October 26, 2004

Strongholds of the Left: Political Donations by University Employees

Ruth Wisse, one of my neighbors during my year visiting Harvard, wrote in yesterday's Wall Street Journal,

The Federal Election Commission could not have foreseen that when it required employment information on political donations of over $200, it would expose scandalous uniformity in a university community that advertises its diversity. The Sacramento Bee reported that the University of California system gave more to the Kerry campaign than any other single employee group, and that Harvard was second, with only 15,000 employees to UC's 160,000. Campus bloggers computed the percentages of Kerry contributions over Bush: Cornell 93%, Dartmouth 97%, Yale 93%, Brown 89%.

What is the relevance of this? --That our universities are strongholds of the Left, and of the Democratic Party. That is fine-- other organizations are equally strongholds of the Right and the Republican Party. But students should realize that their professors, as a group, are leftwing, and letters saying that 123 law professors or 234 economics professors oppose Bush should fail to impress anyone.

The Left has come to dominate universities, the judiciary, the media, the "mainline" religious denominations, schoolteachers. This is what one might expect, and is in line with what Schumpeter predicted in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. His gloomy prediction there was that capitalism would collapse because businessmen were not articulate and political enough to defend themselves against intellectuals. It is interesting that that prediction has not come true. We do have heavy government regulation, but the private sector has defended itself fairly well, has even rolled back some regulation, and has largely defeated the idea of government ownership. Instead, it is on social issues that the Left has triumphed-- abortion, homosexuality, gambling, pornography, secularism, the role of women, affirmative action. I suppose that is because of the Left's strength in the key sectors I named above, combined with the lack of strong individual interests being affected by attitudinal changes. Note that the Left has not been so successful with gun control, which though it arguably has diffuse general benefits would also impose disliked restrictions on individuals. The benefits of pornography control are similarly diffuse, and the restrictions individualized, and so we legalized it once the universities, judiciary, media, ministers, and schoolteachers changed their attitude.

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October 17, 2004

Medical Marijuana-- Marinol

A reader wondered whether there really was a legal way to use marijuana medically. There is-- in every state, I suppose, since the FDA has approved it. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is available via the prescription drug Marinol. See WordIQ. Thus, the push for "medical marijuana" is highly misleading. It is based on claims that Marinol is too expensive and that for some reason plain marijuana works better than the concentrated active ingredient.

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September 28, 2004

Marijuana: Enforcement Costs and Illegality

In an earlier post, "Why Marijuana Should Be Illegal," I argued that marijuana should be illegal even if it is a neutral activity, like watching bad TV shows, because neutral activities displace good activities. In that post, I explicitly put aside considerations of the cost of enforcement, noting that they could reverse the conclusion. But on reflection, I think I was wrong to say that. If we have decided that marijuana should be illegal, putting aside enforcement costs, then high enforcement costs would not reverse the conclusion.

The reason is simple: just because we make something illegal doesn't mean we need to enforce the law. To be sure, our current marijuana laws, though by no means vigorously enforced, are costly-- we do devote police time to tracking down major growers and dealers, even though I doubt police are spending any time tracking down users (as opposed, perhaps, to arresting them if they smoke in front of a policeman who is passing by for other reasons). But we wouldn't have to. We could limit ourselves to going after marijuana fields that the policeman happens to see while patrolling, and going only after dealers who advertise on national TV. The degree of enforcement is an important policy question-- an issue where the advocates of marijuana have largely won-- but it is separable from the legality issue. Minimal enforcement is close to costless (it could even be profitable, with fines and seizures); tight enforcement would probably be more costly than the current lax enforcement.

It's not obvious to me, though, that tight enforcement would be more costly to non-criminals than the current lax enforcement. Currently we investigate, prosecute, and punish dealers. This is expensive because enough profit is at stake for them to hide their activities carefully, to be dangerous to the police, and to hire talented lawyers, and we punish them with prison time, which is expensive. Users are more numerous, but each is cheaper.

The idea that illegality and enforcement levels can be separated applies generally. We could make pornography, adultery, homosexuality, cruelty to animals, and necrophilia illegal while spending minimally on enforcement. And in fact we tolerate high levels of many crimes. Consider burglary. We spend vast sums of money to catch and imprison burglars, but the War on Burglary has failed, a critic might say. Burglary is still common. But that we've failed to stop burglary does not tell us that it should be made legal, or that we should spend less on suppressing it.

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August 13, 2004

The Kokanee in Flathead Lake--Ecology

Ben Gadd's excellent Handbook of the Canadian Rockies has a story about kokanee fish in Flathead Lake that I think I'll use in my book on "Economic Regulation and Social Regulation". Here's what he says on page 482.

The kokanee is a salmon native to Canada. It was accidentally introduced to Flathead Lake in Montana in 1916, where it thrived. There were runs of as many as 100,000 fish into McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park. Since the fish die after spawning, this attracted lots of other wildlife, including as many as 600 bald eagles. This became a leading tourist attraction--perhaps the leading attraction-- of the area.

Then in 1987 the kokanee population crashed. The problem was that in the 1970's, Montana fishery officials introduced a small crustacean called Mysis relicta that had provided good food for kokanee and trout all over the Pacific Northwest. In the deep Flathead Lake, though, it had a different effect. The Mysis stayed in deep water during the day, the time when the kokanee feed. Then it would come up to the surface at night and eat the zooplankton that was the kokanee's main food. In addition, bottom-dwelling lake trout, another introduced species, ate the Mysis and increased in number. The lake trout also liked to eat baby kokanees. Having less food and less surviving young, the kokanees were absolutely exterminated by 1995. Flathead Lake had lost its main claim to fame.

The social regulation point is that when we mess with an interlocking system we don't understand very well, very bad things can happen. We don't understand social systems very well, so messing with such things as homosexuality or the role of women can have a very bad effect.

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July 10, 2004


Here we have yet another example of (1) Bush-hating, and (2) the increased vulgarity of America. The New York Times report reports on this concert, the all-time record for political contributions raised in one event.

"Texas Bandito, how much money did you put in your pocket today?" John Mellencamp crooned in a country ballad. "You better split from that Texas Bandito, he's made this world unsafe today. Our thoughts are not free from the Texas Bandito, he's just another cheap thug that sacrifices our young ."

In a two-and-a-half hour gala that raised $7.5 million, a record for a single event, Chevy Chase poked fun at the president's pronunciation of "nuclear" and "terrorist" and said Mr. Bush had invaded Iraq "just so he could be called a wartime president." Paul Newman decried "tax cuts for wealthy thugs like me" as "borderline criminal."

The comedian John Leguizamo, who is half Puerto Rican, said the notion of Hispanics supporting Republicans was "like roaches for Raid." And Whoopi Goldberg, after joking about refusing to submit her material to campaign censors, made an extended sexual pun on the president's surname.

Then the Academy-Award-winning actress Meryl Streep asked which candidates Jesus might support.

"I wondered to myself during 'Shock and Awe,' I wondered which of the megaton bombs Jesus, our president's personal savior, would have personally dropped on the sleeping families of Baghdad?" Ms. Streep said.


After the concert, Mr. Kerry's press secretary, David Wade, said, "Obviously John Kerry and John Edwards do not agree with everything that was said tonight," adding: "Performers have a right to speak their minds even when we don't agree with everything they say. That's the freedom John Kerry put his life on the line to defend."

But unlike one of Mr. Kerry's vanquished primary rivals, Howard Dean, who denounced racial humor and profanity at one of his own fundraisers in New York, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kerry hardly veered from their script when they mounted the stage at the end of the extravaganza, looking more subdued than they had all week.

"This campaign will be a celebration of real American values," Mr. Edwards promised, saying that voters "deserve a president who knows the difference between what is right and what is wrong."

Mr. Kerry, inviting his and Mr. Edwards's adult children onstage for a sing- along of "This Land Is Your Land," told the crowd that "every single performer" on the bill had "conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country."

It's to the NYT's credit that they reported this, and in this way.

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July 07, 2004


Steve Sailer has interesting things to say, with source links, about the stealing proclivities of Gypsies. It is perhaps surprising that there do not exist more such groups in Western society, loyal to their clan but predatory towards outsiders, given that we are so vulnerable to crime and that the insider-outsider distinction is really the natural one for human beings. Maybe they do exist and I don't know of them. At any rate, here's what Sailer has to say:

As an American, I knew that the teenage males of some ethnic groups had a higher proclivity to steal , but I had never before heard of a group where many parents trained their toddlers to steal. Even more horribly, some parents break their children's teeth or bones as part of an insurance scam or to make them into better beggars.

We're not supposed to think about the victims of Gypsy criminals because, after all, crime victims are not real victims (i.e., they are just random human beings, not an organized political pressure group).

... The Rev. Larry Merino, who evangelizes among American Gypsies in Indiana, notes:
"Gypsies believe a myth that says a lot about the conception most people have of this group. It seems that a Gypsy stole a fourth nail at the crucifixion site that was destined to be used to nail the Savior's head to the cross. Since this act of larceny turned out to be an inadvertent act of mercy, God gave Gypsies the right to take things that didn't belong to them. Many Gypsies believe this is actually true! This being the case, it takes a missionary to this group a long time to undo what has been part of their culture for centuries."
That's why there's never been a Zionist or separatist movement among Gypsies. Jews could successfully start their own national homeland, away from their persecutors, but the Gypsies can't imagine living in their own country with no productive non-Gypsies to leech off.
Gypsies in Indiana! I wonder if I've met any? Actually, I now recall the story of the "Irish Traveller" Madelyne Toogood who was caught on tape punching her 4-year-old in the face in a Kohl's parking lot after trying to con the store by false returns of goods. So there do exist other groups besides Gypsies.

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