Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Should Liberty get a Spanking

In a recent article ‘Discipline Debate: Spanking gets a timeout,’ they discuss if spanking is a good or bad practice. Either good or bad, does making spanking illegal fall under the constructs of liberty? Do you think the new spanking law will motivate a change for the better, are we incapable of making changes for the better? Is it right to infringe on someone’s parenting techniques? All this and more in “Should Liberty get a Spanking?”

It is quite apparent what many libertarians would say about this new bill. They would feel that it infringes on their liberty as parents, while other libertarians might say, “hitting another human being is against what liberty stands for, and at that moment the child would have the right to defend themselves.” What if the child is too young and incapable to defend themselves, do they have the right to be defended by the government? After reading the presuppositions of the classical liberal as defined by Barnett he revolves them all around the pursuit of happiness. I feel it is the child’s right to grow up in a family that will encourage the pursuit of happiness, and that is best done without physical abuse. In this case I think Barnett might side with making spanking illegal.

If this truly is a “better” method of parenting wouldn’t the general public be inclined to ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ Why would the government need to interact? Apparently, the incentives have not been strong enough for parents to shift their rearing techniques. Even though many benefits of non-physical reprimanding exist, “they found that spanking seemed to be associated with more aggressive behavior and increased anxiety.” (Slade 1) Also, Researcher Paul Frick of the University of New Orleans in Louisiana warns, “Even children who are only smacked occasionally are more likely to show signs of depression or lower self-esteem” Frick and his team, who studied the impact of corporal punishment on 98 children and published their results in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology said “they couldn't find any positive effects for spanking. Children on the receiving end of a slap can learn that when they are upset and angry they hit, he says, rather than understanding their behavior was wrong and that they need to do better.” (Clayton) Saying it is the right for a parent to hit their children is implying that they own their children, that they are the property of the owner. I do not think this is right. Libertarians speak of unalienable rights, to me this means no matter what age, race or gender, you have the right to the pursuit of happiness as long as you are not effecting another’s pursuit.

On the other side of the argument “The association (between hitting children and aggression) was weakest in Kenya, where physical punishment is culturally accepted and common. It was strongest in Thailand, where the culture generally discourages spanking.” (Slade 1) This makes me think that if we discourage spanking then it will become more taboo and children will feel more victimized when hit. Theoretically, this law could exacerbate the current societal effects of spanking.

All in all, I feel spanking and liberty can live under the same roof.
Eric Slade, PhD
Can Spanking Cause Aggression?
Victoria Clayton
Discipline Debate: Spanking gets a timeout

An Economist Tackles Autism

I read an article in the February 27th issue of the Wall Street Journal that I thought was pretty interesting. An economist from Cornell University, named Michael Waldmen, made waves when he published a paper that tried to show a link between autism and Television watching. The paper has incited the wrath of families and other experts, who believe evidence shows that genetics play the biggest role in determining whether a child develops autistic disorders, and have led people to question whether economists like Waldmen are "stepping over the line" and getting involved with issues that they shouldn't. Part of the discussion centeres around the method Waldmen used to come to his conclusions, the statstical teqnique of the Instrumental Variable, when a random or natural variable is introduced to help researchers sort out caue and effect. Often it is difficult to determin in research whether A causes B or B causes A. For example, if it was shown that autistic children watch a lot of TV, it could be that the TV causes them to be autistic, or that something about being Autistic makes them more interested in TV. The ideal instrumental variable is one that is shown to be correlated with A but has no direct effect of it;s own on B. If the data in the study shows that the instrumental variable is linked to B, then it suggests that A must be contriuting to B. The somewhat strange instrumental variable that Waldmen chose for his study was weather; because weather data and goverment time-use studies showed that kids were likely to watch more TV on days when they were forced to stay home due to weather, Waldmen used weather as the variable to help him determin if Autism was linked to TV viewing. The researchers took precipitation and autism data from Washington, California, and Oregon. The results seemed to show that children who grew up in years of unusually high precipiation were more likely to be diagnosed with Autism. A second study using the percentage of houselholds that prescribed to able as the instrument turned out similar results. Walden himself, however, is willing to admit that his hypothesis is not all inclusive, and that there are likely other triggers besides just TV watching that might cause the disorder. His interest in the subject began when he son was diagnosed at risk to evlop autistic behavior and Walden subsequently cut down on his child's TV watching and saw an obvious improvement in his behavior.

Anyway, I found the article pretty interesting because I have Asperger's Syndrome, a form of austism, and I'm always interested in reading stuff like this about the causes of the disorder. Personally I think that if TV is a factor in causing these disorders, that it's a smaller factor than genetics. But I thought the statistical method that the professor used for his research was interesting, I'd never heard of "instrumental variables" before.

Guest Workers

A recent article in the New York Times talked about the influx of guest workers and how they are being mistreated. Recruitment agencies in countries like Thailand bring workers over by promising that they will make about $16,000 a year to work in farms all over the country. To many Americans this is not enough money for the type of work they would have to do, but to a Thai farmer who is making about $500 a year in Thailand, coming to America to work seems like a great opportunity. The fact of the matter is that when they come over here there is only about two months work for them, and they do not end up getting paid as much as they were promised. They end up making about $1,400 to $2,400 a year; however, this is still more than they would be making in Thailand.
Many people in Washington are talking about how to stop the mistreatment and abuse of guest workers. There is not a simple answer to this problem. The industry is so large that there would not be enough people to do all the inspections( if that was the answer). In the process of hiring people to do these inspections we are creating inefficiency. This abuse is not a market failure that the state needs to correct. Inspecting would be a waist of money because you would have to pay government salaries for the inspectors. Is it unfair that they are being mistreated? Without a doubt. If efficiency is our goal then we don't care about fairness.
Another problem is with the recruitment agencies. They are not in the U.S., so they are not subject to U.S. laws. Many of the companies that higher guest workers pay the recruitment agencies or contractors the wages and they in turn pay the workers.
Should we stop guest workers from coming over and working in the farms? No. Many Americans would not like to admit that they like the benefit they receive from cheep labor. It is something that we would not realize how much we benefited from it until after it was gone.

Health Care, Interventionism, and Federal Government

President Bush's new budget for a health care program to insure millions of uninsured children has already failed to gain support. The program aims to insure people, primarily children, who do not qualify to use Medicaid. But, like according to Rothbard in For a New Liberty; Inherent in all government operation is a grave and fatal split between service and payment (196). The program depends on states who run budget surpluses to keep the other states afloat. There is enough money among states to cover short-term shortfalls, if states with surpluses would share with those with deficits, an idea that has little support among governors (Associated Press). Governors from both parties oppose this budget. The federal government is incapable of internalizing the costs of this program, so it wants the states to finish paying for it. Analysts say his [Bush's] spending plan would shortchange the health program even if the number of people served did not grow... The longterm shortfall is put at $10 billion to $15 billion over the next five years (Associated Press). As consumers demand more, the government must either produce more at higher costs, or allow shortages.

The Federal Government is incapable of producing public goods at an efficient price and quantity. According to Rothbard in For A New Liberty; there is no profit and loss mechanism in government to induce investment in efficient operations and to penalize and drive the inefficient or obsolete ones out of business (198). Government monopoly of public goods allows programs to be coercively forced on citizens. Free markets are much more cost effective and productive; they have the ability to cut costs and meet consumer demand. Should the federal government try and increase its already inefficient medical programs? No. The government relies on taxes, through coercion and sanction, as its capital. In this case, it relies on direct intervention from the states. That is not to say there is no coercion; the federal government may withhold federal funds from states who do not comply.


Liberty is generally considered a concept of political philosophy and identifies the condition in which an individual has the ability to act according to his or her own will as long as they dont harm another person. Can liberty be broken up into two different catagories positive and negative? A negative liberty is stated to be a liberty that gives us the ability to make our own choices. A positive liberty refers to the states active aid in our endeavors. The most common use of liberty is the use negative liberty and we see this in the first amendment. According to libitarians the most important liberty is the view of a negative liberty and that it is the most important of all values. The main focus of the negative liberty is to achieve our goals and without the goals this view would be empty. The government provides the positive liberties in that they provide student loans and grants along with libraries, public transportation, roads, parks, and other positive liberties. To understand the argument for governments positive liberties can be privitized there must be a complete understanding of the two liberties. If we were to privatize the roads of even schools this will make for those not able to pay not able to get an education. This will only make for more illiteracy in our country and with educated people they would rely on crimes to get there source of income. I dont agree with the idea of positive liberty trying to privitze things that shouldnt be privitized because the marginal cost will be greater than the marginal benefit which wouldnt be rational.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Government and Business

Growing up in the United States has both its highs and its lows. I love the freedom that we have and the many different ways we can use it. We still in some ways are the country where someone can go from “rags to riches,” however it does not happen as frequently as it used to. At the same time, we have a government that is now all powerful and can do whatever it wants because there is no power greater than it. When reading Murray Rothbard’s, “For a New Liberty,” he says so many things about our government that is totally correct. In chapter 10, he talks about “Government and Business,” and the things he says scares me, because he is so right.
I know that the businesses in our society that create the most income are those ran by the government. Things such as firefighters, police, electricity, water, and sewage for example are necessities in our society. It seems to me that a lot of our necessities are controlled by the government. If someone wanted to start their own business having to deal with supplying electricity for citizens there is no way he/she could do it. First of all the government would not allow it, however, if we look past that point, the cost of starting something like this is to high for over 99% of our population. And even if someone had enough money, the government would have the ability to reduce their prices so low that the person would have no choice but to go bankrupt. If anyone was to go up against the government, the winner would always be the same.
Something I learned while reading Rothbard is that the government does not need to worry about financial loss or going bankrupt because it will always have the ability to make up for financial loss thanks to the citizens of the United States of America.
“The government bureau does not get its income as does the private firm, from serving the consumer well or from consumer purchases of its products exceeding its costs of operation. No, the government bureau acquires its income from mulcting the long-suffering taxpayer. Its operations therefore become inefficient, and costs zoom, since government bureaus need not worry about losses or bankruptcy; they can make up their losses by additional extractions from the public till” (Liberty 200).
This is something that pisses me off about our country. When the government needs money for a new plant, all they do is take it away from its citizens. I work hard and it frustrates me when I have to pay so much money in taxes so that the government has funding for its projects which will create some product that I will later on have to pay for. The way the government runs is just not fair, and I understand that life is not fair, but if I want to open my own business I first have to find a way in order to pay for everything that I have to have in order to run my business. I’ll tell you what, it would be so easy, oh so easy, if all I had to do in order to start my business was burrow money from others and never have to pay them back. This essentially is what the government does.

Another topic that Rothbard talked about that I found interesting was about the government and “shortages.” He talks about how regular business works compared to how the government does business. “If consumer demand should increase for the goods or services of any private business, the private firm is delighted; it woos and welcomes the new business and expands its operations eagerly to fill the new orders. Government, in contrast, generally meets this situation by sourly urging or even ordering consumers to “buy” less, and allows shortages to develop” (Liberty 201). This is something that I have had to deal with personally. A couple of summers ago Colorado Springs was going through a drought and the city made restrictions so that households could only use a certain amount of water. I remember we were only allowed to water our lawns in the early morning or after sunset. The way they enforced this is by having police periodically driving through the neighborhoods and giving fines to those who were not cooperating with the law. It is just funny to me how a lot of the businesses owned by the government are always restricting us while private businesses are always encouraging us to buy more.
Another thing I hate about the government is that they are never wrong, and it is always us who are wrong. Rothbard gives a great example of this; “Failing to supply enough water, and failing to price that water in such a way as to clear the market, to equate supply and demand (which private enterprise does automatically), New York’s response to water shortages has always been to blame not itself, but the consumer, whose sin has been to use “too much” water” (Liberty 201). I believe that if all of sudden there is a shortage then it is the governments fault for not foreseeing something like this and making changes in its operation in order to avoid it. You would think with all of its resources the government could do something like this but I guess it must be harder than it seems.
I really enjoyed the reading by Rothbard and this honestly is the first reading that I have enjoyed for the class thus far. It probably has to do with the fact that I for the most part agree with his views on our government and the way it does business. I wish I could for one day be one of the people who “are” the government to see what their life is like and see how the government actually works.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Immigration and Minimum Wage Issues

In a memo I came across on the interent, Alan Krueger, the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Princeton argued that increased immigration has little impact on wages for low income domestic workers. He goes on further to argue for raising the minimum wage, if we want to be serious about helping low income workers. It is strange to hear an economist that is arguing pro minimum wage laws, but that is exactly what he does. Im sure he is aware that minimum wage laws and increases often cause an increase in structural unemployment. The equilibrium wage is lower than the policy set market wage, and will result in less positions of employment demanded. So in the end, instead of helping a portion of low income workers by raising their wage, they are confronted with unemployment. Raising minimum wages will only take away more jobs from domestic workers, since they are the ones which the new laws will affect. Illegal immigrants are often paid under the table, and immigrant work is more like a black market for labor. The black market price for immigrant workers will not rise like that of the legal domestic worker who would be entitled to a higher wage under the new law. This will in turn put more strain on domestic workers looking for employment in low-skill industires. Krueger goes on to say how we must protect the rights of illegal immigrants and should prevent the exploitation of immigrant and domsetic workers. I believe we should protect peoples rights, but saying that we are going to prevent exploitation is just silly. Exploitation is one of the keys of capitalism, without exploitation there would be no profit. In actuality every worker regardless of wage is exploited in a capitalist economy.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Further sanctions are to be put on Iran in an attempt to force suspension of their nuclear program. The U.N. has decided that this is a necessary action after an investigation by the security council. the new sanctions include more people and companies on the list, additional prohibited items, economic measures and a the nuclear embargo expanded to an arms embargo.

Iran says that its nuclear development plan is a peaceful one. That is one of the most ridiculous statements I've ever heard. There is nothing peaceful about nuclear weapons. if one's intentions were in fact peace then why would developing weapons be one of your policies?Certainly, a little concern is natural. What are their intentions with the weapons? Why are they so adamant about developing them? But, the larger question is should the U.N. interfere?

The U.N. has issued sanctions but there is really no way to enforce them. it has already been suggested that Russia and China both will not honor the sanctions. These measures seem more like a formality to make people feel more secure than an actual solution.

If we consider the dilemma in terms of liberty. The researcher/developers seem to be participating willfully and aware of the risks of radiation. Developing and possessing nuclear weapons does not harm anyone. This is an extreme case of the drunk driver, the actions are not hurting anyone, if we are respecters of liberty we cannot interfere unless harm is caused. We do not take measures to prevent harm. Although it is difficult for me personally it seems that it is their right to develop and have the weapons. in this extreme case i would feel better if the harm was prevented rather than acted on when the harm occurred. It also seems rather hypocritical, I am under no illusions that the U.S. and other major countries has no nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction. How can we restrict the rights of others that we ourselves have?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Important Announcement For Class

The reading this week by Norman Barry is just supposed to be excerpts. I've sent an email to each of you with the excerpted required reading attached to it. I thought I would post here as well just in case you are working on your post for this month and missed your email.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Racial Lanscape of America

Recently I read an article in the Washington Post concerning the amount of immigrants working for lawn care companies in America. This piece focuses on immigrants who have come to America to work low-skill jobs. The debate on this has gone on for a while and it seems that most people are of the thought that immigrants who take low-skill work in the U.S. are hurting the economy and creating less of a job market for citizens of the country. I tend to side with the minority of people on this issue.

America has changed substantially over a relatively short period of time. It has come from a well oiled industrial machine into a leading market economy. 50 years ago, working on telephone poles for 10 hours a day was more than enough to support a family and live comfortably. Nowadays, while not losing any respectability, jobs like these have lost a lot of their value. A person trying to support a family and live comfortably on construction salary is going to have a hard time just making ends meat. America as a whole has traded in its hammer and nails for a suit and tie. And most Americans aren’t looking to mow lawns, clean houses, or do road work. They want to be marketing reps, stock brokers, doctors, and lawyers. So, most would agree that immigrants aren’t taking our most highly coveted jobs. That’s not to say every American will work for a big fancy company when they are ready to enter the job market. Policemen, firefighters, truck drivers, and handymen are some of the jobs that will always be needed and highly valued.

But what about young people who are looking for a summer job or something to help get them through college? The fact is that the owners of maid services and small lawn care companies don’t want these part time workers who might leave at the drop of a hat. They want some stability in their business and they get it from immigrants. Most of the people who immigrate into America from the Hispanic countries to the south will work for 5 or more years trying to earn enough capital to either send money home to their families or begin a new life in the States. Since most of these people are uneducated; they take the low-skill jobs that only require two hands and a lot of sweat. Lawn care companies and the like love this because they get hard working individuals who will work for less than most (the owner in the article pays 10 dollars an hour). For Citizens, there is still a plethora of good part time jobs to be had. Restaurants, banks, customer service entities, and others are always looking for hard working individuals who will work part time.

I do understand that with illegal immigration many employers have bad hiring practices. But I really feel that immigrants are taking jobs that most Americans don’t want and doing a great job at them. With the way our society has changed over time, it was only going to be a while before we outsourced physical labor to those who would do it longer, harder, and for less.