Cambridge, Massachusetts getting a bit of style

Our hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, famous for its poorly dressed citizens, will be getting a bit more style next year as the outgoing Miss America, Erika Harold, shows up to attend Harvard Law School (see the end of this Washington Post article, which notes that one of her favorite activities is promoting sexual abstinence, something that should be easy to achieve over at the Law School…; also check out my school page, which recounts my experience as a student at the Law School).

[Apparently creeping credentialism is a factor even in the Miss America contest; Tina Sauerhammer, the winner of third place just received her MD from University of Wisconsin.]

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Send our underclass overseas?

Americans are accustomed to the idea that there will be an unreachable underclass within our borders.  Rather than figure out a way to fix inner city schools and turn these folks into productive citizens it is cheaper and easier, apparently, to give the teenager mothers AFDC and collect the young men up into our growing population of prisoners (more than 2 million people now).

Producing so many uneducated people and sending so many young men into prison creates a labor shortage in an advanced economy, which requires that we import laborers from Third World countries (see this page and for some stats).

Does it make sense to keep people in prison at $25,000 per year (source) merely because there is no place for them in the U.S. economy?  If we gave them a $20,000 per year stipend they would have an above-average income in all but 27 of the 208 countries in this World Bank chart, while the U.S. taxpayers would enjoy a 20% savings.

Why would a foreign country want to take an American who is unwelcome on the streets of his homeland?  In the case of violent criminals, perhaps they wouldn’t (this source says that we have about 1.2 million people imprisoned for nonviolent crimes).  But what about all the people who are in prisons, often for life, for possession of drugs?  The foreign country would be happy to collect taxes on the former offender’s $20,000/year income.  The former offender’s education and skills might well be above average in most Third World countries, thus qualifying him for a wide variety of jobs.  And with a guaranteed source of income there would be no reason for the offender to return to the drug industry.  Recall Mark Twain’s comment that “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”

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Warren Buffett adopts the Chinese-made house idea (almost)

A month ago the idea of Chinese-made houses, sold at the back of Walmart, was put forth in this Weblog and met with mixed reviews.  According to today’s New York Times, Warren Buffett’s company has just shelled out $17 billion for a company that builds houses in factories (albeit the factories seem to be in the U.S. but they could easily move to China soon enough).

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