Some of the People All of the Time

by Dave Schuler on October 31, 2014

A famous Illinoisan is said to have once said that you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. If Hillary Rodham Clinton can convince people that she’s an economist populist and anti-Wall Street, it will be a darned good trick.

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Conservative Superstitions

by Dave Schuler on October 31, 2014

I am not a liberal. I am also not a conservative. I think my politics are best described as “eclectic”. I like “pragmatic” but that term has become debased in recent years by being confused with opportunism or a lack of principles.

That having been said I took a certain amount of umbrage at Kate Batchelder’s Wall Street Journal op-ed listing “The Top 10 Liberal Superstitions”, not because I disagreed with them but because it was so one-sided.

I agree that there are certain things that are articles of faith among progressives that have little empirical support or little basis in human nature. For example, the belief in a straightline relationship between education and income. I think that’s a vast oversimplification. There are relationships between education and job protections via regulation and jobs protections via regulation and income but the relationship between education and income is not nearly so strong.

What bugged me is that it’s not as though conservatives don’t have their own superstitions. One of them is that cutting taxes will ipso facto result in economic growth. I think the evidence for that is actually pretty weak and at this point what is taxed is probably more important for economic growth than that you cut taxes.

Or that Ronald Reagan was what today’s conservatives would think of as a conservative but that’s treading on hallowed ground.

Consequently, I’m perversely accepting nominations for the top 10 conservative superstitions. To qualify a nominee would a) need to be something actually believed by many conservatives and b) demonstrably untrue or at least with substantial evidence that it’s untrue. Things about which there are merely differences of opinion don’t qualify.

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A Higher Illinois MInimum Wage?

by Dave Schuler on October 31, 2014

The other night I received a telephone call from a person (remarkable, I know) asking my opinion of a higher state minimum wage in Illinois. It’s something that incumbent Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has made an important plank in his re-election campaign. She was audibly crestfallen when I replied that I didn’t support a higher state minimum wage here.

I think there’s a tenuous argument to be made in favor of an increase in the national minimum wage. It has too many misconceptions and makes too many unfounded assumptions for my comfort but I can see the argument. The argument in favor of an increase in the state minimum wage is much weaker.

Illinois’s geographical and economic configuration is that most of its population lives within thirty miles of the state border. Chicago adjoins both Wisconsin and Indiana. East St. Louis is just across the river from Missouri. Rock Island and Moline are just across the Mississippi from Davenport, Iowa. And so on. The states that border Illinois—Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin—all have lower minimum wages than Illinois. The taxes are higher here and if you think that the standards of living in the adjoining areas of our neighboring states are lower than the nearby areas of Illinois you’re living in a fool’s paradise.

A higher minimum wage for Illinois is likely to drive even more businesses out of the state, something Illinois, a state with a very high rate of business flight, can ill afford as it is. And then there are the employment effects.

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Weasel of the Week

by Dave Schuler on October 30, 2014

The Watcher’s Council has announced its Weasel of the Week for last week. This week it’s CNN news anchor Carol Costello:

Although CNN News Anchor Carol Costello shouldn’t have a job after her disturbing antics, last week, she does deserve to be considered for the esteemed title of Weasel of the Week in my humble opinion.

In the shocking segment, Costello could barely contain her glee over hearing new audio of Bristol Palin describing her assault at a party in Alaska a few weeks ago. In fact, Costello called it “quite possibly the best minute and a half of audio we’ve ever come across.”

Costello then proceeded to describe the “massive brawl” and before playing the audio she told her viewers “so sit back and enjoy.”

My vote went to Erdogan but I can’t argue that Ms. Costello doesn’t deserve her award.

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The American Creed

by Dave Schuler on October 30, 2014

There’s a reason that Americans regard the the Constitution as “as a quasi-religious document”. As G. K. Chesterton pointed out astutely a century ago, the United States is a country founded on a creed. We do not have a lengthy common history or blood ties or other forms of national identity to bind us together. Our tie is our common belief in the foundational ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and later additions like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or his Second Inaugural.

Can we survive as a nation without that source of national identity? Is existence as a support system for Social Security and Medicare enough? Can the ethnically-based nations of Europe survive without that basis for national identity? We’re now engaged in a massive experiment and may soon find out.

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The Few, Bare Acorns

by Dave Schuler on October 30, 2014

I’ve been rooting around in the columns, op-eds, and editorials of the last few days and have found it terribly difficult to come up with much more than a few, bare acorns. For example, here the editors of the Washington Post muse about the prospects for breaking the legislative lobjam that has rendered this Congress the least effective in enacting legislation of any in the last 150 years:

The roots of this election season’s discontent seem to lie not so much in the ebb and flow of events but instead in a spreading sense that national political institutions, beset with partisanship, no longer work well. In the Post-ABC poll, 60 percent said they do not trust Washington to do what is right. Some 53 percent say the federal government’s ability to deal with problems has gotten worse. In the CNN-ORC International poll, 74 percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed. These results, too, must be treated skeptically; voters blame politicians for gridlock but seldom acknowledge that elected representatives usually follow the wishes of their constituency.

For all of the whinging about the feckless Republican House, for my money there are not nearly enough complaints about Harry Reid’s Senate. Under Sen. Reid the Senate has transformed from the place where heated legislation goes to cool to where it goes to die. In order to avoid leaving fingerprints on legislation that could come back to haunt future Senate races, Sen. Reid has elected to end Senate deliberation by not bringing legislation to the floor—that is the enormous power of the Senate majority leader.

If the Republicans do manage to eke out a victory in the Senate we may have the opportunity to determine the source of the do-nothingness of our present do-nothing Congress.

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Panic or an Abundance of Caution?

by Dave Schuler on October 30, 2014

The editors of the Chicago Tribune have entered the lists in support of what they’re calling “an abundance of caution” on the state of Illinois’s response to the question of handling a potential spread of Ebola:

Health officials around the country continue to scratch their heads about how these changing guidelines will work in practice. The public is left to … well, let’s not call it panic. People are not panicking. They are, though, worried and confused because the U.S. response consistently seems to be one step behind events.

Here are the measures they’ve come out in support of:

  • But if we’re going to err, let’s err on the side of caution. Given the lethality of Ebola and the virus’ 21-day incubation period, a quarantine rule for medical professionals and others who have had contact with the disease in those high-risk countries seems reasonable.
  • Given the high incidence in certain countries, a temporary travel and visa ban on visitors from those nations makes sense too. It could be structured without impeding the movement of health professionals to and from those countries.

but

Halting Ebola at the source — in West Africa — remains the key to ending this epidemic.

That’s my first priority. I think the other measures are somewhat of an overreaction but, contrary to the jibes of some, I think they’re an overreaction to real failings of our healthcare system.

The situation faced in authoritarian countries is ever so much simpler. In a liberal democratic republic like ours elected officials need to respond to political concerns if they want to keep their jobs. Note the number of governors who have put measures in place that go beyond the guidelines that the CDC has found supportable by science.

And “an abundance of caution” is not merely an American disease. The Australian government has imposed a travel ban between Australia and the West African countries in which most of the Ebola cases have occurred.

Let’s not take our eyes off the ball. Either this Ebola epidemic will burn itself out after killing who knows how many people as Ebola outbreaks have in the past or it will only be checked with help from developed countries. My own sense of prudence tells me that we should be taking more energetic efforts towards helping Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone deal with the epidemic.

Which means efforts on the part of our government, i.e. the American military, rather than relying on volunteers.

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Why Has Violent Crime Declined?

by Dave Schuler on October 29, 2014

Heather MacDonald muses over why violent crime has declined so notably over the period of the last decade or so:

So what happened? No consensus exists. Favored explanations among criminologists include the collapse of the crack cocaine trade, a shrinking youth population, and a better job market, but none of these theories perfectly fit the data. The spread of New York–style policing and increased incarceration are better, but by no means exclusive, explanations for the national crime drop.

Another possible explanation she doesn’t mention: Kevin Drum’s pet theory that it’s due to the decline in the use of leaded gasoline.

I think it’s probably multi-factorial so looking for one silver bullet isn’t particularly useful.

Something else that goes unmentioned: it doesn’t support the idea that greater poverty and unemployment will lead to more violent crime.

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What Do You Do about the Security State?

October 28, 2014

If Sharyl Attkisson’s story can be taken at face value, it paints a picture of intolerable government intrusion. If the Congress isn’t all over this, what’s the cure?

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Mitigating Risk

October 28, 2014

I am shocked, shocked to see governors acting politically in the face of the risks, whatever they may be, posed by Ebola in this country. This morning there seems to be a pitched battle between those who think the governors of New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, and Virginia have acted injudiciously or prudently. At […]

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