Is Trump Destroying the GOP?

Of all the concerns raised about President Donald Trump and his behavior in the Oval Office, perhaps one of the more sobering one is the way he and his allies have elevated a minority position within the GOP to a dominant policy agenda at the national level.

Throughout his primary campaign, Trump spoke to his base by consistently harping on populist policy proposals such slowing or stopping immigration by building a wall along the Mexican border, repealing Obamacare, renegotiating or pulling out of NAFTA, and lowering corporate taxes. He also leveraged his business background to legitimize a bold, no holds barred approach to governing the country without any critical thought to how top-down business management approaches might undermine democratic institutions.

While these agenda items consume public debate today, however, they represented a minority position within the Republican Party when he began his candidacy in 2016. In fact, Trump remained a minority candidate within the GOP up until the last month of the primaries.

Compounding California’s Student Preparation Problem

California State University officials want more undergraduates to earn their degrees and do so more quickly. Yet their “solution” could compound the more fundamental problem that too many students are graduating without being prepared.

CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White issued an executive order last month that changes policies affecting entering freshmen’s knowledge assessments and course placements. One change is allowing remedial English and math classes to count as credit-bearing courses toward a degree. To help avoid remedial courses altogether CSU plans to use multiple measures to determine course placements not just scores on tests taken during students’ junior or senior years of high school. These measures will include high school course grades and GPAs.

Yet these changes are risky, as Thomas D. Elias explains in The Orange County Register.

The 23-campus California State University system knows it must somehow speed up graduation beyond today’s pace, which sees just 19 percent of entering freshmen graduate within four years. The low rate is at least partly because more than a third of frosh need some remedial work. ...

The problem with giving academic credit for remedial classes that essentially provide students with knowledge or skills they should have picked up in high school is that it threatens to dumb down degrees from Cal State campuses from the North Coast to San Diego.

Review: The Hitman’s Bodyguard and the Ethics of Assassination

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an action/drama that would normally be considered standard fare for the summer season. Yet this movie does more than careen through dead bodies and extended vehicle chases. The story is driven by the relationship between the core characters and turns on a serious question of ethics and forgiveness. At the same time, the film verges on a parody of its genre. This combination seems to have befuddled many movie critics but not audiences.

Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Life) plays Michael Bryce, a AAA-rated executive bodyguard. This moniker alone is the first clue that much of this movie is tongue in cheek—part spoof, more drama, and mostly action. Bryce falls from grace when one of his high-profile clients, a billionaire Asian arms dealer, is assassinated on one of his very lucrative assignments. As a consequence, Bryce is relegated to the dregs of bodyguard gigs–protecting drug-addicted CEOs so they can testify against their suppliers.

Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Hateful Eight) plays Darius Kincaid, a notorious assassin with over one hundred kills to his credit, and an arch nemesis of Bryce. When Kincaid agrees to testify against Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman of the Harry Potter series, The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Darkest Hour), the blood-thirsty tyrant ruling Belarus, Bryce ends up being the only one Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung from Gods of Egypt, The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, District 13: Ultimatum) trusts to deliver Kincaid to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

$13 Billion in the School Supplies “Poorhouse”

This summer Tulsa Public Schools third-grade teacher Teresa Danks made national headlines when she decided to panhandle for school supplies. Sick of spending as much as $2,000 of her $35,000 salary each year on the school supplies her classes needed, Danks decided to beg for supplies instead.

Dubbed the “Panhandling Teacher,” Danks received over $50 in mere minutes begging on the street corner. Danks’ Go Fund Me page has since raised close to $30,000 while donations continue to pour into her school. The response has been so overwhelming that Danks is now helping teachers from other schools fundraise.

But Danks isn’t the only teacher who’s taken extraordinary steps to get ordinary classroom items. According to ABC News’ Katie Kindelan:

Teachers at 76 percent of public schools in America have posted projects on [], and requests worth up to $50 million have been fulfilled in 2017 alone...Of the 900,000 requests from teachers, more than half are for books and basic classroom supplies, according to the website.

Of course, as almost any parent can tell you, school supplies lists these days are anything but “basic.”

Transcending Government — Consensual Governance and New Technology

“Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous.” –Jim Dator

Humans are three-dimensional animals. They require physical space to live, work, and play. Over thousands of years, humans built physical communities of different shapes, sizes, and compositions to accommodate their three-dimensional existence.

But increasingly, humans are also building virtual communities that rival, and sometimes exceed, the scale of physical communities. These social networks are becoming more complex, connected, and useful to humans, consuming more of our time and energy.

Hurricane Haikus

Price gouging sounds bad

Stupid laws make it a crime

Shortage continues


Houses at high risk

Subsidized flood insurance

What would you expect?


Storm’s victims galore

Government to the rescue

Mixed blessing at best

* * *

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute. His most recent book is Taking a Stand: Reflections on Life, Liberty, and the Economy.

How NYU Can Learn from China

When I studied in London last year as part of my university’s exchange program, I experienced first-hand the inefficiencies of monopolies propped up by central authorities. The “central authority” I speak of is not, perhaps, what you are thinking of: the UK government, or worse, the ‘notorious’ European Union. Rather, I use the term to describe my own university, which in many ways operates like a state. I was inspired to write this blog post after reading China’s Great Migration, by Bradley M. Gardner, because of the parallels I saw between the Chinese government’s control over its economy and my university’s control over housing.

I go to New York University, which is known in New York for being egregiously expensive. At NYU’s London campus, the story is the same. In particular, housing costs turn a high tuition bill into a monumental cost of attendance. But it doesn’t have to be this way. NYU is much smaller than a state, but its housing woes reflect the problems caused by governments that limit economic competition and enforce state-run monopolies; it can learn from these experiences.

Sanctuary Cities and Recreational Marijuana

Sanctuary cities deliberately refer to themselves using this confrontational terminology, indicating that they provide a sanctuary for those who are in the country illegally. They do so by refusing to aid the federal government in enforcing federal immigration law.

Sanctuary cities could be less confrontational if they dropped the terminology and simply said they enforce their own laws, but they do not enforce the laws of other governments. Sanctuary cities are not shielding immigrants from federal enforcement, they just are not cooperating with the federal government to enforce federal law.

My reaction to this less confrontational view of sanctuary cities is to think that local law enforcement agencies enforce local laws, and it is up to the federal government to enforce federal laws. Why should local governments be required to enforce the laws of the federal government? What’s next? Should local governments also be looking for people who cheat on their income taxes?

Readers can surely see the relationship between sanctuary cities and the consumption of recreational marijuana, which is legal in several states but violates federal law. There is an uneasy tension here between state and federal law, but so far the federal government has not asked state and local governments to enforce its laws against the consumption of marijuana.

To be consistent on the two issues, either the federal government would leave sanctuary cities alone and enforce its own laws without local government assistance, or would require that local governments aid in the apprehension of recreational marijuana users and sellers even in states where state laws allow it.

I will end with a question for readers: Should local governments be responsible for enforcing federal laws?

Progressive Democracy Works for the 1%

The Occupy Wall Street movement that began in 2011 protested government policies that favored the 1%, the elite, over the 99%, the masses. Their protests were justified. The Wall Street fat cats who owned mortgage-backed securities were bailed out, but homeowners who had lost their jobs and couldn’t pay their mortgages were foreclosed. But that’s the way Progressive Democracy works.

We can look at those two ideas of Progressivism and Democracy to see why.

Democracy can be thought of in several ways. One is that it is a method of peacefully choosing and replacing those who hold government power. But that view of democracy has been replaced by a broader one. People view democracy as a type of government that carries out the will of the people, as determined by the outcomes of democratic elections.

This view of democracy, widely accepted today, legitimizes anything the government does, because a democratic government is just implementing the policies chosen by the voters.

Progressivism is an ideology that views the role of government as not only protecting individual rights but also looking out for people’s economic well-being. Often, this means imposing costs on some for the benefit of others.

Illinois Passes Its First, Country’s 18th, Tax-Credit Scholarship Program

This week the Illinois legislature passed legislation creating the country’s 18th tax-credit scholarship program, and the bill is on its way to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who’s said he’ll sign it. UPDATE: Gov. Rauner signed the bill (see here).

Officially called the Invest in Kids Act, Illinois’ flagship tax-credit scholarship program was passed as part of a compromise school funding bill. (See SB 1947. On the lengthy legislative battles, see here and here.)

Unlike voucher scholarships, which are funded by government appropriations, tax-credit scholarships are privately financed through donations to non-profit scholarship organizations.

The Invest in Kids Act makes students from low- and moderate-income families eligible for scholarships, which are scaled based on family income. When awarding scholarships, non-profits must give priority to low-income students, students in districts with poorly performing public schools, called “focus districts,” and siblings of scholarship recipients.

Scholarship amounts cannot exceed the lesser of necessary private school costs and fees, or the statewide average public school operational expense per student, which averages just under $13,000. Scholarship limits are higher for special needs, English learner, and gifted/talented students.