Thursday, October 30, 2008
With the deadline for applications tomorrow, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports an expected 50,000 applications for 60 participating secondary schools. One of the highest-performing schools, Central High School, is expected to receive 4,000 applications for only 600 seats, translating to what will be a 15% acceptance rate. To provide some perspective, Harvard admits roughly 11% of its applicants, while MIT admits 16% and the University of Pennsylvania admits approximately 21%.
The competition has caused some unease amongst those who feel that under-performing students who most need a quality, high-performing school environment to motivate them will remain stuck in a vicious cycle of underachievement. But in the past five years alone, the network of participating secondary schools has more than doubled, from 27 in 2003 to 60 schools this year. And with such obvious demand for high quality high school in Philadelphia, we should expect the number of participating schools to continue to grow. As it does so, the number of qualified, well-prepared, and well-rounded high school graduates in Philadelphia will grow as well.
Monday, October 27, 2008
It is said of nearly every election, but the question is always asked: will this be the year that young voters turn out in great numbers?
It’s been said that 2008 will see a significant rise over previous years in the youth turnout, even stacked up against the growth made in 2004. Student political participation this year could be highlighted in examples such as the (ultimately failed) student initiative to put the issue of public college tuition prices on the ballot in California.
FiveThirtyEight.com is tracking the growth of youth participation in various states for the Democratic primary as an indicator that they will continue to increase their presence in the 2008 election. The Democratic primaries indicated a 52.4% growth in the share of voters age 18-29. In addition, according to CBS News reports, more than 50 percent of young voters picked Obama on Super Tuesday, seemingly so long ago.
A Gallup poll commissioned by USA Today and MTV (of 903 respondents "weighted by demographic information) finds that "75% of young people are registered to vote" and that they favor Obama over McCain 2:1.
At the other end of the spectrum, according to a Pew Research poll, McCain broadened his lead among the "over 65" demographic, from 45%-40% to 48%-35% over Obama since September--at the same time losing ground on the slightly less old 50-64 demographic until his standing was tied with that of the 18-29 group with 39%.
Of course, this all compounds the ubiquitous quote, often misattributed to Churchill: "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain."
Sunday, October 26, 2008
A student panel consisting of Anne Skuza (President of the Penn Libertarian Association), Andrew Loewer (President of the Cornell Libertarians), Aaron Moyer (President of the Philadelphia Forum for Freedom), and Alex Weller (President of the Penn State College Libertarians), covered best practices of student groups, ranging from mistakes they have made to how to get publicity for your group on campus.
Following dinner, Dr. Tom Palmer of the Cato Institute gave the Keynote Address titled "The Rhetoric of Freedom". It was an insightful analysis of the role that persuasion plays in libertarian ideology as an alternative to violence, and how to effectively utilize rhetoric in debates.
Overally, I think everyone had a great time and know that I personally loved it. Best of luck to all the students who attended in implementing what you learned.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
From 10-11 three workshops were held. At the Training New Leadership workshop, we discussed what traits to identify in potential new leaders, suggestions for how to start transitioning potential leaders into leadership roles. The Student Recruitment session broke out into small groups with the best group receiving prizes from the Drexel Student Liberty Front. The How to Write a Strategic Action Plan workshop then helped student groups plan out the rest of their semester.
From 11-12, Pete Eyre, Crasher-in-Chief of Bureaucrash, spoke on "(A)ctivism for Liberty", with a strong focus on how to be a good messenger of liberty. Some important tips he gave:
- Be Goal-Oriented
- Know Potential Leverage Points
- Get VIP Support (pictures of celebrities with your stuff)
- Lower Transaction Costs (learn what others have done already)
- If showing up is half the battle, following up is the other half
- Be Positive
Greg has covered a number of issues, but here are some frightening limits of free speech that FIRE has dealt with:
- A student janitor was nearly expelled for racial harrassment because he read a book on how Notre Dame students beat the Klan, simply because there were pictures of the KKK on the cover of the book.
- Valdosta State University #1- A student was kicked out of school for making a collage protesting a parking garage for ecological reasons that the administration said presented a "clear and present danger". FIRE made a video about this case.
- Valdosta State University #2- A second big problem at Valdosta was the presence of one of the worst free speech zones in the country, which was only open from noon to 1pm and 5pm to 6pm with 48 hour notice for 11,000 students.
- University of Oklahoma- Students and faculty are not allowed to forward political satire emails through their school email accounts.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Last month the ResLife Department added to the list of protected identity groups -- along with the traditional race, color, creed, etc -- those with gender identity issues. As a good libertarian, I can certainly agree with the sentiment expressed by this policy. Individuals can express themselves as they wish, and ought not to face violence for doing so. But Pitt's policy takes things a few steps further:
We will not tolerate any form of behavior pertaining to racism, sexism, bigotry, harassment, intimidation, threat, or abuse, whether verbal or written, physical or psychological, direct or implied.No longer are students being protected from hazing and blatant harassment -- a protection that should be (and is) extended to all students, and not just the gender confused -- but there is also protection from...implied psychological bigotry? I'm not sure what exactly it would look like, but it sure seems to toe the line of Thought Police.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a watchdog group that fights for civil liberties in the university setting, has already given Pitt a "yellow light" warning for having "at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application." It appears as if a red light might soon be necessary.
As libertarians, our target demographic is highly conscious of their self-interest, and young startup campus organizations often have very little to offer. I know plenty of people on campus who are sympathetic to our cause, share our values, but are not in any way involved with us, nor are they interested in doing so.
Fortunately, as libertarians we have the advantage of being highly conscious of other people’s interests, and are thus in a better position to cater to them. This consciousness should shape our recruitment strategy on campus.
It would be ideal if our organizations were full of highly skilled and motivated individuals, full-time students able and willing to volunteer their time and effort. But there's a big difference between the way the world should be and the way it really is. In my experience, talented individuals who manage their time effectively and are committed to a cause enough to volunteer their disposable time to it are very uncommon.
The reality for a startup campus organization is that basing our recruitment strategy on finding and keeping such individuals is not a sustainable one.
For one, they are low in supply: Most people lack that motivation and commitment, for various reasons, many of which are legitimate. Different people have different interests, values, and circumstances.
Two, they are high in demand: There are many competing demands on their time, and we have to ask ourselves how competitive we are compared to those other demands: Other causes, other organizations, other jobs, other things to do.
It may be better for us to think about ways that the average young person can join our cause, easy ways for less motivated and less committed people to get involved in a meaningful way. Certainly, full-time paid staff positions are neither necessary nor sufficient to do this, nor do we have the ability to offer them. But incentives matter, and we have to think hard about the costs and benefits that students will respond to. We have to think even harder if we are recruiting to fill leadership positions, which necessarily demand more commitment and competence.
These incentives will differ in all our different colleges, and a one-size-fits-all recruitment strategy is bound to fail. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to figure out what works. Look around you, ask your friends. What attracts students on your campus to volunteer for a cause or join an organization? What makes them stay on? Learning from the best practices of others is a good way to start, and the next is to implement and innovate on them. But that is a topic for another post.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology held a quasi-teach-in a couple weeks ago on the financial crisis and the proposed bailout. You can listen to the panel here: http://web.mit.edu/smcs/mit/2008/econ-financial_crisis-08oct2008-350k.asx.
What's also noticeable is MIT's reaction to the bailout and financial crisis. On their website covering the U.S. Financial Crisis, they write:
Government interventions to directly inject liquidity into the market may actually decrease market efficiency, according to research by MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Jiang Wang.This raises an issue I brought up in one of the first posts on this blog that few probably read about what are the best ways to bring awareness to problems we face today. Teach-ins, demonstrations that seek to educate people about the problems and work towards a sound, rational solution, may be the best solution. Does anyone else know of any other teach-ins going on?
Thanks to David Boaz for pointing this out to me.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Maybe it's because I was a debater or just because I was a philosophy major and think that spending the rest of my life reading, writing, and speaking about philosophy would be a dream come true, but in any case, I found the following Forbes article, Robert Nozick Vs. The U.S. Congress, by Richard Epstein, enthralling. The article explains how the U.S. Congress adopted what Nozick called a patterned principle of justice concerning home ownership, and used state power to help reach the pattern they wanted. However, Epstein points out:
The grand objectives articulated by Congress--and to be fair, by Republicans who preach the virtues of the "ownership society"--are not freebies that can be satisfied at no real cost. Quite the contrary. Once Congress set in place a destructive lending policyThis article does a great job of illustrating the importance of philosophy for real-world political activities. Theory is not enough. Reality must be taken into account to determine what constitutes a good theory. At the same time, it raises an important question to consider: would we be in a better position if Congress adopted a historical or procedurally-based principle of justice rather than trying to pattern society?
The beginning of the editorial provides a concise summary:
The deregulation of U.S. financial markets did not reflect only the narrow ideology of a particular party or administration. And the problem with the U.S. economy, more than lack of regulation, has been government's failure to control systemic risks that government itself helped to create. We are not witnessing a crisis of the free market but a crisis of distorted markets.Other nice parts include a comparison of the U.S. system to Canada:
Contrast U.S. experience with that of Canada, where there is no mortgage interest deduction and the law requires insurance on any mortgage over 80 percent of a home's purchase price. Delinquency rates at Canada's seven largest banks are near historic lows.And a solid ending:
Government-sponsored, upside-only capitalism is the kind that's in crisis today, and we say: Good riddance.
Monday, October 20, 2008
The Wall Street Journal reports that 71% of Nebraskans polled support the amendment, which reads "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group...", giving it a strong outlook of passing, despite some ironic "civil-rights based" groups that have been opposing the initiative.
Proposition 209 in California, which ended racial preferences in its public universities, passed in 1996. Since then, the state has seen "systemwide minority enrollment increased between 1997 and 2007 while graduation and retention rates improved," proving that a good student is a good student, regardless of their skin color.
Hopefully, in November, John F. Kennedy's words will hold true in Colorado and Nebraska when he said that, "Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races and national origins contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial discrimination."
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The so-called Millennial Generation is the hot demographic this election cycle, and much to the joy of colleges across the country, this demographic is almost entirely located within what a political strategist might call their “media market.” One of the most left-leaning institutions in America is meeting the most left-leaning generation in forty years, and it’s a match made in heaven.
But it seems some universities have become a bit too comfortable with the ideological homogeneity on their campuses.
If you're scared about the prospects for this election, you're not alone. The most important way to make a difference in the outcome is to activate yourself. It would be just fine with McCain if Obama supporters just think about helping, then sleep in and stay home between now and Election Day.
In what might be the most revealing and disconcerting aspect of this whole debacle, the administration at
To conservatives and libertarians, the knee-jerk reaction has been positive: the leftist student population is no longer being subsidized to campaign for a candidate of dubious liberty street cred. But this misses the full implications of the college’s decision: rather than offer credit to any student doing legitimate work on a campaign, whether it be Obama’s, McCain’s, Barr’s, or Nader’s,
Sure, students are not being prohibited from working on campaigns, and remain free to do so on their own time. But an institution of higher learning ought to encourage students to become involved politically, and if they’re offering credit for doing work at the Heritage Foundation or Center for American Progress, they ought to at least offer the same credit for students on a campaign. It might – that is, almost definitely will – advantage liberal candidates, but the greater victory will be for those who advocate for a free academy.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
As we approach Election Day, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is concerned by the growing trend towards preemptive censorship of political expressive activity on our nation's college and university campuses.
At the University of Illinois, for instance, faculty and staff members were recently told that they could not participate in a wide variety of political activity on campus, even including wearing a pin or button in support of a political candidate or placing a partisan bumper sticker on one's car. At the University of Oklahoma, students and faculty were recently notified that they could not use their school e-mail accounts to disseminate any partisan or political speech, including political humor and commentary.
These and similar cases have demonstrated to FIRE the need to reiterate and emphasize the protections that apply to political speech on campus. In determining policy regarding political speech, colleges and universities must heed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, as well as state and federal law. However, we must remind university administrators that, correctly interpreted, none of these legal guidelines seriously conflict with the equally crucial duty to uphold the First Amendment and basic principles of free expression on campus.
If you have not already heard, the Russian government and various interest groups have attacked South Park and a TV station that airs the show. reason gives a nice summary of what's going on here.
The response to this government censorship has been overwhelming. I particularly like the slogans that people have been using:
“Kenny lived, Kenny lives, Kenny will live!"
“For your freedom and ours”
"Today they came for Kenny, tomorrow they'll come for you"
“Let’s ban banning!”
Monday, October 13, 2008
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced earlier today that Paul Krugman will receive the Nobel Prize in Economics for "his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity." For many, this has come as a surprise, especially given the timing with the U.S. Presidential Election and the financial crisis. (Krugman is a vocal opponent of George W. Bush and conservatism and has done work in recent years on financial crises.)
Independent of the timing of the award, many pro-liberty organizations are recognizing that there is a distinction between Krugman's academic work and his political opinions. reason magazine highlights Krugman's academic work and appeal to the public:
Paul Krugman is motivated by real-world problems and he's an effective communicator with lay audiences, something that cannot always be said of most economists. His Nobel Prize reflects a breakthrough in the way we think about how trade and the location of economic activity are determined in the real world.Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution points out from the start of his post that the surprise was that the award came this year:
I have to say I did not expect him to win until Bush left office, as I thought the Swedes wanted the resulting discussion to focus on Paul's academic work rather than on issues of politics. So I am surprised by the timing but not by the choice.Last I'll highlight Cato at Liberty's post:
The Nobel is much deserved, even if Prof. Krugman’s rants have led him to stray far from his admirable trade-theory roots.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
They have a great site set up and have many intelligently-written pieces. I particularly like their recent explanation of "business cycles" and an outlook on the upcoming election.
Also, they have some great merchandise if you ever run into them at a conference!
Friday, October 10, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
The Cato Institute is participating in a new Google debate feature: Google Knol. Google says "A knol is an authoritative article about a specific topic." The program is meant to be a comprehensive source of information. Knol Debates is an opportunity for experts to debate one another over the internet and have readers join in to provide commentary and ask questions.
According to Cato:
The debates on Knol are meant to offer a variety of in-depth opinions from experts, and afford visitors the opportunity to engage scholars on the ideas that are posted.
Cato Senior Fellow Daniel J. Mitchell is debating the aftermath of the financial bailout bill with John Irons, research and policy director for the Economic Policy Institute. You can log into Google and offer suggestions, edits and comments to each side of the discussion. Mitchell and Irons will both field your comments and may even add them to their arguments.
Check out the discussion and provide your own input. This is a great way for students to not only see a public policy debate, but engage the debate as well from the comfort of your dorm room.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
IHS is a terrific organization that I highly encourage everyone to participate in. 4 of the founding members of SFL were members of IHS's Koch Summer Fellowship, and it was during that fellowship that the concept of SFL was first articulated. Just make sure to get lots of sleep before you go to a seminar, because you will doubtfully get much there.
Monday, October 6, 2008
The public statement is a truly brave and powerful message that includes three main points:
- It's time to rethink the drinking age
- Twenty-one is not working
- How many times must we relearn the lessons of prohibition?
The fact that a group of over 100 highly respected academics can call for debate on a matter of public policy and hear in response not only that they are a minority, but that people are scared of their debate is amazing. To find out if your university president has signed on to this initiative, you can find the full list of signatories here. Considering how MADD is calling on the public "to send physical letters to  governors or college presidents on the list asking them to remove their names from the initiative list and support the 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age", perhaps you should consider sending a letter to your university president thanking them for signing up or urging them to do so.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Despite the urgent endorsement of both the sitting Republican president and the Democratic Speaker of the House, the so-called “bank bailout” legislation just barely failed to pass through the House of Representatives after going through the Senate this week.
The vote on Monday came 13 votes short of passing the bailout. Roughly a third of Democrats and two thirds of Republicans turned it down. The narrow vote against it has shown that the United States is not a spigot of capital, distributed at the taxpayer’s expense
…at least, until the House votes on the matter again today.
Many Republican congressmen and -women have unsheathed their free market rhetoric to justify voting against the bill:
It was also convenient that mail and phone calls were coming in “30 to 1” against the bailout. Now, thanks to the wild downturn on the stock market that occurred when the first bill failed to pass, perhaps the general public is starting to change their mind about the bill.
Since virtually all the Republicans who voted against the bill on Monday were in “vulnerable” election races, they may have been riding public opinion, and will continue to do so in their vote today.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Our friends over at Bureaucrash, a non-profit whose mission is to "act as a catalyst to create a cultural shift toward freedom" by facilitating creative activism, guerrilla marketing and the use of new media, have launched a powerful platform called Bureaucrash Social. The site was developed to empower you to promote freedom and connect you to other freedom activists from around the world. Think of Bureaucrash Social as your online home for sharing ideas and collaborating with others to spread the ideas of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and free markets. Become active today to bring about a freer world tomorrow.