Last week I explained how a column in The Wichita Eagle (see How a Good Column on the Bad Lottery Fell Apart) started out well but took a sharp turn downwards.
Voice For Liberty
Take education. Bureaucrats like to say, you will go to this school, because we said so, and you will be taught according to this program, because we said so and we know best. Those of us with confidence in markets think you could do better deciding for yourself. Neither the bureaucrats nor the freedom lovers can judge what's in your interest better than you can. One big difference is, we know what we don't know, while they think they know everything.
A few months ago I wrote how most states, when testing their schoolchildren, post results such as "80% of our state's students are proficient in reading or math," but when tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the number judged proficient falls to 30% or so. (See Every State Left Behind.) It was noted that local education officials are eager to tell parents and taxpayers that students are doing well. The NAEP test hasn't felt such pressure.
Now a commentary in the February 27, 2006 Wall Street Journal by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Diane Ravitch tells us that under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which uses the NAEP tests -- not the state tests -- to measure student progress, there is pressure to water down the NAEP test so that more students test at the proficient level.
Mr. Scholfield tells us how the lottery is not a very good bet. He references a survey that tells us how about half of us believe we have a better chance of obtaining a retirement nest egg through winning the lottery rather than by saving and investing.
He then tells us that the large majority of those playing the lottery are poor and don't have college degrees.
What Mr. Scholfield writes is true. I'd like to illustrate in more detail just how true it is.
This is an enjoyable book that explains the basics of how economics works, which is to say, how the world works. Mr. Harford doesn't go into any technical detail at all, so there are no charts and graphs to decipher (although a very few are used for illustration), and there are no mathematical formulas.
From the beginning, we in the Wichita area have been told each year that the AirTran subsidy was intended as a temporary measure, that soon AirTran would be able to stand on its own, and there will be no need to continue the subsidy. Mayor Mayans said as much last year, and so did City Manager Kolb this year.
But State Senator Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, on a recent television program, may have made a revealing slip when she referred to the AirTran subsidy as a "pilot program." Now that the subsidy appears to be a permanent requirement, funded locally and perhaps statewide, we should ask ourselves if this subsidy is in our best interests.
What's ironic is that gamblers are worse off playing against the State of Kansas than the mob-run numbers rackets. As a letter-writer in the New York Times wrote: "They [organized crime] paid out about 85 percent of the amounts that were bet, retaining 15 percent or less for profits and expenses like payoffs."
Yup...subsidies for AirTran pick a winner, and the losers. But consider the alternative. 400 dollar flights to anywhere. Do any free marketeers really prefer driving to Tulsa to fly to Austin? Wichita would shrivel up and blow away without economic development incentives. This one is not perfect. And, Delta has a gripe. But check prices ALL OVER THE COUNTRY sometime. Yes the market is changing, in a manner that offers NO benefits for the passengers they so blithely isolate in middle America. By the way, concerning Mr. Weeks' column in the Eagle today: I admire this man a great deal but he mis-states free market forces just a wee bit when he says "when price is lowered, less is supplied." Competition lowers prices...thus prices go down as MORE is offered. THAT is the free market at work. One has only to look at the diminishing price of internet subscriptions, computers, watches (I saw one for a quarter today). Lots and lots of availability...ever-dwindling prices. Keep this blog flying. there is much I admire about the libertarian movement...it sure beats the pants-load out of the alternatives today...conservatives who are not conservative, liberals who are just plain
I recently discovered that all over the country there are taxes being directed to Sports teams and Arenas.
So, I created a site www.separationofsportandstate.com
Please visit, and contribute by emailing the administrator.
The problem with most third world countries, Mr. De Soto tells us, is not that there is no capital, it's that the capital is dead. Dead in the sense that it can't be used to its full economic potential. It can't be mortgaged, it can't be divided into shares, and it simply can't be used in the same way we make productive use of our assets in the West.
Writing in a recent commentary, Stephen M. Lilienthal of the Free Congress Foundation expresses concern over the literacy skills of recent college graduates. The findings of some recent studies are quite troubling.
If you have a website, you may be interested in knowing how many people visit your site. There are many web counters and other services to give counts of visitors and other statistics, but nothing I have seen comes close to Google Analytics. This free service, available at http://www.google.com/analytics, provides detailed analysis of the traffic that visits your website. I recommend it for anyone with a website who wants to know more about the site's visitors.
Readers of The Voice For Liberty in Wichita are well aware that I believe that when the government provides subsidies to businesses -- either in the form of cash payments or preferential tax treatment -- we create a corrosive business environment. Government picks winners and losers for political reasons, rather than letting the market decide which companies are doing a good job. Government also spends money inefficiently. Instead of letting the market decide where to best allocate capital, government chooses who receives capital taken from the people through taxation according to the whims of politicians spending other peoples' money.
As of today (February 2, 2006), the website for Kansas Families United for Public Education (KFUPE) (located at http://fundourpublicschools.com) states, under the heading "The Crisis": "State aid has failed to keep pace with inflation."
I was puzzled by this statement, as I thought we were spending more and more on education each year. So I decided to investigate.
A column by economist Walter E. Williams (Why we're a divided nation) strongly makes the case for more decision making by free markets rather than by the government through the political process.
When decisions are made through free markets, Dr. Williams says, both parties win, because in a free market, parties voluntarily enter into only those transactions that benefit them.
When decisions are made for us by the government, however, it is almost always the case that one party's gain is someone else's loss. Therefore, there is conflict. The more decisions made through politics, the more potential for conflict. Coalitions arise in order to try to get more from the government, and the most effective coalitions "are those with a proven record of being the most divisive -- those based on race, ethnicity, religion and region."
The final paragraph of the column is this: "The best thing the president and Congress can do to heal our country is to reduce the impact of government on our lives. Doing so will not only produce a less divided country and greater economic efficiency but bear greater faith and allegiance to the vision of America held by our founders -- a country of limited government."
In an earlier post, I mentioned some columns by Dr. Williams that I thought were important. This column is certainly one of his best, as it very simply, in one short page, shows us a major fault in our current political landscape.
"The one great secret of investing is that there is no secret."
"Investment success, it turns out, lies in simplicity as basic as the virtues of thrift, independence of thought, financial discipline, realistic expectations, and common sense."
I support the proposition to amend article 15 of the constitution of the state of Kansas by adding a new section thereto, concerning eminent domain as follows:
"Private property shall not be taken except for public use, and private property shall not be taken without just compensation. The taking of private property with the intent to or in anticipation of selling, leasing or otherwise transferring any interest in the property to any private entity is not a valid public use and is prohibited."
The Kansas Productivity Puzzle
Kansas State Representative, Dist. 14
Among the many interesting things that occurred during the first week of the legislative session perhaps the most compelling involved a presentation to the House Tax Committee by Professor Arthur Hall of the Center for Applied Economics at The University of Kansas. Dr. Hall's presentation was focused on something he calls The Kansas Productivity Puzzle. Simply put, Kansas lags behind both the national average and other states in our region in the crucial economic category of productivity growth.
In economic terms productivity is the value of goods and services per worker. Kansas falls short with respect to productivity growth in every sector of our economy except durable goods manufacture. This is true not merely when the comparison is made against the nation as a whole, but also when the comparison is made against other agricultural states in our region. To understand why this matters it is important to recognize that productivity growth is a key factor in determining wages. It is also a crucial determinant in overall economic growth. If Kansas had enjoyed merely average productivity growth over the past 25 years our state economy would be some $18 billion dollars larger than it is at the current time. Furthermore, wages in Kansas lag some $5,000.00 per worker behind the national average for similarly educated workers.
Dear Bob's Blog, I recently moved to wichita from chicago... a while b4 i decided to move I had completed my Comcast public access certification. Comcast is basicaly the equivalence to Cox here. Un / Fortunately I was unable to put it to any good use while in Chicago due to some circumstances.... however I was searchin around the web and came across your blog entry on the lack of public acess for the public here in wichita. I wondered if you had any luck with your letter and/or knew any sources of information on the subject. I would be willing to put forth some effort in helping our voice be heard...
The relative decline of Kansas continues. This decline is vividly demonstrated when state and federal revenue growth is examined.