Requiring Personal Finance

The WSJ has a point-counterpoint on requiring a personal finance course for college students.  First let’s agree on what requiring a personal finance course means.  It means that each school would make a decision to include person finance in what is often called General Education.  That is, a university degree typically includes General Education, required of all students along with college (assuming there are multiple colleges) and departmental requirements.  We would not support a requirement to force all schools to include personal finance but we would support any school that wants to include personal finance (PFC) as a requirement.

Professor Lauren Willis is arguing against requiring such courses.  Most college courses are three credits.  That means they meet for three university hours (50 or 55 minutes) each week for 14-16 weeks.  So each course is about 40 hours of instruction.  Lauren starts with the straw man that courses may not be effective.  As evidence she cites a study from India that had four percent of the subjects completing secondary school.  It hardly seems relevant to a requirement to complete college.  It is true, however, that no single college course is either 100% effective or comprehensive.  Students at almost every university complete a composition course but writing problems among graduates are so legendary that we don’t feel the need to cite any.  Requiring a PFC is not a silver bullet.  College courses are a start to wisdom.

Next Lauren throws up her hands at the challenges:

What’s more, even experts disagree about the right investment and retirement-savings strategies. Financial offerings change too quickly for regulators to keep up, never mind educators. In addition, compared with the salesperson across the table, consumers will never be as knowledgeable about financial products and services—or about the psychological maneuvering with which they can be sold.

Common sense thus suggests that college courses won’t enable people to make the kinds of financial decisions society currently demands.

Perhaps.  Our experience is that theses force isn’t that well educated but be that as it may, a better educated population will help with evaluating the pitches from government as well as the private sector.  The PFC won’t solve the problem but it will start some of the students on the road to wisdom.  They will drive the market and help (almost) everyone.

Next, Lauren considers the impact of exogenous events:

Making personal-finance courses a college requirement sends a message that financial success is largely the result of personal decisions. But government policies affecting employment, health care and benefits have a vastly greater effect than personal financial acumen on Americans’ financial health.

The first sentence is false.  Financial success, by and large, is the result of personal decisions.  We even know what they are even if we can’t find them right now.  It goes something get married, stay married, and start saving early.  Execution is the difficult part of financial success.

Government policies certainly can have a vast impact on American’s financial health.  We would expect that PFC would cover many of the difficulties caused by government policies.  Perhaps, among other things, it would lead to reforming Social Security rationally and sooner rather than later.

PFC will not solve all of the personal finance problems.  There is risk in the world and there are folks in and out of government that would mislead even the wary.  Folks have different risk preferences.  But PFC are a step in the right direction.  Some will be worthless but even those might cause a student to be interested in becoming informed.  These courses will help folks to become informed about financial decisions but they are just a start. Now if we can sign up Congress folks and the executive offices for PFC and some basic economics.  Of course, they need to apply it too.




Went to see Cabaret with the Lady deGloves in the 77 square miles.  It is an unhappy and conservative show (pro-freedom and pro-life).  Jonah goes to great detail on our simple question: How could the National Socialist Party-the Nazis- be conservative or even right wing?  We would like to discuss Fraulein Schneider as a timeless character and the problem of libertarianism compared to conservatism.

Cabaret demonstrates the problem of libertarianism. Pre-Nazi Berlin is full of all sorts of live and let live folks.  Herr Schultz, the sunny Jew, speaks for all of them when he says (approximately), “They are Germans and I’m a German.  What is the worst that could happen?”  There is one big problem that Cabaret points out when the Nazis kill all of them.  Conservatism’s less sunny outlook, and part of the reason that Cabaret is a conservative film, makes them better prepared for what other folks will do.

Fraulein Schneider is a person we have seen many times.  She had been through WWI, the hyperinflation and now the rise of the Nazis.  She is not going to marry Herr Schultz because that would be taking a risk and pessimists don’t take risks.  We saw these characteristics in folks our age in post-Communistic Poland.  These folks were not nearly as optimistic as the younger generation.  They hated the Russians and had become use to behavior under Communism.  The Katyn massacre was still a hot topic for them.    They were all versions of Fraulein Schneider.  They had not suffered the number of disappointments that the Fraulein had but they had concerns.  The younger generation had a completely different outlook that was untainted by Communism.  We are disappointed when Fraulein Schneider says no to Herr Schultz but we expect it and understand why.

Poor Chelsea!

Jim Geraghty has an actual headline from the LA Times:

“Just like her mother, Chelsea Clinton never gets a break.”

The article has an even better quote:

But the laser-focused Chelsea vitriol is perplexing when it comes from the left. Shouldn’t such first-daughter hatred be reserved for Ivanka?

So why are folks upset with Chelsea?  Here is a quote from Oxford:

Her record at Stanford shows that she is a very well-qualified and able student. The college is also pleased to extend its link with the Clinton family.

That about sums it up.  Chelsea is a good student but lots of things come her way.  A job with NBC at $600 K.  Working for the [evil] family foundation.  Lots of people sell influence but it isn’t a popular job.



More Binary Choices With VDR

Veronique De Rugy (VDR) at the Corner wants to talk about the GOP health care bill and binary choices.  Let’s go to the text:

As he did during the presidential election, Speaker Ryan likes to say that tomorrow’s vote is “a binary choice,” and that this bill is “the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare.” I disagree.

Well, VDR might be disagreeing with the first quote, binary choice, or with the second quote.  If the disagreement is with the second quote then it is entirely plausible that there will be other chances.  It does seem unlikely but possible.  If VDR is talking about a binary choice then she is wrong once and likely twice as she seems to disagree about the election.  Just like the election there are two choices.  In the election there was Herself and The Donald.  Now our Congress Folk will vote yea or nay.  In both decisions folks can opt out but that only means that others will make the binary decision for them.

We are a big fan of VDR.  We agree with many of the concerns and would highly likely vote for a bill VDR wrote. It is not, however, one of the choices.  Will Congress vote to keep Obamacare or repeal and replace.  The issue is which is better.

Binary Choices And Not

Conservatives have confused themselves about binary choices.  Herself and The Donald was a binary choice.  Sure, you could vote present or write-in some fun choice but that was just letting other people make the choice.  Ben Shapiro is trying to sell us a binary choice about the political future:

Up: Americans realize that politicians who guarantee them free things are lying to them, and they react by re-enshrining the Founders’ bargain, limiting government to minimize the impact of lying politicians.

Down: Americans distrust everyone in politics but simultaneously embrace the lies of their own side, justifying tissue-thin conspiracy theories that put the other side at a disadvantage, breaking down the social fabric and the political discourse until all faith in the system disappears completely.

We are the champion of binary choices and we can safely say that this isn’t one.  There are always a variety of strata of folks that make political choices base on different portfolios.  The choice is not the Founders’ bargain or anarchy.  We think The Donald will move us closer to the Founders’ bargain and Herself would have moved us in the other direction.  We will not get to either of Ben’s choices in the near term.  No choice we made in 2016 would have done it.

Strange Expression: I Love PBS

One of the nonsense items on my Facebook feed is, “I love PBS.”  We suppose that this means that they want the federal government to support PBS.  The Donald has recommended otherwise for PBS and NEA.  Michael Tanner covers the NEA at NRO.  Read it all but this is nicely put:

Art is deeply personal. It touches the core of our being, and helps form our outlook on the world, even our fundamental belief systems. That is one reason why authoritarian regimes have long sought to control art, repress it, or use it for propaganda. For many of the same reasons that we demand separation of church and state, we should want the separation of art and state. It is more difficult to speak truth to power when power pays your bills.

It appears when folks say they love PBS (or NEA) they mean that they want the people with guns to come take money from other folks to fund it.  We don’t agree with either being in the federal budget.

We think that eliminating federal funding of PBS will be great for it.  Just as Michael explains how much funding is available for the arts, getting off the federal teat will be great for PBS.  PBS should take the bull by the horns and refuse federal funding rather than waiting for the shoe to fall.  Donations will skyrocket and make up the difference many times over.

Helping The Poor

Catherine Rampell has an idea to help the poor.  It has been a progressive idea for a long time.  She says:

First, reduce poor women’s access to the reproductive services they need to prevent unintended pregnancies, so they have less control over when, and with whom, they have children.

It is the old progressive idea that we can eliminate the poor by aborting them.  Currently, Catherine is only encouraging the poor to abort their children by limiting the opportunities to escape poverty.  James Freeman discusses in The Best of the Web describes some of the ways progressives seek to keep folks in poverty:

What’s new is that through its tax and regulatory burdens, government as never before has been discriminating against hiring people in favor of machines. Call it robot privilege. From ObamaCare, which both raised the costs of offering employment and discouraged people from accepting it, to regulations setting minimum wages and mandating the conditions of employment, politicians have made it too hard to hire those members of the U.S. workforce who are human.

So, the question comes down to: Do you want to abort poor people’s children or do you want to help them climb out of poverty?  The current combination of abortion and regulation has not done much to reduce the poverty rate.  It might be time to try the alternative.  We hope The Donald and the GOP do.