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Grumbling About East Side Progressives

One hopes (but doubts) that John Walsh’s opinion is on the increase in Rhode Island:

Our elected representatives on the East Side are progressives, a misnomer if ever there was one. Their priorities are ranting at President Donald Trump, advocating for more illegal immigrants, concern over Roe v. Wade, and other “progressive” issues.

As the quality of life deteriorates here, no one seems to be concerned over the many local issues. The criminals who prey on the East Side are not worried about being caught. They immediately go shopping with the stolen credit cards.

As the elections are almost upon us, it seems all the candidates claim to be progressive. What a shame. We’re getting very little value for the taxes we pay here.

The thing is:  Progressivism doesn’t work to produce the lives that people want to live, so progressives must always be directing your eyes elsewhere.

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A Democrat Candidate Who Can Help to Change the Political Conversation

What’s striking is that ordinary followers of culture and politics in Rhode Island could very well never hear the perspective that Providence College theologian and Democrat candidate for state representative Holly Taylor Coolman expressed so well in an interview with Charles Camosy for Crux:

I have tried to be clear about what a pro-life stance means for me. It’s rooted in this fundamental commitment to human dignity. It’s rooted in my belief that we have to fight the temptation to exercise our own freedom at the expense of others. And it is indispensably connected to larger concerns: Everything from prison reform to affordable housing to protecting water sources has to do with respecting life. As a woman, I am deeply aware of the challenges that women have faced and continue to face. I just believe that we can find options that respect both women’s dignity and freedom and also the lives of unborn children.

Coolman (running in District 5, Providence) touches on one of the more peculiar differences between the Left and Right in Western discourse these days.  Conservatives tend to emphasize leaving people free of mandates from government, with the proviso that social norms and institutions should be in place to help them “fight the temptation to exercise [their] own freedom at the expense of others,” as Coolman puts it.  Progressives, in contrast, seem to believe that people should be free of all social restraints on whatever the government gives them permission to do.

For the moment, at least, we can imagine having the pleasure of Coolman’s forcing these sorts of debates in Rhode Island politics.

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When Problems Begin to Resolve Without Our Involvement

Glenn Reynolds sure does summarize the impression many of us have when we come across information like the United States’ having hit a seven-decade low, per capita, in carbon dioxide emissions, falling in absolute terms even as the rest of the world increases.  Writes Reynolds:

It doesn’t count if you get this result without expanding governmental power.

But it should.  Two problems arise, though.  The first is that, obviously, people who want to seize power through centralized government will look for reasons to do so, whether a foreign adversary, moral decay, or a changing environment.  A second is less blameworthy:  We tend to feel as if a problem has not been addressed unless somebody has addressed it.  If the problem seems to improve naturally, then that’s just the way it happened.

A challenge for conservative generally is that our proposed solutions most often have an element of letting problems fix themselves with a minimal nudge from us.

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Public Funding of the Press?

Here’s an interesting item, via former Providence Journal editorial page editor Robert Whitcomb:

In a very modest effort to help save local journalism, New Jersey is enacting a law that dedicates $5 million in state money to strengthen local media outlets. They’re very important as watchdogs in America’s decaying democracy. Political and other corruption rises as journalism fades.

I’m a bit skeptical about the premise.  So, we’ve got “very important… watchdogs” protecting us against “political and other corruption,” and the solution is to increase the extent to which they’re dependent upon government for funding?

The fact that the $5 million would be handed out by a consortium of universities is no comfort.  Even if they weren’t (at a minimum) dominated by public institutions, universities are overwhelmingly left-wing, which will color the news that they support.  Maybe fears about funding a government-news system could be somewhat abated if the consortium were a clever collection of balanced political and ideological interests, but the attempt isn’t even made.

In other words, a propaganda network doesn’t cease to be one simply because the funding passes through the hands of government’s reliable allies, who are also overwhelmingly allies of a particular political party.

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The Fruits of a Society That Decouples Marriage and Children

These findings are closely related to debates among those of us who were writing about same-sex marriage back in the early ’00s:

Calling cohabitation a socially “normative behavior,” the article noted an 82 percent increase between 1987 and 2010 of women who have cohabited at some point, as reported in a study by demographer Wendy Manning.

Cohabiting couples are also increasingly more likely to have children. There has been a 15 percent increase in cohabiting parents from 1997 to 2017, a Pew Research study found.

“Due primarily to the rising number of cohabiting parents, the share of unmarried parents who are fathers has more than doubled over the past 50 years,” Pew reported.

“Cohabitation has greatly increased in large measure because, while people are delaying marriage to ever greater ages, they are not delaying sex, living together, or childbearing,” the IFS said, noting that “almost all of the increase in non-marital births in the US since 1980 has taken place in the context of cohabiting unions.”

Nobody claimed that broadening the definition of marriage to include intimate couples that, by their nature, could not create children would produce these trends. Rather, these trends were underway, and codifying same-sex marriage in the law locks them in.

The connection is obvious. With the introduction of same-sex marriage, people simply can’t claim that the creation of children is part of marriage (and vice versa), even thematically. Marriage becomes entirely about the feelings of adults about each other, and any children they create are incidental. That approach is corrosive for both the relationships of the parents and the relationships of the parents with their children, who are no longer conceived as the embodiment of the parents’ joining.

The parents’ relationship, even if a marriage, is now purely contractual and separate from its fruits. This won’t work out well in the long run.

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The Nationalization of Campaign Funding

When you’ve got a running Internet search on your state’s name, curious items sometimes find their way into your field of vision.  Such is the case with this article about the campaign finances of Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin, a Democrat:

Benjamin also received 11 donations from various attorneys and businesspeople from the state of Rhode Island. The 11 gifts from the Rhode Islanders totaled $8,300, or 36 percent of the money the mayor raised for the quarter.

The donations from the Rhode Island residents were logged on June 6.

The article mentions that Benjamin was in Boston for the next few days for a U.S. Conference of Mayors, so one can easily imagine the scene:  Partisan organizers set him up with an event here and there (maybe he knows somebody from Rhode Island), and a handful of wealthy people were able to give him enough money that it amounted to a notable third of his fundraising for the quarter.

Still, one thinks of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo and her jaunts across the country to gather up campaign funds, making up a majority of her collections.  What are these people buying?

Some of them, no doubt, hope to make a good impression for purposes of inside deals, but all of them?  Is this just a broad network of “you back my guy, and I’ll back yours,” thus multiplying campaign donations beyond legal limits?

That possibility raises a counter-cultural thought:  If these wealthy “attorneys and businesspeople” could give more of their political donations locally, there might not be a market for this national network.  Sure, that means they’d be able to give money directly to the people who can give them political favors, but one suspects the politicians know who, locally, is making connections for them in other states.

Moreover, in the case of Raimondo, her massive fundraising haul is starting to look like a lifeline for her reelection, and ultimately, the quality it rewards is little more than the ability to tap into a national funding vein.  At least with larger amounts of local contributions, the funds would be an indication of local support, which would be bound up with local concerns and our own internal political battles.

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The Lead Questions from the Other Side of America

Somehow, it seems like the sorts of questions that John Hinderaker posed the other day don’t seem to be asked very often in the course of reporting on national political scandals.  Yesterday, I summarized the two sides on the scene, and I think it’s important for people in Rhode Island to understand that there are live questions not answered by the standard Democrat-media talking points.

Here’s a marker of what many of us have no sense we don’t know:

Time was getting short for the insurance policy.

Four days later the same team was emailing about rushing to get approval for another FISA warrant for another Russia-related investigation code-named “Dragon.”

I confess that I can’t keep up with the ever-expanding FBI scandal, but do we know what “Dragon” is, and how it differs from “Crossfire Hurricane”? Whatever Dragon was, it apparently had to do with stopping the Trump campaign, as Strzok and Page were eager to get it off the ground.

Now, one can reasonably speculate about what direction all this will go, whether there is anything of substance here, and whether peculiar actions by government agents were justifiable, but one can’t reasonably dismiss these questions as a distraction.  At the very least, there is plausible evidence of an actual, honest-to-goodness conspiracy within government to affect our political process and the resulting presidency.

Frankly, I have trouble trusting anybody who encourages us to look away from that.  What do such people not want us to discover, or is their real fear that they’ll lose their ability to do such things in the future?

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Helpfully Missing an Economic Boom

One can’t help but wonder whether findings like this would be much more pervasively proclaimed among mainstream news sources if the president were of the other political party:

Trump, it turns out, has been the most consequential president in history when it comes to minority employment. In June, for instance, the unemployment rate for Hispanics and Latinos 16 years and older fell to 4.6%, its lowest level ever, from 4.9% in May. The previous all-time low was 4.8%.

African-American unemployment bounced up from its all-time low of 5.9% in May to 6.5% in June. But that 6.5% still represents the second-lowest unemployment reading ever for Black Americans.

The editorial writers for Investors Business Daily who wrote those paragraphs also suggest that increasing prosperity might indicate a change in voting habits.  And that kinda makes one wonder something else.

If a thriving economy from a regimen of tax cuts and regulatory reform can shift the political winds, the party that these trends would disfavor have incentive to keep the economy from thriving… at least in circumstances for which it can’t take credit.  Indeed, the ideal circumstance (if it works) would be for everybody to have a feeling that their fortunes depend on government — specifically, government with a particular political party in power.  So, corporate types feel as if officials’ helping hands are critical to their success, and low-end workers feel as if meddling laws prevent their devastation, and everybody in between has some reason to feel bought off.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), that approach doesn’t work.  The incentives are all wrong, and the system can’t self correct.

In the meantime, Rhode Island isn’t fully benefiting from the national upswing, which has the helpful consequence that people in Rhode Island remain more susceptible to the false narrative of the ruling party.

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Teacher Unions and Students’ Earnings

Robert Verbruggen highlights what appears to be the same study I mentioned in January, although the researchers have increased the magnitude of the effect of teacher unionization on students’ future earnings:

We find robust evidence that exposure to teacher collective bargaining laws worsens the future labor market outcomes of men: in the first 10 years after passage of a duty-to-bargain law, male earnings decline by $2,134 (or 3.93%) per year and hours worked decrease by 0.42 hours per week. The earnings estimates for men indicate that teacher collective bargaining reduces earnings by $213.8 billion in the US annually. We also find evidence of lower male employment rates, which is driven by lower labor force participation. Exposure to collective bargaining laws leads to reductions in the skill levels of the occupations into which male workers sort as well. Effects are largest among black and Hispanic men.

Verbruggen expresses skepticism, as he should for a study that has a bit of that too-good-to-be-true feel for conservatives, but I’m not sure he’s considering the mechanisms.  For instance, he emphasizes that the study focused on men because (his words) “the labor market for women changed so dramatically in this time period.”  Having this ready excuse could lead one to be too quick to dismiss an underlying mechanism or indirect cause.

For instance, from the 1987-1988 school year to the 2011-2012 school year, the percentage of public school teachers who were men dropped from 29.5% to 23.7% (or one out of every three to one out of every four).  If the same rate of decrease extends back in time, the percentage of male teachers at the beginning of the study window would have been much higher.  That could suggest that the apparent effects of teachers’ collective bargaining are actually effects of a changing workforce, or it could suggest that the demographic trend is a result of collective bargaining.

In any event, it will be interesting to see whether the ability of government school employees to avoid union membership will have an effect on the percentage of men in the classroom, the career results of students, or both.

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Transgression and Customers in Small-Venue Theaters

Need to take a break from politics?  Turn to the culture war for a moment.  Thomas Curry raises an interesting question in a recent letter to the Providence Journal.  He and his wife were “subscribers” to the recently closed 2nd Story Theatre in Warren for two decades, but then:

Over the last several years, we noticed a trend in the selection of plays that we found unsettling. We had decided not to renew our subscription for the coming season, which was a disappointing end to a long-term relationship.

Gratuitous profanity and genres that seemed to target a segment of theatergoers outside of our interests seemed to be on the increase. In some performances a few years ago, there was full frontal male nudity. Since then, I have been reluctant to invite a friend or my grandchildren to a performance, fearing embarrassment because of over-the-top flamboyance, profanity or even nudity. We also noticed that there were more and more empty seats.

Some of my most fond memories are of small-venue theater performances of classics and semi-classics — from Shakespeare to Wait Until Dark to Death Takes a Holiday to The Price, and I’ve hoped that a more stable household budget and a loosening schedule (someday) would allow for more such experiences.

I wonder, though, whether those owners, directors, and actors who gravitate toward (or get stuck in) these small venues have a greater inclination to be transgressive.  Strong social standards once put some restraints on that inclination; even beyond the question of direct marketability, one just didn’t push the envelope too far.  For my money, that tension made for better art.  Subtle transgression is necessarily smarter and more profound, if only because of the ambiguity it requires.

But standards have long been deteriorating and have been wiped away entirely in recent years.  Some precincts have a strong standard to always attack the old standards, and we’re reaching the point that clever, subtle transgression can only be accomplished in support of traditional values.

This context creates some intriguing opportunities.  Perhaps a small-venue theater that explicitly stuck to the vast library of classics and semi-classics could fill their seats with the likes of Mr. Curry and me.  And perhaps it could periodically sneak in a play with some subversive cultural conservatism.

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Memo to Brown Politics Experts: Distrust of Government Is Not New

Reading Kevin Andrade’s Providence Journal article on a poll just released by Brown University’s Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy, one might get the impression that Americans are newly distrustful of the federal government:

Democrats hold a nine-point lead heading into the midterm elections and one in five people distrust the federal government, a poll from Brown University found.

“I think so much is in play with the House race that it’s too soon to tell,” said Susan Moffitt, director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy at Brown University, which conducted the poll.

“A lot could happen,” she said. “What’s more interesting to me is the distrust question. That’s going to be with us for a long time.”

Actually, the distrust has already been with us for a pretty long time.  According to Pew polls, one could accurately say that only one-in-five Americans has trusted the government consistently since 2009.  Taubman’s finding that trust in local government is much higher is also nothing new.

We’ll see where these numbers go over the next couple of years, but they seem to follow the economy to some degree, which suggests they might be on the upswing.  On the other hand, one could reasonably theorize that constant media attacks on Republican administrations have contributed to the two periods that trust has fallen this low — and everything we’re hearing about the FBI, lately, should suppress trust, too — so there will be downward pressure, as well.

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Incentive for a Disability

News of a former employee of the Rhode Island House Minority office who has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit claiming that Minority Leader (and gubernatorial candidate) Patricia Morgan discriminated against her raises a topic to which our society has perhaps not devoted sufficient debate:

Masciarelli says in her complaint that she suffers from depression, and she alleges Morgan told multiple people she needed to be fired before she was covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Morgan says Masciarelli was fired due to her poor work ethic and she never knew of the woman’s disability. Morgan says she was cleared by the state Commission for Human Rights.

If emotional conditions are going to start carrying the same protections as physical conditions, we’re entering a legal thicket.  When a disability is physical, one can more-easily differentiate between employment decisions that have directly to do with an ability to accomplish necessary tasks and discrimination.  With emotional conditions, where does a “poor work ethic” end and a protected disability begin?

Indeed, the availability of such protections creates incentive for employees to seek diagnoses, and because psychology is more subjective than physicality, fraud would be more difficult to prove.  Even without bringing fraud into the picture, though, doesn’t anything that creates incentive to have a mental health problem make it less likely that the person will overcome it?

How long, one wonders, until people begin to claim that the stresses of their jobs created the hazardous (i.e., stressful) condition circumstances that led to emotional disabilities?

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Chutzpa and Beach-Front Sign Questions Around Trillo

The latest fight for independent gubernatorial candidate Joe Trillo is against the Town of Narragansett, which has been trying to get him to remove a giant political sign from a family-owned beach-front property that his sister currently occupies.  The story has a number of angles that might pull a political theorist in conflicting directions.  On one hand, doesn’t a town have a right to set some restrictions on signs in residential zones?

Even if the Trillo property on Ocean Road wasn’t in a “public” zoning district, Manni said, the sign would be too large. In residential districts the maximum size for a yard sign is 6 square feet, he said.

On the other hand, how could a town (or state) possibly have the Constitutional ability to ban specific kinds of speech?

… since political signs are banned anywhere in town until 60 days before voters head to the polls, Trillo would have to wait September before he could advertise for the November general election.

On this count, the law will surely fall the very first time anybody challenges it, and it would be interesting for that anybody to be Joe Trillo.  Of course, that doesn’t mean the sign should stay.  It’s difficult to have sympathy for the property owners on small-government grounds after reading this:

Trillo acknowledged that the private residential property, occupied by his sister, sits in a zoning district designed for public land that does not allow the use of any private signs.  But he says the town should be working with him to remedy the situation, a result of his family decades ago having sold the state the beachfront land.

Without digging into the details, one can infer that the Trillos availed themselves of one of those schemes that allows a property owner to sell property (or development rights) to the government while maintaining ownership of the structure, or some similar arrangement, thus getting out from under taxes and, in some circumstances, blocking others from developing land that might otherwise be sold in subdivisions.

So, yeah, when you manipulate the law to get special treatment for your property, demanding to be able to use that property for your own political advertising takes a bit of chutzpa.

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How About a No-Poach Agreement with Government on Private Decisions

Here’s another example of people who have a certain philosophy seeing government as a sort of universal corporate board or universal labor union:

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is leading a coalition of Democratic state attorneys general seeking information about “no-poach” agreements meant to block employees from leaving one fast food franchise to work for another franchise in the same chain.

Healey says Monday the agreements limit the ability of low-wage workers to seek promotions and earn a better living.

The attorneys general say 80 percent of fast food franchisors have no-poach agreements.

Franchises make agreements with their lead corporations for a host of reasons, from marketing to supply purchases to business operations.  They’re simply a step removed from a more-straightforward corporate structure, in which the executives would be able to set policy for when and how employees can transfer from branch to branch.

The key point — that which makes this not a matter of corporate giants versus the little-guy employees — is that these are all ways of making decisions and balancing interests.  The big-government view breaks everything into power, rather than relationships of shared interest, and posits elected officials and bureaucrats as overseers balancing interests.

A shared-interest perspective reveals this to be oversimplified to the point of falsehood.  Good employees are valuable to corporations, which won’t impose burdensome restrictions on them.  A great register operator who wants to move up into management can always move out… to a similar company, so the chain doesn’t have incentive to shackle him or her to the front counter rather than share within the brand.

But that interest has to be balanced against other considerations, like the trust of franchisees that the corporation won’t set them up to fail in competition with each other for customers and employees.  Government isn’t in a position to (or very good at) making these decisions for people, and should stay out of them in the absence of truly egregious abuses.

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How’re the Tolls Doing So Far?

As Larry Gillheeney and Monique Chartier have both already noted, the American Trucking Association has filed a lawsuit against Rhode Island for uniquely targeting its members (and other interstate truck drivers) with tolls.  With this topic in mind the Ocean State Current contacted the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to check in on how the tolls are performing, thus far.

According to a spokesperson, the available numbers are still rough, in part because they are awaiting verification from the truckers’ home states.  They are also only available for the three weeks from June 11 through June 30.

During that period, RIDOT reports 133,000 toll transactions.  The spokesperson said the original projection was around 7,300 per day on weekdays and “about half that” on weekends, which would suggest that the actual numbers are beating the projections by about 5,000 tolls during that period.

Of course, two considerations come into play, at this point.  The first is that these were the very first three weeks of tolling, so any truckers who might decide to reroute in the future may not have adjusted their behavior, yet.  The second is that the tolls’ hitting their projected targets isn’t but so significant, given that the fully implemented program will have seven times as many tolls, creating more incentive to divert away from them, and that the judiciary might rule RhodeWorks unconstitutional, as currently structured.

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​National Trucking Unloads on Rhode Island’s Truck-Only Tolls

This afternoon, the American Trucking Associations filed suit against Gina Raimondo’s RhodeWorks truck-only toll scheme, stating that it violates the Commerce Clause, citing its discriminatory nature and challenging its constitutionality. (View the lawsuit here.) Tune in now to 630 WPRO now, by the way, to hear the famous Mike Collins talking to John Loughlin (filling in for Dan Yorke) about the lawsuit.

The national truckers are not messing around: they are represented by ​Mayer ​Brown, the fifteenth largest law firm in the United States. Heavy artillery has been cut loose on a highly destructive, unnecessary new revenue program. On a certain, visceral level, that’s a beautiful thing and one wishes that this would happen with far more bad government programs.

Unfortunately, a highly likely outcome of the case will be an order to the State of Rhode Island to either desist tolling trucks or make it non-discriminatory by spreading the cancer to all vehicles including cars. Yet not one but two studies confirmed that tolls of any kind are not needed to repair Rhode Island’s bridges.

There have been many unanswered questions swirling around Gina Raimondo’s highly dubious, highly destructive toll plan.

Why was Governor Raimondo only capable of coming up with a cutting-edge, outside-of-the-box program that is destructive and burdensome rather than positive and propitious?

How did RIDOT get the truck counts and diversion rate, a critical basis for restricting tolls to only certain classes of vehicles, so wrong?

How did RhodeWorks tolls explode from $400M (per Governor Gina Raimondo in August of 2016 at Minute 15:00) to a completely open-ended, multi-billion dollar revenue stream?

Did Gina Raimondo, Nicholas Mattiello and Theresa Paiva-Weed truly believe that tolling trucks only, something that no other state does – a “unique approach” as RIDOT itself admits – was going to pass a legal challenge?

But the biggest question: if the lawsuit goes sideways and RhodeWorks tolls are ruled unconstitutional, will Nicholas Mattiello, Gina Raimondo and all Rhode Island legislators stand by their promise that tolls will never go on cars and scrap the RhodeWorks tolls?

[Monique has been volunteer spokesperson for StopTollsRI.com since tolls were first proposed three+ years ago and began working for the Rhode Island Trucking Association as a staff member in September of last year.]

After years of citizen outrage against truck-tolls in the Ocean State, the American Trucking Associations and three motor carriers representing the industry are brining a federal lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island on constitutional grounds likely to cost taxpayers millions.

Tolls Force ATA Lawsuit That Could Cost Rhode Island Taxpayers Millions In Legal Fees

After years of citizen outrage against truck-tolls in the Ocean State, the American Trucking Associations and three motor carriers representing the industry are bringing a federal lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island on constitutional grounds likely to cost taxpayers millions.

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Maybe RI Regulators Will Listen to the Military

It amazes me that relaxing occupational licensing regulations even for military families is too much for special interests to accept, but Rhode Island should really take this news into consideration during next year’s legislative session:

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the presence of state laws on reciprocity of professional licenses for military families would now be a consideration when evaluating future basing and mission decisions in the Army, Navy and Air Force.

And that’s not all:

The statement — in a keynote address to the Western Governors Association meeting in Rapid City last month —came four months after Wilson, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and Secretary of the Army Mark Esper sent a letter to the National Governors Association in February encouraging states to consider licensure reciprocity legislation while noting that the quality of local schools near a base would also be a new factor considered in future basing and mission decisions.

Imagine that… the U.S. military is concerned that its employees families have access to good schools and economic opportunity.  Rhode Island is fortunate, indeed, that private companies and individuals don’t have the same standards.

ADDENDUM (3:10 p.m., 7/10/18):
For those who can’t tell, that last sentence is sarcastic.

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Fear of the Unknown Beyond Big Government

If you follow Rhode Island politics at all, you’ve probably heard that independent gubernatorial candidate Joe Trillo hit a rock while cruising his yacht very close to the shore in Westerly so beach-goers could see the campaign sign on its side when they looked up to see where the blaring marching band music was coming from.  In response to Trillo’s blaming of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for faulty maps, Rhode Island Ethics Commission Chairman and Brown professor Ross Cheit tweeted:

In the land of limited government, who produces the navigation charts?

I suggested in reply that Professor Cheit should ask his students about Google Maps and consider whether people who buy expensive boats would create a market for a similar product.  He pretended not to understand my meaning, but it’s pretty clear to me.  People who spend hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars on boats have a substantial interest in avoiding things that might damage them of leave them swimming for their lives.  Perhaps it wasn’t always true, but technology is such, now, that something like Google Maps for under the water would certainly be plausible.

It’s amazing how pervasive is this fear of the unknown, as if beyond Big Government there be dragons.

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Progressive Red Tape Around Our Destinies

In harmony with my post, this morning, about the deadly incentives of socialized medicine, Dr. Bastiat has used the experience of a trip to the hair stylist for a compelling explainer of how progressive policies can win the political day, even as they suffocate people’s economic opportunity.  The woman cutting his hair told of how she’d wanted to go into business for herself, but the red tape and the costs it imposed transformed the start-up costs into too great of a gamble; the same was true for her husband, a mechanic.  Nonetheless, their attitude is that they can’t complain; “everything is ok.”

My Uncle Fred (Frederic Bastiat) described this as the seen versus the unseen. Progressives win elections because the benefits they provide are immediate and obvious. They give people free money with taxpayer dollars, or build highways with taxpayer dollars, or start new general assistance programs with taxpayer dollars. They’re working for you, and anyone with eyes can see it. The benefits provided by progressives are seen.

But the damage they cause is mostly unseen. In 30 years, Kaitlyn and her husband could have retired to a very nice community on the Gulf Coast and played golf for the rest of their lives. But they won’t. She’ll still be cutting hair for $12 an hour plus tips, and he’ll still be fixing lawn mowers for the city. Just like they are now.

They didn’t lose a fortune, because they never had the opportunity to earn one. Nothing happened. There they sit. And there they’ll stay.

Progressives may think they’re utopians who dream of a better tomorrow. But, in reality, they are the robotic defenders of the status quo. Everything stays the same because nothing happens. And when things don’t happen, those things don’t make the evening news. They didn’t happen at all, so there’s nothing to complain about. Everything is basically ok. And that’s the way it will stay.

Until it doesn’t.

One could also apply this principle across generations, as I did a bit with my late-Saturday post.  Maybe Kaitlyn and her husband would have been less interested in decades of golf and more interested in setting up their children for a better start than they’d had.  Either way, their children would have had the valuable experience of seeing their parents take control of their destinies, rather than depending on others to build their workplaces, as if “boss” were a separate class.

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A Predictable Scandal with Socialized Medicine

Anecdotes are generally unfair as markers of an entire system, but less so when they are in line with expectations.  Such is the case with Rupert Darwall’s Wall Street Journal commentary about fatalities in the British National Health Service (NHS).  Apparently, the latest scandalous report about parts of the system reveals one hospital’s “unlawful killing” of 650 patients and ensuing cover-up.

What makes this an indictment of the entire system is how precisely in line with the incentives of socialized medicine it is:

The report explains the almost identical dismissal of relatives’ concerns as a result of the “coincidence of interests” rather than conspiracy. When the state is a monopoly provider of health care, there is a political interest in suppressing bad news. In discussing whether to prosecute, one police officer noted the “perceived plight” of the NHS ahead of the 2001 general election. At a pivotal meeting of prosecutors closer to polling day, a government lawyer attacked Dr. Livesley and sabotaged the emerging prosecution case.

Proponents of socialized medicine condemn profit in health care, but a for-profit hospital does not have a financial interest in killing its patients. In the NHS, patients are a cost and troublesome ones can be put on a syringe driver, something a nurse told the police happened at Gosport.

When our society shifts responsibility to government, it tends to focus on the possible up-sides and assume that everybody involved will make genuinely selfless decisions, but what we really ought to watch is the change in incentives. Human beings find it all too easy to determine that something in their own interest is in the interest of everybody, by way of “the system” of which they are a part, even deceiving families while killing their loved ones.

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