Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Congress giveth, congress taketh away

Letter writers to local newspapers have been congratulating Pat Tiberi, our congressman, on his willingness to intervene on their behalf. What the letter writers forget is that the power to intervene is really the power to use the hammer of government in order to force individuals and firms to act other than they would have normally choosen; to act outside of already signed contractual agreements. That usage of power is anathema to the principals of Liberty that founded this country.

I'm not talking about contract or civil laws being broken, I referring to a congressman using government to lean on individuals and companies that have broken no law. Simply because someone was unsatisfied with the results of a contract that they signed under no duress, they chose to get the local power broker to have the contract amended - if the offending individuals and firms know what's best for them, they agree to the change. The ability to exert such pressure must be quite an aphrodisiac for power seekers such as Tiberi.

The ability to influence, to put the pressure on someone, cuts both ways. This time it benefits you, the next time it hurts you. When a congressman implicitly uses the power of government to change contracts and events, he has moved from realm of the citizen-statesmen to that of the political dons who control Third World politics. He's the Soviet apparatchik trading his ability to threaten for a bottle of vodka, or a front page story and letter to the editor. Why use the court system when your congressman can get the job done, extra-contractual and extra-constitutional.

While serving on the Olentangy Board of Education, I had a gentleman who first sought the influence of his congressman when the district didn't put a school bus stop near his home. The sad fact is that this gentleman went to Tiberi because each congressional office has a constituent services employee whose job is to get individuals and firms act under the threat of big G. You can be assured that we are talking implicit threats - threats of investigation, loss of influence, federal contracts, etc., since anything else would be dirty pool.

If you keep the likes of Tiberi in congress, you simply keep increasing the extent of federal power. And this comes from a Republican Central Committee member.

Of course, his opponent is no better. But at least Shamansky will be a once-again freshman in congress and have little ability to influence anything these next two years. Then, throw him out and chose someone else. The faster the political turnstile rotates, the less evil that can be done in DC.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A great quote out of context

Latest Mises.org post from Jim Fedako

"It may sometimes be expedient for a man to heat the stove with his furniture. But if he does, he should know what the remoter effects will be. He should not delude himself by believing that he has discovered a wonderful new method of heating his premises." from Human Action, Ludwig von Mises

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, uses this quote from Mises in a speech delivered at the EU's All Party Parliamentary Group on Overseas Development Lunchtime Meeting Series in order to advocate for interventionism. Talk about taking a quote out of context!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Best of the net

Looking for the best from the net? Go to:

Mises.org for articles, books, audio, etc., from the Austrian School of Economics;

LewRockwell.com for the best in Libertarian thought;

FreeBooks.com for the free books on Christian thought from Gary North, et. al.;

PeytonWolcott.com for stories on education accountability.

Like a spider web, these sites link to other sites that can provide additional articles and knowledge. You'll soon find FEE.org, FFF.org, EdNew.org, the Education Consumers Clearinghouse, and many others. Have fun surfing...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hypocrisy and Virtue

As an nonsmoker I rarely ever venture into areas where there's cigarette smoke, I simply don't enjoy the smell. But I could also say the same for many other smells, such as fried foods, etc.

I will agree that smoking is dangerous, but I also accept that many other activities also come with risks, small and great.

The hypocrisy: The chance of an eighteen year old smoker dying from smoking within a year is trivial compared with the chance of an eighteen year old athlete dying on the sports or practice fields within a year. Yet no one is trying to put a stop to those activities - yet, anyway.

Once the smoking ban has been secured, do not think for a moment that the anti-smoking campaigners will simply go home with this one victory. No, these do-gooders will soon look for the next activity to prohibit with the force of government. These folks are not in this for the good of all, they are simply in this to control society.

Revolutions of virtue follow the pattern of the French Revolution where a Reign of Terror follows the early victories. You see, in some eyes, virtue is to be forced on everyone - at least virtue as defined by those empowered by victory.

As CS Lewis noted decades ago, the virtuous never sleep since they always believe that the non-virtuous (as defined by the virtuous) need government interventions in order to live the good life, and it's the sole function of the virtuous to find any aspect of the lives of the non-virtuous that requires intervention. This is a heavy burden that sleep only fails.

Watch out for these people...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Your voice would be heard

Response to a listserve posting regarding the conclusions of the Tennessee Project STAR Report (1990). The report claimed that smaller class sizes lead to higher student achievement, yet the data from the study did not support that conclusion. In fact, many later studies, notably from Eric Hanushek, refuted the small class size/improved performance nexus, yet Project STAR is still cited as proof that smaller class sizes lead to improved student achievement.

This is similar to recent articles which reported that school voucher programs are unsuccessful. Akin to the blurb in a newspaper movie ad, where the words of reviewers are taken out of context, certain media reported pull-out quotes from the report that were opposite of the conclusions found in the report itself.

You are absolutely correct in your analysis. You saw the contradiction in the Project STAR report yet your voice went unheard. The reason is simple: Government control of a tax-supported monopoly in education is never the solution. The best one can hope for is that the elected politician, and, more importantly, the bureaucrats, will function as the altruistic guides of the education system. Though, even this situation simply replaces the whims and fancies of the consumer with the whims and fancies of government officials. And, the officials can never define the inputs and outcomes desired by the consumer; the system flies blind. What always happens is that money and influence capture the system so that even the altruistic official is lost in the political battles, let alone the realities of government-run enterprises.

You read the Project STAR report and noted the contradiction, yet no one responded in the manner you expected. I would say that the system responded as it always does; money and influence turned a deaf ear on your correct conclusions.

In a system of choice, you would find the operator who runs the school system that matches your desired inputs and outcomes. There would be no worry about the influence of unions or others with conflicted interests. Your voice would be heard.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

State Issues 4 and 5


"When anti-smoking activists hit the streets last year with a petition to ban smoking in nearly every Ohio business, bar and restaurant owners quickly drummed up a response.

The result is a pair of ballot measures that appear similar at first glance but contain key differences.

State Issue 5, the Smoke Free Ohio measure backed by the American Cancer Society, would outlaw smoking in virtually all public businesses.

State Issue 4, dubbed Smoke Less Ohio and backed by bar and restaurant owners with funding from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., would allow smoking in bars and parts of restaurants.

Another difference might seem technical but could determine which measure becomes law.

State Issue 5 is an initiated statute, carrying the same weight as any law passed by the General Assembly. State Issue 4 would be written into the Ohio Constitution, making it much more difficult to amend or repeal.

If voters pass both measures, only State Issue 4 would take effect since a constitutional amendment trumps a statute."
from The Columbus Dispatch

Letter written in response to letter published by ThisWeekNews.


In his letter regarding statewide Issues 4 and 5, Leonard Fisher, chair of the Delaware County Tobacco-Free Coalition, tries to make the point that individual rights are not involved in these ballot issues. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Currently, I exercise my right to smoke-free environments on a daily basis by using my dollars to vote for restaurants that provide me with a smoke-free meal. Those who chose to smoke can vote with their dollars for restaurants that allow smoking or designated smoking areas. These personal decision are the application of individual rights in a free society. And, let's not forget, that property owners used to have the right to decide the manner in which their property is used. Life, Liberty, and Property are essential qualities of freedom.

The backers of local smoking ordinances, and now state-wide issues, have no concern for those three qualities of freedom. They want to supplant individual liberty with their own government-enforced values. It's sad to see someone in Delaware County advocate for the state to intervene in the personal decisions of every Ohioan - especially when that individual can already act on his preference for smoke-free environments.

Years ago, CS Lewis noted that the seemingly well-intentioned individual can create more harm than good. Using local ordinances and statewide issues to exchange freedom for state control of personal decisions brings to mind a cautionary statement from a Founding Father: Benjamin Franklin, after being asked what form of government resulted from the Constitution Convention, replied, "A republic if you can keep it." Let's vote No for both Issue 4 and Issue 5 and keep the republic.

Jim Fedako

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The good professor

"I’m not hacked off anymore," she said. "I want them to at least understand what they’re rejecting. If they choose to ignore it, that’s their prerogative." OSU Biology Professor Susan Fisher. (from the Columbus Dispatch)

This is absolutely the correct way to teach any topic in science, whether the topic is the theory of evolution (above) or something such as quantum mechanics. Typically, instructors who teach the theory of evolution seek to indoctrinate more than they seek to educate. When a teacher attempts to change or undermine one's faith, instruction is no longer education, it's indoctrination. So it's good to hear that some professors understand their role as educators, and not indoctrinators.

Science is a process that includes the continual reevaluation of past experiments, theories, and conclusions. Scientists should never establish something as an absolute fact and seek to have everyone one else accept that fact as truth, based purely on faith in science in general and the scientist in particular. Science should accept challenges and attacks, as such efforts either strengthen a given theory or reveal a better explanation - a new theory arises.

Let us never forget that one can teach a scientific theory to someone who will never accept that theory as true. In fact, the instructor may even question a theory yet still teach it to students. In addition, the scientist may not believe in the science he is using. The best example of this is Quantum Mechanics, a fundamental branch of modern, theoretical physics. Much of quantum mechanics is pure theory that is not even accepted by all physicists, yet these doubtful scientists still function as physicists - and no one challenges their science or degree.

So, if the physicist can question a pillar of their science yet remain a physicist, what is stopping the biologist who accepts Genesis Creationism from functioning as a biologist? Absolutely nothing. Then, why do Evolutionists require faithful adherence to the theories arising from Darwinism? I don't know, though I suspect that it has nothing to do with science and everything to do with challenging the Christian faith.

Root Cause of the Failure of Contemporary Education - by George Reisman

George Reisman of Pepperdine University sees the results of the education system every day:

With little exaggeration, the whole of contemporary education can be described as a process of encumbering the student’s mind with as little knowledge as possible.

Continue reading at LewRockwell.com

Monday, October 09, 2006

What are your public school educators reading?

Why, Educational Leadership from the Association of Curriculum and Development of course. ASCD is highly respected by public educators, in fact your local schools most likely have implemented a number of programs that ASCD promotes.

OK, but what are they reading? Note the quote below from the following article written by Richard Hanzelka, ASCD president:

"Regardless of international differences, we should all take heed of China's concern for the development of a whole child who is capable of being part of a harmonious society."

In an article reminiscent of John Dewey's excited report written after seeing his ideas incorporated in the schools of Soviet Russia, ASCD trumpets China's embrace of the "whole child."

For those new to such terminology, the "whole child" is the Progressive utopian child that is self-actualized yet devoid of knowledge. Educators appeal to the concept of the "whole child" since it frees public schools from having to teach the three R's. Parents, when you hear "whole child" mentioned think of the article below - the goal of this type of educations - and you will understand why college remediation rates are so high.

And people wonder why the education profession gets branded a socialist cartel, especially when the educationist want us to pursue the harmonious society that is Communist China.

Note: Your tax dollars pay for this rot. You simply cannot cannot make up stuff this bizarre.

from the latest ASCD daily email:

Harmonious Learning for the Whole Child: Education Perspectives from China

Message from the President

Richard Hanzelka

As educators in the United States struggle to expand their view of learning to embrace the whole child and not just achievement test scores, it is encouraging to know that other nations are engaged in similar processes. China, a country I have been fortunate enough to visit twice in the last two years, is also challenging itself to build a system that addresses the whole child.

This summer I traveled to China to participate in the first China-U.S. Education Leadership Conference. What I learned and experienced expanded and clarified the impressions I formed during the ASCD Board of Directors trip to China in November 2005.
continue reading ...

A Fair Wage

An always timely article published by EdNews.org:

by Jim Fedako

You hear it from them all the time; teachers just want a fair wage. Oh, well who doesn't? This line of thought begs two questions: How are wage rates established in a free market? And, are market wage rates fair?

read more ...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

$6 billion gone ... Fooled by Randomness

A hotshot trader loses over $6 billion in a matter of a week. How can that happen? To understand how such loses can occur to both a successful trader and hedge fund, read Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This insightful book details how randomness is disguised as seemingly ordered events, leading to incorrect conclusions and decisions, as well as horrific loses.

Brian Hunter, the hedge fund's 32-year-old chief energy trader, was recently hailed as a rising star. What many thought was an innate ability to understand the market was simply a lucky run at the gambling table. The point is that we tend not to look for randomness in events, especially the statistical descriptions of those events.

By assuming that statistics, the tool of the positivist and empiricist, reveals absolute truths, we end up traveling down a path that leads to trouble.

Oh, there certainly is a place for statistics in describing past events, but predicting the future based on a statistical analysis can easily result in the $6 billion loss. As the sage words from the TV show Hill Street Blues reminds us, "Hey, let's be careful out there."