The Locker Room

December 3, 2009


Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 8:42 PM

Obama's chief of propaganda, aka press secretary Robert Gibbs, in response to questions about climategate said that "Several thousand scientists have come to the conclusion that climate change is happening. I don't think that's anything that is, quite frankly, among most people, in dispute anymore," Yes, in fact it is likely that 100% of scientist would agree that the climate is not staying, or ever has stayed the same--and there is also a great consensus among scientist that day changes to night, and all mathematicians agree that 2 +2=4. 

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Subsidizing the Arts

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 5:08 PM

Today's joint JLF and J.W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy presentation by author Max Borders and panelists J. Peder Zane and John Hood raised a number of interesting and valid points. It has also generated much lively discussion, both during and here on the Locker Room and after the panelist's session. I think both 'sides' raised valid points, sometimes engaging the opponents' arguments, sometimes not.

J. Peder Zane's objection to singling out the North Carolina School of the Arts as the poster child for Borders' criticism is well taken, especially since, as Hood and others pointed out, every school in the UNC system duplicates to some degree the arts education offerings at NCSA. Why pick on them, and not science programs, engineering schools, or med schools also subsidized by taxpayer dollars? Indeed. If one is opposed to public funding of education, or at least to heavy public subsidies of higher education, NCSA may not be exceptional.

I think a a major focus of Max's arguments about spending taxpayer dollars to support NCSA rests on some implications of the pull-quote found on page 7 of the paper: "When considered on a per-student basis, UNCSA is by far the most expensive publicly funded university in the state." True enough, and statistics support this claim. While Peder takes this as a reason we should and must support arts education publicly, Max takes it as an indictment of the principle of effective use of taxpayer dollars, and opposes that approach per se (in principle itself), as I understand him. Some thoughts on this dispute between the two: I think it is a mistake to expect that arts education and business school education, or other education (science, etc.) should be or can be delivered at strictly comparable per-student costs. Even if they could be, though, so what? That fact wouldn't necessarily argue for delivering either of them at significant taxpayer expense.

As regards the extraordinarily-high per pupil expense of arts ed? All arts education programs, everywhere, have relatively, even very high per-student costs, and relatively low student-teacher ratios as compared to most other university disciplines of study. NCSA is in no way unusual or unique in this regard. As an undergraduate in a private music conservatory program during my undergraduate years, I was very much aware (even as a student) that the Music school in particular, along with the Art school, was constantly criticized by the rest of the University because per-pupil expenditures were astronomical, compared to undergraduate programs in non-arts disciplines. It's the nature of the beast, and technology can only take you so far, and on some few margins, in reducing that cost. One-on-one or few-on-one pedagogy is simply required in some parts of the primary curriculum.

So in terms of Max's paper, one might want to note that what he suggests about NCSA'a per-pupil costs, compared to other UNC system schools, are expected and typical for arts education programs, everywhere. I agree with him though that, typical or not, this is a reason for NC to get out of the arts education business, not further into it.

A private-pay arts education approach has many advantages, not the least of which are the degree to which personal liberty for taxpayers is preserved (taking fewer taxpayer dollars) and opportunities, an incentive to make better decisions about the potential costs and benefits of pursuing arts study at the University level, and the ability of artist-hopefuls to more realistically assess the market for their talents (supposing that many would actually prefer to work in the arts and not just enjoy personal enrichment).

A second point, and more significant than arguing about which schools or which programs ought to be sacrosanct with respect to public funding, is this: many of the problems to which Max points in his study are a symptom of a larger problem about which George Leef has been writing and speaking for years. Too many American kids go to college. Period. Thus, no surprise, too many kids enter arts education programs in universities and colleges. This is less of a problem if one is risking one's own investment of time and dollars. It's a difficult, uncertain, and often low-remuneration career path, and therefore even more unconscionable for a public university system.

There are clearly already too many (for the career market) people trying to pursue careers in the arts. Musicians' unions, Actor's Equity and other professional credentialing barriers represent serious efforts to keep newcomers out, competition down, and returns up for those a) able to join these organizations--it's not just a matter of signing up and paying one's dues— and b) who can find employment once they are members of the requisite guilds. Producers and agents are well aware, also, of the degree to which these arrangements raise the cost of live performance and, perversely, discourage public attendance and tastes for these options. Think: wedding bands, dance bands, live actors (stage or screen)--they are disappearing for good reason, not for lack of talent or trained personnel.

In sum, it seems clear to me that the problem of arts education has been confounded by the mania for every child to attend college, and that overindulgence in arts education is just one consequence of that trend.

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Re: Should taxpayers fund the UNCSA?

Posted by George Leef at 3:32 PM

I'd like to add a couple of points.

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call I discussed Max Borders' paper. While I'm at least as avid a fan of the fine arts as anyone around, I can't see how state operation of a school to train musicians, dancers, and so on has the slightest effect on the demand for fine arts performances and exhibitions. The cultural tastes of people aren't affected by the presence or absence of schools to train performers. If UNCSA didn't exist, there would still be precisely the same level of interest in ballet, chamber music, orchestral concerts here in Raleigh (or Charlotte or Asheville or anywhere else). The North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, for example, wouldn't sell any fewer tickets if UNCSA didn't exist or were privately run. (Nor would the orchestra be any better or worse.)

My point is that subsidizing the training of performers can't pull the level of interest in the fine arts up by its bootstraps.

I'm not interested in stock car racing. If the state decided to subsidize a facility for the training of drivers and mechanics here in Raleigh that wouldn't make me want to spend so much as one minute on racing. Same thing with other people and the fine arts.

Second, Max took some criticism from J. Peder Zane for, allegedly, singling out the fine arts for criticism. Advocating that the school be privatized is not, in my view, criticism of the school, much less of the fine arts. Nevertheless, Zane thought he had found a weak point in the paper by observing that Max did not call for the privatization of other kinds of professional training. Au contraire: the case for privatization of UNCSA is not weakened by not following the logic of that argument to every possible conclusion -- but I don't mind doing so.

The state does not need to subsidize the education of lawyers, doctors, engineers, auto mechanics, or anyone else. If we were to privatize UNCSA, that would help to create momentum for the privatization of other kinds of training where needlessly intervenes. When institutions have to pass the test of the market -- that is, obtaining sufficient revenue from willing payers to cover their costs -- they tend to operate more efficiently. And when students have to bear the cost of education and training without subsidy from government, they're apt to make a wiser decision on the cost/benefit ratio of that education or training.

Privatization is a win for taxpayers, a win for efficiency, and a win for the objective of whittling government back to its proper functions. Let's begin with UNCSA, then keep going.

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Should taxpayers fund the UNC School of the Arts?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:08 PM

A new paper Max Borders has prepared for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy answers the headline's question: no.

The Pope Center and John Locke Foundation sponsored a lunchtime panel discussion in Raleigh to dig deeper into the topic.

In the video clip below, you'll hear comments from Pope Center President Jane Shaw, Borders, former News & Observer ideas columnist J. Peder Zane, and Locke Foundation President John Hood.

5:45 p.m. update: Watch the full 1:15:08 recording by clicking the play button below.

You'll find other John Locke Foundation video presentations here.

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A Better Way to Subsidize the Arts

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 3:07 PM

At a headliner luncheon today, Max Borders argued that the UNC School of the Arts should be privatized because it fails to provide a public good (even using a generous definition of the term.) 

I agree. The UNCSA confers benefits almost exclusively to the few students who attend.

At the luncheon, J. Peder Zane argued that since increased consumption/production of art (which transcends barriers and flows throughout the community) is a worthy goal, the state should continue to fund the UNCSA.

But even if we work from Zane's premise, the UNCSA should still be privatized; subsidizing art directly would be a much more efficient way to increase availability of the fine arts while also ensuring that most of the benefit stays in North Carolina. I'm sure the NC Symphony, Carolina Ballet, The Opera Company of North Carolina, the Contemporary Art Museum, and the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival (just to name a few) would be able to create a lot more art with $30M than the UNCSA does--$30M will pay a lot of dancers and buy a lot of artwork.

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Poll confirms consensus on global warming

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 3:06 PM

A new Rasmussen poll confirms that there is indeed a consensus on the science of global warming. But it is not a consensus that the global cooling deniers will rush to embrace, i.e. the consensus of mostly government officials and non climate scientists represented by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The poll finds that 49 percent of Americans believe that the UN is not a reliable source of information on global warming while only 22 percent think it is. The poll also finds that 59 percent believe that it is somewhat or very likely that some climate scientists have falsified their research on global warming.

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Obama's jobs summit stunt

Posted by George Leef at 2:23 PM

John Stossel nails it in this column in which he calls the so-called jobs summit today a "stunt."

Exactly. Politicians have to keep up the appearance that they're doing something to solve problems (most of which are due to their own foolish policies) so they concoct theatrical events like this one. "Sure, unemployment is high and rising, but look people, we're going to take care of that. We're holding a summit with lots of brilliant people who will provide good ideas." That's the obligatory political move. It only works because few people understand the reality here: government soaks up resources that people in business would otherwise use for productive enterprises that create jobs.

If you have a house plant that is wilting from lack of light and water, the solution is to allow it to have light and water, not to convene a "plant-growth summit" with experts in how to get plants to revive without light and water.

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Denmark keeps "high tax" title

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 11:20 AM

See story here.

 In the tug-of-war between Sweden and Denmark for the ‘honour’ of having the world’s highest taxes, Denmark has held on to the title in the latest OECD report covering 2008.

With an average tax rate of 48.3 percent, Denmark edges out its Scandinavian neighbour by more than a full percentage point, Sweden coming in at 47.1 percent.


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Germans hammer Obama's Afghan Speach

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 11:18 AM

Here's the closing thought from Spiegal Online,

In his speech on America's new Afghanistan strategy, Obama tried to speak to both places. It was two speeches in one. That is why it felt so false. Both dreamers and realists were left feeling distraught.The American president doesn't need any opponents at the moment. He's already got himself.


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In case you missed him ...

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:18 AM

Jeff Taylor offered WBTV his critique of the "Save The Dream" tour that has attracted people to Charlotte this week.

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What a surprise!

Posted by Melissa Mitchell at 09:58 AM

What a surprise, AARP backs Medicare cuts because it will help pay for the health overhaul. As this little story notes, AARP will reap millions in insurance premiums as they offer their members supplemental insurance.

For anyone approaching that magic AARP age of 50, they will start seeing their mailbox fill with offers to join and reap the wonderful benefits from being a member of this organization. Once you join, your mailbox will really fill up with offers to buy all types of insurance, including numerous offers for Medigap insurance.

My own mother was duped by AARP into buying their health insurance policy. She was offered health insurance at a ridiculously low rate, far lower than her current health insurance premiums. She bit, but within one year AARP had raised her premiums. She was now paying a far higher monthly premium than she had with her previous insurance that she canceled.

Of course, we now know how AARP spends all of those millions of dollars seniors send to the group. So as millions of senior citizens face cuts in their benefits, AARP will be filling millions of mailboxes with more health insurance offers to supplement the benefits seniors have lost.

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George Orwell please call the Cary City Council

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:45 AM

The Cary Watchmen report here that the Cary City Council recently voted to install electronic water meters that can report a homeowner's water usage on an hourly basis.

In what can only be described as the stealth delivery of an early turkey, the Cary Town Council (excluding Councilman Don Frantz, who wisely voted against it) gave its final approval for a $17m program to install electronic water meters (AMR) in our homes that are capable of reporting your water usage on an hourly basis. Hello, Big Brother. Despite promises in August by Karen Mills, the project's manager, to provide the Cary Watchmen with details for review (she didn't), the Town staff and Council have decided to force this Orwellian system on citizens only days after Councilwoman Julie Robison assured us that AMR was "dead" due to lack of funding. The Cary Watchmen wonder why all the secrecy, and given the dire state of our economy, why now?  Might this be related to the Town's plans for massive increases in property taxes and fees? Read the recent history of this highly questionable project below.

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Science has been badly damaged

Posted by George Leef at 09:30 AM

In his WSJ column today, Daniel Henninger argues that the "climategate" revelations have badly damaged science. Most people used to think that science was the bastion of truth-seeking in a world of chicanery. No longer, thanks to the likes of professors such as Penn State's Michael Mann. If your foremost objective is to manufacture a consensus around some idea (particularly one that puts money in your pocket through research grants) rather than finding the truth, you aren't much of a scientist.

Henninger writes, "If the new ethos is that 'close enough' science is now sufficient to achieve political goals, serious scientists should be under no illusion that politicians will press-gang them into service for future agendas." Exactly so.

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Geo Will continues his dissent on Afghanistan

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:21 AM


Although the war is in its 98th month, Obama's "Mission Accomplished" banner will be unfurled 19 months from now -- when Afghanistan's security forces supposedly will be self-sufficient. He must know this will not happen.

 Tuesday the Taliban heard a distant U.S. trumpet sounding withdrawal beginning in 19 months. Also hearing it were Afghans who must decide whether to bet their lives on the Americans, who will begin striking their tents in July 2011, or on the Taliban, who are not going home, because they are at home.

Of course, their real worry is how to wriggle out of their endorsement of the "necessary" war in Afghanistan, which was a merely tactical endorsement intended to disparage the "war of choice" in Iraq. 

The president's party will not support his new policy, his budget will not accommodate it, our overstretched and worn down military will be hard-pressed to execute it, and Americans' patience will not be commensurate with Afghanistan's limitless demands for it. This will not end well.

A case can be made for a serious, meaning larger and more protracted, surge. A better case can be made for a radically reduced investment of resources and prestige in that forlorn country. Obama has not made a convincing case for his tentative surgelet.

George Orwell said the quickest way to end a war is to lose it. But Obama's half-hearted embrace of a half-baked nonstrategy -- briefly feinting toward the Taliban (or al-Qaeda, or a "syndicate of terror") while lunging for the exit ramp -- makes a protracted loss probable.


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Math Adverse? Rejoice

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 09:01 AM

Although I'd monkeyed with the Wolfram Alpha site some, it wasn't until I was working over the McClatchy pension loss numbers that the site's real power and utility came into focus.

Trying to get a handle on the future value of the $32m. MNI thinks it will eventually recovery from a pension fraud case was a snap with Wolfram. If it takes three years to get money out in a settlement, it will need to be about $37m. to equal $32m. today.

Not the most complex thing for Wolfram to spit out, but a good of example of how quick and useful the site can be.

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"Never let a crisis go to waste..."

Posted by George Leef at 08:39 AM

"because you can use it to reward your political supporters!"

That's not quite the way Rahm Emanuel actually put it, but that's exactly what the Obama regime is doing. Case in point: goodies for Big Labor. Howard Rich goes into detail in this column today.

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Given this week’s focus on developments in Afghanistan …

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:57 AM

… you might appreciate Victor Davis Hanson’s reflections on “The Future of Western War” in a recent edition of Hillsdale College’s “Imprimis.”

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Mr. Weisberg, meet Mr. Thomas

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:56 AM

Jacob Weisberg’s latest Newsweek column suggests that a win in the health-care reform battle would prove to be a monumental accomplishment for President Obama.

The pull quote in the print version of the story proclaims:

If Obama accomplishes health-care reform and nothing else, he still may be judged the most consequential president since LBJ.

Really? Perhaps fellow Newsweek columnist (and noted right-winger) Evan Thomas might offer a different perspective.

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What, me worry?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:54 AM

Niall Ferguson’s cover story in the latest Newsweek includes the following chuckle-inducing observation:

Now, who said the following? "My prediction is that politicians will eventually be tempted to resolve the [fiscal] crisis the way irresponsible governments usually do: by printing money, both to pay current bills and to inflate away debt. And as that temptation becomes obvious, interest rates will soar."

Seems pretty reasonable to me. The surprising thing is that this was none other than Paul Krugman, the high priest of Keynesianism, writing back in March 2003. A year and a half later he was comparing the U.S. deficit with Argentina's (at a time when it was 4.5 percent of GDP). Has the economic situation really changed so drastically that now the same Krugman believes it was "deficits that saved us," and wants to see an even larger deficit next year? Perhaps. But it might just be that the party in power has changed.

Paul Krugman? Motivated more by partisan bias than principle? Surely Ferguson jests.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:46 AM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features David Bass' report on the contentious first meeting of the newly constituted Wake County school board. 

John Hood's Daily Journal applies the first rule of holes to North Carolina state government's debt problem.

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