Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Redefining the "Waste" in Waste, Fraud and Abuse

Politicians love to talk about getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse and pundits get all starry eyed when this term is mentioned but, in my view, most of what is mentioned is just fraud and abuse. A $1000 hammer is waste but more specifically it's really just abuse, maybe fraud.

Waste is anything that doesn't pass a cost-benefit analysis. If the "social" benefit isn't enough to justify the taxes collected and spent then that is waste. Or if a department or program continues to not be able to meet its goals and we continue to pay for it, that is waste.

For example, the Department of Education has been around forty years. That seems like plenty of time for it to justify its existence. Yet, every year we spend more and more without moving the needle on student achievement. That is waste. Eliminating waste would mean eliminating the Department of Education.

For some reason, liberal economists have a hard time with this concept. They believe if you just have the right people who perform the right tweaks, then it will work. But the evidence suggests otherwise. And experience suggests that the pendulum swings of politics will guarantee that who you think is the right person will not always be at the helm.

Instead, they should begin to follow the evidence. Apply the analysis. End those departments and programs that don't work and you won't have to make it your personal mission to educate people on the awesomeness of raising taxes through semantic magic.

New York Gay Marriage Net Loss for Freedom

A few quick thoughts in bullet format because it's more fun:

  • NOT a win for freedom. It's a win for equal rights under the law and against government sanction discrimination.
  • NY has just re-sanctioned and reinforced the idea that government should be the sole arbiter of marriage instead of private institutions.
  • Gay people have been placed into the privileged class of licensed married couples upon which the state of New York bestows 1,324 different benefits. The underclass of singles will now enjoy a little heavier lifting of the burden of government.
  • Woohoo for gay people.
  • Boohoo for freedom.
Been a while since I've posted. I have been very busy working two jobs. One with a celebrity who I am contractually obligated not to mention at this time. In the future.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Public Schools are Unconstitutional

Recently, a judge in Texas ruled that there could be no prayer or mention of religious words at the Medina Valley Graduation. The idiocy is profound:
Among the words and phrases banned by Judge Biery are “amen,” “prayer,” “join in prayer,”  “bow your heads,” or "in [a deity's] name we pray." He also ordered that the words “benediction” and “invocation” be removed from the graduation program. “These terms shall be replaced with ‘opening remarks’ and ‘closing remarks’,” he decreed.
Now, unless you're a Roman Catholic, the words "benediction" and "invocation" are probably nothing more than big words you here at graduations and invoke no religious meaning for the majority of people.

However, I make no claim to whether or not this particular ruling was the right decision based on the facts of the case and constitutional precedent because either way, the judge would have been wrong. His current ruling infringes on the religious and speech freedom of believers and had he ruled the other way, he would have been infringing on the rights of the plaintiff.

The socialist nature of the American public school system is such that there is no balance that can be achieved to satisfy the natural rights of all parties. The friction that arises from everybody trying to impose their will on everybody else is constitutionally untenable. The only correct ruling would be to strike down ALL public schooling as unconstitutional. And it's not just the first amendment.

First Amendment violations - see above

Second Amendment violations - The constitution puts no age limit  on gun rights, yet all public schools are considered gun-free zones. This is the government limiting your gun rights.

Fourth Amendment violations - Everyday across America, students lockers, bags, and persons are searched without a warrant.

Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Amendment violations - Everyday students are accused of a crime, denied representation, denied due process, denied a trial by a jury of peers, and sentenced without appeal all by a single person called "Principal."

Eighth Amendment violations - Students are frequently the given the maximum sentence of "expulsion" for minor violations.

Obviously, most of the above is said in satire. My child currently goes to a private school and the "principal" makes the decisions. I'd laugh her out of the school if she suggest my child be represented by peers or that a fellow student is packing heat. But my son's school is private. The constitution does not hold for this school.

The problem with public schools is that these policies are carried out by agents of the state; a state bound by the constitution. They do not have the same freedom that individuals have and do not get to make decisions in the same way. For our freedoms to be protected the state has to be bound. Public schools undo that binding and blur the distinction between us and the state. Yes, the principal is your neighbor and you trust him but that doesn't give him more authority than the constitution allows.

A lot of people talk about "choice." Education vouchers and tax credits are all the rage lately but, ultimately, it leads down the same road: state control of education. We're getting a lot of talk in Texas about private school choice but nobody is talking about disbanding the Texas Education Agency. Nobody is talking about me letting me choose the best teachers, regardless of licensing, and best curriculum for my son. That will all still be dictated by the state.

It's time to recognize our right to the Separation of School and State.

Also, a fantastic analogy from Don Boudreaux illustrating the absurdity of vouchers and tax credits.

The "One of Us" Myth

I listen to talk radio, in Texas, so a lot of hot air is exhausted over the potential Republican party nominee for the presidential run. A recurring theme is that this person must be "one of us."

First off, I'm insulted that they keep including me in this "us." I guess it's a twist on the Rene Descartes phrase: "I listen, therefore I am." You don't know me. That's as bad as saying that government is just a word for things we do together. Like this or this or this. Don't include me in those atrocities or your groupthink.

Second, there are over 160 million registered voters and I guarantee you that not two of those people think the same about everything. Even if you come to the same conclusions on some issues, you probably got their differently.

Third, according to a study, a lot of politicians share personality traits with psychopaths.
Kouri, who's a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.
All those traits that make a good serial killer also make a good politician. That's why, even though you have good ideas, you're not running.

So, if you are looking for somebody like you, you will be sadly disappointed. But if we can't rely on the "like us" test, who will we vote for?

There are only two criteria for a politician of any kind:
  1. Are they THEMSELVES. Because, you know, if you try to be everything to everybody, you are   nothing to anyone. And probably a serial killer.
  2. Do they're ideas regarding policy match your ideas of good policy.
Regarding the first criteria:
  • If they begin to sound different as they gain more national prominence, they are not themselves. You see this all the time. Early on, usually before or at the beginning of a primary run, candidates say things that appeal to the Democratic or Republican base. Then as they get closer to the general election, their answers get muddier; they begin walking back certain statements. NOT a good sign.
  • Make sure they answer the question. A new study shows that you are not listening to their answer. "Researchers believe this could be because our brainpower is usually focused on interpreting the speaker's social actions — whether they think the person is honest or trustworthy — which distracts them from recognizing the dodge. (emphasis added)" Basically, you're hearing what you want to hear because the person has a nice smile or nice hair.
On the second point:
  • What are their means to an end? Like me, a lot of people think drugs are bad. I, however do not believe locking them up and throwing away the key makes their life better. I don't think that would have made George W. Bush or Barack Obama better off, do you?
  • Religion doesn't matter. They could be Christian, Mormon, Muslim, Scientologist, or Jedi. If they believe that torture is okay in certain circumstance, empire building for national security is cool, or that I HAVE to buy health insurance at gunpoint, they are not a good candidate.
So, don't go looking for somebody like you. There is nobody like you. If you think only someone like you can fix the problems, then you'll have to run yourself.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Solution to the Minimum Wage Problem

Economist Walter Williams discusses, with John Stossel, the effects of minimum wage laws on the very low skilled, especially blacks:

Essentially, blacks get trapped in a cycle of poverty because they're not initially worth enough to be paid minimum wage and without work they can't learn the skills. The obvious result is high unemployment among blacks.

In theory, a lot of Americans support the minimum wage. Of course, in practice even the most ardent liberal supporters don't support it in practice.

Although pointing out hypocrisy is fun, the point here is that the minimum wage isn't absolute. It only applies to hourly work. This is a good thing. It means we can employ low skilled workers and teach them the skills they need to move up the ladder.

So the solution? Contract work.

For example, instead of paying a kid $7.25 an hour to stock your grocery store, pay him $25/job or even $.10/box.

If you need help in a barber shop, $.000001/hair swept, or something like that.

This may even be better because not only are they learning skills and earning experience they're learning about entrepreneurship and self-employment. They may even stretch the limits of their creativity coming up with new ways to get paid.

Of course, knowing the quality of the public schools most of these kids are imprisoned in, I'm not sure how they will learn about this idea. But fatalism doesn't help. It's time to get creative in fighting back against the good intentions of bad policies.

Friday, June 3, 2011

That Creepy Morning Pledge

Hilarious video from the Whitest Kids U' Know:
From an intellectual standpoint, the idea of forcing kids to recite the socialist pledge is very creepy and anathema to a free society but having witnessed this ritual firsthand I'd have to say the effects are either a wash or negative.

It shouldn't be forced, especially before the kids can even understand the words. But it's hard to get people to care about this tiny fraction of the day when they don't even care about our  entire Soviet Style Education System.