Just in case anyone was still curious as to why my blog is called “The Solution is the Problem,” I’ve decided to show a few examples from the recent news. If people begin to think of policies not in terms of what they are supposed to do, but instead in terms of what they actually will do despite the best intentions of their proponents, I will be a happy Socrates.
First, an article from Smart Money about how college aid makes college more expensive. Though there has long been much conjecture about a causal connection, there is only a little evidence. I find it entirely plausible that more government college aid causes college to become more expensive, and the data are continuing to mount:
Federal aid for students has increased 164% over the past decade, adjusted for inflation, according to the College Board. Yet three-quarters of Americans and even a majority of college presidents see college as unaffordable for most, and that sentiment has been steadily spreading, the Pew Research Center reports.
…If subsidies puff up buying power and shift prices higher, as economics courses teach, could federal aid for college help create an affordability problem? After all, the federal government began spending more on college aid with the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the full funding of Pell Grants in 1975. Since 1979, tuition and fees have tripled after adjusting for inflation. That’s much faster than the increase for real estate and teacher pay.
…After adjusting for differences among schools, the authors find that Title IV-eligible schools charge tuition that is 75% higher than the others. That’s roughly equal to the amount of the aid received by students at these schools.
Studies like these suggest that if one goal of government is to make college affordable, aid should become more thoughtful instead of merely more plentiful.
Today’s second topic comes from a Reason article called “Drug Warriors Encourage Mexican Meth Makers to Sharpen Their Chemistry Skills.” Recall that the safe and effective nasal decongestant pseudoephedrine was federally limited and tracked some seven years ago to combat meth.
Seven years later, Jacob Sullum helpfully points out that, although pseudoephedrine was never required to make meth anyway, the upshot of the law has been the emergence of a Mexican black market.
The prevalence of meth production in Mexico was driven home this month when authorities reportedly seized 15 tons of meth on the outskirts of the city of Guadalajara, a known stronghold of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
“This is a cyclical drug. If you pass a precursor bill it goes down, and then it comes back up again,” Maxwell said. “The lesson on this is that we can’t congratulate ourselves for doing away with pseudoephedrine. People keep looking for other recipes.”
The results have been interesting to say the least. First, the pseudoephedrine ban has led to an increase in meth making using other ingredients. It has pushed much production over the border, which has in turn fostered more violence in what is basically a war-torn country. It has led to increased border patrol costs. It has raised the price of meth, making addicts more desperate and possibly driving more crime. It has emphatically not reduced the use of meth.
Oh, and it makes it much harder for the vast majority of innocent Americans to deal with the common cold.
Bang up job so far, drug warriors. I’d say you’ve probably lost the drug war when people are posting directions for the synthesis of useful pseudoephedrine from the much more common and less-effectively controlled meth.
This is really just the latest in a series of government actions designed to protect people from the risks of their investment decisions, whereupon one quickly finds that, without risks, there are no rewards.
At last, the government is proposing new rules, which are supposed to make MMFs less risky. The funds would have to raise new capital, and some minor withdrawal limitations would be imposed on customers. They would also have to offer a floating net asset value instead of the current “guarantee” that if you deposit a dollar, you’ll always get at least that dollar back.The last is all by itself disastrous for these funds, whose main attraction is that they act like bank accounts. As for the rest, in a normal interest rate environment, this would be onerous. But with interest rates as low as they are, there’s no way for MMFs to absorb the hit by offering a lower return; it looks to me as if the interest rate would probably have to be negative. Which is to say, your MMF would actually be charging you for the privilege of giving you their money.If passed as proposed, the rules would seemingly put the MMFs out of business.
In an article at Reason yesterday, Jacob Sullum explicates further the point that poor women are nothing but a red herring in the birth control mandate debate:
Supporters of Obama’s birth control rule conflate liberty with subsidies, insisting that you are not really free to do something (in this case, use contraceptives) unless it’s free. According to this logic, observant Jews do not have religious freedom unless the government pays for their kosher food, bloggers do not have freedom of speech unless taxpayers buy them computers, and Americans in general do not have a right to keep and bear arms if they have to pay for guns with their own money. By contrast, the religious institutions that object to the contraceptive mandate are not asking for subsidies; they are resisting them. They object to a regulation that forces them to pay for products and services they consider immoral.
Of course, you should read the whole thing. And again, this elaborates on my previous point that this is not limited to a religious issue. Even if you are completely secular, you should be appalled at this mandate, because the injustice applies to you as well.
You may have no moral or emotional problem with paying for other people’s birth control, but consider the implications of the precedent. If birth control must be paid for by others because women are to “be free” to choose to use birth control, then by the same logic, it is absolutely proper that you be forced to pay for a new church building for Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps. Why? He must “be free” to worship as he chooses and he may or may not be able to afford a new church building on his own.
Ultimately, if you have a problem with people’s access to birth control, donate to those organizations that widen said access. You have no claim on the property of other people, and you may not force them to subsidize things they choose not to. This holds regardless of which things are to be subsidized.
Cato’s Gene Healy takes to the Washington Examiner to write about the TSA forcing a 95-year-leukemia patient to remove her adult diaper to get through the airport screening process. In pertinent part:
As always when the TSA commits some new atrocity — like last April’s “freedom fondle” of a 6-year-old girl — a designated bureaucratic spokes-unit affirmed that the officers acted “according to proper procedure.”
As my colleague Julian Sanchez observes, it’s bizarre to think we’re supposed to find it comforting “that everything is being done by the book — even if the ‘book’ is horrifying.” Wouldn’t you rather hear that such actions were the work of overzealous line officers, instead of policies vetted and approved at the highest levels of the federal government?
Do I find this personally unsettling, disgusting, and highly unnecessary? Depends.
Apropos of nothing in particular, Reason’s Jacob Sullum reports that the Texas House has passed a bill limiting the TSA. The bill would affect “public servants” who:
“while acting under color of the person’s office or employment, without probable cause to believe the other person committed an offense, performs a search without effective consent for the purpose of granting access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation” and “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of the other person, including touching through the clothing.”
I happen to think this is a step in the right direction, quixotic or not. It brings up questions that we need to be asking, namely about probable cause and unwarranted searches in the first place, and about the limits of federal government overreach in the second place.
I believe that a great many Texans and Americans in general would agree with me that the TSA, which to date has captured zero terrorists, is entirely unnecessary. When the cost benefit ratio divides by zero, you know that something is askew. However, the bill passed over the objections of the House Speaker:
The bill passed despite resistance from House Speaker Joe Straus, who dismissed it as “an ill-advised publicity stunt,” saying he wanted to “send a message without actually harming commercial aviation in Texas” (a reference to U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy’s warning that the TSA might be forced to shut down Texas airports)…
Of course the TSA has threatened to completely shut down Texas airports if they see any resistance to their efforts to fondle six-year-old girls and humiliate your grandmother. Because bureaucracies will do everything in their power, warranted or not, to self-perpetuate. Just remember that every day we do nothing to stop this is another day the TSA will use to entrench itself more and more until transportation is indistinguishable from the Nazi police state.