Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Liberal Professor who should be applauded

In today's Orlando Sentinel, Valencia College humanities professor, John Scolaro published an Op-Ed piece that is worthy of high praise.  Enjoy....

Reject Student's Feelings of Entitlement

By John Scolaro
Education, on all levels, is in serious trouble today. Valencia College is not exempt from this stark reality.

In fact, a much higher percentage of incoming students now, than when my career at the college began 23 years ago, are mandated into remedial courses without the benefit of college credit.
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What's even worse is that the college also recently proposed that faculty members demonstrate that final grades awarded to students reflect the new grading criteria as defined by the college. Faculty could be severely penalized if too many D's and F's are awarded to students.

What I have described is driven by what I call the mentality of entitlement. Students today want something for nothing. This mentality is reflected in Professor Roberta Borkat's timeless Newsweek article, "A Liberating Curriculum," in 1993. In this article, she referenced her plan to increase student happiness.

She wrote that at the end of the second week of the semester, she would announce that all students enrolled in each course would receive a final grade of A. Here are the obvious benefits of her plan: high grade-point averages would be assured; students would be required to read and write next to nothing; students' complaints about their bad grades would radically decline; their professors would have a lot more free time to devote to their own diverse interests instead of reading countless exams and papers; and college graduation rates would soar.

According to Borkat, she should have faced these facts about the true purpose of education a lot earlier instead of wasting her years of teaching on trivia.

Like Borkat, my own plan to increase student happiness will continue to maintain high standards. I will continue to fend off the statements students send my way, such as:

"I wrote something down. So, don't I get any credit?"
"Are there any extra-credit options so that I might be able to earn a higher grade?"
"Why are rewrites not permitted?"
"Why do you penalize us for our poor writing skills?"

The mentality of entitlement must be rejected on all counts. Students will succeed only when high standards are maintained.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Entitlements and the General Welfare

I thought you might enjoy this.  Please share with others if you feel it might help them "see the light".

Friday, May 18, 2012

Barney Groten - Visionary

Today I learned of the death of Dr. Barnet Groten - the man who gave me my first job as an economist.

In the spring of 1988 I was asked by Don Murry - one of my professors at The University of Oklahoma if I would be interested in discussing a research position at the new Sarkeys Energy Center on OU's campus.

The building was not even finished, but the head of the Energy Center, Dr. Barnet Groten, was already busy working out the details of what was to be accomplished there.

I met Dr. Groten at a Greek restaurant famous for its gyros and for over an hour we discussed his vision for America's energy future.

Bear in mind, this was before anyone had uttered the phrases "global warming", "going green" or "carbon footprint".  It did not matter.  Barnet Groten was two decades ahead of everyone.

He told me that he believed that America was falling perilously behind the rest of the world in the area of research and development into alternative energy supplies and in developing more cost-effective and environmentally friendly delivery systems from traditional energy sources like coal, petroleum, natural gas and nuclear power.

At that lunch he offered me a job - but not just any job.  He offered me a chance to be his only research assistant.  I would be in charge of pouring over thousands of regulatory briefings, court cases, public utility rates cases, economic and energy-related journal articles and data bases from all over the world.  It would be my job, he explained, "to discover where America is failing" in meeting the energy needs of the coming century.

It is worth mentioning two things here.  First, I was scared to death that this task would be so over my head that failure would be a better outcome than what I would achieve.  Second, Dr. Groten always smoked and/or fidgeted with his pipe while calmly explaining everything he thought I would need to do, and why he thought I would be successful doing it.  I did not want to let this very kind, incredibly humble man down.

So, during the next 18 months I poured every ounce of my economic brain into this effort.  The law students at the OU Law School must have thought I was one of them because I holed up in the same research room day after day reading, studying and pounding my fist on the desk when hours of research would come to a dead end.

During that time I learned that the very nature of research (as Dr. Groten kept telling me) is to learn from what does not work so you can find the path toward what does work.  I learned so much about the flaws of government-run, or government-regulated markets.  I learned how to use a computer to create graphics (no laughing please, it was 1989...) and I learned that turning in a paper 82 pages in length (I am not kidding) was too long for publication.

Dr. Groten never told me that any work we would submit for publication in a journal would have to be around 12 pages with an ocean of footnotes.  So, when I turned in my first 82 page report he told me it was too long and that my choice of words was too fancy. 

A month or so later I turned in a 31 page report.  Still too long.

When I finally produced a paper that would ultimately be published - two years later - I could not have been more pleased.  Dr. Groten, sensing my excitement, told me that I was now the world's foremost expert in why America's energy markets were not pursuing energy R&D.  I am quite sure that he only said that to make me feel good, but that was his style.  Ever the gentleman and the perfect boss.

By the way, every thing he told me that I would find was proven to be true. 

Twenty years before anyone even noticed the lack sufficient R&D endeavors in America's energy markets - and the implications of it - Dr. Barnet Groten, tapping on his pipe, offered up a prophecy that is now coming true today.  That is that as long as government regulators are in charge of determining the economic policies of those who would supply our energy needs, America would lag behind other nations and would suffer the consequences as energy supply issues became more important over time.

I am grateful to have worked for such a kind genius.

I hope they allow pipes in heaven....

Monday, May 14, 2012

How Obama Happened...

Once upon a time there was a conservative politician named Barry Goldwater.  He was a really bright quasi-Libertarian so he did not get elected President of the United States.  He lost the election of 1964 even though another real conservative/economic libertarian named Ronald Reagan famously gave his "A Time for Choosing" speech on Goldwater's behalf - a speech that is, to this day, a landmark among real conservatives who point to the brilliance of Reagan.

Reagan of course did get elected but made the big mistake of hiring a Massachusetts liberal (not named Dukakis or Kennedy) to be his vice-president.  When Reagan's VP took over in 1989 he told everyone (with Reagan two feet away) that he wanted a "kinder, gentler America."  This meant huge increases in regulations, taxes and spending.  This is what kindness looks like to a liberal Republican I suppose.

Eight years later George H.W. Bush saw his "compassionate conservative" son, George W. ride into the White House with his veto pen left behind in Texas.  Eight years later, another socialist Republican (see video below) left us in an economic wreck and sowed the seeds for our current FDR reincarnation festival.

Please watch this speech and tell me, how do you Republicans stand it?  How do you claim that Mr. Obama has ruined America when your party has been so horribly Socialist that Bill Clinton looks like Goldwater and Reagan compared to the guys you have put in the White House recently?

And now, Mitt Romney is supposed to restore conservative values? 

Come on, Man.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Junior Seau and the 'Evils' of Capitalism

One of the more frequent criticisms I hear from people who do not like capitalism as an economic model is that capitalism allows people to greedily profit from suffering, misery and tragedy. 

Case in point:  Several days ago, former NFL linebacker, Junior Seau - a certain Hall of Famer and one of the more popular players of the past 20 years - committed suicide in his California home. 

If you go on eBay today you can find hundreds of Seau jerseys, football cards and bobbleheads for sale at far higher prices than when he was alive a week ago.  You can also find a much larger amount of these items than you would normally see on eBay during football's offseason.  Finally, you will notice that many of these items have multiple bids and rising prices.

How, some of you might ask, can someone so ghoulishly capitalize on the suicide of another human being?  Isn't this a time when we should set aside greed, show some restraint and respect and avoid the temptation to make money off of the rising demand for a dead man's jersey?  Doesn't this interaction of supply and demand prove that capitalists are heartless and that capitalism itself needs more regulations by the government?

Well, no, it does not.  In fact the capitalists are doing us all a favor.

First, by offering up jerseys and other items on the marketplace, capitalists who have Seau items are serving their fellowman. 

Fans of Seau have a much stronger desire to own something about Seau at this time.  One could argue that it will help them remember him, honor his memory or help bring about closure now that he is gone.  Shouldn't fans have the right to use their money and pay whatever price they want to pay in order to have something to connect with their hero?

The people selling Seau jerseys - self-interested as they may be - are simply parting with their private property at a price that others are willing to pay.  At these higher prices the sellers are now in a position to earn more profit - which enhances their purchasing power, which makes whomever they buy things from better off, which makes the employees of the stores they will shop at better off and so on.

If the only reason people are selling Seau items is to profit, so be it.  They are not forcing anyone to buy and they are not stealing from Seau's family.  Some sellers might actually feel good about serving Seau's fans with their items - a bonus on top of the profit earned.

So, if you ever find yourself thinking that people are horrible to sell trinkets and other items after death and disasters have taken place, stop and ask yourself who is actually being harmed by any of this.  If your only conclusion is that it "feels" wrong then this is a good place to start thinking, rather than feeling so that you avoid inviting government in to help decide when it is moral to buy and sell things.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Invitation to a Speech

Evening at FEE: “The Curse of Alexander Hamilton,” a lecture by Professor Jack Chambless

On Saturday, May 5, 2012 from 6:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., the Foundation for Economic Education will be hosting an Evening at FEE event with Professor Jack Chambless of Valencia College.

“The Curse of Alexander Hamilton” will examine the historical evolution of the General Welfare Clause of the U.S. Constitution from the Constitutional Convention to the 1936 Supreme Court decision that fundamentally changed the role of government in the lives of the citizenry. Hamilton’s view of the definition of the ‘general welfare’ along with competing views by other Founders and statesmen that followed will be examined in order to provide a historical picture of the intense debate that has been with us since the founding of the nation and still shapes economic policy today.

Can’t attend the event in person?We will be broadcasting this event as a live webinar, beginning at 7:20 p.m. on May 5.Register for the webinar.