Monday, July 31, 2006

Collective Punishment: The Economic Case
Mike Rappaport

Richard Posner and Gary Becker weigh in on when it makes economic sense to impose collective punishment.  Becker writes:

"it would be . . . far-fetched to hold the German people responsible for the election of Hitler since he took steps to prevent the German people from voting him out of office. Moreover, people who voted for Hitler in the first place could not have easily anticipated the full dimensions of the horrors he would inflict on the world."

But this analysis may suggest it makes sense to impose collective punishment on the Palestinians who voted Hamas into office.  They knew that were getting a group who would make war and committ terrorism against Israel and presumably they can vote Hamas out of office.

July 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

How Lucky We Are
Mike Rappaport

The New York Times has an extremely interesting article on how much more healthy contemporary Americans and Europeans are as compared to people who lived in 19th and early 20th centuries.  One key appears to be nutrition when in the womb and in the first two years of life.  Highly recommended, as it relies the work of Robert Fogel.

More evidence against the Rousseauian view, held by many environmentalists, that technology and material progress has not benefited mankind.  As if we really need more evidence. 

July 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mike Rappaport

Charles Krauthammer's most recent column on the world's response to the Israeli-Hezbollah war -- Life in an Orwellian Universe -- is one of his best.  And that is saying something.  Be sure not to miss it.

July 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Why the Government Should Not Intervene in the Economy
Mike Rappaport

Jeffrey Alan Miron, a libertarian economist at Harvard, offers 9 reasons why government intervention in the market is normally a bad idea.  They are quite good.  Here is an excerpt from Number 4: Overexpansion and the Difficulties of Cutting Back:

{O]ne can always make a plausible case for at least some intervention, and that is why many economists are fairly interventionist.  A critical assumption behind this perspective, however, is that intervention is the right amount; too much intervention can be worse than doing nothing.  Ultra-strict pollution controls on cars would make them so expensive that commerce would grind to a halt.

This issue [of the correct size of the intervention] is crucial because government programs do not stay small. The reason is that all entities,” whether individuals, firms, non-profits, or government agencies, attempt to survive.  And one path to survival is getting bigger.

[The excessive expansion of interventions has often occurred.]  Civil Rights legislation evolved from prohibitions against discrimination to affirmative action.  The Pure Food and Drug Act went from requiring truthful disclosure of ingredients to banning many foods substances and regulating the development and marketing of most medicines.   Social Security grew from protecting the low-income elderly who could not work to providing retirement income to millionaires.  Antitrust evolved from prohibiting monopolization to proscribing a large range of plausibly competitive practices (e.g., vertical “restraints”).

July 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (54) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

All I Want for Christmas ....
Gail Heriot

Audrey Hepburn's little black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany's is for sale.

July 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Who caused the deaths of the UN workers?
Mike Rappaport

It remains to discovered what exactly happened in the killing by Israel of the four UN workers in Lebanon.  Of course, Kofi Annan was quick to suggest that Israel did it intentionally.  At least he is consistent.  But it now appears that the action was the moral responsibility of Hezbollah, which used the UN workers as human shields.

UN officials said Hezbollah guerillas had been operating in the area of the post near the eastern end of the border with Israel, a routine tactic to prevent Israel from attacking them.

"We did repeatedly in recent days say (to Israel) that this was an exposed position, that Hezbollah militants were 500 meters (yards) away shielding themselves near UN workers and civilians," UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said. "That's why it is so inexplicable that what happened happened."

Of course, the UN says nothing about this in its public statements and does not hold Hezbollah responsible.  This is, sadly, par for the course throughout the world.  There are civilian casualties in Lebanon caused by Hezbollah's use of human shields, but much of the world ignores this and simply counts up the Lebanese casualties, placing the blame on Israel.

The world has gotten a bit tied of the "cycle of violence" meme.  But its replacement -- the civilian casualties / proportionality meme -- is going strong. 

July 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lochner and the Good Old Days
Mike Rappaport

Can you imagine the New York Tims or the Washington Post praising the Lochner decision (the now "infamous" decision holding that a maximum hours law for bakers in New York violated "the constitutional principle of liberty of contract").  Well, at the turn of the century they did.  David Bernstein writes:

The New York Times praised the Supreme Court for refusing to enforce "any contracts which may have been made between the demagogues in the Legislature and the ignoramuses among the labor leaders in bringing to naught their combined machinations." The Washington Post initially noted that the opinion allowed for reasonable police power regulation. The Post, defending the Court from its critics, later added that the liberty of contract between employer and employee protected in Lochner "is a principle older than the Constitution or the statutes. Its maintenance is indispensable to the preservation of liberty."

People often refer to the old New York Times of the 1970s as a golden age, but I don't remember it that way.  But the Times and Post of 1905 -- that was a golden age!

July 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Good scholars make good teachers, or not
Tom Smith

This is interesting.  A study that purports to find no correlation between law professors who are productive scholars and those who are rated effective teachers by their students.  I don't know how good the study is, not having looked at it, but I don't find the results all that shocking.  So few of us can be outstanding both as scholars and teachers, not to mention as athletic prodigies, and spiritual inspirations, as well as paragons of a profound Christian humility.  A few questions-- I wonder how effective student evaluations are at measuring teaching effectiveness?  I have seen studies that suggest that good looking teachers who don't demand much from students rate highly.  I wonder why active scholars tend to rate lower?  Do they invest less or try less hard as teachers?  Teach at too high a level?  Find teaching less satisfying, and that shows?  Emphasize the theoretical aspect of law, which students are notoriously indifferent about?  Now we need a study to see how blogging law professors do as scholars and teachers.

July 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mike Rappaport

On Fox News, Charles Krauthammer stated (from memory, not an exact quote):

"Hezbollah attempts to maximize the number of civilian casualties in Israel and in Lebanon; Israel attempts to minimize the number of civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon." 

While the reporting on this war has actually been better than in the past (which is not saying much), still does the press or electronic media make this clear?  Does anyone doubt it is true?  Given that Hezbollah started the war, does that much more need to be said?   

July 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Spirit of Haifa
Maimon Schwarzschild

Menachem Kellner, who teaches at Haifa University, has been posting about life in wartime Haifa.  His posts -- sent to friends, now including TheRightCoast -- have the wry spirit of the Blitz: or what would have been the spirit of the Blitz if wartime London had been in Israel instead of Britain.

Jolene is Menachem's spousal unit, as we sometimes put it hereabouts, and a librarian at Haifa University; Rivka is their daughter, a graduate student at Haifa University.

Haifa-ites were urged to go back to work today, and indeed many did.  I drove Jolene and Rivka to the University and came home. About 20 minutes ago the sirens wailed and I went to the shelter-room by my lonely self and heard several really loud BOOMs. I called Rivka (on the cell phone of course) and found her in a copy shop on campus having the first complete draft of her dissertation being printed.  It should have been a happy moment, instead she was being shepherded to an underground shelter, where she hooked up with Jolene (who is one ofthe library bomb wardens).

The TV reports that a house (apparently in Nesher, a Haifa suburb) took a direct hit, killing one person; and another person was killed sitting in his car somewhere else in the city. I say apparently in Nesher (which is just on the other side of the Technion campus from our house) since FINALLY the news media have stopped announcing exact addresses.  To our utter amazement for the first several days the radio and TV were saying exactly where these things landed, just to make life easier for Hezbollah.

The radio just announced that 13 rockets landed in Haifa this time, although I am pretty sure I only heard about 6-7.  I'd better get my hearing checked.

One thing is for sure - this the last day we will split up! Tomorrow, if the University remains open, I will spend the day there with Jolene and RIvka, even though I get much more work done at home.

UPDATE:  We Israelis are weird. As you know from my earlier post, two people were killed here in Haifa today. A few hours after that tragedy I drove up to the University, where Jolene and Rivka were (Rivka, by the way, has decided that she has had enough quality time with her parents and has moved back into her own apartment). I had just gotten to Jolene's department in the library (periodicals) when an alarm sounded. I met Jolene coming out of her area, trying to reach me on her celphone.  Together we went down to the bomb shelter in the basement of the building with a lot of other people,
chatting and to all intents and purposes enjoying the break from their routine. On the way down we reached Rivka by celphone [this whole affair would be a lot less tolerable without celphones], who spends most (normal) days in my 13th floor office in the 30-story Eshkol Tower at Haifa University.  People in theTower had been instructed to take shelter...

BOOM! - Jolene and I just heard a boom so we headed out to the shelter, calling Rivka as we went - she was calling us at the same time having also heard the BOOM, on the way to recline in her bathtub, which is the place in her apartment furthest from an external wall. No alarms, no further BOOMs, so we resumed what we were doing, which, in my case, was writing to you --

We were instructed, as I was saying, to take shelter in a stairwell which is what Rivka did today, 5 times. In any event, when we were finally released from the shelter (aka a complex of copycenters and a windowless cafeteria) and returned to the library, all was
business as usual, as if nothing had happened.

SIREN! - sorry for these interruptions. Rivka just called as we were heading out to the shelter again; she said that her apartment must be right on top of a siren, since it was REALLY LOUD.  The TV reports: several people slightly injured from this last attack -- a propane gas tank burning -- and perhaps people trapped in the ruins of the affected building.

Another interruption, but happier. As I was typing this letter (or trying to, despite Nasrallah's best efforts), Jolene was watching the TV reports about the latest attack.  But now neighbor Hannah and Jolene are having an animated and joyful conversation about... shoes!  Why don't they at least talk about something interesting, like computer peripherals?

Anyway, I was telling you how the people in the University Library responded so casually to the repeated alarms. Quite remarkable to see.

There is a general consensus here, by the way, that the "situation" is bad for dieting - I can certainly attest to that. At least we will have a good excuse when we go to our dietician next time.

I hope that this is the last time you hear from today.

July 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)