There is so much to deal with and so little time and space, so here are some odds and ends:
Executive Pay Limitation
The new policy of capping executive pay at $500K annually is typical government populist feel good nonsense. It suffers from a number of flaws–it reflects complete ignorance of the financial services incentive system; the market will go around it and find other ways to compensate the best talent; it will have the unintended consequence of pushing many talented people into other career pathways, to the detriment of the recovery; and it may very well be a violation of the freedom of contract protection of the Constitution. A better way to handle the CEOs of bailed out companies is the way the FDIC handled CEOs of bailed out banks in the 1980s–remove them.
Only in California (Let’s Hope)
California Attorney General Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown is asking the California Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional, seemingly on natural law grounds, the constitutional amendment approved last November by the voters of that state defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. The perversity of this is mind boggling–as Kenneth Starr notes in response to Brown’s petition, the consequence of it would be that the people can never amend the Constitution to overrule judicial interpretations of inalienable rights.
I am a natural law devotee. In giving birth to the “second founding” at Gettysburg, Lincoln merged the natural law espoused by the Declaration of Independence with the negative rights and positive law of the Constitution. But nowhere in natural right/natural law philosophy is the right to marriage, which is a convention based on the concept that the union of one man and one woman is the most successful means by which children are nurtured and continuity provided to social order.
Limbaugh Out of Bounds?
I was struck recently by the criticism of Rush Limbaugh, who was accused by many of wishing for a failed Obama presidency. After listening to his taped remarks, that is not at all what he said. Let’s get this straight–a successful government is not necessarily coterminous with a successful country, nor is a successful or failed presidency determined by the polls gauging the popularity level of a particular President. Barack Obama is my President, but I am no less patriotic if I wish my President well in the service of the best interests of the country while applauding his failure to successfully adopt policies that are detrimental to the welfare of its citizens. I wish this President well, but if his success be defined by how well he implements policy that in my estimation moves this country closer to socialism at home and defeat abroad, I pray that he is not successful.
Students as Customers
It was recently reported that a large majority of faculty members at three Texas A&M University campuses declined to participate in cash bonus program based on student evaluations which is part of a group of proposals by Gov. Rick Perry designed to increase accountability in higher education. This was deja vu for me. While serving on the Board of Regents of Stephen F. Austin State University in the early 1990’s, I proposed a somewhat similar program there, and the response was about the same. Listen to what Robert Kreiser of the American Association of University Professors had to say about the TAMU plan: “Students are attending colleges and universities to be educated; they’re not there as customers; they are not there to get a product as one would in a supermarket or a department store.” This is very similar to the response I received fifteen years ago, and my response to Mr. Kreiser is this–many of us have had quite enough of this arrogance, and you and your colleagues had better take a longer look at the changing configuration of the K-16 continuum in education as well as the latest customer-driven college cost/benefit analyses lest you become obsolete.
Darwin and the Texas State Board of Education
Count me among those who believe that the State Board’s recent debate over a short phrase in the Texas science curriculum standards was an unfortunate waste of time. It was not, however, without importance, and it did not deserve the ridiculously slanted coverage that it received by the uninformed media. The phrase in question currently reads as follows: “The student is expected to (a) analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses, using scientific evidence and information.” The offensive language, in place for twenty years, is in bold type. The Board narrowly voted to remove the phrase and replace it with similar, but “more scientific” language, due to the fear that the current phrase has become an opening to challenge Darwinian evolution of species and other elements of the theory.
Here is my problem. Far from simply supporting science, the Board has now succumbed to the fallacy of scientism in the paranoid fear that somehow the investigation of any weakness in Darwin’s theory will lead directly to teaching creationism. It is important for both sides in this debate to make a distinction between the two types of evolution. Micro-evolution, change within species, and macro-evolution, change from one species to another, are different theories. Critics of Darwinism must understand that micro-evolution is factual and clearly happens; supporters of Darwin must acknowledge that macro-evolution remains very much a theory that should be subject to scientific critique. Let’s don’t take this issue down the path of the environmental totalitarians with their notion that the “global warming debate is over”. More importantly, let’s don’t close the minds of our kids.
Can We Handle the Truth?
In all of the debate over the accusations of torture by the Bush administration, the alleged violation of civil rights perpetrated by abusers of the Patriot Act, the alleged mistreatment of prisoners and world condemnation of our detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, I am often reminded of the famous challenge issued by Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan Jessup to his interrogator played by Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men”: “You can’t handle the truth!” Jessup was clearly in the wrong, but his plight was not without some sympathy in the context of our present predicament and that of those on the picket line manning the outer edges of our defense of freedom, as well as those who command them. I suspect that President Obama has a significantly more refined appreciation of the trade offs today than before he began receiving regular security briefings shortly after election day. So when he said in his inaugural speech, “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals”, he probably now has a much different perspective on this choice than the luxury of the campaign trail would allow. Closing Gitmo was a pander to buy a year’s time with the anti-war, anti-American left, both at home and in Europe, and his apology for the past 20-30 years’ treatment of Muslims over Arab TV, extremely disappointing and misguided on its own, will appeal to the same sensibilities. But these gestures will also send a message of weakness to a world that understands only one thing–power and the will to use it. Obama is a lot closer to the truth and the realities than he was a couple of months ago. Let’s see if he can handle it.