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InsiderOnline Blog: October 2004

New Think Tank Wisdom Abounds

Check out new entries in the InsiderOnline.org database:

Limiting Government Spending in Wisconsin from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

Turning Intellect Into Influence-- a history of the Manhattan Institute's big, red successes in a deep, blue state.

No Child Left Behind and Beyond-- a story of Bush's education initiative in the swingin' state of Minnesota.

Also, go over to Heritage's Policy Weblog for commentary on the GDP growth and the newest news on the big, scary draft prospect, which according to the guy in charge of such things (Rummy), really isn't so scary because it doesn't exist.

Posted on 10/29/04 11:42 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Don’t Check that Box!

Until you check out the National Taxpayers Union’s Taxpayers’ Guide to Select Ballot Measures. It covers initiatives and referenda in more than 20 states with explanations of each--helpful when the bureaucrats word them so clumsily you don't even know what you're voting on.

Posted on 10/28/04 12:14 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Think-Tanker Handicaps Ohio

Peter Schramm of the Ashbrook Center in Ohio explains why Ohio will not swing anywhere this year.

 

Posted on 10/27/04 05:00 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

State Policy Network Conference Online

Patrick McDougal at State Policy Network has been doing some heavy lifting, and has much of the program from this weekend's SPN conference in Austin, Texas up on the SPN site. Check it out if you weren't able to attend (or read it again if you did). There's tons to learn. Among the speeches:

  • A word from John Mackey, Chairman and CEO, Whole Foods Markets.
  • Barbara Wells Kenney, Board Member, Evergreen Freedom Foundation, on keeping your board of directors happy.
  • Michael G. Smith, Executive Recruiter, on risk management in your organization.
  • And, a survey for folks who attended the weekend's activities.

Posted on 10/26/04 03:01 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Does Pork Win Elections?

Mike Franc, VP of Government Relations at The Heritage Foundation, says NO.

Congress ended the 2004 fiscal year having completed work on only four of the 13 annual appropriations bills. Once again, it passed a "continuing resolution" to give lawmakers additional time to agree upon the final funding levels for the fiscal year which started October 1. Lawmakers also punted the stalled reauthorization of federal highway programs into next year by extending current law for eight more months.

This means members of Congress will face voters without the presumed political benefit of being able to boast of having delivered numerous special projects "earmarked" to their districts that normally grace appropriations bills and other pieces of legislation.

Yet the political calculations that cause otherwise rational members to pursue these projects appear to be misplaced. Two years ago, when a previous round of pork-barrel goodies was similarly delayed, not one incumbent suffered. In fact, the incumbent retention rate in 2002 was one of the highest ever. A post-election poll commissioned by the United Seniors Association found that, by a margin of 52% to 42%, voters said a candidate's positions on major national issues was more important in deciding for whom to vote than his "ability to do things that help people in the congressional district."

Would that politicians would hear that message. We can always hope, but the 108th Congress, despite the message from voters in 2002, was predictably bad in the pork area. Franc on the 108th Congress:

[The 108th Congress] suggests that limiting the federal government's growth will again pose the greatest challenge for conservatives on and off Capitol Hill in the 109th Congress. On 11 House floor votes where members were asked to add billions to already bloated areas of federal spending--e.g., education, childcare, highways, health research, veterans programs and prescription-drug coverage for seniors--a mere 47 House members and only 26 senators consistently embrace the small-government alternative. The big-government forces enjoyed the steady support of absolute majorities of "sinners" in both the House (224) and the Senate (51).

Yuck. Read the whole thing. Franc has a 108th evaluation on free-enterprise and a lot more facts for pork-loving politicians. 

Posted on 10/26/04 02:40 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Wanted: Grave Knocker-Downers

Need at least three years experience in knocking down of large, heavy objects. Ability to set them back up again a plus.

Yesterday, I found out that regulation is officially Britain's largest industry. Today, the Adam Smith Institute blog reports that over-regulation has given new meaning to the term odd job in East Sussex.

Posted on 10/26/04 02:12 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

ISI Book Award

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute gave Derek Beales its book award for his "Prosperity and Plunder." Congrats to Mr. Beales. For more ISI wisdom, try Choosing the Right College 2005.

Wilmington, DE--The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), a national academic organization headquartered in Wilmington, DE, is pleased to announce this year's recipient of the Henry Paolucci/Walter Bagehot Book Award: Derek Beales, author of "Prosperity and Plunder: European Catholic Monasteries in the Age of Revolution, 1650-1815."

This prestigious award was first launched two years ago by the Walter Bagehot Research Council, an organization founded by Professor Paolucci in the late sixties. Beginning in 2004, the annual award will be presented by ISI to a deserving scholar whose intellectual achievement--as made manifest in the form of a book published in the previous year--embodies the spirit, range, and scholarly rigor of the award's namesakes.

Walter Bagehot, a man of letters, was the founder and long-time editor of the Economist. Henry Paolucci, a Fulbright scholar and prolific author, taught at several institutions, including Columbia University.

 

Posted on 10/26/04 11:34 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Daschle: I Will Make Sun Rise Tomorrow

Apparently, Tom Daschle has a different idea about the importance of politicians than Michael Quinn Sullivan. Daschle's feelings on the matter:

"As one of the two leaders of the US Senate, I have the opportunity to sit at one of the most powerful desks in the country, if not the world. And I believe the sun will continue to rise over our state as long as I continue to sit at that desk." - Senator Tom Daschle, taking credit for the sunrise, according to The Independent.

 

Posted on 10/25/04 01:39 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Rife with Regulation

Dr. Eamonn Butler, over at the Adam Smith Institute's blog, offers this frightening observation:

It's official. Regulation is now Britain's biggest industry. David Arculus, the Chairman of Severn Trent Water and head of the government's Better [sic] Regulation Task Force, suggested last week that the cost of regulation to the UK economy was now more than £100 billion a year. That's more than a tenth of our gross domestic product (GDP).

That's bigger than tourism (£76 billion), or our much-vaunted financial services industry (£66 billion), or even the National Health Service (£67 billion and rising - and rising).

Well, this certainly doesn't sound like the road to prosperity. But, as one regulation-watcher says in Butler's post, politicians can't advocate knocking down some of these rules for fear of being called really big meanies. A life of public service is just full of such hardships.

I, for one, think Britain should consider combining the regulation and tourism industries, offering slots as over-zealous regulation-makers and enforcers to all of our over-zealous American big-government lovers. My apologies to all the good folks at the Adam Smith Institute, who will then have to deal with these people. I'm just brainstorming.

Posted on 10/25/04 12:14 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

Michael Quinn Sullivan of the Texas Public Policy Foundation offers some perspective in this hectic week before the national election. 

The smallest fraction of the population might possibly remember the name of a single state legislator and federal representative who served in 1903. A majority would be hard-pressed to recall who was president or governor in 1904. But all of us know the legacy of two brothers named Orville and Wilbur, and their activities in those years on a stretch of beach known as Kitty Hawk.

Within seven years of the Wright brothers’ historic flight, the first reported private air-freight shipment took place – a bolt of silk was flown at the request of a department store from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio, to serve the needs of a customer.

The freedom of the marketplace, not a government program or a politician’s promise, created the marvel of air travel.

Similarly, practical history will likely judge the most important event of 2004 to be not an election, but the small group of inventors working with a budget smaller than the rounding errors used by NASA who put a man in space twice in two weeks, in the same craft. A feat not matched by any government.

Driven by the creative forces of the free market, teams around the world competed for a $10 million privately-funded prize – and a slice of history.

 

Posted on 10/25/04 11:55 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Surgical Adventures in India

All right, I know this guy who was on the front page of the Washington Post yesterday. He’s from my hometown. He had a heart defect, needed surgery, didn’t have health insurance, couldn’t afford the U.S. price of $200,000 for treatment, so he flew to India to have the surgery done for $10,000. The Post calls it “First World medicine at Third World prices.”

It is of course, one of those “wah, wah, our health care system is broken” stories, but to be fair the system didn’t work for Staab because he didn’t have health insurance. That would be one thing if he were destitute, but he’s not. He’s a carpenter who owns his own construction business-- not a bad line of work to be in when you operate in the fastest-growing area of North Carolina. The health care system needs fixing, but the fact that a 53-year-old business owner elected not to be insured is not what makes it broken.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about where Staab went for surgery. He went to India-- not Canada and not Britain. Why, I wonder? The Post knows:

(Indian) hospitals now are starting to attract non-Indian patients from industrialized countries, and especially from Britain and Canada, where patients are becoming fed up with long waits for elective surgery under overstretched government health plans. (emphasis mine)

If India’s health care system had taken the vaunted nationalized route the liberals love to tout, there would be nowhere for these folks to go when their systems fail. The U.S. health care system is so expensive because it subsidizes these other countries’ silly forays into socialism.

Without the 60-80 percent of the world’s research and development provided by American companies, for instance, Canada and Britain wouldn’t have half the treatments they have and India’s medical system would not be good enough to go flying across the world for.

More directly, let’s look at Staab’s surgeon:

"Our surgeons are much better (than other countries’ surgeons)," boasted Trehan, 58, a former assistant professor at New York University Medical School, who said he earned nearly $2 million a year from his Manhattan practice before returning to India to found Escorts in 1988.

Hmm, so Staab’s surgeon got at least some of his training in the U.S. and earned $2 million a year here, which he could put toward starting a clinic in India. It begins to look like the U.S. medical system didn’t fail Staab at all.

And finally, the Post reporter notes:

Although they are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, hospitals such as Escorts typically are able to charge far less than their U.S. and European counterparts because pay scales are much lower and patient volumes higher, according to Trehan and other doctors. For example, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan costs $60 at Escorts, compared with roughly $700 in New York, according to Trehan.

Well, that may be because the standard of living in America is almost 13 times higher (according to several quickly-Googled sources) than in India. New Yorkers pay $700 because they can afford $700; that’s what the market dictates. I’m sure a t-shirt or a hot dog is much more expensive in New York than it is in India, too.

And why else might American medical costs be high? Staab’s surgeon knows.

Moreover, he added, a New York heart surgeon "has to pay $100,000 a year in malpractice insurance. Here it's $4,000."

There’s so much to say about the health care problem, but Heritage scholars and InsiderOnline.org contributors say it better than I do (hint: the answer is not single-party or third-party payment), so check them out.

My fear is that when folks use Staab’s story (largely a vindication of free-market health care) to justify things like nationalized health care (and they will), none of us will have any health care left to gripe about anymore.

Posted on 10/22/04 03:44 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

More on The Connection

Amy Ridenour points to a new resource on the connection between Saddam Hussein and international terrorism, HusseinandTerror.com. It was created by columnist Deroy Murdock, a member of the National Center's Project 21 black leadership network.

Posted on 10/22/04 12:34 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

How the Story Ends

Heritage's Andrew Grossman and Edmund F. Haislmaier spoil the ending of Kerry's story on health care using this year's flu vaccine shortage as the model. I'll give you three guesses what caused that shortage (hint: rhymes with "hovernment megulation").

Essentially, Sen. Kerry thinks it’s time for the government to start setting drug prices. But after this year’s flu vaccine shortage, we know how that story ends.

Government negotiation could drive down prices for a few years with little noticeable effect. But when there is a public health crisis -- as happens unpredictably -- what manufacturer is going to have the spare capacity and ability to churn out extra Cipro or smallpox vaccine on short notice? Without a fair chance of making a profit, no drug maker could justify the expense of keeping such capacity at the ready.

And what drug maker could justify the expense, and risk, of developing new drugs?

Sen. Kerry should himself “play straight with the American people” and admit that his plan for buying drugs in Medicare relies on the same factor that caused the vaccine shortage. Fixing the problem won’t happen as long as economic sense, and not just vaccines, remain in short supply.

Come to think of it, I just spoiled the ending of their column. Sorry about that, guys, but it's really good. Read it all and pass it on to those who have not already learned this lesson.

 

Posted on 10/22/04 12:04 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

What Would Happen In NY?

If there had been no Bush tax cut? Short answer? Ouch.

The Manhattan Institute explains:

Through 2004, New York State’s share of the income tax cuts will total nearly $36 billion, including $15 billion in savings for New York City residents.

In 2004 alone, tax cuts will amount to a 2.7 percent average boost in after-tax income for New York residents.

In addition, reductions in dividends and capital gains tax rates contributed to a strong rebound in stock prices in 2003, providing vital aid to the city's financial services sector.

Posted on 10/21/04 02:45 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

What is this 'Restraint' You Speak Of?

A few selections from the InsiderOnline.org vaults on spending restraint:

Restrain Runaway Spending With a Federal Taxpayers' Bill of Rights: This idea rocks and has a great success story in Colorado.

Putting Taxpayers First, by Stephen Moore: "This paper presents a specific strategy for cutting programs and streamlining government. The benefits of a reduction in government size and modernization of government mission would be enormous— a windfall that would lower the tax burden and fund new, critical policy initiatives." Sounds good to me.

Downsizing the Federal Government, from the Cato Institute, which states, "the federal budget could be cut by $300 billion and brought back into balance by 2009 while keeping President Bush's tax cuts in place. Edwards details agency-by-agency spending cuts to return fiscal responsibility to government" Mmmm, good stuff.

Posted on 10/21/04 01:59 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Proving Conservatives Aren't Crazy

In case you ever need to mount this argument, Professor Bainbridge is blogging James Lindgren's presentation at UCLA today, which takes on a recent "study" that found conservatives to be crazy. Of course, the study's definition of "conservative" managed to pull Stalin and Hitler into out column, so I had my doubts from the beginning. Nonetheless, Lindgren is in the process of blowing it out of the water.

Hat tip, Instapundit.

Posted on 10/20/04 05:34 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Our Lofty, Laborious Endeavor

In honor of the recently ended legislative session and the abhorrent overspending which is spurned, I point all good conservatives to the new feature in the upper righthand corner of the page, "Why Limit Government?"

It's a speech given by the Mackinac Center's Larry Reed at The Heritage Foundation's Resource Bank meeting last April. As Reed notes, the short answer to the question is, "Why not?" But he goes into a little more detail than that, including some tips on how to stay optimistic and how to say you're "for" maximizing enterprise and opportunity as opposed to always being "against" everything. The gist?

Limiting government is a lofty endeavor. It's good, honest work. It's a powerful message when presented well.

So let's get out there and get it done.

He's right. I love Reed's get-back-to-basics pieces. His Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy always makes me stand a little taller after I've read it.

Posted on 10/20/04 04:27 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Learning Where Money Comes From

Justin Marshall of the Mackinac Center tries to teach Florida reporters that mobile homes in flight and roofless businesses are not good for the economy, no matter how much money is spent on repairing the damage left by a heavy hurricane season.

As one reporter from the St. Petersburg Times summed it up, "Construction creates thousands of jobs, insurance provides for billions in consumer purchases, and new facilities built to higher standards might help offset future storm-related losses."

But reality isn’t that kind. Together, all four hurricanes caused tens of billions of dollars of damage. This money is lost forever. The capital spent on reconstruction is money that in the absence of hurricanes could have been used to invest in new businesses, not merely new buildings for old businesses.

He also offers a very progressive idea for politicians and others who believe this kind of thing:

It would indeed be a wondrous thing if we could destroy our way to economic success. Imagine: Each town could have its own rogue band of "economic stimulants." These individuals could engage in vandalism, arson and theft. No matter the activity, as long as it harmed and destroyed, there would be a need to treat, repair and rebuild, and the economy would be better off because of it.

Sad that so many of my high school hooligan friends were arrested for doing so much for the local economy. If we just let them out of jail, they could go right back to their civic duty.

Posted on 10/19/04 11:34 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Creeping EU Hand

Lee Rotherham of The Bruges Group tells a scary tale of how the European Union got involved in legislating sports. I hate to ruin the end, but...

So this is where we are today. The Commission feels itself empowered to fund Sports projects and tinker in sports legislation where other EU legislation (such as the Single Market) overlaps. It is waiting for the final ratification of the EU Constitution, which would incorporate Sport as an area for legal activism.

Where that will lead us is anyone's guess. The EU Constitution made 2004 seem set to be the "starting point for a Community policy of sport". The Community would promote and 'restore' sporting values, and would pursue the educational and social potential of the domain. Reference followed to the need to increase stadium attendance levels; to the failures of national funding of national sports federations; of the desirability of integrating sports somehow into the Social Model (an obligatory paid hour down the gym?); and even possible legislation for a specific Eurocrime of doping in sport - logically, this would bring in Europol.

Ahh yes, an international governing body will restore sporting values. You know, because governments are so good with honesty and fair competition. Brilliant. What's scarier than this story is that the EU's sports meddling requires a regular feature at the Bruges Group site.

Posted on 10/19/04 11:06 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Speaking of Voter Fraud

A man in Ohio was arrested for allegedly filling out 100 fake registration forms in exchange for crack.

Also, Donna Martinez at the John Locke Foundation in N.C. marvels at the fact that buying a new coffee pot this morning required a photo ID, but voting did not.

Posted on 10/18/04 02:34 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Yikes...

After listening to John Fund detail the practice of "Stealing Elections," I'm really hoping one Presidential candidate pulls out a solid win or we'll be dealing with Florida 2000-type situations and worse.

"It is more important this year that the winner win beyond the 'margin of litigation' than who the winner is," Fund said.

I'm planning to check with the Board of Elections to make sure my new Virginia registration is accounted for. That way, I can make sure I'm not one of the people who has to cast one of these sketchy provisional ballots. This doesn't sound good at all:

It's a safe bet you will hear more about provisional ballots before Election Day--and a lot more if the election goes into overtime again. The provisional ballot could become this year's equivalent of Florida's infamous punch-card ballot, and it could decide who wins the presidency.

This is the first election held under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. One of its key provisions is a requirement that people in all 50 states whose names aren't on voter registration rolls be given a provisional, or conditional, ballot that will then be cross-checked with public records after the polls close to see if it is valid.

With 200,000 polling places nationwide, an average of five provisional votes per precinct would mean a million such votes. But in a year when manic registration efforts make it likely there will be a flood of first-time voters, officials expect far more. In Los Angeles County alone more than 100,000 people voted provisionally in 2000, with about 60% of them ultimately declared valid.

But that's the rub. Democrats are preparing to make aggressive media and legal arguments that almost all provisional votes must be counted, a reprise of their 2000 Florida rallying cry of "Count every vote."

Command Post has a solution-- bloggers watchdog the election just like they do the mainstream media. He even registered a domain name--CleanVote2004.com.

If you missed Fund, watch the Webcast, here.

Posted on 10/18/04 02:26 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

A Timely Topic

John Fund at Heritage today on Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy. Watch it live if you can't come. Somehow, I have a feeling this might be an issue soon...  wonder why...

 

Posted on 10/18/04 11:56 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Who Will Reimport?

Turns out Canada, much like France and Germany, didn't get the memo that its unquestioning compliance with John Kerry's campaign promises is vital to, well, John Kerry's campaign promises. Shortly after France and Germany pledged not to send troops to Iraq no matter who is President, Canada is now saying it's not gung-ho about drug reimportation.

A few looks at drug reimportation from the Insider database:

Parallel Trade in Pharmaceuticals "reduces safety, since it represents an end-run around domestic inspection procedures, undermines intellectual property protection and hence incentives to invest in research and development."

 The Free-Market Mirage of Reimportation reveals, "reimportation would effectively impose foreign price controls on the U.S.market. Foreign governments have created artificial markets to take advantage of U.S. patients by free-riding on American R&D."

A Prescription to Put Biotech on Life Support: recent congressional proposals advancing reimportation are to short-sighted cures which will ultimately harm those very Americans whose lives will someday depend on investment in biotechnology to create the next medical miracles.

Cato has a different take-- Drug Reimportation: The Free-Market Solution, and Heritage Debunks the Myths of Drug Reimportation.

Posted on 10/18/04 11:52 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

What Would an Induce Act Induce?

The Cato Institute will take a look at the Induce Act this week, Wednesday at 11 a.m. In question:

Copyright law has many complexities, including the issue of contributory liability for copyright infringement. The newly proposed Induce Act would hold peer-to-peer (P2P) providers and portable media device manufacturers liable for copyright infringement if they are found to have induced, aided, or abetted copyright violations by others. What impact would the Induce Act have on the Internet and consumer electronics market? What role should contributory liability play in the future of copyright law? How much responsibility do middlemen bear for policing their networks for "piracy"? And should technology manufacturers be held liable for acts of infringement committed with their devices?

The music industry argues that Induce and laws like it are necessary to protect property rights, while techies and downloaders fear the impact such rules will have on P2P technology. Here's a blog by techie lawyers devoted completely to the progress of Induce and legislation like it, in case you'd like to keep an eye on it. Heritage expert Norbert Michel addressed the new file-sharing dust-up, here.

Making copyrighted material instantly available to the world without the owner's permission is stealing. The challenge for policymakers is to curtail this theft of intellectual property without limiting legitimate activity or chilling technological innovation through regulation.

For now, Induce isn't going anywhere. Negotiations on the bill's language fell apart in early October.

Posted on 10/18/04 11:18 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Double, Double, Union Trouble

The Independence Institute, a Colorado think-tank, foiled some union trickery this week.

Pamela Benigno, director of the Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center, has exposed a local teachers’ union for making a promise it couldn’t keep.  The promise was academic credit for providing support to union-endorsed political candidates and issues.

Representatives of the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) have told its members that Adams State College in Alamosa would grant one semester hour of graduate course credit for their participation in an Oct. 9 political rally and literature drop.  However, the Adams State College Board of Trustees Chair said no such agreement had been made.

Thanks to the work of Benigo and a chairman of the college, this union plan was stopped in its tracks. Maybe the Independence Institute should have a talk with the Colorado Secretary of State, so that stuff like this doesn't happen. Hat tip, The Corner.

 

Posted on 10/14/04 02:16 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Keeping Statists at Bay

A few examples of how the public interest law movement has defended liberty this month:

The Pacific Legal Foundation beat racial-preferences in California (that's quite a feat!) in September, when:

The Third District Court of Appeal ruled on Sept. 14 that Sacramento’s utility district must stop playing favorites by race in handing out contracts. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District had been giving a 'bid preference' to minority contractors-- reviewing their bids as if they were up to 5 percent below their real price. This color-coded approach raised the cost of contracts by up to $50,000 each.

Isn't that about the equivalent of liberals passing a gun ban in Georgia? I mean, once you ban guns there, it should be smooth sailing for the rest of the country, right? So, California's down....here's to knocking down racial preferences all over the country.

The Washington Legal Foundation filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking them to review a lower-court decision that would give the Fish and Wildlife Service unlimited authority over land development.

In GDF Realty v. Norton, the Fish & Wildlife Service denied a permit to GDF Realty to develop its property and was threatened with criminal prosecution because it might disturb certain beetles that live underground only in certain nearby caves in two Texas counties. 

Next thing you know, they'll be protecting the adorable deer tick in my home state of North Carolina. After all, it brings such wonderful things to the state... like Lyme disease. Precious little things.

And the Center for Individual Rights is protecting the author of a tax book, "Cracking the Code," whom the IRS is investigating. The IRS also wants to help itself to the names and addresses of people who buy the book.

I tell you, my jaw never ceases to drop when I hear about the ridiculous things the public interest law firms have to fight. Check out the Washington Legal Foundation, Pacific Legal, and the Center for Individual Rights (just a few of many doing this work) and find out for yourself how far the government is willing to take rights away all over this country. Thank goodness there are folks who are willing to go just as far to protect us.

Posted on 10/14/04 11:48 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Inspired By Bastiat

The International Policy Network awarded Robert Guest its Frédéric Bastiat Prize for Journalism Tuesday in New York. Guest is the Africa editor of "The Economist" and author of "The Shackled Continent." From the press release:

Guest won the prize for his 2003 survey of Africa for The Economist. Second prize ($3000 and a crystal candlestick) was awarded to John Stossel, co-host of ABC News 20/20 and author of "Give Me A Break" (Harper Collins, 2004), whose winning articles ran in Reason magazine and on ABCNews.com. An honourable mention (and a crystal candlestick) was awarded to Munir Attaullah, a columnist for the Daily Times in Pakistan.

The Bastiat Prize for Journalism is awarded annually by International Policy Network, a London-based think tank. The $10,000 prize was inspired by the 19th-century French philosopher Frédéric Bastiat, who used satire and wit to explain complex economic and political issues in ways the average reader could understand.

And it's not only awards Bastiat inspires. He can inspire all of us with this crystal clear quote:

"Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State. They forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone."

 

Posted on 10/13/04 05:58 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Fighting for Justice

Check out a review of the new Heritage book, "Bringing Justice to the People." Edited by Heritage's own Lee Edwards, with a foreword by former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, "Justice" is an in-depth look at the part public interest law has played in the successes of the conservative movement.

Each chapter is written by an expert in a different field of public interest law, and many of those experts will be at The Heritage Foundation tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. for a forum on the book. The event can be watched over the Web.

Should be interesting. These folks do great work, fighting fights that most of us probably didn't even know needed fighting-- for property rights, free speech on college campuses, the rights of religious organizations to have equal access to public facilities. And this could be a big year for them, with the Supreme Court taking two Ten Commandments cases and a big eminent domain case pushed by the Institute for Justice.

 

Posted on 10/13/04 11:49 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Supremes to Look at Ten Commandments

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases on the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government property. This is the first time they've agreed to examine the issue in 25 years.

The Court also announced in late September that it will accept an eminent domain case. It will decide "whether the Constitution allows the government to use eminent domain to take one person’s home or small business so a bigger business can make more money off that land and pay more taxes as a result," according to the IJ press release.

Posted on 10/12/04 11:31 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Well, I'd Like to Think So...

Amy Ridenour at the National Center Blog pays all us Heritage employees a compliment in her critique of Canadian military contributions, which amounted to only $47 million in multinational peacekeeping operations in 2001-2002, compared to America's $669 million.

To put that $47 million figure in perspective, Canada spent less on international peacekeeping in 2002 than The Heritage Foundation, a conservative DC think-tank without a penchant for taking taxpayer dollars, took in in revenue that same year ($52 million). What's more, can anyone doubt that Heritage staffers could kick %$#@ if necessary in a foreign land?

(P.S. For a quick guide to which nations have backbone and which would need help to take on even a think-tank, click here.) (emphasis mine)

I'm a Heritage staffer and I'm reporting for duty (only not in that goofy, Democratic Convention sort of way, more in a Dirty Harry, "Go ahead, make my policy" sort of way). Very, very intimidating.

Posted on 10/08/04 02:04 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Courageous Common Sense

Glenn Reynolds points out a courageous statement of economic common sense in Europe from the Dutch Minister of Economy. Why is Europe's standard of living so much lower than America's? Why is the GDP-per-capita in countries like France, Germany and Italy almost $10,000 lower than it is in America? As Bruce Bartlett says in "The Productivity Gap,"

Europeans produce no more per year than Americans did 20 years ago.

and

On average, Europeans only live about as well as those in the poorest American state, Mississippi.

No offense to Mississippi (though comparing them to Europeans is probably the quickest way to jump-start the economy. What better incentive to risk capital than to avoid being pegged as the "Euros of the South?" ). So what's the problem? As the Dutch economist points out, it's that Europeans simply don't work as much as Americans do. Bartlett offers some figures:

According to the Union Bank of Switzerland, the typical European has 2 to 3 times as many paid days off per year as Americans. And according to Eurostat, Europeans don’t put in much of a workday, either. According to the report, the typical European only does a bit more than 5 hours of gainful work per day, with Norwegians at the low end at 4 hours, 56 minutes per day, and (surprisingly) the French at the high end at 5 hours, 44 minutes per day.

According to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, last year the average American worked 1,792 hours. By contrast, the average Frenchman worked just 1,453 hours and the average German worked only 1,446 hours. Twenty-five years ago, annual hours worked in Europe were much closer to those here.

But it wasn't always this way. Years ago, before the government started taking 50-60 percent cuts in taxes, hours worked in Europe were much closer to the American figure.

In short, Europeans don’t work because it just doesn’t pay to work after the government takes its cut. And because welfare benefits are so high, the cost of not working is low. Thus, when workers compare what they make after-tax with what they can make by doing nothing, the gap is very small.

Of course, pitching a change in work culture to Europeans as a move toward the "U.S. social model" might not be an easy sell. Olaf Gersemann, a German economics writer who lives in the U.S., explains why in "Cowboy Capitalism":

Most Europeans (and many American pundits) are woefully uninformed about comparisons between life in America and life in Europe. German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder insists, “I do not want American conditions in the labor market….It has to be possible for people to live in decency and dignity without having to do three jobs a day and without any protection against dismissal.” But a look at the empirical evidence presents a very different picture.

In fact, Gersemann found that the vast majority of Americans who work more than one job choose to do so, and those who work two jobs are more often affluent and well-educated than squeaking by. Only 1.6 percent of Americans work more than one job because that have to.

Posted on 10/08/04 11:13 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Christians and Public Property

Well, this sounds like every liberal's dream-- an after-school program for disadvantaged children at a public school. Problem is, the program is run by a Christian ministry in California.

Predictably, the school board of this California town let its concern for preserving a secular public sector before its concern for religious freedom or for the disadvantaged children benefiting from the program. The Pacific Justice Institute, a public interest law firm in California specializing in religious discrimination cases (well, they're not hurting for work, that's for sure), spoke up for Sonshine Haven and scored a victory. From the PJI press release:

Santee, CA- The Pacific Justice Institute achieved a victory this week on behalf of a Santee, California, children’s ministry that was faced with discrimination. Sonshine Haven, a local organization that provides after school programs and spiritual guidance to disadvantaged children, had been renting a facility from the Santee School District for the last several years. This year, pursuant to a change in school board policy, Sonshine Haven’s assessed rental fees increased more than tenfold while the rental fees for other similar groups were not changed at all. In fact, according to representatives from Sonshine Haven, the local Boy and Girls Scouts were not charged for their use of the facility “so long as they agreed to avoid any religious teachings.”

After receiving a request from Sonshine Haven for assistance, the Pacific Justice Institute sent a legal demand letter to the school district, notifying them of the rights and protections accorded to ministries like Sonshine Haven. In response to our letter, the district agreed not to charge Sonshine Haven a user fee after all. In addition, the district pledged to review all of its policies, and even its entire fee structure, for the use of school property in order to ensure compliance with state and federal law.

“It is patently unlawful for religious organizations to be treated in a discriminatory manner by public agencies in terms of their rental fees,” said Brad Dacus, President of the Pacific Justice Institute. “Whether the group is a church, children’s ministry, or the Boy Scouts, these organizations have a right to the same privileges and benefits of other non-religious associations without having to compromise their religious views and teachings.”

Kudos to the Santee school board for heeding a letter and not going to court with the good people of California's tax money. But I'm still amazed how many press releases I get just like this one.

Posted on 10/07/04 04:22 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Second Amendment Smackdown!

This oughtta be entertaining. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA and Rebecca Peters, head of a group lobbying the U.N. for global gun control (shudder), will face off on Pay-Per-View Oct. 12 at 9 p.m. The cost is $9.95. I'm thinking of having a party with finger foods and small arms (not in the District, of course!)

One wonders if this is the sort of debate John Kerry was referring to...

Posted on 10/07/04 01:57 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Home Sweet Home

In my hometown area of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the presidential debates pushed two UNC students into a slapping fight over who Jesus would vote for. I'm not kidding. UNC, as you may or may not know, is renowned as a campus of civil political debate and open-mindedness. ha ha.

Posted on 10/05/04 11:31 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Yet Another Explanation...

... of the female voters shift. Jeffrey Bell and Frank Cannon, of the Weekly Standard, say so much for "security moms." These women are "values voters," a fast-growing demographic going into the Republican column.

Interestingly, voters who select social issues as their prime mover are disproportionately female, both nationally and in the swing states. This seems to account for Bush's increased strength (for a Republican) among female voters. Terrorism-centered voters, the other issue group favoring Bush, tilt toward the male side. So much for "security moms" as an explanation for Kerry's unexpected weakness among women.

And sadly for Dems, it's not just women:

The proportion of voters who say they are keying their vote on "moral values issues like gay marriage and abortion" has gone up sharply--to a level of 15 to 18 percent, according to five national polls commissioned by Time and conducted by Schulman, Ronca, and Bucuvalas since July. More important, the profile of such voters is no longer definable in the vocabulary of polarization and divisiveness. The most recent Time poll (taken September 21-23) has George W. Bush winning socially driven voters by a lopsided 70 to 18 percent.

Bell and Cannon attribute the shift to the rise of the partial-birth abortion and same-sex marriage debates in the last four years. Partial-birth abortion has made Democrats less likely to trumpet abortion rights, and the big victory for a marriage protection in Missouri earlier this year convinced Kerry to pull ad dollars from that state.

 

 

Posted on 10/04/04 11:10 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

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