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Political Elites Are Working Hard To Keep The Average Family Out Of The Process

In the Ocean State, the political elites work hard to keep the average family out of the process. It appears that the Board of Elections and the Secretary of State’s office have deliberately left the door open for individuals to register to vote and cast a vote, without ever providing personally identifying information as required by state and federal law. As I have said before, the scale of these findings potentially shake the very foundation of our state’s democracy … and must be formally and independently investigated.

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For Some, Driving Out Producers Is a Feature, Not a Bug

A father-and-son op-ed in the Wall Street Journal notes that California’s cap-and-trade energy scheme (like Rhode Island’s) misses the reality that companies can simply leave and, moreover, have incentive to do so:

Yet the law’s designers still have not confronted the central conundrum of trying to impose a state or regional climate policy: As firms compete for a limited supply of carbon permits, they are put at a disadvantage to out-of-state rivals. Production flees the state, taking jobs and tax revenues with it. Emissions “leak” outside California’s cap to other jurisdictions.

Of course, as we can readily observe in Rhode Island, this works out just fine for people who have jobs (often because they’re politically connected) and the wealth to tolerate higher energy prices.  They’re happy to pay more for energy… for everything… if they get to feel good about “being green” and never coming across any energy-production plants that don’t give them a thrill of self virtue, like wind turbines might.  Those to whom that doesn’t apply, however, find that they have incentive to leave the state, as well.

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Expertise as a Means of Avoiding Democratic Accountability

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A Tricky Balance on Birthrates

This chart, from Jo Craven McGinty’s Wall Street Journal article on teen pregnancy ultimately presents the United States with an existential choice:

WSJ-birthratesbyage-1986-2016

The positive headline masks a matter that’s potentially of grave concern.  Not just teenagers, but every age group below 30-44 is down.  That’s not a health trend, if we consider population to be a positive indicator.

When this topic comes up, we hear a lot about replacement levels and the number of children each woman has, but nobody ever mentions how rate matters.  Consider a family that has historically had its first children at around 20 years old.  If that family moves to first children at 40, that reduces the rate at which each generation produces the next even if every woman ultimately has the same number of children as before.

Under the first rate, when one woman is 60, she’ll be witnessing the birth of her first great grandchild, for a total of four generations.  Under the slower rate, her daughter will only be halfway to having her first child, so two generations, and grandma will probably never meet a great grandchild.

Naturally, there’s a balance to be found.  We don’t want teenagers bringing children into an overpopulated world to parents who aren’t able to care for them.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the overall rate of births is down.  Older women aren’t making up for the reduction among younger women and girls, in large part, probably, because they just have less time to add to the number once they start.

Of course, however much we may be able to draw lines and analyze the data, we can’t micromanage these sorts of trends, meaning that there may be no way to increase childbirths in women’s 20s without also stopping the drop among teenagers.  If we consider this to be a problem for our society, the fixes are largely cultural and are therefore long-term projects.

One thing we should do, however, is to eliminate whatever part of this trend is attributable to young adults’ lack of opportunity.

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Socialism Selects for Psychopaths

The quotation below is an especially interesting point from a generally compelling review of psychologist and neuroscientist Abigail Marsh’s book, The Fear Factor.  In her book, Marsh presents research showing that altruists and psychopaths are at different ends of the spectrum when it comes to responding biologically to visible fear in other people.  That is, a picture of a fearful person triggers a more significant response in the (bigger) amygdalas of altruistic people than it does in the (smaller) amygdalas of psychotic people.

She even suggests that altruism toward strangers may be more likely in individualistic societies like the U.S. than in collectivist societies like China. This seems counterintuitive, but the idea is that in individualistic societies there is more social fluidity—strangers might always become friends, so it makes more sense to help them.

That’s one dynamic by which social evolutionary forces might make people individualistic societies more altruistic than those in socialistic societies, but I’d propose another.  When government steps in to claim the job of caring for and protecting people, it allows everybody to ignore fear and other expressions of need because they have no individual responsibility.

Another implication of this line of thinking is that the power structures of socialism (also communism, progressivism, and so on) will select for those who focus on the collective over individuals’ fear.  After all, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few; omelets must be broken for the greater good.  Given their relative response to others’ fear, who will better serve the state in this project, the empathetic or the psychopaths?

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Surreal, Unhealthy Sexism on the Opinion Pages

Today’s Newport Daily News reprints an op-ed that that Suzanne Fogarty, the head of the private Lincoln School in Providence, first published on the Web site of the Girls Scouts of Southern New England.  Now, in the spirit of practical consideration, we should remember that Ms. Fogarty has a (very expensive) school to promote, so we can only go so far in begrudging an all-girls school its sales pitch.

That said, this paragraph reads like a text that one might come across from some society that had succumbed to a strange bigotry.  Enlightened moderns can’t help but see the injustice and incongruity of the ideas, but even the most enlightened within the thus-tainted culture may not have been able to see it through the haze of their environments:

While I believe the Boy Scouts’ decision to admit girls is a step toward gender equity, that move in no way devalues the remarkable female-first environment that the Girl Scouts is committed to providing. Some people believe that if their daughters go to an all-girls school, then they will not be prepared for the co-ed world. The opposite is true. Lincoln students and Girl Scouts are more prepared because they are encouraged to be themselves every day in a culture that knows and supports them. They practice the hard stuff of trial and error, which leads to resilience, and resilience in turn leads to confidence. This becomes part of their DNA, which girls take with them into the world of college and beyond.

Denying boys a space in which to be themselves in a “remarkable male-first environment” is “equity.”  Granting girls such a space is “empowerment.”  Sure seems like we’re writing off one half of a generation. That an educator would do this so casually illustrates how far we’ve gone into the haze. Given that most Boy Scouts are veritably guaranteed to be of lesser socioeconomic advantage compared with Lincoln’s clientele gives the double standard a more insidious feel.

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A Lesson in How Not to Grow the Economy

I’m a bit more skeptical about claims of an American magic in economic growth than the conservative norm, believing that we’ve bought a great deal of our growth by surviving World War II intact and then by borrowing from the future with debt.  But that’s more of a downward adjustment than a contradiction of the power of the American engine.

My agreement with the standard conservative economic view is stronger in the negative:  Bigger government, higher taxes, more regulations, and the entire socialist-progressive project harms the economy and hurts families (which hurts individuals).  These thoughts arise upon reading Peter Ferrara in The Observer (via Instapundit), about the effects of President Obama’s reversal of President Reagan’s pro-growth strategy:

This is why the economy never recovered from the 2008-09 financial crisis, and why instead we got the worst economic recovery from a Recession since the Great Depression, with only 2 percent economic growth. America’s historical record is that the worse the recession is the stronger the recovery, as the economy grows faster than normal for a couple of years to catch up to where it should be on the long-term trendline. That is why we should have come out of the financial crisis in a long-term economic boom, potentially stronger than even Reagan’s.

But to this day, eight years later, that still has not yet happened. Instead, we are still $2 to $3 trillion below where we should be.

This is why Democrats lost the 2016 election. Trump promised to restore Reagan’s pro-growth policies. Hillary promised more of the same Obama failure.

From our perch in Rhode Island, we can surmise that the national Democrats thought they’d achieved what Rhode Island Democrats have: Such complete dominance, with so thoroughly controlled a political system, that they couldn’t lose the electoral game on a scale large enough to cost them power, collectively.  Once a party has achieved that, it gains generations during which it only has to restrain its cronyism, greed, and totalitarian impulses sufficiently not to cause a civic revolution and coast.

But reality has gravity, so the ground will eventually be reached.  If only Rhode Islanders would realize what Americans more generally seem not to have forgotten:  It’s much more difficult to get back off the ground than to allow our fellow passengers to turn the engine back on.

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Bad Week for the Narrative: Big Revisions of Graduation Data

It wasn’t a good week for the narrative.  The number of jobs based in Rhode Island slipped back below the pre-recession peak, eroding the governor’s talking points about economic advancement.  And now Dan McGowan reports this on WPRI.com:

The R.I. Department of Education disclosed Thursday the state’s four-year graduation rate for the 2015-16 school year was 82.8%, lower than the 85.3% mark the department announced in February.

The change means the percentage of students who entered high school during the 2012-13 school year and completed it during the 2015-16 school year is lower than the 83.2% graduation rate announced in the previous school year. The revised number shows the rate actually dipped slightly in 2015-16, rather than rising.

Charles Murray’s book, Losing Ground, looked at the effects of government policy on families’ well-being.  It would seem Rhode Island could use a bit of that same thinking, emulating both the focus and the policy implications.

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MA Test Results: About the Test or Sign of Trouble?

We’re so used to hearing good education news out of Massachusetts that this AP report from Steve LeBlanc might jar against our expectations:

Just half of Massachusetts students in grades three through eight met or exceeded expectations on the new “next generation MCAS test” in math and English — the first time the test has been administered.

Massachusetts education officials publicly released the spring 2017 test results on Wednesday.

Educators were quick to caution against making direct comparisons between a student’s performance on the new test and the original, nearly 20-year-old, MCAS.

Of course, new tests can’t be compared with old tests.  In Massachusetts, however, the MCAS results were backed up by nation-leading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  Those scores have been stagnant, however, since around 2006, when then-governor Deval Patrick diluted accountability measures on behalf of the teachers unions.

When the next round of NAEP scores come out we’ll have some indication of whether the new state-based test is just overly challenging or the results really do indicate a state that’s losing ground and needs to renew its education-reform vows.

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Ethics Commission Moves Forward on Edwards Complaint

Because the complaint that I filed with the state Ethics Commission against Town Council Vice President John Edwards, V, has become a subject of statewide interest, I’ll post updates as they occur.  Today, I received a letter from the Ethics Commission (click for PDF) informing me that the commission is moving the matter forward:

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-12(c)(2), and Commission Regulation 1003(c), the Rhode Island Ethics Commission determined on October 17, 2017, that the above-captioned Complaint alleges facts sufficient to constitute a violation of the provisions of the Rhode Island Code of Ethics.

The Commission will conduct an investigation of the allegations contained in the Complaint, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-12(c) and Commission Regulation 1004.  You will be informed of further action pursuant to the requirements of the Code of Ethics.

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