The Locker Room

March 29, 2006

Re: alleged need to tax soda

Posted by Jon Sanders at 3:59 PM

George, concerning your post, I think we are only beginning to plumb the depths of Prof. Popkin's contributions to our understanding of Cordato's Law: Using reductio ad absurdum argument against leftists tends to fail. Leftists are not only quicker than you to conceive absurd ends, but also they probably have already reached or surpassed them, rendering your argument moot.

Consider Murphy's quotation here:

Before continuing, I note with dismay that I am old enough to remember when libertarians and conservatives would object to government interference with tobacco and alcohol by asking, "What next? Will the government start taxing fatty foods and put warning labels on fettuccine alfredo?" I can honestly remember that the proponents of the "serious" regulations dismissed this particularly slippery slope argument as absolutely absurd, that nobody would ever advocate a tax on fatty foods.

[Aside: Not me, though!]

And yet now, Barry Popkin at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill defends the taxes on soda by pointing out, "We've done it with cigarettes."

You may recall that Popkin was able to spot the bad news in the fact that Chinese were no longer starving to death by the tens of millions: they're becoming more obese and "the burden of health care costs is going to go up immensely."

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On the alleged need to further tax soda

Posted by George Leef at 2:40 PM

The meddlers and social engineers never run out of ideas for trying to make others behave just the way they should -- i.e., the way the meddlers and social engineers think they should to improve "society."

In this sharp article, Hillsdale economics professor Robert Murphy takes issue with the busybodies, one of whom is a certain Professor Barry Popkin at UNC.

Try it. You'll like it. And reading the article has zero calories!

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Re: Re: Shannon Straightens out the WSJ

Posted by George Leef at 1:43 PM


There is more distressing news on the literacy front.

At the lower end of the prose literacy assessment, we find that 14 percent of college graduates have only "basic" literacy, and 3 percent are "below basic."

You might well ask, what are people with such weak literacy doing in college at all -- much less graduating?

The NAAL also studied two other aspects of literacy, the ability to understand documents and the ability to perform quantitative tasks. The former involves things like comprehending a bus schedule; the latter involves basic mathematical problems such as figuring how many cans of paint you'd need to buy to paint a room with so many square feet of wall area.

In document literacy, only 25 percent of college grads were deemed proficient. (BTW, the level of competence needed to make it to the "proficient" category isn't particularly high. Around 70% was good enough.) At the bottom end, 11 percent were at "basic" and 2 percent "below basic." The study doesn't try to peg what "basic" means, but I'd say that a decently-educated fourth grader would be there.

In quantitative literacy, 31 percent of college grads were deemed "proficient," the same as for prose literacy; 22 percent could only manage "basic" and 4 percent "below basic."

What it means is that colleges and universities admit a lot of students who are shockingly weak in the most fundamental skills and that many of them can coast through to their degrees without substantially improving.

I have read that some employers don't just want to see that applicants have the obligatory BA, but now also want to see what their SAT scores were. That's evidence that the business world is figuring out that merely having a degree these days is not good proof of one's trainability.

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Re: Challenge

Posted by George Leef at 1:42 PM

How about "As useless as a convention center in Raleigh?'

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John Locke Foundation Challenge

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 12:30 AM

I am trying to find a simile or metaphor that best describes the uselessness of the education lottery. The winner will receive a prize.

Early entries include:

As useless as the Currituck ferry

As useless as a DNA test for the 47th member of the Duke lacrosse team

Useless as an Ann Coulter doll to John Hood

Useless as a Dukakis campaign poster

Useless as the definite article to Tonto

Useless as an ashtray on a crotch rocket (don't ask)

Useless as sound science to an environmentalist

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Hard Line Well-Timed

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 12:19 AM

After Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, said yesterday that his country should avoid multiculturalism -- though he made sure to qualify his statements, allowing for "open [borders] to foreigners who flee countries where their lives or liberties are at risk" -- today he took advantage of his well-timed words.

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Re: Shannon straightens the WSJ

Posted by Hal Young at 12:12 AM

Well said, Shannon, but the elephant sitting in my room is the 1992 figure.

Forty blooming percent of college graduates were "proficient" readers?

College graduates, mind. So even though seven out of ten recent grads are presumably "not proficient" in the basic literacy skills, it was still six of ten back then.

O tempora The problem isn't higher education, at least not in total.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:44 AM

Panelists on Monday's News & Notes (WNCU, 5-6pm) did not wonder much about Condoleezza Rice's stance on abortion, the second amendment, or affirmative action. Instead they questioned whether being black and female was too many hurdles to overcome, whether being single was a burden, and whether she can win having spent all her time in foreign policy, which nobody cares about.

Starting with the last point -- foreign policy was the deciding factor in 2002 and 2004. Condi Rice has been the toughest National Security Adviser and Secretary of State in the most cowboy administration in a long time. For those who think women are too soft to lead, she's negated that concern.

Being single may also be an advantage. Nobody has to worry about what to call her husband, and nobody has to worry about seeing this on a regular basis.

Finally, being both African-American and female can only help with those two groups.

She hasn't said she's running, she's not raising money, and she's not campaigning, but she did put the kibosh on replacing Paul Tagliabue. Let's see what happens with the rest of the White House reshuffle

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Exceptional advertisement

Posted by Jon Sanders at 09:59 AM

I'd love to see the written score to this Honda advertisement.

Hat tip: Susan "The Source"

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When Socialism Dies

Posted by Chad Adams at 09:58 AM

The free market is finally catching up in Europe as the French workers learn:

An estimated 2 to 3 million striking workers and students demonstrated in cities and towns throughout France yesterday in opposition to the Gaullist government’s “First Job Contract” (CPE—Contrat premičre embauche) legislation, which permits employers to dismiss young workers without cause or compensation during their first two years on the job.

Entitlement mentalities, once in place, are painfully difficult to dislodge. It seems akin to having impacted wisdom teeth. Maybe the French should release copious amounts of wine to the public to make this reality easier to deal with. Then again, maybe they should simply enact freedom and allow employers to hire and fire based on performance.

You just gotta love this website .

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A Good, Miracle of a Story

Posted by Shannon Blosser at 09:28 AM

From USA Today:

The sole survivor of the Sago Mine disaster plans to go home from the hospital this week and may make a public appearance Thursday, less than three months after an underground explosion killed 12 of his co-workers.

“He's going home,” Anna McCloy, wife of Randy McCloy, said in an interview Tuesday. “I'm amazed. I just can't believe it. I didn't think it was going to be this fast.”

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Shannon straightens out the Wall Street Journal

Posted by George Leef at 08:40 AM

In today's letters section:

Your editorial repeats the oft-heard statistic that people with college degrees earn significantly more money than do people without them. While the figures are true on average, they can be misleading as to the benefit many young people will derive from a college degree today.

If you look at the average earnings of people with college degrees, you include a lot of people who earned their degrees decades ago. That's important because there has been a slow but noticeable erosion of academic standards over time. The recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy report shows that the literacy of college graduates has declined. In the 1992 survey, 40% of college graduates were "proficient" readers, but the new figures indicate that has fallen to 31%.

Evidence also shows that a rising percentage of students who graduate from college wind up accepting "high school jobs" when they enter the labor force. Colleges and universities accept large numbers of marginal students who can earn enough credits to graduate in the current watered-down academic environment, but who gain little human capital benefit from their four or more costly years in school.

Of course, many students do benefit greatly from a college education, but we should resist jumping to the conclusion that everyone who gets a degree is going to enjoy a boost in his earning potential.

Shannon L. Blosser
John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy
Chapel Hill, N.C.

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