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Showing posts from November, 2019

Thankful for Real Community: A Thanksgiving Lesson

What follows is a true story – actually, two true stories, or the same story that occurred in two different places in very different times and circumstances. Read on to find out where. They had been discussing amongst themselves in pairs and small groups for months, concerned with their poverty and lack of progress in improving crop yields, so important to feeding themselves and building a thriving community. What they’d been doing, it seemed, should have succeeded. They all worked the same fields together – clearing, tilling, sowing, weeding, and reaping – everyone in the same fields at the same time. Anyone who might be weak in one skill should have had that weakness made up by others working beside them, with everyone benefitting from everyone else’s unique abilities. They all had a common purpose. But for the occasional troublemaker, present in every community, they liked each other, helped each other, and took care of each other when some among them fell ill. And, everybo

Gratitude for Restrained Government, and Restraints on Government

We at the 1889 Institute spend a lot of time critiquing government . I mean a lot . It’s what we do: we want to make government the best it can be, and that starts with identifying its flaws . But it is important, from time to time, to acknowledge that on the whole, Americans have it pretty good when it comes to governance. Here’s what I’m thankful for in government this year:   National defense . We live in perhaps the freest society that has ever existed. That would assuredly not be so if it were not for our strong commitment to deterring every foreign threat to our national sovereignty. What use is restrained government if a country is not safe from foreign invaders? Courts . Courts not only determine who is guilty of a crime and who is not, they also provide a forum to resolve sometimes vicious disputes without violence. If free trade is the bridge to human flourishing, then a legal system that upholds property rights, enforces contracts, and deters crime forms the t

Oklahoma Is OK, but Seriously, That’s Not OK

The Americans at the table, negotiating a business deal, ask one of their number, “You can speak Dutch?” He replies, “I’m OK.” With his fellow Americans looking doubtful, he proceeds to mistranslate what they want him to say to their Dutch counterparts. The “OK” translator tells the Dutch that the Americans really need a hug, when he was supposed to tell them they really need the deal. With that, the AT&T commercial ends as one of the Dutch negotiators gives an American a hug with the announcer saying, “When just OK is not OK.” There are several of these commercials, each with a different scenario, in which, indeed, just OK is not OK. And every time I see one of these commercials I think of the license plates that were once so common – “ Oklahoma is OK. ” As someone who works to develop policy suggestions intended to make Oklahoma better, and hopefully, the best that Oklahoma can be, it often seems that slogan – Oklahoma is OK – gets in the way. The fact is, in most r

What Do You Mean the Oklahoma Supreme Court Doesn’t Publish a Docket?

One of the most routine things any court does is to publish its “docket.” This public calendar announces the cases the court will hear and when they will be heard. The docket doesn’t just keep the court on schedule and notify the parties in litigation when to show up for court, it puts the public on notice as to what is going on in the legal system. This allows for a very basic level of public monitoring of what is (mostly) supposed to be a public process, and at the appellate level allows anyone who may have a personal or business interest in the interpretations of law the court is considering to follow, or sometimes influence the process. Court dockets are routinely published all across the United States and at every level, from the lowest traffic court to the United States Supreme Court. But, incredibly, not at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. No, really. Earlier this year I called the office of the Clerk of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and asked for a copy of the Court’s dock

Insider Dealing: Car Dealer Protectionism Run Amuck

Imagine you wanted to open a restaurant. Imagine you were allowed to cook the food yourself, but you were prohibited by law from serving it to customers yourself; instead, you were forced to hire a waiter. Next, imagine that the waiter wasn’t pulling his weight, but you weren’t allowed to fire him unless you could prove you had good cause, and the people you had to prove it to were the waiters friends, who also happened to be employed as waiters. Finally, imagine that you had to get permission from the waiter before you could hire another waiter. If he refused, you could appeal his decision… to that same group of his waiter friends. Each of these imaginary scenarios is a close analogy to the very real laws that hinder the distribution of new cars.   Car manufacturers are not allowed to sell directly to consumers. They can make the vehicle, but then must hire dealers (a.k.a. waiters) to interact with consumers. These state-mandated middlemen will surely want a cut of each sale,

Lessons from a Soviet MIG Pilot about Public Education

On September 6, 1976, a fighter pilot from the Soviet Union named Viktor Belenko flew a MIG-25 fighter jet to Japan and defected. At the time, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were fully engaged in the Cold War. The MIG-25 was a super top-secret aircraft about which the Pentagon knew only enough to be frightened. Consequently, the MIG-25 impacted the development of the F-15 Eagle . Thus, Belenko’s defection had major implications for America’s national defense, allowing a better look into the true capabilities of the Soviet Air Force. But Viktor Belenko’s story is much richer than the fact of his defection. Belenko had some telling experiences, described in his biography, MIG Pilot . He related how, while he was stationed at a remote military base, his superiors were told that a dignitary high in the Communist Party was to visit. In response, large trees were transplanted to line the road between the air strip and the base’s living quarters and offices in order to make the base mor

Past Performance Is Not Indicative of Future Results, Unless Government Props You Up

One January, a farmer decided to invest in the stock market. He’d had a bumper crop, and he wanted to shore up his financial future, planning for the time when providence would not be so kind. Knowing he wouldn’t have time to watch the market during the growing season, he did some research and invested heavily in a nice safe company: one that had a growth trend and had been named Fortune’s “Most Innovative Company” for six years.   That same January, a day trader wanted to make some long-term investments that he could keep on the back burner. He knew the experts were all abuzz regarding an industry-changing technology with huge growth potential. He invested in several up-and-coming companies based around this technology, certain he’d have a nice nest egg, should he ever fall on hard times.   Finally, a seasoned investor decided to divide his portfolio among dozens of strong companies. Wanting to keep his portfolio diverse, he also bought stocks in several small and struggling c