Monday, November 10, 2014

An Unpopular Question for Veteran's Day

A few minutes ago I was on the first floor of the building where I work talking to a young man in charge of Valencia's Veteran's Day ceremony.
Valencia had a large display of photos of men and women from this college who had served in foreign wars since September 11th.    Valencia also had music playing.
I was about to give an exam in a room very close to where the speakers where located and was concerned that my students would be distracted while trying to take their exam. 
As I was politely and respectfully asking the coordinator if the music could be turned down a little a young man standing next to him bluntly and tersely said, "This music is for dead soldiers."
He proceeded to tell me that his grandfather and father had preceded him in service to our country and informed me that he had lost half his foot in battle.  I did not know if he was being truthful or not but he persisted in his contempt for my mere request that music be turned down.  At one point he said, "While you were in college, I was serving my country."   This was an interesting claim for two reasons.  First, he did not know anything about my past.  Second, given his age it is more likely that while I was in college, he was not even born.
Yet, his willingness to give me his biography of service in the military - and his claim that I was disrespectful to our veterans - reminds me of something that I have been bothered by for a long time. 
I seem to recall reading, on many occasions, that when veterans of World War II came home they simply got back to work, kept largely quiet and tried to re-establish their lives as civilians.
I do not believe there where any hats sold that read, "World War II Veteran" or constant reminders - by the veterans - that they had served.
My grandfather - several generations removed - served in the New Jersey militia during the Revolutionary War.  His grandson served in the army in New Orleans in 1803.  My father served in missile silos during the height of the Cold War.  My wife's uncle dropped into Normandy on D-Day.   I never served in the military but have spent 25 years teaching the principles our military stands for. 
Should I have a hat or shirt or jacket or bumper sticker made to mention any of this?
No disrespect intended, but when did our country lose its sense of doing ones duty without constantly reminding everyone that your duty had been done?
There have been untold numbers of Americans who have contributed with swords, guns and words (see Ronald Reagan, Thomas Jefferson & Thomas Paine to name a few) without succumbing to the temptation to constantly remind people what they had done.
This should be particularly useful to veterans of more modern wars.  None were drafted, all knew what was going on in the Middle East and no one has treated them like we treated Vietnam veterans upon their return.
If there is anything today's veterans should be pointing out to the rest of us it is this:
Our nation no longer stands for the principles of liberty that the Revolutionary War and World War II veterans fought for.  We have become a nation of characterless, welfare-seeking, selfie-taking people who do not know anything - and care even less - about what our veterans were fighting for.
That reality is worth a bumper sticker.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I am pretty sure my life is almost over....

It is that time of year folks - the tests my students have taken are on my desk, my red pen is in my hand and I get to dive into the minds of people who have spent 13 years in America's government schools.

Reading exams literally causes my chest to tighten, my left arm to go somewhat numb and words to form in my mind (and sometimes mouth) that would make Chris Rock blush.

For example.

Question six on my recent midterm exam reads:  Graphically illustrate and fully explain how falling gasoline prices could impact the market for large pickup trucks.  Then, graphically illustrate and explain how rising health care costs could impact consumer prices. 

Here is an answer I just finished reading.  As always, these are unedited.

"If gas prices fell.  That would mean our trucks could pay less and go further.  Our wal-mart trucks could rapidly supply thing in case of emergency disaster.  If this happened we could pay our drivers more which in turn make them value their jobs & take them seriously no falling asleep at the wheel.  The rising in health care cost is crazy.  If this is a forever thing our economy will be shot.  If we have to pay more for health care we have less money for the medication we need.  As well will the consumers levels for the meds.  Our hard studied pharmacist will have to get cut hours & pay this will lead to their familys suffering they will need a second job & will have less time with kids or any loved ones."

Yes, you read this correctly.  This is not uncommon, either.

People ask me all the time, "How is work?" 

My answer always hinges on whether I have had any tests to grade at the time they ask the question. 

I love teaching.

I hate reading much of the musings that are rolling around in the minds of my students.

Back to work.  Pray my wife doesn't find my remains slumped over a pile of papers...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Should People be Forced to Serve?

What follows is my Op-Ed in the October 31, 2014 Orlando Sentinel.  I hope you find it useful.

At the height of the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon appointed two economists — Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan — to examine the efficacy of maintaining America's long tradition of compulsory military service. During one particularly contentious conversation with Gen. William Westmoreland, Friedman compared a military made up of drafted men to slavery. Westmoreland countered with the argument that he would not want "mercenaries" under his command. By mercenaries, Westmoreland of course meant people who volunteered to join the military out of self-interest, rather than the "public good" of serving his fellow man.
Since that time, the U.S. military — made up of an all-volunteer force — has maintained a level of productivity, strength and dedication to service that would seem unlikely to people who believe that only through compulsion can we maintain a fighting force of men and women who would be willing to die for their country.

The same is true in other organizations that require putting the interests of strangers ahead of the love of self.

In America today, millions of people devote countless hours to religious and secular charities. From missionary work of Christian organizations all over the world to the Peace Corp, the Salvation Army, Goodwill and innumerable other charities, we have seen the power of voluntary association continue to grow. This was a predictable outgrowth of the system of liberty formulated by our Founding Fathers.
In the early 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville spent nine months traveling throughout Canada and the United States, recording his observations in what would become the basis of his classic writing, "Democracy in America." One of his many comments on the character of the American people is as follows: "I must say that I have seen Americans make a great deal of real sacrifices to the public welfare; and have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend a faithful support to one another."

What de Tocqueville recognized was the fact that in a society where voluntary association is viewed as a right to the human existence, charity and mutual cooperation will always take place.

Adam Smith taught us in 1776 that human beings are driven by their self-interest to serve their fellow man. For Smith — and eventually the Founders who codified our rights to "pursue happiness" — human beings recognize that in order to gain what we desire, we must serve our fellow man. In business this means that serving others creates profit. But when it comes to altruism (which is also a natural human emotion), our self-interest is promoted by helping others who are in need of everything from protection from foreign enemies to protection from hunger and disease.

No one has had to force Bill and Melinda Gates to give away billions of dollars. No one coerces those who work for Habitat for Humanity. No one needed to force former National Football League star Pat Tillman to leave his life of prosperity to join the Army Rangers in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
As long as we are a nation of rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, people will freely choose to assist in the protection of these rights for total strangers. By respecting our right to serve, or not serve, we maintain a system where many productive people self-select military or charitable service while other people — who believe they would best serve as entrepreneurs or college students — pursue those goals.

Forcing people to serve in areas where they have little desire not only leads to less effective "public service" organizations, and a weaker military, but also an economically inefficient redistribution of talent away from where it would be best placed.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Must our Sons dress like girls to cure Breast Cancer?

I used to love October.
Now I kind of hate, or put in another way, dread
 this month.
It is not because I live in Florida where it will be 90 degrees and muggy today (although that does not help).
It is because today my youngest son has a middle school football game, followed by my oldest son playing varsity football on Friday.  In between we plan on watching the Packers-Vikings game tonight.
What should be a fun couple of days will instead be accompanied by the site of young men and grown men dressing in the traditionally female color of pink.
I understand that breast cancer is a terrible thing.  I have a mom (believe  it or not), a wife and a daughter.  I don't want any of them to ever have this life-threatening ailment.
But that does not mean that I feel compelled to dress, or have my sons dress, in pink all month as a show of "awareness" or a show of support or as an implicit demand that more money be spent to cure this disease.
According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2012 more money was spent on breast cancer research ($602.7 million) than on prostate ($265.1 million), lung and thyroid cancer research combined.
There are a lot of men that get prostate cancer.  Why don't we put social pressure on women and girls to wear blue and not shave for an entire month? 
If the National Football League and other corporations who are making a killing selling pink sportswear for men would instead just donate stadium, television and other revenue to breast cancer research it might mean more money towards this cure while keeping our sons from being further feminized by a culture that seems determined to strip all signs of "male" from males.

Happy October.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Debate on Income Inequality

The following is the Youtube video of the debate I participated in concerning the topic of income inequality.  As always, your thoughts are welcome.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thank you, President Obama for helping us come in 32nd.


What follows is from the September 15, 2014 Wall Street Journal
Any day now the White House and Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) will attempt to raise taxes on business, while making the U.S. tax code even more complex. The Obama and Schumer plans to punish businesses for moving their legal domicile overseas will arrive even as a new international ranking shows that the U.S. tax burden on business is close to the worst in the industrialized world. Way to go, Washington.

On Monday the Tax Foundation, which manages the widely followed State Business Tax Climate Index, will launch a new global benchmark, the International Tax Competitiveness Index. According to the foundation, the new index measures "the extent to which a country's tax system adheres to two important principles of tax policy: competitiveness and neutrality."

A competitive tax code is one that limits the taxation of businesses and investment. Since capital is mobile and businesses can choose where to invest, tax rates that are too high "drive investment elsewhere, leading to slower economic growth," as the Tax Foundation puts it.
By neutrality the foundation means "a tax code that seeks to raise the most revenue with the fewest economic distortions. This means that it doesn't favor consumption over saving, as happens with capital gains and dividends taxes, estate taxes, and high progressive income taxes. This also means no targeted tax breaks for businesses for specific business activities." Crony capitalism that rewards the likes of green energy with lower tax bills while imposing higher bills on other firms is political arbitrage that misallocates capital and reduces economic growth.
The index takes into account more than 40 tax policy variables. And the inaugural ranking puts the U.S. at 32nd out of 34 industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
With the developed world's highest corporate tax rate at over 39% including state levies, plus a rare demand that money earned overseas should be taxed as if it were earned domestically, the U.S. is almost in a class by itself. It ranks just behind Spain and Italy, of all economic humiliations. America did beat Portugal and France, which is currently run by an avowed socialist.
The Tax Foundation benchmark compares developed economies with large and expensive governments, but the U.S. would do even worse if it were measured against the world's roughly 190 countries. The accounting firm KPMG maintains a corporate tax table that includes more than 130 countries and only one has a higher overall corporate tax rate than the U.S. The United Arab Emirates' 55% rate is an exception, however, because it usually applies only to foreign oil companies.
The new ranking is especially timely coming amid the campaign led by Messrs. Obama and Schumer to punish companies that move their legal domicile overseas to be able to reinvest future profits in the U.S. without paying the punitive American tax rate. If they succeed, the U.S. could fall to dead last on next year's ranking. Now there's a second-term legacy project for the President.
The new index also suggests taxation is a greater burden on business in the U.S. than in countries that American liberals have long praised as models of enlightened big government. Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden, with their large social safety nets, all finish in the top 20 on the new ranking. The United Kingdom manages to fund socialized medicine while finishing 11 spots ahead of the U.S.
The new champion of tax competitiveness is Estonia, where—liberals may be astonished to learn—people enjoy the rule of law and even paved roads, despite reasonable tax rates. (See the list nearby.)
Liberals argue that U.S. tax rates don't need to come down because they are already well below the level when Ronald Reagan came into office. But unlike the U.S., the world hasn't stood still. Reagan's tax-cutting example ignited a worldwide revolution that has seen waves of corporate tax-rate reductions. The U.S. last reduced the top marginal corporate income tax rate in 1986. But the Tax Foundation reports that other countries have reduced "the OECD average corporate tax rate from 47.5 percent in the early 1980s to around 25 percent today."
This is also a message to self-styled conservative "reformers" who lecture that today's economic challenges aren't the same as they were under Reagan but propose to do nothing about the destructive U.S. corporate tax code. They're missing what could be the single biggest tax boost to economic growth and worker incomes. Abundant economic research, by Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur among others, has shown that higher corporate taxes lead to lower wages.
Rather than erecting an iron tax curtain that keeps U.S. companies from escaping, the White House and Congress should enact reform that invites more businesses to stay or move to the U.S.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ray Rice, my Son - and the rest of us

A few years ago my youngest son - less than 10 at the time - wrote a letter to one of his favorite football players in the National Football League. 
His letter to Ray Rice included a very nice drawing, complete with various crayon work, that depicted Mr. Rice running away from a defender during an NFL game.
A few weeks later, to his complete shock, he received an envelope from Baltimore, Maryland.  In it was an autograph -  that he had not asked for - of Ray Rice.
A couple of years ago my son asked for a Ray Rice jersey for Christmas and has worn it until it does not fit real well anymore.
The autographed picture was framed and put up on his wall - and proudly displayed and talked about to anyone who would listen.  The jersey is still in his closet.
My thirteen-year old son still has not been told, or heard about, or read about what Ray Rice did on the elevator months ago.

I have grappled with what to do about all of this.

I have not - and will not - watch the TMZ video of his violent behavior.  Why should I? 

I will not show him the video either.  Why would I?

My son has been raised in a home where domestic violence does not exist.  He has also been raised in a home where sin does exist. 

No one has ever filmed his father using bad language while he is angry.  No one has filmed his mother and father being selfish or rude or prideful or angry.  No one has ever filmed the sinful thoughts of his father or mother.  Nor has anyone ever filmed the sins of my children.

To the outside world the Chambless family appears to be relatively nice, polite and generally giving.

The outside world has no video of my 48 years of bad decisions.  If the outside world had the same film of me that God has, the outside world would not think much of me.  Or you.

I feel terrible for Ray Rice and his wife.  I feel terrible about what she went through and what they are both going through now.    He has been tried, judged and convicted by the self-righteous among us.    I have heard people judge him as if he is a _______________________________!!!!(FILL IN THE BLANK).

People all over the world - many of whom have done horrible, unrecorded things, have sentenced him, in their hearts, to a life of unemployment, misery and mockery.

The Bible is pretty clear about the standard by which we judge people.  The same standard we use will be used on us.

Ray Rice committed a terrible sin, but not an unforgiveable one.  His wife has forgiven him.  God can forgive him.

As I leave my son's autograph on the wall and his jersey in his closet I wonder,

"Why can't the rest of us sinners forgive him?"

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The American Dream is Alive and Well in Williston, North Dakota

What follows is my Op-Ed in today's Orlando Sentinel.  If you are a rapid environmentalist your comments are not welcome...


This summer marks five years since the "Great Recession" officially ended.
For millions of Americans, it probably does not seem possible that our economy has grown for that long. After all, by historical standards, the current recovery is anemic, if not borderline invisible.
Sixty months after the last recession ended, the unemployment rate is still well above the 4 percent to 5 percent range we would see in past recoveries. The gross domestic product continues to slog along at a 1 percent to 2 percent growth clip. Nearly half of all Americans are receiving some form of social-welfare income from taxpayers, and the labor-force participation rate — the percentage of Americans working or seeking work — is at a three-decade low.
For young people, the news is even worse, with far greater rates of unemployment or total disconnection to the labor force or to a job that matches their education.
This latter reality is why this fall I am going to show my students where Williston, N.D., is located; 2,188 miles from Orlando, Williston is a modern-day boomtown that is providing jobs, high incomes and hope to people all over the world.
While driving through North Dakota this summer with my family I decided we would spend a few hours looking around and talking to people who have poured into this remote locale.
What I found was Saudi Arabia of the North American plains. Stunning to behold, I looked out upon hundreds of oil wells as far as the eye could see. My family and I saw billboards advertising new-home subdivisions and ads on newly constructed buildings that offered employment to truck drivers, carpenters, electricians and more. Everywhere we looked were new businesses ranging from hotels to restaurants, heavy-equipment dealers, car dealerships and everything else a booming town would need.
At the local Wal-Mart, we saw and heard workers of all races and ethnicities. The young man who bagged our items was a young immigrant from Africa. His starting pay? $17.10 per hour. If he offered to work the night shift, he would make $19 per hour.
The girl at the window of a fast-food restaurant was from Russia. Starting pay for her? $15 per hour.
What, in the name of supply and demand, can possibly lead to two teenagers earning several dollars more than the $10.10 minimum wage that Barack Obama and Charlie Crist desire?
It is simple.
North Dakota decided years ago that the vast oil reserves under the ground and accessible only by technology called fracking would be fair game to the oil companies willing to come in and get it.
Not only did North Dakota decide to allow massive drilling and extraction to take place, but it did so without adding thousands of pages of burdensome, incentive-killing regulations and without hammering property owners and oil companies with Jimmy Carter-era "windfall-profits taxes."
Instead, North Dakota adopted a free-market, private-property-respecting mentality that told the world it was open for business.
Today, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. at only 2.6 percent. With chronic shortages of skilled — and unskilled — labor, the supply-demand equation is greatly in favor of those willing to supply their labor services to the oil fields, Wal-Mart and the other businesses in this town.
Even without a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, businesses have to pay the going rate or face labor shortages. Without any law, regulation or mandate, the natural forces of supply and demand have led to compensation levels far beyond what many college graduates are pulling down in other places around America.
Without any central planning from Washington, D.C., the natural allure of profit has led to all of these entrepreneurs entering a region that has brutally cold winters and few entertainment options.
Friedrich Hayek taught the world decades ago that all that is needed for a nation to prosper is for government to allow people to pursue their self-interest, so long as that pursuit does not violate the life, liberty or property of another person.
This system is based on the concept of spontaneous order, which means it does not require intelligent busybodies in far-away political capitals to plan and organize and coordinate economic activities. All that is needed is for those we elect to get out of the way by regulating and taxing human beings less, and we will see more Willistons emerge.
I hope I can convince some of my students to rent a moving van and chase a realistic American dream.

Friday, August 8, 2014

An Immigration Policy for 'Real Americans'

I read in the Orlando Sentinel this morning that 70 percent of Americans and 86 percent of Republicans feel that immigrants threaten America.  What follows is an Op-Ed I wrote for the Sentinel in 2006.  Your comments are welcome.


Here we go again. It seems that every few years someone looks around and starts shouting that too many people are showing up on our shores, in our airports and in our labor markets.

Round 132 in the "Are Immigrants Destroying America?" debate is upon us, and politicians from both sides of the aisle are frantically sticking their wet fingers in the political winds to see what Americans want this time.

What is unfortunate in this debate is that we keep ignoring all of the historical and contemporary analysis that has been applied to this question, and we keep finding the same facts. We may not like the facts we are finding, but as Aldous Huxley once said, "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."

So, what are the immutable truths about the folks who walk, fly and swim to get here?

First, they create jobs, not destroy them. Immigrants from up and down the wealth scale have proved to be incredibly entrepreneurial. Many technologically savvy immigrants from Western Europe and India helped create thousands of jobs in Silicon Valley. One in six of these companies was started by immigrants.

Many of America's best scientists, economists and engineers are not originally from Kentucky or Florida or Maine. They are from Beijing, Moscow and Bangalore. This reality is because American kids can't do math and science, so Microsoft and Google have had to find these geniuses somewhere else.

Poorer immigrants have created thousands of restaurants, retail shops and other service-based companies. One visit to San Francisco, New York or Chicago will show you how many native-born Americans are earning a paycheck because of the incredible efforts immigrants have put into our quasi-capitalistic market.

Immigrants without money and business plans have filled jobs in meat packing, textiles, lawn care and restaurants that Americans simply won't take. Sadly, it is beneath the dignity of the average American to pick onions or cut fat off a pig 10 hours per day. Who is supposed to fill this gap?

Immigrants have also helped keep our rate of inflation down by supplying valuable labor in areas where shortages would otherwise exist. Imagine what the price of housing or restaurant meals would be if not for immigrant roofers and dishwashers with tremendous work ethics.

We can also thank immigrants for having lower crime rates, higher graduation rates and lower participation in the welfare state than native-born Americans. Routinely, immigrants from the Caribbean show up, look around and find opportunity where many native-born Americans look around and give up on the chance to advance over time.

If I were president of the United States, I would fly to New York and read the plaque on the Statue of Liberty. Then, I would go on television and announce to my fellow Americans that every one of us is a descendant of someone who originally was not from here. I might also mention that if we want to help India and China pass us up in the economic superpower game, the surest way of achieving that is to keep immigrants from those nations out.

I would also suggest that we are never going to win the war on terror if we do not let liberty-loving people from the Middle East come over here to find out why America is a nice place to live.

Finally, I would suggest that if we want to kick out the immigrants, we might want to look at our own history with respect to the first Americans, "real Americans." I seem to recall that when we showed up from Europe -- as immigrants -- we took away their property, forced them to move to less desirable places and killed many of those who resisted.

Perhaps then the best immigration policy of all would be for everyone who is not an American Indian -- also known in politically correct terms as a Native American -- to leave at once.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

When Economists are Irrational...

Meet our new dog, Jake.
Jake is from Wolf Point, Montana which is 2,270 miles from my front door.
On July 11th we were driving across northern Montana when I decided to stop for gas before we hit a long stretch of nothing.
I heard my wife say, "Ahhhhh, he's sooooo cute!!!" a few seconds after she got out of our car.  I thought maybe she was talking about me but how cute can anyone be pumping gas?
When I came out of the gas station she was holding this Golden Retriever/English Setter mix puppy. 
Uh, oh.
Surely this was going to be one of those few seconds of fun and then we would move on towards Florida.  After all, 2,270 miles with a puppy is exactly 2,270 miles of potential disaster at every turn.
She would not put him down.
I then had to "go all economist" on her and start sentences with words like, "Do you understand...." and "Have you thought about......" and "A dog means that........"
She did not hear a word.  No matter what cost-benefit calcuation I conjoured up, she just looked up at me like a four-year old girl and said, "But he's so cute."
Case closed.
She even said, as she got in the car with him, "Let's just get in the car and figure this out as we go along."
2,270 miles later Jake is adjusting to humidity, fire ants and the joys of air conditioning while we are adjusting to pee on the floor, running around at 2:00 in the morning and the $1,130 in fencing that is going in next week.
But he is so cute.
Note:  Some of you might be wondering, "How did they know if he belonged to anyone in Montana"? 
Good question.  He had no collar, was underfed and had been hanging around there for awhile according to some residents of the small town.  Now he has a collar, is eating everything and is hanging around our house.
Wish us luck.

Reflections on America - and Americans

Last month I was driving out west on vacation with my family when I crossed over the Nebraska - South Dakota line.  At that moment I had officially visited all 48 of the lower states.  I will also turn 48 this September so I found myself thinking, "One state per year.  Not bad...." 
After spending several days in South Dakota we traveled through much of the rest of the western states, the Pacific Northwest, Canada and then back home.    During the more than 10,000 miles of driving that we logged I had plenty of time to let my mind wander.  One of the resting places of reflection was on the various people I had met in the lower 48 states over my lifetime and on this summer trip.
One person that came to mind was a young man in South Dakota who let us park our car in his barn to get out of a major hail storm.  He had no way of knowing if we would rob him or act like jerks.  He simply waved us in and offered us a cold drink to boot.  Ironically, a few weeks later my wife and kids were at the Calgary Stampede - the largest rodeo in the world - when they heard the name Chad Ferley announced as one of the participants.  Mr. Ferley, as it turns out, is one of the world's best saddle bronc riders.  He is also the guy who let us in his barn weeks earlier.
In Washington we met the owner of a lodge who was cleaning up a storage shed on his property at around 11PM.  We could not find a place to camp for the night, his lodge was full so I asked him if we could pitch our tent out in the grass near his lodge.  I offered to pay but he refused to take money and told us it would be fine to sleep there for the night.
In Minnesota - at Glacial Lakes State Park - we talked to an employee of the park about camping one late night when we were once again struggling to find a place to sleep.  He told us the campground was full but offered to let us camp anyway in an area not normally used by traditional tent campers even though we would be arriving hours after his office closed.
In Oregon there was a man who found my wallet lying on a bench in a gym locker room who sought me out to return it.

In Jackson, Wyoming I ran into former Vice-President, Dick Cheney in an Albertson's grocery store while he was selecting some milk.  He was very pleasant to talk with as I shared some economics stories I tell my students about his work in the Nixon Administration.
In Seattle there was a guy who gave us a free oyster shucker to help us with our dinner when they were clearly marked $15.
In Alabama there was the vet clinic that charged us nothing when we brought in our new puppy (yes, we picked up an abandoned dog in Montana and drove him back to Florida....) who had swallowed a bone.
In Olympic National Park there was the camp host who let me ride around on his golf cart to find a campsite that would be more private and quiet than the one we almost got stuck with. 

Another camp host in Cape Perpetua State Park along the Oregon coast kept bringing us free fire wood.  He was a retired police officer from Fort Worth, Texas who saw my Oklahoma Sooners sticker on the back of my car.  He said he wanted to "help out an Okie."
In Wyoming we met a lady who came upon our campsite and politely pointed out that we had taken her reserved spot.  Not only was she super nice about this transgression but she ended up giving us a free gift from her shop when we got to know her a bit better during our stay.
This is not to say that we did not meet a few jerks and imbeciles along the way but it is true that our country still has people who are genuinely giving, charitable and thoughtful.  It is nice to know that those folks are out there - in every state.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to Teach the Foundation of Free Markets and Liberty to a Child

Greetings, everyone. 
I wanted to share something with you before I vanish into the wilderness for the summer.
Many of you have read the Leonard Read classic, "I Pencil".  This Youtube clip is a modern take on this work and worth showing to your children. Please forward this to people you know (or don't know) who could use a simple look at why free human beings, not government, are the source for every good or service we enjoy.
Have a wonderful summer.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Memorial Day Tribute to an Incredible WWII Veteran

One of the most amazing books I ever read (Forgive your Enemies by Janet & Geoff Benge)  was about Jacob DeShaver, a prisoner of war during World War II.  What follows is his story.  Enjoy  - and please take a few moments to remember those who lost their lives defending our liberties.
Doolittle Airman Was a Different Kind of War Hero
By Mel Barger
How do people forgive when they have endured hideous cruelty from oppressors who have no desire to be forgiven? And can there be a good outcome when such forgiveness is made?
The man who may have made the strongest case for true forgiveness was Jacob DeShazer, an airman in the famous Doolittle raid over Japan on April 18, 1942. He not only achieved it for himself, but went on to touch the lives of thousands with his message of hope and redemption.
Under the heading of “War and Forgiveness,” The Wall Street Journal on March 25 published an editorial tribute to the “heroism and remarkable forgiveness” of DeShazer, who had died ten days earlier at his home in Salem, Oregon, at age 95. “It is one of life’s safer bets that he is restimg in peace,” the Journal concluded.
Any of us who served in World War II would acknowledge DeShazer’s heroism in joining the legendary Jimmy Doolittle in that first bombing raid over Japan. As the Journal noted, “The Doolittle bombing raid was close to a suicide mission, a one-way trip to bring the war to the Japanese homeland for the first time. Coming not long after Pearl Harbor and before the Pacific island victories to come, the raid was a huge boost to domestic morale.”
Though all of the 80 men who manned the 16 North American B-25 bombers used in the raid were soldiers in the then Army Air Corps, and subject to orders, their service on this special raid was entirely voluntary. They were personally requested to serve by Doolittle, who in addition to being a lieutenant colonel was a famous racing pilot from the 1930s. DeShazer said later that he was too much of a coward to refuse Doolittle’s request.
The story of the famous raid has been told many times in both print and film. The planes and crews took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in a turbulent sea and flew into history, bombing Tokyo and other major cities. Corporal DeShazer, a bombardier aboard a B-25 called Bat Out of Hell, dropped incendiary bombs on Nagoya before the plane ran out of fuel and they were forced to bail out over a Japanese-held section of China. He was soon captured and spent the next forty months as a war prisoner, beaten, starved, and tortured by his Japanese captors. His pilot, Lieutenant William Farrow, and engineer-gunner Sergeant Harold Spatz, were executed by firing squad.
The same harsh punishments were doled out to hundreds of other Allied soldiers and sailors captured in the early months of the war. Some of them were killed or died from malnourishment and brutal treatment, others barely survived to come home filled with hatred for those enemy guards who had abused and taunted them. But DeShazer’s story had a different outcome. That was the “remarkable forgiveness” noted by the Journal.
DeShazer, amid the misery of imprisonment, turned to religious teachings he had learned as a child. “I begged my captors to get a Bible for me,” he recalled in “I Was a Prisoner of Japan,” a religious tract he wrote in 1950. “At last, in the month of May 1944, a guard brought me the book, but told me I could have it only for three weeks. I eagerly began to read its pages. I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes and that when I looked at the enemy officers and guards who had starved and beaten my companions and me so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity. I realized that these people did not know anything about my Savior and that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel.”
This was his profound spiritual awakening that would stay with him for life. Corporal DeShazer gained the strength to survive, forgave his captors without reservations, and became determined to spread Christian teachings to the people who had almost killed him.
Upon returning home, he enrolled at Seattle Pacific College (now Seattle Pacific University) and received a bachelor’s degree in biblical literature in 1948. In late December of that year, he arrived in Japan with his wife Florence, also a graduate of Seattle Pacific and a fellow missionary in the Free Methodist Church.. A few days later, he preached his first sermon there, speaking to about 180 people at a church in a Tokyo suburb. He and Florence eventually helped start 23 churches in Japan The DeShazers would spend 30 years in Japan doing missionary work. Their five children helped.
In 1950, they gained a surprising convert, a Naval officer as honored in Japan as Doolittle was in the U.S. Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese naval flier who had led the Pearl Harbor attack and had become a rice farmer after the war, came upon DeShazer’s tract.
“It was then that I met Jesus, and accepted him as my personal savior,” Fuchida recalled when he attended a memorial service in Hawaii in observance of the 25th anniversary of the attack. He had become an evangelist and had made several trips to the United States to meet with Japanese-speaking immigrants.
DeShazer met several times with Fuchida, who died in 1976.“I saw him just before he died,” DeShazer once told The Salem Statesman Journal. “We shared in that good wonderful thing that Christ has done.”
Retiring to his native Oregon after their work in Japan, Jake and Florence lived quietly in Salem until his passing.
The slight war damage inflicted by the Doolittle raid did nothing to impair Japan’s warmaking capability. But it provoked the Japanese assault on Midway, which turned out to be a disaster for them and marked the beginning of American victories in the Pacific.
The more lasting victory, however, may have been DeShazer’s rebirth and forgiveness in the midst of hellish conditions. No wonder The Wall Street Journal called it “remarkable.”

From: Mature Living, Toledo, Ohio, October, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Remember when Mark Zuckerberg gave New Jersey schools $100 million? OOPS!!!

Some of you may recall that a while back I posted a blog about Facebook's CEO and his decision to give New Jersey public schools $100 million.  Back then I wrote that it would not matter because giving money to a calcified government monopoly did nothing to promote choice or increase the quality of the teachers in New Jersey.  Well, well.  The results are now in.  Here is an article from The Business Insider.

In the fall of 2010, Mark Zuckerberg announced on Oprah that he'd be making a generous gift to Newark, New Jersey.
As Oprah said in her Oprah way, "one ... hundred ... million ... dollars" would be given to Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the three began the Startup: Education foundation. 

The plan was to turn Newark into what Zuckerberg called "a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation," spent on retaining the best teachers, and creating environments that would produce successful students and, one day, graduates.

Newark is a city wrought with crime. Its graduation rate is about 67%. It needed the help, and Booker's vision sounded promising.

Between 2010 and 2012, The New Yorker reports that "more than twenty million dollars of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms with various specialties: public relations, human resources, communications, data analysis, [and] teacher evaluation." Many of the consultants were being paid upwards of $1,000 a day.

“Everybody’s getting paid but Raheem still can’t read," Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, was quoted saying.

Today, the money is pretty much gone, and Newark has hardly become that symbol of excellence. 

In 2010, Mayor Booker found a loophole in getting money to help fund Newark's educational reform. It came in the form of philanthropic donations, which, unlike government funding, required no public review of priorities or spending. Gov. Christie approved the plan, and Booker's job was to find the donors.
Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, Zuckerberg (like many other tech billionaires) had pledged to donate half of his fortune, but as The New Yorker reported, he knew new very little about urban education or philanthropy.
Booker and Zuckerberg met to discuss a vision for Newark's future. Booker wanted to significantly reward Newark teachers who improved student performance rather than focus on seniority and tenure. Teachers would be challenged and rewarded to do their jobs well, and students would benefit.
Zuckerberg was confident Newark and Booker were the right recipients for this huge gift (given over five years), and agreed to gift $100 million dollars with a few stipulations: 
  • Booker would also have to raise $100 million dollars. Zuckerberg's money would release to Newark as matching dollars rolled in.
  • Booker would have to replace the current superintendent with a “transformational leader.”

The reform ended up looking like this: taking low-performing public schools and closing them, turning them into charter schools and "themed" high schools. But there was no easy way to expand charters without destabilizing traditional public schools.
In the months following the gift announcement, Booker and Christie still had no superstar superintendent and no reform plan.
Zuckerberg was concerned and urged Booker to find the superintendent, even sending Booker a poster widely seen around the Facebook campus that read, "Done is better than perfect."
Immediately, Booker appointed Cami Anderson for the job. She implemented ways to help students and improve schools (all which The New Yorker detailed), but there were roadblocks along the way, like how the students brought the issues going on in their homes with them to the classroom.
Anderson wanted to give schools more support to help students on emotional and social levels, but Newark had already been spending more money per student than most districts in the entire country, none of which was reaching the children it existed to help.
New contracts were being created, money was being hemorrhaged, and the district was going broke. But interviews — like this one in Forbes — regarding the money and the future of Newark's schools were always positive, highlighting, of course, only the good aspects of the huge monetary donation.
Anderson came up with another plan called One Newark, which sounded like it could work. Families would choose which charter or public schools they would want to send their children to. Children from the lowest-income families would get first pick. So would kids with special needs.
It all sounded great until parents and teachers realized it was only on paper. Solutions hadn't been figured out fully. Programs hadn't been developed. Issues like transportation had not yet been tackled. Things that were promised didn't come to fruition.
According to The New Yorker, Anderson, Booker, Zuckerberg, and Christie, "despite millions of dollars spent on community engagement — have yet to hold tough, open conversations with the people of Newark about exactly how much money the district has, where it is going, and what students aren’t getting as a result."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

When college is a waste of time and money...

What follows is my Op-Ed in today's Orlando Sentinel.  I hope you enjoy it.  I will be taking a break from blogging and pretty much everything else until August.  Have a great summer and be well...
Over the next few weeks approximately three million young people will graduate from America’s public high schools.  Of that number, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 68 percent will enroll in college next fall, bringing the total number of college attendees to nearly 22 million. 
These numbers would, on the surface, seem to be a source of hope and optimism for America’s future.  After all, if two out of every three high school graduates are ending up in the halls of higher education, wouldn’t that necessarily translate into a better educated, more productive labor force to compete in the global economy?
Well, no, it does not.  In fact, these numbers represent one of the biggest and most unfortunate lies in America.  That lie is that a college degree is the path to economic prosperity and employment security.
A few decades ago, it was largely inarguable that a college degree was the ticket to the good life.  Today a four-year degree is often a waste of time, money (see taxpayers) and energy and is, in essence, no better than a high school degree from our parent’s generation.
Consider this.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than half of all college graduates are working in a job today that requires a college degree.  Meanwhile, welders, pipe fitters, crane operators and field workers in our petroleum industry routinely pull down earnings in excess of $100,000 per year. 
I cannot count the number of students I have run into over the past decade or so, who passed through my college, went off to a university somewhere,  who are now working at coffee shops, restaurants or in low-paying retail sales jobs.  At no coffee shop is a degree in English or Psychology required – but at every university, debt often is.
Graduates from America’s colleges this spring have an average of over $29,000 in student loan debt.  Many of those graduates have selected majors that the laws of supply and demand are going to punish severely. 
It is a fact of our economic system that if you pick petroleum engineering, pharmacy, mathematics, computer software engineering, economics or other rigorous majors, you can expect to earn a good living over time.  That is because people who can handle the work in these areas are scarce, while demand is growing.
World-renowned education expert, Charles Murray has shown that in order to master some of the aforementioned disciplines, an IQ of at least 120 is necessary.  The problem, his research shows, is that roughly 10 percent of the population has an IQ this high.  Therefore, if 68 percent of our high school grads are going off to college, they are either going to have to major in something easy – and less valuable to employers – or they are going to most likely end up with debt and disappointment as they realize college as not for them.
Compounding this problem is taxpayer-support for college education.   Every semester I ask my students who is paying for their attendance in my class.  I have noticed over my 23 years as a college professor that students who are paying out of their own pocket usually survive with at least a passing grade.  Students who are taking up seats on the income taxes of other working Americans almost always fail or drop my class by the middle of the semester.   Thomas Paine once said, “That which we obtain too cheaply, we esteem to lightly.”  He was right.
If we really cared about young people in America, we would consider a radical change in our education philosophy.   My home country of Germany is a good model.
There, children are identified early in their lives for the potential to study at the university or to learn a trade.  Political correctness and delusions of grandeur are replaced with a realistic view of aptitude, intelligence and the probability of success.  This is what we need here.
It is morally wrong to keep bilking the taxpayers and lying to young people about their chances of success in college when we could help millions get into apprenticeships and trade schools to fill jobs where shortages – and high earnings – abound.
It is no disgrace to not attend college.  It is a disgrace to encourage people to waste four years of their lives doing something they will ultimately regret.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Another Perspective on Global Warming

If you have 10 minutes of your life to watch something very interesting on YouTube that might change your perspective on global warming, the video below is for you.
As you are watching this, I would like for you to think about all of the rules, regulations, taxes, mandates and government subsidies that have been imposed upon us and businesses in the name of fighting global warming. 
I look forward to hearing from you.  Please share this on Facebook with your friends.  Maybe with any luck we can create a voting class that demands the end of carbon taxes, ethanol mandates, crony-capitalism, fuel efficiency mandates, the banning of light bulbs and more.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Thoughts on Donald Sterling and the First Amendment

Yesterday, a former student (and a good one at that) emailed me with the following comments and questions:
Hi Professor Chambless
 A hot topic the past few days has been the NBA Sterling "case." When I first heard what was said I had an immediate emotional reaction as did most of the country, I'm sure. Though the next day I thought about what actually happened; a man had a conversation of opinion with a woman and he is now being attacked from all angles because this woman happened to tape it without his knowledge/permission. I immediately thought of the Freedom of Speech and how he has every right to think and say whatever he wants. I have my own opinions about the disgusting words that were said however, I am more interested in the rights being addressed with this situation. It got me thinking about The Law and whether it pertained to this particular situation and then I read an article by Allen West Folks you're missing the point about Donald Sterling.
With my current knowledge and understanding of The Law, forcing Mr. Sterling to sell his team seems like a violation of private property. The NBA banned him for life; which as an association they have the right to refuse anyone but, do they also have the right to force a sale of a team? Bastiat speaks of plundering but, does that only pertain to government? Knowing that government can and does violate private property; do you think the NBA has been influenced by this form of plunder?
My answer to her - and anyone else who might be interested would be this:
Donald Sterling does have a First Amendment right to divulge his views on race without any government official using force, threats or coercion to make him stop. 
The NBA is not the government.  The NBA has its own set of by-laws, rules and regulations.
I do not know if NBA rules allow the other owners to force him to sell his team.  I have no idea if the head of the NBA is legally allowed to ban him for life for private comments on race.  I would imagine he consulted NBA lawyers before the lifetime ban and lawyers will, of course, determine if the NBA can force the sale of his team.
What is clear - and what is often misunderstood by Americans everywhere - is that we do not have First Amendment protection from our employers when it comes to the idiotic or controversial things we put out in the public domain.  This goes for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other ways we might be inclined to share our views.
If I said what he said in a classroom, Valencia would be wise to fire me and no lawyer would take my case on First Amendment grounds.
Can Donald Sterling sue the person who secretly recorded his racist comments?  Perhaps - but that is a matter of state law - not a First Amendment issue.
It might be worth adding that we should all be grateful every time something like this happens and we should perhaps encourage more people like him to feel "safe" to enlighten us with other bigoted views.
When people like Donald Sterling are able to hide their warped view of human beings of other races, the rest of us keep giving them our money by buying their goods and services.  The more of these people we can get to open up and share what their craven hearts look like, the faster we can know which people to not engage in commerce with. 
In the meantime, if you are a closet racist or some other form of unsavory sort, you might want to remember that only government cannot get in the way of your mouth.  Your employer - and your customers - can.