Monday, April 03, 2006

Up All Night

The herniated disk in my neck has been reasserting itself for some months now and the resulting unpleasantness has graduated, as it has before, into a full-body nightmare that makes both sides of my neck, my left shoulder, chest and ribcage and the left side of my lower face throb hatefully. It hurts every time I breathe and I'm breathing less deeply to make it hurt less, which means I get short of breath on the stairs and have to stop and force myself to take deep, hideously painful breaths for a while. It's fun. Needless to say I can't sleep worth a damn and have ended up in the office looking at stuff online and massaging my shoulder and back with a percussion massager. Wheeee!

I've linked to a lot of Thomas Sowell columns, and here is yet another I enjoyed. Sowell is an economist and for me his best stuff includes some simple economic lesson that invariably crystallizes a muddled, confusing situation. You know, like welfare:

People who think that they are getting something for nothing, by having government provide what they would otherwise have to buy in the private market, are not only kidding themselves by ignoring the taxes that government has to take from them in order to give them the appearance of something for nothing. They are also ignoring the strings that are going to be attached to their own money when it comes back to them in government benefits.

That is not even counting the fact that government programs are usually less efficient than similar services provided by private enterprises.

Compare the service you get at the Department of Motor Vehicles with the service you get at Triple-A. No one who belongs to the American Automobile Association is likely to go to the DMV for a service that is also available through Triple-A.

Yet the illusion of something for nothing has kept the welfare state going — and expanding. If there is something for sale in the marketplace for ten dollars and you would not pay more than five dollars for it, some politician can always offer to get it for you free — as a newly discovered "basic right," or at least at a "reasonable" or "affordable" price.

Suppose that the "reasonable" or "affordable" price is three dollars. How do you suppose the government can produce something for three dollars that private industry cannot produce for less than ten dollars? Greater efficiency in government? Give me a break!

The fact that you pay only three dollars at the cash register means nothing. If it costs the government twelve dollars to produce and distribute what you are getting for three dollars, then the government is going to have to get another nine dollars in taxes to cover the difference.

One way or another, you are going to end up paying twelve dollars for something you were unwilling to buy for ten dollars or even six dollars. But so long as you think you are getting something for nothing, the politicians' shell game has worked and the welfare state can continue to expand.

An even better Sowell column is here:

All across the country, from the elementary schools to the universities, students report being propagandized. That the propaganda is almost invariably from the political left is secondary. The fact that it is political propaganda instead of the subject matter of the class is what is crucial.

The lopsided imbalance among college professors in their political parties is a symptom of the problem, rather than the fundamental problem itself.

If physicists taught physics and economists taught economics, what they did on their own time politically would be no more relevant than whether they go swimming or sky diving on their days off. But politics is intruded, not only into the classroom, but into hiring decisions as well.

Even top scholars who are conservatives are unlikely to be hired by many colleges and universities. Similarly with people training to become public school teachers. Some in schools of education have said that, to be qualified, you have to see teaching as a means of social change — meaning change in a leftward direction.

Such attitudes lead to lopsided politics among professors. At Stanford University, for example, the faculty includes 275 registered Democrats and 36 registered Republicans.

Such ratios are not uncommon at other universities — despite all the rhetoric about "diversity." Only physical diversity seems to matter.

Inbred ideological narrowness shows up, not only in hiring and teaching, but also in restrictive campus speech codes for students, created by the very academics who complain loudly when their own "free speech" is challenged.

I've slowed down with the Sowell links because frankly you should just bookmark him yourself and keep up with his prodigious output. His columns and books are a prerequisite for sensible debate on most of today's larger social and political topics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Up all night...Are you sure it is not the weight of your gigantor head that is causing the pain or maybe somehow you have managed to detach your bungee cord and removed your protective foam helmet thus hurting yourself?