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Universally Recognized Occupational Licensing Ignores the Underlying Problem – Occupational Licensing

Occupational licensing is a hot topic across the country. However, few proposals address the underlying problem: one must secure the government’s approval to earn a living. One of the latest fads proclaiming to remedy this evil is universal recognition of occupational licensing – a policy where a state recognizes every other state’s licensees as eligible to receive a license to practice their occupation in that state.    Universal is not a common word in the vernacular of liberty. It is a term more often deployed by the progressive left to denote a nationalized industry or social program. For example, universal health care, universal preschool, and universal basic income, to name a few. To be fair, some things may be (or should be) universal – like natural rights. However, many other things cannot be universal without imposing a high cost on those naturally and rightfully universal things.  The 1889 Institute has been a leading voice against occupational licensing in Oklahoma and co-authored an alternative to occupational licensing, private certification, with the Goldwater Institute. Given 1889’s involvement and the fact that Oklahoma recently passed a version of the Universal...

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Do Not Put Your Hope in the Courts; Actively Fight for Yourselves

Conservatives have been disappointed by several recent Supreme Court rulings. From declaring half of Oklahoma a tribal reservation to a strained interpretation that conflates sexual orientation and gender identity with one’s sex for purposes of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the supposed conservative majority on the court has swung and missed on some big issues. Some question whether the right justices were nominated, but a more important question is whether so much policymaking power should be left to the courts. Judge Wyrick, one of Oklahoma's legal luminaries, recently addressed the latter question from a political perspective, identifying legislative failures nationwide for putting too much importance on the opinions of nine Ivy League lawyers. This is absolutely correct, as far as it goes. The public views legislators as inept at even the most basic functions of governance, spending trillions and doing little else. They may be correct, but the public hasn’t found the correct solution. Since at least the 1940s the Supreme Court has been wading into congressional business. It has been interfering with the executive for far longer, with Marbury v. Madison comprising the...

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Performance-Based Compensation is Good, but School Choice is Best

“Except for different salary levels based on years of classroom experience, unions insist on equal pay for every teacher in a district, regardless of productivity, professionalism, subject taught, and expertise. This is less respect than one would give a dog as it denies agency, ignores incentives, and effectively equates everyone to the lowest common denominator.”             -Byron Schlomach, Director of the 1889 Institute As stated above, the teacher compensation structure in Oklahoma is flawed. Good teachers should be rewarded, and bad teachers should not be in the classroom – much less paid the same because the unions demand it. Unfortunately, administrators have no incentive to compensate teachers based on their performance. Due to the monopolistic structure of our public education system, administrators have no incentive to economize. Unlike a commercial enterprise, they do not have to attract and retain customers (students). Students are assigned to their schools and districts based on their addresses and have few alternatives. Even with the advent of charter schools and recently passed legislation expanding open transfer, schools still face little competition for...

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Oklahoma Department of Commerce: California Dreamin’

When the Okies left Oklahoma and moved to California, it raised the I.Q. of both states. -Will Rogers In late 2019 the Oklahoma Department of Commerce started a campaign to convince California-based companies in Oklahoma’s key industry sectors to move to Oklahoma. Governor Stitt sent a letter to businesses within target markets, including Los Angeles and San Jose, particularly targeting those that manufacture smaller parts and firms with large demand for electricity. In 2020, billboards were put up in California to advertise that Oklahoma is business-friendly compared to California. While it’s true that Oklahoma is more business friendly than California, it falls short of other states, leaving significant work to be done. Although many companies are leaving California, they are not moving in droves to Oklahoma. The deciding factors for companies moving, according to a new report by the Hoover Institution, are increased cost of business , decreased productivity, and profitability. Economic incentives do have a marginal effect on some businesses, and California provides enough corporate welfare to keep many from fleeing. Others, however, leave without a promise of economic...

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The Simple Solution to High-Cost Healthcare

A couple of weeks ago, in a blog entitled “Free Market Healthcare: Fighting Industrialized Corruption,” a follow-up blog was promised that would describe a key, simple healthcare reform that would bring about a rapid expansion of a truly entrepreneurial, free market healthcare system. This system would give us all the benefits that free markets dominated by the entrepreneurial spirit bring in every other economic area – higher quality and lower prices even as those working in such an industry get richer. This comes about as a result of innovation born of competition and free enterprise. How can healthcare be simply transformed and, almost overnight, be made more like the competitive, free enterprise systems that have made automobiles, computers, and nearly everything we consume on a daily basis both better and less expensive? The first thing that must be understood is the degree to which the high cost of healthcare is driven by the “third-party payer problem.” This is that patients (healthcare consumers) pay only about a dime of the average dollar spent on healthcare in the United States. The rest is paid by private, usually employer-provided, health insurance, or by some level...

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How the Legislature Can Get Tough On Insubordinate Universities

Who runs Oklahoma’s state universities? Remember that state university means state-funded, which really means taxpayer-funded. So how much input do taxpayers have on the direction of our institutions of higher education? Turns out, very little. At the national level, Congress derives much of its power from appropriations. Even though Congress would have a hard time passing enough laws to get every agency to do what it wants, they don't have to. Instead, they leverage their power to dole out money to every federal agency. So, if an agency is acting contrary to the congressional will, Congress can cut, or in extreme cases withhold, that agency’s budget. Federal agencies are highly responsive to Congress, especially to members of appropriations committees.   In Oklahoma, two obstacles hinder this arrangement: institutional practice, and the Oklahoma Constitution. And while the constitution is the highest law in the land, the legislature’s history of hands-off administration of agencies, including the Board of Regents, may be harder to overcome.  In 1941 Oklahoma’s constitution was amended to include the provision that:  The appropriations made by the Legislature for all such...

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When it Comes to Children, “Local Control” Belongs With Parents

In education policy, local control is a hotly contested issue. But one crucial party is frequently ignored in the rhetoric – parents. Worse than ignored, they are sometimes viewed with derision. A parent is the ultimate local authority on the health, safety, and welfare of their child. Generally, parents are the most knowledgeable, most interested, most invested party in the development and education of a child. However, instead of being empowered, the system seems to see them as an adversary.  For me, this point was driven home recently when I stumbled across a statement made by the spokesperson for an out-of-state school district. Talking about its decision to ignore a statewide policy prohibiting mask mandates, the spokesperson said something like: “Children want to do the right thing; It’s the adults that make this complicated.”  Her statement raised some immediate questions. Which adults was she talking about? When talking about obstructionist adults, I highly doubt she was referring to teachers or school administrators. It was far more likely she was referring to politicians who recently empowered parents, and those parents who refuse to mask their children.  Additionally,...

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Oklahoma’s Promise Unfairly Discriminates against Homeschool Students

The Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), otherwise known as Oklahoma’s Promise, offers higher education scholarships to students from low and middle-income families in Oklahoma. During the 2019-20 school year, the program provided over $66 million in scholarships to 15,347 students. According to the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Act, the program is intended to relieve students of the burden of paying tuition and help them achieve post-secondary success. Requirements for the program are as follows: applicants must be in the 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th grades (or specifically ages 13-17 for homeschool students), and their parents’ adjusted gross income (AGI) must be below $60,000. In addition, they must maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA throughout high school and complete a 17-unit college preparatory curriculum that consists of credits in English, math, lab science, humanities, foreign language, fine arts, etc. (much like the Oklahoma core graduation requirements). Students must also agree to some basic guidelines regarding class attendance, homework completion, drug use, and criminal behavior. The requirements above apply to homeschool and public school students. However,...

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Free Market Healthcare: Fighting Industrialized Corruption

After attending the Free Market Medical Association meeting in Dallas recently, one cannot help but be impressed by the innovations of honest providers in making affordable, quality healthcare services increasingly available in a hostile policy environment. While big hospitals, big insurance, big pharma, and big government continue to insist that a healthcare sector that swallows nearly 20 percent of our GDP remains destitute and needs more of our money, principled entrepreneurs (often against the lobbying efforts of the “bigs”) soldier on, finding and exploiting opportunities to serve us well, and without robbing us. Perhaps the degree to which the dominant players in health care rip us all off on a daily basis can best be illustrated by something said at the breakfast table one morning during the FMMA event by a businessman from McAllen, Texas. His is a self-insured enterprise, as are many decent-sized businesses, where one of the insurance companies is paid by the employer to administer a health insurance plan where the employer pays the bills when employees need health care, net of deductibles and co-pays. Under circumstances where one of his employees needs a major surgery,...

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American Rescue Plan: A Lead Weight of Inflation and Higher Taxes

"The government pretends to be endowed with the mystical power to accord favors out of an inexhaustible horn of plenty. It is both omniscient and omnipotent. It can by a magic wand create happiness and abundance. The truth is the government cannot give if it does not take from somebody."  - Ludwig Von Mises During the Great Recession, Oklahoma City received $48.7 million in stimulus to use in reducing the effects of the 2008 economic downturn. Some of the money went to starting new projects that would inevitably need future funding, which contributed to a funding gap in 2014 (fiscal year). This means city officials had to make hard choices, evaluating which programs were worth spending city funds after the federal funding had been exhausted. Oklahoma City’s economy weathered the Great Recession better than most of the country. Why then did they take federal money to start programs they would not want in the future? This was not free money. The state of Oklahoma is in the same position Oklahoma City found itself in over a decade ago. While the state’s economy has had downturns resulting from the current crisis, it has bounced back surprisingly well. From the beginning of the...

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OKCPS Mask Mandate Clearly Illegal

Last spring, the Oklahoma Legislature passed and the governor signed a law that forbids school district boards from imposing mask mandates unless an emergency is first declared. Last week, Superintendent Sean McDaniel, with the support of the Oklahoma City school board, imposed a district-wide mask mandate. His rationale is that the law only applies to school boards, not to superintendents. Two issues arise from this development, one having to do with mask efficacy and the pagan-like faith being placed on what amount to talismans, and the other having to do with rule of law. Mask mandates are like requiring everyone to carry a crucifix as a guard against the plague. Surgical masks and their cousins were never intended for the purpose of preventing a respiratory-infecting virus from being transmitted, but are merely to prevent bacteria-infested saliva particles from falling into open surgical wounds. There are too many leaks around these masks to block infected air from escaping. These close-fitting masks are not intended for all-day use; they retain bacteria and fungus that cause skin infections. The best mask-type protection for those concerned about catching Covid is the N-95...

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Transit Hypocrisy: So That Others May Ride a Train

While modes of transportation have changed little in the last century, speeds and efficiency have dramatically improved. Additionally, new, innovative transportation options are on the horizon. Autonomous vehicles and drones are two prominent examples. Yet, planners and elite bureaucrats insist on imposing some utopian vision of urban transportation that ignores the reality of demand and the current spatial distribution of jobs. They pursue inefficient and outdated modes of transportation, often to get other people out of their cars and into trains and buses. The imposition of utopian urban transport is currently being pursued at the national and local levels. Nationally, the trillion-dollar “Historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal” proposes massive sums of money for rail and public transit services that are unmerited by market demands. Most of America’s transportation happens on roads in automobiles, yet the plan disproportionately funds government-operated transportation. Locally, the Regional Transportation Authority of Central Oklahoma persists toward an interurban commuter rail. In a recent article, former Governor Brad Henry stated that now is the time for Oklahoma “to...

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You Can’t Put Students First if You Put Teachers Last

No, this is not about how teachers should be paid better, though many should and could be. No, this is not at all about how teacher unions should have a bigger say in school policy – they absolutely should not. And no, this is not about empowering teacher committees. It is, though, about empowering teachers by recognizing them as education practitioners and giving them a chance to take charge. Ever seen this on somebody’s bumper?             “If you can read this, thank a teacher” The obvious intent is to promote respect and appreciation for teachers, especially public school teachers, since they so often play such a big role in individuals’ educations. But why do some feel the need to call attention to teachers and attempt to guilt us into respecting them? According to one website, teaching is among the most respected occupations in the world. Of 35 countries surveyed for a 2018 publication by the Varkey Foundation, the United States landed just above the middle in how highly teachers were valued. Asian nations dominate in valuing teachers more highly, with the exception of Japan. Some Western nations, including Russia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Greece more highly value...

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Three Pillars of Human Flourishing

Human flourishing rests on three pillars. All three are necessary for maintaining our society. Humans are capable of standing on two feet because our muscular and nervous systems provide significant stability for the skeleton – you don't see many skeletons standing upright. Generally, if you want an inanimate object to stay up, you either have to make it bottom-heavy or add a third point of contact with the ground. A three-legged stool is remarkably stable. A two-legged chair won’t stay up on its own and adding a fourth leg doesn’t make a meaningful improvement to a chair’s stability. It's the same with human flourishing. To achieve the overall best for humanity, society requires three pillars, much like the three-legged stool. (No, it’s not income tax, property tax, and sales tax. If one of the legs is evil, it’s worse than instability). The three pillars of society are: Free Markets, Limited Government, and Robust Civil Society. All three are necessary for the long term health and achievement of a society. You might be able to make do without one of them for a little while. However, if you try to make it too bottom heavy, for instance by allowing big government but overloading...

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1889 Statement Regarding Calls for Declaration of Emergency

The 1889 Institute, an Oklahoma think tank, has released the following statement in response to the recent clamor over the Delta variant of COVID-19 and increased calls for Gov. Kevin Stitt to issue a declaration of emergency. The state of Oklahoma is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases that have been largely attributed to the Delta variant. As a result, there is a growing movement calling for Gov. Kevin Stitt to declare a state of emergency. The 1889 Institute believes that such an action is unwarranted and, based on the efficacy of the actions taken under the previous state of emergency, would most likely be ineffective. Considering the economic cost of the shutdowns, the social and developmental impacts from school closures, and the unproven efficacy of mask mandates, one must seriously consider the facts before plunging the state into another costly state of emergency. The facts: Children are largely unsusceptible to the virus. According to data compiled by the New York Times, the chance of a child getting a serious case of COVID-19 is very small, and the chance of them dying is even smaller. To put it in perspective, it is 2-3 times more likely that a child will...

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Do Fears of the Delta Variant Justify More Emergency Restrictions?

During Oklahoma’s 2020-21 legislative session, a bill passed that forbade local school boards, career tech boards, or the Board of Regents for higher education from implementing certain Covid-19 related mandates absent a declaration of emergency from the governor. Most notably, they are not allowed mandate vaccines or implement mask mandates. Over the past week, in response to the surging Delta Variant, there has been a growing clamor for Governor Stitt to declare a state of emergency. The Democratic caucus has even called for a special legislative session to repeal the bill, SB 658, which passed with overwhelming support. Parents are concerned. On one hand, they saw the disastrous effects that last years’ “hybrid” schooling model had on their kids. It simply didn’t work. According to the New York Times, there was hardly any developmental difference between the hybrid schooling that took place last year and dropping out of school entirely. On the other hand, for anyone following the news cycle or reading the statements put out by the Democratic caucus and others, the Delta variant is going to be the end of us all if the governor doesn’t declare an emergency. While it is true that...

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Clean Energy Loans Pollute Innovation

"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."                     – F.A. Hayek Financing that improves the value of commercial property and helps pay for itself with no upfront costs sounds like a late-night infomercial gimmick. However, this is precisely what Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (CPACE) loans claim to do. CPACE financing is used for improvements that could help lower upfront costs for energy efficiency, use less water, or make buildings more resilient to extreme weather conditions and natural disasters. It does so by funding projects such as heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades, installation of solar thermal capture systems, and irrigation-free landscaping upgrades. The first of these loans in Oklahoma was made in southeast Tulsa for a new hospital. The loan funded many improvements including LED lighting and energy-efficient windows. CPACE loans use private funding to pay for these improvements. The private loans (CPACE) payments are made as an addition to county property taxes and are paid annually. Combining the payments with taxes grants these loans a unique...

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What Civil Society Means, and Why It’s Threatened

After World War II, the United States did more to rebuild and enrich the rest of the world than the Marshall Plan for Europe and the rebuilding of Japan during its occupation. As private citizens, Americans gave away untold wealth for the benefit of others around the world, and helped to transform the lives of millions for the better. Even now, we give more through private charitable aid to people in other countries than our government gives in foreign aid. Unfortunately, evidence is that this type of giving by Americans reached its zenith in 2014 and has been falling ever since. Why? What’s changed? The 1889 Institute’s mission is to develop policies that encourage flourishing through limited government, a robust civil society, and free enterprise. While we talk a lot about limited government and free enterprise, we often neglect robust civil society, which is not about bringing up our children to be civil and to therefore have a society where civility predominates. While civility is important, it is not an institutional structure in society. Civil society is an institutional structure, just like limited government and free enterprise are institutional structures. In fact the...

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Oklahoma City’s Retro-Transit Revival

Misguided state, local, and tribal leaders are pushing hard to lead Oklahoma and the nation into 21st-century transportation. Determined to realize progress, they’ve deployed programs to boost aerospace engineering, planned smart cities, and subsidized the manufacture of odd-looking electric cars. But one mayor has the vision, the courage and the wisdom to see past the pageantry.  He has not been bamboozled by the gimmicky future of transportation. Forget about drone taxis, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. That’s the stuff of cartoons and science fiction. Only the wise realize that the real future is in the past. Mayor David Holt (R – Oklahoma City), is on the precipice of a true retro revival in Oklahoma City transportation. And I don’t mean a modest nod to the best decade of American muscle cars. Ford, Chevy, and Dodge are already doing that. No, that’s not the mayor’s style. He’s a visionary. We’re talking about a big, bold retro revival. We’re talking about reaching way, way back. Change that predates the previous century.    During a recent meeting with President Joe Biden, Mayor Holt hinted at this vision. He explained that many of Oklahoma City’s prospective...

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Emergency Implies Urgency: Why Covid-19 in Oklahoma Never Qualified

In March of 2020, New York experienced a health emergency in the form of the Covid-19 virus. In just a few days’ time, and with very little warning, they went from a few confirmed cases to several thousand cases. On March 13 there were fewer than 100 new cases. A week later, on March 20, there were almost 2,000 new cases. This was a true emergency. It arrived without warning. There was little time for deliberation. Something had to be done immediately to stem the tide. Oklahoma was in a very different position. As late as June 8 there were fewer than 100 new cases a day. Oklahoma had three months to prepare for a potential crisis. Perhaps the numbers would have been higher sooner if not for the late-March lockdown order. (Remember when it was supposed to be three weeks to flatten the curve? Boy did they fool us with that one.) Even so, there were three weeks between New York’s emergency and the first “emergency” steps Oklahoma took to slow the spread. So why did the Governor need emergency powers? Do we really believe the legislature couldn’t convene (they were already in session) and come to a consensus regarding the best way to combat Covid? You don’t have to look far back in...

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