Communicating Conservative Principles

Some time ago Michael Moore appeared on The View with conservative columnist Star Parker.  On that show Moore said we have socialized roads, police and fire departments and socialized retirement (Social Security).  He then he asked why not socialized medicine?  I can’t remember how Star Parker responded.  I remember I agreed with her, but if you didn’t already agree with Parker’s view, what she said didn’t win any converts.

It’s tough to communicate conservative values effectively in short, emotional debates.  Churchill said twenty year old conservatives must have no hearts while forty year old liberals must have no brains.  He understood that it took years of thoughtful experience to learn that conservative principles are more likely to result in the heart’s desire of a compassionate twenty year old.

I agree with Churchill.  It took me a few years to convert, but that doesn’t excuse conservatives from finding creative, concise and effective ways to communicate our principles.

Since Moore’s View appearance, I’ve heard several of my liberal friends repeat Moore’s line of reasoning about socialism.  I’d love to hear suggestions for how to counter this expediently.  My attempts so far have not been effective. 

What I’ve used so far goes something like this: schools, fire and police departments are managed locally, not nationally.  In other words, there’s not one Federal police department.  Cities with bad schools, police or fire departments will lose citizens and tax base to cities with good ones.  This encourages poorly ran cities to improve services to attract and retain its tax base, enables innovation and avoids a single point of failure. 

Perhaps, I should first ask the other person whether they support the locally managed departments or one federal department and ask why.

Thomas Sowell's "Applied Economics"

The first few pages of Thomas Sowell’s Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One explains the incentives that doom government do-good programs.

People evaluate political decisions on intentions and economic decisions on results.   A political decision, such as using taxpayer money to bail out banks, is made to make the politicians look well-intentioned in order to win favor with voters, whether the result matches the intentions or not.  Often government programs hurt the very people they’re intended to help because of unintended consequences.  Yet programs continue on and grow because of the visible good intentions.

On the other hand, when I make an economic decision, like buying dinner from a restaurant, I evaluate the result.  Was the dinner worth what I gave up in exchange (money, time, drive)?  The restaurant workers may have good intentions, but if they don’t deliver a tasty meal in a reasonable time I won’t return. 

Sowell described that his Harvard economics professor, Arthur Smithie, got him to think through potential unintended consequences by asking which policy he favored and why and then asking, “And then what will happen?”  He would keep asking the last question over and over again.  I’ll give that a try.

Good Economics Teacher

Thanks to Cafe Hayek for this link to an econ teacher who teaches the subject in a useful way.  Lucky students.

On the first day of class, my Econ 101 prof promised that I would be able to read the Wall Street Journal by the end of the course.  I don’t think she achieved that goal.  I still have trouble with the Wall Street Journal.  It seems like a lot of random noise to me.  I would have found much more value in that course had she promised to teach us why rent controls don’t work.

Stop Spending Our Money!

We need to find someone capable of doing this in the U.S.  Daniel Hannan delivered a sound thrashing to the British Prime Minister on Tuesday, while on the same day our own President, for the first time, faced tough questions from a press corps that seems to be sobering up.  Much of what Mr. Hanaman said can and should be directed at Barack Obama.  Folks, he’s spending all of our money and we’re letting him.

We Don't Know What to Measure

My post on ‘Open Source’ got me thinking about how we rarely know the best true measure of success.  The best measure of success is usually the one that gets us closest to the truth.  That sounds obvious, but it’s not.

How do you measure the success of a school district?  Many “experts” (see my post on Expert Fallacy) might support using measures such as drop-out rates, standardized test scores, class size or average education level of teaching staff. 

 But, the measure that might get us close to the truth on the school district’s success than any of these metrics is net increase of students in the district.  Good school districts attract families and drive growth of the student population.

Critical Thinker of the Week

Jason Whitlock, a Kansas City sports columnist, exhibits great critical thinking in this column from Sunday’s Kansas City Star about racial collegiate graduation statistics.

Whether he’s right or wrong isn’t the point. It interests me that he doesn’t blindly accept the politically correct, expedient, nod-in-agreement-or-be-chastised-into-oblivion hypothesis.  And, he doesn’t question the quality of the statistics.  He offers altnernative, plausible explanations for the stats and asks for alternative ways to cut the stats that might add to the picture.  For example, he’d like to see the stats by  parental situation (two parent, single parent, no parent) rather than race alone.  Whitlock is in good company.  Thomas Sowell makes the same point. 

I’m interested to see the fallout of Jason’s column.  If the past is any guide, he’s sure to be called names, ridiculed and discredited (after all, he’s just a sports guy, right?), but you can rest assured that few, if any, of his critics will address the validity of his points.

However it comes out, Jason Whitlock recieves my very first Mind Changers Critical Thinker of the Week Award.   Congratulations Jason!