Free Market Philanthropy

KochClharles.gif Charles Koch.  Source of image:  online version of WSJ article cited below.

 

Mr. Koch’s latest crusade to spread the ideas of liberty has been his sponsorship of a twice-yearly conference that gathers together many of the most successful American entrepreneurs, from T. Boone Pickens to former Circuit City CEO Rick Sharp.  The objective is to encourage these captains of industry to help fund free-market groups devoted to protecting the fragile infrastructure of liberty.  That task seems especially critical given that so many of the global superrich, like George Soros and Warren Buffett, finance institutions that undermine the very system of capitalism that made their success possible.  Isn’t this just the usual rich liberal guilt, I ask.  "No," he says, "I think they simply haven’t been sufficiently exposed to the ideas of liberty."

 

For the full commentary, see: 

STEPHEN MOORE.  "THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW with Charles Koch; Private Enterprise."  The Wall Street Journal   (Sat.,  May 6, 2006):  A8.

Incentives and Constraints Matter, But Sometimes Values Do, Too


 Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson.  Source of image:
http://www.iadb.org/idbamerica/index.cfm?thisid=681

 

Cambridge, Mass. – Several recent studies have garnered wide attention for reconfirming the tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream. But they also highlighted another crisis: the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the problem, and their inability to come up with any effective strategy to deal with it.

The main cause for this shortcoming is a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960’s: the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group’s cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members — and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.

Harry Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University and a co-author of one of the recent studies, typifies this attitude. Joblessness, he feels, is due to largely weak schooling, a lack of reading and math skills at a time when such skills are increasingly required even for blue-collar jobs, and the poverty of black neighborhoods. Unable to find jobs, he claims, black males turn to illegal activities, especially the drug trade and chronic drug use, and often end up in prison. He also criticizes the practice of withholding child-support payments from the wages of absentee fathers who do find jobs, telling The Times that to these men, such levies ”amount to a tax on earnings.”

His conclusions are shared by scholars like Ronald B. Mincy of Columbia, the author of a study called ”Black Males Left Behind,” and Gary Orfield of Harvard, who asserts that America is ”pumping out boys with no honest alternative.”

This is all standard explanatory fare. And, as usual, it fails to answer the important questions. Why are young black men doing so poorly in school that they lack basic literacy and math skills? These scholars must know that countless studies by educational experts, going all the way back to the landmark report by James Coleman of Johns Hopkins University in 1966, have found that poor schools, per se, do not explain why after 10 years of education a young man remains illiterate.

Nor have studies explained why, if someone cannot get a job, he turns to crime and drug abuse. One does not imply the other. Joblessness is rampant in Latin America and India, but the mass of the populations does not turn to crime.

And why do so many young unemployed black men have children — several of them — which they have no resources or intention to support? And why, finally, do they murder each other at nine times the rate of white youths?

. . .  

So what are some of the cultural factors that explain the sorry state of young black men? They aren’t always obvious. Sociological investigation has found, in fact, that one popular explanation — that black children who do well are derided by fellow blacks for ”acting white” — turns out to be largely false, except for those attending a minority of mixed-race schools.

An anecdote helps explain why: Several years ago, one of my students went back to her high school to find out why it was that almost all the black girls graduated and went to college whereas nearly all the black boys either failed to graduate or did not go on to college. Distressingly, she found that all the black boys knew the consequences of not graduating and going on to college (”We’re not stupid!” they told her indignantly).

So why were they flunking out? Their candid answer was that what sociologists call the ”cool-pose culture” of young black men was simply too gratifying to give up. For these young men, it was almost like a drug, hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture, the fact that almost all the superstar athletes and a great many of the nation’s best entertainers were black.

Not only was living this subculture immensely fulfilling, the boys said, it also brought them a great deal of respect from white youths. This also explains the otherwise puzzling finding by social psychologists that young black men and women tend to have the highest levels of self-esteem of all ethnic groups, and that their self-image is independent of how badly they were doing in school.

I call this the Dionysian trap for young black men. The important thing to note about the subculture that ensnares them is that it is not disconnected from the mainstream culture. To the contrary, it has powerful support from some of America’s largest corporations. Hip-hop, professional basketball and homeboy fashions are as American as cherry pie. Young white Americans are very much into these things, but selectively; they know when it is time to turn off Fifty Cent and get out the SAT prep book.

For young black men, however, that culture is all there is — or so they think. Sadly, their complete engagement in this part of the American cultural mainstream, which they created and which feeds their pride and self-respect, is a major factor in their disconnection from the socioeconomic mainstream.

 

For the full commentary, see:

ORLANDO PATTERSON. "A Poverty of the Mind."  The New York Times, Section 4 (Sunday, March 26, 2006):  13.  



Doctors Erect Barriers to Keep Out Competition

RadiologistBangalore.jpg A Bangalore radiologist.  One of three radiologists in India known to be reading U.S. scans.  Each of the three has a U.S. degree, as required by U.S. law.  Source of image:  http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/19/business/19leonhardt.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

 

(p. C1) Radiologists seem like just the sort of workers who should be scared.  Computer networks can now send an electronic image to India faster than a messenger can take it from one hospital floor to another.  Often, those images are taken during emergencies at night, when radiologists here are sleeping and radiologists in India are not.

There also happens to be a shortage of radiologists in the United States.  Sophisticated new M.R.I. and CT machines can detect tiny tumors that once would have gone unnoticed, and doctors are ordering a lot more scans as a result.

When I talked this week to E. Stephen Amis Jr., the head of the radiology department at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, he had just finished looking at some of the 700 images that had been produced by a single abdominal CT exam.  "We were just taking pictures of big, thick slabs of the body 20 years ago," Dr. Amis said.  "Now we’re taking thinner and thinner slices."

Economically, in other words, ra-(p. C6)diology has a lot in common with industries that are outsourcing jobs.  It has high labor costs, it’s growing rapidly and it’s portable.

Politically, though, radiology could not be more different.  Unlike software engineers, textile workers or credit card customer service employees, doctors have enough political power to erect trade barriers, and they have built some very effective ones.

To practice medicine in this country, doctors are generally required to have done their training here.  Otherwise, it is extremely difficult to be certified by a board of other doctors or be licensed by a state government.  The three radiologists Mr. Levy found in Bangalore did their residencies at Baylor, Yale and the University of Massachusetts before returning home to India.

"No profession I know of has as much power to self-regulate as doctors do," Mr. Levy said.

So even if the world’s most talented radiologist happened to have trained in India, there would be no test he could take to prove his mettle here.  It’s as if the law required cars sold here to have been made by the graduates of an American high school.

Much as the United Automobile Workers might love such a law, Americans would never tolerate it, because it would drive up the price of cars and keep us from enjoying innovations that happened to come from overseas.  But isn’t that precisely what health care protectionism does?  It keeps out competition.

 

For the full story, see:

Leonhardt, David.   "Political Clout in the Age of Outsourcing."  The New York Times  (Weds., April 19, 2006):  C1 & C4.

State Colleges and Universities “suffer from all the inefficiency and poor decision-making of Soviet-style factories”

In its public meetings, panelists from Wall Street and elsewhere in the business world have criticized academia as failing to meet the educational needs of working adults, stem a slide in the literacy of college graduates and rein in rising costs.
During a February meeting in San Diego, Trace Urdan, a senior research analyst for the investment banking firm Robert W. Baird & Company, said state colleges and universities “amount to state-run enterprises and suffer from all the inefficiency and poor decision-making of Soviet-style factories.”

For the full story, see:
SAM DILLON. “Panel Considers Revamping College Aid and Accrediting.” The New York Times (Weds., April 12, 2006): A14.

Teachers’ Unions Fight Innovation, Customization, and Variety

(p. A27) Washington – A Wisconsin court rejected a high-profile lawsuit by the state’s largest teachers’ union last month seeking to close a public charter school that offers all its courses online on the ground that it violated state law by depending on parents rather than on certified teachers to educate children. The case is part of a national trend that goes well beyond virtual schooling: teachers’ unions are turning to the courts to fight virtually any deviation from uniformity in public schools.

. . .

There is a universal American desire for customization and variety in goods and services, and education must respond to that demand, whether the unions like it or not.
. . .

This debate, like the ones over many other education issues, is fundamentally about who gets to have power. Yet the power the teachers’ unions now wield will be fleeting if public schools do not become more responsive to parents.
An industry cannot survive by rushing to court every time a new idea threatens even a small slice of its market share. Instead, maintaining, and even broadening, support for public schools means embracing more diversity in how we provide public education and who provides it.

For the full commentary, see:
Andrew J. Rotherham. “Virtual Schools, Real Innovation.” The New York Times (Friday, April 7, 2006): A27.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Jhontelle Johnson on public schools: “you can’t make me go”

FransoirWilliamLarge.jpg
Fransoir William. Source of image: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/06/education/06voucher.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5094&en=d2a47406ed1f9127&hp&ex=1144382400&partner=homepage

(p. A1) WASHINGTON, April 5 – As a student at Shaw Junior High School here, Amie Fuwa strained to shut out the distractions of friends cutting up. She struggled through math, and used photocopies or the library when textbooks were scarce.
Now Amie, 14, a child of immigrants from Nigeria and the Dominican Republic, attends Archbishop Carroll High School, a Catholic school near a verdant hill of churches nicknamed the Little Vatican. When algebra confounds Amie, her teacher stays with her after school to help, and a mentor keeps her on course.
”It’s a lot of people behind my back now,” Amie said.
Before, she said, she ”felt like it didn’t really matter to different people I know, like my teachers, if I failed.”
Amie is one of about 1,700 low-income, mostly minority students in Washington who at taxpayer expense are attending 58 private and parochial schools through the nation’s first federal voucher program, now in its second year.
Last year, parents appeared lukewarm toward the program, which was put in place by Congressional Republicans as a five-year pilot program, But this year, it is attracting more participation, illustrating how school-choice programs are winning over minority parents, traditionally a Democratic constituency.
Washington’s African-American mayor, Anthony A. Williams, joined Republicans in supporting the program, prompted in part by a concession from Congress that pumped more money into public and charter schools. In doing so, Mr. Williams ig- (p. A16) nored the ire of fellow Democrats, labor unions and advocates of public schools.
. . .
Like many other voucher students, Breanna Walton, 8, rises before dawn for the long bus ride from Northeast Washington, ”amongst the crime and drugs and all that,” in the words of her mother, April Cole Walton, to Rock Creek International, near Georgetown University. There, she learns Spanish with the children of lawyers and diplomats.
Ms. Walton said that her neighborhood school ”has broken down,” and that she would have done just about anything to keep Breanna from going there. ”Every child here should be able to say I’m going to set my sights high,” she said. ”I refuse to let my child be cheated.”
Patricia William, a single mother, said that at first she liked her son Fransoir’s public school, John Quincy Adams Elementary School, a tall sprawling building in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Teachers seemed good, but overwhelmed. It was other parents, not teachers, Ms. William said, who told her that Fransoir was hyperactive. ”I was not getting quality information from them on time,” she said. ”For some reason, it was not working.”
Fransoir is one of 62 students with vouchers attending Sacred Heart Elementary, a Catholic school of 210 students, where he learns prayers along with five-digit multiplication and long division. He takes medication for his hyperactivity. Last year, he teamed up with another child to research the sinking of the Titanic. This year, he is interested in reptiles. Ms. William said her son today has nothing in common with the boy who once lay on the floor, turning in circles like a clock wound too tight. Now she is learning from him, about more than just math or reading or a sinking ship.
”All the effort he’s making every night makes me want to sit with him and study,” said Ms. William, a high-school dropout. ”I’m learning academically, but also about making an effort.”
. . .
. . . the pressure of competition is inescapable. In one sixth-grade classroom, two of six students said they would probably go to charter schools next year, unless Adams could get its seventh grade started.
”I’ll probably go to Washington Latin,” said Jhontelle Johnson, setting her sights on a new charter school opening in August. If not, she said, ”I’d probably be home-schooled.”
A teacher’s aide, Sheonna Griffin, looked askance. ”You don’t like public schools?” she asked the child.
Jhontelle turned back, her young eyes flashing. ”You can’t make me go,” she said.

For the full story, see:
DIANA JEAN SCHEMO. “Federal Program on Vouchers Draws Strong Minority Support.” The New York Times (Thurs., April 6, 2006): A1 & A16.
FransoirWilliam2Large.jpg
Fransoir William. Source of image: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/06/education/06voucher.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5094&en=d2a47406ed1f9127&hp&ex=1144382400&partner=homepage

Ernie Chambers Right in Supporting Parents’ Role in Education

For several months, the Omaha community has been roiled by the hostile efforts of the Omaha Public School (OPS) district to seize the schools and territory of long-established suburban school districts. Here ia an email that I sent to my representative in the Nebraska unicam on Sun., 4/9/06:

Dear Mr. Brashear:
I have appreciated your hard work as my representative in the legislature, and I have always voted for your re-election.
We believe strongly in giving our 11 year-old daughter a Montessori education. The Millard School District is the only area district that has had the entrepreneurial initiative to offer such a program, so we filled out the paperwork to option Jenny into the Millard District.
I strongly resent the implication of OPS that those who choose other school districts necessarily do so for racial reasons. We would have been very happy to stay in OPS (and it would have been more logistically convenient), but OPS does not support the diversity of educational options that Millard does.
Ernie Chambers is often wrong, but he is not always wrong. Dividing OPS into three districts would be a modest step toward increasing parental choice. Parents of all races want to be free to choose.
Tomorrow, I hope your vote will be to support freedom and competition.
Thank you for considering my views.
Sincerely,
Art Diamond