Jeff Wolfe's Weblog

Saturday, July 20, 2002

PARABLE OF GOVERNMENT SPENDING - Nobel laureate Milton Friedman related the following story at a White House ceremony in his honor on May 9, 2002. I first saw it recently in a Cato Institute publication.

My views on government spending can be summarized by the following parable. If you spend your own money on yourself, you are very concerned about how much is spent and how it is spent. If you spend your own money on someone else, you are still very much concerned about how much is spent, but somewhat less concerned about how it is spent. If you spend someone else's money on yourself, you are not too concerned about how much is spent, but you are very concerned about how it is spent. However, if you spend someone else's money on someone else, you are not very concerned about how much is spent or how it is spent.

Sounds obvious, doesn't it?

INCREMENTAL LIBERTY - Some of the more uncompromising libertarians out there assert that liberty is never gained incrementally, so working for a "partial" solution is just selling out. Even those of us who are more moderate sometimes wonder if we're in a futile struggle for liberty--perpetually one step forward and two steps back. With that in mind, here are a couple of examples from history of "incremental liberty," where government restrictions have eased over time.

SUFFRAGE - When the United States was founded, the electorate was pretty much white male property owners over 21. Over time, race restrictions, gender restrictions, property ownership restrictions, and other restrictions have been eliminated, and the age limit reduced nationwide.

Today, just about any citizen over the age of 18 is eligible to vote. There really are only two main restrictions left: most states require voter registration in advance of an election, and many states restrict or prohibit voting by convicted felons.

BROADCAST CENSORSHIP - This may not be considered a "good" example by everyone, but nevertheless, government censorship of the airwaves has been greatly reduced over time. The FCC has directly and indirectly imposed restrictions on what could be broadcast on television and radio since the very early days.

When Lucille Ball was expecting her first child, it was written into the script of her television program. But she wast prohibited from using the word "pregnant" to describe her condition. Around the same time, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson had twin beds in their television program, and in general, people could not be shown in bed together, even fully clothed.

By the 1970s, the restrictions had eased, but George Carlin was still able to identify Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television. In a case of life imitating art, the Seven Words became the standard by which content was judged for many years. But the restrictions continued to loosen, and all but two of the Seven Words have appeared in scripted broadcast television programs to date.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

The current Reason Express (Reason magazine's weekly email newsletter) compares U.S. strategy in the "War on Terrorism" to that of the Viet Nam war. That's the first specific comparison I've seen. I'm sure it won't be the last.

Monday, July 01, 2002

SCHOOL CHOICE - When I saw that Lisa Snell had written an article about the danger vouchers pose to private schools, I thought of Marshall Fritz. I wasn't the only one. Read the article. And remain eternally vigilant.