The lessons of Prohibition

by Mémé

The popular view today of Prohibition is that it was a failed attempt by a repressive, primarily religious segment of society to legislate morality and conduct for the entire population. I decided to look into the historical record in relation to some serious concerns of mine about the current national political landscape. I read many articles on the era from all across the spectrum (from Cato Institute to Mother Jones), but here is a balanced one from the AJPH that might be of interest

Did Prohibition Really Work? Alcohol Prohibition as a Public Health Innovation

Key takeaways from my reading are the following:

Alcohol consumption, primarily beer after the waves of German immigration, was a serious public health problem in the 19th century among men of the laboring classes. Alcohol was not consumed primarily in the home, but in saloons which were usually established by liquor manufacturers. Men spent time there instead of at home, often with pay envelope in hand, and had ready access to all of the manly vices. Wives and children suffered poverty and abuse with no recourse.

The origins of the “dry” movement were in white evangelical old stock Protestantism, primarily in the Midwest and the South, and women were a major force. The early movement was very successful on a local and state level in creating dry zones outside of the cities in those regions.

Around 1900 reform minded men, many of whom were not themselves dry or evangelical, redirected the movement toward the goal of a national ban on saloons and alcohol production. Their idea was to improve by legislation the social condition of members of the lower and immigrant classes who lacked the bourgeois virtues of restraint and delayed gratification, to use a modern phrase. They allied themselves locally and strategically with every possible progressive and regressive movement from the NAACP to the Ku Klux Klan. Opposition at a national government level waned with the imposition of the income tax. Prior to that, liquor taxes were a principal source of US Govt revenue. President Wilson imposed a wartime prohibition on manufacture supposedly because grain was needed for other purposes, and anti-German feeling was whipped up to add one’s Lutheran neighbors with their beer to the previously targeted big city Catholics with their whiskey (Irish) and wine (Italian). So the 19th amendment was ratified very quickly. Huge numbers of people were thrown out of work, but that was collateral damage to the national reformers, many of whom fully intended to keep consuming alcohol in middle class moderation in the privacy of their own homes.

The most interesting thing to me is that despite the religious overlay of the long standing temperance movement, the forces that actually achieved a national ban on liquor were do-gooders who thought that they knew what was best for other people. The fact that the wets were either sophisticated high church Protestants or city dwellers/ immigrants / Catholics made them “other” and eligible for loss of personal liberty.

Totebaggers, what parallels from this piece of history do you see to current differences in outlook between the regions, or to movements to impose one region’s views on another? Do you agree with libertarians that Prohibition was the camel’s nose under the tent that established government, especially Federal, power to regulate the daily lives of citizens? Do you think that legislated public health or moral/religious concerns should curtail individual freedom of choice? What if the freedom being curtailed for a secular purpose is indirectly religious in nature?

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156 thoughts on “The lessons of Prohibition

  1. “Do you agree with libertarians that Prohibition was the camel’s nose under the tent that established government, especially Federal, power to regulate the daily lives of citizens?”

    I think it’s more the other way round, i.e., the reaffirmation of the gov’t’s longstanding political predilection to regulate morality — especially the morality of the “other” — in the guise of public health. If anything, it cuts the other way: this is the only time I can recall in the last century in which the government acknowledged it needed to amend the Constitution to grant it that power.

    The origins are definitely interesting. Seems to me that the real problem was the legal and cultural bars that gave women and children no other option but to stick with the drinking/gambling/womanizing husband. But it’s much easier to blame the demon rum than rewrite the entire legal/cultural framework. At the time, it may have been the best solution possible.

  2. Although organized crime flourished under its sway, Prohibition was not responsible for its appearance, as organized crime’s post-Repeal persistence has demonstrated.

    That seems like a pretty dubious claim. Organized crime isn’t going to organize unless there is a suitably lucrative criminal opportunity. However, once organized, like any institution, it will attempt to preserve and indeed grow itself even if its original purpose is gone.

  3. Mémé, what do you think of the traditional understanding that abolition, suffrage, and temperance were linked? It has given me a different perspective on all three movements to know that they formed a constellation of ideas that provided a particular political worldview.

  4. It’s really interesting to me how Prohibition was put in place so quickly. I can’t imagine a similar law being passed AT ALL today, let alone so fast.

  5. No to open a can of worms about another political topic, but much of the anti-abortion legislation is targeting the perceived “lack of values” of the lower middle class and on down. At least in some states, legislation limiting abortion has come quickly and is supposed to improve society.

  6. It’s really interesting to me how Prohibition was put in place so quickly.

    \The first state level law was passed in Tennessee in 1838 and national prohibition occurred with the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919.

  7. Rhett – I mean from enactment in Congress (1917) to ratification (1919) and then taking effect in 1920. What other constitutional amendment would be ratified in under 2 years these days?

  8. RMS – I am not really up to speed on 19th century US history (the reason I was doing some research). My impression is that the major activists over time (and we are talking 1830s to 1920s) were active in at least two out of three, with reform being the common thread. Many abolitionists were not evangelicals, and of the evangelicals I believe Methodists are the only major group to be anti slavery. The educated women who led the suffrage movement saw male use of liquor as an evil in the lives of powerless women, but many of their evangelical sisters wanted nothing to do with the vote. However, the Anti Saloon League realized that universal female suffrage would be a huge boost to its goal of a National ban on liquor, so those two movements had a natural alliance.

  9. L,

    They had been gradually building support for 80 years and once they had the support they moved ahead with the amendment. It wasn’t like they got the idea in 1917 and it was all done in 1920. Keep in mind, as Meme mentioned, that passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913 was an instrumental part of the passage of the 18th Amendment.

  10. The three movements tended to be connected. Of course the National Parks Service (??) has something to say: http://www.nps.gov/wori/learn/historyculture/abolition-womens-rights-and-temperance-movements.htm

    1879 Frances Willard becomes President of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, advocates suffrage as a means to social agenda of conservative Christians.

    I’ll nose around for a better overview of the way in which the three movements were intersecting and mutually reinforcing.

  11. Rhett – gotcha; I don’t think that you would get a constitutional amendment today, it would probably be by a big court case or line of cases. (Windsor >> Obergefell, etc.)

  12. A lot of organized crime in this country then (and now) was linked to organzed crime in Italy and other countries. Those countries did not have Prohibition, but still had organized crime. There were other lucrative opportunities besides liquor running.

  13. “Seems to me that the real problem was the legal and cultural bars that gave women and children no other option but to stick with the drinking/gambling/womanizing husband. But it’s much easier to blame the demon rum than rewrite the entire legal/cultural framework. At the time, it may have been the best solution possible.”

    I think you are underestimating the technical role of reliable contraception for female equality. Even though the legality of contraception varied, contraception was widely available but not terribly reliable until the 1960’s, especially if calculated over periods of years rather than annually, as contraception statistics normally are. Condoms, probably the cheapest and most reliable method of contraception before the pill, required male cooperation. My grandmother was the 7th of 8 children born to a ne’er-do-well alcoholic father in 1922. She was the one who wouldn’t eat at Pizza Hut because they served beer. The legal/cultural framework for women only changed when women could avoid pregnancy.

    Prohibition was an expansion of federal power at least partly because the US federal government was now strong enough to implement it effectively. Moral laws against contraception and sodomy had existed for longer, I think, but government (state or federal) didn’t necessarily have the power/desire to enforce them. One of my Chinese acquaintances commented that a one-child policy could never work in India because the government isn’t strong enough to enforce it, but in China, government has the power.

  14. I have some personal interest in this because my great-grandfather, a very progressive Unitarian, supported all three movements, so I was (at one point) reading up on the whole thing. On the other hand I think the political and social landscape had changed a bit by the early 20th century. I don’t want to derail your main point, which is to ask if we’re facing similar political and social movements today soda pop.

  15. My grandparents used to tell lots of stories about speakeasies, and smuggling liquor in from Canada (they were on the border). They had lots of neighbors who made their own wine. I always got the impression that people found their way around the rules and were drinking just as much as before

  16. Sorry, “soda pop” was supposed to be surrounded by brackets and the word “cough”.

  17. Can someone explain why the Harrison Act of 1914 (which made cocaine and heroin no longer available over the counter) didn’t require an amendment but prohibition did?

  18. Probably the most interesting thing about draconian national Prohibition and (any other laws restricting individual personal choice in the service of somebody’s higher social or moral good), is the assumption that following the law to the letter is optional for those who have good sense or a secure position in society, and that if everyone were just sensible we wouldn’t need those sort of laws at all. People who think that most people, absent distortions often aided by govt itself, would make good choices for themselves and would behave fairly to the “other”, oppose most laws restraining individual freedom. In the culture as opposed to economic ideological wars, the left and the right usually assume that laws promoting their reforms or moral views or to protect the oppressed/weak are necessary to combat the -isms or ignorance or moral failings both of the other side and of those who would make bad choices for themselves or treat the “other” unfairly.

  19. Skillful and persistent lobbying, aided by other factors like anti-German attitude fueled by WW1, propelled the states to ratify rather quickly. And then Congress quickly wrote and approved a poorly written bill with details that “took so many people by surprise”, according to Bill Bryson in his Summer of 1927.

    The Volstead Act was introduced to Congress on May 19, 1919. Its intentions, stated succinctly in a preamble, didn’t seem too alarming: “To prohibit intoxicating beverages, and to regulate the manufacture, production, use, and sale of high-proof spirits for other than beverage purposes, and to insure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research and in the development of fuel, dye and other lawful industries.” The phrasing may have been a little ungainly, but the sentiment didn’t seem too threatening. It was only in the fine print that the world discovered that the Volstead Act defined intoxicating liquor as anything with an alcoholic content greater than 0.5 percent— about the same level as sauerkraut. Many of those who had supported the Prohibition amendment had assumed that beer and unfortified wines would be spared. It was only now that it began to dawn on people just how sweeping— how dismayingly total— Prohibition was going to be. That was perhaps the most remarkable feature of all in the introduction of Prohibition to America— that it took so many people by surprise. As the social historian Frederick Lewis Allen wrote in Only Yesterday: “The country accepted it not only willingly, but almost absent-mindedly.”

    Anyway, all this brings to mind some similarities with the ACA, especially considering Speaker Pelosi’s statement that “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”.

  20. “all this brings to mind some similarities with the ACA”

    and, more concerning to me, the Patriot Act (and renewals)

  21. As someone generally opposed to both the ACA and the Patriot Act as inappropriate expansions of government power with serious unintended consequences, am I in the mushy middle?

    When ~98 Senators voted in favor of military intervention after 9/11, and I opposed it on the grounds that 2,000 people killed by terrorists wasn’t worth the cost of war in the Middle East, I was clearly in the minority.

  22. Rhett – the states had the power to regulate almost everything in those days. It took constitutional amendments to grant the Federal govt the power to take a right away from the states and impose it nationally. The Harrison act was a tax, not a prohibition, for that reason. Doctors and pharmacists could sell the stuff with a nominal tax; everyone else had to pay a prohibitive tax, and would be prosecuted for tax evasion on sale. The US, emboldened by the Volstead Act, pressured the world to agree via international convention by the thirties to ban manufacture and cross border shipment of a wide range of drugs. Treaties are a federal prerogative, with consequences that trickle down to the states. Marijuana can’t be “legalized” for that reason, but it can be decriminalized at the state level. Sometime soon there will be a state’s rights case on it at the Supreme Court.

  23. Anyway, all this brings to mind some similarities with the ACA, especially considering Speaker Pelosi’s statement that “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”.

    The ACA is Romneycare, lock stock and barrel. It looks like the Volstead Act was similar to the laws in places in dry states such as Maine, Ohio, etc:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maine_law

  24. Rhett – back to yesterday’s thread – moms make the kids wear the coat because if the kid gets sick guess who takes care of the kid – the mom. That’s the usual expectation. Its smart planning by moms.

    I’ve started to threaten to let the kids wear PJs to school. I’m not going to be late simply because they can’t be bothered to get dressed on time. Suddenly they get dressed quickly.

  25. Probably the most interesting thing about draconian national Prohibition and (any other laws restricting individual personal choice in the service of somebody’s higher social or moral good), is the assumption that following the law to the letter is optional for those who have good sense or a secure position in society, and that if everyone were just sensible we wouldn’t need those sort of laws at all.

    Years ago, on TOS, which was always more parenting-focused toward whatever divisive topic had popped up in the news, one of the writers posed the topic of spanking. At the time, I dug around for a few different articles, and the argument posed by a Slate writer really stuck out at me for its absurdity. Essentially, the author (a lawyer!) argues that it should be illegal not because it should actually be illegal, but just so that prosecutors can have total discretion on the instances of when it should be illegal:

    The purpose of Lieber’s proposal isn’t to send parents to jail, or children to foster care, because of a firm smack. Rather, it would make it easier for prosecutors to bring charges for instances of corporal punishment that they think are tantamount to child abuse.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2007/01/hitting_bottom.html

  26. moms make the kids wear the coat because if the kid gets sick guess who takes care of the kid

    Being sick is caused by bacteria and viruses not being cold.

  27. Meme, I’m wondering what you think might be the next prohibition.

    Possible bans, by candidate:

    Trump
    – Losers
    – Muslims
    – Immigrants unless they are willing to work off the books for him

    Cruz
    – Baking cakes for gay people
    – Marrying gay people
    – Immigrants who can’t recite the Constitution from memory

    Jeb!
    – Whatever the last focus group told him to ban
    – Pollsters
    – Donors who mention “ROI”

    Rubio
    – Chris Christie
    – The state of New Jersey
    – The reporter who noticed his boots

    Sanders
    – Profits
    – Rich people
    – Equity markets

    Clinton
    – Sexists, defined to include all people of any gender who don’t vote for her
    – Anyone on Wall Street who hasn’t donated yet
    – Classified information, since it should all be public

    Bloomberg
    – Guns
    – Salt
    – Sugar
    – Yeast, just for kicks

  28. “much of the anti-abortion legislation is targeting the perceived “lack of values” of the lower middle class and on down. At least in some states, legislation limiting abortion has come quickly and is supposed to improve society.”

    So the anti-abortionists think that having more people in the LMC on down will improve society?

  29. I make DD wear her coat because when our schools had a lockdown, some kids who were out at recess were left outside for over three hours (it was by accident). But in a real emergency, like a school fire or DD’s bus accident, kids could be outside for long periods of time, and in our winter a coat is necessary.

  30. come kids who were out at recess were left outside for over three hours

    That would however teach her a lesson – would it not?

  31. Sky – LOL! Also ditto on the coats – I want the kids to be able to be outside if they are stuck at school or if the car breaks down or whatever.

  32. Sky,

    I would add that women tend to be colder than men so they would likely be more sensitive to the issue.

  33. Rhett, she would definitely learn, but in an emergency situation I don’t want the adults in charge being distracted by her whining about being cold. I want them scanning the woods for an active shooter.

  34. @Milo — that is one of the stupidest rationalizations I’ve ever heard. There’s this little minor thing called Due Process, which requires the government to notify individuals of conduct that will be criminal *before* prosecuting them for it. Passing a ban-that’s-more-like-guidelines-really is crap — just more justification to crack down on “people who aren’t like us.”

  35. “The ACA is Romneycare, lock stock and barrel. It looks like the Volstead Act was similar to the laws in places in dry states such as Maine, Ohio, etc:”

    So the lesson may be to be careful about laws and policies that originate in individual states. What works on a smaller scale at the statewide level may not translate successfully to nationwide implementation.

    I let my kids go without coats because they claim they’re not cold and if they run into an emergency situation they will likely survive fine. I don’t think frostbite is a strong possibility.

  36. As for yesterday’s coat topic, IIRC, Denver Dad believes that it is completely reasonable for schools to target female dress in dress codes since girls should assume responsibility for and by the authorities be prevented from dressing in ways that distract boys. So I presume he is willing to grant his sons the freedom to dress as they wish ignoring actual weather conditions, but if his daughter did so perhaps he would intervene lest the cold turn her t shirt into a distraction?

  37. Meme, I don’t recall saying that. I believe that it is reasonable to have dress codes for all students. That aside, my DD usually goes to school without a coat as well. They have uniforms and she always wears leggings under her jumper by her own choice. She usually wears a sweatshirt as well, again by her choice. She keeps it on all day.

  38. Rhett – and who do the schools call when the really cold, whiny kid doesn’t have a coat? the mom.

    I get called from school more than DW does because my cell # is listed first.

  39. I would add that women tend to be colder than men so they would likely be more sensitive to the issue.

    And we feel the cold more as we age. Kids just don’t feel as cold as we do. When I was a kid, my mom was yelling at me all the time to put on a coat, and I just wasn’t cold. In those temperatures now, I feel cold.

  40. Um, Denver, on Nov. 4 at 4:49 you wrote:

    I think the dress codes are fine. Girls clothes have become over-sexualized – that’s the point of showing more skin and underwear – and I think school dress codes should oppose that. I hate the argument that girls shouldn’t be responsible for boys being “distracted” by what they are wearing. Yes they should. It’s like women who wear tops that emphasize their bust and then complain about men staring at their breasts.

  41. After, hearing from DD last year – I stopped asking DS to wear specific clothing to protect him from the cold. Today, it was in the 20s in the morning but he went to school in shorts and a sweatshirt. DD dressed exactly as Denver’s daughter did with leggings under jumper and a sweatshirt.

  42. I decided to look into the historical record in relation to some serious concerns of mine about the current national political landscape.

    Serious in what way? Everything seems pretty tame compared to the past.

  43. RMS, I stand corrected. I think the same goes for boys as well. They shouldn’t be showing their underwear or too much skin either.

  44. “Probably the most interesting thing . . ., is the assumption that following the law to the letter is optional for those who have good sense or a secure position in society, and that if everyone were just sensible we wouldn’t need those sort of laws at all.’

    Which presidential candidates does this remind you of? Or perhaps it might be a shorter list to ask which candidates you think this doesn’t apply to.

  45. Sky, you could solicit bids from multiple dealers.

    It’s been a long, long, time, but I remember that our credit union had price lists for members that included the costs of various options, i.e., you could build your own car at the CU pricing.

  46. L – I sent you an email…

    Topic – I found the study, and this discussion very interesting. The connections to today’s politics seem mostly rooted in the morality. While everyone can draw comparisons to the ACA, I don’t think there is a group of people who are morally opposed to healthcare for all. They are just morally opposed to paying for it or paying more for less. The abortion lobbies, to me, mirror the Prohibition lobbies. A group of people are morally opposed to abortion and believe that everyone else should be to for the good of humanity. Finn’s above question, “So the anti-abortionists think that having more people in the LMC on down will improve society?” really sticks out to me. Though I think it’s the MC on down… most of the vociferous anti-abortion people (at least in my FB feeds) are UMC. They want to control the actions of those below them, including the MC.

    Like L, I got thinking about the timeline in all of this, and how information was disseminated before cable news (rather, how quickly information was disseminated). I wonder if the reason laws or amendments seem to take longer now is because of the 24 hour news cycle and social media. Every group on every side of a situation has a voice that’s heard rapidly – and protests have been organized via social media. If a group doesn’t like something, they can stand up and be heard quickly, as can the group that likes something. ~100 years ago, hell ~25 years ago, that wasn’t possible. Seems to me that with social media, bills/amendments will be passed slower because the voice of the people can be heard faster and louder. Not necessarily a bad thing.

  47. Meme’s comment, “In the culture as opposed to economic ideological wars, the left and the right usually assume that laws promoting their reforms or moral views or to protect the oppressed/weak are necessary to combat the -isms or ignorance or moral failings both of the other side and of those who would make bad choices for themselves or treat the “other” unfairly” made me think about why I’m reluctant to support laws protecting people based on personal characteristics (race, sex, orientation, religion, weight, etc.)

    I think it’s because in my experience, my dislike of a characteristic that is associated with a protected group is misinterpreted as a dislike of that group, and I’m called racist, homophobic, etc.

    For example, I had a black roommate who liked to loudly play misogynistic black rap. If I complain, at least some people will say I’m racist and don’t appreciate black culture. No, I just don’t want a roommate who plays that sort of music, white or black.

    Another example is gay pride parades. I don’t want to publicly acknowledge recreational human sexuality and people who force those discussions make me uncomfortable. I didn’t like Madonna’s emphasis on heterosexuality way back when. I appreciate how, for example, the lesbian parents in my son’s class handle their relationship. Their son has a mom (whose tummy he grew in) and a stepmom (who adopted him) and the whole question of conception can be ignored.

  48. “Their idea was to improve by legislation the social condition of members of the lower and immigrant classes who lacked the bourgeois virtues of restraint and delayed gratification, to use a modern phrase.”

    Many of those on opposite sides of the abortion issue share this attitude. Margaret Sanger was an outspoken eugenicist; some abortion opponents believe that outlawing abortion will reduce promiscuity among young, poor women.

    But it’s not just sex and booze…variations on this theme are everywhere. Seat belt and car seat laws, the virtual abolition of indoor smoking, cigarette and other “sin” taxes, the proposed removal of candy and other “junk” food purchases with food stamps, school lunches with skim milk and whole-wheat pasta that many kids won’t eat, bicycle helmut laws, the imposition of low-flow toilets and anemic shower heads, fines for failure to recycle, publication of nutrition information on restaurant menus, bans on plastic shopping bags, the elimination of regular light bulbs — aren’t they all an attempt to impose “totebag values” (for want of a better description) on those who simply don’t know what’s good for them?

  49. “— aren’t they all an attempt to impose “totebag values” (for want of a better description) on those who simply don’t know what’s good for them?”

    Scarlett – you nailed it.

    But, when it comes to the “little” things, like plastic bags and shower heads, no one can be bothered. So, what’s good for the Totebag is good for all. But, when it comes to seat belts, car seats, sex, booze, drugs of all sorts, and guns it’s all about the “enlightened” class knowing what’s best. These are also sexy issues that make headlines. Headlines and sound bytes get people talking (and tweeting). It snowballs. And now you have a class/race/gender war.

  50. While I don’t want to dredge up the abortion debate, in my experience most people who advocate making abortion unavailable in all cases or in all that do not involve severe harm to the mother do so because they believe abortion is murder. Period – no class bias. Restricting access to birth control on moral grounds or because some methods may be considered abortifacient – scientists do not draw such lines – that is more like forcing other people to use restraint, more galling if somehow it is the woman’s responsibility to enforce restraint or condoms on men. There are libertarian, even religious-libertarian (not necessarily an oxymoron) Republicans that have introduced legislation (I don’t know whether that is under state control or if the FDA trumps that) permitting some sorts of OTC female contraceptive sales, to get the govt out of the way and make the process easier for less advantaged women. Perhaps the physicians on this site can explain if that is bad medically.

  51. Oregon just implemented a law allowing pharmacists to dispense birth control pills without a prescription. I think the law is awesome- the cost of a forcing a woman to visit a doctor (in $ and time/access) is not justified by the risk of birth control pill side effects.

  52. “Passing a ban-that’s-more-like-guidelines-really is crap — just more justification to crack down on “people who aren’t like us.””

    Yeah, and I hesitated to bring it up, because I don’t want to debate that topic. But what was even more galling about her article was that SHE HERSELF had disciplined her own kids in that manner (occasionally, I’m sure, and mildly) and seemed to have no intention of altering her own behavior.

    The same sort of thinking results in the Silver Spring kids getting taken by CPS for walking to the park.

  53. “most of the vociferous anti-abortion people (at least in my FB feeds) are UMC. They want to control the actions of those below them, including the MC.”

    And they want more of them to control?

  54. My issue with movements that restrict personal freedom is when people just say, well, I can vote for this person even though his platform advocates such and such, or it is unlikely that a law would get passed or a regulation promulgated, or even if it does I won’t be affected, or if my family is affected I have the money or knowledge to get around it, or I’ll just disobey the law because it is a bad law and I am the sort of citizen who can get away with it, and I know my nice neighbor will lose out, but majority rule and all that, and really, a little loss of freedom is a small price to pay for privilege of living in this great country. And after a while it turns into, oops I also lost some freedoms I used to enjoy. It must be because someone else has an unAmerican agenda. Now I am really angry. Someone has to pay!!!

  55. virtual abolition of indoor smoking

    Having grown up when even planes still had smoking sections, never mind restaurants and lobbies, I would say that the virtual abolition of indoor smoking had more to do with its effect on unwilling bystanders than a desire to impose Totebag values on smokers.

  56. “the virtual abolition of indoor smoking”

    I’d separate that. A lot of that has been driven by non-smokers not wanting to breathe second hand smoke. I think a lot of advocates of indoor smoking bans in public places would be fine letting others smoke, just in places where others wouldn’t have to breathe their second hand smoke.

  57. the virtual abolition of indoor smoking

    Another government regulation that worked out really well. It’s been so long, I think it would be quite a shock for most people to walk into a bar, restaurant, office, airplane c. 1981.

  58. It was later than 1981 because I remember that I had to sit in smoking on one of my first business flights on TWA to LA. I was too junior to complain, so I just sat there and it was a nasty experience. This had to be late 80s.

    I think the ban on bar smoking in NY didn’t take effect until the 2000s because I was already married. I was so happy to come home after a night out without that smell in my clothes.

  59. “And they want more of them to control?”

    Finn – apparently. Though, the people who are the most vociferous are also the ones who equate abortion with murder regardless of the gestation age, impact on maternal health, or any other factors that lead one to believe that an outright ban isn’t necessarily the way to go.

    In the same breath, these people will also tell you the government has too much control on their lives. So they want the government out of their lives and healthcare, but not the lives and healthcare of others. That means the government should control my life, because I am unenlightened since I don’t agree with them.

    The hypocrisy is lost on them entirely. I find it highly entertaining.

  60. “I think the ban on bar smoking in NY didn’t take effect until the 2000s because I was already married. I was so happy to come home after a night out without that smell in my clothes.”

    Yup. I spent the first couple of my post-21 drinking years smelling like an ash tray. So thankful that’s over.

  61. It was later than 1981

    Oh, it was. I was just using 1981 as a year in which smoking in public places was very common.

    The U.S. ban on inflight smoking began with domestic flights of two hours or less in April 1988,extended to domestic flights of six hours or less in February 1990, and to all domestic and international flights in 2000.

  62. “I think a lot of advocates of indoor smoking bans in public places would be fine letting others smoke, just in places where others wouldn’t have to breathe their second hand smoke.”

    Speaking as someone who both is allergic to cigarette smoke and was a violent asthmatic as a child: yep.

    I also think there is a fundamental difference between regulating what someone does “for their own good” and regulating things based on external effects. Shower heads and plastic bags are regulated based on their impact on the environment; we can agree or disagree with whether that degree of regulation is appropriate, or whether those kinds of requirements are the best way to achieve those goals, but I believe those are exactly the kinds of effects the government should be evaluating and regulating. Same with cigarettes and gun control and drunk driving and even child seats — agree/disagree with the scope/extent/approach, but the driver is the effect on innocent 3rd parties, which is an appropriate governmental concern.

    I have more problems with the “save you from yourself” issues, which seem to correlate much more directly to moral values — soda taxes/bans, seat belts/helmets, birth control, medical insurance, etc. I largely don’t care if someone wants to apply for the Darwin awards, as long as they don’t take someone else out in the process. The issue is just how do you avoid imposing the costs of those decisions on the rest of us through things like higher insurance premiums and higher hospital charges for everyone to cover the significant number of people who don’t pay?

    But I don’t even see that logic in a lot of the birth control regulation, as it’s clearly far cheaper to give women who want it birth control than it is to raise unwanted children. That’s just a pure moral value, and I don’t think the government has any business regulating it beyond the standard FDA “safe and effective” standard.

  63. “Shower heads and plastic bags are regulated based on their impact on the environment”

    So are a lot of other things mentioned, like light bulbs.

    There are other impacts to consider as well. Shower heads and toilets are probably more about water conservation, and since it largely falls on governments to ensure our water supplies, it makes sense for them to regulate that.

    Water is also increasingly a geopolitical issue, as is energy use, which is one of the reasons for regulation of light bulbs and gas mileage.

  64. I don’t see hypocrisy in many people being anti-abortion and believing that government is generally too involved in the lives of citizens. There are many who believe that government is too involved in the lives of its citizens, yet they still see that one legitimate responsibility of the government is to enforce laws against murder.

  65. It used to be so common to see someone smoking right in front of a “No Smoking” sign when I was a kid. My sister would go up and start lecturing those people, because she was that kind of a kid. Adults love being lectured by bossy 8 year olds, so that always worked out well.

  66. Given the various trade-offs between water and energy use across the country, why is it appropriate for the federal government to regulate shower heads and toilets? In my part of the country, I think cloth diapers are environmentally friendly, but in the dry southwest, I think disposables are a more environmentally friendly option. If we’re going to freely allow people to make a poor choice to be promiscuous, why should we not allow them to make a poor choice to use a high flow showerhead or an incandescent light bulb?

    In my experience, neither CFL bulbs nor reusable grocery bags are as durable as the environmentalist rhetoric. Would laws in New York mandating “energy retrofits” continue to exist if the state government of New York had to refund the implementation costs to building owners if the energy retrofits didn’t produce the promised energy savings?

  67. “I have more problems with the “save you from yourself” issues. . . The issue is just how do you avoid imposing the costs of those decisions on the rest of us through things like higher insurance premiums and higher hospital charges for everyone to cover the significant number of people who don’t pay?”

    In some cases, the arguments may not hold water either.

    Consider bicycle helmets. While I am an advocate of helmet use, and wear one when I ride, it bothers me that many discussions of bicycle safety start and end with helmet use. Duh… you don’t need a helmet if you don’t get into crashes, so why not start the discussion with crash prevention? Do people who wear helmets get into more crashes, especially after having been told that bicycle safety starts and ends with wearing helmets?

    Side anecdote… A friend with kids about my kids’ ages asked me, back when our kids were preschoolers, if I had any problems getting them to wear helmets to bike; his kids always resisted. I said no, they always see me wearing a helmet to bike, and wanted helmets of their own. I then asked if he wore a helmet to bike, and I’m sure you can guess what that answer was.

  68. Given the various trade-offs between water and energy use across the country, why is it appropriate for the federal government to regulate shower heads and toilets?

    Amazon i.e. the free flow of goods across state lines.

  69. “neither CFL bulbs nor reusable grocery bags are as durable as the environmentalist rhetoric”

    How do you measure durability in a way that facilitates comparison?

  70. “nor reusable grocery bags are as durable as the environmentalist rhetoric””

    BTW, I prefer the Costco approach.

  71. If we’re going to freely allow people to make a poor choice to be promiscuous

    It’s certainly a lot easier to regulate light bulbs and toilet tank capacity than human sexuality.

  72. Finn, I believe that was a subjective, not an objective, sentence.

    But we’d have to ask Murphy’s son’s teacher to be sure.

  73. “A lot of that has been driven by non-smokers not wanting to breathe second hand smoke.”

    Yes, and those non-smokers pressing the issue are far more likely to be totebaggers than Wal-Mart clerks. Don’t get me wrong — I spent my college and law school years airing out clothing after going out, and my first professional years on smoking flights. Before it was virtually outlawed, I would refuse to sit anywhere near a smoker in a restaurant, even with outdoor seating. I would be delighted if the tobacco industry collapsed and cigarettes disappeared. But I also know that lots of other people enjoy smoking, even though I cannot fathom why. My hair stylist has a severely asthmatic child and a husband who refuses to quit smoking around the kids. A textbook example of people who actually do NOT know what is good for them. In my opinion.

  74. Honolulu, for the win! I couldn’t follow those examples at all. My DH and I have a recurring set of commentary for these things when they come up. We have a decent number of degrees between the two of us. If we put our heads together and can’t remotely understand something, that’s a red flag. Sounds like Murphy’s family has the same scenario going on.

    I don’t have much to opine on politics right now. I do remember the old smoking rules, and doing study abroad in college when Europe didn’t have smoking laws the way California did. It was like a time warp to go back to professors smoking while lecturing, smoking in aircraft, in elevators, etc. Unsurprisingly, my childhood asthma returned that year. It has disappeared since, never (hopefully) to return.

  75. “BTW, I prefer the Costco approach.”

    I think the Costco approach, even without disposable shopping bags, produces a lot more packaging overall. Everything is in its own corrugated cardboard box, plastic clamshell, or joined together by a plastic handle of far greater mass than many plastic shopping or produce bags.

  76. “It’s been so long, I think it would be quite a shock for most people to walk into a bar, restaurant, office, airplane c. 1981.”

    Agree. Watch some episodes of The Fugitive or the original Twilight Zone — people are lighting up everywhere. Even doctors, in the hospital. Ashtrays in every room.

  77. “If we’re going to freely allow people to make a poor choice to be promiscuous, why should we not allow them to make a poor choice to use a high flow showerhead or an incandescent light bulb?”

    Well, because the government is going to be the one stuck paying for the new wells into the deeper aquifer, and the new water purification plant, and the new sewage treatment plant, to manage the increases in water consumption and wastewater generation from our growing population. Which means we all pay for it in our taxes. Whether there should be regional variations, OTOH, ITA.

    Light bulbs, you got me — I never got that one. I presume it’s to require fewer power plants and decrease emissions. But now that we have energy deregulation in most areas, why would the # of plants be a government issue? And those plants are already highly regulated on the environmental side anyway. Seems like a big, intrusive effort for minimal reward.

    But I see no valid governmental role at all in limiting access to birth control.

  78. I just read about this new acronym in the WSJ, and I thought it was amusing.

    “Banks and other lenders are loosening 20% down payment requirements on jumbo loans—especially for Henrys.

    The acronym stands for “high earner, not rich yet,” says Peter Grabel, managing director of Stamford, Conn.-based Luxury Mortgage. A Henry tends to be a younger professional with savings tied up in employer-provided retirement accounts and who may want some cash left for home renovations, he says.”

  79. “I think the Costco approach, even without disposable shopping bags, produces a lot more packaging overall.”

    I agree that Costco uses a lot more packaging material than I think they need to. But I don’t think that’s tied to not providing shopping bags.

    Here’s one thing that’s bugged me: They sell a lot of juices that are ‘reconstituted from concentrate.’ Why not just sell us the concentrate, it a much smaller container, using a lot less plastic, burning a lot less energy to transport, and taking up less space in their warehouses and our houses? Perhaps I should fill out a comment card and suggest that.

    For that matter, I don’t understand why they sell take and bake Margherita pizza but don’t sell it at the food court. Another suggestion for them.

  80. “The issue is just how do you avoid imposing the costs of those decisions on the rest of us through things like higher insurance premiums and higher hospital charges for everyone to cover the significant number of people who don’t pay?”

    But that question arises in virtually every aspect of life. Through taxes or insurance premiums or otherwise, we all pay the costs imposed by people who make bad choices in food, drink, exercise (or lack thereof), sexual behavior, education, parenting, driving behavior, pornography consumption, driving speed, auto maintenance, motorcycle helmet usage, treatment for physical and mental health conditions…the list is literally endless. There are very few vices (or sins, to put it in medieval terms) that do not cause harm to others.

  81. I think we’ve passed the time limit for hijacks, so….

    I think it was HM and WCE who mentioned the US Presidential Scholars program. Are you, or anyone else out there, familiar with the selection process? We met with DS’ college counselor last week and she mentioned that DS has a chance for that. I looked into it a bit more (I was not totally unfamiliar with it, thanks to previous mentions here), and it looks like it would be a wonderful opportunity, IMO well worth the time to apply (DW asked the dad of another kid we know who was just nominated, and he said his kid might not apply because the application process is so onerous.)

    Knowing he has a chance to be nominated gives him a chance to tailor his activities over the next year to enhance his chances of advancing in the selection process, so I’m wondering what sort of things would enhance those chances.

    BTW, this years’ nominees were recently announced for the CO 2016. DS knows a bunch of them; several are in the violin section with him, and he knows several others through debate, a couple on his team and several from other schools. While he decided to join debate himself, I feel validated in my (and DW’s) efforts to steer him toward orchestra for the peer group.

  82. “There are very few vices (or sins, to put it in medieval terms) that do not cause harm to others.”

    Second hand smoke notwithstanding, I’ve read of studies that found that smokers as a group consume less health care resources than non-smokers. I think it’s because (by their choices) they tend to die early, and not chew through a lot of resources with typically late in life conditions that can last a long time, or perhaps succumb to those conditions more readily.

  83. There was still plenty of smoking on the sub In My Day, but it had been relegated to the very back of the engineering plant under the presumption that the nearby robust ventilation intake and associated filtration system would make short work of the smoke. I’d say it worked for the most part; you didn’t often smell cigarette smoke in other parts of the ship.

    I distinctly remember instances when the onboard oxygen concentration had diminished to the low end of the allowed range (and operational considerations didn’t permit forced ventilation with outside air, but were not quite so sensitive as to require the use of the oxygen generator). The main effect is slightly increased fatigue, but it also has the unfortunate effect of rendering standard Bic cigarette lighters almost completely non-functional. There would be guys desperate enough for a smoke that they would douse the corner of a paper towel in some sort of volatile accelerant in order to induce sufficient combustion to then light the end of a cigarette.

    These are the things that you try to ignore as a lieutenant (junior grade).

    Nowadays, smoking has been eliminated entirely.

  84. Finn–I’ve known a number of nominees (DS has several friends this year) and a couple actual scholars. Most nominees don’t bother with the application IME. It’s a pain in the butt at the time when you are either working on special scholarship applications or just want to kick back. And the rewards aren’t that great for all the effort.
    The actual scholars I know are such different people I’m not sure you can draw conclusions.

  85. STD treatment is a huge cost to taxpayers of promiscuity. I can see some merit to not attempting to regulate sexuality because it’s hard to regulate, but that doesn’t mean the federal government needs to regulate toilet tank capacity in the Pacific NW

  86. WCE,

    How would they regulate toilet tank capacity at the state level given the free flow of goods across state lines?

  87. “They sell a lot of juices that are ‘reconstituted from concentrate.’ Why not just sell us the concentrate, it a much smaller container, using a lot less plastic, burning a lot less energy to transport, and taking up less space in their warehouses and our houses?”

    They do. They sell frozen orange juice concentrate, as does just about every grocery store.

    Are you asking why they sell reconstituted orange juice in addition to that? Because people want it that way. Seems like the first item to attack wouldn’t be reconstituted juice, but bottled water. Maybe they should sell concentrated water that the consumer reconstitutes at the point of use?

  88. BenL– Thanks! I guess all the more reason for DS to apply if he’s nominated– the other nominees not applying will improve his odds. The benefits seem largely limited to a weekend in DC, but from what I’ve read about it, that’s the sort of thing DS would absolutely love.

    The reason DW’s friend cited for his son probably not applying was being busy applying for scholarships.

  89. STD treatment is a huge cost to taxpayers of promiscuity

    Total cost for every STD case is 8.4 billion. That’s 0.5% of spending. Type II diabetes is 254 billion. The gluttons are a far bigger threat to the budget than the sluts.

  90. Milo, I was specifically thinking about grape and apple juice.

    My dad used to buy cans of grape juice concentrate that looked like soda cans, and didn’t need refrigeration.

    But you’re right about bottled water. The kids’ school has installed a bunch of water bottle filling stations, and most kids now carry bottles (e.g., Hydroflask or Tiger Sahara), and bottled water consumption there is way down.

  91. Maybe they should sell concentrated wate

    I wonder if that’s possible? Pelligrino, Evian, Fiji all have a distinctive taste due to whats dissolved in them. Is there a practicable way to rapidly dissolve a packet of minerals at home?

  92. “Is there a practicable way to rapidly dissolve a packet of minerals at home?”

    Sure. Haven’t you ever made Ramen?

  93. [i]Second hand smoke notwithstanding, I’ve read of studies that found that smokers as a group consume less health care resources than non-smokers. I think it’s because (by their choices) they tend to die early, and not chew through a lot of resources with typically late in life conditions that can last a long time, or perhaps succumb to those conditions more readily.[/i]

    I’m too post-night-shift to pull up the research on this, but I’m not sure you’re exactly right. Smokers consume a lot of resources during their working years – and have a lot of illness and disability associated with their tobacco use. Some major healthcare employers (Mayo or Cleveland clinic) have stopped hiring smokers and have made their staff quit or leave (because smoking is not a protected class).

    I know the argument has been made that the 55 year old smoker that drops dead from a heart attack saves the system a lot of money, but in the big picture there is a lot of lost productivity. It’s still a drain on society, if you don’t have separate buckets for health care costs, nursing home costs, lost wages.

  94. Milo,

    The Google says they most certainly are water soluble. Now to ask if they already sell such thing.

  95. Clearly too tired to html tag.

    Anyway, on prohibition, it is interesting to work up in the 49th state. Many communities in Alaska, by local control, still restrict sales of alcohol or outlaw it entirely. The town I am most familiar with has recent decided to allow alcohol sales. It will change the whole community – but I’m not sure it will be worse.

    Currently, people pay $75 for cheap whisky, bought illegally (available for $7 in your local liquor store down here). A lot of families’ resources go towards alcohol. At $10/bottle, there might acutally be more money left over for diapers and food. There is also a lot of crime associated with illegal distribution, in my very specific experience in this town. I have heard some of the locals say that we will lose some people (maybe as much as 5% of the population) in a fairly short time when alcohol is widely available, but that is an acceptable winnowing of the community. Supposedly, there are similar experiences in Nome and Barrow when alcohol became more widely available.

    An old, but interesting nyt piece on alcohol in AK: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/13/us/13land.html

  96. Finn,
    A heart attack is a fast, cheap death. So are some cancers that are detected at a late stage and can’t really be treated. The Totebaggers who by their prudent lifestyles evade cancer, heart disease, accidents and other leading causes of death will be far more costly to society as long-term Alzheimer’s patients.

  97. “Well, because the government is going to be the one stuck paying for the new wells into the deeper aquifer, and the new water purification plant, and the new sewage treatment plant, to manage the increases in water consumption and wastewater generation from our growing population. Which means we all pay for it in our taxes. Whether there should be regional variations, OTOH, ITA.”

    This might also be construed as an argument for volumetric pricing, where consumers pay for the quantity of water they use, generally measured through a meter. Paying for water delivery through taxes seems very inefficient and doesn’t provide incentives to conserve. Of course, if it is worth it to have a big lawn (landscaping uses the majority of household water), then I see no moral issue with someone paying for an amenity they want. As for sewage treatment….the more dilute the wastewater, the cheaper it is to treat.

  98. “The Totebaggers who by their prudent lifestyles evade cancer, heart disease, accidents and other leading causes of death will be far more costly to society as long-term Alzheimer’s patients.”

    And global warming is likely to make ice floes unavailable soon.

  99. “This might also be construed as an argument for volumetric pricing, where consumers pay for the quantity of water they use, generally measured through a meter. ”

    This has been the case everywhere I’ve ever lived.

  100. Further reasons why the feds should not be involved in water use decisions…
    http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article58705893.html

    Reservoirs controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation are managed for flood control this time of year, rather than storage. Because, well, the majority of the population live in an area where rain falls year round, instead of a civilized Mediterranean climate where we keep the precipitation in the winter where it belongs. So, in the beginning of the fifth year of drought in California, the feds are mandating that discharges to the ocean increase to create space in the reservoir. I fear we will regret this action come spring.

  101. Ada, if you want to italicize or otherwise customize your posts, put your commands between less than and greater than (shift comma and shift period on typical qwerty keyboards), not the brackets.

  102. “Water is also increasingly a geopolitical issue, as is energy use, which is one of the reasons for regulation of light bulbs and gas mileage.”

    Whiskey is for drinking water is for fighting over….Mark Twain

    increasingly? really?

  103. Further reasons why the feds should not be involved in water use decisions

    So if Utah wants to dam the Colorado CA, AZ and NV can just… declare war of Utah?

  104. Finn, it’s not just your garden-variety DC trip as it involves a Rose Garden ceremony and getting your scholarship presented by someone cabinet-level or higher, or at least that’s how it worked when I was familiar with it. And although the $$ isn’t that much, the number of incoming Presidential scholars is something the elite schools like to boast about and thus value. In one case I’m familiar with (close relative, not me) it got the recipient off the wait list and into Harvard immediately when the recipient was otherwise going to be offered admission only contingent on a year’s deferral..

  105. I just googled a bit and it looks like it’s still the same as far as ceremony with president or vice president, or if they’re both unavailable a cabinet member.

  106. “So if Utah wants to dam the Colorado CA, AZ and NV can just… declare war of Utah?”

    One of the reasons all the states have national guards.

    I’m a little tired, so I can’t bring to mind whether this has actually happened.

    There has been long standing conflict over allocation of the Colorado among California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Mexico. There is an accord in place, detailing each state and nation’s water rights. There are continued (ahem) discussions over whether certain states are taking more than their right, and whether the rights were properly apportioned in the first place. Basically, the river was divvied up during a historically wet period, and then, the climate changed there is less water, times are harder, more people, more fighting.

    The feds (Bureau, BLM, Forestry Service) do not have a stellar record with either respecting the people or the environment, or actually being able to respond to realities on the ground. Nor is there any reason to believe that the federal government, acting from a continent away has any more clue about western resource management than when they promoted the idea that rain follows the plow. The idea was that there was plenty of rainfall east of the 100th meridian, where there was lots of use of the plow, clearly, one caused the other. Ooops, that dang causality thing.

  107. The feds (Bureau, BLM, Forestry Service) do not have a stellar record with either respecting the people or the environment, or actually being able to respond to realities on the ground.

    California voters in the other hand…. You sure you want this a local issue?

  108. Rhett,

    In all honesty, I think it is preferable to have a government that is local enough that one can have influence and be part of the solution. Apparently I am a wannabe oligarch. There are a myriad of details involved in good enough resource management, that it is crucial that the decision makers have some skin in the game. On of the underlying issues in the Flint debacle was that the decision makers were unelected and didn’t live in Flint. They didn’t have to drink the leaded water nor were they subject to recall or the need for reelection.

    So, yes, I would rather be governed from Sacramento than Washington.

  109. In all honesty, I think it is preferable to have a government that is local enough that one can have influence and be part of the solution.

    Local enough that you are making the decision. In reality if left to Republic of CA voters your water rights would be expropriated and you’d be left high and literally dry.

  110. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tri-state_water_dispute

    Murphy, I thought of this. I assume you’re far more familiar with it than I am.

    Rhett – do you want to actually concentrate the minerals out of Fiji water prior to transport, or do you want to simply figure out the recipe and gather the right minerals from the most cost-effective source? In the former case, I would wonder how much the energy saved in shipping would be offset by the energy required to concentrate.

    I did a charity project with our church through Stop Hunger Now that impressed me with its efficiency. The organization brings in, on multiple pallets, 50lb bags of rice, soy flour, and dehydrated vegetables. You scoop a measured amount of each into a plastic bag, then add a pack of vitamins/minerals produced and donated by Heinz, and the whole thing is a meal for six, just add hot water. They get shipped off for disaster relief reserves, and regularly to places in need. Often, they’re used for school lunches in parts of Africa, where they find the best way to increase regular attendance is to offer free lunch.

  111. Milo,

    Cost effective minerals in a packet that you could use with your soda stream. It seems like a huge businss opportunity as “the Google” seems to say that such packets aren’t currently for sale.

  112. Wouldn’t you have to start with reverse-osmosis water to avoid the existing nasty minerals (sulfur, iron, etc.) in your water?

  113. You can make something that approximates Evian water by 1) getting rid of the chlorine in municipal water (boiling or letting it sit in the sun for a day) 2) adding 1/8 tsp of epsom salts and 1/8 tsp of calcium chloride (food item used in canning) per liter. Fiddle with the percentages to get higher mineral content water. There is a reason San Pellegrino tastes better than Perrier – more minerals. Calcium and magnesium are good for you and are absorbed more easily this way than from tablets. My kids have well water that is filtered (possibly twice), so they start with a pretty clean slate. Of course, the water tastes great already.

  114. WCE,

    You may be right. You’d need reverse osmosis or a flash evaporator to get the right water.

    Unless you’re in NYC, where in blind taste tests the tap water beats all the most famous brands. This is also said to explain the pizza and bagels.

  115. This has been the case everywhere I’ve ever lived.

    I know people who have had their own private wells. But otherwise, yes, water has always been paid for by volume used, not by taxes. Are there actually places where water is covered by taxes?

  116. Finn, it looks like deionized water is a lot more expensive and RO water gets you 90-99% of the way to that level of quality. The people I know with iron/sulfur in their well water have RO systems.

  117. My parents recently bought a house in the city (medium sizes, high desert), in an area of about 10,000 people with their own water district (surrounded on all sides by city). They pay $12 per month for all the water they would like to use. It’s ridiculous. As a kid, we had “irrigation water” – we paid $10/year to the local water board and could access reservoir water (untreated, not clean enough to drink) for our lawn may thru September. We had toe dedicated faucets in the yard for this.

    Driving through Eastern Washington last summer, it was 102 in the shade. All the fields were being irrigated with those incredibly low efficiency rooster tail sprinklers mid day. Made me think that water needs to cost more.

  118. I’ve seen Prohibition compared with affirmative action and similar race/gender-based public policies. Every policy decision has some negative consequences, and we can all have our opinions about whether the good outweighs the bad. In the case of affirmative action, I personally have seen a lot of the negative. These policies are a form of discrimination, they can take away pride of personal accomplishment, and they put race at the center of many decisions. We see how Asians are affected in college admissions. I’ve known of so many small businesses where a token minority or woman was used for set-aside preferences. That doesn’t seem fair. I lived in a city where suburban sprawl and urban blight was propelled by race-based public school policies.

  119. We have a well. And our geographic area is located on a giant aquifer with excellent groundwater supplies. So forcing us to install low-flow toilets and anemic shower heads is kind of like our parents telling us to eat our broccoli because children in Africa are starving.

  120. Ada,

    Economic efficiency implies a number of conditions, including that the marginal value of an input equals the marginal value of the output. Crops require a number of inputs including soil, nutrients, chemicals, water, labor, management, capital inputs ( e.g irrigation systems) among other things. Temperature and climate are other decision factors in both cropping and production decisions. As I recall eastern Washington tends to have a relatively short growing season, which tends to limit the number of crop options.

    Both electricity and water are relatively abundant in the northwest. Without knowing the crop, labor costs, or other factors, it is hard to know how the determination “inefficient” is made. Not to be cranky, but hearing an er doc say that a certain irrigation system is inefficient is about as grating as if I were to say that an er’s doc choice of drugs or treatment was inefficient because they chose an antibiotic instead of a painkiller for a pneumonia patient. Maybe it is, but from your statement appeared to be a blanket statement about a relatively efficient use of technology.

    And yes, I realize that I may be a little over sensitive about this.

  121. Ada,
    When you were a kid, I suspect that your parent purchased property in an irrigation district, which gave them the right to irrigation water through September. It is kind of like purchasing an annuity which gives you the right to a monthly check. The cost of the water is the amount of value of the property attributable to being in the irrigation district plus the annual fee. Kind of like purchasing a house in a school district allows one to access the school in the district.

  122. I finally reached the epilogue of “American Colossus – The Triumph of Capitalism,” which I’d recommend to anyone interested in brushing up on 19th century history, from Appomattox through McKinley. It’s a little dry, and a lot long (19 CDs in audio format), but (or because) the scope is vast. It covers everything from the usual capitalist titans, to the Indian Wars through Wounded Knee, Reconstruction all the way through Plessy, from Grangers through free silver to William Jennings Bryan, the industrial and railroad labor uprisings…

  123. Thanks Milo – I will check it out. My American history deficit was plugged a tiny bit because DD got assigned Ulysses Grant for research. She wasn’t interested in researching him but did manage to get her assignment almost done and also did a good sketch of him. Favorites George Washington, Abe Lincoln etc are not assigned and you can’t pick.

  124. I adore Sam Grant. I see him as so humble, flawed, real, down to Earth, self-effacing. The way he persevered through Forts Henry and Donnelson serving under the priggish Henry Halleck who was doing everything he could to get him fired.

  125. We got the sign up forms for the student-led conferences yesterday. Unlike with previous conferences, we can’t pick our own times. They are doing them over three days and you have to pick which day you want, and only one of the days is outside regular working hours (4-7 p.m.) so you know a lot of people will pick that day. They also said you can schedule individual conferences with teachers, so we are attempting to do that as well. I emailed the assistant principal because he had sent an email about the whole thing, asking if we would be able to do those around the same time as the student conferences, and he said we could. So we’ll see how that actually works out because a lot of the teachers are also advisors so they have to sit in on the student conferences.

  126. Sky, if you’re still reading, I agree with Finn’s suggestion to solicit bids from several dealers. Call first, try to speak with their internet manager or sales manager and get an email address to which you can send your exact specs. You might have to be persistent because some dealers will really want you to come into the store to do the deal. This is completely unnecessary. And hey, you never know, they might be able to find one out there and you could get your car sooner than via ordering it.

  127. A question on our school parents FB page indicates to me the high expectation parents have about helping their kids with schoolwork. Some parents gave positive feedback about particular middle school teachers. They had high praise for these teachers because their kids were being taught and they learned the subject even though “there is no support at home” and “he had no help at home from us either”. Wow, amazing.

  128. I get a daily market summary email from Vanguard with the subject line, “before the bell”. Lately I’ve been reading it as “before the HELL”. :)

  129. And in another “what are these teachers thinking?” story, DW got an email from her sister this morning. They live in a totebaggy community, and our neice’s third grade teacher had the great idea to have the kids make Valentine’s boxes as a contest. Neice spent a lot of time making hers to look like a cat and was very proud of it. They got to school this morning to see that parents had made most of them. One of them was a BB8 that rolled on a skateboard and played the Star Wars theme, to give an idea of the amount of work the parents put into them. SIL said neice’s response was “I thought I was going to win. I didn’t expect this.”

  130. DD – it would be easiest if they had done the traditional teacher/parent conferences but have the parents bring the student instead of “student led” with advisors etc. Waste of time as like you there will be parents wanting to meet with actual subject teachers.
    My older kid’s school had two whole days – morning and evening where the teachers sat in assigned spots and parents could go to who ever they wished to meet. The wait to meet each teacher was less than minutes. So I was done meeting everyone in an hour.

  131. DD – kid’s Valentine’s will be coming home in bags provided by the teacher. Almost all the Valentine’s trinkets are store bought, few handmade by the kids if they feel like it. Parents are lazy Totebaggers :-).

  132. Louise, the other parents we have talked to have all said the same thing – they want to meet with the teachers. Normally you sign up for spots with the teachers you want to see and it works very well. I think this is going to be a total cluster.

  133. Denver, what is the point of including the students? Is it supposed to be a self-criticism session, in which they confess to not understanding how to multiply decimals?

  134. Fred, we will give that a try. I’m trying to convince DH that he could tolerate a used car, but he wants a specific interior color and list of options that most people don’t buy, judging from the listings.

    Luckily, unlike the last time when we needed a car before the second baby arrived, we don’t have a deadline.

  135. Sky – at the Middle School level, I think it is to get kids to take ownership of their work and stop parents from helicoptering day to day management of schoolwork (at least that is how things like this has come across to me)

  136. Denver, what is the point of including the students? Is it supposed to be a self-criticism session, in which they confess to not understanding how to multiply decimals?

    The students aren’t going to merely included, they are going to be running it. The kids will be doing all the talking and the advisors (who are teachers – ironically DS’ advisor is DD’s math teacher and vice-versa) will just be observing. The kids said they have to fill out forms listing their strengths and weaknesses in each class, and the teachers will review and sign off on them. Then they will present this to us at the conference. Like Louise said, the goal is for them to take ownership of their work.

    I certainly see the benefits of having the kids do this, but I think they can do the work for it and then we can discuss it at home. We don’t need to go to school and have the advisors sit through it. It shouldn’t be replacing the regular parent-teacher conferences.

  137. We have student-led spring conferences in elementary school. It hasn’t bothered me because it doesn’t seem like I learn much from conferences anyway. “Your child(ren) are fine academically but they sometimes mess around too much and don’t apply themselves.”

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

  138. WCE, we usually get something worthwhile out of the conferences that makes it worth going. The best is usually the social studies teacher because he is tapped into the social aspects of the school for some reason, so he always provides good insights in that area.

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