Social Security : “stupefying redundancy”

I wonder why so many politicians and voters actually think that a social security “trust fund” actually exists. Are they that dumb? Or, are they deliberately misleading? It has to be one or the other.
Here is the best piece of writing — clear and short — I have seen explaining how social security affects overall spending and taxing.

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“Stories We Could Tell”

A few years back my brother passed along what I thought a delightfully fun fact: Jimmy Buffet is Warren Buffet’s nephew. Since then, I’ve been passing this little nugget along to all who would listen (and probably a few who didn’t want to but did anyway).
Unfortunately, yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) made liars out of both us—not to mention all the people we told (okay, so none of them cared enough to keep the fun fact going, but if they had, they would be liars too). It turns out that Jimmy and Warren might be related…but only distantly. Warren’s sister is an amateur genealogist and contacted Jimmy and hundreds of other Buffets years ago in hopes of piecing together her family tree. Jimmy responded (after a year) and actually became good friends with Warren’s sister. Soon Jimmy and Warren were good friends. Warren refers to the singer as “Cousin Jimmy.” Jimmy calls the financier “Uncle Warren.”
All of this has led me to question another fun fact that I’ve been passing around. Is New Mexico’s George Buffet (the man behind the candy cane) really related to Warren?

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One-Size-Fits-All Left Behind

Congratulations to Utah! Both houses of the legislature (by 90 percent majorities) have decided to opt out of the No Child Left Behind abomination. Thanks to Chuck Muth for the heads up.
This is a no brainer, New Mexico. Let’s go for it!

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The Constitution in Exile

Here is what I think a fascinating article. It is long, but so worth it. It is about “The Constitution in Exile” movement.
For one thing, it’s fascinating to hear the author describe standard Lockean arguments upon which our republic was founded. He writes with a tone which indicates that he thinks these are crazy new ideas:
“As Epstein sees it, all individuals have certain inherent rights and liberties, including ”economic” liberties, like the right to property and, more crucially, the right to part with it only voluntarily. These rights are violated any time an individual is deprived of his property without compensation — when it is stolen, for example, but also when it is subjected to governmental regulation that reduces its value or when a government fails to provide greater security in exchange for the property it seizes.”
Or try this one:
“[Epstein] insists that if the government wants to reduce the value of an individual’s property — with zoning restrictions, for example — it has to compensate him for the lost value.”
I also like the movement’s occasional skepticism of states-rights, which I have shared for a long time:
“One of Greve’s goals at the American Enterprise Institute is to convince more mainstream conservatives that traditional federalism — which is skeptical of federal, but not state, power — is only half right. In his view, states can threaten economic liberty just as significantly as the federal government.”
Finally, the article talks about a few Supreme Court Nominee possibilities that would be awesome. For example, Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who has referred disparagingly to ”the dichotomy that eventually develops where economic liberty — property — is put on a different level than political liberties.”
Amen!
Thanks to Alex Tabarrok for the pointer.

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More School Districts Mean Higher Graduation Rates

Check out this study just released by the Manhattan Institute.
According to the press release:
“A new study by Manhattan Institute scholars Jay P. Greene and Marcus A.
Winters finds that decreasing the size of a state’s school districts
leads to substantial improvements in its public high school graduation
rate. Conversely, consolidating school districts into fewer, larger
units decreases a state’s public high school graduation rate.
The results of the analysis indicate that decreasing the average size of
a state’s school districts by 200 square miles would lead to an increase
of about 1.7 percentage points in its graduation rate. This finding is
particularly important for New Mexico, which has the nation’s 6th largest
school districts. If New Mexico decreased the size of its school
districts to the national median, it would increase its graduation rate
by about 9 percentage points, improving it from 65% to about 74%.”
My take: While there are obvious difficulties in reducing district size in New Mexico’s rural areas, the overall move toward more centralization (while calling it “reform”)is counterproductive. Smaller districts mean that it is less costly for parents to move their child from a bad school to a better one, creating an element of choice and competition.
What we need is reform that works.

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Forget Red State vs. Blue State

As usual, NM does things differently. Based on a survey of 120,464 people, here is a map showing what words people use when referring to soft-drinks. Casual observation seems to show the Land of the Enchantment is also the land of diversity. In fact, we seem to be the least-homogeneous of all the states. No sheep here!
Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.

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