Archive | From the Editor

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Is Meritocracy Dead in America?

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-06-29 20:46:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It was a beautiful day on Long Island today, as my daughter fussed over her cap and gown, getting ready for her high school graduation. The rite of passage that is the graduation ceremony was to be the highlight of our day, the last ritual before going away to college and beginning her new academic and social life away from home and the heretofore familiar surroundings. As most fathers are at this stage, I am very proud of her and her achievements to date and am confident she will do great in college.

As we arrived at the school athletic fields where the ceremony was to take place for the over 600 graduating seniors, the school principal and various dignitaries from the board of education were all lined up to fulfill their respective roles in the process. Among them the familiar face of Charles (Chuck) Schumer, the senior senator from New York was to give the commencement speech.

Opening the ceremony, the senator started with his speech, and I was surprised to hear the exact same one I heard 2 years ago at my older daughter’s graduation. Thinking this to be a bit odd and frankly somewhat lazy, I paid little attention to the drone of “how I became a senator” until the speech’s concluding remarks. The culminating point of the speech was Schumer’s self-aggrandizing statement of having successfully sponsored a new $2,500 tax credit program for middle-class families. Under the program, which will run for 2 years, families will be entitled to claim a $2,500 tax credit per each student enrolled in college, provided that their income meets certain maximum threshold provisions, which he stated would be capped at $200,000.

“For each of you earning less than $200,000, you will now be able to afford to send your children to college,” said the senator. “For those of you making $200,000 and above – well, God bless you.” The audience reacted with an energetic applause to this not so subtle example of class warfare rhetoric.

Setting aside the inaccuracy of the qualifying income limit (according to our research, when combined with the HOPE credit and other tax laws, the qualifying income limit may in fact be $60K for single and $120K for families), the principle notion of government sponsorship of college education based on financial need as opposed to merit should be of some concern.

By targeting the nation’s financial resources on programs which aid less affluent prospective students, we have fundamentally abandoned any notions of meritocracy and replaced them with a need-based social construct. While clearly a popular position among most Americans since it is portrayed as a caring gesture of the government (who would object to receiving a seemingly free gift or in this case benefit, i.e. the proverbial something for nothing?), we should examine its consequences, as in most cases many of them end up being unintended and in the greater context, undesirable.

Should the affluence level of the student’s family be the driving measure in the allocation of government subsidies for the student to attend college?

We are conditioned to answer this question in the affirmative, since in our politically correct dialect the less affluent are part of an affirmative action class. It is therefore our societal obligation, we are taught, to provide access to our nation’s financial resources on a preferred basis to those who are most in need of them, without regard to their individual contribution or their ability to make best use of such resources.

To what degree do we value fairness in the distribution of government financial aid for college education, or does the principle of equality trump all others?

As modern day Americans we don’t seem to place much value on fairness in the manner in which government serves its people. I’ve written on the distinction between equality and fairness in the June 13, 2000 article “Let’s not Confuse Equality and Fairness”. The article exposes our progressively degenerating definition of equality from what was our Founding Fathers’ original intent (equality of opportunity and not that of outcome) to the present socio-marxist interpretation of “… to each according to his needs.” In the long run, the dogmatic adherence to equality according to one’s need necessarily must lead to a polarization of the society and, instead of creating the intended harmony between income classes, it creates an increasingly greater rift between them. Meritocracy has to be, to a dominant extent, interwoven into the decision process in order for a society to survive and thrive.

Since we are now competing for minds in a global economy, how do we rank in their midst?

Since we’ve conceded that the optimal distribution of resources to produce the most effective outcome (only achievable through a merit based allocation) is not the goal, we therefore accept mediocrity as a satisfactory outcome. This, beyond any other force, is likely to have the most far reaching impact on the quality of citizens our education system produces over the long run. Comparing our policies with those of China, India and most European countries, where college entry is earned primarily through exceptional performance, the divergence in the intellectual quality of their college graduates as compared with those coming out of US schools is already becoming more apparent.

Many who would not consider themselves to be affluent, have historically not been able to qualify for any meaningful financial aid precisely because of their tax dollars being dispersed according to an equality formula that has very little, if anything to do with the benefit that the dollars spent will produce. In the case of my daughter, who graduated high school in the top 5% of her class of over 600, her acceptance into a number of very good schools was not matched with any meaningful financial contribution from the government. We ended up making a reasonable compromise, but I have not yet come up with a good way of explaining to her why her excellent performance and exceptional efforts were not recognized by the government of a country of which she will once be a leader.

* * * * *

Quotation of the Day:

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”

John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)

* * * * *

We welcome your comments and suggestions, either directly inline, or via email to editor@nakedliberty.com. If you would like to have your article published in Naked Liberty, please contact the editor at the above email address.

Click Here to Subscribe to Naked Liberty Articles by Email

 

Comments (1)

Tags: , ,

Our Tribute to 9-11

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-09-11 11:40:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

On this most solemn of days, in honor of the Fallen, we dedicate this presentation to those who perished in the tragedy of 9-11, and those who have since given their lives to insure that such a tragedy never strikes this great nation again. Please be patient while the flash presentation loads.

 

The above presentation is Copyright © 2009 NakedLiberty.com and XCIOS, LLC
All Rights Reserved
If you would like to use this content on your website or blog, you can download it from our site.

We will return to our regular articles format on Monday, September 14.

Please send comments to editor@nakedliberty.com
Link to this page: http://nakedliberty.com/2009/09/our-tribute-to-9-11/

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , ,

The Lobbyist Does Not Speak the Peoples’ Voice

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-07-23 21:55:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Constitution lays the foundation for a relationship between the people and their government. This relationship is, to a significant degree, founded on the trust that each citizen places with their elected representatives. These representatives, whether local, regional or national, by being elected to their posts, accept the responsibility of supporting their constituents’ ideals, goals and principles. They become servants of the people, an extension of their individual voices in the collective government they comprise.

There is a game we used to play as kids called “echo,” where each player would whisper something in their neighbor’s ear, who in turn would whisper what they thought they heard to their neighbor, and so on. Inevitably, a humorous concoction of snippets of the original sentence would emerge at the end of the line. A completely innocent game of listening and interpretation, with each player having only one objective – to relay the message with as much accuracy as possible. Even with only three players – a source, middle and recipient – very rarely would the recipient receive the original message intact.

Now let’s inject an agenda into the game. How would the outcome be affected if the middle player was induced by the school bully to distort the message and to influence the recipient’s apprehension of the original message’s content? Surely meaning would be lost. In the innocence of the game, one might even ascribe humor to the outcome. But what if the stakes were higher, much higher?

In the dynamics of communications between the people and their government, a highly biased and results-motivated middle man agent is injected. He is called The Lobbyist and he enters directly into the path of the people’s voice. His intentions are indeed highly motivated. His agenda has nothing to do with accurately communicating the people’s voice. His intentions are in fact highly distortive to the communications process.

Most sources attribute the birth of the Lobbyist to the administration of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant would often walk to lobby of the Willard Hotel not far from the White House to enjoy his favorite cigars. His routine was quickly picked up by politicians who would find this time a perfect opportunity to solicit him with special requests for support of various matters. The term “lobbyist” emerged from these interactions.

Political lobbying has historically been regarded as an “unclean” activity, shunned away from by most politicians who otherwise prided themselves on the purity of their intentions and reputation. This attitude changed dramatically in the 1980’s as political lobbying became more and more lucrative (and thereby corrupted), and professional lobbying firms sprouted all across the political landscape, backed by large enterprises and their financial sponsorship of various causes. According to a Washington Post article, “The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent. Only a few other businesses have enjoyed greater prosperity in an otherwise fitful economy.”

In the first 2 weeks in office President Obama nominated 17 professional lobbyists to several key advisory positions in his administration. These included Eric Holder as attorney general, Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture, William Lynn as deputy defense secretary, and fourteen others. Notwithstanding his campaign promise to keep his administration clean of ex-lobbyists, he continues to follow, with perhaps even more vigor than his predecessors, the practice of surrounding himself with influence-peddling bureaucrats. As HotAir.com points out, the president has conspicuously offered himself “For Sale” to all interested (and willing to pay-to-play) interest groups, and his actions since then, including the scandalous deal with the UAW in connection with the GM bailout, are a testament to the fact that he is indeed a player.

Are all lobby activities necessarily bad? Don’t lobbyists sometimes also represent the people’s interest on important issues? Doesn’t the NRA, for example, do good work on behalf of citizens concerned about protecting the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution (our right to keep and bear arms)? What about the lobbies that work to protect the rights of the underprivileged, to protect our borders, to promote education?

Inasmuch as many such lobby organizations may be motivated by righteous ideals, the institution of the lobby system is by its own formulation corrupt. When influence is bought with currency, if not directly into a politician’s pocket, then through the barter of monetize-able influences, good intentions are quickly polluted by commercial transactions and ethical compromises. The lobbyist necessarily becomes the undesirable relay agent a political game of Echo, placing himself in line of the people’s communication path with their government.

In a government “of the People, by the People and for the People” (Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) there is no place for a translator of the people’s voice in government. Our elected representatives are our channel of communication. With the rise in the influence of the lobbyist, it seems we’ve empowered a commercially incentivized third party to interpret our voice. And while our elected representatives have become too lazy to directly listen to our needs and calls for action, the lobbyist-translated messages do not reflect our original interests, meaning and intent.

There is increasing peril in allowing our representative form of government to continue to be warped by the influences that a financially motivated and ethically tainted system of lobby influences has on our relationship with our government. While attempts to reform the present system by imposing registration requirements, disclosing contributions and other transparency measures are a good first start (see Ethics and Lobbying Reform Act of 2006 and Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act of 2007, they fall far short of tangibly reducing the influence the lobby industry has on the activities of our government and re-connecting the people back to their elected representatives.

If our elected officials want our respect, trust and vote, then engage with us in a real and direct dialog without the middle man. Playing “echo” was fun when we were kids. Now let’s grow up and take responsibility for having a serious, adult conversation.

Mr. Government Representative – please look me straight in the eyes, listen to me and tell me what you stand for. You might be surprised to find out that I might actually believe you.


Comments (1)

Tags: , , , ,

On the Hidden Dangers of Comparative Effectiveness

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-06-18 21:15:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

As part of the stimulus spending package approved by the government earlier this year, funding in the amount of $1.1 billion was included to sponsor research into comparing the relative effectiveness of one form of medical treatment to another. Such research, as the program’s sponsors and supporters argued, would over time reduce the net cost of medical services by determining which medical procedures offer the lowest cost treatment to address common ailments. Armed with such information, it was further argued, doctors and medical professionals would apply this additional economic data in their decision to prescribe specific medicines and treatments.

On the surface this would seem to make good common sense in that it would provide some stabilizing relief to the increasing costs to the government of operating the country’s medicaid, medicare and veteran benefit systems. However, some of the less known aspects of the research bring out a number of troubling issues. Among these is the inclusion of studies which add the dimension of patient characteristics (such as age, gender, lifestyle) into the formula of overall effectiveness. As a result, effectiveness is defined in terms of a cost-benefit ratio as applied to a specific type of individual. For example, a comparative value is placed on the benefit of curing an illness in an 80 year-old versus 20 year-old man.  When faced with limited resources the results of the research would then be intended to provide guidance as to how those limited resources should be applied and when to apply available cures relative to the cost and benefit that such cures would provide. In the case cited, the 80 year-old man has little chance of receiving priority consideration.

While such policy is widely accepted in many European countries, I dare say to any American pondering such gross delegation of power over life and death decisions this has to be deeply concerning. There are numerous specific opportunities to bring new efficiency and reduce the resulting costs associated with providing healthcare. National electronic medical records, individual (not employer) management of healthcare insurance subscription, tax incentives to support wellness and health awareness are all excellent examples.

The recipe is to make individuals more responsible for the management of their health and medical matters. Delegating this to a disinterested third part, especially a government bureaucracy is tantamount to relinquishing one’s freedom.

* * * * *

Quotation of the Day:

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)
We welcome your comments and suggestions, either directly inline, or via email to editor@nakedliberty.com. If you would like to have your article published in Naked Liberty, please contact the editor at the above email address.

Subscribe to Naked Liberty by Email

Comments (2)

Tags: , , ,

John Stossel Airs Program on Atlas Shrugged

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2010-01-06 00:32:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Ayn Rand's sign.
Image via Wikipedia

John Stossel, the respected reporter who in October last year joined Fox Business after quitting his affiliation with ABC as an anchor on the popular “20/20” news program, will be airing a program discussing topics from Ayn Rand‘s great work “Atlas Shrugged.”  The program will air this Thursday, January 7 at 8:00 PM Eastern on Fox Business.

For those familiar with this work, John has published a poll on his blog asking who do you believe Wesley Mouch, one of the leading characters in the book, most resembles in today’s administration. Visit the pool at:

http://stossel.blogs.foxbusiness.com/2010/01/04/updated-atlas-shrugged-poll/

If you don’t receive the Fox Business Channel, I believe John’s program will stream live on their web site at:

http://live.foxbusiness.com/fblive.

I encourage readers to go to the Ayn Rand Institute site to check out the many references to her work and learn more about the revival of her philosophy of Objectivism. Click on the corresponding image below.

Update after program was aired:

John Stossel’s program on Atlas Shurgged, watch it here in 6 parts:

Part 1 of 6

Part 2 of 6

Part 3 of 6:

Part 4 of 6:

Part 5 of 6:

Part 6 of 6:

Ayn Rand's sign.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Comments (7)

Free Subscription to Naked Liberty Articles
* indicates required
Advertise Here
Advertise Here

TradeTrakker


Our Twitter Followers

Friends: Followers:

Recommended









free counters

Contribute

Other Links

EasyHits4U.com - Your Free Traffic Exchange - 1:1 Exchange Ratio, 5-Tier Referral Program. FREE Advertising!

Yavrim.com - Link to a Random Site. Help Promote Free Traffic Exchange
Subscribe to updates

Get Adobe Flash player