Civitas Review

Monday Morality


“Responsibility, not to a superior, but to one's own conscience, the awareness of a duty not exacted by compulsion, the necessity to decide which of the things one values are to be sacrificed to others, and to bear the consequences of one's own decision, are the very essence of any morals which deserve the name.”

— Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom


Where's the Beef?


Beef suppliers who supply meat to the major fast food restaurant chains have organized a protest in nearly 100 cities across the US to demand that the restaurants double the price they pay for their beef purchases.

Economists, and observers with even one iota of common sense, cautioned that such an increase would actually harm the beef suppliers. In response to a doubling of the price of such a vital input (without any increase in the value it adds to the finished product), the restaurants could respond in one of three ways:

  • Attempt to pass along the increased costs to consumers in the form of higher prices, in which case demand for hamburgers would decline and as such the fast food restaurants would either go out of business or downsize their operations. In either case, the end result would be far less beef being purchased.
  • Keep the prices of their burgers the same, but reduce the amount of beef they purchase by making the sandwiches smaller (i.e. the quarter pounder becomes a fifth-pounder), or reduce or eliminate burgers from their menu and substitute that with an increase in other selections like chicken and fish sandwiches. In either case, the end result would be far less beef being purchased.
  • Or, they pay the inflated cost for beef, keep prices of hamburgers the same and don't reduce the burger size or substitute burgers with more chicken and fish. Instead, they absorb the added costs and see their profit margins drop. In this case, because capital is mobile, as profit margins in the fast food industry shrinks, investment in the industry will also shrink and move to other industries where the return is greater. As a result, the fast food industry is reduced, and the result would be far less beef being purchased.

As you can see, by demanding a major increase in the price of the product they supply to the fast food restaurants, the beef suppliers would bring harm to themselves as any possible scenario would result in far less beef being purchased. Many people would lose jobs and be forced into other lines of work in which they are likely less qualified for and as such would receive lower wages than they did working as a beef supplier.

Any rational thinking person would be hard pressed to object to the above analysis.

Of course, however, there is no protest by beef suppliers, but instead there is a protest today by suppliers of labor to fast food restaurants - seeking to nearly double the price the restaurants pay for their labor. To know what the impact would be, simply substitute suppliers of labor for beef suppliers in the above scenario, and it is easy to see why the protesters should be careful what they wish for.

Media Matters Doesn't Understand NC


The leftist group Media Matters is huffing and puffing because — gasp! — of the way newspapers describe Civitas. All their study really shows, however, is that Media Matters is an outside organization that doesn't know North Carolina, and doesn't know much about newspapers either.

According to the left-wing group, which analyzed recent news stories that mentioned us:

30 Percent Of Articles Referencing The Civitas Institute Did Not Disclose The Organization's Conservative Ideology. Seventeen of the 55 reports that included op-eds by or reference to the Civitas Institute made no disclosure of the organization's conservative leaning.

That may be a big deal to out-of-staters. But we are proudly and openly "North Carolina's Conservative Voice."

Civitas logo

 As our mission statement proclaims:

The vision of the Civitas Institute is of a North Carolina whose citizens enjoy liberty and prosperity derived from limited government, personal responsibility and civic engagement. The mission of the Civitas Institute is to facilitate the implementation of conservative policy solutions to improve the lives of all North Carolinians.

People here know that. The North Carolina political junkies who are especially interested in these topics know this. And for those who may have missed it, our friends on the left constantly bring it up.

There's no need to point out our conservative beliefs to Tar Heel newspaper readers. To do so would be like saying, on the cooking or lifestyle pages, that "eastern North Carolina barbecue sauce is vinegar-based." Or, on the sports pages, "college basketball is popular in North Carolina."

Newspapers don't have to repeat what the average reader knows. Readers know who we are, and a couple of mouse clicks will affirm that to anyone who has questions.

Media Matters tries to raise a kerfuffle over similar facts that are generally known or obvious — e.g., that because Civitas is a conservative group, many of our donors are conservative. File that under, "Well, duh!"

The next time Media Matters wants to critique us, they ought to really come down here and investigate. They might learn something — at least, if they come to our part of the state, how vinegar-based barbecue with a side of hush puppies is mighty tasty.

Some perspective on PISA scores


Earlier this week, The Programme for International Student Assessment — better known as PISA – released  2012 test results .The results compare  the performance of  15 year old students from 65 countries in reading, math and science.  No surprise, the US performed about average in reading and science and below average in math.  Since the release there has been no shortage of commentary or opinion about what the scores mean. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, likely trying to whip up support the need to implement Common Core standards,  called the scores a picture of "educational stagflation." Historian Diane Ravitch was less dramatic and blogs that there was never a time when the U.S. students topped the charts on international tests. Jason Richwine offered a balanced view on the results at National Review's The Corner and reminds us that students and parents have the need to go beyond test scores; a need that can only be met by expanding educational opportunity and listening to parents.

The Debate over Cursive Writing Is More than Academic


Here's what I can tell you: The honor code was the hardest part of the whole test (PSAT) . That's because it had to be written in cursive. The minute the teacher instructed the test-takers to write the one-sentence honor statement in cursive, audible gasps broke out in the room. Cursive? Most students my age have only encountered this foreign language in letters from grandma. Even then, kids take one look and hand the postcard to their parents for translation help.

Those are the words of Miss Emily Freeman.  She wrote them in a recent Wall Street Journal article.   Emily is a junior at Calvary Baptist Day School in Winston-Salem, NC.  Her words tell the story of what we are doing to our students as fewer schools teach cursive writing.  Yes, I know the legislature approved a bill requiring "that public schools provide instruction in cursive writing." They did the same for the teaching of  multiplication tables.  However we all know passing a law doesn't make the problem go away.  On the contrary, 41 states currently  do not require that students learn to read and write in cursive.  Common Core's emphasis on keyboarding and the fact that cursive will not be included on any testing may mean the problem may very well get worse.

But do students really need cursive writing?  What's the big deal if students can write?  Paula Bolyard explores that question in great article about just what is lost if we stop teaching cursive.   The debate about cursive is far from over. Neurologists and psychologists have long touted the benefits to learning (see here and here).

The truth is when we lose our ability to write and read in cursive we lose much of our ability to communicate; with others, and our past. When is that ever a good thing?