Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Horse Race

Curunir over at The Distributed Republic has a point, related to many politicos obsession prior to the election with 538.com, that resonates with me:

Am I the only one who finds the popularity of horse-race style election coverage negative and bad for society, certainly not something to be subsidized?

To be sure, I don’t care if some people find political races thrilling, in the same way I find the ACC standings interesting. But I wish people wouldn’t confuse caring about issues with caring about elections.

Politics is a sport. There is a certain level of fandom associated with it, and I’m not going to disparage those who follow it for its sporting aspects (I think a few co-contributors here [coughDougcough] fit that profile) as if it’s somehow more irrelevant than my following of Purdue football or MotoGP. But when it comes to tracking polls and day-to-day changes in public opinion, I’m not going to elevate it above the sports I follow either.

Often, people I know are surprised when I tell them how much I hate politics. After all, I run The Liberty Papers. I follow politics. I can speak at greater length on many political issues than most people who follow politics, and to the “eyes-glaze-over” level for non-politicos. But I hate politics. If these assholes in Washington didn’t have the (improper) legal authority to tell me what to do and lock me in a cage if I don’t comply, I’d pay about as much attention to them as I do to soccer.

I blog mainly because I’m not about horse racing (except, of course, when I go to the actual horse track), but because I’m about ideas. There are principles here, and the politics involved (to the extent they move beyond Team A vs Team B) are an outgrowth of those principles. I want to change peoples minds and let them realize how that might change their votes.

Elections matter — you know, the whole lock me in a cage thing. But at the start and end of the day, I’m far more interested in drawing people towards individualism and freedom. I know that my co-contributors — even those who enjoy the sporting aspects — are here to do the same. The motto over at Reason is “Free Minds and Free Markets”. I think if you take care of the former, you’ll get the latter. I’m here to free minds. The occupants of the White House or Congress are not critical to that task.

Chavez’ Plan: Domination Through Caffeine Withdrawal!

We’ve already reported on Venezuelan food shortages, which are going to make the population too weak to fight Chavez. Now it appears they’ll be too tired as well:

Venezuela, a traditional coffee exporter that boasts one of the best cups of java in South America, may have to import coffee for the first time ever this year or face shortages, industry experts said.

Producers say rising costs and prices fixed by the government have caused production to fall and illegal exports to rise. The government says poor climate and speculation by growers and roasters is to blame.

“There is a serious shortage,” Pedro Vicente Perez, coffee director with the national agricultural federation, Fedeagro, told Reuters.

“This is the first time ever Venezuela will have to import large quantities of coffee,” Perez said.

If Alaska goes communist, they’ll have a shortage of snow.

Hat Tip: Carpe Diem via TJIC

Why Do We Need Expensive College Degrees to Get A Simple Job?

Enrollment in U.S. higher education, by institution type: 1967–97

Enrollment in U.S. higher education, by institution type: 1967–97

Until 1960 or so, the percentage of people getting college degrees was relatively low. There was plenty of work for people who had ‘merely’ graduated from high school, and a high school graduate could support a family.

Then came the Vietnam War, where the United States government would happily enslave high-school graduates, but not students in college. The number of students entering college zoomed upward, and the number of colleges proliferated.

But the war ended in the early 1970’s, and the U.S. government stopped enslaving young men, although it does reserve the capability to start doing so at any time.

Yet, despite this pressure, the number of people entering college continued to increase. Why? Quite simply because it started to become difficult for a high school graduate to find a job. An increasing number of companies started demanding a college degree for jobs that clearly don’t require anything more than the education that could be acquired at a half-way decent high school.

Why would employers do this? What could prompt such a strange change? As usual, dig down into the matter, and the answer becomes clear.  In a paper posted at the John William Pope Canter for Higher Education, Bryan O’Keefe and Richard Vedder argue that the reduced employment opportunities for high-school graduates and the resulting rise of the higher education bubble is an unintended consequence of the 1964 Civil Right Act, namely this part of Section VII:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

At the time this law was passed employers routinely classified prospective employees via pre-employment testing.  This testing was used to determine things like knowledge, technical aptitude, personality compatibility and, yes, the race of applicants.  At the time the law was being debated, its opponents raised the objection that this law could outlaw non-racist testing alongside racist testing.  To which the proponents of the bill replied:

There is no requirement in Title VII that employers abandon bona fide qualification tests where, because of differences in background and educations, members of some groups are able to perform better on these tests than members of other groups.  An employer may set his qualification as high as he likes, he may test to determine which applicants have these qualifications, and he may hire, assign, and promote on the basis of test performance.

Of course, like Madison’s claims that the Federal Government would obviously be limited to the powers described in Section 8 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution, these legislators claims did not survive actual contact with the courts.  In the case Griggs v. Duke Power, the U.S. Supreme Court described what criteria can be used for pre-employment testing:

  • A test where members of one race performed more poorly than members of another race – demonstrating a “disparate” performance – was assumed to be discriminatory with respect to race, even if that was not the intention of the test.
  • Tests with disparate results are illegal unless the test has a direct business necessity.

Since, most businesses weren’t interested in wasting money on tests that were not necessary to screening out unfit employees or identifying the most fit employees, they were stunned.  The Supreme Court had a very complicated definition of what constituted “Direct Business Necessity”, one that was difficult to meet and gave considerable deference to the employee of the Equal Opportunity Commission who was deciding whether or not to accuse a company of illegal discrimination.  Only the simplest tests, such as requiring a prospective driver to pass a driving test could reasonably pass muster.  Other tests, which businessmen clearly felt were useful to reducing the risk of hiring the wrong person for the job,  now could get them sued.

Companies began casting about for a way to screen out the-incompetent or unfit in a way that would not result in them being sued.  The simplest solution is to demand a college degree.  Any racial discrimination demonstrated in the pool of degreed people would be the colleges’ liability, and the business could get on with the business of hiring new employees without being worried about lawsuits.

It has taken thirty years for this unfortunate unintended consequence to play out;

  • People entering the workforce have been kept idle for four years unnecessarily.
  • People entering the workforce are saddled with debts that are difficult to pay off.
  • Colleges have gotten away with lowering educational standards because their graduates are in such high demand.

When summed across the millions of people who have entered the workforce in the last two decades, the economic costs imposed by this well-intended but horrendously misguided effort are staggering.  They include

  • Almost 100 million man-years’ lost productivity.
  • An additional 10 million man-years spent paying off college loans
  • Increased pressure on children to engage in organized activities designed to win the child a scholarship at the expense of their personal development.

Had the proponents of the Civil Rights Act limited their aim at racial discrimination by the government, they would have been crafting a very socially beneficial law.  But by seeking to use the law to force people not to racially discriminate, they wreaked massive damage on the economy.  Ironically, this damage disproportionately affects minorities who are far more likely to be at the mercy of awful government schools than other ethnic/racial groups.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Harold Fish is Free!

On the Liberty Papers, much of what we write is negative; decrying the steady movement towards tyranny and totalitarianism that is the trajectory of the U.S.. Occasionally, we get to report some good news.Harold Fish has been released from jail.

His case is an important one; the state of Arizona charged him with murder for defending himself with too powerful a weapon; while hiking in the backwoods, Mr Fish was charged by a group of aggressive dogs (who were, quite reasonably, unleashed) . Fish had a 10mm Kimber Pistol with hollow point ammunition. He fired a warning shot into the ground to scare them off as they closed to within a few feet of him. At this point, he was attacked by the dog owner who screamed that he was going to kill Mr Fish and charged swinging his fists. Mr Fish fired three rounds at the last moment before the man got within punching distance and mortally wounded his attacker. he then spent agonizing minutes trying to get medical help for the man.

The police investigating the case thought it a clear case of self defense. The lawyers working for the state of Arizona disagreed, claiming that the size and type of rounds he was carrying indicated that Mr Fisher had set out on his hike with murder on his mind.

Through this argument, and by convincing the judge to keep exculpatory evidence out of the trial, the attorneys were able to successfully convict Mr Fish of murder, although within 24 hours at least one horrified juror contacted the defense attorney claiming that the excluded evidence would have resulted in a different verdict.

This case is important in that people have a right to defend themselves. Certainly, the courts have long held that police have not obligation to defend us. The act of walking outside the patrol area of the police does not mean that we have agreed to allow people to murder or assault us.

Luckily, the appelate court agreed that Mr Fish had been convicted unfairly, and thanks to recent changes in Arizona law clarifying the rules governing self defense, there is little chance that his retrial will result in a conviction.

Harold Fish lost three years of his life to prison. He is nearly $500,000 in debt at a time of his life where he has little prospect of paying it off (Donate here to his defense fund). All because a stranger attacked him, he defended himself, and a prosecutor didn’t like the size of his gun.

In a just world, the prosecutor would have to make Mr Fish whoole for all the money and time he lost on this frivolous prosecution. Unfortunately, we do not live in a just world.

At least Mr. Fish gets to have dinner with his wife again…

Hat Tip: Massad Ayoub of Backwoods Home Magazine.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.
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