The Locker Room

February 24, 2010

Is it ignorance or prevarication?

Posted by George Leef at 5:10 PM

Thomas Frank writes a regular column for the Wall Street Journal. He's the "balance" to writers who can actually reason logically from evidence.

Today's piece really takes the cake. Frank writes, "The free-market system blunders into recession; its victims flock to the free-market banner. Here we go again."

You've got to wonder if Frank really never reads anything in the Journal but his own stuff. The Journal has run innumerable pieces by people who know what they're talking about that conclusively refute the leftist trope that the recession was caused by "the free market." There are many books published in the last two years that show how government interference with the market, via artifically low interest rates, political pressure on lenders to abandon safe mortgage standards, etc. caused the bubble and the subsequent financial debacle. Evidently Frank chooses to ignore such works. Is he afraid to stick his nose into, for example, Sowell's book The Housing Boom and Bust?

Frank affects to be something of a public intellectual, but only a propagandist could write something so astoundingly ignorant or deceitful.

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This video speaks for itself

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 4:34 PM

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Regulatory Reform II: Regulatory Burden and the Economy

Posted by Daren Bakst at 4:33 PM

Now, the much-awaited Part II of my regulatory reform blog series.  Be sure to read my report and part I of the series.

Do businesses think there's a problem with regulations in North Carolina?  From my report:

The regulatory burden on businesses is a significant problem.  In a 2005 John Locke Foundation survey of more than 600 North Carolina business leaders, regulatory burden was ranked as the second most important factor reducing the state's economic competitiveness (the tax burden was ranked No.1).  About 81 percent of the business leaders said that the cost of most government regulations exceeded their benefits.

In addition to making sure that the legislature, and not unelected bureaucrats, are making major policy decisions, we need regulatory reform for our economic competitiveness.  Instead of giving out incentives for specially-favored businesses, across-the-board regulatory reform that helps everyone would actually improve our economy.

Part III coming tomorrow!  For a price, I will provide a sneak peak.

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Re: Attack of the Keynesians

Posted by George Leef at 1:49 PM

Here's a sharp Bloomberg article on the horrible state of the British economy. In the Land of Keynes, the Labour Party government has been following Keynesian doctrine faithfully and is looking at bankruptcy. The UK is just a little behind on the ruinous path blazed by Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal. The Keynesians, however, just say, "The government must spend more to get us out of recession!"

A doctor might admit he did the wrong thing if the patient dies. Will Keynesian economists ever own up to mistakes leading to economic death or at least paralysis?

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Black History Month

Posted by Dr. Troy Kickler at 11:40 AM

February is Black History Month, and many times people focus on the suffering of African Americans and historical wrongs rather than black achievement.  Here is an article that reminds readers to avoid turning the month into one “steeped in guilt and oppression.”

As a side note--the author urges readers to “blend black history into American history” rather than treat it as a separate category. 

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Fire All Teachers at a Failing High School

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 11:18 AM

The New York Times was on the scene as the Central Falls, R.I. school board axed the Central Falls High faculty and staff:

The board voted 5 to 2 to accept a plan proposed by Schools Superintendent Frances Gallo to fire the approximately 100 faculty and staff members at the chronically underperforming Central Falls High School on the last day of this school year in June.
Apparently, the teacher's union resisted the superintendent's turnaround plan for the school, which had a 48 percent graduation rate last year.

Firing the entire faculty and staff is a rather extreme move. Although some high school teachers were likely at fault, I would speculate that elementary and middle school English and math teachers were more culpable than the high school physical education teachers, for example.


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A Dialogue on Dogs and Property Rights

Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:06 AM

Last week, I wrote the Friday Daily Journal on whether the state should ban dogs from restaurants.  Below is an email sent to me from an innkeeper who disagrees with me, and below that is my response to the individual.

I'll let the exchange speak for itself.  BTW: I recommend reading my column first.

The Email to Me

So, if the restaurant owner like to have flock of cockroaches around for visual excitement, and maybe a few mice to pick up the crumbs off the tablecloths, then that’s his decision? I suppose you would argue that the public can vote with its feet and the market will decide whether animals are a good idea. But this is more than a bit disingenuous.  There’s a well-established community consensus that the police powers of the state are properly invoked to protect the public health and safety in reasonable ways. It’s an evolving standard, and the edge of reasonableness is sometimes fuzzy. But the principle is sound.  Not everybody agrees that smoke-free restaurants are a good thing, but most people do. I think the same would be true of dogs.  I’ve met some charming pooches in my favorite coffee shop, but I’ve watched others pee on the floor, pick fights and get into barking bouts.  I turn away people every week who want to bring their “well-behaved” dogs and 4-year-olds with them to my inn.  That’s my right as an owner, of course, but some would argue that I’m impinging on individual rights to travel with a menagerie. Just as some argue that their personal constitutional right to commit slo-mo suicide by cigarette is violated here.

As a restaurant customer, by the way, I have actually witnessed a party at another table that included a dog sitting in a chair, eating off a plate.  That’s not a situation where one can gracefully vote with ones feet.

As a small business owner who is subjected to twice-yearly health department inspections, I can testify to the maddening arbitrariness and occasional stupidities of the police power in action. But I muddle through because it goes with the territory. We have a license to operate and by consenting to that, we consent to an array of government intrusions, some of them more reasonable than others.
I could probably think of more compelling issues to take a stand on than  

My Response

Thank you for your email.

You actually make my argument for me.  You turn people away every week—that’s exactly what restaurants can do.  Regarding the police power, it doesn’t apply here when people can make their own decisions on health and safety.  The restaurant can decide whether dogs are allowed and patrons can decide whether they want to eat at the restaurant.

As you mention, some may argue that they have a right to travel with a menagerie or to smoke.  However, they would be incorrect—they have no such rights.  The only rights in question here are those of the property owners.  I don’t have the right to smoke at your house or your restaurant, but you certainly have the right to tell me I can’t smoke at your house or restaurant.

Also, let’s be clear—this isn’t about whether dogs should be allowed in restaurants.  The question is whether the government should prohibit the restaurant from making its own decisions regarding dogs.

Regarding the cockroaches and mice, there would be no way to have them in a dining area without expecting them to also be in the kitchen—in that situation, when they are in the kitchen and are hidden from view from customers (they can’t make informed choices), I would say regulation is appropriate.

I disagree that this isn’t an important issue—in fact, it is an extremely important issue.  It is another example of the all too-common action by some to use the force of government to impose their preferences on others with complete disregard for property rights and individual choice. 

When the government starts to prohibit actions and behaviors (which we are entitled to engage in as a matter of right) because of alleged harms that others could completely avoid or are indirect in nature, we go down a scary slippery slope.  This is the same type of mindset we see when it comes to trying to regulate eating habits, sexual behaviors, who can procreate (i.e. forced sterilization) and much worse.

All the best,

Daren Bakst, J.D., LL.M.
Director of Legal and Regulatory Studies
John Locke Foundation

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Moral entrepreneurship

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:50 AM

WUNC Radio's The State of Things promises to "examine the difficult choices entrepreneurs must make to stay on the moral high road in a market-driven economy" today at noon.


Compared to...

What are the difficult choices entrepreneurs must make to stay on the moral high road in a government-driven economy?

If Jim Black, Mike Easley, Tony Rand, weatherization, General Motors, Bank of America, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina don't illustrate that it is harder for entrepreneurs to be moral when government runs the economy, then surely Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea show how hard it is to be entrepreneurial in such cases.

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California EPA gives up on waterless urinals

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:14 AM

I'll leave the puns to others on this one, but all 56 units are being replaced with low-flow units due to complaints about smells and sticky floors.

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Attack of the Keynesians

Posted by John Hood at 08:50 AM

The Heritage Foundation’s Brian Riedl provoked an online slugfest a while back when he published a paper challenging the basic absurdity of the Obama administration’s stimulus policies — that government can use deficit spending to create demand and thus ease recessions. If you believe in this theory you must also believe that draining water from one end of a swimming pool and pouring it into the other end will make the water level rise.

The usual suspects trained in Keynesian claptrap, such as The New York Times' Paul Krugman, jumped into said pool and splashed around boisterously. Some of their attacks on Riedl and like-minded University of Chicago economist John Cochrane are little more than clumsy personal insults, the kind of thing that the Left in North Carolina now traffics in, too. The rest of the attacks are reruns of debates that free-market critics of Keynes won a quarter of a century ago.

You can follow all this uproarious fun by starting with a post on NRO’s The Corner this morning and following the various links. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

More from JLF writers on the issue here and here.

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Gingrich discusses tomorrow's health care summit

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:16 AM

Recent John Locke Foundation 20th anniversary featured speaker Newt Gingrich weighs in today on President Obama's planned summit:

It remains to be seen if the White House is serious about trying to achieve a legitimate, bipartisan breakthrough on healthcare.  Or if they are just looking to create the appearance of reasonableness before they try to shove their massively unpopular, 4,500 page, big-bureaucracy, high-tax, anti-freedom legislation down our throats.

We’ll know on Thursday. 

It also remains to be seen if Republicans will come armed with their best ideas and invite the White House and Democrats to pass a series of smaller, bipartisan bills that the American people will support.  Or if they will miss the opportunity to show “principled bipartisanship” (as I described it at CPAC on Saturday) and fall for the White House trap of portraying Republicans as “the party of no.”

Again, we’ll know on Thursday.

There is, however, one thing we do know about the summit.

The American people are not invited.

That's why Gingrich is promoting his own "American People's Online Health Summit."

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At least there's some recognition of Climategate

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:14 AM

It might be too much to ask for Newsweek to abandon its global warming alarmism on the basis of Climategate, but it’s nice to see that the magazine’s editors have decided that the current controversy over global warming science shenanigans merits coverage:
The battle between "alarmists" and "deniers" has taken a huge toll, not just on the reputations of Jones and the other "climategate" scientists. It has also damaged the credibility of climate science itself, and threatened more than a decade of diplomatic efforts to engineer a global reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. The effort, which has kept a forward momentum since the Kyoto meeting in 1997, came to a cold stop in Copenhagen in December. The conference was originally intended to bring the U.S. and China into a global agreement, but produced nothing of substance. Indeed, the climate project bears a striking resemblance to health-care reform in the United States—stalled by a combination of political resistance and hubris.

It’s unfortunate that writer Fred Guterl ignores one key factor imperiling climate alarmism (and health-care reform, for that matter): the public’s recognition that government policies would do more harm than good.

For another take on the future of climate policy, check out Paul Chesser’s public presentation on the topic earlier this week.

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Speaking of Republicans in other states …

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:12 AM

The latest Newsweek gives U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., two full pages to offer highlights of his plan to get federal government finances out of their deep hole.

Ryan offers a good description of the debt problem we face today:

Imagine your family's finances if you spent and borrowed like Washington: you'd owe $60 in credit-card loans for every $100 of income. Every month you'd pay back a little but borrow even more. In 10 years, you'd owe $87 for every $100 you made. At some point you'd hand off the debt to your kids. If they worked until 2035, they'd owe more than $180 for every $100 they earned. In 2050, your grandkids would owe more than $320. By 2080 they'd owe seven times their earnings. Of course, lenders would cut them off well before then, and your family would be ruined. But this is the path your government is on right now.

Among his recommendations for fixing the problem are entitlement reforms and a health-care overhaul that would allow you (not the government or your employer) to own your health plan. In addition, he pushes “pro-growth” tax reform.

To get the economy going again, the Roadmap offers the option of a simple, low-rate, two-tier personal income tax, eliminating loopholes and the double taxation of savings and investment. Corporate income taxes will be replaced by a simple 8.5 percent business consumption tax. (For specifics on these and other reforms, go to

There’s no talk of a new stimulus package, which must make Roy Cordato happy.

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N.C. Republicans aren’t the only ones fighting the individual mandate

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:11 AM

You might remember a recent news conference in which N.C. legislative Republican leaders announced plans to pursue a measure this year called the Health Care Protection Act. It’s designed to fight the individual insurance mandate included in federal health-care reform proposals.

The latest Newsweek discusses other state’s response to this issue:

Republicans in at least 30 states have launched bills that would reject the mandate. Earlier this month Tennessee enacted legislation that would require its attorney general to defend people who refuse insurance, and Virginia, pending the governor's expected signature, may soon be the first state to tell residents they would not need to comply. "We're ready to go," says Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has vowed (with Florida's Bill McCollum and at least a dozen other attorneys general) to file suit against the mandate the moment it becomes law.

Federal law, of course, would override this maneuvering. But it still means headaches for the president: widespread civil disobedience, and, given that there's no precedent for an individual mandate, the strong possibility that a challenge would wind up at the Supreme Court, where legal scholars aren't sure the government would have a slam-dunk case. "The federal government would be doing something new," says Jonathan Siegel, a constitutional-law scholar at George Washington University. "It's not a trivial claim" for the states to make. "It's not frivolous."

Joe Coletti has offered his opinion about the North Carolina measure as well.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:01 AM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Sarah Okeson's report on a controversy surrounding the funding of a proposed bridge project in Mooresville.

John Hood's Daily Journal flashes back to a discussion of the problems associated with basic public policy on nostalgia.

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