Monday, April 30, 2007

Understanding Economics

Understanding economics is essential to be able to understand politics. Economics makes it possible to not only understand reality, but also predict the consequences of a potential policy.

Economics is not hard to understand when presented properly. Most of what the average citizen needs to know is contained in this series.

This is the key concept in economics. Analyzing incentives is a powerful tool to predict the consequences of actions.

Economic value is subjective. People value things differently. Trade establishes a market value. Value does not depend on cost of production.

Money is a good used as a store of value. It several desirable qualities. Increasing the money supply, which is called inflation, reduces the value of the money already in existence.

In the free market, prices reflect reality. Price controls lead to shortages or surpluses.

Private property rights are essential for economic growth. Collective and government ownership are wasteful.

Profits reward behavior that serves consumers well. Losses penalize such behavior.

Economic growth happens because of increases in productivity driven due to new technology. Investment, not spending, is essential to growth.

Competition benefits consumers by promoting the creation of better, cheaper products. Government-enforced monopolies hurt consumers.

Trade benefits both parties and is essential to both parties. It sometimes has negative political effects. "Free trade agreements" contain government regulations.

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell
Applied Economics by Thomas Sowell
Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

In the Gazette

A number of items in the Gazette concern our state, county, and campus.

The state of Michigan has serious budget problems.
What area legislators say
Will Michigan raise taxes?
How to raise revenue
How to cut spending

Controversy continues over the Bronson park statue.
It's not likely to be removed

Another election is coming up on May 8.
Mattawan wants more money

News about Western.
A profile of John Dunn
Western's problems
WMU increases room and board prices

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Chavez buys support with people's oil

According to a recent AP article, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is pledging to Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Haiti that he will "supply of all your energy needs, 100 percent."

Chavez, who may not be able to go forward with these policies, is doing so at the expense of his own people. He is using the country's nationalized oil to buy support from other left-leaning nations in central America. The oil, which could be sold on the world markets (primarily to the US) at a higher price, will be sold at below market value, at a discount. One questions why Chavez, who leads a nation that has 37.9% of its population below the poverty line, would be giving deals to other countries when his own is in such bad shape.

The obvious answer comes to mind: he cares more for himself than his people.

Caring for oneself more than others is not a bad thing in a free society. In fact it is rational and moral to do so. However, government turns this principle on its head. Because power in government is not earned, but taken or forced, market functions do not apply.

If we allow people to have private ownership, the people of Venezuela would, undoubtedly, sell their oil at market value. If they didn't, competition would ensure businesses who didn't would not stay in business long.

But in government there is no competition. There is no reason to do what is best for the shareholders of a company or the shareholders of a country (its citizens). In government, you don't want to get the best value for your time, energy, and resources; rather you only need to do what is politically expedient to gain more power.

This is what Chavez is doing with this agreement, and it is at the expense of his people. By selling oil below cost, he is essentially transferring money from his people (of whom, again, 37.9% live below the poverty line) to those of other nations. He does this to gain support to oppose free trade policies which would help his people even more as well as gain himself more power and clout within the region.

Capitalism is the driving force behind the eradication of world poverty. Conversely, socialism ensures equal poverty for all. Chavez has been able to stay below the radar with the US being focused on terrorism, however we should be mindful of his actions as they undermine the interests of his people, the people of the region, and the US.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


This update focuses on immigration. Immigration continues to cost taxpayers money, take American jobs, and damage our sovereignty. Political elites refuse to secure our borders. Two border patrol agents were wrongfully convicted for doing their jobs.

Phyllis Schlafly shows how H-1B visas take American jobs.
WorldNetDaily shows that illegals cost 2.2 trillion a decade.
Mac Johnson explains the divide between voters and elites.
Phyllis Schlafly updates the border patrol agents' case.
JD Hayworth shows how Bank of America rewards illegals.
Phyllis Schlafly says Ramos and Compean should be freed.
Sam Antonio explains the fate of the border patrol agents.
James Edwards exposes immigration word games.
Mac Johnson explains the effects of immigration on Texas.

POLITICAL UPDATES are archived here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Controvery in Carbondale

From the April Phyllis Schlafly Report:


A similar sequence of events took place this year at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC).

Christine Mize, a Christian graduate student in social work, was writing an assignment to create an eight-week therapy program based on a topic of her own choosing and supported by independent research. She chose to write on a therapy plan for women suffering from post-abortion syndrome. However, her professor, Dr. Laura Dreuth Zeman, told Christine that her paper would be downgraded if she included a faith-based section in the recovery plan.

Christine obediently turned in her paper without the faith-based section, but she also provided the professor with legal information on her constitutional right to include religion in her assignments when it is appropriate to the topic. Dr. Dreuth Zeman then refused to grade the paper, giving Christine an "incomplete" and putting her graduation in jeopardy.

After repeated unsuccessful appeals to college administrators, Christine turned to the Alliance Defense Fund for assistance, which immediately wrote to SIU Carbondale explaining Christine's constitutional rights. SIUC backed down, gave Christine her grade, and allowed her to complete the course and graduate.

These examples tell us a lot about political correctness and intolerance on university campuses. Christian students should stand up for their rights of free speech. As Emily and Christine proved, Christian students can win.


SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, Carbondale, IL. A federal appeals court issued a preliminary injunction requiring SIU's School of Law to grant a Christian student group the same rights as secular student groups on its campus. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which had filed an amicus brief in this case, said, "This is a crucial victory for the principles of religious liberty and freedom of association." Law School Dean Peter Alexander had revoked official recognition of SIU's chapter of the Christian Legal Society, asserting that the group's sexual morality requirements violated SIU's nondiscrimination policy. CLS policies ban voting members and leaders from engaging in or approving of premarital sex, adultery, or homosexual sex, although anyone may attend the group's meetings and activities.


More from the Center for Academic Freedom

It's Official

From the Gazette:


Consider it Dunn

WMU trustees plan to complete presidential search process today

Western Michigan University's board is expected to appoint John M. Dunn today as the university's eighth president.

When WMU started its search for a new president last fall, the next president was described as one who could grow enrollment, be fiscally astute, foster positive campus morale and support diversity.

"You shake it all up and what falls out is John Dunn,'' Ken Miller, head of the presidential search committee, said on April 16, after it was announced that Dunn would be the only finalist in the pool trustees would consider.

Miller, the board's vice chairman, also described Dunn as the most complete candidate of the three who came to campus.

Dunn, along with two other presidential candidates, was in Kalamazoo earlier this month for interviews and public presentations.

When the candidates left, a short list emerged, and Dunn was the only person on it.

Last week, some trustees visited Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where Dunn is interim chancellor, for additional fact-finding and to start contract talks, according to WMU university-relations officials.

Trustees "left with the same impression: They felt affirmed'' in their selection of Dunn, Miller said.

The 61-year-old could be in his new office at Western Michigan University as soon as July.

"I've been in higher education now for over 30 years, and I have been at, throughout my career, leading research institutions, and Western Michigan University has a very impressive history,'' Dunn told the Kalamazoo Gazette earlier this month.

"I think its future is indeed quite bright, and I think I match (WMU) very well with the kind of experiences and background that I have,'' he said.


A Dunn Deal?
John Dunn

If we don't learn English...

This is frightening.

Monday, April 23, 2007

John McCain

John McCain

US Senator (1986-present)
US Congressman (1982-1986)
US Navy (1958-1981)

Congressional Website:
Campaign Website:

McCain has a generally pro-life record, but with some exceptions. According to National Right to Life, he votes pro-life the majority of the time. However, he has also voted for federal funding for the destruction of human embryos and fetal tissue research. He has also said several things that call into question his commitment to the cause.

"I'd love to see a point where it (Roe v. Wade) is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

He has more recently said that he would support overturning Roe.

Foreign Policy
McCain takes a hawkish neoconservative line on foreign policy. He has been a staunch advocate of the war in Iraq. He has advocated more troops in Iraq. He advocates a neoconservative "commitment to revolutionary democratic change" and accuses those who question the universal belief in freedom and democracy of "cultural bigotry".

Gun Rights
McCain has a mixed record on gun rights. He has voted against the "assault weapons ban" and for restricting anti-gun lawsuits. He has also sponsored a bill with Joe Lieberman to impose drastic regulations that according to pro-gun groups would essentially ban gun shows. More information on the bill is available from the National Rifle Association. Gun Owners of America has given McCain an F- rating for the last two Congresses. Author John Lott provides more information on McCain's record.

McCain has advocated higher immigration levels, amnesty, and a "guest worker" program. He said that "Everyone in the world should have the opportunity through an orderly process to come to this country." He believes that immigrants do "jobs that Americans won't do." He opposes ballot initiatives to restrict immigration and advocates more government spending for legal immigrants. He voted to allow illegal immigrants to receive Social Security benefits.

He sponsored the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill with Senator Ted Kennedy. McCain supports creating a "guest worker program" and "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants already in America. This amounts to amnesty and a reward (citizenship) for lawbreakers. In the Senate, he voted for a bill that would allow in more than 100 million immigrants in the next 20 years. It would also cost $500 billion in welfare payments within 20 years.

His record has been profiled by Numbers USA and Americans for Better Immigration.

McCain has been a staunch opponent on the Federal Marriage Amendment. He supported an Arizona ballot initiative that would have prevented "gay marriage". He made a confusing statement that seemed to endorse "civil unions", which are the same as "gay marriage" in all but name.

McCain's biggest legislative effort was "campaign finance reform", the McCain-Feingold bill. This bill imposes significant restrictions on political speech. It bans groups from running advertisements that mention a candidate for federal office within sixty days of an election. Critics contend that the goal of the legislation was to silence criticism of Congress. As Senator McCain put it, "These ads are direct, blatant attacks on the candidates. We don't think that's right." He has also supported legislation to require grassroots groups to register their communications.

McCain sponsored the McCain-Lieberman "Climate Stewardship Act" to fight the supposed dangers of global warming. This was "projected to cost $76 billion annually by 2025."

He voted against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

McCain sponsored the "Patients Bill of Rights" with Ted Kennedy and John Edwards. This would have imposed more regulation on health care and facilitated more lawsuits.

McCain has stated that the United Nations "is a vital organization to the world and to the national interests of the United States." He wants to make it "stronger and better." He advocated passage of the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), which would have given the UN the power to tax, and significant control over the seas.

He has consistently supported "free trade agreements" that impose more government regulation on America. He voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He supports the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

McCain has generally opposed increases in government spending. He was one of only a handful of Republican votes against the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which has a present value cost of 22 trillion dollars. He has actively campaigned against earmarks, which are spending projects added to bills by specific congressmen.

McCain largely supports existing government programs. His list of budgetary priorities shows that he would maintain or slightly increase spending for most programs. He voted for the No Child Left Behind act, which included a large increase in government education spending.

McCain was one of only two Republican Senators to vote against the Bush tax cuts in 2001. He also voted against the 2003 tax cuts. He voted for a tax increase on cigarettes in 1998. He has employed class warfare rhetoric:

"I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief."
On other occasions, he has voted for tax cuts, including extending the Bush tax cuts in 2006.

McCain was involved in the Keating Five scandal. He divorced and remarried in 1980. He is widely reputed to have a hot temper.

See This Post for Relevant Articles on John McCain:
Articles on John McCain

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lenin's Birthday

Environmentalists call it Earth Day.

From Front Page Magazine:


One of the self-identified "founders" of Earth Day, Bay Area activist John McConnell, has written that in 1969 he proposed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors a new holiday to be called Earth Day on the first day of spring, the Equinox, around March 21. But, he writes, in 1970 local anti-Vietnam War and Environmental Teach-in activists "who were planning a one-time event for April 22, also decided to call their event Earth Day."

And what was this unnamed "one-time event" in 1970? It was the 100th birthday celebration for Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known to history as Lenin, a pen name he might have coined from Siberia’s Lena River. He was the patron saint of the North Vietnamese Communists such as Ho Chi Minh that America was fighting. And Lenin apparently has been patron saint to the Marxist vanguard of American activists who with their Teach-ins and other anti-war activities helped their comrades win in Southeast Asia -- and who now hold positions of power throughout American colleges, universities, and media.

Wherever Left-wing political correctness is the dogma imposed by such faculty, Earth Day is likely to be celebrated. Thus, for example, this new holy day of the Marxist faith will find adherents at Princeton University. Princeton is now home to bioethicist Dr. Peter Singer, who defends the right to life of animals but believes parents should have a right to kill their babies not only in the womb but also for up to a year following birth. Exhibiting similar ethics, Princeton’s student newspaper published David Horowitz’s ad opposing slave reparations for African Americans who have never been slaves, but its editors unprofessionally juxtaposed the ad to their agitprop intended to smear, negate, and shout down its message. These editors, of course, permit no such natural "balance" for Left-wing opinions in their pages. The Prince now ruling Princeton was schooled by Machiavelli.

Might it be mere coincidence that Earth Day falls on Lenin’s Birthday? No, this link was apparently intended from the beginning. Sincere environmentalists who objected that Lenin’s Soviet Union was a despoiler of the natural ecology of Russia, a dammer of rivers and polluter of ecosystems, have been ignored or silenced. Requests by sincere environmentalists to change Earth Day’s date – as one logically would do if a holiday had been accidentally placed on the birthday of a mass murderer such as Adolf Hitler – have been rejected or harshly rebuffed.

Earth Day’s best friends have been like the late David Brower, founder in 1969 of Friends of the Earth (FOE). Born in Berkeley, Brower was the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club (1952-1969) and spearheaded its efforts to shut down road construction and development in National Parks. He was the subject of John McPhee’s classic Encounters with the Archdruid. Brower put together books himself such as Not Man Apart, which juxtaposed photos of Big Sur to lines by self-labeled "Inhumanist," pantheist, and anti-capitalist poet Robinson Jeffers. In his later years Brower went on a pilgrimage to Nicaragua to praise and embrace its Fidel Castro-aligned Marxist Sandinista rulers.

Strike Out

Looks like you still need to go to your final exams. From the Gazette:


Union says it has agreement with WMU

Members of the Teaching Assistants Union at Western Michigan University were considering some form of work stoppage if WMU did not reach an agreement with the union Friday.

But the union, representing some 650 graduate teaching assistants, and the university came to a tentative pact Friday evening, according to TAU President David Zwart.

"We're happy that we have our first contract and set the ground work for a relationship with the university as employees,'' Zwart said.

The union -- comprised of master's and doctoral students who also teach -- organized a year ago to improve what it considered inadequate pay, tuition remission and health care.

Union members claimed contract talks were stalled over financial issues, and they protested outside the administration building earlier this month.

A university official had said progress was being made in the negotiations that started in November.

On Friday, Zwart characterized the tentative agreement as the university making "meaningful movement in our direction with the current budget situation.''

"The obvious thing is that I have a big heart for the TAs. I was one myself,'' WMU's Interim President Diether Haenicke said earlier this week. "Obviously we want to do right by everybody who works for the institution.''

The next step is for union members to vote on the contract. If they vote to ratify the pact, it will go to vote before the WMU Board of Trustees.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


This update focuses on gun rights. A mass shooting at Virginia Tech University exposes the fallacy of gun control. Gun rights remain under attack. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Second Amendment makes the DC gun ban unconstitutional.

Ann Coulter exposes the fallacy of gun control laws.
Michelle Malkin explains the history of Virginia Tech's gun ban.
WorldNetDaily explains Kennesaw Georgia's gun law.
Gun Owners of America reports on a gun ban in Congress.
John Lott exposes the fallacy of "gun-free zones".
Michelle Malkin documents continuing attacks on gun owners.
Mac Johnson explains the truth about the Second Amendment.
John Lott explains the history of guns in America.
Ron Paul explains that gun rights discourage tyranny.

Daily gun news is available at NRA-ILA and Keep and Bear Arms.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani

Security Consultant
Mayor of New York City (1994-2001)
US Attorney (1983-1989)


Notable Quotes
"According to the Rudy Giuliani of 1992, Nelson Rockefeller represented 'a tradition in the Republican party I’ve worked hard to rekindle — the Rockefeller, Javits, Lefkowitz tradition.'"

"What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do. You have free speech so I can be heard." (source: New York Times)

Giuliani is pro-abortion. He supports government funding of abortion. He believed that partial-birth abortion should be legal, but now says that it should be illegal. He opposed requiring parental notification, but now says that he supports it with judicial bypass. He has praised Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. He has stated that he would appoint judges in the mold of Scalia, Alito, and Roberts. As Mayor of New York, he appointed mostly Democrats as judges. He donated $900 to Planned Parenthood, the largest performer of abortion.

Foreign Policy
Giuliani takes a hawkish neoconservative line on foreign policy. He is a strong supporter of the Iraq war.

Gun Rights
Giuliani is a supporter of restrictive gun control laws. He supports New York City's law that requires a permit to own a handgun, and only the rich or politically connected are issued permits. Average citizens cannot carry concealed weapons in New York City. He supported the "assault weapons ban" when it was passed in 1994, and as recently as 2004; he now says that he opposes it. He has advocated national gun registration. He has advocated mandating that trigger locks be used on guns, which would mean that they could not be used quickly. He sued gun manufacturers as part of an effort to blame them for crime. He has stated that gunmakers produce too many guns.

Giuliani advocates high levels of immigration. He has demanded that the federal government provide Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, and welfare to illegal immigrants. He supports the diversity visa lottery program. He has declined to support building a fence on the border. He supports creating a "guest worker program" for illegal immigrants already in America. This amounts to amnesty and a reward (citizenship) for lawbreakers. The Senate bill would allow in more than 100 million immigrants in the next 20 years. It would also cost $500 billion in welfare payments within 20 years.

Giuliani defended New York City's sanctuary laws, under which city employees cannot report immigration violations. After the policy was ruled illegal, he vowed to ignore the law. Fred Siegel states that "Giuliani's lax policy on immigration helped allow several of the [9/11] hijackers to operate comfortably in Brooklyn only a few blocks from my house." He opposed the 1996 welfare reform because it was "anti-immigrant" and threatened the sanctuary policy.

Giuliani supports "civil unions", which are the same as "gay marriage" in all but name. As Mayor of New York, he pushed the City Council to create special benefits for homosexual partners.

Giuliani supports "campaign finance reform", which significantly restrict freedom of speech. It bans groups from running advertisements that mention a candidate for federal office within sixty days of an election. Critics contend that the goal of the legislation was to silence criticism of Congress.

Giuliani has said that the United Nations "provides a crucial forum for international debate and cooperation". He opposed efforts to cut UN funding.

Giuliani's law firm represents a foreign company building the quarter-mile wide Trans-Texas Corridor, a part of a planned network of North American superhighways. He opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, but may have changed his position since then.

Under Giuliani, New York City increased spending by an average of 2.9% per year. He increased spending by 25% during his second term. The number of people employed by the city declined by 3.1%. He privatized some municipal assets.

Giuliani has refused to pledge not to raise taxes. In 1994, he endorsed Democratic governor Mario Cuomo over his Republican challenger George Pataki. He attacked Pataki's proposal to cut taxes by 25%, calling it "irresponsible" and a "shell game that would hurt everyone in the state." He cut some particular taxes as mayor, while opposing other tax cuts.

Giuliani has been married three times. He had his first marriage annulled. His second marriage ended in a very messy divorce after he had an affair.

He promoted and was closely linked to Bernard Kerik, who was involved in multiple scandals and has been convicted of corruption.

Relevant Articles:
Rudy Giuliani On the Issues
The Conservative Case Against Rudy Giuliani
Calling Giuliani on His Many Lies
Giuliani Shifts Abortion Speech Gently to Right
Giuliani gave to Planned Parenthood
Judging Giuliani
Giuliani Judges Lean Left
Rudy's Gun-Control Agenda
Law and Order and Guns
Rudy Giuliani on Immigration
Giuliani Opposed Welfare Reform in Order to Protect Illegals
Mr. Security's Amnesty
Forget It, Rudy
Giuliani, at U.N. Opening Ceremony, Assails New Isolationist Mood in Congress
Rudy Giuliani tied to 'superhighways'
Rudy's Parochialism Problem
Giuliani's Pre-9/11 Record Should Erase Conservative Doubts
Rudy Giuliani: Supply-Sider-in-Chief
Rudy Giuliani, No Fiscal Conservative
Rudy’s Taxing Problem
Rudy Giuliani's Economic Record
Rudy's Irrelevant Record
Rudy Giuliani, Running Against Hamlet

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gun Rights Resolution

The following resolution was passed unanimously by the WMU College Republicans.


Western Michigan University College Republicans
Resolution 2

A resolution calling on Western Michigan University to repeal the ban on guns on campus.

Whereas the United States Constitution states that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Whereas the Michigan Constitution states that “Every person has a right to keep or bear arms for the defense of himself and the State.”

Whereas serious crimes, including murder, rape, and robbery have occurred on the campus of Western Michigan University

Whereas only potential victims are in the position to stop crimes in progress

Whereas economist John Lott has found that “when states passed right-to-carry laws, [mass shootings] fell by 60 percent. Deaths and injuries from multiple-victim public shootings fell on average by 78 percent. To the extent that attacks still occurred, they overwhelmingly happened in the special places within right-to-carry states where concealed handguns were banned.”

Whereas Western Michigan University presently prohibits students, faculty, and staff from owning or carrying firearms on campus by threat of expulsion or firing

Therefore be it resolved that the College Republicans at WMU call on Western Michigan University to repeal its policies restricting the ownership and carrying of firearms on campus.

KVCC closed due to threat (Update)

From WoodTV:

Online misunderstanding closed KVCC

Updated: April 19, 2007 12:23 PM EDT


KALAMAZOO -- The campuses of Kalamazoo Valley Community College were closed by a misunderstanding in an online chat room.

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff Department said a former KVCC student was in an online chat room discussing the Virginia Tech shooting. Someone misunderstood him and took it as a threat to KVCC.

That information was turned over to the Michigan State Police, and school officials decided to close the campus through the weekend.

"We were contacted by state law enforcement authorities and made aware of a very specific threat to our campus," college vice president Michael R. Collins said in a statement. "As a result, we are canceling classes for today and through the weekend and are actively working with local law enforcement agencies to resolve the situation."

They closed the campuses in both downtown Kalamazoo and in Texas Township, affecting the school's 13,000 students.

Collins told 24 Hour News 8 the school didn't believe the threat was real, but they couldn't take any chances.

"It's a difficult situation. You do the best you can," he said. "You deal with the information you have in hand and the nature of what you're dealing with and you make the best decision you can. In this case we felt that because of the specific nature, the best course of action was to close the campus to ensure the safety of our staff and students."

The former student is in custody on charges unrelated to this chat room discussion. The sheriff department told 24 Hour News 8 there will be no charges for the KVCC incident.

How this affects the decision to close the campus through the weekend remains to be seen.

24 Hour News 8 will have more details as they become known.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

End the Campus Gun Ban

At every entrance to Western Michigan University, there is a sign stating that no firearms are allowed on campus. The signs come with the silhouette of a revolver with a ghostbusters slash through it.

Such policies exist on most college campuses across America.

Virginia Tech, where a man murdered thirty-two people Monday, has a similar policy.

Opponents of gun rights are already calling for more gun control. They aren't about to let facts and logic get in their way.

Gun control doesn't work. Criminals don't follow gun laws. Banning guns would never work. This can be seen from the fact that drugs remain widely available despite being banned and massive expenditures on enforcement. The main impact of gun control is on law-abiding citizens.

In fact, the most effective means of combating crime is private gun ownership and use. Quite simply, only the potential victim or someone who happens to be nearby is in a position to stop a crime in progress. Only physical force can thwart a criminal's evil designs. A gun is the best tool for doing just that.

Numerous studies have shown that Americans stop crimes by using guns roughly 2.5 million times per year. In the vast majority of cases, a gun is simply displayed and not fired. (Source: Point Blank by Gary Kleck)

Private gun ownership also deters crime. Allowing private citizens to defend themselves with lethal force greatly increases the risk of committing violent crimes. This creates a strong disincentive to do so. Although measuring this effect precisely is difficult, we can be confident that a great many crimes simply never happened because of private gun ownership.

This is particularly true of mass shootings. A striking fact about such shootings is that they virtually always happen in places where guns are not allowed, whether by law or policy. This includes schools, universities, businesses, subways, and some entire cities and states. Mass shootings never seem to happen at gun shows and NRA conventions. For that matter, they never seem to happen at malls and theaters, even the densely packed crowds at such locations would seem to present numerous targets to would-be mass murderers.

This is not a coincidence. Economist John Lott conducted a study on mass shootings several years ago.
We found that when states passed right-to-carry laws, these attacks fell by 60 percent. Deaths and injuries from multiple-victim public shootings fell on average by 78 percent.

To the extent that attacks still occurred, they overwhelmingly happened in the special places within right-to-carry states where concealed handguns were banned.
This shows that mass murderers are evil, not irrational. They seek targets which will give them the highest number of casualties. Some may be willing to die as a consequence of their efforts, but they are much less willing to die without fulfilling their evil designs.

Laws can deter crimes, but they cannot stop crimes in progress. Mass shooters can only be stopped by force. But the victims of Seung Hui Cho couldn't do that, because Virginia Tech has a policy preventing people from owning or carrying a gun on campus.

Thirty-two people are dead.

We can't know for sure what would have happened had this policy not been in place. But there's a good chance that things would have turned out differently. The last time that there was a mass shooting on a college campus in Virginia, it was thwarted by students who had retrieved their guns.

At least one Virginia legislator saw a problem. At the behest of the excellent grassroots gun rights group Virginia Civil Defense League, Delegate Todd Gilbert proposed a bill last year to overturn college gun bans. The bill never made it out of committee.
Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
That didn't work out so well.

Feeling safe is quite different from being safe. Most universities pursue the former, including Western.

This is the awful truth: Western Michigan University would rather let you be raped or murdered than allow you defend yourself with a gun.

Guns bans at Western and every other college in America must be repealed immediately.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Take Back the Night

Flyers around campus demand that women "speak out" and say "No more rape, No more sexual assault, No more violence against women". They promoted the annual feminist "Take Back the Night" event.

One question immediately stood out. To whom are women supposed to "speak out"? To whom are women supposed to say "No more rape"?

Is there a big pro-rape constituency on campus?

If long prison sentences don't deter rapists, it seems unlikely that a few flyers will do the trick.

Perhaps the goal of the event is "raising awareness". Isn't everyone aware of these issues?

Is there anything wrong with "raising awareness"? There is if it leads to hysteria.

Take Back the Night was promoted with highly dubious statistics, including one that claimed that one in four women will be raped in college.

There is a danger that such events may promote the idea that every claim of rape is true. In this case, the accused would not be able to obtain a fair trial.

A few days ago, the charges were dismissed in the Duke non-rape case. More than a year ago, a stripper accused members of the Duke university lacrosse team of raping her. District Attorney Michael Nifong, many members of the Duke University faculty, and assorted liberal do-gooders whipped the public into a frenzy. The accused were tried and convicted in the media.

But they were completely innocent. There was no DNA evidence where there should have been, the accuser repeatedly changed her story, and the accused had solid alibis. The DA covered up and withheld evidence and used improper procedure, such as letting the accuser pick from photos of the whole team rather than photos of the accused and other non-suspects.

It took several obscure but dedicated bloggers to uncover the facts and finally shatter the presumption of guilt. Only much later did the major media pick up the story.

An insightful column in the Herald examines the consequences of false rape allegations.

There's no clear policy proposal evident in the event's advertising. Rape is already illegal and severely punished. The fact that Take Back the Night is held every year indicates that it is a continuing problem.

Obviously, rape is a real and serious issue. In fact, there is a policy change that would make a significant impact in reducing rape on campus. What's more, it wouldn't cost any money or take away anyone's freedom. It would be easy to implement. And yet the feminists who promote events like Take Back the Night won't support it.

A Dunn Deal?

From the Herald:


Committee selects Dunn to lead WMU

Sara Johnson

John Dunn, interim chancellor of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, has been determined as the sole finalist for Western Michigan University's next president.

This decision was unanimous by the Presidential Search Advisory Committee and the Board of Trustees, said Ken Miller, chair of the search committee.

"He has a very low wall of accessibility [meaning he's] very easily accessible to students, faculty and staff. That seems to be his reputation where he's at, and that seemed to be the way he presented himself while he was here," Miller said. Dunn visited campus from April 8 to 10.

Miller, as well as fellow trustees Sarah DeNooyer and Bill Johnston, plan to visit Dunn's campus on Wednesday to begin contract negotiations.

If the site visit and contract negotiations go well, Miller hopes to complete the appointment of president by the end of next week.

Both Dunn's academic and administrative experience and his credentials qualified him for this position, Miller said.

"For eight months of work, after literally thousands of man hours, investigation, résumé reading and interviewing, I firmly believe that we have the person we are looking for," Miller said.

Dunn was named as SIUC's interim chancellor in November 2006, and was previously provost and vice chancellor since 2002. He taught for 30 years and was a dean of the University of Utah's College of Health from 1995 to 2002.

Prior to that, he was at Oregon State University for 20 years as the director of the university's Special Physical and Motor Fitness Clinic, chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science from 1980 to 1987, assistant dean of Health and Human Performance from 1987 to 1990 and associate provost from 1990 to 1995.

Dunn began his career teaching at the University of Connecticut in 1972. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in special education from Northern Illinois University in 1967 and 1969, respectively. He earned his doctoral degree in physical education from Brigham Young University in 1972.


The Gazette covers the story.

Previous: John Dunn

A Work Inaction

It appears that graduate teaching assistants are going to strike.

Herald editorial.

From the Teaching Assistant Union (TAU) website:


TAU News

Frequently Asked Questions About Work Action

Is this work action (strike) legal?

No, it is not legal for public employees to strike or engage in work stoppages in the state of Michigan. But it’s important to be specific about what “not legal” means. Striking is not a crime for either the union or the union’s individual members. An individual member cannot be arrested or even ticketed for refusing to work, or for walking a picket line. The University cannot sue the union or individual employees for damages.

Since striking is illegal, the employer can apply for an injunction to compel us to return to work. And if we refuse to comply with the court injunction, the Union as a whole could be subject to fines, and elected leaders could be jailed. But there will be clear opportunities for us to revisit the question of striking against an injunction before those things happen.

Does that mean we can’t strike?

Absolutely not. Many great social movements have involved actions that are technically violations of the law. And while public employees are not granted the right to strike in Michigan, this practice has been used by graduate teachers at other state universities, including the University of Michigan, to fight for fair contracts. In nine and a half days on strike over thirty years of recognition as a union, UM graduate employees have won full tuition remission for everyone working 10 hours per week or more, fully-paid high-quality health insurance for employees and dependents, and salaries 25% than our current GA rates.

On a more technical note, while injunctions can be gotten fairly quickly (in as little as 48 hours) the University does not have to ask for one, and a judge doesn’t have to grant them one. We should be aware of possible worst-case consequences, but do what we feel is right to get a fair contract.

Won’t we be hurting our students?

Our working conditions are undergraduates’ learning conditions. Undergraduates and graduates alike deserve the best learning environment we can provide; at this point, the University’s failure to provide the most basic necessities of life to its teachers harms students’ learning environment more than our work action will. Furthermore, some of our undergraduates will eventually undertake graduate study at Western: what we win in this contract will benefit many of them when they work here as teachers.

This action, in particular, has been selected with great concern for our students. While refusing to proctor final exams will create disruption for the university, the exams will still be prepared and the administration has the opportunity to make arrangements to accommodate students. This action may require extra work for professors around WMU. However, they work under a union contract that provides them with substantially better conditions than ours. For instance, they have high-quality health insurance that participants actually find beneficial, for half the out-of-pocket cost (an annual premium of $500 per employee for us, vs. $250 per employee for tenure-track faculty).

Our contacts with individual faculty and some of their representatives have convinced us that in general, faculty will support our efforts to achieve this contract.

If I vote against this work action, should I participate if the final vote is yes?

As set out in the TAU constitution, decisions involving work actions are made by the membership; that is the essence of a democratic organization. By voting, you implicitly agree to abide by the results--just as you would expect others to abide by the results if the vote were “No.” The results of a vote pertain to all members, just as the election of a political figure is binding even for people who did not vote for the winning candidate.

What will happen if I don’t participate in this work action?

If the membership of TAU calls for a work action and you choose not to participate, you will be working against the efforts of your union. Your actions would weaken the morale of TAs that do participate and send a message to the university that you do not support the Bargaining Team and you would be satisfied with a poor contract. You may also be asked to “scab,” by doing work that members participating in the action will not be doing.


Grad assistants to vote on unionization
Fourteen for Freedom

Saturday, April 14, 2007


This update focuses on "global warming". Liberals continue to promote unscientific hysteria and suppress dissent from scientists. They want more government control of the economy. Warming is likely caused by the sun. A new documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, explains the truth about global warming.

Christopher Horner shows courts want more regulations.
Vasco Kohlmayer shows global warming empowers government.
Donald Miller explains the real cause of global warming.
Thomas Sowell reviews The Great Global Warming Swindle.
Christopher Horner explains the truth about global warming.
Ann Coulter shows how liberals suppress science.
Ann Coutler says that "global warming" is anti-human.

For more, watch The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Michigan FairTax?

From the Gazette:

Group wants tax issue on 2008 ballot

LANSING -- Businesses in Michigan would pay no taxes and individuals would pay only property taxes and a higher sales tax under a proposal that could be on the November 2008 ballot.

Roger Buchholtz, director of the Michigan FairTax Association, said Friday during a taping of public television's ``Off the Record'' program that legislation is being drafted now that could put the matter before voters next year.

Two-thirds of the House and the Senate would have to approve the proposed constitutional amendment for it to go on the ballot. If the measure fails to pass the Legislature, the group plans to collect hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to place it on the ballot.

Buchholtz, a Kalamazoo businessman, said the change would boost Michigan's business climate by eliminating any tax on business, which he argues actually is paid by consumers. The plan would raise the same amount as current taxes raise for general and school aid funds -- around $20 billion annually.

Low-income residents would get monthly checks to shield them from paying much of the higher sales tax, which Buchholtz said would be roughly 2.5 cents more on the dollar than the current 6 cents.
More information available here.

Avijit Ghosh

Avihit Ghosh is the third candidate for President of Western to visit campus. From the Gazette:

On diversity and Michigan's ban on some forms of affirmative action: "Diversity is very important because one of the reasons we invite students in here to get an education is to become productive citizens, and learning about the views of the various cross-sections of society learning to appreciate those views is an integral aspect of the education we want to provide here. ... As far as Proposition 2 is concerned, I think a lot of the things we want to achieve can be achieved, whether there is a Proposition 2 or not. We need to a very actively try to tell our story to all the different groups of people, attract them to this institution and then provide them with a high-quality education.''

The Herald also reports on his visit.

Avijit Ghosh Profile
Curriculum Vita

Investigative Report: Scholarships Fall Short
Broken promises: Too many "jarheads" at Univ. of Illinois MBA program

Friday, April 13, 2007

Nice Work If You Can Get It


That's the the average total compensation of full professors at WMU.

Faculty salaries are a major reason for the high and increasing cost of college tuition.

Nice work if you can get it.

English for Dummies

The Herald recently ran a particularly absurd editorial on bilingual education. It might be the worst editorial yet under the current opinion editor, and that's saying a lot.

The editorial opens by attacking former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for stating a position that most Americans agree with, opposition to bilingual education and foreign language ballots.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently equated bilingual education with "the language of living in a ghetto" and mocked requirements that ballots be printed in multiple languages.

He believes that "we should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto."

With millions of Spanish-speaking individuals living in America and migrating here daily, and with the recent controversy over this migration, it is certainly not illogical to deduce that he is referring to Spanish.
Note how illegal immigration, which is a crime, is characterized as "migration". Foreign language ballots should be unnecessary, since all legal immigrants are required to be proficient in English. In addition to increasing costs, they also greatly increase the possibility of errors, since few people can read them.

Bilingual education is actually conducted in dozens of languages. Spanish is certainly one of them, but far from the only one.

Gingrich, along with his xenophobic counterparts, seems to believe that Spanish is somehow inferior to English, much like how Hitler believed that the Jews were inferior to the Aryans. However, there is certainly no evidence to suggest this nor would there ever be a way to prove the supposed "superiority" of a language.
What would a nutty editorial be without an illogical Nazi analogy. There is no "evidence to suggest" that Newt believes any such thing. Nobody has said that English is "superior", much less that it is "pure".

Certainly English itself is not a "pure" language. Originally, English was a diverse group of dialects representing varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of what is now known as England. It was influenced in the eighth and ninth centuries by a wave of Scandinavian settlers and again by the Normans, who spoke a variation of French, in the 11th century, finally becoming what we know as "modern" English with the great vowel shift of the 15th century. English, as we know it today, is a hodgepodge of words and roots from other languages.

To restrict the teaching of one language based on English's own purity or superiority is an act that rings of hypocrisy as well as both historical and modern ignorance.
Once again, the editorial attacks a point that no one made. Including a random accusation of hypocrisy is a nice touch.

For Gingrich to claim that Spanish is "the language of the ghetto," shows his supreme ignorance of reality. As of 1999, Spanish had more native speakers than English by almost 10 million people.
The only way that this could possibly be true is considering the entire world. But Newt isn't addressing policy for the entire world, he's addressing policy for America. In America, most people speak English. People who can't speak English in America are unable to interact with most Americans. In this case, they are essentially consigned to a "ghetto" of those with whom they can communicate.

The problem isn't that people can speak Spanish, it's that they can't speak English. If you want to succeed in Mexico, you need to speak Spanish; if you want to succeed in America, you need to speak English.
While it is true that many Spanish-speaking immigrants are clamoring to come into America, educating them in their own language certainly is no crime. It certainly seems unfair to require a newly arrived individual to learn the language in a single day and then be thrust into a classroom in which the only language spoken seems utterly alien. Even for Americans striving to learn Spanish or other languages, the classes are initially taught in English, to make learning easier for us.
Once again, legal immigrants are required to be proficient in English.

Teaching a student in his or her native language while they attempt to learn English only serves to make the education system stronger. It provides for the needs of students who would otherwise fall behind and would, as Gingrich believes, be destined to live in the ghetto. However, unlike Gingrich seems to believe, this inequality stems not from true inequality, but from unequal opportunities.
The editorial provides no evidence to support bilingual education, and no such evidence exists. Since California banned bilingual education in 1996, education has improved. A majority of Hispanic parents favored this proposal. The best way to learn a language is by immersion.

As Thomas Sowell documents in Inside American Education, minorities have often been put in bilingual education programs that were not even in their native languages. This includes black Americans whose native language is English.

The Herald editorial page has no use for evidence, reason, and truth.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Not So Bad After All

Back during the campaign season, the opponents of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative leveled every attack they could think of against the proposal. It was compared to hurricane Katrina, said to repeal civil rights, and bring back the Jim Crow South.

They weren't telling the truth.

The Herald has an article on the less than dire consequences of the MCRI.

"The projections are that Western won't get hit hard, if at all, because Western doesn't have a lot of programs that will be affected," Lipson said.
What about other universities?

Because of U of M's high competition for enrollment, it is likely that their numbers of minorities will drop, Lipson said. After Proposition 209 passed in California, minority enrollment dropped at some of its most elite universities, such as the University of California, University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Los Angeles.

Lipson said that drops in minority numbers at these elite universities actually caused an increase in minority numbers at less prestigious universities, such as the University of California, Riverside; the University of California, Irvine or the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"The two super elite ones, that highly ranked saw huge reductions in African American numbers, but the other ones have seen a substantial increase," he said.

Lipson said a similar phenomenon might happen in Michigan universities, a process called cascading.

"The other institutions, such as Western, Eastern [and] Wayne State may have more students of color," Lipson said.
Cascading is a good thing. Because minorities will be judged on merit, not race, they will be matched with universities where they have the best chance of success. This means that minority graduation rates will increase across the board. Take it to the bank. That's exactly what happened in California after they banned racial preferences.

Will liberals be glad that minority graduation rates increase, or upset that U of M is less "diverse"?

A number of plans have been proposed to "deal with" the MCRI. Greater minority recruitment is a good thing as long as everyone is judged by the same standards, as the MCRI requires.

Other plans would simply hide racial preferences behind other variables like location and generation of college attendance. Such standards ignore the fact that college admissions should seek to find the most qualified students. They would only misserve those who "benefit" from them by gaining admission to institutions above their qualifications.

The MCRI will benefit minorities as long as liberals don't succeed in subverting it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

John Dunn

John Dunn, candidate for President of Western, visited WMU on Monday. The Gazette reports on his visit.

On diversity: "At SIU Carbondale, we have increased our (number of) students of color, specifically in the African-American community. ... We're doing well and we're working harder with the Hispanic community to make sure those opportunities are also there and conveyed appropriately to the respective communities. One of the things that is critical is, obviously, to recruit students, you need to have faculty, administrators and others that represent the diversity that we're trying to achieve.''

From the Herald:

Dunn also spoke about the importance of diversity, especially since Michigan voters approved Proposal 2 in November. He said he has been able to increase the number of African-Americans at SIU.

"I'm being more aware of Proposal 2 and trying to understand that," he said. The most important place to start, Dunn said, is with faculty."

You have to have faculty that represent the diversity you're trying to achieve," he said. "We became less of a screening community and more of a search community."


One audience question asked about extending benefits to same-sex partners.

"I know this is always a sensitive community conversation and discussion," Dunn said. At SIU, he was able to extend those benefits and set up a GLBT center.

"That goes to the fundamental question, 'are we inclusive?'" he said.

Interim Chancellor John M. Dunn
Curriculum Vitae

Very small tip of the hat to John Dunn
Pro Bono

Why Character Counts

In 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for President he was stung by allegations of infidelity. In response, his defenders made the argument that "character doesn't count".

His presidency showed just how wrong this was.

Around the time of Clinton's impeachment, some of his defenders argued that it didn't matter what he did on the side, because what was most important was having the most effective person in charge.

The problem with this argument is that if someone doesn't have character, how can you count on that person acting in your interest rather than his own?

Different people enter into politics for different reasons. Some sincerely want to do good. Others are only interested in promoting themselves.

Of course, people who want to do good can nonetheless do great harm. And self-interested people may do the right thing for the wrong reason. But people who enter politics only for themselves usually end up doing harm.

Sincere activists are willing to work with others. They readily advance the fortunes of others who share their values, since this aids the causes that they care about.

Self-interested politicians seek more power for themselves. They manipulate people to their own advantage. They seek to damage rivals for positions of power. They pursue a "rule or ruin" strategy to destroy organizations that they cannot control. This hurts whatever causes they claim to care about.

Such people use underhanded tactics and dirty tricks to get ahead. The influential book The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek contains a chapter entitled Why the Worst Get on Top. Hayek explains that bad people get ahead in politics by using tactics that good people shun. Good people often get fed up and leave politics because of such behavior.

How can we tell the sincere from the self-interested? A good indicator is their personal behavior. Those who are sincerely interested in helping people should act this out in their personal lives. Those who are only interested in themselves should exhibit this in their personal lives as well. Those who exhibit immoral and self-destructive behavior in their personal lives can be expected to do the same in politics.

Interestingly, the sincere seem to be much more likely to be religious than the self-interested. This shouldn't be surprising, since those who believe that they will be held accountable for their actions are much more likely to behave honorably in both politics and life.

People who wish to do good in politics would do well to beware of political climbers and resist their efforts to do harm.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Victory of Reason

Anyone who wants to understand the development of Western Civilization should read The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark. Anyone who doesn't needs to read it.

Someone who examines the state of the world can hardly help but be struck by the huge differences between the West and the Third World. Prosperity abounds in the West, while poverty dominates the Third World.

What accounts for these differences? Some claim that they result from exploitation and theft. But poverty was once universal, so this cannot be right. Stark's book provides the correct answer.

Many have noted that capitalism produces prosperity. But why did it only take off in the West? Capitalism requires freedom from government restriction. It also requires scientific and technological advancements and a culture that values work. How is it that the necessary freedom, science, and culture only came to being in the West?

Stark shows that the answer is Christianity. Far from the modern canard that Christianity is an enemy of science, Christianity created science. While the Greeks made advancements in logic and mathematics, science did not exist in their society.

Science is based on the assumption that the world is ordered. That is, there are fixed rules that explain the natural world. Further, it is possible to discover them through experimentation. Though such a belief may seem obvious today, it is not inherently so. Stark shows that it follows directly from the Christian belief in a rational creator who established fixed, discoverable rules. This contrasts sharply with pagan mysticism, Eastern logical contradictions, and the Islamic belief that fixed rules bind God.

Another important Christian belief is the possibility and desirability of progress. Stark shatters the myth of the "Dark Ages" as a time of ignorance and backwardness brought on by Christianity. While the Roman Empire had some impressive achievements, it was built on slave labor and oppressive government. Its "decline and fall" likely improved the living conditions of average people. The Middle Ages were a time of great progress in technology, science, and the arts.

Stark also chronicles how Christianity led to the creation of freedom. Far from notions of a "universal desire for freedom", most non-western societies didn't even have a word for freedom. Christian theology provided a basis for the concept of freedom.

Slavery was mostly abolished in Europe in the Middle Ages because of Christianity. It reappeared much later in European colonies in the new world. Once again, Christians were the driving force to eliminate it.

Christianity also provided a basis for limiting government power. Non-western societies have certainly had plenty of innovative, productive people. But capitalism never took off in them because government would always intervene to put an end to economic success that threatened its political power. Only in the West was freedom maintained for long enough to allow the rise of capitalism.

It was nonetheless a great battle. Stark chronicles the rise of capitalism in Italian city-states in the Middle Ages. From there it spread to Flanders, the Netherlands, and England. It died out in Italy and Flanders, while surviving to the present day in England. Even in Europe, repressive governments in Spain and France prevented the rise of capitalism until modern times.

Stark shows that while the Spanish Empire was politically powerful, it was never economically successful. Spain remained poor throughout. It imperiled freedom in England and the Netherlands. The defeat of the Spanish Armada derived in part from superior English technology created by capitalism. The relative lack of success of former Spanish colonies in Latin America may stem from Spain's example.

The Victory of Reason resembles Thomas Woods' How the Catholic Church built Western Civilization in both its subject and thesis. Its specific content is mostly distinct, so readers can profit from both books. The Victory of Reason should inspire a renewed defence of Western Civilization.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


This update focuses on health care. Government regulations continue to damage health care. The Walter Reed scandal illustrates the folly of socialized medicine. Problems with American health care are the fault of regulation, not freedom.

John Stossel shows that government regulations cost lives.
Ann Coulter shows how civil service regulations hurt America.
Terry Jeffery shows socialism caused the Walter Reed scandal.
Phyllis Schlafly exposes Merck's HPV vaccine mandate.
John Stossel explains what's wrong with Arnold's insurance plan.
Walter Williams shows that socialism produces waiting lists.
Jane Orient explains what's wrong with government health care.

POLITICAL UPDATES are archived here.

Understanding Economics: Trade

One of the most fundamental and contentious economic issues is trade.

The fundamentals of trade are simple enough. Because people value things differently, two people can both benefit by trading what they have.

A modern economy depends on trade. People who can only live on what they produce themselves are condemned to abject poverty. A modern economy requires specialization, which means that people produce more of something than they need themselves and trade for what they don't have.

The use of money greatly facilitates this process.

All else being equal, restrictions on trade can only serve to restrict economic activity and make society poorer. Barriers to trade are often justified in the name of protecting businesses and jobs. While such restrictions serve the interests of a few, they make society as a whole worse off.

The fallacy of protectionism can be seen by taking it to a logical extreme. If restricting trade in and out of a country is good, shouldn't the same be true of trade in and out of a state? Why not "protect" businesses and jobs from competition from other states? Why not do the same with counties? Why not restrict trade between individuals? Because trade makes both parties better off.

The above discussion comes with the essential qualifier all else being equal. However, all else is not always equal. The above paragraphs explain the economics of trade. But trade also has political consequences, and they are not so straightforward.

One problem is that another country may suddenly cut off some or all trade. All else being equal, this would not be in its economic interest. However, it could be in its political interest. Another country may cut off some essential material during a war. This may sway the outcome of the war and allow the imposition of terms that create financial gain through government power rather than trade. The use or threat of trade sanctions may extract political concessions from a nation. This can benefit a government, whether or not it benefits a nation as a whole.

Trade sanctions aren't much of a threat when the good being traded isn't essential to a nation's economy. In time, a nation can respond to sanctions by developing its own industries. But intermittent sanctions may prevent this from happening, and during a war there may not be enough time. Some goods are essential. Thus restricting trade of such goods can make sense because of the political risks of trade.

Obviously, this argument can be abused to justify sanctions on goods that are not essential. But that doesn't mean that it never applies. One recent example is that during the war with Iraq, America ran low on a particular type of missile. Part of this missile was made in Switzerland, which opposed the war and threatened not to sell it to us.

Sanctions naturally threaten smaller nations more than America, since they have smaller, less diverse economies.

Another political problem with trade affects countries that have abundant natural resources. Some observers have noticed that countries in which oil makes up a substantial portion of the economy almost always have oppressive governments. (The only exception is Norway, which was already prosperous before oil became a substantial part of its economy.)

Most governments that want to spend a lot of money have to allow some economic freedom. Then their countries will be more prosperous and they will have a larger economic output to tax. But selling oil allows some governments to have large revenues without allowing more freedom. They could not take advantage of this wealth themselves without more advanced economies. But such economies in other countries make this possible. In this case, trade can actually make some people less free.

Another problem is the effect of trade on national sovereignty. Trade can better be conducted when government protects against theft and fraud. Different governments have different regulations and tax codes. When nations trade freely, multinational corporations develop. They constitute a powerful lobby for harmonization of such regulations and taxes. But this can only be enforced by a higher level of government. Thus free trade creates pressure for supranational government.

This may not be inevitable, but it is a real concern. A basic principle of government is that the larger and more distant it is, the less responsive and more oppressive it is. Creating supranational government creates a greater likelihood of oppressive taxes and regulations. Thus free trade may have a net result of less freedom. This is why Karl Marx advocated free trade--to tear down the barriers between nations.

The United States Constitution enforced a policy of free trade between the states. This helped to bind the states into one nation. This was likely beneficial, given the Constitution's strict limits on government power. But such limits are hardly an inevitable part of government.

Another problem is not with the principle of free trade, but its practice. The principal means of advocating free trade is through so-called "free trade agreements" between governments. While such agreements are sold as free trade, they actually contain thousands of pages of regulations of trade. They can better be described as government-managed trade.

This is true of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which created supranational courts to enforce it. It is true of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which is full of such regulations. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a supranational government organization that has the power to strike down American laws.

The European Union was originally sold as a "free trade agreement", the European Coal and Steel Community. Over time, it was transformed into the European Economic Community and European Union. The EU was regularly justified with appeals to "free trade", but the real goal was always regional government. This story is told in The Great Deception: The Secret History of the European Union by Christopher Booker and Richard North.

Not all of the political consequences of trade are bad. Trade can make war less likely due to economic and cultural ties between nations. It can also pressure countries with more restrictive economic policies to loosen them to compete.

Trade has both economic and political consequences. Analyzing trade proposals requires discretion. They should not be thoughtlessly supported or opposed.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Budget Crisis? Or spending crisis...

From the Detroit News:

An iPod for every kid? Are they !#$!ing idiots?

We have come to the conclusion that the crisis Michigan faces is not a shortage of revenue, but an excess of idiocy. Facing a budget deficit that has passed the $1 billion mark, House Democrats Thursday offered a spending plan that would buy a MP3 player or iPod for every school child in Michigan.

No cost estimate was attached to their hare-brained idea to "invest" in education. Details, we are promised, will follow.

The Democrats, led by their increasingly erratic speaker Andy Dillon of Redford Township, also pledge $100 million to make better downtowns.

Their plan goes beyond cluelessness. Democrats are either entirely indifferent to the idea that extreme hard times demand extreme belt tightening, or they are bone stupid. We lean toward the latter.

We say that because the House plan also keeps alive, again without specifics, the promise of tax hikes.

The range of options, according to Rep. Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit, includes raising the income tax, levying a 6 percent tax on some services, and taxing junk food and soda.

We wonder how financially strained Michigan residents will feel about paying higher taxes to buy someone else's kid an iPod.

That they would include such frivolity in a crisis budget plan indicates how tough it will be to bring real spending reform to Michigan.

Senate Republicans issued a plan a week ago that eliminates the deficit with hard spending cuts. Now their leader, Mike Bishop of Rochester Hills, is sounding wobbly, suggesting he might compromise on a tax hike.

We hope Bishop is reading the polls that say three-quarters of Michigan residents oppose higher taxes.

There are few things in the House budget outline from which to forge a compromise.

For example, Dillon says he would shift the burden of business taxes to companies that operate in Michigan, but don't have a facility here. The certain outcome of that plan is to drive even more businesses out of Michigan.

About all we see of merit is a call for government consolidation and a demand that state employees contribute more to their retirement benefits -- which is no more than House Democrats suggested for future state lawmakers a few weeks ago.

We find it ironic that the Democrats are proposing floating $5 billion in revenue bonds to pay for retiree health care, when Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed a nearly identical plan by Oakland County because it would cost the state money.

Instead of advocating cost-saving changes in public school teacher pension and health plans, Dillon suggests more study. There have been plenty of studies of the issue, with the conclusion being that hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved through reforms. Michigan needs action, not more study committees.

Dillon also proposes that the state cover 50 percent of the cost of catastrophic health insurance for everyone in the place, but once again doesn't specify a funding source.

Stop the stupidity. Michigan can't tax or spend its way out of this economic catastrophe.

The only responsible option is to bring spending in line with current revenues. The mission must be to expand the tax base, rather than to expand taxes, by crafting a budget that encourages growth.

We won't get there by wasting money on early Christmas presents for Michigan kids.

More reaction at the National Taxpayers Union. Those "two pennies" keep adding up...

In the name of Equality

After a long legal battle, Michigan high schools are being forced to change the seasons of girls' sports. Until now, many boys' and girls' sports were played in different semesters. The feminist group Communities for Equity sued, claiming that girls were hurt by this arrangement.

Carter-appointed federal judge Richard Enslen claimed the practice "violated the state constitution, the state's civil rights law, the 14th Amendment and Title IX". The Supreme Court eventually declined to hear the case.

The actual girls who play sports are less than thrilled. A poll some time back showed that a large majority of them oppose the changes.

Facilities and coaching are limited. Scheduling boys and girls during the same semester means that they will both have less time to practice and play. Parents, children, and fans will all encounter less ideal game times. Finding officials will be harder, so schools will have to pay more. Thus taxpayers will be hurt as well.

So basically, everyone will be worse off. But at least they'll be equal, right?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ideology or Pathology?

The news from Europe regularly presents a disturbing picture of how liberalism affects society. One such story comes from Great Britain. It seems that some schools have dropped teaching about the Holocaust. The reason is a desire to avoid "offending" Muslims.

Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Government-backed study has revealed.

It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.


The study, funded by the Department for Education and Skills, looked into 'emotive and controversial' history teaching in primary and secondary schools.

It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.

The researchers gave the example of a secondary school in an unnamed northern city, which dropped the Holocaust as a subject for GCSE coursework.

The report said teachers feared confronting 'anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils'.

Liberals are notably less sympathetic to the concerns of Christians. It seems that liberals are always hysterical about the looming Christian theocracy. Michelle Malkin points out that several schools have had drills that portray Christians as terrorists.

Why the double standard?

John Folkins

UPDATE: The Gazette also covers his presentation.

The first of four candidates for President of Western visited campus Monday. John Folkins is the CEO at the Bowling Green State University Research Institute. From the Herald:

Folkins discussed diversity on campus and the issues of racism and sexism.

"It's not who you are; it's not the color of your skin; it's not your religion; but that adds to the debate."

Finally, Folkins said that while the university must comply with the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, diversity can still be promoted on campus.

"We need to understand what the dynamics are that went into that decision, and how to move forward," he said. The university must recruit and connect with the right people. All students must have a good experience, Folkins said, because WMU students are the best ambassadors to recruit other students.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Redistribution is not the answer

I just submitted this as a letter to the editor at the Herald:

I have complaints with the 4/3/07 article entitled "Upward mobility halted by social inequality." The assumption made is that the presence of someone with more wealth somehow prevents an individual from gaining wealth themselves. This is based primarily on the "fixed pie" fallacy; the myth that there is a limited amount of wealth and that in this zero-sum game if one has more it is at the expense of all others. This is incorrect. Wealth creation is not zero-sum.

Consider this analogy: my neighbor buys a brand new car. Her car is really nice, far better than mine. Does her having a nicer car than mine prevent me from buying a nice car too? Does it make my car any worse than it currently is? Does the existence of someone having a nicer car affect my car at all? This analogy fits perfectly with the rationale in the article: the false idea that someone being better off makes you worse off.

When someone becomes wealthy, take Bill Gates for instance, their wealth is not taken from others, but rather created. Windows has revolutionized the business world, allowing people to become more productive, to have their lives enriched and simplified, and many other bonuses. People benefit by owning it, Gates benefits by selling it, and both parties are marginally better off than before. Wealth is created, not taken at another’s expense, as in the case of taxation. The article complains about how "we pay more to corporate executives then we do to those who work to better our communities." However, are these mutually exclusive? I’d like to think Bill Gates has done more to improve our lives, creating more jobs, more opportunity, and more economic growth than almost anyone alive. How is this not working to better our community?

It is also argued that wealth should be "distributed among every race and class." This does not consider the unintended consequences of wealth redistribution. Free economies consistently outperform those regulated by government: simply compare Hong Kong and Singapore with China over the past 25 years. This is because of the distortion of incentives and deadweight loss taxation and wealth redistribution put on an economy.

What we need to do is not focus on making sure everyone is equal, but making sure that everyone is free to succeed. Equality of opportunity should be the goal, not equality of result.