URLs du Jour

2019-07-06

[Amazon Link]

  • At the James G. Martin Center, George Leef reviews the book Cracks in the Ivory Tower by Jason Brennan and Phillip Magness. Which I've just placed high on my get list. He quotes:

    From a business ethics standpoint, the average university makes Enron look pretty good. Universities’ problems are deep and fundamental: Most academic marketing is semi-fraudulent, grading is largely nonsense, students don’t study or learn much, students cheat frequently, liberal arts education fails because it presumes a false theory of learning, professors and administrators waste students’ money and time in order to line their own pockets, everyone engages in self-righteous moral grandstanding to disguise their selfish cronyism, and so on.

    This will surprise nobody who's been associated with a university lately.


  • Matthew Mitchell writes at Reason: Socialists Are Scary, but Capitalists Are Their Own Worst Enemies.

    According to a recent Gallup poll, four in 10 Americans now think favorably about socialism.

    This reminds me of the economist Joseph Schumpeter, who in 1942 wondered, "Can capitalism survive?" His conclusion? "No. I do not think it can." Schumpeter didn't like this conclusion. But his fear, to borrow a Marxist saying, was that capitalists would sell the rope with which they would be hung. Schumpeter and many other free marketeers from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman observed that individual capitalists can profit by destroying capitalism, by lobbying governments for special privileges that undermine competition and tilt the economic playing field in their favor.

    If this depressing hypothesis is right, we should find evidence of it in the way business leaders think and talk about markets. Sadly, it turns out we can.

    Working with a national research firm, my colleagues Scott Eastman, Tamara Winter, and I surveyed 500 American business leaders. What we found was that capitalists who benefit from government favoritism are more likely to accept interventions into markets. Being a favorite is correlated with approving of favoritism.

    This isn't new, as anyone who remembers the character of James Taggart in Atlas Shrugged can attest.


  • Local hero Drew Cline returns to the Union Leader, and suggests: If you want to keep government in check, subscribe to a newspaper.

    Reading through the state budget passed and vetoed last week, I was struck by how many provisions had gone either unreported or lightly reported. The people’s elected representatives had just passed a $13 billion budget, and the people, excepting a handful of insiders, had little idea what was in it.

    Drew argues that this ignorance is due to lack of journalistic coverage. Which (in turn) is caused by declining newspaper readership. So, bottom line:

    Citizens cannot check government power if they abandon the organizations that expose what government is doing. This Independence Day weekend, commit a radical act of American patriotism. Subscribe to your local newspaper.

    This argument comes at an interesting time, as I just cut back my 7-day subscription to our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat. I'm now down to Sunday-only, the edition with the coupons and the good crossword puzzles.

    I was "assisted" in this decision by a huge increase in their yearly subscription price. I paid $285 last year; this year, they wanted more than $400.

    And it's not as if me re-subscribing will touch off a new spirit of libertarian investigative journalism at Foster's. No, they'll just continue their leftward drift, providing their support for statism at all levels of government.

    So: sorry, Drew. Times change.


  • Jonah Goldberg's column looks at the Nike/Kaepernick/Betsy Ross kerfuffle. And asserts, accurately: Nike fans the flames of the culture war. A few loony extremists have attempted to use the Betsy Ross flag as their symbol, but (as Jonah points out) the ADL keeps a largish database of Hate Symbols, and Betsy's flag isn't widely appropriated enough to rise to their attention.

    And even so, isn't that even more of an argument for an enlightened company to do its part to take back the symbol from the haters?

    But here’s the thing: When evil people acquire symbols for their own ends, the only guarantee of success is when everyone else validates the acquisition.

    If Nike had gone ahead with the special-edition sneakers, it would have been, in marketing terms, the equivalent of Godzilla versus Bambi. A few neo-Nazis and a few more social-justice warriors would have complained, and everyone else would have gone about their day totally unconcerned.

    Instead, Nike followed the advice of a man whose business model is to stir grievance and controversy for its own sake. Suddenly, millions of people who once thought the Betsy Ross flag was just an admirable bit of Americana now associate it with hate groups. Worse, other entirely decent and patriotic Americans will now likely start brandishing the flag to offend people who, until recently, had no idea some hate groups adopted the flag in the first place.

    Nike makes everything worse.


  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes: FBI issues troubling advisory suggesting colleges should surveil Chinese academics.

    Late last month, National Public Radio reported a new development in the increasingly uneasy relationship between China, the U.S. government, and American academic institutions. According to NPR, Federal Bureau of Investigation officials visited at least 10 Association of American Universities member institutions to suggest they consider creating “protocols for monitoring students and visiting scholars from Chinese state-affiliated research institutions.” 

    Fred Cate, vice president of research at Indiana University, told NPR that “[i]t’s not a question of just looking for suspicious behavior — it’s actually really targeting specific countries and the people from those countries.”

    This news follows recent government reports on the potential threats posed to academic freedom at American campuses by China’s Confucius Institutes, FBI director Christopher Wray’s advocacy for a stronger response to China’s alleged intelligence-gathering efforts, and the news that the Trump administration considered stronger vetting procedures against Chinese students seeking visas. (In February, FIRE expressed concerns about the proposal to review Chinese students’ social media accounts, and again in June when the State Department adopted a similar policy requiring social media account information for all visa applicants.)

    FIRE says "sounds like it could be a bad idea", and it's difficult to disagree. Although dumping Confucius Institutes remains a good idea.


  • And a conversation between two Pun Salad heroes is a must-read: James Lileks interviews Dave Barry about his new book. (Which, rumor has it, I may be getting as a belated Father's Day gift.)

    “Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog” is the title of Dave Barry’s new book. It’s about what an aging Barry, one of America’s finest humorists, learned from his aging mutt. In writing it, Barry managed a rare thing: a humorous dog book that is also useful. As you read, it gets even rarer: a useful, humorous dog book that examines the lessons of gratitude that apply to man and beast.

    And, as someone who has a dog and a cat, I can appreciate the profound truth of this:

    Q: Is your book full of anti-cat propaganda? Readers should be warned.

    A: I love dogs a lot, and I do not love cats a lot, and I got challenged repeatedly by my cat-loving son. I would just say everyone knows what a dog park is: dogs playing, people talking happily about their dogs. Imagine a cat park. Vast empty space, people 30 or 40 feet apart, saying, “Where’s my cat?”