Friday, November 30, 2012 - This Unserious White House

The president's team specified no amounts or details on spending cuts. Rather, the White House wants more spending: at least $50 billion in new stimulus, an extension of unemployment insurance, a one-year deferral of the sequester, new money to refinance underwater mortgages, a Medicare-doctor fix . . . and a partridge in a pear tree.


Oh, the White House also wants Congress to give Mr. Obama the authority to increase the debt limit, whenever he wants, as much as he wants.


What do Republicans get in return? Next year, the White House will agree to talk to the GOP about cutting as much as $400 billion from entitlement programs. Maybe. If Democrats get around to it. Which they won't—because they'll have everything they've wanted.


How to put this tax-and-more-spending offer in perspective? It is far in excess of what the Democrats asked for in last year's debt-limit standoff—when the political configuration in Washington was exactly the same. It is far more than the president's own Democratic Senate has ever been able to pass, even with a filibuster-proof majority. It is far more than the president himself campaigned on this year.


But the president's offer is very much in keeping with his history of insisting that every negotiation consist of the other side giving him everything he wants. That approach has given him the reputation as the modern president least able to forge a consensus.


Monday, September 24, 2012 - How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us

This article is scary.  I also posted it to Facebook, so if anyone in the medical community wants to comment either about the problem or the proposed solutions I’d like your insights.  They all sound good to me, but I admit I'm an outsider and may not see all the impacts. - How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us*


Medical mistakes kill enough people each week to fill four jumbo jets. But these mistakes go largely unnoticed by the world at large, and the medical community rarely learns from them. The same preventable mistakes are made over and over again, and patients are left in the dark about which hospitals have significantly better (or worse) safety records than their peers.

If medical errors were a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death in America—just behind accidents and ahead of Alzheimer's. The human toll aside, medical errors cost the U.S. health-care system tens of billions a year.

It does not have to be this way. A new generation of doctors and patients is trying to achieve greater transparency in the health-care system, and new technology makes it more achievable than ever before.


Monday, September 10, 2012 - Corporate Cronyism Harms America

Cronyism 101:

The role of business is to provide products and services that make people's lives better—while using fewer resources—and to act lawfully and with integrity. Businesses that do this through voluntary exchanges not only benefit through increased profits, they bring better and more competitively priced goods and services to market. This creates a win-win situation for customers and companies alike.

Only societies with a system of economic freedom create widespread prosperity. Studies show that the poorest people in the most-free societies are 10 times better off than the poorest in the least-free. Free societies also bring about greatly improved outcomes in life expectancy, literacy, health, the environment and other important dimensions.

So why isn't economic freedom the "default setting" for our economy? What upsets this productive state of affairs? Trouble begins whenever businesses take their eyes off the needs and wants of consumers—and instead cast longing glances on government and the favors it can bestow. When currying favor with Washington is seen as a much easier way to make money, businesses inevitably begin to compete with rivals in securing government largess, rather than in winning customers.

We have a term for this kind of collusion between business and government. It used to be known as rent-seeking. Now we call it cronyism. Rampant cronyism threatens the economic foundations that have made this the most prosperous country in the world.

We are on dangerous terrain when government picks winners and losers in the economy by subsidizing favored products and industries.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - A Nation Adrift From the Rule of Law

The numerous deviations from the rule of law is probably my #1 complaint against the Obummer administration. - Opinion: A Nation Adrift From the Rule of Law

“The notion that we are governed by rules that are transparent and enacted through the legislative process—not by the whims of our leaders—is at the heart of that commitment. If legislators exceed their authority under the Constitution, or if otherwise legitimate laws are misused, courts must step in to prevent or remedy the potential harm.

Though one might excuse departures from the rule of law at the height of a crisis, one would expect to see a prompt reversion to rule-of-law principles immediately thereafter.

By far the most disturbing element of recent trends is that precisely the opposite seems to be taking place. The commitment of government officials to the rule of law has continued to crumble—even after the crisis has subsided.

Rule-of-law matters cannot be separated entirely from questions about the size and role of government. The more government grows, the harder it is to preserve rule-of-law virtues like transparency and clear rules of the game. But the rule of law is nevertheless a distinct and extraordinarily important concern, and it deserves separate consideration as the presidential campaign begins in earnest.

Monday, August 20, 2012 - The Panic Over Fukushima - The Panic Over Fukushima


The tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 was horrendous. Over 15,000 people were killed by the giant wave itself. The economic consequences of the reactor destruction were massive. The human consequences, in terms of death and evacuation, were also large. But the radiation deaths will likely be a number so small [best estimate ~100], compared with the tsunami deaths, that they should not be a central consideration in policy decisions.

Looking back more than a year after the event, it is clear that the Fukushima reactor complex, though nowhere close to state-of-the-art, was adequately designed to contain radiation. New reactors can be made even safer, of course, but the bottom line is that Fukushima passed the test.

The great tragedy of the Fukushima accident is that Japan shut down all its nuclear reactors.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - Why the Doctor Can't See You - Opinion: John C. Goodman: Why the Doctor Can't See You


When demand exceeds supply in a normal market, the price rises until it reaches a market-clearing level. But in this country, as in other developed nations, Americans do not primarily pay for care with their own money. They pay with time.


How long does it take you on the phone to make an appointment to see a doctor? How many days do you have to wait before she can see you? How long does it take to get to the doctor's office? Once there, how long do you have to wait before being seen? These are all non-price barriers to care, and there is substantial evidence that they are more important in deterring care than the fee the doctor charges, even for low-income patients.


When demand exceeds supply, doctors have a great deal of flexibility about who they see and when they see them. Not surprisingly, they tend to see those patients first who pay the highest fees.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - Bans on Plastic Bags Harm the Environment - Opinion: Bans on Plastic Bags Harm the Environment


With the urging of environmental groups backed by the celebrity firepower of actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the city of Los Angles banned plastic supermarket bags last week. The law received added support from the Los Angeles Times, which published a house editorial encouraging the city council to enact the ban. Without presenting any quantitative evidence, the editors wrote that plastic bags pose a "huge cost to the environment" and that reusable totes and paper bags are "better options." Unsupported claims to this effect are widespread in the press and among advocacy groups, but they are at odds with scientific data.

In 2011, the United Kingdom's Environment Agency released a study that evaluated nine categories of environmental impacts caused by different types of supermarket bags. The study found that paper bags have a worse effect on the environment than plastic bags in all nine impact categories…

Furthermore, the study found that the average supermarket shopper would have to reuse the same cotton tote from 94 up to 1,899 times before it had less environmental impact than the disposable plastic bags needed to carry the same amount of groceries…

For example, a shopper would need to reuse the same cotton tote 350 times before it caused less fresh water aquatic ecotoxicity than all of the plastic bags that it would replace over this period. Given the improbability that the same cotton tote would last that long (its expected life is 52 reuses), in most cases plastic bags will have less environmental impact.

The environmental impacts of supermarket bags are dominated by the energy and raw materials needed to manufacture them. Plastic bags are inexpensive because relatively small amounts of energy and raw materials are needed to make them. These same attributes that make plastic bags affordable and light also make them easier on the environment than alternatives like paper bags and reusable cotton totes.

The study did find that with moderate reuse, plastic totes made from polypropylene are better for the environment than disposable plastic bags, but this doesn't negate the fact that standard plastic bags are a more environmentally friendly choice than so-called green alternatives like paper bags and reusable cotton totes. Thus, when governments outlaw plastic bags to "improve the environment," they actually create more pollution.




Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - Why Obama Strikes Out In Court - Opinion: Ilya Shapiro: Why Obama Strikes Out In Court*

Three unanimous Supreme Court decisions against the government suggest that the administration has a faulty view of federal power.


As the world awaits the Supreme Court's ruling on ObamaCare, there's a larger story that the pundits are missing: the court's rejection of the Obama administration's increasingly extreme claims on behalf of unlimited federal power.

This term alone, the high court has ruled unanimously against the government on religious liberty, criminal procedure and property rights. When the administration can't get even a single one of the liberal justices to agree with it in these unrelated areas of the law, that's a sign there's something wrong with its constitutional vision.




Monday, May 7, 2012 - Why Colleges Don't Teach the Federalist Papers - Opinion: Peter Berkowitz: Why Colleges Don't Teach the Federalist Papers

At America's top schools, graduates leave without reading our most basic writings on the purpose of constitutional self-government.

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of The Federalist for understanding the principles of American government and the challenges that liberal democracies confront early in the second decade of the 21st century. 

The masterpiece of American political thought originated as a series of newspaper articles published under the pseudonym Publius in New York between October 1787 and August 1788 by framers Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison. The aim was to make the case for ratification of the new constitution, which had been agreed to in September 1787 by delegates to the federal convention meeting in Philadelphia over four months of remarkable discussion, debate and deliberation about self-government.

By the end of 1788, a total of 85 essays had been gathered in two volumes under the title The Federalist. Written at a brisk clip and with the crucial vote in New York hanging in the balance, the essays formed a treatise on constitutional self-government for the ages.

The Federalist deals with the reasons for preserving the union, the inefficacy of the existing federal government under the Articles of Confederation, and the conformity of the new constitution to the principles of liberty and consent. It covers war and peace, foreign affairs, commerce, taxation, federalism and the separation of powers. It provides a detailed examination of the chief features of the legislative, executive and judicial branches. It advances its case by restatement and refutation of the leading criticisms of the new constitution. It displays a level of learning, political acumen and public-spiritedness to which contemporary scholars, journalists and politicians can but aspire. And to this day it stands as an unsurpassed source of insight into the Constitution's text, structure and purposes.

Yet despite the lip service they pay to liberal education, our leading universities can't be bothered to require students to study The Federalist—or, worse, they oppose such requirements on moral, political or pedagogical grounds.  The bigger problem is that the progressive ideology that dominates our universities teaches that The Federalist, like all books written before the day before yesterday, is antiquated and irrelevant.

By robbing students of the chance to acquire a truly liberal education, our universities also deprive the nation of a citizenry well-acquainted with our Constitution's enduring principles.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - America's Lost Energy Decade - Opinion: America's Lost Energy Decade


Ten years ago this week, the U.S. Senate debated whether to open a small section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and natural gas production.  Under the terms of the ANWR amendment, a maximum of 2,000 acres in the nonwilderness portion of the refuge (less than 0.01% of the whole) would have been opened to surface development. But the amendment was defeated, and we are paying the price today.

Because oil might take up to 10 years to reach market, we were told that the nonwilderness portion of ANWR could not be part of the solution to our energy challenges. Nearly every senator who spoke against the amendment in 2002 listed this as a factor in his or her decision.

Now, 10 years later, it is plain to see that the argument was not just wrong, but backward. Instead of being a reason to oppose development in ANWR, the time it takes to develop the resource should be treated as a reason to approve it as quickly as possible.

Consider what would be different today had the Senate agreed to open those 2,000 acres a decade ago. If production were coming online right now as expected, it would be providing our nation with a number of much-needed benefits—including a lot more oil.

Oil prices would be restrained, if not reduced, as Alaskan crude made up for both actual and threatened losses around the world. Billions of dollars in new revenues would be generated for the U.S. Treasury, reducing the deficit and providing us with a means to invest in new energy technologies.

Oil imports would be reduced, keeping dollars within our economy to promote growth here at home. Thousands of ANWR-related, well-paying new jobs would be created at zero cost to taxpayers. And a looming national catastrophe—the shutdown for economic reasons of the increasingly empty trans-Alaska pipeline—would be averted.

It's a shame that we are forced to forgo these benefits at a time when all are desperately needed. But this is not just a missed opportunity; it's a cautionary tale.




Monday, April 9, 2012 - The Real Causes of Income Inequality

This article is quite number-intensive, providing strong evidence for the excerpt below, which I think captures the point of all the numbers.  If liberals have an alternate explanation for the presented facts, I sure haven’t seen it.  

While income distribution has become a source of protest and political debate, any analysis of taxes paid in high tax-and-spend countries shows that the U.S. has the most progressive income tax system in the world. An inconvenient truth for the advocates of higher taxes on America's rich is that big governments in developed countries are funded not by taxing the rich more than the U.S. does, but by taxing everybody else more.
In an eternal irony unique to large welfare states, it is the expansion of government in the name of the poor and middle class that always costs poor and middle-class families the most.
If the U.S. spent and taxed like France and Sweden, it would hardly affect the top 10%, who would pay about what they pay now, but the bottom 90% would see their taxes double.
Since OECD members have significantly higher consumption taxes on average than the U.S., the total tax burden of bigger government is even more heavily borne by lower-income citizens in developed nations than these numbers suggest.
The real and alarming message in these OECD numbers is that there appear to be limits in the real world to how much tax blood can be extracted from rich turnips. With much higher marginal income-tax rates, countries that are clearly willing to soak the rich have proven to be incapable of doing so.
Proposals to raise taxes on high-income Americans in the name of "fairness" not only threaten economic growth. The experience of nations with large governments shows that this argument is simply a red herring for a massive tax increase on middle-income Americans.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - Obama vs. Marbury v. Madison - Opinion: Obama vs. Marbury v. Madison


President Obama is a former president of the Harvard Law Review and famously taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. But did he somehow not teach the historic case of Marbury v. Madison?

That's a fair question after Mr. Obama's astonishing remarks on Monday at the White House when he ruminated for the first time in public on the Supreme Court's recent ObamaCare deliberations. "I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress," he declared.

Presidents are paid to be confident about their own laws, but what's up with that "unprecedented"? In Marbury in 1803, Chief Justice John Marshall laid down the doctrine of judicial review. In the 209 years since, the Supreme Court has invalidated part or all of countless laws on grounds that they violated the Constitution. All of those laws were passed by a "democratically elected" legislature of some kind, either Congress or in one of the states. And no doubt many of them were passed by "strong" majorities.






Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - Global Warming Models Are Wrong Again - Opinion: Global Warming Models Are Wrong Again


What is happening to global temperatures in reality? The answer is: almost nothing for more than 10 years.

The lack of any statistically significant warming for over a decade has made it more difficult for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its supporters to demonize the atmospheric gas CO2 which is released when fossil fuels are burned.

CO2 is not a pollutant. Life on earth flourished for hundreds of millions of years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today. Increasing CO2 levels will be a net benefit because cultivated plants grow better and are more resistant to drought at higher CO2 levels, and because warming and other supposedly harmful effects of CO2 have been greatly exaggerated. Nations with affordable energy from fossil fuels are more prosperous and healthy than those without.

The direct warming due to doubling CO2 levels in the atmosphere can be calculated to cause a warming of about one degree Celsius. The IPCC computer models predict a much larger warming, three degrees Celsius or even more, because they assume changes in water vapor or clouds that supposedly amplify the direct warming from CO2. Many lines of observational evidence suggest that this "positive feedback" also has been greatly exaggerated.

There has indeed been some warming, perhaps about 0.8 degrees Celsius, since the end of the so-called Little Ice Age in the early 1800s. Some of that warming has probably come from increased amounts of CO2, but the timing of the warming—much of it before CO2 levels had increased appreciably—suggests that a substantial fraction of the warming is from natural causes that have nothing to do with mankind.

It is easy to be confused about climate, because we are constantly being warned about the horrible things that will happen or are already happening as a result of mankind's use of fossil fuels. But these ominous predictions are based on computer models. It is important to distinguish between what the climate is actually doing and what computer models predict. The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with model predictions.

The most important component of climate science is careful, long-term observations of climate-related phenomena, from space, from land, and in the oceans. If observations do not support code predictions—like more extreme weather, or rapidly rising global temperatures—Feynman has told us what conclusions to draw about the theory - it is wrong.



Monday, March 12, 2012 - Coffee Is an Essential Benefit Too - Opinion: Coffee Is an Essential Benefit Too


Dear President Obama,


Can you believe the nerve of employers? Many of them still seem to think that they should be allowed to determine the benefits they offer. I guess they haven't read your 2,000-page health law. It's the government's job now.


That's a good thing, too. Employers for too long have been able to restrict our access to essential health services like contraception by making us pay some of the bill. Really, it's amazing that we aren't all dead. Now, thanks to you, we'll enjoy free and universal access to preventative care just like workers do in Cuba. Even so, there are still many essential benefits that the government must mandate to make the U.S. the freest country in the world.


• Fitness club memberships. Most doctors agree that exercising is one of the best ways to prevent disease. However, gym memberships can run between $240 and $1,800 per year. Such high prices force us to choose between exercising and buying groceries. While we could walk or jog outside, many of us prefer not to. Therefore, employers should be required to pay for workers' gym memberships. Doing so might even reduce employers' health costs, which is why many companies already subsidize memberships. Those that don't are limiting our freedom to exercise.


• Massages. Stress raises the risk of heart disease, obesity, depression and a host of other maladies. About one half of Americans say they're stressed, and studies show that health costs for stressed-out workers are nearly 50% higher than those for their chilled-out counterparts. According to the Mayo Clinic, a great way to reduce stress is to get a massage. However, since few of us can afford massages, it is imperative that employers be required to cover weekly massage treatments or hire in-office masseuses. Think of the millions of new jobs this mandate will create in the therapeutic field, too.


• Yoga classes. Like exercise and massage, yoga reduces stress and can relieve back pain, osteoarthritis and even menopausal symptoms. Yoga is also one of the best exercises for pregnant women since stress raises the risk of birth defects, which in turn increase health costs. While we could practice yoga with the aid of a DVD or Web video, classes offer social benefits that enhance our psychological well-being.


• Coffee. Studies show that coffee can ward off depression, Alzheimer's disease, type 2 diabetes and sleepiness—which makes it one of the most powerful preventive treatments. Workers who drink java are also more productive and pleasant. While many offices have coffee makers, some employers—most notably those affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—continue to deny workers this essential benefit. All employers should have to provide workers with freshly brewed coffee. Oh, and workers must also be able to choose the kind of coffee regardless of the price.


Republicans might argue that requiring Mormon charities to serve coffee is a violation of "religious liberty" since the Mormon church's doctrine proscribes coffee, but this argument is a red herring. Leading medical experts recommend drinking coffee. Moreover, 99% of adults have drunk coffee at one point in their lives (including most Mormons).


• Salad bar. Studies also show that eating a lot of salad helps people maintain a healthy weight, which is key to preventing diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Admittedly, mandating that employers include a free salad bar in their cafeterias would primarily benefit healthy eaters (women like myself) and raise prices for workers who subsist on junk (most men). However, such a mandate is necessary to expand our access to healthy food. Nanny-state conservatives who oppose this mandate merely want to ban salad and control what we eat.


Republicans may complain that these suggested mandates represent an unconstitutional expansion of federal government power. However, I'm sure Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and your political adviser David Axelrod could produce a legal memorandum explaining why they are necessary and proper to promote our general welfare (and of course, your re-election).


Besides, if you can justify a mandate on individuals to buy health insurance, this should be a piece of cake.


Friday, March 2, 2012 - What's Right With Gas Prices - Opinion: What's Right With Gas Prices


Pundits insist America must finally get an energy policy. But we have one. It's called the price mechanism, and unless drastically interfered with, it has always given us a price at which we can buy all the gasoline we want.

Mr. Obama this week mocked Republicans who say, "Drill, baby, drill." But it's only right that America should produce, not just consume, the world's energy. It would be foolish to deny ourselves a share of the jobs and profits that flow from producing what America, realistically, will continue to consume in great gobs for decades to come despite any Obama fantasies about alternative energy.

Mr. Obama is right about one thing, however. Developing our reserves won't eliminate price volatility. That's because price volatility is a feature, not a bug, helping to elicit and ration the energy supplies without which global society would collapse into chaos.

But perhaps we should have said the price mechanism is the major motif in U.S. energy policy; an insistent minor motif has been subsidies for alternative energy, auto milage regulation, even occasional attempts to manipulate gasoline prices directly. These gestures give politicians something to say when the public is riled by pump prices; that's their function, along with creating opportunities to deliver handouts to grateful campaign donors. But the net effect surely has been to waste the country's resources. Where is the evidence, four decades after Nixon inaugurated these rituals, that the path of the global energy economy has been altered in any meaningful way?

Gasoline is the most visible price in the economy, and its gyrations cause the juju men in Washington and elsewhere to do crazy things, if not so crazy when understood that their real goal is to receive praise and ward off blame for the behavior of energy prices. But the price mechanism itself is still America's real energy policy, thank God.

One last thing: In the past 100 years, the real price of gasoline, in current dollars, has spent almost all its time between $2 and $4. So today's price is hardly the end of the world.



Monday, February 6, 2012 - Why French Parents Are Superior

I have no way of verifying how many French parents actually are as described, but this is an interesting insight into some common parenting differences. - Why French Parents Are Superior


While Americans fret over modern parenthood, the French are raising happy, well-behaved children without all the anxiety. Pamela Druckerman on the Gallic secrets for avoiding tantrums, teaching patience and saying 'non' with authority.




Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - Why Gingrich's Tax Plan Beats Romney's

Another two-fer day.  While I totally agree with the first article’s assessment that Gingrich’s tax plan is better than Romney’s, I also agree with the second article that Mitt could finish off Newt by borrowing a few bold conservative agenda items. - Opinion: Why Gingrich's Tax Plan Beats Romney's


Jobs and wealth are created by those who are taxed, not by those who do the taxing. Government, by its very nature, doesn't create resources but redistributes resources. To minimize the damages taxes cause the economy, the best way for government to raise revenue is a broad-based, low-rate flat tax that provides people and businesses with the fewest incentives to avoid or otherwise not report taxable income, and the least number of places where they can escape taxation. On these counts it doesn't get any better than Mr. Gingrich's optional 15% flat tax for individuals and his 12.5% flat tax for business. Each of these taxes has been tried and tested and found to be enormously successful.

Fairness in taxation means that people and businesses in like circumstances have similar tax burdens. A flat tax, whether on business or individuals, achieves fairness in spades. A person who makes 10 times as much as another person should pay 10 times more in taxes.

In 2012, those least capable of navigating complex government-created economic environments find themselves in their worst economic circumstances in generations. And the reason minority, lesser-educated and younger members of our society are struggling so greatly is not because we have too few redistributionist, class-warfare policies but because we have too many. Overtaxing people who work and overpaying people not to work has its consequences.

When it comes to economic efficiency, nothing holds a candle to a low-rate, simple flat tax. - Opinion: How Mitt Can Finish Off Newt


The most constructive way for Mr. Romney to kill off his rivals while bringing the party together is simple: Steal their best ideas. Mr. Gingrich has done precisely that with Ron Paul by calling for a commission to study the gold standard. Mr. Romney could easily do the same, echoing Mr. Paul's call for an honest dollar or adopting Mr. Gingrich's flat tax.

In the end, the arguments for Mr. Romney come down to this: He has executive experience in both business and government, he's got the most money and the best organization, and he's electable. They are good points. Still, they add up to one argument by résumé and two from process.

Those of us who believed that a primary fight would toughen Mr. Romney up have little to show for it. Far from sharpening his proposals to reach out to a GOP electorate hungry for a candidate with a bold conservative agenda, Mr. Romney has limited his new toughness to increasingly negative attacks on Mr. Gingrich's character.



Monday, January 30, 2012 - What's Wrong With the Teenage Mind?

Today’s article has nothing to do with politics (I know, you’re surprised), but I found it very interesting.  I’m glad I have a few more years before I have my first teenager. - What's Wrong With the Teenage Mind?


The crucial new idea is that there are two different neural and psychological systems that interact to turn children into adults. Over the past two centuries, and even more over the past generation, the developmental timing of these two systems has changed. That, in turn, has profoundly changed adolescence and produced new kinds of adolescent woe. The big question for anyone who deals with young people today is how we can go about bringing these cogs of the teenage mind into sync once again.


In the past, to become a good gatherer or hunter, cook or caregiver, you would actually practice gathering, hunting, cooking and taking care of children all through middle childhood and early adolescence—tuning up just the prefrontal wiring you'd need as an adult. But you'd do all that under expert adult supervision and in the protected world of childhood, where the impact of your inevitable failures would be blunted. When the motivational juice of puberty arrived, you'd be ready to go after the real rewards, in the world outside, with new intensity and exuberance, but you'd also have the skill and control to do it effectively and reasonably safely.

In contemporary life, the relationship between these two systems has changed dramatically. Puberty arrives earlier, and the motivational system kicks in earlier too.

At the same time, contemporary children have very little experience with the kinds of tasks that they'll have to perform as grown-ups. Children have increasingly little chance to practice even basic skills like cooking and caregiving. Contemporary adolescents and pre-adolescents often don't do much of anything except go to school. Even the paper route and the baby-sitting job have largely disappeared.

The experience of trying to achieve a real goal in real time in the real world is increasingly delayed, and the growth of the control system depends on just those experiences. The pediatrician and developmental psychologist Ronald Dahl at the University of California, Berkeley, has a good metaphor for the result: Today's adolescents develop an accelerator a long time before they can steer and brake.





Friday, January 27, 2012 - From the Fab Five to the Three Rs

Here’s an article I overlooked a few weeks ago, but discovered yesterday.  I remember watching the Fab Five back in the early 90’s and it’s great to see Jalen Rose involved in such a great project in Detroit. - Opinion: From the Fab Five to the Three Rs


Mr. Rose plans to start with this freshman class and add a new grade each year until there are some 500 kids in grades 9-12. "This is college prep. We expect 90% to 100% to go on to college"—no mean feat when many students are entering ninth grade with only fourth-grade levels of reading and math proficiency.

he saw many promising high-schoolers who had earned straight-As but couldn't score higher than a 14 out of 36 on the ACT. "What were they teaching these kids? There are just so many poor-perform ing schools here, and there are so many kids in our city that want to do the right thing, and families that want to put their kids in a quality school. But they can't."

His school also doesn't have tenure for teachers. "I hate tenure. Tenure allows teachers to put their feet up on the desk and possibly have a job forever. That's why I got turned on to charter schools. It's a business model. Every employee and every teacher will be monitored by performance."

Kids too: "We have a code of conduct here. If they act up, they're suspended. They come back with a better attitude."

He also wants to influence parents—empowering them to demand better schools for their kids. The rigid system of school boards telling families where their kids have to go to school perpetuates poverty and a sense of entrapment, he says: "Forty-seven percent of Detroit area parents are functionally illiterate. So that puts their kids at a real handicap. Say my mom is one of those 47%. That doesn't mean that I shouldn't have a fair opportunity for a quality public education. But since my mom is functionally illiterate and we grew up on the west side of Detroit, I'm forced to go to this school that has been a poor-performing school for 30 years."

"There should be parental choice," he says clearly. "Schools should be open. If it's a public education, and the school in your district is poor-performing, you s hould be able to put your student or kid wherever you want."

Choice could be relatively easily implemented, he says. "I'm a taxpaying citizen, right? So if I'm paying $4,000 worth of taxes and I don't want my kid to go to this school, why can't they give me my $4,000 and allow me to pick where I want to put my kids?"

Mr. Rose wants to end this injustice by starting small, with 120 students, and then scaling up—but it won't be easy.




Monday, January 23, 2012 - The War on Political Free Speech - Opinion: The War on Political Free Speech


Two years ago the Supreme Court upheld the right of an incorporated nonprofit organization to d istribute, air and advertise a turgid documentary about Hillary Clinton called, appropriately enough, "Hillary: The Movie." From this seemingly innocuous and obvious First Amendment decision has sprung a campaign of disinformation and alarmism rarely seen in American politics.

Super PACs have become the latest villain du jour of the anti-speech crowd, which plays off the general public distaste for the political rancor that surfaces every election year. Critics including Mr. Sanders say that Super PACs don't disclose their donors and rely on "secret" money. This is simply not true. Super PACs, like the traditional political action committees that have existed for decades, disclose all expenditures and all donors over $200.

There are organizations that spend on politics but don't disclose their donors: traditional nonprofits such as the NAACP, the NRA and Public Citizen. These groups have never had to disclose their donors—and the Supreme Court, over 50 years ago, upheld their right to keep supporters anonymous. But reformers intentionally seek to blur the lines between these traditional groups and Super PACs in order to whip up criticism of Citizens United.

The goal of this misinformation is clear. Reformers, who sit mainly on the political left, and their Democratic Party allies hope to silence voices that they perceive to be hostile to their political interests.

Two years after Citizens United, Amer ican democracy seems as robust as ever. This may be what its critics fear most—a vibrant debate that they cannot control and fear they will lose.




Thursday, January 19, 2012 - Bain Capital Saved America - Opinion: Bain Capital Saved America


We are of course putting forth "Bain Capital" as not merely the Romney private-equity house but as the stand-in for the period of American economic history that ran from 1980 to 1989. Back then it was called the Greed Decade, with asset-stripping barbarians at the gate. Virtually everything about this popular stereotype is wrong. Properly understood, the 1980s, including Bain, were the remarkable years when an ever-resilient America found a way to save itself from becoming what Europe is now—a global has-been.

Read through S&P's justification for last week's downgrades of nine European countries. Along with the expected dumping on those countries' fiscal profligacy, one finds as well a blunt recognition of Europe's moribund "fundamentals," meaning their ability to produce "strong and consistent" economic growth.

If not for Bain Capital and the other, bigger players who commenced a decade of leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers in the 1980s, the odds are that the U.S.'s "fundamentals" would be similarly weak. Instead, the U.S. corporate sector remade itself during the Bain years.

In a comprehensive 2001 re-examination of the buyouts and takeovers of the 1980s, economists made clear that the results were far from the stereotype of zero-sum pillage revived last week by economic historian Newt Gingrich and un-Texan Gov. Rick Perry ("vulture capitalism"), and sure to be promoted in grainy, tear-soaked campaign ads by the Obama team.

"When large-scale hostile takeo vers appeared in the 1980s," Messrs. Holmstrom and Kaplan write, "many voiced the opinion that they were driven by investor greed; the robber barons of Wall Street had returned to raid innocent corporations. Today, it is widely accepted that the takeovers of the 1980s had a beneficial effect on the corporate sector and that efficiency gains, rather than redistributions from stakeholders to shareholders, explain why they appeared."

Singling out this or that Bain case study amid the jostling and bumping is pointless. This was a historic and necessary cleansing of the Augean stables of the American economy. It caused a positive revolution in U.S. management, financial analysis, incentives, governance and market-based discipline. It led directly to the 1990s boom years.




Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - The Bain Capital Bonfire - Opinion: The Bain Capital Bonfire


We have our policy differences with Mr. Romney, but by any reasonable measure Bain Capital has been a net job and wealth creator. Founded in 1984 as an offshoot of the Bain consulting company, Bain Capital's business is a combination of private equity and venture capital. The latter means taking a flyer on start-ups that may or may not pan out, something that neither Mr. Gingrich nor Mr. Obama seem to find offensive when those investments are made by Silicon Valley firms in "clean energy."

One Bain investment during Mr. Romney's tenure was to back an entrepreneur who was convinced he could provide savings for small-business owners if they were willing to shop at a store instead of taking deliveries. Today, the Staples chain of business-supply stores employs 90,000 people.

Bain also backed a start-up called Bright Horizons that now manages child-care centers for more than 700 corporate clients around the world. Many other venture bets f ailed, but that's capitalism, which is supposed to be a profit and loss system.

The loss part is what seems to trouble the Gingrich-Perry-Obama critics, especially in Bain's private-equity business. Like some 2,300 other such U.S. equity firms, Bain looks to buy companies that are underperforming or undervalued and turn them around.

Far from "looting," this is a vital contribution to capitalism and corporate governance. One of the persistent gripes of the left is that too many CEOs make too much money even as their companies flounder. Private-equity firms target such companies or subsidiaries, replace their management, and try to unlock the underlying value in the enterprise.

Private equity helps to promote dynamic capitalism that creates wealth, rather than dinosaur capitalism of the kind that prevails in Europe and futilely tries to prevent failure. Sometimes this means closing parts of the company and laying off employees, but the overriding goal is to create value, not destroy it.

The larger political point is that Mr. Romney has a good story to tell if he is willing to elevate this ugly rumble into a debate over free enterprise and America's future.  Mr. Romney needs to rise above the personal and base his claim to office on a defense of the system of free enterprise that has enriched America over the decades and is now under assault.