Real Charity

August 25, 2012

It’s a common narrative in many elections, and this year is no exception. Democrats care about the poor; Republicans do not. Progressives are concerned about those who have less; conservatives only care about the rich. It’s been stated so many times, many have come to believe it.

Then come periodic studies on actual charitable giving – you know, the kind where people actually give their own money instead of relying on the government. Turns out the oppositie may be true.

The latest is a recent report from The Chronicle of Philanthropy showing that those in many “red states” give more as a percentage of their income than in many “blue states.” For example, the eight highest states in their ranking (those that gave the most as a share of income) went for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. The seven lowest ranking states went for President Obama. See this chart for the details.

This is nothing new. Back in 2004, I wrote a column noting a similar study with similar results. Back then, all of the top 25 states that gave the most in relation to their average incomes all went to George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, and 19 of the bottom 25 went for John Kerry.

Despite the rhetoric from progressives about “giving back” and the need for spreading the wealth around, it appears they don’t practice it as often in their private lives. That includes some in the current administration.

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A Half Century Without the Fairness Doctrine

August 4, 2012

Twenty-five years ago today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order effectively repealing the infamous broadcast “Fairness Doctrine.” The Doctrine required that broadcast licensees had to present reasonable opportunity for the airing of contesting points of view when covering issues of public importance to their community. For nearly 40 years, it was upheld in the name of protecting the ‘public interest.’

Lost in this more positive-right view of freedom of speech often espoused by proponents of the Doctrine was the harm it had on the more negative-right view of freedom of speech. But over time the negative-right view won out. It became viewed as a restriction on free speech, creating a “chilling effect” which led broadcasters to avoid covering any controversial public issues due to the requirement to ensure all sides of the issue were covered.

To commemorate the repeal, Reason.tv has posted the following interview with Thomas Hazlett, a professor of law and economics at George Mason University, discussing the history and various issues with the Doctrine:

In addition, I actually wrote my master’s thesis on the subject, relating it to the two conceptions of liberty: positive and negative, as postulated by Isaiah Berlin. In addition to the “chilling effect” argument, I also argued in the thesis that the positive-right conception exemplified in the Doctrine lends itself to an uncomfortable level of paternalism on the part of government regulators and a constitutional abridgement of negative-right speech. For those with probably too much time on their hands, all 184 pages can be read here.


Getting Permission to Work

May 19, 2012

The Institute for Justice has this fairly thorough video demonstrating the preponderance of dubious occupational license requirements in many jurisdictions:

Back in 2006, I looked at the prevalence of occupational licensing in Hillsborough County, Florida – starting with the example of requiring auctioneers to be licensed. I thought it kind of funny that a person who wanted to be an auctioneer requires a government license, while a 16-year-old who wanted to operate a large roller coaster, like at the theme park where I used to work, did not. (Subsequently, that theme park quit hiring anyone under 18 years of age – not connected to my original column I’m sure.)

At the time, Hillsborough County issued two different auctioneer licenses: one for selling your own property and one for selling someone else’s. (I contemplated interviewing an actual auctioneer, but I realized that he or she might be difficult to understand.)

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Teacher Merit Pay in Florida: Were There Any Merits?

April 16, 2010

A recently vetoed bill in Florida that would have tied teacher pay to student test performance may have at first glance appeared to introduce something into the public education system that many have criticized it for lacking: an emphasis on results. However, the wisdom of such a significant change may not be so clear.

The Florida Legislature recently passed a bill that would base a large part of teacher pay on their students’ performance on standardized tests. It would also end tenure for new teachers. After much speculation, Florida Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the bill Thursday.

In theory, such a move would have incentivized teachers to make sure their students are achieving academically. In reality, as with many government policies, there may also have been some unintended consequences.

Teachers and other opponents of the merit pay legislation protest in a walk from Lee Middle School to the CTA/OESPA office in Orlando on April 8, 2010. (JACOB LANGSTON, ORLANDO SENTINEL / April 8, 2010)

Since such merit pay would be based on improvement in standardized test scores, the degree to which these tests adequately reflect the knowledge that should be learned by students is of critical importance. Many in Florida have criticized the state’s chief standardized test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), for not necessarily accurately assessing what students have learned. Critics, including teachers’ unions and students, have also argued that focus on such tests gives an incentive to teachers to teach solely to the test, de-emphasizing the students’ overall education. Under the merit-pay bill, the teachers’ pay would have been linked partly to their students’ improvement on the FCAT, further exacerbating the perceived problem with the emphasis placed on the much-maligned test.

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Paying Nothing On Tax Day

April 15, 2010

In recognition of Tax Day, I’m revealing the amount of income taxes I paid for 2009 after filing my return earlier this year:   . 

No, that’s not a typo after the colon. I paid nothing.  Thanks to our “progressive” income-tax system, I received all of my federal witholdings back in the form of a check. I had a modest income last year thanks to the part-time job I’ve had while in graduate school. Because I only made so much (or should I say, so little), the government (read: politicians seeking votes) decided to essentially not charge me anything for the services it provides me.

This has been a trend in my years in college. I wrote a column for my student paper a few years ago in my undergrad. when I was first catching on to the progressivity of our income-tax system. Here’s one notable excerpt from it:

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First Post for YAL Blog

March 22, 2010

My first post for the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) blog has just gone up. It can be viewed here: Obamacare: Bring on the Lawyers! 

YAL has been one of my favorite blogs; I read it almost daily. Thanks to Bonnie Kristian, YAL’s blogger in chief, for allowing me to post there.


More Auditor Problems

February 26, 2010

Here’s a new report on problems in the Hillsborough County (Florida) internal performance auditor office from the St. Petersburg Times: “Report rips Hillsborough’s performance auditor.” This time, the fuss is over the office not meeting professional standards.

I wrote a column on the auditor position last year when there were problems raised about its performance. It can be read here.