Here's how my Aug. 11, 2003, column began: "Anyone who believes President Bush's Africa initiative, including sending U.S. troops to Liberia, will amount to more than a hill of beans is whistling Dixie. Maybe it's overly pessimistic, but most of Africa is a continent without much hope for its people." More than a decade has passed since that assessment, and little has changed to suggest a more optimistic outlook. Now Ebola threatens the very existence of the West African nations Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Moreover, the deadly disease is likely to spread to neighboring nations.
So as to give some perspective, I'm going to ask readers for their guesses about human behavior before explaining my embarrassment by some of my fellow economists.
The Food and Drug Administration can make two types of errors. It can approve a drug that has dangerous unanticipated side effects, or it can reject or delay approval of a drug that is safe and effective. Let's look at these errors, because to err on the side of under- or over-caution is costly.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), sometimes called ISIS or IS, is a Sunni extremist group that follows al-Qaida's anti-West ideology and sees a holy war against the West as a religious duty. With regard to nonbelievers, the Quran commands, "And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out." The Quran contains many other verses that call for Muslim violence against nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule.
At a July fundraising event in Chicago, Mrs. Michelle Obama remarked, "So, yeah, there's too much money in politics. There's (sic) special interests that have too much influence." Sen. John McCain has been complaining for years that "there is too much money washing around political campaigns today." According to a 2012 Reuters poll, "Seventy-five percent of Americans feel there is too much money in politics." Let's think about money in politics, but first a few facts.
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Are women equal to men? Are Jews equal to gentiles? Are blacks equal to Italians, Irish, Polish and other white people?
After reading Dr. Thomas Sowell's latest book, "Intellectuals and Race," one cannot emerge with much respect for the reasoning powers of intellectuals, particularly academics, on matters of race. There's so much faulty logic and downright dishonesty.
American education is in a sorry state of affairs, and there's enough blame for all participants to have their fair share.
Let's work through an example. Suppose 100 yards of fence could be built using one of two techniques. You could hire three low-skilled workers for $15 each, or you could hire one high-skilled worker for $40. Either way, you get the same 100 yards of fence built. If you sought maximum profits, which production technique would you employ? I'm guessing that you'd hire one high-skilled worker and pay him $40 rather than hire three low-skilled workers for $15 each. Your labor costs would be $40 rather than $45.
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. That would be almost a 25 percent increase. Let's look at the president's proposal, but before doing so, let's ask some other economic questions.
Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" has been a box-office hit and nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including best picture, best director and best actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, who portrayed our 16th president. I haven't seen the movie; therefore, this column is not about the movie but about a man deified by many. My colleague Thomas DiLorenzo, economics professor at Loyola University Maryland, exposed some of the Lincoln myth in his 2006 book, "Lincoln Unmasked." Now comes Joseph Fallon, cultural intelligence analyst and former U.S. Army Intelligence Center instructor, with his new e-book, "Lincoln Uncensored." Fallon's book examines 10 ...
A senior Defense Department official said the ban on women in combat should be lifted because the military's goal is "to provide a level, gender-neutral playing field." I'd like to think the goal of the military should be to have the toughest, meanest fighting force possible. But let's look at "gender-neutral playing field."
Let's expose presidential prevarication. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama warned that Social Security checks will be delayed if Congress fails to increase the government's borrowing authority by raising the debt ceiling. However, there's an issue with this warning. According to the 2012 Social Security trustees report, assets in Social Security's trust funds totaled $2.7 trillion, and Social Security expenditures totaled $773 billion. Therefore, regardless of what Congress does about the debt limit, Social Security recipients are guaranteed their checks.
Let's look at experts.
When I attended primary and secondary school -- during the 1940s and '50s -- one didn't hear of the kind of shooting mayhem that's become routine today. Why? It surely wasn't because of strict firearm laws. My replica of the 1902 Sears mail-order catalog shows 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped.
Nearly two years ago, U.S. News & World Report came out with a story titled "Educators Implicated in Atlanta Cheating Scandal." It reported that "for 10 years, hundreds of Atlanta public school teachers and principals changed answers on state tests in one of the largest cheating scandals in U.S. history." More than three-quarters of the 56 Atlanta schools investigated had cheated on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, sometimes called the national report card. Cheating orders came from school administrators and included brazen acts such as teachers reading answers aloud during the test and erasing incorrect answers. One ...
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, said: "The British are not coming. ... We don't need all these guns to kill people." Lewis' vision, shared by many, represents a gross ignorance of why the framers of the Constitution gave us the Second Amendment. How about a few quotes from the period and you decide whether our Founding Fathers harbored a fear of foreign tyrants.
Here's the first paragraph of my last year's column "Democracy Is Impossible":
JoAnn Watson, Detroit city council member, said, "Our people in an overwhelming way supported the re-election of this president, and there ought to be a quid pro quo." In other words, President Obama should send the nearly bankrupted city of Detroit millions in taxpayer bailout money. But there's a painful lesson to be learned from decades of political hustling and counsel by intellectuals and urban experts.
Suppose you saw a building on fire. Would you seek counsel from the arsonist who set it ablaze for advice on how to put it out? You say, "Williams, you'd have to be a lunatic to do that!" But that's precisely what we've done: turned to the people who created our fiscal crisis to fix it. I have never read a better account of our doing just that than in John A. Allison's new book, "The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure."