Interview on CBN

An interview that I had on Friday night on CBN can be seen here. You can watch the interview on the website. Besides my head being tilted to the side, I think that the short 3 minute interview went pretty well.


University Cancels Final Exams Because of Bomb Threats

Another Review of Freedomnomics

Xrlq is nice enough to post a long review of Freedomnomics here. Here is one critique that Xrlq has of the book:

On the one hand, common sense would appear to support Levitt and Dubner’s basic theory that unwanted kids are more likely to be raised badly, and therefore, more likely to turn to crime, than wanted ones. Lott does not appear to dispute the general connection between unwanted children and crime, but reaches the opposite conclusion with regard to abortion on the more tenuous theory that abortion causes more unwanted children by lowering the incentives for unprotected sex.

I don't argue that the liberalization of abortion increases the number of wanted kids. What I argue is that it increased the number of single parent families, with all the well known problems in raising children there compared to a two parent family. It is an empirical question whether the reduction in the number of "unwanted" children as a result of more abortions is offset by liberalizing abortion rules increasing the number of single parent families. The book lays out why there is an increase in out-of-wedlock births and single parent families.


Some of the bigger radio interviews this week

This week I have three of my favorite shows with Dennis Miller, Laura and Lars.

Monday, June 18
11:15 AM-11:45 AM Radio Dennis Miller Show (Nationally Syndicated) -- Miller is a very unique host. He is incredibly laidback, and I love the way that he cracks jokes during the interviews.
6:20 PM-6:50 PM Radio Lars Larson (Nationally Syndicated)
Tuesday, June 19
11:15 AM-11:35 AM Radio Laura Ingraham (Nationally Syndicated)
4:00 PM-4:30 PM Ave Maria Radio, nationwide
Wednesday, June 20
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM Radio USA Radio Network Kerby Anderson
Thursday, June 21
1:06 PM-1:17 PM Radio Tom Hartman (Nationally Syndicated)


Apparently Hospital Food in Britain is Much Worse than in Canada

For something amusing see here


Online discussions that I am having regarding Freedomnomics chapter 1

I have been having online discussions with people who have been reviewing my book here and here. Shalom Bayit's blog is moderated so it will probably take a while before my most recent response is posted. See the bottom of both pages for my responses.


Rationing in British Health Care

John Palmer has an interesting discussion of the British Health Care system here. This example surely fits in the save a penny lose a pound school of running medical care. Is it more costly for the patient and the medical system to have taken care of both kidney stones at the same time or to make the patient come in a second time. I particularly like the part of the doctor ripping off the electrodes off John.



Scaring Kids about Global Warming

A group of fourth-graders in Portland creates a list of priorities to stop global warming

This is a very distrubing, though not a very surprising story, about how public school senselessly terrify children about the world being destroyed. Can't kids be kids without being put in the middle of a political battle?

We want everyone to help curb Global warming. It truly means that the Earth is getting warmer. The ocean is warming at such an alarming rate that the continents are in danger.

Such a warming of the ocean is fuel for more severe hurricanes such as Katrina. Katrina was only a Category 1 storm when it crossed Florida. It became a monster storm by feeding off the extremely warm water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Boy, this is new. This is obviously the first time that there has been relatively warm water in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 10 "hottest" average years on record have occurred within the last 14 years. We continue to see record carbon dixoide levels in the atmosphere year after year. Just notice the strange weather around us this winter and spring and even summer-like days in March.

"On record," gives people the impression that this is the highest temperature ever. What they mean is over the last 140 years, and there are real issues about how temperatures have been measured over that time period. World temperatures have in fact been significantly higher than today's over many periods of time in the past.

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Red State reviews pharmaceutical price control discussion in Freedomnomics

Red State objects to the concerns that I raise about pharmaceutical price controls here. He promises to write regular discussions of the book as he reads through it.


Schwarzenegger gets into trouble for this?

Some Hispanic leaders lashed out Friday at California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's advice that immigrants should "turn off the Spanish television set" to better learn how to speak English.

Schwarzenegger, who immigrated to the U.S. from Austria, recently told a group of Hispanic journalists that immigrants should stay away from Spanish-language television, books and newspapers.

"You've got to turn off the Spanish television set," Schwarzenegger said Wednesday night at the annual convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in San Jose, Calif. "You're just forced to speak English, and that just makes you learn the language faster."

Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., called the governor's advice a "typical sound bite solution to an important issue," said Jim Dau, a spokesman for Sanchez.

Sanchez said immigrants face the challenge of taking an ESL course because of long lines and up to a three-year wait to get into a class.

A Hispanic advocacy group said Schwarzenegger's comments show his "ignorance on immigration issues." . . . .

Is Sanchez saying that these immigrants can only learn English if the government provides it? Possibly if they followed Schwarzenegger's advice, they wouldn't have to rely so much on the government program.

UPDATE: Here is a video of Arnold and Neil Cavuto discussing it here.


John Fund on Pork Barrel Spending

This is from today's OpinionJournal.com's Political Diary:

House Republicans scored a surprising victory yesterday by forcing Democrats to back down from their plans to gut the few constraints on Congress's ability to slip earmarks, or "pork barrel" projects for individual members, into legislation.

Even some Democrats were stunned earlier this month when House Appropriations Chairman David Obey unilaterally decreed that pork projects would henceforth be "airdropped" into conference reports once appropriations bills pass the House and Senate. By circumventing rules designed to allow earmarks to be challenged on the House floor as bills come up, House Democrats were setting "a new standard for secrecy and subterfuge," complained Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, the chief earmark scourge of Capitol Hill. . . . .

Brendan Miniter adds this interesting insight:

Last night's Democratic retreat on earmarks was no doubt partly due to a letter Nancy Pelosi wrote a year ago to then-newly elected GOP Majority Leader John Boehner urging serious spending reform, including an "end to secret earmarks." Mr. Boehner followed her advice and helped rewrite House rules to make it easier to spotlight and remove earmarks that Members were using to direct secret pork-barrel spending back to their districts.

That letter came back to haunt Ms. Pelosi as her new Democratic House gutted these reforms and was getting ready this week to pass eleven spending bills to fund the government in the forthcoming fiscal year -- and, oh, also slip an estimated 32,000 earmarks into law. Under a new rule enacted last month, Appropriations Chairman David Obey would have been able to certify a particular bill "earmark free" even if it's full of pork-barrel special projects. Another rule barred members from objecting to a particular earmark on the House floor if it's part of a larger bill that itself contains a list of its earmarks. This applied even if the list is inaccurate and even if the earmark in question is not on the list. (The same rule recently enabled Rep. John Murtha, chairman of a defense appropriations subcommittee, to quash a Republican attempt to stop spending on an unneeded "drug intelligence" center in his district.) . . . .


Oil Company Greed Responsible for higher Gas Prices

In a sense this is right, but I would argue that this is good, not something to be upset about. If more people want gas than gas is available, what is the alternative? Low prices with long gas lines?

Polling Data

As you may know, gas prices have been rising over the last year and the average price of regular gas for your car is about $3.50 a gallon in some areas. Who or what do you think is the main reason for the higher gasoline prices these days: Is it the Bush administration, or the oil exporting countries, or the U.S. oil industry, or supply and demand, or environmental regulations, or is there another reason for the higher gasoline prices?

U.S. oil industry (gouging, greed, profits) 38%

Bush administration 21%

Supply and Demand (market forces) 12%

Oil exporting countries 10%

Environmental regulations 5%

Other 2%

No one / No one thing in particular 1%

All 7%

Don’t know 4%

Source: Bloomberg / Los Angeles Times
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,183 American adults, conducted from Jun. 7 to Jun. 10, 2007. Margin of error is 3 per cent.


Bizarre Government Regulation: Dems going after one particular company

Here is one classic example to show that government just can't keep politics out of its regulatory decisions:

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Private-equity giant Blackstone Partners, which is in the process of going public, found itself in the sights Thursday of the powerful Senate Finance Committee as top tax writers introduced legislation that would block publicly-traded private-equity and hedge funds from continuing to enjoy favorable tax treatment.

The legislation would require publicly-traded partnerships to be treated as corporations for federal tax purposes. Under current law, income distributions for many private-equity funds are taxed at the capital-gains rates of 15% -- well below the top corporate tax rate of 35%. . . .

What is the point of imposing a 20 percentage point higher tax rate on a company just because it is publicly traded? Here you have only one company that this legislation could possibly be aimed at.


Vaclav Klaus Sets the record straight on global warming

As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.

The environmentalists ask for immediate political action because they do not believe in the long-term positive impact of economic growth and ignore both the technological progress that future generations will undoubtedly enjoy, and the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment. They are Malthusian pessimists.

The scientists should help us and take into consideration the political effects of their scientific opinions. They have an obligation to declare their political and value assumptions and how much they have affected their selection and interpretation of scientific evidence. . . .

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Talk at New York Young Republican Club on Thursday

For those living in NYC, I will be giving a talk tomorrow night at the New York Young Republican Club.

UPDATE: This talk was fun and there was a lively question and answer period after the talk. It was also nice to meet some of the people there: such as Daniel Peterson (the club's president) and Simone Mele (with the New York City Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society and who lead off with the first question).


John Fund on Democrats Discouraging Investigations in Vote Fraud

Mr. von Spakovsky has already amassed an 18-month long, largely uncontroversial record at the FEC as a recess appointment. But that's not likely to stop Senate Democrats from grilling him about his time at the Justice Department during President Bush's first term. The aim will be to portray him as a partisan who mishandled voting rights cases. Exhibit A will be his support for state voter ID laws.

For months, since the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys sparked a mini scandal, Democrats have insisted that the president has improperly politicized the Justice Department. Specifically, the accusation is that, under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, DOJ has pursued a political agenda by enforcing laws to curb voter fraud.

Last week, Judiciary Committee Democrats held a hearing aimed in part at discrediting a 2005 Justice lawsuit seeking to force Missouri to cull ineligible voters from its rolls. But while the Missouri case was thrown out by a district judge, similar Justice lawsuits in Indiana and New Jersey led to voter rolls being cleaned up. . . . .

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Ben Wittes on Ditching the Second Amendment

I think that this is a great piece. I think that Ben is exactly right that the debate should be about whether to repeal the amendment. Ben and I will disagree over whether there should be a repeal, but that is the right debate.

The New York Times editorial page accused the appeals court panel that on March 9 struck down portions of Washington, D.C.'s ultra-strict gun-control law of storming "blithely past a longstanding Supreme Court precedent, the language of the Constitution and the pressing needs of public safety." My former colleagues at the Washington Post described the decision as a "radical ruling" that "will inevitably mean more people killed and wounded as keeping guns out of the city becomes harder."

It's not hard to see where the anger comes from. The two-to-one decision by the famously conservative Judge Laurence Silberman is, indeed, radical. Consider the following:

• The "central object" of the Second Amendment "is to arm 'We the People' so that ordinary citizens can participate in the collective defense of their community and their state. ... [T]he amendment achieves its central purpose by assuring that the federal government may not disarm individual citizens without some unusually strong justification. ... That assurance in turn is provided through recognizing a right ... on the part of individuals to possess and use firearms in defense of themselves and their homes."

• "For too long, most members of the legal academy have treated the Second Amendment as the equivalent of an embarrassing relative, whose mention brings a quick change of subject to other, more respectable, family members. That will no longer do. It is time for the Second Amendment to enter full scale into the consciousness of the legal academy."

• While at the Founding, the Second Amendment may have embodied a "collective" right, after the Civil War amendments, the constitutional landscape changed dramatically, and "gun-toting was individualistic, accentuating not group rights of the citizenry but self-regarding 'privileges' of discrete 'citizens' to individual self-protection."

Radical stuff, indeed. But there's a big problem with blasting Silberman for entertaining the notion that the people's right to "keep and bear arms" may actually include an individual right to, well, keep or bear a gun in the District of Columbia: None of these words actually come from his opinion. All, in fact, were written by esteemed liberal law professors. . . . . .

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Another Review of Freedomnomics

Repeal the Second Amendment?

I respect Ben Wittes and this argument is surely the right argument to make for those who don't believe that there should be an individual right to own a gun. While I didn't attend the discussion because I was not invited until the middle of last week, I thought that Randy Barnett's response that repealing the second amendment would open up to question all other constitutional rights was pretty weak (though possibly the reporter just doesn't correctly describe his argument). It is very hard to repeal parts of the constitution and I don't see what harm that it would do to interpret these rights correctly and then have people realize that the only way that they can be changed is through a constitutional amendment.

"The Second Amendment is one of the clearest statements of right in the Constitution," Benjamin Wittes, a guest scholar at the center-left Brookings Institution, acknowledged in a discussion Monday. "We've had decades of sort of intellectual gymnastics to try to make those words not mean what they say."

Wittes, who said he has "no particular enthusiasm for the idea of a gun culture," said that rather than try to limit gun ownership through regulation that potentially violates the Second Amendment, opponents of gun ownership should set their sights on repealing the amendment altogether.

"Rather than debating the meaning of the Second Amendment, I think the appropriate debate is whether we want a Second Amendment," Wittes said. He conceded, however, that the political likelihood of getting the amendment repealed is "pretty limited."

Wittes said the Second Amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms meant more when it was crafted more than 200 years ago than it does today. Modern society is "much more ambivalent than they [the founders] were about whether gun ownership really is fundamental to liberty," he said. . . . . .

UPDATE: Ben Wittes was nice enough to write me and point out that this was indeed not Randy's argument. Ben writes me that "His comments about the dangers of the intellectual arguments against the Second Amendment came not in response to my arguments about repeal but in response to the idea of judicial interpretation that renders the amendment a nullity. His point was that the same intellectual and doctrinal strategies used by gun control supporters in arguing against the individual rights view of the amendment could easily be deployed against any other provision of individual right in the Constitution. While I assume he disagreed with my call for a repeal, I don't believe he addressed the merits of it at all."

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New Haven Citizens Launch Armed Patrols

What does one do when the police are unable to provide adequate protection:

Members of a politically influential yeshiva led by Rabbi Daniel Greer (pictured at top) -- who have spent more than a decade rebuilding their stretch of Edgewood -- have organized an armed citizens patrol.

They made the announcement Monday afternoon at Yeshiva of New Haven (aka The Gan School) on Elm Street. They plan to begin patrolling Monday evening in two-person teams wearing "Edgewood Park Defense Patrol" T-shirts and carrying concealed, licensed firearms.

The patrols are scheduled to run from 6 to 10 p.m. daily in the area bounded by Norton Street, Edgewood Avenue, and West Park and Whalley Avenues.

That's the neighborhood where Greer's organization has rehabilitated 40 old-style New Haven houses and planted 450 trees over the past 18 years. It surrounds the old Roger Sherman School, which Greer's organization converted into an Orthodox Jewish school. The organization has also worked with neighbors to combat prostitution in the area, instituting a successful "John of the Week" effort which featured pinched patrons' names on flyers.

"We are unwilling to give up," Greer said at Monday's announcement in a classroom on the school's second floor. . . . ..

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Gas price conspiracy? Revisited

Given all the recent claims over the last couple of weeks about a conspiracy in selling gasoline, I thought I would relink to this previous post of mine here.


Most Americans Oppose Stricter Gun Control Laws

Finally a national poll that asks people if gun control might increase violent crime. On the negative side, people think by a more than two-to-one ratio that gun control is more likely to reduce than increase crime, but at least the poll allows those 16 percent to state that they think crime increases.

Polling Data

Does the United States need stricter gun control laws?

May 30

Yes 43%

No 49%

Will stricter gun control laws increase or reduce violent crime?

Increase 16%

Reduce 37%

No impact 40%

Source: Rasmussen Reports
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,000 American adults, conducted on May 29 and May 30, 2007. Margin of error is 3 per cent.



More Reviews of Freedomnomics

Colorado Sheriff Discusses Problem with Gun Free Zone

Sheriff Jim Alderden discusses Colorado State University's decision to let permit holders have guns on campus:

Following the tragic events at Virginia Tech, I was frequently asked if something like that could happen here. The sad truth is something like that could easily happen here, and most anyplace else. Many on the far left were quick to call for yet more gun control, but I don’t believe more or tougher gun control laws is the answer. Criminals and like minded individuals are always going to ignore the law and find ways to get guns, or if not firearms, other weapons or means to carry out their schemes. One of the real tragedies of the situation at Virginia Tech is that misguided administrators created a gun free zone where someone like this crazed individual could prey on other students, staff and faculty who were powerless to defend themselves. Their philosophy of keeping guns out of the hands of sane and law abiding citizens on campus potentially contributed to the tragic results. Locally, we are fortunate that at Colorado State University, the administrators have shown more common sense and recognize that a firearm in the hands of a law abiding citizens who frequent the campus is not a risk but could be a deterrent to violent criminal activity. While there are a number of students, staff and faculty at CSU who have Concealed Weapons Permits, admittedly, the chance of one of them being at right place at the right time to intervene is small, but compare this to the situation at Virginia Tech where there was no chance. . . . .

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Listen to Michael Medved's interview with me

Just click on the listen button here.


Aging in Japan

One of the things that struck me in Japan was the number of elderly people. It seemed very noticeable. In any case, this might be a glimpse of things to come in the US, though nothing looks anywhere near as grim here as the picture in Japan:

At the moment, there are more than three people of working age to support each person over 65. In 2055, that figure will have fallen significantly. Roughly speaking, there will just be one younger person to support each pensioner. . . . .


Kenneth Sokoloff Passed away last month

When Kenneth Sokoloff died at 54 last month, of liver cancer, the economic history profession lost one of its best men, and the University of California at Los Angeles one of its brightest stars. Sokoloff had built UCLA's economic history program into one of the strongest in the nation, sufficient to persuade a major figure like Dora Costa to forsake the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. . . . .

This is very sad news. Ken was always an interesting person. I took him for American Economic History while I was a student at UCLA. I also had many chances to interact with him. It wasn't what I would call warm and friendly conversations (even when we would have him over to our apartment for dinner a couple of times) and he was often quite critical of my work, especially my dissertation on indoctrination which upset him greatly, but I valued his comments and I enjoyed arguing things with him. Indeed, I can only think of one paper of mine that he gave an unreserved positive comment on -- my work with Larry Kenny on the impact of women's suffrage on the growth of government. He was a smart guy, who sufferred great health problems during much of his life. I always felt very sorry for him, but I admired his determination.


Something for those not yet wary of following the latest medical research

Freedomnomics: Radio interviews that are set up for this coming Monday

Monday, June 11
7:15 AM-7:30 AM Radio WMT Cedar Rapids, IA
8:35 AM-9:00 AM Radio KRCS Midland, TX
10:00 AM-10:30 AM Radio WLW Cincinatti, OH (Also Syndicated)
11:15 AM-11:40 AM Radio KRMS-AM Osage Beach, MO
12:07 PM-12:30 PM Radio WDAY Fargo, ND
2:35 PM-3:05 PM Radio WMUZ Detroit, MI
4:09 PM-4:28 PM Radio WIBA Madison, WI
5:10 PM-5:30 PM Radio: Jerry Doyle ( Nationally Syndicated)
6:15 PM-6:40 PM Radio WTKF Morehead City, NC