Supporting College Students in a Covid World

Last Saturday evening the Notre Dame football team upset #1 Clemson University in a double overtime game in South Bend, Indiana. About 7,000 students, all of whom had to pass a Covid test, were permitted to attend the game. When the victory was secured about two thousand, mostly face masked, Notre Dame students rushed the field in a mass gathering of elation and celebration.

Of course, Notre Dame administrators expressed their obligatory disappointment with this gathering along with disapproval of the many house parties near the campus. Notre Dame college students were characterized by many outside media sources as being selfish and irresponsible, even though virtually none of them will have serious problems if they catch Covid.

As a university professor for 45 years, I am sick and tired of this “Covid Demonizing” of college students. It comes from federal, state and local governments, college administers, the news media and even family members. The reality is that college students have paid a disproportionally high price during the Covid pandemic. We don’t want them to socialize but it is fine if they sack our groceries, deliver our food, drive delivery vehicles or mix paint for us at the local Big Box store.

The four years between ages of 18 and 22 are incredibly important for all of us. These are years of social development, where young people push the “reset button” at the end of high school to create and redefine their new selves. Students often come from less diverse towns and suburbs to meet people of other races and cultures in a dynamic conglomeration that will forever improve their lives and the lives of our society. They socialize and experiment with behaviors, good and bad. They are young, relatively invulnerable, and they ROAR. They learn from their mistakes and revel in their successes. It is their natural inclination to socialize and nothing will change this.

BASED ON WHAT MY STUDENTS TELL ME; NO MATTER HOW MUCH THOSE IN AUTHORITY TRY TO MAKE IT ACCEPTABLE, NONE OF THE ABOVE SOCIALIZATI0N AND DEVELOPMENTAL BENEFITS ARE POSSIBLE WITH VIRTUAL LEARNING. IT’S NOT EVEN CLOSE.

As a professor who has lived across the street from a college campus for 43 years it has been my burden to put my awakened babies back to sleep because of stupid, loud, profane yelling and screaming that takes place right in front of my home. I’ve had to cable my lawn furniture to the house to prevent the otherwise certain theft that will occur overnight. Every year college students kick over and break my ceramic pots in the middle of the night. New flowerpots are part of my regular gardening expense each year.

Despite the inconvenience, I love and adore these students. They are kind, caring, respectful, engaged, interesting, and even more naive than they want to admit. They want to learn, and I live to teach them, person to person, in the classroom, as I have done since 1975.

My students have done their best to help by wearing masks and distancing. My heart breaks when I see a college freshman, wearing a mask, toughing it out with mostly ZOOM classes. Why are they even here? Why would they rent a dorm room to be near a campus that does not allow them to enter buildings and discourages them from entering a classroom? Who would want to come to college without the college experience?

Next time you see an 18-year old hanging out with friends without a face mask, I ask you to hold your tongue and keep your opinion to yourself. Don’t disparage or condemn them. They are young people that refuse to live with the all-consuming fear that surrounds them. Maybe all of us could learn from their infectious optimism. Thank God for them.

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It’s About Freedom, Stupid!

In Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential race his chief strategist, James Carville, coined the phrase “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” Carville was right and Clinton served two terms as president.

As Americans enter the polling places less than 24 hours from now, after boiling down coved, corruption, lockdowns, socialism, capitalism, protesting, rioting, green new deals and identity politics, it is my opinion that this election is really about none of these specifically; it is all about freedom.

Government as Natural Law

Government exists to perform a defensive function, which is to protect and defend the rights and freedoms and property of all citizens equally. This includes laws, a court system, and police to enforce the decisions of the courts. We allow the government to apply coercion (guns if necessary) to enforce laws because there are bad actors out there that want to loot, defraud, steal, rape, and kill innocent people. But a gun that can be used to defend the rights of all citizens equally can also be used by government as an offensive force multiplier to loot and plunder the freedom, civil rights, and property of its citizens.

As former Obama chief of staff and former Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanual once said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”


Doing “things you think you could not do before” is just another way of saying that government is going to be able to steal more freedom from people than they ever dreamed possible. For a liberty-loving citizen this prospect is deplorable. For a politician it is Christmas morning because they live for power and are ecstatic with their new-found ability to coerce others.

The Covid Pandemic Creates an Unprecedented Government Power Grab

In early March, the covid case fatality rate in the U.S. was roughly three percent—nearly three out of every hundred people who were identified as “cases” of COVID in early March died from it. Compare that to today, when the fatality rate of COVID is known to be less than one half of one percent.* Yet despite the fact most of this small percentage of people are of observable and identifiable risk, politicians are again ramping up their shut down of the entire economy.

The Attack on Freedom; Who Are the Looters?

Before the pandemic who would have thought that government could ever get away with doing any of the following by Decree:

Shutting down privately owned businesses.**
Closing schools and insisting on “remote learning”.
Telling citizens if and where they can recreate, shop, and travel.
Decide who can and cannot visit sick relatives.

The other day looters in Philadelphia cleaned out a Wal-Mart store. The police showed up and secured the area. When the police left, the looting continued. Likewise, the governor of Minnesota and mayor of Minneapolis sat by while looters burned parts of the beautiful “city of lakes”. This is a failure of government to protect the private property of citizens. Such a failure instills a feeling of hopelessness; that nothing or no one is safe. Other than major wars, this has never happened in America before. This is an insidious, dangerous precedent for any freedom-loving citizenry

To make things worse, city and state governments have used the defensive weapons we have given them to protect our rights and have turned them on the very citizens they were supposed to protect. These governments have used their weapons as an aggressive function to “loot” the freedoms of the very citizens that have given them power. The economic losses of pandemic justified government decrees are not only worse that the disease, but it is also far worse. It is a fiscal disaster with negative consequences for years to come.

There are two political parties in this country, both which in my opinion have seriously eroded the freedom of Americans over the past fifty years. I am not in love with either one, but I will cast my ballot for politicians that are not fearful, who understand the importance of free markets, and who uncompromisingly reject decree ordered seizure of private property.



* Jay Bhattacharya is a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University A co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, his research has been published in economics, statistics, legal, medical, public health, and health policy journals.

** Phil Bernstein, a Chicago businessman just made the painstakingly difficult decision to permanently close his 20-year-old business due to shutdown restrictions enacted by Illinois Governor Pritzker. Bernstein said, “My business was destroyed by decree.” Chicago Tribune, October 29, 2020 Page 12.




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THE SOUTH AMERICAN UTOPIA VIRUS

People line up to buy basic food and household items outside a supermarket in the poor neighborhood of Lidice, in Caracas, Venezuela on May 27, 2016. AFP / RONALDO SCHEMIDT (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

For hundreds of years people all over the world have protested in the streets for “equality”.  The masses want more.  Sympathetic politicians tell them they “deserve” more.  Today is no different.  People are now protesting in Chile for equality.  The same is happening in Europe and the United States.  Supposedly all that is needed is to elect a new regime; a government that will forcibly take from the rich and give to the poor.  Then utopia will prevail!  It is that simple.

Of course, it is never simple.  The newly elected regime will promise prosperity, but collectivism never delivers a rising standard of living, especially for the poor.

I was in Argentina and Chile last year.  Our walking tours were led by intelligent, relatively enthusiastic young people in their late twenties or early thirties.  During the tour, the guides talk about the history and politics of the country.  Both Argentina and Chile have a history of mass protests for equality, resulting in the election of a new government that promises to redistribute income and raise wages for the middle classes and the poor.

Of course, only productivity increases will create the prosperity to make people truly better off.  Redistributing income and wealth reduces incentives to work and produce, slowing productivity.  All the new government can do is print money to fund programs for the masses.  This results in hyper-inflation and a significant reduction of the standard of living of the poor and middle class alike. 

Such “utopian” governments are also rife with corruption.  After all, if you are corrupt enough to print money what is wrong with sharing some of it with your cronies?  After a few years of high unemployment, inflation and misery the masses reject the government they had previously supported and buy in to the next “progressive” regime, which promises them, of course, equality and utopia. 

This happens every fifteen years or so in many South American countries.  Despite the repeated failure of regime after regime, our walking tour hosts complained about how bad things are and told us about the utopian platform of the latest politician that they plan to support in the next election.  I came out of these walking tours realizing that South American voters are suckers for utopia and never learn their lessons. 

Look at Venezuela, where millions of people have fled a repressive, socialist government to flee to other South American countries where things are not perfect, but better than they are in Venezuela.  Chile and Argentina are full of Venezuelan refugees.  A cab driver in Buenos Aires told me, “Man, these Venezuelans are great for our country.  No one works cheaper and harder than Venezuelans.”

As we head into the 2020 fall election it would be wise to understand that the utopia virus is alive all over the world, including the United States.  Unfortunately, caseloads are up, and there is no vaccine for this disease.  More and more people wish for a regime that will create prosperity by taxing the rich and giving to the poor. 

Until we recognize that economic incentives truly matter; until we understand that producers should be honored and not vilified and until we realize that there is no utopia, we will head down the South American path. 

Don with Venezuelan refugee working in a restaurant in Buenos Aires
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SIMPLE ECONOMIC TRUTHS ABOUT THE CASTLE FORTRESS

During my lifetime I’ve carefully observed many families.  Some of them succeed socially and financially.  Some of them are walking disasters in every category that you can imagine.  Below are my opinions of what is needed to raise a really outstanding family.

Regardless of the economic system, people who produce value will always have social, personal, and economic advantages over those who do not.  Meritocracy is a natural constant.  It has never changed in the history of world and is not about to change, no matter how many people protest or insist otherwise.

No government or individual on earth is a better steward of property or possessions than the person who owns them.  Regardless of their utopian ideals, every economic scheme to supplant individual ownership and incentives with state-run programs has fallen prey to unbridled corruption, economic decline and wide spread poverty.

The family is the castle fortress of income and wealth.  It is built and sustained by parents who insist on rigorous education and a demonstrable work ethic of each member, including consistent rules and moral behavior above reproach.  This results in family cohesion, longevity, morale and respect for the rights of all people.  Such family excellence always occurs when familial leaders insist on difficult and measurable outcomes for all family members.  Such familial consistency often cements economic and social prosperity over several generations.

The enemies of the family castle fortress include ignorance, intolerance, selfishness, slothfulness, drug addiction, entitlement, impatience, and short-term thinking.  Victimhood and name-blaming have no constructive place in a solid family structure.  When exhibited they must be removed at once or they become a cancer.

 

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VOICES FROM HISTORY

 

Rand

Rand

Lincoln


These are interesting times for those who have appreciation for the history and achievements made possible by our wonderful, but not perfect Republic.   It is my opinion that since our founding we have slowly but steadily traveled in the right direction with respect to human rights, reduction of racism and the economic prosperity the American people.

As an amateur student of history and a believer of the idea that those who do not learn the mistakes of history are likely to repeat them, I present to you the quotes of two great Americans.  The former is Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States.  The latter is a Russian-born author and philosopher Ayn Rand.  Consider these words of history.

Abraham Lincoln addressed the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on January 27, 1838.  The title of his speech was “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions”

“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Francisco d Anconia says the following regarding how looters affect any society.

“When a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law, men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims, then money becomes its creators’ avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.”

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The Virus Is Not Our Worst Problem

It is time for me to take a deep breath before I write this article.  I am frustrated and worried more about the condition of the United States of America than about the corona virus.  Let me enumerate my concerns this cloudy morning from beautiful Southeastern Minnesota.

First, politicians are absolutely drunk with power and will hold on to it at all cost.  The virus has given them a window to rule us in every aspect of our lives and they are enjoying the hell out of it.  Costs be damned, they are going rule us now and (intentionally or unintentionally) set up more government “benefits” to further cement our dependence on government.  I can drive my car to a 1,000-person capacity Wal-Mart and buy flowers but walking three blocks down Main street to Nola’s Flower Shop is out of the question.  Nola’s walk-in business is “not essential”, just like her income, mortgage payment, dignity, and self-respect.  This is a travesty because self-distancing is safer and easier in Nola’s store than in Wal Mart.  This is what happens when our government dictators pick winners and losers.  And for the record let me give you this news flash: politicians don’t give a damn about small business owners or ordinary workers.  They are getting regular pay checks and consider themselves part of an elite class of people who have extraordinary wisdom compared to the average Joe.

Second, politicians have irrationally distorted the concept of risk and the media has exacerbated these distortions.  Life is risky.  Risk cannot be avoided and nothing about life is safe.  In 1900 it was common for American women to bear five children and see just two or three of them reach adulthood.  Those women and their families experienced death and sorrow as realistic outcomes.  They simply accepted the fact that there are no guarantees in life, that horribly bad things can happen, and that no one must be at fault.  While advances in healthcare have thankfully reduced child mortality, risk still exists.  Our predecessors didn’t demand a zero-risk life because they realized the false pretense of such a notion.  We can learn from them.  Nevertheless, today’s politicians proport the idea that if it isn’t your fault the government should take care of you.  This is nonsense.  My question is this: “Is a country inhabited by people who believe the nanny state can solve all of their problems really worth saving?”

Third, fear is our worst enemy.  Today we are involved in a serious pandemic that will cost perhaps 100,000 American lives.  The vast majority of those who succumb will be older people with existing health problems.  The average American will have mild symptoms and will not need to be hospitalized.  Unfortunately, the fearmongering associated with this pandemic has exposed the soft underbelly of an American populace that is apparently willing to decimate the economic livelihoods of themselves and their families on the chance even one more of the remaining 350 million of us will die.  In my opinion this is preposterous.  My advice:  Shut off the television, don’t look at social media and say to yourself every morning:  “What am I realistically going to do today to further the health and happiness of me and my family?”  Then, go out and do it!

I have much more confidence in the good sense of individual Americans than I have in the elitists who represent us politically. Now, right now, it is time for the United States of America to roar, not to sulk.  Those who have extraordinary virus risk due to age or health conditions should do what they can to protect themselves.  The rest of us should exercise our intelligence and personal responsibility and move on safely without fear.  This is how we will re-gain our lives, our prosperity, and our country.

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About Baseball from An Old Man

Middle age sportscasters often refer to baseball as “an old man’s game.”  This is partly because today’s youngsters have less interest in baseball than they did decades ago, but it is also borne out if you scan people in the stands.  There is never a shortage of “older gentlemen” at Target Field, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium or any major league ball park.  They may be accompanied by their wives, children, or grandchildren but many of these old men sit with a male buddy about the same age.

Now officially at an age where I can rightfully be called an “old man” I’ve paid more attention to my compatriots when attending baseball games.  These are men completely at ease, relaxed, and thoroughly enjoying each other and the ball game.  They may disagree about whether a pitch was called correctly or have differing opinions about the designated hitter rule, but there isn’t any place on earth that they would rather be!

When I enter a ballpark I walk up the ramps and look forward to finally looking out at the green grass.  It seems like only God himself could have created such a beautiful tabernacle.  People of all ages are “wowed” by such a view, but old men know in their bones that there is absolutely nothing so fabulous as a ballpark.  I’ve seen perhaps 75 games at Wrigley Field,  25 games at Target Field, 10 games at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and one game each at Fenway park, Citi Field, Bush Stadium and Turner Field respectively.  In every instance I say to myself, “Here you are, Salyards, enjoying a Major League Baseball game.  Some people spend their entire lives being a fan of this team and never once get to go to a game.  Don’t take this experience for granted, Salyards.  You are truly blessed.”

This year there may be no baseball.  Like every old man, my greatest joy of the summer is listening to games on the radio or watching on television.  Each day I look forward to a new game.  I can stream every game of every team on my mobile phone.    But this may be the summer when baseball never was.  What a shame, and what a horrible penalty for old men.

If you’re an old man I have a wish for you:

“May you not be so lonely without baseball;
May next spring training bring about hope and renewal for you;
May you listen to the radio on hot summer days visualizing the ballpark and the fans;
May you call your best buddy and buy two tickets to your favorite game;
May you both fully grasp the gift you’ve been given just to be at this game;
and,

May you live to see many more seasons of America’s greatest pastime.”

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How Long Will Americans Shelter In Place?

Empty Mall on Sunday When North Dakota Blue Laws Were in Effect

In the early 1980’s I spent three months in Greenville, South Carolina working for the Greenville Chamber of Commerce.  In those days South Carolina had a law prohibiting the opening of retail stores on Sunday.  These laws were known as “Blue Laws” and are often applied to sale of liquor, but in those days shopping malls were virtually closed on Sundays.  With the exception of groceries and gasoline there was no legal retail commerce on Sunday.

The vast majority of South Carolinians believed that the Blue Laws were antiquated and needed to be abolished.  However, the religiously conservative legislature held on tight.  The Sunday after Thanksgiving (I believe this was November 27, 1983) one of the major department stores in Greenville opened all of its’ stores, openly defying the Blue Laws.  The word got out quickly and later that day other retail establishments opened.  By the following Sunday all retail stores were open for business.  It was like the Blue Laws never existed.

No one was arrested, no one went to prison and no fines were assessed.  Everyone knew the laws were ridiculous and the government was morally and physically powerless to enforce them.  The legislature of South Carolina abolished the retail sales Blue laws  shortly thereafter.

The lesson of the retail Blue Laws is simple:  Whenever a law unabashedly violates individual liberty; and whenever the vast majority of those being governed are harmed by the law; and whenever it is obvious that the government has neither the determination nor the resources to enforce the law; that law will be repealed or will be forever unenforced.

Today many Americans have patiently obeyed widespread “Stay at Home” Laws, and that has been a good thing.  However, as the term length of these orders is expanded again and again, the public is starting to have that creepy feeling that they are “being had.”  When enough is enough the public and merchants will take to the streets and the cops won’t have neither the will nor the resources to enforce stay at home laws.

If you can’t stop a man from shopping on Sundays in 1983, you sure as heck won’t stop him from making a living or enjoying a beer with his friends in 2020.  Keep your eyes peeled.  It is my gut hunch that in many states closures beyond May 1, 2020 will be met with effective protestation on the part of the public.  Some public health officials argue that we need more time, perhaps months, to better understand those costs and benefits.  That won’t happen.  Americans are duty-bound to exercise their liberty and if pushed much farther they will do so in short order.  The time for “stay at home” will soon expire.  Live free or die.

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Maddy the Nurse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During my 44 years at Winona State University I’ve had the blessing of knowing and teaching many thousands of students.  Most of my students are in the business school but I have known many who graduate in other disciplines.

In my opinion nursing is one of the best collegiate majors.  Nursing is a calling to serve those who are ill.  The skills of nurses are absolutely necessary in our society whether they are applied in an operating room, a hospital, or in an extended care facility.  Finally, compared to other majors nurses do well financially and enjoy both job security and mobility.  With financial discipline nurses have an income that allows them to quickly pay back their student loans and live a very comfortable life.  A nurse can find a job almost anywhere in the world.  A friend of mine was a nurse in Riyadh and decided to relocate to Albuquerque.  He sent an email to a hospital in Albuquerque and they hired him in just a few days.

Being a nurse is very hard work and includes plenty of risk.  When a nurse goes to work for an 8 or 12 hour shift there’s no goofing around.  Attention to detail is paramount and one mistake can cost a life.  With Covid 19 it is a foregone conclusion most nurses will test positive before this episode is over.  This is a WAR and its front line fighters are nurses.

In school some nurses take the ceremonial Nightingale Pledge.  The beginning of the pledge goes like this:  “I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully.  I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug…..”

Three days ago I noticed a young lady walking through my back yard on her way to dump some recyclables in the bin.  She lives in the house next door which I rent to college students.  Her name is Madison, but I call her Maddy.  As I stuck my nose out of the door to say hello she informed me that she was moving out.  I asked about her plan and she said, “I graduated from the Winona State University nursing program last December.  I am headed to Rochester (MN) where I will start my full time job as a nurse at the Mayo Clinic!”

Despite the fact that she is entering a full-blown pandemic, this healthy young lady’s brisk walking style and big smile exuded her excitement to be a nurse.  I honor her choice of a profession and am in awe of her bravery.  In this time of doubts there is one thing of which I am absolutely sure.  Maddy will indeed be a great nurse!

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The question every society answers but no one wants to ask.

During a press conference a couple of days ago New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that if all of the sweeping expensive measures spent on the corona virus saved even one life, it would be worth it.

That’s an expected comment from a politician, but it just doesn’t make a lick of sense and everyone knows it.  The fundamental question is: “What value does society put on a human life?”  The political answer is:  “A human life is priceless; no amount of money is worth a human life.”  No one believes that, not even Cuomo.

About 35,000 Americans die each year in car and truck accidents.  If politicians honestly believed every single human life is priceless, they would enact a 10 mph maximum speed limit.   Every person in a truck or automobile would be required to wear a seat belt and a government approved crash helmet at all times.  The government would also have to spend billions of taxpayer dollars for extra police to enforce this edict.

The public would never support this economy-choking restriction for obvious reasons.  The calculus is simple; it is better to lose 35,000 lives than to grind the economy to a halt.  It appears that human lives are far from priceless.  Besides, you and I are not going to be among the 35,000 people who die.  Right?

The value of human life also depends upon the wealth and attitudes in the country that a person lives.  I was once on a flight from London to Boston.  Over the Atlantic Ocean, two hours west of London, a man on my flight suffered a heart attack.  The plane dumped fuel and diverted to Prestwick, Scotland where paramedics rushed him to the hospital.  We later learned that he had thankfully survived.  I thought about the costs of the diversion to save his life.  Jet fuel dumped into the atmosphere, crew salaries, refueling in Scotland, and the value of the time of 400 passengers who lost perhaps six hours due to the delay.  None of the passengers grumbled about the delay.  The societal consensus was confirmed; this man’s life was worth at least one million dollars.  I’m not sure that a North Korean’s life is worth anywhere near than amount.

Today we are faced with the ultimate dilemma as we weigh the benefits of short run sheltering with the costs associated with locking down the economy.  Most agree that we should shelter now so that we don’t overwhelm our health care system, but we also know that we can’t shut down the economy for much longer.  For now there is a general consensus that the health benefits of sheltering exceed the costs of choking down the economy.  In my opinion, within the next two weeks the tables will tilt toward restarting the economy.  As everyone knows, but no one wants to admit, human life is not priceless.

 

 

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