November 2007

November 7, 2007 12:15PM

How to Increase Living Kidney Donation with Realistic Incentives

By Cato Editors

Compared with dialysis, a kidney transplant significantly prolongs life and improves quality of life, but kidneys are scarce in large part because federal law prohibits the buying and selling of organs. In “A Gift of Life Deserves Compensation: How to Increase Living Kidney Donation with Realistic Incentives,” author Arthur J. Matas examines the issue and concludes, “Whether concerns were well founded or not, the [National Organ Transplant Act of 1984] was clearly overbroad in its prohibition of the sale of organs. It’s time to loosen those restrictions in order to save lives.”

November 7, 2007 8:54AM

Media Bias around the Nation

Here’s the Salem, Oregon, Statesman‐​Journal’s lead on an election story today:

Oregon’s working poor will have to wait a while longer to get health‐​care coverage for their children.

Voters easily defeated Measure 50, a plan to raise tobacco taxes to provide universal health care for children after a record‐​shattering negative ad campaign financed by cigarette companies.

Gee, ya think this journalist supports the tax?

You have to read down to paragraph 11 to find out that it was a massive 85‐​cent‐​per‐​pack increase.

And you’d have to switch to the Oregonian to find a comment from an anti‐​tax organizer:

Opponents downplayed the amount of money they spent to defeat the measure, saying voters didn’t like sticking a tax in the constitution and weren’t convinced bureaucrats needed the money.

“The primary reason is there’s not an appetite out there for more taxes,” said Russ Walker, Oregon director of the anti‐​tax group FreedomWorks.

November 7, 2007 7:42AM

Utah Vote Won’t Slow the March of Educational Freedom

With 90% of precincts reporting, the Utah voucher referendum has been defeated by a 3 to 2 margin. It’s a sad thing that most Utah families won’t be enjoying any new educational choices in the near future, but the defeat of the voucher referendum will not slow the march of educational freedom. School choice programs have proliferated in the last decade, growing in both size and number, and they have done so despite earlier referendum setbacks in the more populous states of Michigan and California.

The reason educational freedom will continue to spread is that the pressures that drive its growth are continuing to build. Our district‐​based, 19th century school system is simply not living up to the ideals of public education or the expectations of the American people. Our schools are supposed to promote social cohesion; they foment culture wars instead. They are supposed to impart knowledge and skills, but we trail the industrialized world in academic performance by the end of high school. And given our limited resources, we want our schools to make every dollar count, but public schooling has undergone a staggering decline in cost‐​effectiveness over the past several generations. Our high‐​school seniors score no higher than those of three or four decades ago, but we spend twice as much per pupil in real dollars.

As these problems continue to build, Americans will continue to look for alternatives, and the more carefully they look, the more they will be drawn to educational freedom.

November 6, 2007 1:02PM

“The Goal Is Not Getting Out”

That was the comment of J.D. Crouch, former Deputy National Security Adviser to President Bush, at a recent forum on Iraq at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Click here for Crouch’s longer comment, describing why “I’m not sure that leaving, in fact, completely, is where we will ultimately want to be.” A refreshing moment of candor.

November 6, 2007 11:16AM

Update on Gisele and the Dollar

Maybe Gisele Bundchen is not bearish on the dollar after all. CNBC is pouring cold water on reports suggesting that the Brazilian supermodel prefers euros:

Anne Nelson, Bundchen’s manager … tells us reports that Gisele wants to be paid in euros are “false.” Nelson’s take: “Some idiot in Brazil reported something just to make news.” Nelson points out that Gisele lives in New York City, and thus needs U.S. dollars for her big‐​city lifestyle. Of course, anyone who disagrees with Warren Buffett’s investment wisdom does so at their own risk. But we have to think Gisele gets enough U.S. dollars that she can absorb any potential weakness against the Euro.

But this is not just a story about the strength of the dollar. The CNBC story notes that she lives in New York City, which raises the issue of whether she is a resident of the US for tax purposes. This would be a major mistake since America probably has the world’s worst tax system for people with global income. Being a selfless person concerned about the plight of the over‐​taxed entrepreneur, I want Gisele to know that I am willing to counsel her on how best to protect her earnings from rapacious government, even if it requires many hours and late‐​night meetings.

Gisele, feel free to contact me at my Cato email address. I’m here for you in your time of need.

November 6, 2007 7:23AM

Supermodels and Monetary Policy

I’m not sure she qualifies as a leading economic indicator, but Gisele Bundchen’s demand to be paid in euros is the latest sign that the dollar may be losing its position as the world’s reserve currency. A supermodel’s currency choice may not be as important as the dollar’s slide against the euro, and it may not mean much compared to the rise in gold prices, but if these other factors aren’t convincing the Fed to protect the value of the dollar, maybe a visit from Gisele would do the trick. Bloomberg reports:

Gisele Bundchen wants to remain the world’s richest model and is insisting that she be paid in almost any currency but the U.S. dollar. …“Contracts starting now are more attractive in euros because we don’t know what will happen to the dollar,” Patricia Bundchen, the model’s twin sister and manager in Brazil, said in a telephone interview in September from Sao Paulo. She declined to discuss details of the arrangements last week, as did Anne Nelson, Bundchen’s agent in New York at IMG Models. …Wealthy clients at San Francisco‐​based Union Bank of California have doubled their deposits in foreign currencies to $60 million the past two months as a hedge against a decline, said Bradley Shairson, head of currency and derivatives at the bank. …That’s the same strategy as sovereign wealth funds run by the largest exporters and oil producers, including China, Singapore and Qatar, said Stephen Jen, head of currency research at New York‐​based Morgan Stanley. The funds may grow to $17.5 trillion by 2017 from $2.5 trillion now and shift more than $500 billion out of the dollar in the next three years in search of better returns, he said. “We’re all thinking about diversifying out of the dollar,” said Jen, who is based in London. “It’s a very logical thing.”

November 5, 2007 2:43PM

New at Cato Unbound: James Flynn on IQ

If you think you’re so smart, then why don’t you know what intelligence is? Because no one does! Is intelligence a unitary, general factor — the psychometrician’s famed g — or is it more plural and fragmented? What role do genes play in determining IQ? The environment? If intelligence is in the genes, then why do IQ scores continue to rise generation after generation all over the world? Are we actually getting smarter, or are we just getting better at taking tests? While these questions may seem recondite and academic, they are in fact central to ongoing, extremely heated controversies pertaining to education, welfare, and immigration policy. Which is why we have assembled a stellar panel of intelligence experts to delve into “The IQ Conundrum,” the topic of this month’s Cato Unbound.

This month’s lead essay by James R. Flynn, the discoverer of the famed “Flynn effect” and author of the new book What Is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect, argues that “the brain is much more like our muscles than we had thought” and that the genetic component of IQ is weaker than many have supposed. Commenting on Flynn’s rich essay over the next week we will have Linda Gottfredson, co‐​director of the Delaware‐​Johns Hopkins Project for the Study of Intelligence and Society; Stephen J. Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology at Cornell University; and Eric Turkheimer, associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. They may not get to the bottom of the IQ conundrum, but readers will no doubt come away smarter. Check it out.