going up you are upset that the greedy oil companies are reporting record profits. You are mad about the perceived price gouging that has taken place, and you are frustrated that poorer Americans now have a tougher time making ends meet because more money for Exxon-Mobil means less money for food.
In two out of three areas your economics is solid. Yes, higher prices for a product with an inelastic demand means higher profit for the seller. Yes, the law of opportunity cost and scarcity means that if I spend more money on one thing I have less money for the other thing. The price gouging claim is a poor one. If they can gouge us because we have no choices over what we put in our car and must buy gas, why have prices fallen by 80 cents per gallon this fall? Why not keep prices at $3 since we would buy it anyway?
Every economist knows that the demand for oil is increasing due in large part to our growing economy and the appetite for fuel in China and India. We also know that supplies are tight because new refineries were last built in the 1970s and government-mandated additives has made it more expensive to make gas. Plus, the hurricanes set aside a big part of supply.
Getting back to your economics, I want to applaud you for being right about what happens when prices fall and what happens when prices rise.
What I don't understand is this. If lower prices makes the air dirty - which is bad - won't higher prices make the air cleaner? If high prices hurt the poor and line the pockets of oil company fat cats, don't lower prices help the poor and deny those fat cats more money?
I am suggesting that you liberals pick your favorite gas price argument and stick with it. You cannot complain about the environment and the budgets of the poor and the profits of greedy corporations all at the same time without sounding like a bunch of idiots.
It is time to choose whether you want lower prices or higher prices.
Thank you for your time.
9/11, Katrina and the Bird Flu…
(for more click here)
Recently, President Bush told the world that he would like to allocate $7.1 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars to help the United States prepare for the possibility of the avian bird flu. Given his administrations established track record in preparing for manmade and natural disasters it might come as a welcome sign to many citizens that the federal government is finally acting in a proactive, preemptive manner to save all of us from another crisis.
Don’t get your hopes up.
It is not that I don’t have faith in George Bush and Congress to do the right thing (I don’t by the way) it is just that government at all levels and under the control of any political party never really does anything very well. This is especially true when government – made up of bureaucrats that get paid whether they do a good job or not – is asked to recognize future threats and react to them in time.
Going all the way back to 1776 we find George Washington practically begging a moribund Congress for money to feed and arm his troops in order to prepare for eventual British onslaughts.
In the fall of 1941 there were numerous threats – both implied and direct – that the Japanese were going to attack the United States, only to have the Roosevelt administration fumble around with mountains of telegraphs as the planes took off for Pearl Harbor.
In the aftermath of 9/11 we learned first hand how inept government at all levels can be. The Immigration and Naturalization Service issued a student visa to hijacker Mohammed Atta months after he was dead. The FBI and CIA refused to coordinate information that could have lowered the probability of an attack.
After Katrina we found that Wal-Mart can deliver ice, food and water before and after a hurricane with no problems but that FEMA could not even agree on the degree to which death and destruction warranted a quick response.
The problem with relying on government to prepare for the avian bird flu is straightforward. Government is a not-for-profit collection of protected agencies. If the Bush administration squanders the $7.1 billion purchasing bird cages, no agency will be forced into bankruptcy and the officials in charge will likely avoid the type of punishment that the private sector doles out. When private companies spend $7.1 billion they must prove to their shareholders that the investment was a wise one or they get fired, their companies go under and the free market awards their competitors with more business.
Therefore, since the government is in charge of this operation I would suggest that all Americans do what I am going to do to prepare for the bird flu. Run like hell at the sight of anything with wings.
France needs Freedom, not Welfare
The Orlando Sentinel
November 9, 2005
At first glance it would seem strange that rioters would pick Paris, France to unleash their frustrations. After all, France is a place reputed for its civility, art and culture and is a wonderful place for the well-to-do to vacation. Moreover, given France’s history of generous social welfare benefits, why would any French citizen want to burn down a country that seems to take care of its citizens so well?
A famous French economist by the name of Frederic Bastiat once suggested that when social policies turn out to be harmful to the citizenry it is because politicians often react to economic problems that they can see, without any regard for the unforeseen consequences of their solutions to those problems.
In essence, it is the vast socialist network of labor laws, social welfare benefits and archaic regulations of businesses that has provided the kindling necessary to ignite the flames of rebellion.
Consider the facts.
Workers in France are not allowed to work more than 35 hours per week. Union-negotiated contracts have pushed wages in France up faster than productivity has increased. French labor law also makes it virtually impossible to fire anyone. When these laws are combined with mandated vacations of six weeks per year, overly generous pension and health care benefits and an onerous tax burden on everything from income to restaurant meals it all adds up to an unemployment rate in France that was 10.1 percent in 2004 – double that of the U.S. rate.
What has occurred in France is straightforward. In their zeal to have economic security, the citizens of France have traded in their economic liberty. This tradeoff does not always punish the well-connected, but it is particularly punitive to the people that need liberty most – immigrants, especially poorer immigrants without connections or established wealth.
If we listen to what the poorer Muslims and other immigrants are saying, we can hear them asking for opportunity. They don’t want to live isolated in housing projects with welfare as their only means of survival. They don’t want their government – in the name of security – passing laws banning religious freedoms. They want a road out of poverty that the state can only provide by allowing them to pursue their self-interest in a productive manner.
One only needs to look at immigrants in the United States to see what economic freedom can do. We don’t see riots taking place in Muslim, Korean or Caribbean communities. That is because when immigrants get here, they look around and find that in a quasi-capitalistic society there are no guarantees of economic success, but there is the guarantee that you can at least try to be successful. Here, opportunity exists if people are willing to take risks.
In France, even if immigrants want to take those risks, their socialistic government tells them to stay in their place.
That is why France is burning.
November 16, 2005
Count me among the few Americans who have had enough of hurricane season, but for reasons completely removed from meteorological forces. I am suffering from crybaby fatigue.
The crybabies I am speaking of are not, I repeat not, those individuals who did everything they could to assume responsibility for themselves while hurricanes barreled down on them. I am not referring to people who have maintained a spirit of quiet dignity while attempting to rebuild their lives after the storms. I am also not upset with people who we have seen crying over lost lives or property. I know what it feels like to lose your home or a love one unexpectedly.
No, I am referring to the people we keep seeing on the news that pathetically expect the government to show up like a genie out of a bottle the nanosecond the wind stops blowing. You know the people I am talking about. We see them on the news screaming and waving their arms in South Florida demanding to know why FEMA did not provide ice and tarps at their doorstep immediately. We hear about them saying they are going to “ride out” the hurricane, only to blast everyone with the last name of Bush for not saving their lives during the hurricane. We sometimes see them standing in or around half-million dollar homes with waistlines that indicate they have not gone without food, crying about how cruel the government is.
God forbid this country ever gets invaded by an enemy large enough to cause years of suffering. I would also hate to see what would happen if America ever went through another Great Depression. I can only imagine the sight of spoiled Americans falling down on the first day of the next Depression and flailing about with no sign of personal fortitude whatsoever.
How did this happen? The answer is pretty simple as it turns out. This country was founded by people who stood in the snow barefooted with no food and barely any support from government while fighting for liberty. A big part of our nation was built on the backs of slaves who persevered under horrific conditions and once freed, had the dignity and courage to simply ask for their God-given liberty, rather than government aid. Our forefathers fought in World War II and returned – quietly – to rebuild an economically challenged nation.
Unfortunately, beginning with the New Deal and carried on through the current fiscally irresponsible administration, Americans have become conditioned to depend on government to pick up the pieces for problems that naturally occur from time to time. We now teach our children to sue fast-food companies if we let them get fat. We demand our rights to things that are not rights at all and we fail to buy ice and tarps before hurricanes hit, knowing if we cry loud enough, taxpayer dollars will arrive with goodies that come from plundering the citizens that do not depend on government.
Thus, the next time you hear someone claim to be a victim of a storm or a victim of unemployment or a victim of discrimination, maybe you should start by asking them to define the word victim. Their answer might help you realize that our country has become a nation of victims who have forgotten that we have a moral responsibility to manage our own lives rather than ask the government to act like mommy or daddy for us.