Thursday, April 10, 2014

The efficiency of the private sector

Via Priceonomics:
In 2004, UPS announced a new policy for its drivers: the right way to get to any destination was to avoid left-hand turns. ...

When better tracking systems emerged in 2001, the package delivery service took a closer look at how trucks performed when delivering packages. As a logistics company with some 96,000 trucks and several hundred aircraft, much of UPS's business can be distilled to a series of optimization problems around reducing the amount of fuel used, saving time, and using space more efficiently. (Trucks in UPS facilities park just a few inches apart with their side mirrors overlapping to save space.)

UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. By mapping out routes that involved "a series of right-hand loops," UPS improved profits and safety while touting their catchy, environmentally friendly policy. As of 2012, the right turn rule combined with other improvements... saved around 10 million gallons of gas and reduced emissions by the equivalent of taking 5,300 cars of the road for a year.
It probably says a lot about me that I find this extremely cool. I love it when someone comes up with a better way to do something we've been doing the same way for years.

I also love pointing out that it's invariably in the private sector that these innovations emerge. Private companies exist to make a profit, and so they have a huge incentive to figure out more efficient ways to do things. Rethinking these types of things saved UPS a ton of money. That's not only good for their bottom line, but good for consumers as well, as it allows them to keep their prices very competitive.

Contrast this to the Unites States Postal Service, which operates in the red to the tune of a billion dollars a year. The USPS has little incentive to be efficient. It's not their money, and the people who run it aren't really answerable to anyone, so there's no real reason to seek out better and cheaper ways of moving packages.

UPS is able to make money because they provide a superior service. Their continued existence depends on their continuing to provide a superior service. The USPS continues to exist because tax payers are forced to fund it, and because federal law makes it illegal for companies like UPS to deliver first class mail. Who has the best incentive to, er, deliver the best service?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

When schools become the bullies

 Washington Times:
A 13-year-old New Jersey boy was suspended from school Thursday for twirling his pencil around in math class and making another student uncomfortable.
Ethan Chaplin, a 7th-grader at Glen Meadow Middle School in Vernon Township, was twirling around a pencil with a pen cap on it when a student behind him yelled, "He's making gun motions, send him to juvie!" a local news station reported.
The school suspended Ethan and ordered him to undergo a physical and psychological evaluation, his father, Michael Chaplin, told the station.
 "I'm absolutely livid," he said. "I think it's gross misconduct at its finest. They took something so minimal and took it so far over the edge."
Vernon Schools Superintendent Charles Maranzano said school policy requires an investigation when anyone in the school feels uncomfortable or threatened by another student.
"We never know what's percolating in the minds of children," he told the news station. "And when they demonstrate behaviors that raise red flags, we must do our duty."
Mr. Chaplin told Alex Jones' website Infowars that his son had to go through a five-hour evaluation, which came back clean.
"The child was stripped, had to give blood samples (which caused him to pass out) and urine samples for of all things drug testing," he told the website. "Then four hours later a social worker spoke to him for five minutes and cleared him." [Emphasis mine, throughout]
I'm not exactly sure what "twirling around a pencil with a pen cap on it" means,  but it doesn't sound like much of a deal. If it took another student to call attention to it, it doesn't even sound very disruptive. As a teacher, I'd have asked the pencil-twirler to stop. I'd also have spoken to the second kid about yelling in my classroom. I suspect that would have been the end of it, and instruction would continue.

Instead, this teacher and school went nuclear. They subjected a 13-year-old kid to five hours of humiliation and abuse -- making him strip and undergo a battery of physical and psychological tests -- all for playing with a pencil, a very typical behavior for a middle school boy.

Unless there is a whole lot more to the story, the "adults" who mistreated this kid should be disciplined. The parents certainly should consider legal action against all involved, including those that instituted a policy that says that anything that makes anyone uncomfortable in any way must be "investigated" in this manner.

The idea that no one should ever feel uncomfortable is asinine to begin with. Life is uncomfortable, and our schools should be helping kids to understand and deal with that fact, instead of becoming bullies themselves.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Student expelled for saving classmate

The Blaze:
When sixth-grader Adrionna Harris noticed a classmate cutting his arm with a razor blade, she convinced him that his behavior wasn’t a good idea and managed to get the blade from him — and she threw it away.

Apparently no teachers were around during the incident last Thursday, and Harris viewed the circumstances as an emergency.
So this 11-year-old kid recognizes a dangerous situation. There are no adults around, so she acts, disarming her classmate and disposing of the razor immediately. She then reports what happened to an adult.

This kid should be praised for acting quickly and responsibly to protect another. Instead, her school expelled her for 10 days because they deemed that she "armed herself" when she took the razor away from her self-mutilating classmate.

Apparently "zero tolerance" means "zero common sense" in our government schools.

Fortunately, the girl's parents raised enough of a stink that she has been reinstated and her record cleared -- but why does common sense only prevail as a last resort, after stupidity has been beaten down?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Out of desperation, Obama makes the conservative case

Last week, President Obama gave an interview to Spanish-language media. In a question from the audience, a man observed that he can't afford the plans available to his family under ObamaCare. Obama's response is interesting.
I guess what I would say is if you looked at that person's budget, and you looked at their cable bill, their telephone bill... other things that they're spending on, it may turn out that it's just they haven't prioritized health care.
What is interesting is that this is a fundamentally conservative argument. The notion that individuals are responsible for their own needs, and that they must prioritize and make informed choices about what is best for them is not something we hear from the Left very often.

If only Obama actually believed this and championed policies that were grounded on this philosophy. We would be spared programs like ObamaCare, Common Core, minimum wage laws, "stimulus" bills, and the rest. All these programs are founded on exactly the opposite premise: that the needs of every person and family are the same, and that only a few Really Smart People in Washington know what those needs are, how they should be provided, how much they should cost, and how much you should be fined if you don't do as you're told.

The truth is, Obama doesn't believe the things he said in the interview. He only said them because they were convenient. When confronted with the on-the-ground reality that the "Affordable" Care Act isn't actually affordable, he adopted an argument his opponents have been making all along for why ObamaCare is a bad idea: Everyone's circumstances are different. They know their circumstances better than anyone else. And so they need as much freedom as possible to prioritize and make the choices that are best for them and their families.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Second hand stupidity

LA Times:
The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved sweeping new regulations that would treat e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes, after one of the most personal debates to be heard on the council floor in years.

On a 14-0 vote, lawmakers outlawed "vaping" -- the practice of inhaling the vapors produced by e-cigarettes -- in most work sites and many public places, including parks and certain beaches.
The Nanny State strikes again.

As far as I'm aware, e-cigarettes are completely harmless. They pose no health risk to the people using them or to anyone around them. Those who smoke actual cigarettes find e-cigarettes a helpful aid when trying to quit. Yet they are now banned, even in many outdoor spaces, in the city of Los Angeles.

Much like the gun-Nazis in government schools who are suspending kids for wielding fingers and pastries because they resemble guns, the tobacco-Nazis must purge the Earth of anything that resembles a cigarette -- even if it actually benefits those who wish to quit the very malady they oppose.

That this law war passed on a 14-0 vote is perhaps the most disturbing of all. Apparently, not one of the city council members was willing to stand and defend individual freedom, which should include the freedom to make poor personal choices, but now doesn't even extend to the freedom to make good personal choices which might indirectly encourage others to make poor personal choices. This is a trend that will not end well.

Apparently, one of the members did make a gesture toward minimizing the council's usurpation of personal freedom, but when his amendment failed, he voted for the measure anyway. An admirable display of courage, that.
Buscaino introduced an amendment to allow bars and nightclubs to be removed from the new regulations. But his measure received only six votes -- two shy of the amount needed for passage.

E-cigarettes “are not tobacco,” he said. “And I don’t think they should be regulated exactly the same way.”
Here's a thought. How about they shouldn't be regulated at all?

Any suggestions for a new line to close out the national anthem?

Think it over, then do as you're told

Washington Times:
The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it would allow insurers to issue until October 2016 health plans that do not meet Obamacare regulations, pushing back another Affordable Care Act deadline well past November's midterms.

Facing the prospect of another wave of cancellation notices this fall, the administration took even further action to mitigate the blowback from President Obama's broken promise that all Americans could keep their health care plans under Obamacare.
Not long ago, congressional Republicans attempted to pass legislation which would have made changes to ObamaCare. Obama fought this legislation, insisting that ObamaCare is "settled law." This made no sense, of course, since Congress has the constitutional authority to pass new laws. A law is only "settled" until Congress says it's not. (The president has veto power, of course, but the point stands: there is no such thing as settled law as Obama would have it.)

Since then, Obama has made dozens of changes to what he insists is "settled law," all without these changes being first voted on by Congress. The president has no authority to make or change laws on his own, which means that in addition to being a liar and a hypocrite, Obama has repeatedly violated the oath he took to uphold the Constitution. In a sane world, he would be impeached for this, but we don't live in a sane world.

As the Times article suggests, this latest change, allowing insurers not to obey "settled law" until after the 2016 presidential election, is politically motivated. Democrats own ObamaCare, and they can't afford to have millions of cancellation notices sent out prior to a big election. They say otherwise, of course, but the rationale they give is completely transparent:
“We’re extending this to give people an opportunity to make a judgment about what works best for them and their families,” a senior administration official said, briefing reporters on the major policy change.
Let's walk this through. The law, as written, automatically cancels the insurance policies of millions of Americans and forces them into policies the government says they must have. People are upset about this, as Obama repeatedly promised them the law would do no such thing. ("If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.")

So now comes this delay, pushing the betrayal of that promise up past the 2016 presidential election. And the reason given is "to give people an opportunity to make a judgment about what works best for them." But what will happen after people make that judgement? The government will ignore it, cancel their policies, and herd them into ObamaCare policies anyway! 

We'll give you a little time to decide before we force you to do it our way.

I'm tempted to ask just how stupid they think we are, but we keep electing people who treat us like sheep, so I guess I have my answer.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Stoopid government schools

Associated Press:
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A central Ohio principal says she suspended a 10-year-old boy from school for three days for pretending his finger was a gun and pointing it at another student's head. 
Apparently this principal endorses a very strict reading of the Second Amendment, where the right to bear arms is protected, but the right to bear fingers is not. 

To be fair, I shouldn't only mock the principal for this nonsense. She was following her district's "zero tolerance" policy regarding "pretend gun play." Yes, there's an app for that.

Look, I get that people are concerned about gun violence, especially in our schools, but adopting policies of militant stupidity that prevent kids from being kids isn't the answer. 

Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated incident. The article mentions other examples, including a similar policy that was cited last year when a Maryland school suspended a 7-year-old boy who had chewed a Pop-Tart into a gun shape. It's unclear whether the yummy pastry was loaded, or whether the boy had obtained it legally.

It's easy to laugh this stuff off and chalk it up to good intentions gone awry. But it's far from clear that good intentions are behind these policies. It is clear, however, that some serious consequences result from them. Kids lose instruction time. Tax payer dollars are wasted. Good kids end up with permanent marks on their records suggesting that they are prone to violence, sexual harassment, and other offenses. These are heavy consequences for a 6-year-old to bear, for doing nothing 6-year-olds haven't been doing for centuries.

A toxic culture also emerges as a result of this nonsense. Educators -- nearly all of them Leftists -- get quite drunk on their power to militate for their causes. Don't like guns? Punish a 7-year-old for the way he eats. Think men are predators? Punish a 6-year-old for kissing a classmate's hand, even if she welcomes it. Don't like America? Ban the American flag while allowing flags of other countries to stay.

It's insidious. It's also dangerous. Such a culture becomes so rigid and controlling that not only are kids not allowed to be kids, but adults stop being adults as well:
A Minnesota public high school was so committed to obeying its fire drill policy to the exact letter of the law that it forced a female student–dressed only in a swimsuit, and sopping wet–to stand outside in the freezing cold for ten minutes. As a result, she suffered frostbite.
Administrators wouldn’t let the student retrieve her clothes, sit in a car or wait inside another building...
It was 5 degrees, with a wind chill of 25 below, and they literally forced this girl to stand there and freeze rather than allow her to take safe,  nearby shelter. How culture-whipped and unthinking does one have to be to blindly follow a policy that puts a kids' health in danger?

This is the price of militant stupidity. And no one does militant stupidity like government. Our government schools have gone down a very dangerous path. They have crossed the line from educational malpractice into child abuse. Our children are no longer safe, and it's not only mass murders we should fear, but those who would protect us from 7-year-olds wielding Pop-Tarts.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Planned Parenthood wants our kids to "Get It On!"

WREG:
A Planned Parenthood billboard has only been up a week in one South Memphis neighborhood, but some people there already want it to come down.

They say the billboard, which includes the message “Getting It On Is Free” and a picture of a condom, is too graphic.

“I was shocked. I was appalled that anyone would put up a picture of condom,” said Karen Wallace.

Karen Wallace works at a church nearby and has to drive by the billboard every day.

She said what is worse it’s right next to an elementary school cross walk.

“The graphic was not necessary the message was enough,” said Wallace.
To be honest, I'm more bothered by the message than I am the graphic. Getting It On isn't free. It comes with a lot of serious consequences -- moral, medical, emotional, and financial.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood (PP) defend its mission as a noble one. They like to pretend that it's all about promoting safe sex, fighting STDs, avoiding unwanted pregnancy, and, as their mission statement claims, the "enhancement of the quality of life and strong family relationships." But the policies and actions PP promotes are far more insidious. They do not simply promote safe sex; they promote promiscuous and irresponsible sex that is directly destructive to quality life and strong families. A billboard erected directly in the path of young school children and encouraging them to Get It On is hardly a noble thing.

Condoms, even when used perfectly, are not infallible. According to the Center for Disease Control, they offer a "high degree" of protection against some STDs, but significantly less against others (e.g. herpes, HPV, syphilis, chancroid). The Pearl Index reports that condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy, again when used perfectly.

But that's under ideal conditions in the laboratory. What happens in the real world is quite another matter. The Pearl Index reports that with typical use, condom effectiveness drops to as low as 82%. This means an average person has about a 1 in 5 chance of getting pregnant over the course of a year.  It also suggests that condoms don't offer a "high degree" of protection against STDs -- which include gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and HIV, in addition to those listed above.

It's also a good bet that the young kids PP is targeting and handing out free condoms to aren't as nearly as careful or as diligent as a "typical user." In other words, what PP is selling as "safe" and "free" sex is, in fact, high risk behavior. But not to worry, at least as far as pregnancy goes, since PP just happens to be the largest provider of abortions in the country. How convenient.

To all this, PP supporters will argue, "but they're going to do it anyway." And some of them will. Be we can be sure a lot more of them will when we keep telling them it's "safe" and "free" and shoving condoms in their hands.

And don't even get me started on the fact that tax payers gave Planned Parenthood over half a billion dollars last year when we're $17 trillion dollars in debt.

One last thing, not because it's compelling, but just because it's so damn annoying. When the CEO of the Memphis chapter of PP was asked for comment about the billboard, she said,
A condom is not an explicit image it’s just a piece of latex and children see explicit images all the time on the internet, in commercials and in the movies. We are trying to promote healthy relationships and save lives.
I wonder if an NRA spokesman could get away with such a vacuous line: "A gun is not a symbol of violence; it's just a piece of metal." I bet the same Leftists that think PP is so wonderful and noble would have a cow.

Update: From the comments on The Corner:

"Getting it on is free"*

*Offer does not include broken heart, sense of having been used, STD's, pain and suffering from STD's, humiliation arising from STD's, medical costs arising from STD's, unwanted pregnancies, 18 years of child support, 18 years of single motherhood, pain and suffering from toddler years, pain and suffering from teenage years, raising grandchildren because your child also thought that "getting it on is free."

Friday, January 31, 2014

The local effect of ObamaCare

I had a medical scare a couple of nights ago and had to drive myself to the local emergency room. Fortunately, it turned out to be something relatively minor, but while I was there I took the opportunity to ask a nurse how ObamaCare was impacting things at the hospital. Here's what I learned.

To begin with, Anthem is the only insurance company in the state that is participating in the ObamaCare exchange -- so much for Obama's promise of increased choice and competition. Next, for some reason I don't fully understand, Anthem is only able to cover patients served by one of the two hospitals in my area. As a result, the Anthem patients who would normally go to the hospital nearest me (Hospital A) are now required to drive across town to the other hospital (Hospital B). This means that Hospital B is being flooded with new patients -- crowding and delays, on top of the inconvenience of the extra travel on icy New Hampshire roads. In response, many of the Medicare patients that would normally go to Hospital B are now driving across town to Hospital A to avoid the logjam at Hospital B. So Hospital A is now treating more Medicare patients and fewer patients with private insurance. Since the government only reimburses doctors for a fraction of each dollar spent on Medicare patients, Hospital A is not only losing money from the lost Anthem patients, it's also losing money on the extra Medicare patients it's picked up.

How's that for a government "solution"?

Skin color trumps all

The Washington Times:
A popular gifted-student program at a New York City elementary school is getting the ax after school officials decided it lacked diversity.
PS 139 Principal Mary McDonald told parents in a letter Jan. 24 that Students of Academic Rigor, or SOAR, would no longer accept applications for incoming kindergartners, the New York Daily News reported.
"Our Kindergarten classes will be heterogeneously grouped to reflect the diversity of our student body and the community we live in," Miss McDonald said in the letter posted on Flickr.com.
Let me see if I have this right. We have a popular program, presumably serving a need, that is being discontinued solely because of the students' skin color.

How is that not blatant racism?
In a follow-up letter sent to parents Monday, Miss McDonald wrote: "At PS 193, we believe that all children can learn and achieve high standards. We also know that we want all children at PS 193 to have equal access to high quality, challenging curriculum, and to have ample opportunities to master complex material and build academic and personal self-confidence. We also want our classes to reflect the diversity of our community. We believe we can have both: classrooms characterized by rigor and diversity."
Any time you hear the word diversity, you can be sure it's being used to justify an act of racism.

This principle is dishonest when she claims the school is seeking both rigor and diversity. By her own admission, a program called Students of Academic Rigor is being canned because skin color is deemed more important.

Why should kids suffer simply because the world doesn't look the way some government bureaucrats think it should?

Stop the flood

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday blasted as “amnesty” a House GOP plan to give legal status to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.
“I think it would be a mistake if House Republicans were to support amnesty for those here illegally,” he said when asked about the proposal to be outlined in the House GOP's immigration principles.
Other Republicans in the House who support the plan have gone to great lengths to push back on the idea that granting legal status would be amnesty. (The Hill)
Republicans are quibbling over the definition of amnesty as if the word, not the policy, is the issue. And to the extent they are focused on illegal immigrants who are already here, instead of those who are still trying to get here, they are pretty much whiffing on the issue entirely.

If amnesty is, as my dictionary says "a general pardon for offenses, especially against the government", then granting legal status to those who are here illegally is certainly amnesty. But that's not the point. The point is that this policy rewards people for breaking the law -- a bad idea if you want laws to be respected and obeyed.

But the bigger point is that resolving the legal status of those who are already in the country does nothing to keep out those who continue to enter illegally. If your kitchen is flooding, the first priority is to shut off the water. Once you've done that, you can worry about how to clean things up and repair the damage.

For decades politicians have been playing this game where they pardon those who broke the law and promise to secure the border later. But later never comes. The border never gets sealed. And 10 years later we've got a new batch of politicians calling for more pardons in exchange for the same old promises.

I think Americans are tired of this game. I think those who oppose amnesty would come around to it once the borders are secure and the flood is finally stopped.

But I don't see that happening when Washington doesn't even have the fortitude to build a border fence that was approved and funded back in 2006. For all the sound and fury about illegal immigration, our "leaders" seem more interested in scoring political points than doing anything about it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The solution to racism? More racism!

Washington Examiner:
Black federal judges, inspired by racial “solidarity” and “conditioned” in life to sympathize with other blacks, side with African-Americans filing discrimination cases in significantly higher percentages than white judges, according to a first-of-its-kind study.

The California State University, Northridge study of 516 discrimination cases in federal courts over eight years found that black federal judges side with black claimants 32.9 percent of the time. For white judges it was 20.6 percent.

But when the study looked at how black and white judges ruled on discrimination claims made by "non-black claimants," there wasn't any difference.
Interesting, and somewhat understandable, I suppose. But also unfair and unjust. A judge's job is to be impartial, and we can't have them treating people differently based on the color of their skin. That's simple racism.

So what solution does the study's author propose?
Morin’s solution to black judicial favoritism might be unexpected. He argues for more black judges, claiming that blacks are underrepresented on the bench when compared to the racial makeup of discrimination claims, which are majority African-American.

“Black claimants may continue to face an uphill battle since African-American judges continue to be underrepresented in the federal courts,” said Morin.
So we've got Black judges practicing racism from the bench, and this guy's solution is to simply hire more Black judges? No attempt to address the actual problem. Just paint Black claimants as victims -- for being given preferential treatment! -- and hire more judges who will, presumably, also practice racism from the bench.


Off the reservation

Actress Maria Conchita Alonso, best known for her work in Moscow on the Hudson, lost her job with a theater company in San Francisco’s Mission District because she voiced support for Tim Donnelly, a conservative candidate for California governor.

The show's producer, Eliana Lopez, had this to say:
We really cannot have her in the show, unfortunately. Of course she has the right to say whatever she wants. But we’re in the middle of the Mission. Doing what she is doing is against what we believe.
It's a shame that people routinely lose their jobs over such innocuous things as voicing an opinion -- that whole "free country" thing, and all -- but that's where we are. Still, it works both ways. Alonso can say what she wants; her employer can hire who she wants. Assuming no one broke any contracts, that's about right, I think, as far as fairness goes. But I also think we have gotten a little too sensitive about people expressing opinions -- and by we, I mostly mean those on the "tolerant" Left.

What was it Alonso said that was so offensive? According to the Washington Examiner, she used the word illegal to describe those who entered the country illegally. Say it isn't so!

This is what is so maddening. The term illegal immigrant is about as neutral and accurate a description of the people at issue as the English language allows. They literally immigrated here illegally, and it is that precise behavior that is at issue. The Left insists that we abandon this perfectly apt phrase and instead refer to these people as undocumented workers -- a term that is misleading and inaccurate.

We have no way of knowing whether they are workers or not, and their employment status is not what is at issue. Undocumented downplays the the whole deliberately violated our sovereign borders thing as if it were a mere clerical error.

But this is the go-to move of the Left. They can't win arguments on the merits, so they bully people by trying to control the language. Force people to use meaningless, innocuous phrases and they will think meaningless, innocuous thoughts. It's pure propaganda, but, too often, it works.

Alonso was also called out for her use of "vulgar language" in the ad. After watching the ad twice, I gather this refers to Alonso's comedic reduction of a host of California's chronic ills to "We're screwed." Pretty tame stuff as vulgarities go, and also ironic considering the show she was canned from: The Vagina Monologues.

But as one hyper-sensitive Mission District residents put it, “We don’t act like that. First of all, that is not a typical Latina."

A typical Latina? Now there's something to be offended about. How insulting is it to suggest that members of a group have to act, think, and talk alike? Think about that. This is the "tolerant" Left, calling for heads because someone dared to color outside the lines of their racial group. Can't have those Brownie's going off the reservation, now, can we?

Sad, and disgusting.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Moving in the wrong direction

In light of my previous post, this is not a good sign:
In the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation’s recently released 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, the United States has dropped from the list of the top ten freest economies in the world. Over the past year the U.S. moved from the tenth-freest economy to the twelfth.

Red States vs. Blue States

Here's something.

The Mercatus Center has just released a study that examines states’ abilities to meet their financial obligations. It isn't a pretty picture, mostly due to rising health care costs and the burden of government worker pensions.

Here's the thing I found most interesting. Take a look at the top and bottom 10 and notice how Red States states compare to Blue States. (Wikipedia has some handy maps which show voting trends over the past couple of decades.)

Top 10:
1. Alaska
2. South Dakota
3. North Dakota
4. Nebraska
5. Wyoming
6. Florida
7. Ohio
8. Tennessee
9. Montana
10. Alabama

Bottom 10:
50. New Jersey
49. Connecticut
48. Illinois
47. Massachusetts
46. California
45. New York
44. Maryland
43. Hawaii
42. Pennsylvania
41. West Virginia
40. Kentucky

 Pretty definitive, no?

Eight of the top 10 fiscally solvent states are solidly Red; eight of the bottom 10 fiscally solvent states are solidly Blue.

Further, the same striking pattern emerges when we look at other measures of success. I took a look at William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens' latest edition of Freedom in the 50 States. In it, they rank the states by a host of measures of personal and economic freedom. If you take a few minutes to thumb through the various charts, you'll see that Red states consistently outperform Blue states, especially when it comes to fiscal issues.

There was a time when we didn't have the data to determine whether conservative or liberal policies lead to better outcomes over the long run. But that time has long past. We now have many decades of data to examine, and the results are clear: liberal policies don't hold up over time.

And this is true on the world stage as well. Compare East Germany to West Germany, Hong Kong to mainland China, or North Korea to South Korea. In each case we see free market policies along side state-controlled economies within the same culture and time. The free market approach wins every time, and the differences are dramatic.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Market entrepreneurs versus political entrepreneurs

I just watched the first part of Bill Whittle's interview with Dr. Burt Folsom, author of The Myth of the Robber Barons.

Folsom makes an interesting and important distinction that I would like to see work its way into our public discourse: the difference between what he calls market entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs.

Market entrepreneurs are those who try to succeed by competing in the marketplace and selling things at a competitive price. Political entrepreneurs are those who try to succeed by using government subsidies or regulations to gain an advantage in the marketplace.

Market entrepreneurs are heroes. They create wealth for themselves by giving value to others. The only way they can succeed is by finding ways to deliver a better product, one that consumers will be willing to voluntarily exchange for their hard-earned money.

Political entrepreneurs are leeches. They use their power and influence to buy government favors and rig the system, typically by getting politicians to give them taxpayer dollars or pass regulations that give them an unfair advantage over the competition. We sometimes call political entrepreneurs crony-capitalists, but that is a misnomer because they aren't capitalists at all and calling them that gives capitalism a bad name.

One of the strongest arguments for small, limited government is that it breaks up the corrupt partnership between political entrepreneurs and the government they need to exploit to succeed. Without government, businesses have no real power over us. If we don't voluntarily buy their products, they go out of business.

This is why political entrepreneurs love a big government with extensive powers. It gives them many ways to bribe, control, and manipulate things for their own profit. A lean government with few powers -- like the one the Founders designed for us -- denies them a way to control us. There is less taxpayer money to steal, and a government that has little power over us is not much good to them.

Chris Christie plays dirty?

Chris Christie is being accused of manufacturing a massive traffic jam as revenge against a Democratic mayor who failed to endorse Christie in his reelection bid for New Jersey Governor. Democrats are outraged.
The governor faced swift and outspoken outrage from Democrats in the statehouse, some of whom saw the emails as the "smoking gun" tying Christie to the closures, as N.J. Sen. Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who represents the Fort Lee area, put it.
If the accusation is true, Democrats should be outraged, and so should Republicans. We need to crack down hard and fast on corruption and abuse of power in our public servants.
 
We don't yet know all the details, but if they are as presented, and these emails can be linked directly to Christie, it should cost him not only his reelection bid, but his current governorship as well. I don't know what legal or criminal actions would be appropriate, but I'd be in favor of pursuing those as well. If you intentionally use your position to violate the public trust, you should be taken down.

Update: Christie responds:
What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.
One thing is clear: This type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.

Obama's economic illiteracy

Barack Obama: "Voting for unemployment insurance helps people and creates jobs. And voting against it does not".

I wish some reporter would ask the president how taking money (via taxes) from a productive member of the private sector and giving it to someone who is producing nothing creates a job.

I also wish some reporter would ask how the above can in any way be called "insurance." Insurance is when you voluntarily pay a fee to someone in exchange for their assuming a specific risk you wish to avoid in the future. In the case of unemployment payments, we are taking money, by force, from one person and giving it to another, who hasn't worked for it and to whom it does not belong. That's not insurance.

We can argue about whether paying people not to work is a good idea, but let's call it what it is: welfare, or, more accurately still, forcible income redistribution.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The "fix" is in on ObamaCare

The deadline for "fixing" the ObamaCare website has come and gone.

I put "fixing" in quotes because Obama's definition of "fixed" is pretty pathetic. Here's how USA Today sums it up:
That seems to have worked, at least to some degree. The White House announced Sunday that it had hit its target of having the website function smoothly for "the vast majority" of people who want to sign up, which it defines as about 80%.
So Obama gave himself a passing grade for partially completing an assignment that he assigned himself three years ago and which he promised would be completed two months ago. Color me unimpressed.

But here is the section of the USA Today piece I found most interesting:
At this point, the administration has two things going for it. The first is that technological problems can be fixed. The second is that the critics have yet to propose an alternative that would deliver what Obamacare promises: to replace a harsh and costly insurance market with one that ensures good coverage at a fair price.
Things are pretty bad when one of the things the administration "has going for it" is that the site might actually work at some point. But let's put that aside. It's the second thing the administration "has going for it" that caught my eye.

To begin with, it's factually false that critics have yet to propose an alternative to ObamaCare. (See this, this, this, and this, for example.) 

Next, notice the double standard. Critics aren't challenged to propose alternatives that are better than ObamaCare -- a very low bar since ObamaCare is, so far, making things worse, covering far fewer people at much higher prices. No, opponents are being criticized for not proposing an alternative that delivers everything ObamaCare promised.

ObamaCare promised to defy the laws of economics. It promised a lot more stuff to a lot more people at a lot less cost. It was a blatant con, and it's no surprise that it's failing miserably, as was predicted.

But, according to USA Today, ObamaCare still has a chance because the people who pointed out that you can't do the impossible can't do the impossible either.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Considerable quote

I first came across this Chesterton passage about a year ago and found it powerful. Unfortunately I neglected to add it to my collection and have been frustrated on several occasions when I didn't have it at hand. I rediscovered it today and find it potent as ever.
 There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.
~ G.K. Chesterton