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July 24, 2006 2:40PM

LEAP on Overkill

The terrific group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) issued a statement today on my Overkill paper:

The concern over escalating police paramilitary raids is a valid one, as this tactic takes us farther and farther away from the concept of civilian policing. This is the natural escalation of fighting a war that cannot be won. The answer to every failure in the “War on Drugs” is to escalate, in terms of dollars spent and civil liberties encroached on. Increased use of the more severe tactics by civilian police is just another example of unintended consequences of a failed policy. The only question is: how much more damage must our society and our cherished civil liberties sustain before our political leaders end the destruction of “Drug Prohibition”?

The endorsement was authored by Jerry Cameron. Cameron’s background:

Jerry Cameron spent a considerable part of his seventeen‐​year law enforcement career in the “war on drugs.” Not only was he chief of two small town departments for a total of eleven years, he is also a graduate of the 150th Session of the FBI National Academy, the DEA Basic Drug Enforcement Course, and two DEA Advanced Drug Enforcement Professional Institutes.

As you might guess, some other law enforcement officers have been less supportive.

July 24, 2006 1:41PM

… and the Banana Republic for which it Stands

From the office of U.S. Rep. Skelton (D — Mo.):

On July 19, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to bar all federal courts from hearing cases related to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution, of the Pledge of Allegiance, or its recitation. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate.

This bill should be unconstitutional. To protect the separation of powers, Congress should NOT be able to redefine the duties of the judicial branch and curtail judicial review without amending the Constitution. Otherwise, we could well see a proliferation of court‐​free zones in which the power of Congress becomes absolute. Wouldn’t that be special.


This insane bit of legislation is of course meant to ensure that public schools can mandate the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, which (since 1954) has included the words “under God.”


Is it not embarrassingly ironic to mandate the reading of a pledge that nominally guarantees “liberty… for all,” particularly when that Pledge takes a position on the existence of God?


This isn’t Freedonia, folks, it’s America. Why don’t we try teaching children about liberty by actually, well, respecting it?

July 24, 2006 1:37PM

Doha Ends With a Whimper

The Doha Round of trade talks has been suspended indefinitely. What was billed as an historic opportunity to liberalize trade through multilateral negotiations has ended with no deal in sight. Now, get ready for the blame game, a kind of “press‐​releases‐​at‐​dawn” duel between the US and the EU, with a few comments from other players thrown in for good measure. For starters, you can see the US version of events through the USTR and the EC (link requires subscription) provided a 9 page document describing how much they had done to get a deal concluded.


Of course, none of this necessarily means the end of trade liberalization, and to this end we can expect after the finger‐​pointing has ended a revival of the seemingly endless debate on whether bilateral or multilateral liberalization is best. But, as my colleague Dan Ikenson argued in his recent paper on unilateral liberalization, the US can do itself a big favor, and in the process gain some much needed foreign policy credibility, by unilaterally reducing tariffs and subsidies.


Maybe now that the Doha Round is in remission, the US can focus on doing what is in its own interests, instead of seeing liberalization as a “concession” that depends on the actions of the EU and others.


Meanwhile, back at the Secretariat, discussions are turning to a more important topic: where to find more space for its ever‐​expanding staff. Looks like you’ll be needing fewer large conference rooms, guys.

July 24, 2006 12:31PM

You Can Get a Job Without a Degree?

It seems that everyone in the ivory tower is declaring that it will soon be almost impossible to get a good job without first buying their product. Perhaps foremost among these college salespeople are members of the U.S. Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, who in the most recent public draft of their proposal to create a “national strategy” for higher education declare that:

The value of a postsecondary credential for future employment and earnings is expected to rise. Ninety percent of the fastest‐​growing jobs in the new knowledge‐​driven market economy require some postsecondary education. Job categories with the fastest expected growth in the next decade require postsecondary education; those with the greatest expected decline require only on‐​the‐​job training.

That sure sounds like the best way to avoid a low‐​paying, dead‐​end career is to run, not walk, to your friendly neighborhood college or university and get that bachelor’s degree! But is the scenario accurate? According to a recent piece on Career​Builder​.com, maybe not:

Though it was once conventional wisdom that you needed to have a four‐​year college degree to be successful, many employment experts believe that maxim has become myth. While a college education increases a worker’s chances of earning more money, it’s certainly not the only reliable path to well‐​paid and rewarding work….[A]ccording to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, eight of the top 10 fastest‐​growing occupations through 2014 do not require a bachelor’s degree. And these jobs, which include health technology, plumbing, firefighter and automotive repair, are less vulnerable to outsourcing.

So which is it? In the oh‐​so‐​near future, will you or won’t you need a college degree to avoid having to live in a corrugated steel hut subsisting on saltines?


The truth is that no one knows: As politicians and economic forecasters have proven time and again, with billions of people worldwide conducting countless business transactions all the time, no one can predict with any certainty what the future will hold. We can, however, confidently predict one thing: Denizens of the ivory tower will themselves get better jobs when increasing numbers of people consume their products, and when politicians give them ever‐​greater amounts of taxpayer money.


These facts, more than anything else, should make everyone suspicious of ubiquitous college‐​or‐​bust predictions.

July 24, 2006 12:12PM

The Future of Campaign Finance Restrictions?

Last week the Campaign Finance Institute published a working paper on nonprofits and campaign finance. CFI styles itself as the moderate to conservative wing of the “reform community.” This paper, however, makes a radical proposal.

First, here's some political context for the paper:

McCain-Feingold largely outlawed soft money contributions to the political parties. In the 2004 election, erstwhile Democratic soft money contributors used 527s as a vehicle for their political efforts. The Republican party by and large did not use 527s. So after the election, the GOP has naturally tried to eliminate the 527 vehicle. Democrats (and a few Republicans) have resisted that effort, and Congress seems unlikely to do anything about 527s this year. The effort to restrict political activities (i.e. “campaign finance reform”) has gotten bogged down for the moment.

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July 24, 2006 11:19AM

Working to Cut the Deficit

In an online fundraising letter, President Bush (or someone authorized to sign his name) writes, “Republicans are also working to cut the deficit. The best way to reduce the deficit is to keep pro‐​growth economic policies in place, and be wise about how we spend your money — which is exactly what Republicans are doing in Washington.”


Just how high would spending be if the Republicans weren’t being wise about how they spend our money?