The Well FED Society

This is the weblog for the University of Baltimore Federalist Society. Come back regularly for updates about our meetings and events, and you might even be treated to some original thought.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

On the Protocols of Academic Society

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a surprisingly good article titled Liberal Groupthink Is Anti-Intellectual

Read it.

Some of the article seems strangely similar to things we've seen at UB.

(Hat tip to InstaPundit.)

Friday, October 22, 2004

Panel Discussion or Propaganda…

The following is the statement that the UBFS issued and posted, as a full-size poster, on the door to the auditorium of the one-sided homeland security "panel discussion" mentioned previously

Panel Discussion or Propaganda…
Can you tell the difference?
Professor Tiefer can’t.
Or, if he can, he won’t tell you.

The UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE FEDERALIST SOCIETY takes exception to this “panel” discussion because there appears to be no balance of opinion.

IF Prof. Tiefer attempted to obtain one or more conservative experts on homeland security he was unsuccessful. Perhaps that’s because he did not contact either conservative student organization (the UB Federalist Society or the UB Republican Caucus) for assistance in obtaining experts who would present arguments in favor of the policies of the current administration.

The UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE FEDERALIST SOCIETY fiercely supports Prof. Tiefer’s right to have and express his opinion on this and every other issue, however, we see the description of this event as a “Panel Discussion” to be intellectually dishonest, and in opposition to the fundamental purpose of public universities and the nature of education.

And to the question of “Are We Safer?” - The answer is YES! Even small children learn, eventually, that closing one’s eyes does not make unpleasant reality disappear.

Friday, October 15, 2004

AIDS - is it a political issue or a public health issue?

Those of use in Maryland, and especially those of us at UB know of William Donald (Willie-Don) Schaefer, former Governor of Maryland, former Mayor of Baltimore, and current State Comptroller.

Blair Lee of the Lee Development Group has written a very interesting article about one of Willie-Don's recent outbursts... Schaefertime in Maryland

Mr. Schaefer's idea is, basically, to quit treating AIDS as a political issue and treat it as a deadly communicable disease.

I'm not one to favor governmental invasions of privacy. Then again, nobody really argues that the existence of the CDC is way beyond the constitutional mandate of "promoting the general welfare." Also, this is a state official, and states are allowed to go deeper into peoples lives, generally (or ideally) than the Federal government is supposed to go.

So, what do you think... Is it time to treat AIDS and HIV infection as a disease from which unsuspecting people should be afforded some protection? Sounds like a policy issue worth discussing...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Public Schools - War on Poverty or War on the Poor?

Professor Walter E. Williams of George Mason University has been a consistent and thoughtful critic of public education, especially of the public schools as they (dis)serve minority students.

Here's his latest column: School violence toleration

The anecdotes Professor Williams uses lead the reader to the natural conclusion that, although we're constantly told that "Education" is the way out of poverty and social inequity, and therefore that public schools are doing a vital and massive proportion of the substantive work in the "War on Poverty," the truth of the matter is that public schools are making the problems worse.

I agree that "Education," real education, can enable students, regardless of the socio-economic background from which they come, to open the doors of opportunity. That said, the simple fact that, conceptually, "education" holds that potential does not imply that public schools are accomplishing much or anything in terms of realizing that potential.

So, what's the solution? (Craig, I'm expecting useful comments and or subsequent posts on this topic from you.)

Before that, where, exactly, is the problem? Is it in the schools, the children, the teachers, the parents, the neighborhoods, the education administration, or perhaps the office of the President of the United States?

In my humble opinion, no one of the potential scape-goats deserves all of the blame. I would suggest that the President, least of all, deserves blame, but an argument could be made that national policy, which the President does establish, has an impact, so I'll say that a smidgen of blame can be assigned all the way up to the top.

It's instructive, of course, that despite the miserable state and condition of inner city schools, some children from horrible households do succeed well. That would imply to someone doing a "scientific" analysis of the situation that the strongest "control" mechanism is the student himself (or herself). That makes sense, since education really happens between the ears of the individual students. Controls over the second and third (or higher order) derivatives are less effective, directly, on the result, but can be highly effective on the overall trends.

[NOTE: For the non-scientist or engineer reader, I apologize, but controls engineering is my background, so that's how I look at problems that need to be solved.]

Higher-order controls can be over or under done if their impact is not measured correctly. In this instance, "higher-order" refers to the aspects of the problem that are relevant, generally, but not directly, such as parental involvement, school administration, etc. From a public-policy perspective, the only realm that is in any way appropriate for government meddling is in (some of) these higher-order areas.

What Professor Williams notes is the counter-intuitive response of a school-system to parental involvement in the educational process which was in response to peer/societal circumstances which the parent found unacceptable, but which are the collective result of parental abdication and governmental mis-management.

Two truisms that, I think, are useful to understanding this problem are:
1. Systems always perform as designed (but that's not necessarily what was desired) and
2. People always tend to perform towards their metrics.

Looking at the current state and condition of public schools, especially urban public schools, as a "system," one must ask, "If this is how the system is performing, what was the actual design objective?" Do public schools exist to provide opportunity to all? That's not what they're doing, so, although that might have been the desire of the customer (the public), it's not the design of the system that has been delivered.

What does the public school system, especially in urban settings, produce? Poorly educated and poorly socialized additions to society. That and a nominal justification for more governmental funds and political power. The public school system perpetuates the conditions that were the justification for it's existence. Inequality of educational result is the reason we have a government-run school system and why we submit to being taxed to support it. Of course, the public doesn't like that problem... It's not what the customer desired... We wanted a solution, and not a perpetuation of the problem.

It's my thesis that public schools, by design (though not by desire), assault the poor to justify demands for expansion. The system exists for self-perpetuation, growth, and the enrichment of those who run the system. Those who run the system achieve greater compensation through the growth of the system. If your importance and therefore your compensation increases with the expansion of educational programs, then the obvious tactic to increase compensation is to demonstrate a "need" for the additional programs.

My conclusion, for what it's worth, is that to fix the problem, the customer has to reject the current product. In the '70s when gas prices spiked, small car sales shot up, but the "big three" continued to manufacture large inefficient automobiles. When the customer-base rejected the product, they re-aligned (somewhat) and began to produce products that the customers wanted to buy. The analogy with public schools is weak because public schools are a virtual monopoly. Without competition, an organization's systematic design goals cannot be easily modified to match the customers' desires.

Because, in all cases, the basic motivation of management is the same, i.e. personal enrichment(monetary and social/political gain), the metric by which the management goal is achieved must be considered. In a competitive environment, enrichment comes through efficiency and expansion of market-share. Where the industry is a de facto monopoly, the industry can choose to improve it's performance according to customer standards, but that won't expand it's market share, or, more likely, it can abuse and fleece it's customers. The objective of the monopolistic systematic design of our public schools must be deemed to be to attack the weak in order to justify governmental expansion of the public schools.

Long story short... Education is a major front in the War on Poverty, but Public Schools are the enemy because they are, by design, waging a War on the Poor.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Chirac: Save the environment, speak French!

Matt Drudge has this article about some of Jacques Chirac's statements against the American culture and English language.

I loved this statement:

This, he said, would lead to a "general world sub-culture" based around the English language, which would be "a real ecological catastrophe".

I was never so proud to be an English-speaking American than right at this moment knowing that my existence and the language I speak annoys Jacques Chirac.

How does this relate to public policy? It goes to the question of whether or not we should even consider France an ally... Here's some more damning informaiton...

Comments? (English only, please.)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

If it's important at UB, non-liberals need not apply

You may not have heard, the University of Baltimore School of Law is sponsoring a panel discussion on homeland security, entitled 'Are We Safer?'

That's nice.

Read the description... Notice that it's the LAW SCHOOL, and not any student group sponsoring this event. Notice that Dean Holmes will be "moderating" the discussion. Why they need a moderator, I haven't a clue, since ALL of the speakers come from the same political/philosophical camp!

As you know, the Federalist Society, the UBFS, and this site are all non-partisan. This, of course, does NOT mean that we are oblivious to politics and the philosophies that motivate political actors. To the contrary, the study of public policy (our main reason for existing) is a study of precisely that.

Therefore, I am, and I hope you are too, furious at the school for using state and federal funds to present a leftist propaganda-fest and calling it a "panel discussion." It's NOT.

I can assure you that no one from the law school or the Dean's office contacted either the UBFS or the other prominent conservative organization at UB. This is shameful.

The reason I'm posting this for you, my dear readers, is because I think that it's our duty to raise the level of discourse on campus. The diversity that counts is that of ideas, because only by the presentation and subsequent competition of ideas will the best policies rise and become refined.

Please stand with me and contact the University to let the powers that be know that you're interested in this important topic, and wonder if they intend to present a panel with more than one perspective, and if so, who will present an alternative viewpoint.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Malpractice panel Discussion - post-mortem

I don't have the time to go into a full discussion of last night's (Sept 30, 2004) event. I tried to take reasonably good notes of the discussion from each of the speakers, and I'll try to reconstruct my impressions when I continue this post later on.

My first impressions are as follows:

1. The Maryland Trial Lawyers' Association should be ashamed of itself. Understandably, they stand to lose a great deal if meaningful reform takes place, but their response to the invitation sent to them from the Federalist Society was an exceptionally childish letter.

2. The panelists who showed up were truly knowledgeable in their respective areas, and more than that, they were sincere in their conviction that the current situation is a crisis and meaningful steps need to be taken to prevent this crisis from turning into a catastrophe.

Dr. Sobel made an impact unlike the other speakers because he didn't come in as a lawyer or a politician. He was a learned man who is fighting the fight to be able to practice medicine, and the system (in a global sense) is just not supporting him and the rest of the physicians. He provided the statistics and perspective that drove home the point that this issue is actually a crisis, and not just hype from people who don't like the defenders of the little guy, the noble "Trial Lawyer."

As I said, I'll fill in more later, but I want to leave you with a few thoughts. First, one problem is that nobody knows what the actual solution needs to be, and nobody really complained about the "caps" issues. Second, the crisis will resolve itself one way or another. If the problem isn't addressed politically, soon, it will resolve itself by depleting the available medical resources, and healthcare access will evaporate. Third, no one camp is 100% to blame, and maybe that's why a solution is so hard to agree upon. Fourth (and finally for now), the medical liability system does not currently serve its purported purpose. One thing that I think a representative of the Trial Lawyers could have constructively added to the discussion is that until there are systematic changes, lawyers really need to act in much the way that they currently do, because to not seek the best result for your client is legal malpractice (see Section 2 of the Preable), and although this is detrimental to society, a lawyer is not allowed to abandon his client's interests in favor of some societal goal. It's basically a "game theory" type of situation where all the players would do well if all of the players behaved, but if any of the players act selfishly, the selfish actors will reap huge rewards individually, even though the collective is injured.

To be continued...
The first panelist to speak was Al Redmer. As noted below, he's the current Maryland Insurance Commissioner. He's also a former delegate to the Maryland General Assembly. The first thing that he said which was noteworthy, IMHO, was that the med-mal issue is more of a political issue than a public policy one. Also, it doesn't appear that the people of the state are more litigious than before, because the number of claims being made is approximately the same as it has been for some time, but rather, the pain is coming from the fact that the pay-outs have increased substantially, and the problem is in the "economic damages." Towards the end of his portion of the discussion, he rattled off several ideas including annuitizing the pay-outs, or creating a "patient compensation pool."

I like the idea of annuitized payents because it ties the award to the injury, but I don't particularly like the idea of a patient compensation pool. It seems like a way to pay people for bad luck rather than to compensate them for injury suffered as a result of someone else's negligence.

Dr. Sobel was the second panelist to speak. I discussed a little of his presentation above, and alluded to some statistics: Right now, in the state of Maryland there are about 750 Ob-Gyn physicians, but only about 500 of them are currently practicing Ob-Gyn. Shock-trauma centers are not economically viable because they are required by law to take whoever comes to them regardless of ability to pay, and so the ones that are open, generally are receiving direct governmental support. One of the most interesting facts that he presented, or at least I thought it was interesting, was that there are NO neuro-surgeons in the Mississippi Delta region from Memphis to New Orleans.

Another fact he mentioned was that defensive medicine (tests not really indicated, but ordered just to make sure that he can say he did order every reasonable test if he does get sued) is currently estimated to cost the US economy between $70 and $100 Billion.

Walter Olson spoke next. He presented more details of the excesses in the med-mal plaintiff's bar, which I suppose if somebody wants, I can post in greater depth at another time. What stood out about Mr. Olson's discussion was that he presented some realistically helpful ideas.
  1. Certificates of Merit. If there were some way to guarantee that a med-mal case actually had some merit, before it actually got filed, it might reduce the number of suits. Of course some safe-guards against "jukebox" doctors (Doctors who will sing whatever tune you ask, if you pay them.)
  2. Daubert. This is the expert/scientific evidence standard used in federal cases. This is probably the easiest solution that could provide some quick results.
  3. Court Appointed Experts. Right now, jurors who are generally unable to distinguish good science (medicine) from bad are treated to a "battle of experts." that, of course, isn't designed to enlighten the jurors, but to snow them. They are left just as confused as before, and often give sympathy awards to the poor injured/sick person regardless of whether the doctor was negligent.
  4. Loser Pays. There are some bad ways to implement it, and he sighted the "Florida Experiment" as one. Nevertheless, a well structured loser-pays scheme would strongly discourage plaintiff's attorneys from bringing weak cases.
Finally, Gardner Duvall spoke. He pointed out that, practically, the proponents of tort-reform need to define their battle carefully and prepare for it properly. The Defense Bar needs to help the political debate. Mr. Duvall also tossed out a novel reform idea: Change the standard from "Would a reasonable Doctor had done the same thing," to "Would NO reasonable doctor have done the same thing."

The sad fact is, and I can't remember who brough out this statistic, 80% of all med-mal cases have NO merit (i.e. no negilgence can be found by a dispassionate review of the evidence by experts), and just as tragically, about 80% of all cases of negligence never result in a any sort of recompense for the victim.

For what it's worth, I liked a number of the ideas... I especially like applying Daubert. If that were combined with loser-pays, and my own addition to the mix, Bifrucated trials (Seperate the liability/negligence issue from damages) then perhaps the issue can really be addressed. Then again, a court appointed expert to review the case and produce the "certificate of merit" could go a long way too.

If you couldn't or didn't make it to the event, shame on you, but I hope my recollections have been useful. Feel free to comment about what ideas you've got in regards to the med-mal issue.