The Right Coast

September 30, 2003
 
A Modest Tax Proposal
By Tom Smith

This is probably an old idea, but why can't we have tax cuts and just start cutting at the bottom and work our way up? Don't get me wrong, I am in favor of any kind of tax cuts. Make consumption deductible; it would be fine with me. But since the complaint about tax cuts is always that the rich get more than their share, why not just take the amount of revenue expected to be lost from a given tax cut, and set an income level below which one would pay no federal income tax, that would give you an equivalent result? As it is, an amazing percentage, apparently something like 45% of total revenues from the federal personal income tax comes from people who make $200K a year or more. People making less than $40K don't contribute much. If the law were, say, if you make less than $30K per year, you just pay NO taxes, the politics of tax cuts would be very different. And undoing those tax cuts would not be so easy, either. Furthermore, if the idea is to stimulate the economy, wouldn't the effect be stronger? Rich people invest, true, but in a global economy that investment is spread out over the entire world. People with incomes under $30K get tax cuts and buy big screen TVs and ATV's right here at home (at least that's what we do in San Diego). While these items are manufactured in Japan, there is a lot of work done in the US distributing them to US consumers. I would think the stimulative effect would be greater if the tax cuts were directed at lower income individuals. (I do not mean to sound Keynesian here; I'm talking about local consumption versus global investment.) And while we're at it, let's pass a bill of attainder making Ariana Huffington pay oh, say, 20% of her past two years income to the federal fisc, (instead of the only $771 she did pay) unless, of course, she agrees to shut up for one full year. I leave the constitutional issues this may raise to wiser heads than I.


 
Will Clark have new vision for NASA?
By Tom Smith

General Clark and I may like some of the same books (sci fi) but I know it's fiction. The general apparently thinks faster than light travel will be possible some day. I wonder what he thinks of missile defense?


September 29, 2003
 
One More Thing to Consider in the Recall Election
By Gail Heriot

Karl Marx isn't one of my favorites, but he nailed one thing: History repeats itself--first as tragedy and then as farce. The continuing battles over affirmative action and California's Proposition 209 are a case in point.

The original tragedy occurred when the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which offered so much hope for racial reconciliation, was transformed in part into an instrument for discrimination. All too quickly after it became law, its clear ban on race discrimination was interpreted to apply only to members of certain races. The country was forced to be satisfied with only half a measure. Discrimination against whites and Asians was fine, even encouraged.

It took almost three decades for Californians to draw the line, but they finally did. Crystal clear language was drafted: No race discrimination may be practiced by the State of California or its subdivisions, not against any person, no matter what his or her race, not even for superficially well-meaning reasons. With the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996, voters put a stop to preferential treatment based on race (or sex or ethnicity).

Or at least they thought they did. Members of California's Legislature have frequently voiced dissatisfaction with Proposition 209's requirement of race neutrality. And recently with Gray Davis's blessing, they took action. They passed a statute that purports to interpret, but that in reality twists, Proposition 209 into somethings more to their liking. If the courts accept this new law as an authoritative interpretation of Proposition 209, it will "interpret" the initiative right into oblivion.

A.B. 703--taken from the U.N.'s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination--exempts from the definition of race discrimination "measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups." In other words, it exempts precisely the kind of case voters were thinking of when they passed Proposition 209 in the first place. Proposition 209's opponents could not ask for a more complete and dramatic back-from-the-grave victory.

Fortunately for the strong majority of voters who cast their ballots for Proposition 209, the whole enterprise is a fool's errand. California's comically out-of-control legislature has no power to bind the courts to an interpretation of a voter initiative, particularly when, as here, the interpretation is so obviously contrary to the voter's understanding of the initiative.

No one can argue that Proposition 209 was a stealth initiative. It was debated in newspapers and magazines, on radio and television, in churches and meeting halls and over breakfast room tables all over California. Its basic purpose was well known. If Proposition 209 doesn't apply to the kind of affirmative action measures described in the new law, then the Migratory Birds Act doesn't apply to creatures with feathers. The courts are unlikely to view this legislative escapade as anything more than another reason to be embarrassed for their state government--though I suppose anything is possible.

Gray Davis was never a friend to Proposition 209. But at least in the past he could be counted upon to veto the more ridiculous excesses of the Legislature. These days, however, Davis evidently thinks he cannot afford to antagonize any Democratic constituency. The result has been a feast of special interest legislation of which A.B. 703, which Davis signed into law, is just one one example. For some Californians unsure of how to vote on the recall, it may be one example too many.


September 28, 2003
 
Don't Blame History
By Maimon Schwarzschild


The New York Times Book Review carries a suitably impatient review last Sunday of a memoir by Robert Meeropol, younger son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the atom spies who were executed in 1953. The reviewer, Dorothy Gallagher -- herself a biographer of the colourful Italian-American anarchist Carlo Tresca -- has no love for the way the government prosecuted the Rosenberg case, but the point of the review is that Julius was of course a spy for Stalin, with the full knowledge of Ethel "if not her participation". Robert Meeropol, even now, cannot bring himself to acknowledge what his parents did. Gallagher, fairly enough, treats his memoir more with pity than with anger.

As Gallagher notes, it used to be an article of faith on the political left that the Rosenbergs were innocent: framed by a government bent on crushing "dissent". As she omits to note, that view was thoroughly discredited by Ronald Radosh's careful and damning book "The Rosenberg File", first published in 1983, which gave overwhelming evidence of the Rosenbergs' espionage. But since the fall of the Soviet Union, still more evidence emerged from Russia, confirming that Julius Rosenberg was indeed a key atomic spy. "History", as Dorothy Gallagher puts it, "moved on".

What struck me about the review, apart from its dismissal of Meeropol's apologetics, was its title: "Bereaved by History". The Rosenbergs' children were not, of course, bereaved by history. They were orphaned by their parents, who chose to be atom spies. The Rosenbergs surely understood the risk. They plainly thought that Stalin's cause was worth orphaning their children for, in the not unlikely event that they should be caught. "History" no doubt has much to answer for, but Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, not "history", are the real culprits for their children's bereavement.

To be fair to Dorothy Gallagher, she may not be responsible for the title over her by-line. Book review titles, like news headlines, are typically composed by a headline-writer, not by the reviewer. And New York Times headlines have a notorious partisan and political tilt. It could well be the Times headline apparat, not Dorothy Gallagher, who wanted to convict History, rather than the Rosenbergs, for the orphaning of the Rosenbergs' children.

A propos of political orthodoxy in academia, by the way: Ronald Radosh is a conspicuous example of a scholar who has found himself unemployable on campus. Radosh is a formidable historian and writer. That he has been blackballed -- or redballed -- at numerous colleges and universities is evidence that David Brooks is being polite, to put it politely, when he writes of "unconscious" academic ideological discrimination.


 
Ammunition in Your Next Debate Against Cultural Relativism
By Tom Smith

Those darn African witch doctors. But hey, they're just doing their culturally relative thing.


 
EU/France in Decline
By Michael Rappaport

Paul Johnson writes (via Andrew Sullivan) about the state of the economy of the EU and France. This description of countries in economic decline sounds a bit like the world of Atlas Shrugged or of the United States in the late 1970s, before Ronald Reagan turned things around.

Update: Brian Leiter seems to want support for the claim that Ronald Reagan turned things around. For some evidence, see Robert Mundell's Nobel Lecture and Robert Bartley's The Seven Fat Years.


 
Field Conservatives
By Tom Smith

Boy this blogosphere stuff moves fast. Steve Bainbridge has replied to my provocative house/field conservative distinction with a choice quote of Brooks-- conservatives preach prudence without being able to exercise it. Touchay. It's only too true. Just ask soon to be governor Bustamante.
On the Brian Leiter point, I have just one more thing to add. Brian should know (and probably does) that you can't judge the intelligence of any position by numbers. Brian noted in the Green Bag that only some small percentage of members of the National Academy of Science believe in God. They probably think if there were a God, he would already be a member of the NAS. Also, if God wanted scientists to worship Him, he would give grants.
When I'm grouchy, I know it's time for me to go to the gym. When my wife tells me I need to go to the gym, I know I am really grouchy. My wife has just told me I need to go to the gym.


 
The House Conservative
By Tom Smith

My fellow Right Coaster Mike Rappaport told me about a famous speech by Malcolm X (I think) in which he distinguished "house [slaves]" and "field [slaves]". (For "slaves" X used an offensive word.) House slaves loved their masters. They were smooth, polished and careful never to upset their masters. Not field slaves. They were rough, dirty and hated their masters. Malcolm X said he had always been a field [slave].
Brooks is a house conservative. He is careful never to say anything that would overly upset liberals. He is oh so nice on the Leher News Hour. For this reason, he is less interesting than Mark Shields, who really is knee-jerk liberal, but at least he's a two fisted one. I read about half of BoBos in Paradise. I stopped with the impression that here was I guy who spent far too much time thinking about what other people thought about people who spent a lot of time thinking about what other people thought of them. That is, a guy really hung up on making the right impression.

It's not a harmless vice. It leads Brooks to say ridiculous things like, the bias against conservatives in the academy is unconscious. Please! If Brooks really believes this, he hasn't done his research. If he doesn't, then he shouldn't write as though he does.

I prefer field conservatives, like Charles Krauthammer.


September 27, 2003
 
Brooks’s Conservatism
By Michael Rappaport

There is another angle from which to view the David Brooks column on academic bias against conservatives. Brooks, of course, is the new moderate conservative columnist for the New York Times. When the Times felt they had to select a conservative to be a columnist after the Howell Raines scandal, it made sense that they chose Brooks, since his work is intelligent and subtle – I am sure neither of his knees ever jerks. While a few conservatives are able to overcome the bias of the academy, Brooks has surmounted a more difficult hurdle – the bias of the New York Times.

I get the impression that Brooks is doing more in this column than pointing out that conservatives suffer bias in the academy. He is having fun with the left and the right. I suspect that Brooks enjoys pointing out to the liberal readers of the New York Times that conservatives suffer from unconscious discrimination – that is, from a type of discrimination that is analogous to institutional racism. And of course Brooks may be amused by the suggestion that conservatives appear to believe in things like “institutional racism” or “institutional political bias” when their ox is being gored.

In this column and elsewhere, Brooks appears to follow the advice of one of the professors he quotes. That professor states that “it is possible to have a satisfying career and do good work if you learn not to fly straight into the prevailing ideology.” Brooks’s career would appear to prove this.


 
Bias Against Conservative Academics
By Michael Rappaport


An interesting column by new New York Times columnist David Brooks on the small number of conservative professors in academia and the prejudice they face. Brooks reports that Robert George, one of the few conservatives at Princeton, states:

"Here's what I'm thinking when an outstanding kid comes in," says George, of Princeton. "If the kid applies to one of the top graduate schools, he's likely to be not admitted. Say he gets past that first screen. He's going to face pressure to conform, or he'll be the victim of discrimination. It's a lot harder to hide then than it was as an undergrad.

Brooks also writes that:

Conservative professors emphasize that most discrimination is not conscious. A person who voted for President Bush may be viewed as an oddity, but the main problem in finding a job is that the sorts of subjects a conservative is likely to investigate — say, diplomatic or military history — do not excite hiring committees. Professors are interested in the subjects they are already pursuing, and in a horrible job market it is easy to toss out applications from people who are doing something different.

I am not sure that this last point is correct – that most discrimination is unconscious and due to conservatives being interested in different areas. From where I sit, other causes are more significant. First, sometimes liberal academics just regard conservative arguments as morally flawed and find it hard to evaluate them fairly. Second, liberal academics are often interested in different problems (rather than different subjects). For example, in constitutional law, liberals may be interested in reconciling the judicial restraint of the New Deal Court with the activism of the Warren Court. By contrast, conservatives may be trying to work out how to cut back on the New Deal Court’s decisions without causing undue disruption of society. Third, the small number of conservatives contributes to the bias against them. When 90 percent of the academy shares your liberal view, it is often hard to take the contrary views of a small number of conservatives seriously.

Of course, it might be that conservatives would behave in much the same way if they had the same dominance of the academy. Perhaps. Conservatives should have such problems.


 
Naturalistic Ethics
By Tom Smith

I just finished reading one of the most interesting philosophy essays I've read in years. It was John McDowell's "Two Kinds of Naturalism," which is anthologized in this very useful book. The article resists summary, but you could say that McDowell is trying to recover Aristotle's naturalistic ethics by dispelling an illusion created by the 'shallow metaphysics' of 'neo-Humean' empiricism. The essay is rather hard going, but it also gives you the rewarding feeling that this is what philosophy is supposed to be. It is soaringly ambitious--it's trying to say, here's how Hume and Kant and our reaction to both has led us astray, and here's how to be Aristotelian in a world that's been 'disenchanted' by Hume and Kant. But the thing is, he almost seems to pull it off. Larry Solum turned me on to McDowell. One thing gives me pause about the essay. There is a rather nasty footnote in it attacking my old philosophy major advisor at Cornell, Terry Irwin, and his magisterial book Aristotle's First Principles. McDowell dismisses Irwin's reading of Aristotle on dialectic as anachronistic. Having witnessed Irwin's immersion in Greek sources and his obsessivley careful reading of texts, and his mastery of Greek history as well as philosophy, I just find it on its face implausible that Irwin would be far off. The next thing to read is McDowell's Mind and World, another Larry Solum recommendation. The question is, when? Oh well, got to drive kids to karate practice. Hi yahhhh!


September 26, 2003
 
Senate Filibusters
By Gail Heriot

When I look back over the notes of a talk I gave to Case Western Reserve law students early last November, I feel a little foolish. The talk was supposed to be on the judicial confirmation crisis. But the day after Election Day, when the voters had just restored the GOP majority in the Senate, it appeared to be a dog of a topic. Whatever one thought about whether a "crisis" had existed the day before, it seemed very unlikely that the contentious delays that had characterized the process in 2002 would continue once the new Senate convened.

As the plane landed at Cleveland International Airport, I was busy reconfiguring my notes to emphasize the long-term picture--how the confirmation process was becoming increasingly hard-fought (even nasty) whenever the White House and the Senate are held by different parties. I didn't worry about being wrong when I predicted that the problem was going to recede temporarily with the new GOP majority. Instead, I was worried that I would put the students to sleep.

We all know now that I was wrong–at least partly. Under Orrin Hatch, the Committee on the Judiciary did indeed speed up the process. But Bush's opponents proved themselves willing to play a serious game of hardball when, much to my surprise, they filibustered some of his appellate nominees. This strategy has caused serious setbacks to the Bush's efforts to staff the judiciary--notably Miguel Estrada's recent withdrawal as a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Estrada had a majority of Senators behind his nomination, but opponents of the nomination successfully prevented the issue from coming up for a vote.

Allow me to say a few words on the subject of filibusters–things I would have said to the Case Western students if I had only had a bit more foresight.

The word "filibuster" comes from the Spanish word "filibustero" meaning pirate. The Spanish word can be traced back to the Dutch "vrijbuiter," which also means pirate. The filibusteros of the nineteenth century had a nasty habit of taking over the governments of small Latin American and Carribean countries, just as Senators essentially take over the Senate when they filibuster in the familiar manner. In our own time, we might have called them "hijackers," since they hijack Senate operations for their own purposes.

The "modern" filibuster, of course, differs from what many of us recall from Jimmy Stewart's performance in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In Stewart's time, a would-be filibusterer had to talk, talk, talk and talk sometimes around the clock. No Senator could conduct an effective filibuster by himself, since he would eventually collapse. But two or more could operate as a tag team and bottle up Senate operations indefinitely, sometimes sleeping on cots in the Senate cloakroom. The United States government could be broght to its knees.

After the notorious filibusters by Southern Democrats during the Civil Rights Era, Senate rules were changed to make the process less disruptive. A member of the Senate can now put a matter on hold. But sixty Senators can vote to cut off debate. And in the meantime, other Senate business can be conducted without hindrance. It's thus relatively painless for all concerned. There are no marathon sessions, no readings from the Cleveland telephone book, and no Jimmy Stewarts.

It seems to me there are two possible reasons to support the concept of a filibuster. Neither reason, however, would support the use of the filibuster against the Estrada nomination.

First, there are occasions in which debate has been called off prematurely by a majority that mistakenly believes that it has heard it all. Allowing a minority to force the majority to hear more can be a good thing. But if the issue is whether the Senate has fully debated the issue, there ought to be limits to how long Senate action can be delayed. A week? A month? Two months? Surely at some point it becomes obvious that the point is not the need for further debate but rather the desire to thwart the will of the majority. The current method by which the Senate rules attempt to limit abuse is the ability of sixty Senators to cut off debate. That method is ineffective when the Senate is split 59 to 41. It mustn't be overlooked that a majority of 59 is still a very large majority and at some point its will ordinarily ought to be respected.

That leads me to the second reason that someone might favor the filibuster. Now and then an issue comes along about which the minority feels passionately and the majority does not. Deference to the will of the minority may sometimes be appropriate in those cases. The traditional filibuster is one way that the minority is able to register that passion.

The problem is that the modern "painless" filibuster is an ineffective way to separate passion from pique (or even mild disagreement). No one imagines that Ted Kennedy or Barbara Boxer would have been willing to bring the United States government to its knees–shut down the appropriations process, allow Social Security checks to bounce and freeze all federal activity--just to keep Miguel Estrada off the D.C. Circuit. Indeed, it is difficult to believe they would have been willing to stay up past bedtime for that purpose. The modern filibuster makes opposition easy and painless. Rather than allowing a small group of Senators can stop action they passionately oppose, small group to get its way on everything while paying little or no political price.

It seems to me that this is as good a time as any to re-think Senate rules in some way that would draw a distinction between these two very different purposes for the filibuster.



 
Bush Bottoming Out?
By Tom Smith

For poll numbers, I always check Zogby first. He's a Democrat, so I don't have to worry about being told what I want to hear. He was one of the few who predicted an extremely close 2000 Presidential election. Most polls had Gore trailing slightly. This latest may be the bottom of Bush's well. I hope so.


September 25, 2003
 
Schuck Demolishes Grutter
By Michael Rappaport


Yale Law Professor Peter Schuck writes a superb critique of the Supreme Court’s Grutter decision (which constitutionally approved the Michigan Law School affirmative action plan). Here are the first two paragraphs of the essay:

"The Supreme Court’s long-awaited decisions in the Gratz and Grutter cases concerning the University of Michigan’s affirmative action programs were greeted with deep sighs of relief by the numerous advocates of (euphemisms aside) ethno-racial preferences. Their relief at having dodged a judicial bullet is perfectly understandable. The Court’s decision, however, should not give them too much comfort, for it will convince no one who is not already a true believer in preferences.

Let me count the reasons why. The majority’s application of strict scrutiny amounts to a dilution of that indispensable standard. It relies on an unexamined, shallow conception of diversity and of what is required to produce its benefits. In the name of that diversity, it relies on the very stereotypes it opposes, stereotypes that it ironically believes preferences will discredit and dispel. Its constitutional test compels a conclusion that is precisely the opposite of the one it reaches. It hopes that preferences will be temporary, yet its own logic would perpetuate them. In another of the case’s striking ironies, the decision will promote uniformity, not diversity, in the design of future affirmative action programs. Finally, its decision, far from bringing closure to the bitter, three-decade debate over preferences, will in fact inflame and enlarge it."

The essay is really extraordinary. In a few short pages, Schuck exposes the dishonesty and weakness of the opinion. Schuck was a professor at Yale Law School when I was a student there, but I never had him for a class. Schuck is also a leading scholar in Administrative Law, which I have taught now for more than a decade, yet I have read few of his articles. Based on this essay, I have certainly been missing something.


 
Why Efficient Markets are Random
By Tom Smith

Thanks to Steve Bainbridge for alerting me to an article in Nature that takes a swipe at the Efficient Capital Markets Hypothesis. I explain this to at least one of my classes every year, and from glancing at the summary of the article by the geniuses at the Santa Fe Institute, it looks like they may not understand the connection between a randomly walking market and efficiency any better than my most innocent students. Granted, I have just glanced at the article, so I'm jumping to this conclusion--but look: The reason why random stock market movements are evidence of efficiency is because stock market price changes are based on new information. If we could predict it, if it wasn't a surprise, then it would not be news. As I tell my students, that's why it's called news. The more random the movement, the more prices are reacting only to new information, rather than to information that is already (partially) reflected in past prices. So the folks at Santa Fe Institute have noticed there is more than one way to produce a random series. Well, duh. Non-randomness would not be an indication that traders are intelligent; it would just be evidence that the market is not processing information efficiently, that old news was still influencing current prices. Perhaps this example will help: suppose corn futures prices depend only on weather variables in the midwest, which I postulate fluctuate randomly. The movement of corn futures prices should be just as random as the weather movements, or else they are not responding only to new information. If there is anything not random about the movements, such as gradual seasonal warming, then that already known information should already be incorporated into current prices, and only unpredictable movements in weather variables should cause price changes.


September 24, 2003
 
Soft Breezes for a Weatherman
By Maimon Schwarzschild


Kathy Boudin, one of the "Weatherman" radicals who participated in a Brinks robbery in 1981 in which two police officers and a Brinks guard were killed, was paroled from prison last week, after serving nineteen years of a twenty years to life sentence. Relatives of the officers who were killed are protesting Ms Boudin's release: but the protests will plainly be to no avail. Ms Boudin's friends, many of them prominent in left-wing circles, are pleased. They gave her a warm welcome, and a "public interest" job awaits her. ("With Bouquet and a Wave, Boudin is Free 22 Years Later")

There is probably a good case for parole for Ms Boudin. She served a fairly long term for "felony murder": a robbery in which three people died, but not directly at her hand. There is no evidence that Ms Boudin herself was armed during the robbery, though some of her radical cohorts clearly were. People convicted of politically motivated crimes probably ought to be treated no better, and no worse, than people who commit the same sort of crime without political motivation. (Of course, that thought is at odds with the whole concept of "hate crimes", which entail more severe punishment for people who are motivated by particular ideas.)

Yet I sympathize with the families of the officers, who are angry about Ms Boudin's release. What I think bothers me most is that when Ms Boudin walks out of prison, she will be enveloped in admiration and support, essentially -- though if her friends and admirers were asked on the record, they would formally deny it -- because of what she did, not in spite of it. For the rest of her life, Ms Boudin will live comfortably. She will be given interesting jobs. She will be a bit of a star. None of these agreeable conditions are available to the families of the people who died as a result of the crimes Ms Boudin participated in. Much less to the deceased victims themselves.

In fact, the only thing Kathy Boudin could possibly do to put her agreeable life-style in jeopardy would be to have serious second thoughts, and to express them, about 1960s radicalism and its political antecedents and successors. That is the one thing her radical friends and supporters would not tolerate.

Serious remorse? She can't afford it. And it would be unthinkable, really, in the midst of the large and monied and self-righteous subculture (remember the famous, fawning New York Times interview with Bill Ayers, another former "Weatherman", published the morning of September 11, 2001 -- "we haven't lost our ideals...") in which Ms Boudin will spend the rest of her life.

I don't know that any of this makes for a legal basis to deny her parole. But something in me thinks, or at least feels, that it ought to.


September 23, 2003
 
Going Back to Graduate School
By Chris Wonnell

Forgive a little self-indulgence on this one, but maybe this story will be of interest to anyone who has considered getting extra education a little later in life than is customary.

I am 45 years old, and have been a law professor for twenty years. I do a fair amount of law-and-economics scholarship, but have become increasingly frustrated by the fact that much of that scholarship requires quantitative skill with empirical issues that law professors are not particularly well trained to handle. The truth is that I worry that a lot of law-and-economics is really pretty second-rate economics. I have grumbled about these things for years, but have finally decided to do something about it and enroll in graduate school, while teaching my law school classes in the evening.

Fortunately, I live in San Diego, and the University of California at San Diego has a first rate graduate program in economics, which somehow admitted me. I have taken one course there -- a mathematics for economists course -- and it was quite difficult for someone who hasn't done much math in the last 25 years. The time demands are tough on family, friends, and the law school community, and money is an issue. But it is exciting and I have high hopes for it all, so stay tuned.


 
The Strange Politics of Affirmative Action
By Chris Wonnell

Critics of affirmative action have always taken a certain amount of solace in public opinion polls showing that racial preference policies are unpopular with the general public. It might be assumed that the public has a similar attachment to the meritocratic ideals that the academic critics of affirmative action seem to have in mind as a substitute. It is increasingly clear, however, that such an assumption is unrealistic.

Academics tend to forget that there are many people who are opposed equally to affirmative action and to meritocratic standards. If you are a white person who has children with mediocre grades and scores, your family is being harmed somewhat equally by the competition of the black or Hispanic affirmative action beneficiary and the white or Asian high performer on the standardized test. It should not be surprising, therefore, that many rank-and-file critics of affirmative action are not particularly fans of the SAT or the LSAT, and are likely to have considerable sympathy for replacing affirmative action with admission standards that are de facto random.

Conversely, the academic insiders who love affirmative action also tend to be, in their heart of hearts, rather sympathetic to meritocratic standards. Their ideal is the policies they have pursued thus far -- ruthless exclusion of the masses by grades and standardized tests, and then looking the other way to get enough minorities in to feel good about themselves. They would be equally horrified by the dropping of affirmative action and by randomized admissions standards that downplayed indices of academic talent.

It will be very interesting to see these political forces playing themselves out in the context of alternatives to affirmative action like accepting the top 10% of every high school class. As experience mounts, academic insiders who cannot get enough of affirmative action are likely to complain bitterly about the low quality of many of the students admitted in this way. On the other hand, the masses may very well feel that the only problem with the 10 percent solution is that it isn't the top 30%, or that the "top 10%" is calculated on the basis of grades and scores rather than the whole person. It will be the defenders of affirmative action who will be the meritocrats and the critics of affirmative action who will be the critics of meritocracy, or who will start to put "merit" in quotation marks.


 
What Should Israel Do About Arafat? House Arrest
By Michael Rappaport

The Israeli government has recently made various statements about the possibility of killing Yasser Arafat or expelling him from Israel. What should the Israeli government do about Arafat?

There are four options that have often been discussed: Killing him, expelling him, imprisoning him, or letting him remain where he is. Each of these options has significant problems:

* Killing him: By killing Arafat, Israel would, no doubt, provoke an international firestorm of criticism. Moreover, the execution would be cited, improperly but no doubt effectly, as an example of “Israeli terrorism.” It would also turn Arafat into a martyr, enhancing his stature. People who oppose him now (perhaps silently) would come to view him as a political hero.

* Expelling him: Expulsion would allow Arafat to travel the world and cause trouble. He would be likely to move from capital to capital attempting to get other nations to pressure Isreal to readmit it. He might be quite effective as an absentee leader.

* Imprisoning him: Placing Arafat in jail would have the benefit of preventing him from running the Palestinian Authority, but it would allow him to be a symbol of Palestinian militancy and terrorism. His placement in jail would engender sympathy and again raise his stature, like a Nelson Mandela, who is sacrficing for his nation. There might also be accusations that the Israelis were starving or torturing him.

* Letting him remain where he is: This would also be problematic. At present, Arafat is able to use his control over the Palestinian Authority to prevent less extreme leaders from gaining control. He is a force for continuing the war against Israel and preventing any possibility (however unlikely) of a good faith deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Rather than take these actions, Israel would be much better off placing Arafat under house arrest. Arafat should be confined to a pleasant, but modest private house and put under guard. He should have a couple of servants and the ordinary comforts of home. Yet, he should not be allowed to leave the house or to have visitors.

This arrangement would serve several purposes. It would stop Arafat from running the Palestinian Authority, without permitting him to create trouble in foreign capitals, to become a martyr, or to be a potent symbol of resistance. With Arafat deprived of his power and much of his authority, his opponents might be able to criticize him and to attempt to gain power.

This analysis of what Israel should do about Arafat is deepened by reflecting more generally on the factors that Israel must consider in pursuing its security. One factor is fighting the war against Palestinian militants and terrorists. But there are two other factors. The second is strengthening the less extreme (I will not call them moderate) Palestinian groups. The third factor is reducing (or at least not increasing) the support for Palestinian extremism from other nations, especially from Europe, Arab countries, and the United States. Significantly, this last factor may be the biggest constraint on Israel. If Israel did not have to worry about world opinion, it could have militarily defeated the Palestinians years ago and taken any other actions that it deemed necessary to its security.

Israeli leaders have often failed to recognize the importance of all of these factors. For example, the Labor Party consistently advocates policies (such as Oslo) which are popular with foreign countries, but sacrifice Israel’s ability to fight Palestinian terrorism. While Israel must always place a high priority on resisting such terrorism, that does not mean it can ignore the other two factors. Successful leaders, such as Begin (and in the American context Reagan), understand that a policy of peace through strength focuses on more than simply the ability to fight a war.

Applying these principles to the question of what to do about Arafat confirms that holding him under house arrest is the best solution. While killing him might make a statement against terrorism and would stop him from doing any more damage, it would create other problems. Holding him under house arrest would best serve the interests of Israel, and in the long run, of the Palestinians as well.