Monday, June 18, 2007

The Libertarian Party's dishonest fundraising pitch.

Yesterday I received three separate automated phone calls from the national Libertarian Party informing me that my membership had lapsed and asking me to renew.

For reasons that are my own, I'm still a registered Libertarian and an officer of the local party. Registering LBT is enough in Arizona to be a member of the Libertarian Party and to be eligible to hold office.

Since the passage of the Squyres proposal to eliminate the Unified Membersip Program and move away from a dues-based model, being a member of the national Libertarian Party has been even easier. One must merely sign the Libertarian Party Pledge, which means different things to different people.

To be a sustaining member, one must contribute at least twenty-five dollars per year. This is the equivalent of the trendy tote-bag level of public television support; it gets the contributor a subscription to the always Pollyannaesque LP News, and perhaps more junk mail.

When I told two of the callers that the LP was no longer on a dues-based model and that I had nothing to give at the present, they let me go politely, but the third argued and said that some director of fundraising told them that members must pay dues. My reply: "When Bill Redpath or Chuck Moulton call me up and tell me we're charging dues again, I'll pay."

I'm usually reluctant to donate to the national LP, as although they maintain a classy website these days and handle quite a few inquiries, the party is moribund, laden with ideologues out to prevent it from doing what it is supposed to do, and perhaps with a bad name due to years of failure and attrition. On occasion I can be convinced that this effort or that is worthwhile, but now that I've been lied to over the phone, I don't think the national office will see a contribution from me for a long time.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Yes, I support amnesty. No, it is not a "reward for breaking the law."

"Amnesty" has become a dirty word in the immigration debate, as someone has fouled the meme pool by putting out the idea that giving visas to people here illegally is somehow a "reward" for breaking the law.

Back up a bit. How can giving a visa that was previously not available legally to someone be a reward? Only if it is a privilege that others are denied. I am also a vocal proponent of open immigration. The xenophobes are right about one thing: the undocumented immigrant here should not be given preference to those who haven't decided to come yet. Amnesty makes no sense without comprehensive immigration reform.

Time Magazine rarely publishes any controversial stand, but this week's cover story explains, in simple and patient terms, to those who don't get it yet, why amnesty makes sense. I couldn't have put it better, unless you paid me!

Monday, June 4, 2007

And it isn't that, either.

An eye-catching letter from the June issue of Scientific American, which has been giving economics its due lately:

"License to Work" [News Scan], by Rodger Doyle, suggests that the reason the number of dentists in the U.S. has not grown substantially compared with other professions is restrictive licensing practices. Doyle has the cart before the horse. The license to practice dentistry is obtained after the completion of educational requirements and is typically passed by most dentists, although it sometimes calls for more than one attempt. The restriction on numbers is at the beginning of the road, where the educational system has not changed the number of dentists it is capable of training on average since the 1970s.

Fair enough; dental licensing is not the barrier to entry that most trade licensing turns out to be.

But the author goes on:

This restriction is not caused by the licensing board but by the cutting of direct and indirect federal and state support for dental education (number of schools, class size, faculty members, student loans, and so on).

Keith J. Lemmerman
Graduate Periodontics
University of Kentucky
College of Dentistry

So there is something about dentistry--which doesn't apply to, say, auto mechanics, computer programmers, nurses, and the like--which requires the government, not the market, to provide the impetus to start or expand training programs? What is that?

Or is there something wrong with professional education?

Mr. Lemmerman thinks the trouble is with public policy, perhaps he needs a shovel. Dig deeper. If you find yourself saying "well, the government isn't driving the economy...", that you'd even find yourself thinking that the government should drive the economy in a particular sector is a symptom of much deeper structural problems.