Reviving Basket Cases

Mugabe is out in Zimbabwe.  It is not the worst economic and political basket case in the world but there is a great opportunity for its citizens and the world to improve.  Zimbabwe actually moved up in the last year or two as Heritage moved them up to a score of 44 (of 100) that lifts them into the repressive category.  Freedom House kindly puts them into the Partially Free category with a score of 32 of 100.  We have seen this description of the problems of newly found freedom for Zimbabwe in several places.  Here it comes from Neo-neocon:

“In the past we could never criticize the president,” said Felex Share, a political reporter, in the hours before Mugabe’s resignation. “Right now, we can touch anything.”

How will Zimbabwe deal with its opportunity?  What will the world do?  A better question is: What can the world do?  Answer: It can’t do much compared to Zimbabwe because only they can change the culture of corruption and so on that is causing the problem.

It is hard to change as the quote says and Douglas North described more generally.  Cambodia is in the news and we use it as an example.  It was hell on earth during the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 70s.  It is better now but it still only scores 59.5 from Heritage which is still just in the mostly unfree category while Freedom House scores them at 31 and categorizes them as unfree.  Much of Eastern Europe did much better after the fall of Communism but they were not in the Cambodia/Zimbabwe category before freedom returned and they had a capitalistic past to return to.  They also had freedom next door (or reunification for East and West Germany) and that helped too.

We hope that Zimbabwe propers.  We know that some critical elements like rule of law and the basic elements of capitalism are necessary for improvement but the citizens of Zimbabwe need to choose the path themselves because that is the only way to get them to follow it.  We hope you choose capitalism and hope the world makes it easy to do so.

We hope there will be opportunities to remediate additional basket cases like (but not limited to) Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea in the near future.  Perhaps we can learn something in Zimbabwe that will help us and them.


Audience Impact?

Glenn Harland Reynolds (Instapundit) writes about the Hillary-driven failure in Libya at USA Today.  First he says:

Black Africans are being sold in open-air slave markets,  and it’s Hillary Clinton’s fault. But you won’t hear much about that from the news media or the foreign-policy pundits, so let me explain.

Then Glenn says:

It’s surprising the extent to which Clinton has gotten a pass for this debacle, which represents a humanitarian and strategic failure of the first order. (And, of course, the damage is still compounding: How likely is North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons after seeing the worthlessness of U.S. promises to Gaddafi?) [Emphasis added]

What is surprising is Glenn’s use of surprising.  We didn’t find one today but Instapundit is always reminding folks with a catch phrase that goes something like: Think of the media as Democratic operatives with bylines  Perhaps he has to be more subtle in USA Today.


Tax Nonsense

Andrew Stuttaford has a long nonsense post at the NRO Corner.  Fortunately he explains why in the first paragraph so you don’t have to read anymore.  Here is Andrew’s first paragraph.  We have comments in brackets.

True tax reform  [no other improvements are relevant] should aim to satisfy four main ‘fiscal’ principles: It should aim at a tax system that is flatter (with lower nominal rates), broader (as many people as possible should have skin in the game) [only relevant for individuals], simpler and, even allowing—as I would –for some supply side magic, it should be fiscally responsible.  As that final goal is extremely difficult to reconcile with those earlier principles without either truly brutal [nope, but likely to be portrayed as such] claw-backs in entitlements (not something I would favor [something we very much favor]) or (my very clear preference [us too]) some sort of federal VAT/GST/Sales tax, both political impossibilities for now [agree], the best that can be hoped for is that any change in the tax regime should not worsen the country’s (unattractive) long term financial condition by too much.

Then Andrew says the plan does great things by reducing corporate rates and eliminating AMT but he sadly informs us that it is not true tax reform.  If you are wiling to accept less than the full MWG plan,

Sidebar: The full MWG plan starts with the Graetz plan and reduces or eliminates a variety of taxes including corporate taxes, AMT, tariffs, and gas tax while adding VAT and carbon taxes.  We are not holding our breath.  End Sidebar.

as we are, then the question is does it improve the current system?  The answer, as Andrew seems to admit is yes it does improve the country’s long term financial condition by improving the business side.  We too would like more improvements on the individual side but it is unlikely to happen.  At some point there will be a binary choice.  As long as the GOP proposal includes “true” business tax reform we are going to support it.  Andrew could have just said that he was waiting for true tax reform from a true Scotsman and we would have understood it in one sentence.

Appropriate Comments And Not

Some time ago The Donald stirred the pot by commenting on the kneelers in the NFL.  He said:

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, “That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.” And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.

The Donald is right.  People would love it.  We are not big fans of these comments in the manner of The Donald’s immediate predecessor but we recognize the nature of politics.  We would like presidents to be more presidential but the events of the last 25 years have argued against it.

Meanwhile, in India, Vidhi Doshi in the WaPo reports:

The release of a highly anticipated Bollywood blockbuster has been delayed after a politician from India’s governing party offered a bounty of $1.5 million for the heads of the movie’s star and director amid outcry that the film distorted Hindu legend.

Others have threatened to break the legs of the actor who plays the Muslim villain.  Two things:  First, and obviously, the comments of The Donald and the Indian politician are entirely different.  It does’t matter if the latter’s speech constitutes fighting words or not.  This is not a legal issue.  It is an issue of appropriate behavior.  The Donald is OK and the other is not.

The other point is how the WaPo categorized this outbreak of incivility.  Was it intolerance, racism, or something else?  Here is what they said:

The violent reaction to the film’s release further suggests a groundswell of conservatism in Modi’s India.

It appears that conservatism is consistent with calling for cutting off heads and breaking legs.  We are not sure how Vidhi came to that conclusion.  We would be interested to hear Vidhi’s description of conservatism.

Tenure And Academic Freedom

Robert Steinbuch and Joshua Silverstein have a call to arms at the Martin Center to protect academic freedom in Arkansas.  We are unconvinced by their arguments.  It is entirely possible that we should be worried about what is going on in the the Natural Sate [really] but we are not convinced.

Bob and Josh start out with:

That threat, however, is of a type [tenure rules] that normally doesn’t receive public attention. The press typically writes about speech codes and political interference with research on controversial subjects, but as serious as those threats are, they are nothing compared to that posed by central administrators.

We are not convinced.  The ability of central administration to influence decisions on faculty and curriculum varies from school to school but it is almost always limited.  Shortly thereafter they say:

The purpose of academic freedom is to protect freedom of speech, thought, and expression in the university setting so that learning and knowledge can flourish. Tenure is the primary mechanism by which academic freedom is ensured. It prohibits the termination of faculty for any reason that could plausibly be used to stifle academic speech and inquiry. These protections recognize the critical role of professors as truth-finders and truth-tellers.

Well, particularly with respect to the bold part, no.  The tenure decision is largely made by faculty with variations from school to school.  Negative tenure decisions have been made by faculty to stifle academic speech and inquiry.  Such decisions are largely made by the faculty.  Once a faculty member has been tenured they can only be removed for cause.  Incompetence is not a cause.  It is a challenge to write rules that help weed out incompetence without jeopardizing academic freedom but one we need to consider.

Another way to think about it is the last sentence in the second quote.  Are professors regarded as truth-finders and truth-tellers?  Largely no.  Later they say:

Unfortunately, in recent decades some university administrators have engaged in an all-out assault on academic freedom by seeking to (1) replace outspoken full-time faculty with part-time adjuncts, and (2) gut the rules governing academic freedom and tenure.

There are more part-timers [but that might be due to for-profit schools] but we are unconvinced that the full-time faculty is outspoken and the part-timers are not.  It could be that the administration can do something about part-timers and this is why we see more examples of them.

They cite some reasonable issues about the proposed rules.  They also suggest some silly stuff like it will hurt recruiting.  We have been involved in recruiting faculty for decades.  We thought of tenure process as a selling point for our school but nobody was ever convinced by our arguments.  Location, fit, and money are a the driving forces in faculty decisions.  Tenured deadwood is a big problem with fit in recruiting because the deadwood won’t change courses to accommodate new faculty and can’t help them with research.

Tenure as currently constituted is not getting us to faculty who are truth-tellers and truth-finders.  As conservatives we need to be reluctant to change established systems.  But in this case the system is highly ineffective in reaching goals.  Many folks have reminded us that “it” can always get worse and measured change makes sense.  Although Bob and Josh approvingly reference an overwrought article in Slate, Wisconsin is not a bad model.


Good Luck Zimbabwe

It appears that Zimbabwe has ousted the tyrant Robert Mugabe and his first lady Grace who has ruled and ruined the country over the last 37 years.  Right now Zimbabwe ranks 175 out of 180 countries on Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom.  Here is a quote from Heritage:

Zimbabwe’s economy is characterized by instability and volatility, both of which are hallmarks of excessive government interference and mismanagement. Massive corruption and disastrous economic policies have plunged Zimbabwe into poverty. The government’s near bankruptcy has triggered large protests over unpaid civil service wages and a continuing economic crisis.

We wish Zimbabwe well.  We recognize how difficult it will be to make headway after 37 years of misrule. If they are reading we want to remind them that capitalism works and socialism doesn’t.  As evidence, three of the five countries below them are Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea.  Good luck.

Reviving An Old Slur

The “news” industry has rediscovered an old slur: Trickle-Down Economics (TDE).  Catherine Rampell is on the editorial page

Sidebar: We know we made fun of Kevin Williamson for stooping to take on Catherine but she is just part of this post.

She is saying things like this:

Of course, Republican lawmakers and administration officials promise that these corporate giveaways will really, truly, honest-to-goodness primarily benefit us regular humans, especially humans in the middle class.

That’s because, they claim, corporate tax cuts will unleash a wave of business investment and therefore economic growth, most of which will trickle down to the little people-people.

Well, heroes one thing Kevin Hassett, The Donald’s chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, said (from Larry Kudlow):

“Economists who have studied the effects of taxes over time have discovered a consensus,” he said. “Lower marginal tax rates and a broader base increase the rate of economic growth and well-being.”

Here is Kevin on CNBC:

The new report from Hassett, out Monday morning, projects that reducing the corporate tax rate to 20 percent will result in a windfall for U.S. workers. He predicted average U.S. household income would increase at least $4,000 a year but could rise as much as $9,000 annually.

It is an interesting question of the incidence of corporate taxes.  What percentage falls on owners and workers?  Catherine is suggesting that 100 percent falls on owners.  That seems unlikely.  It seems even more unlikely that the owners will decide to put all that money in their mattresses.

Taking up almost all of the above the fold back page of the 11/18 La Crosse Tribune  is an associated press (AP) story (yes it is an editorial pretending it is a news story) that we can’t find on the Internet.  The headline is: Giving Trickle-Down Another Try.  Here the AP is going for a triple slur.  They get Reagan, Trump, economics all in one headline.  It gives the Tax Policy Center the highly coveted “nonpartisan” designation.  [Perhaps they are just wrong and not partisan.] It blames the W’s 2001-3 tax cuts for the Great Recession and notes that W’s expansion was one of the weakest.  Hmmm, which President, we wonder, had the weakest?

If you would like a more detailed discussion of the slur check out Thomas Sowell from 2012.

Catherine and the AP seem desperate to make slurs and throw stuff against the wall and hope that something sticks.  To get the success of the Reagan tax cuts from The Donald’s tax cuts we need to couple it with deregulation and good central banking.  There seems to be good news on deregulation.  The Donald doesn’t fill us with confidence and we worry about trade but he is our best chance.