The Immigration “Reform” Bill: RINOs, Labor Unions and a Libertarian Alternative

Nobody is happy with the current immigration reform package being shoved through Congress at the moment. I don’t know too much about the specifics of the bill, or even about immigration itself (except that immigrants make good drinking buddies), so I’ll just outsource some ideas and arguments I’ve read elsewhere. First up is our very own Jacques Delacroix, an immigrant from France, who writes:

The main objective of the bill is to install in this country an unbeatable Democratic majority for the foreseeable future. The intent is to turn this polity into a one-party system. Everyone assumes, of course, that the electoral benefits of the bill will redound to the Democratic Party. If you don’t believe it, conduct a simple mental experiment: Tell yourself under what circumstances the implementation of the present bill, or of one similar to it, would cause a net increase in the number of Republican voters?

At best, at the very best, the admission of ten million formerly illegal immigrants and of their dependents would have no effect on American electoral politics. There is no scenario whereas it would help the conservative cause.

New immigrants vote Democrat. Immigrants from societies with authoritarian traditions vote Left unless their societies have gone through violent purging convulsions such as happened in “communist” Eastern Europe in the nineties. The idea that the government should leave people alone is a sophisticated one. It does not grow naturally out of the experience of oppression.

Indeed. Is this analysis wrong? If so, feel free to elaborate why you think so in the ‘comments’ section. I highly recommend reading the whole thing. Angelo Codevilla, an immigrant from Italy (and one of Dr Delacroix’s fellow academics), also elaborates on the bill:

Beginning in the 1960s, increasingly dandified native youths shunned agricultural and service jobs. So did the new legal immigrants. This made room for a growing number of laborers from Mexico who came and went freely and seasonally across a basically un-patrolled 2000 mile border. These were not “immigrants,” but rather mostly young men who yearned to get back to their families. They did not come to stay, much less take part in American politics. America came to rely on them to the point that, were a magic wand to eliminate them, whole industries would stop, including California agriculture.

US labor unions however, supported by the Democratic Party, pressed the US government to restrict this illegal flow. While until the 1980s, the US-Mexican border was patrolled by fewer than 1000 agents – nearly all at a handful of crossing points – that number has grown to some 25,000 in our time. As the border began to tighten, making it impossible for the Mexicans to come and go, many brought their families and stayed put in the US between work seasons […]

The controversy over illegal immigration did not touch the core of the immigration problem, namely the Immigration Act of 1965 and our burgeoning welfare system. Nor did it deal with the fact that the illegal flow of Mexicans was really about labor, not immigration, because most Mexican “illegals” had not come with the intention of staying. A well-crafted guest-worker program would give most of them what they want most [emphasis mine – bc].

Hence the “illegal immigration problem” is an artifact of the US political system: The Democratic Party wants the Mexicans as voters, the labor unions want the Mexicans as members rather than as competitors, and the Chamber of Commerce wants them for as low a wage as it can enforce.

Codevilla has much, much more here. Codevilla attributes the US immigration system to the corporate state, but I am unsure if Dr Delacroix feels the same way.

Delacroix’s piece, like Codevilla’s, also brings attention to an alternative guest worker program. Delacroix, in an article for the Independent Review, points out that the guest worker program has worked extremely well in the pre-central bank European Union (I am unsure if this is still the case).

A guest worker program would eliminate the political implications associated with “illegal immigration reform” and, as a result, enhance the economic benefits of seasonal labor flows coming from Mexico. The Cato Institute has recently come out with a policy report detailing how a guest worker program might be implemented. As I’ve stated before, the Cato Institute is one of three think tanks I actually trust (the other two being Brookings and Hoover).

Rand Paul for President!

By now everyone knows about Rand Paul’s thirteen-hour filibuster on the Senate floor. He succeeded in his short-term goal, as Attorney General Holder finally produced a memo affirming that the President has no right to murder American citizens who are not engaged in hostilities against the U.S. Senator Paul drew more support from colleagues than I would have expected, including Senator Minority Leader McConnell and Democratic Senator Wyden of Oregon.

But it’s not just his short-term success that has me excited. This might just be the start of a couple of very favorable longer-term outcomes.

First is the prospect that RP may run for President in 2016. He has dropped hints to that effect. He is an attractive candidate for libertarians because of his generally solid stands for economic liberty, civil liberties and non-interventionism. OK, maybe he’s a bit more conservative than some of us would like, and he endorsed Romney last year. And by traditional standards, he’s young and inexperienced.

Yet he just might be electable. He should be able to draw on the army of Ron Paul supporters who are mostly young and energetic. By 2016 the Obama administration will be in shambles and the Democratic candidate will have to distance himself from Obama. A minority party could emerge and siphon off Democratic votes. People will be looking for a fresh face, and Rand Paul does have a boyish, fresh face which doesn’t hurt. And he’s a bit less caustic and perhaps a bit more articulate than his dad.

Best of all, he could be the catalyst for a realignment of politics in this country. One side would be centered on the libertarian principles just mentioned: economic freedom, civil liberties, international peace. The first principle would attract some fellow travelers from the right and the other two would attract some from the left. On the other side would be statists of various stripes including “progressives,” who should be classified as fascists, as well as bloodthirsty warmongers like Senator McCain.

The political realignment just outlined will be familiar to anyone acquainted with the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, formerly called the Nolan chart. Millions of people have taken the quiz, and it has gained considerable respect (“The Quiz has gained respect as a valid measure of a person’s political leanings,” says the Washington Post.)

A lot can happen between now and then. RP’s rising start could fade. He could get co-opted by the Republican establishment. We’ve been disappointed before and it could happen again. But the idea does give one hope. Rand Paul for President, Gary Johnson for Vice President?

(Footnote for anyone shocked by the f-word: There are two aspects to fascism. The economic aspect leaves ownership of the means of production under nominal private ownership but with the government calling all the shots. That describes the program of the “progressives” to a tee. The other aspect is racism or nationalism, echoes of which are seen these days in the forms of affirmative action, multiculturalism, and “diversity” programs.)

The Disaster: A Teenage Victory

Last Tuesday (11/6/2012) there was a vote about the future and the teenagers won. They now have the keys to the family car.

I have never in my life so wanted to be wrong in my judgment. Here it is: President Obama’s re-election is an even worse disaster than his election was. Do I think that many of the people who voted for him gave serious thought to the giant national debt, to the impending entitlement implosion, to the tepid economic growth, or even to the unusually high rate of unemployment? No. Do I think a sizable percentage did? No. Do I think a few did consider all or any of this? I am not sure.

President Obama won re-election decisively. His margin in the popular vote was nearly three million votes. Apparently* there were none of the gangsterish electoral tactics that marred his 2008 election. This makes the results worse as far as I am concerned.

President Obama is still not a monster. It’s possible that he is manipulated by a brand of leftists we thought had disappeared long ago. It’s also possible that someone like me will nurture in his brain paranoid notions at a time of major anxiety, such as now. Continue reading

Race in America Right Now

I live in Northern California where Indian restaurant food and French restaurant food taste alike. That’s because the first is Mexican Indian food and the second is Mexican French food. All the cooks are Mexican. That’s an interesting economic fact. That’s not the whole story by a long shot. America is a great country where menial jobs have for generations led to entrepreneurship and in time, to dignified economic independence. So, Mexican cooks sometimes become Mexican-American restaurant owners.

In my town, there are dozens of Mexican restaurants and taco places. One full-fare restaurant stands among all others. It’s located downtown. It’s spacious and clean. The food there is reasonably good and moderately priced. The restaurant is also perfectly organized for the kind of fare it serves. Scarcely more than five minutes elapse between the moment you place your order and the moment it’s brought to your table. The table is cleaned within one minute of your leaving it so that the next customer does not have to wait.

This Mexican restaurant does not belong to a junior college drop-out, aging surfer as is often the case around here. It was launched and it is staffed by Mexicans immigrants and by their grown children and their buddies. You might say that it’s a great American entrepreneurial ship with a wholly Mexican crew.

One day, I noticed there an old Chinese man bent over a broom, laboriously sweeping the restaurant’s floor. Continue reading

Friedrich Hayek: Champion of Liberty

From Richard Epstein:

Thus Hayek’s 1940 contribution to the “Socialist Calculation” debate debunked the then-fashionable notion that master planners could achieve the economic nirvana of running a centralized economy in which they obtain whatever distribution of income they choose while simultaneously making sound allocations of both labor and capital, just like in Soviet Russia.

Hayek exposed this fool’s mission by stressing how no given individual or group could obtain and organize the needed information about supply and demand conditions throughout the economy. The virtue of the price system was its use of a common unit of measurement—money—to allow various actors to compete for a given resource without having to lay bare why they need any particular good or service. The seller need only accept the highest bid, without nosing around in other people’s business. The interaction between buyers and sellers allows for constant incremental adjustments of both price and quantity. Old information gets updated in a quick and reliable way, thereby eluding the administrative gauntlet of the socialist state.

This essay, which y’all should read, was sparked by the attacks on Rep. Paul Ryan’s supposed intellectual influences F.A. Hayek and Ayn Rand.

Ron Paul’s Legacy

Ron Paul will not get to speak at the GOP convention, but his legacy will hard to miss over the next decade of American politics. His son is now a Senator in Kentucky, and his Audit the Fed bills have lots of bi-partisan support (in the House anyway; Senators, for some strange reason, seem to like the Federal Reserve an awful lot).

His foreign policy, which initially attracted me to libertarian ideas, is the most important legacy, however. I can tell because the GOP loathes it so much that they won’t give Congressman Paul the time of day they know they need for his support.

From Foreign Policy: Continue reading

Vote! Or not.

We have an election in California next week.  I offer two gloomy premises about voting:

  1. My vote doesn’t matter.
  2. The outcome doesn’t matter.

As to premise #1, have you ever voted in an election that was decided by one vote?  The odds favoring that outcome are somewhere in the lottery-winning range. The standard objection is, “what if everyone felt that way?”  My answer is, I don’t control everyone, just myself.

As to premise #2, I should say the outcome matters very little.  For many years I deluded myself that Republicans would hold back the tide of collectivism.  What was I thinking?  George Bush, who I would concede was a decent man, made a lot of mistakes and did a great deal of harm.  Must I elaborate?  The wars, the Patriot Act (an Orwellian name if there every was one), torture of “detainees,” the social security drug benefit, and worst of all, setting the stage by his failures for the current White House occupant who I take to be hell-bent for fascist dictatorship. Notwithstanding these premises, I’m going to vote as I always do.  I’ll tell you why at the end.  First a little about next week’s ballot.

I registered Republican in 2008 so I could vote for Ron Paul but then switched back to Libertarian. I find that in the Presidential primary, I can choose from no fewer than nine candidates on the Libertarian ticket.  I thought Gary Johnson already got the nomination at the convention.  What’s this vote all about?

This year California’s new “jungle primary” system takes effect. Now anyone can vote for candidates of any party in the primary (excepting Presidential choices), and the top two vote-getters, even if they are of the same party, will appear on the general election ballot.  This is supposed to make races more competitive but I think it will do the opposite – move us closer to a one-party state.  We’ll see how many of the general election races offer a choice of two Democrats (or in a few districts, perhaps two Republicans).

Leafing through the voter information pamphlet, I find a stew of 24 Senate candidates: six Democrats, 14 Republicans, two Peace & Freedom, and one each American Independent and Libertarian.  Incumbent Dianne Feinstein will win the primary and the general election without mussing a hair of her signature coiffure, and with so many Republicans competing with one another, it’s likely a Democrat will come in second and appear on the general election ballot along with Senator F (who can be quite sensible at times, for a Democrat).

I’ll vote for the Libertarian, the perennial Gail Lightfoot.  The Libertarian Party needs to draw enough votes in each election to keep its status as a qualified party, and it knows that a female name always draws a certain number of votes, and an American Indian name adds a few more.

Not much choice for Congress: the Democratic incumbent, another Democrat, and a Republican.  The other Democrat is a bit of a nut case, so it might be fun voting for him.  On second thought, I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my whole life, so why start now?  The Republican shows a faint libertarian spark.  I suppose I’ll vote for her.

Ours is the only county in California whose supervisors (county legislators) are elected by districts.  Yet every county voter gets to vote in all the districts.  Bizarre.  I did notice that one candidate opposed building a new jail.  I’ll vote for him and leave the rest blank.  I don’t want to become confused or discouraged by learning any of his other positions.

There are two state propositions, a dumb one about term limits and a $1 per pack cigarette tax.  Why not just send all the smokers to the gas chambers?  On second thought, we need to keep them alive so we can work them as slaves.

Three county tax measures are automatic noes.

So why will I vote?  I can only muster two reasons:

  1. With so many people voting by mail, they have consolidated the voting places.  Mine is now a mile away.  I like that because if the weather is good I’ll have a nice hike through the open space to get there.
  2. I feel some sort of emotive satisfaction in voting.  We all like to believe we are having our say when voting, preposterous as that notion is. For many young people, voting for Barack Hussein in 2008 was a positive expression of hope, which one hopes has been wrung out of all but the densest of them by now.  I felt that same youthful enthusiasm when casting my first-ever vote, for Barry Goldwater in 1964, so I understand.  But now the satisfaction, as you can tell, is thoroughly sardonic.

Not only will I vote, but I have actually contributed to candidates: Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, and Art Robinson who is running for Congress in Oregon.  I offer no excuse for this behavior.  I herewith publicly  resolve to make no further donations this year.

It gets worse.  I twice ran for office, once coming perilously close to winning.  That memory is too painful so I won’t elaborate.

In November I will vote for Gary Johnson.  Knowing that B.O. will carry California I needn’t worry about whether Mr. Romney might make a slightly less evil President.  There will be nasty state tax increases to vote against as well.

Ethnography of Liberalism: I

There used to be an academic discipline called “Ethnography.” It was an inherently humble endeavor, the description of others, of usually exotic, far away, little-known groups. I mean head-hunters of Borneo, and Pygmies from central Africa. Ethnography had little pretension to “explain” as does modern Anthropology for example. I am engaged in a continuous study of the Left. I am doing daily, indefatigable ethnography of that quaint but interesting tribe.

In spite of my public identity as a conservative, I am proud to say I have good entries into the liberal world of my small ultra-liberal and “progressive” town. I don’t know the liberal establishment and I think it does not know me, or it ignores me. I am in daily touch with the rank-and-file though. (I will not blow my cover by telling you how. You will have to take my word for it.) Because of my previous life in academia, I also know liberals. and even progressives, outside of my immediate area. I am talking of people with whom I have personal contacts at will, not National Public Radio.

Old-fashioned ethnographers used to exploit “native informants.” Those were local indigenous people who were willing to talk, trustworthy and who, the ethnographer had reasons to believe, were well-informed. Lately, I have been having short and long-distance conversations with a younger man, a very moderate liberal, a liberal-leaning centrist, you might say. I have known the man for a long time. He is intelligent, very hard-working and resourceful. He has even demonstrated an entrepreneurial bent. More importantly, I know him well enough to be sure that he prizes his personal credibility. My liberal friend is a valid native informant. I am not building a straw-man to burn later in triumph. Continue reading

Immigrants – A Story Pregnant with Deep Meaning

They are a pretty young couple. He is a thin, blond Dutchman in his early thirties. Yasmina, his younger wife, is a honey-skinned beauty, and all curves. The day I met them, she was wearing a short, tight silky dress over a black push-up bra that was doing its job quite well, indeed. She is Pakistani by way of Toronto. They have come to seek their fortune in California.

Peter, the Dutchman, is working for a local software company. He is a language specialist in a generic sense, if there is such a thing. He began an advanced degree in Sanskrit, at Oxford. He did not finish because he could not “raise” the 35,000 pounds ($50,000) required. He spent a couple of years in India studying Sanskrit with a guru. When I asked him why he had not sought admission to an American doctoral program that would have supported him, one way or another, as is the custom, he gave me an answer I did not quite understand. It was something about changing priorities and about the infernal American demand for scholarly publications. Peter and Yasmina met at Oxford, where she completed an undergraduate degree. Or maybe not.

A Muslim by birth, Yasmina drinks wine with gusto, a sure sign of aristocratic upbringing. She speaks English perfectly and very fast. Peter discusses wines with much competence. His parents own a winery and vineyard in the heart of Continue reading

Contraception and Perversions: Dr D’s Brutal Reminders

Warning: Some parts of this essay may be considered pornographic. (I sure hope so because I need another source of income.) It is mostly addressed to adult women but you should feel free to read it whatever your sex, or sexual orientation, or sexual orientations. If a young girl happens to read it, I am persuaded that it will do her more good than harm in the long run.

The leftist media have a new battle-horse: Republicans are waging “war on women,” they say. They claim that the Republican Party is using contraception denial to undermine women’s freedom. The other morning, I am laboring on the elliptical at the gym maintaining my three-pack. I am watching MSNBC (no choice, I live in Santa Cruz) when comes on an elegant, attractive Professor of Political Science. I don’t know from what university she is and I don’t care. It’s obvious she was invited because of her telegenic appeal. She is a light-skinned African-American woman, quite pretty, with an extremely neat hairdo of a hundred tight little tails. (What do you call those again?) Perfect!

The telegenic professor asserts calmly that the Republican Party is deliberately trying to limit the progress of women into the professions by denying them contraception.

Got it? “Copulate without protection. Become pregnant. Kiss law school good-bye! One less ho in a position of power or influence!”

I wouldn’t believe this enormous absurdity happened on television if I had not heard it myself. We are all more or less guilty for letting this kind of stuff be said without booing. Yes, I think booing is a moral obligation. Continue reading

Republican Presidential Primaries

I don’t have any witty comments or analysis because I have not been watching any of the debates or following them with any vigor. I heard Romney won both Michigan and Arizona last night, which means he’ll probably get the nomination.

What are the chances that he will have a smooth ride through the GOP convention? I think Santorum and Gingrich will fall in line and support him, but Ron Paul is quietly sweeping up delegates and I think he is going to make a major stink at the convention. He will not get too radical because of his son’s future in the Party, but he’s going to force Romney to make some concessions.

I think Paul will press him on a number of issues, but Romney will only capitulate to the Federal Reserve argument Paul so often speaks about. Gold Commission 2013?

None of this matters, of course. Obama will be re-elected. From a pragmatic point of view: he has killed bin Laden, waged a successful air war against a now-dead dictator in the Middle East, and not managed to get us into any more quagmires (yet). Continue reading

Ugly Conservative Sacred Cows

Sometimes, it’s wrong to be right. Here are three issues where conservative Republicans seem to this conservative Republican to be wrong, from a practical standpoint, at least. That’s at least from a practical standpoint. They may also be morally wrong. I won’t deal with this today. Those three issues are sacred cows of contemporary conservatism, ugly cows that hardly anyone dare slaughter. I will just have to do it.

Illegal immigration

The thought that some immigrants begin their lives in this benevolent, generous country by violating our laws is infuriating. It’s especially infuriating to the American and legal resident relatives of candidates to legal immigration who stand politely in line, often for years, sometimes to no avail. (I have a short essay on [my other] blog on legal immigration into this country. Here is a summary: for most people in the world, it’s completely impossible. I address this matter succinctly in the second half of a piece on Social Security: Bizarre Conservative Ideas About Immigration). And, incidentally, if you don’t know it already, I am an immigrant myself, a legal immigrant. (You may even want to read excerpts from my memoirs: “I Used to Be French…”)

The question is what to do about illegal immigration? Many conservatives declare that they favor muscular responses. Chief among those are militarizing the border with Mexico and mass deportation of illegal aliens in this country (most of whom are Mexicans).

The first time a member of the armed forces kills a twenty-year old Mexican trying to cross in order to buss tables in San Jose will also be the last time. We are not like that. Those who claim to want to put the military on the border have not thought things through. The military does most good when it’s shooting and when it gives the impression that it will shoot if necessary. Do you really expect them to shoot peaceful young men, and worse, women who commit an illegal act in order to make a living? (Said illegal act was only a misdemeanor for years, like illegal parking, by the way.)

I don’t care how tough conservatives they think they are. It does not sound credible. If you keep declaring that you want to do the inhumanely absurd and the absurdly inhumane it makes you lose credibility. You need your credibility for other struggles, struggles we might actually win quickly.

The severe determination to evict millions of illegal aliens sounds like bad science fiction the minute you think about it seriously. There are probably more than ten million of them, maybe more. They are concentrated in certain states such as California. Texas and Illinois. Nevertheless, there are illegal aliens in every state by now. They go to school with our children; they work in the businesses we patronize; they share our exercise machines; they worship in our churches. One immigrant who told me he came here illegally from Mexico is now president of the local branch of my bank. He is a good bank president, by the way. In part that’s because he possesses the common immigrant vigor. In part it’s because he is Mexican by culture. But I am getting away from my topic.

And, of course, if you think about it (please, do) you will soon figure out that many illegals, who came as babies, don’t know well any language other than English. Many have American brothers and sisters. You are not going to round them up. The very popular attempt to expel the small minority of illegals who have committed crimes is not even going well. And, no, it’s not all Obama’s fault. The logistics alone are daunting.

Moreover, if you polled a hundred “tough on illegal immigration” conservatives, you would find the following:

A small number would claim not to know any illegal alien. Most of those would be factually wrong. A larger number, when pressed, would request exceptions to the mass deportation order, exceptions for illegal aliens they know well: for Maria or for Luis. Maria and Luis would be their own illegals, their special lawbreakers, who happen to be good and meritorious illegal aliens. It’s the other guy’s illegal aliens they really object to! Those other illegal aliens are rabble. (Personally, I hate the Mexican who uses a leaf-blower every Monday morning at 8 on the dot. I want him deported, whether he is illegal or not.)

I develop these arguments extensively with respect to Mexican illegals specifically in an article co-authored with another immigrant, Sergey Nikiforov, published in The Independent Review.

In brief, this is not a good time (2/21/12) to argue about illegal aliens. It will invariably make you sound callous, inhuman and thoughtless plus impractical. Wait until you have the power to deal with the issue in a compassionate, humane, thoughtful and rational way.

You don’t need to die for every hill all at once.

Homosexual Marriage

First, don’t bother to correct me. I know that the politically correct term is “same-sex marriage.” Political correctness interferes with my rational thought. And by the way, it’s not two guys who just happen to be good friends who are itching to get hitched! Let’s not be ridiculous.

Don’t let your visceral revulsion masquerade as rational argument. Don’t allow yourself to push your religiously-based condemnation on me who is not religious. Don’t push it on others who might otherwise make good allies in the conquest of power. Doing either is un-conservative. It makes you look like the worst of Communist totalitarians. (Fidel Castro used to put homosexuals in prison until some of his rare smart advisors talked him out of it.)

And don’t make absurd and devious arguments by naming laws directed against homosexuals getting hitched: “Defense of Marriage Act.” Whatever homosexuals do in private, or even on the public street may be disgusting to you but it does nothing to undermine heterosexual marriage. That particular institution does not need external attacks. It self-destructs from within every minute of the day. What do you expect any way? Do you really think that if the door were terminally slammed on homosexual marriage, the percentage of first heterosexual marriage ending in divorce would slip from, say 50% to 49%? Please, take the five seconds it takes to answer this question in your mind.

And, it you think about what you already know concerning the fragility of heterosexual marriage, you must know that banning alcohol – with the death penalty for the second offense, perhaps – would almost certainly do more to preserve the institution than any prohibition applied to homosexuals.

Think through that one too, please.

My own opinion on the issue: I think no group should be allowed to use the armed force of government to change the meaning of a common word, such as “marriage.” That’s essentially what militant homosexuals are trying to do. I am completely opposed on principle. However, I don’t think it will create a precedent if they succeed. The acceptance of the idea that marriage may involve two women, or two men, or three, will not usher the day when “lie” comes to mean “truth,” by government decree and under threat of jailing.

Conservatives need to be mature enough to fight in important battles and not to pick fights based on unreasoned rage.

And, incidentally, in case you are wondering, I am not one of the brave conservative homosexuals forced to stay in the closet. I am not a homosexual but strictly a normal, vulgar T&A kind of guy.

Imposing standards of performance on schools

There are many different reasons to be appalled at the whole educational establishment, K through high-school senior and beyond, including the university, and even some graduate and professional schools. I don’t like the word “appalled.” It sounds effeminate and left-liberal. So, in truth, I am not appalled but I am really pissed off. And, as a former teacher, I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand on end. And your hair wouldn’t come down until the next morning at best. What you know is not the half of it!

To pare down the causes of our disillusionment, to get down to its core:

The more numerous the national educational establishment and the more loaded with benefits, the more unassailable its privileges, the less Johnny knows how to read.

It began with elementary school that promoted “students” who couldn’ t spell their name; it’s crept to the colleges that now offer numerous remedial classes for freshmen they admitted under their own power. I can testify personally that I know an expensive university that awards degrees each year to people who cannot line up two grammatically correct sentences in any language. Some of these same students major in a foreign language. They can’t line up anything in the foreign language either. After four years and tens of thousands of dollars, they end up illiterate in two languages. N.S. !

There is a natural tendency to want to remedy this rolling disaster with a formula that seems to succeed in business:

Evaluate, punish or reward

There are several reasons why this is likely to be counterproductive.

First, the evaluation is not as easy as current plans seem to assume: It’s for schools as for computers: Give the best schools very bad students and they will only turn out mediocre students. Give mediocre schools excellent students, they will turn them mediocre. It’s not easy to figure out what does what although it’s possible to do in principle. Children are not like so many pounds of flour. They are intensely reactive and they come into the school system with built-in strengths and built-in defects. The relevant research would be quite expensive and it would take a long time to conduct.

It’s true that liberal teachers unions use these very arguments to protect their members from scrutiny and from accountability. This does not mean that this view is incorrect. You don’t want to create a worse situation by punishing good teachers that work with difficult human material and by rewarding bad teachers that are able to pick the low-hanging cherries.

Second, don’t be surprised if teachers sabotage evaluations done by existing school hierarchies. They will do this even when they approve of the fact of being evaluated and even if they approve of the evaluation tools. Education has been a rotten, intellectually corrupt field for so long that the hierarchies it generates cannot be seen as respectable by respectable teachers.

The solution to this last problem often seems to be to use “objective” evaluation tools, mechanical evaluation devices that do not make room for supervisors’ corruption. I agree that it’s possible in principle to develop such evaluative devices. By administering them according to a “before and after” pattern, it’s also possible to remedy at once the first and second objections I raise above.

Doing so creates a third problem that is so serious that it may be worse than the original problem any evaluations are supposed to remedy.

As someone who devised hundreds of tests, let me say that I don’t see how it would be possible to reformulate the evaluation tools for any area or especially, nationally with much frequency. Doing so would be extravagantly expensive, too time-consuming. So, the teachers and their school “superiors” would quickly become aware of the contents of the tests, of what, very precisely the tests are actually testing. If the rewards and punishments were not significant, see above. If they were significant, you can be completely sure that most teachers, 80%, 90%, 95 % would immediately start teaching narrowly to the test.

How would you not expect teachers to do more or less this since their welfare and that of their children, even their retirement would depend exactly on their teaching to the test? I mentioned their retirement because economic self-advancement is normally done on a percentage basis. The raise you did not get this year will stay with you your whole life, literally. It will increase in relative size with every year. (I know how costly this sort of purity is because I followed such a strategy throughout my teacher career and I never caught up economically with my lackluster but conformist colleagues.)

The best possible outcome of this scenario is that after a while, American kids would read and write pretty much as well as say, Koreans, or Estonians.

Do you see where I am going? This is something very valuable that the current disastrous American education promotes or, that at least, it avoids destroying. For lack of a better word, that’s called “creativity.’ Americans have more of it than others. Look around from the Internet to giant double rolls of toilet paper in public facilities to country music!

Ideally, we would have a Johnny who would know how to read and write and who would also remain occasionally creative. I am afraid, we don’t know how to produce such a result. It does not mean that it cannot be done. It does not depend on a drastic, sudden reform though, It’s not a matter of getting tough, no more Mr Nice Guy!

Note that I am evoking here the possibility of a successful endeavor. I have not even begun to discuss the real likelihood of massive, systemic cheating in and ill-implemented “evaluate, punish, reward “ program. Look at the Atlanta school system for an example of how massively wrong this strategy can go.

I have no conclusion for this butchery proposal in three parts. I don’t need to know what ought to be don’t to stop doing what I shouldn’t do. I hope you will offer one conclusion or more.

Update on America and on the World

Newt Gingrich [recently] won the South Carolina primary by a big margin. I know that’s only South Carolina, perhaps the most conservative state. Still, that’s a major rebuke to serious candidate Romney. The speeches both gave after Gingrich won delineate clearly two major paths for the Republican Party. Romney’s speech was colorless, odorless, rich in platitudes. It was the kind of speech unfairly associated with “moderates” who deserve better.

Gingrich spoke incisively, precisely about what agitates conservatives like me who are not born-again Christians nor any of the other stereotypes the liberal press has invented. We want a smaller government that’s not wasteful and that does not get us into debt for two  generations to come. Gingrich’s speech was well received for another reason: It spoke of simple pride in America, not of imperial pride, not of a wish to dominate, not of hubris but of simple dignity.

There is a pervasive feeling that we lost our national dignity during the three-year Obama presidency. It was not all his fault. Certainly, a major contributor is our large national debt that was already too large when he took office. However, it’s fair to charge Obama for this loss of dignity because he told us repeatedly that America should become a smaller, more ordinary country, and it has. If you tell Mom in anger, ” I wish you died” and she dies, don’t be surprised if your brothers are angry at you. And, President Obama, whose middle name is  still Hussein, bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia, the grandchild of camel thieves who happens to have captured a lot of oil. Continue reading

A Libertarian sales-tax party?

Is the Libertarian Party becoming a sales tax party?  The past several LP candidates for president have favored excise taxes.  I don’t recall any of them declaring, “Taxation is Theft!”  Now we have former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson as a leading candidate for the LP nomination for president, having abandoned the quest for the Republican Party nomination.  His tax plan as a Republican was a national sales tax, and that remains his tax plan as a Libertarian.

The main organization pushing for a national sales tax calls it a “Fair Tax.”  That is excellent propaganda, but a sales tax is no more fair or just than a tax on wages.  A sales tax violates free trade, makes products more expensive, and indirectly taxes wages and other incomes.  The advocates claim that a shift from income to sales taxes would not raise prices, since the income tax already raises prices, but they are wrong, because much of the burden of a tax on wages is on labor.  A sales tax has about the same excess burden or deadweight loss as an income tax.  Income taxes punish savings, but sales taxes punish borrowing, and there is no logical reason to favor savings over borrowing.  Savings and borrowing should be voluntary individual choices not skewed by taxes or subsidies.

The “Fair Tax” plan exempts business purchases, putting the burden on households.  That invites massive tax evasion, as folks would claim to be buying stuff for a business.  The response of government would be a sales tax gestapo.  If you did not have a receipt for your purchase and could not prove it was for business, you could go to prison.

If the Libertarian Party becomes a sales tax party, it will be unpopular and get little support.  Historically, sales tax advocacy has been a political loser.  This may well be why Gary Johnson got so little support as a Republican candidate for president.  If the LP nominates a sales taxer, I for one will promote the Free Earth Party (http://free-earth.foldvary.net/) as a truly libertarian alternative.

Leadership, International Trade, Hormuz and Ron Paul, Minorities and Ron Paul: The Last-Before-Last Republican Follies

Well, I am just about debated out. It’s difficult for all the candidates or pretend-candidates to maintain their dignity while answering complex questions in sixty seconds with thirty seconds for rebuttals. It’s worse when the debate is moderated, and many of the questions formulated, by one local unknown and two liberals, one of whom has been an air-head for as far back as I can remember. I am referring to Dianne Sawyer, of course, and I can remember at least thirty years.

Two general comments about the Saturday night New Hampshire debate. (I missed the Sunday morning debate, sorry.) First, as usual, much time was wasted with questions and answers about “leadership.” I don’t understand the questions. I don’t understand the answers; I suspect (strongly) that the candidates understand neither the questions nor the answers about leadership. Leadership is a word that is worse than useless. Trust me, I taught management for about 25 years. If the concept were useful, I would have noticed. It’s useless the way baby-talk is useless. To the average one-year old, everything is a “wah.” It takes all the resources of parental love to assign to or to invent a meaning for each “wah” utterance. I don’t have such love for anything politicians say. Any politician who made it a rule to eschew completely the use of the word “leader” and of its derivatives would instantly gain in clarity and in sincerity.

My second comment is that, as happens every time, the candidates demonstrated their deep ignorance of basic concepts of international trade and of international economics in general. It makes me feel good that I taught the topic for about thirty years. I feel retrospectively, that I must have been doing something useful. I expect such ignorance among liberals. It’s disheartening to encounter it on the conservative and libertarian side. Continue reading