Retirement should be an individual decision, rather than some arbitrary date set by the federal government. Individuals differ widely in their affection for their present line of work, in their desire to pursue some alternate retirement avocation, in the size of their retirement nest egg, in their current state of health, in whether they have relatives requiring childhood or old age support services, and so on. All of this screams for leaving individuals the widest discretion in whether and when they retire.

One implication of the foregoing is that individuals, not Congress, should have control over their own retirement accounts. Social Security as presently set up has a terrible rate of return, isn’t in any way a “lock box,” and instead is a piggy bank for politicians to raid for pet projects and income redistribution.

A far better option would be for government to encourage individuals to set up diversified, fiscally conservative Keogh-type retirement accounts with up to $10,000 per year income-tax-free contributions allowed and the funds in this account to remain tax-free forever after. Contributions would be allowed, whether one is working or not and even if the contribution is a gift from someone else. Thus, a husband could put $10,000 a year in his wife’s Keogh account to compensate her for years not in the paid labor force — as, for example, when bringing up their young children.

The funds, being held in the private rather than government sector, would contribute to economic growth rather than government growth.

To avoid the kind of demagogery that the Democrats and AARP indulged in when the second president Bush timidly tried to introduce private retirement accounts, individuals — even young people — could be given the choice of joining the low-payout government retirement system or the higher-return individually-owned Keogh account.

The latter individuals would be able to retire when they wished. The former would have to retire when Congress allowed them to.


What do we need in the way of a sane immigration policy? Let’s stick to basics:

  1. Recognition that the illegal immigrant problem is largely the making of bad policy enacted by Congress during previous decades: namely, failure to recognize that important sectors of the U.S. economy need lots of guest workers from south of the border, some seasonal, some year round. In agriculture, landscaping, and some service industries, as a starter. Bad policy that is impossible to enforce leads to otherwise avoidable illegal activity (bootleggers during prohibition, illegal immigration in recent decades, drug smuggling and gangs today). Ergo, a path to legality and then citizenship for illegal immigrants is a reality that Republicans in the House are going to have to face up to. The required process should be demanding but not petty or capricious.
  2. Recognition that throwing twenty or forty billion dollars at a border fence and thousands of agents on the Mexican border is a waste of money, an increase of federal government bloat, and a stupidity if erected between members of a common market established by treaty.
  3. Recognition that all foreign students graduating from U.S. universities with masters and doctorates in the sciences should have green cards stapled to their diplomas.
  4. Recognition by the Democrats that guest worker and skilled worker green card programs must not be limited by the party’s protectionist trade union constituencies.

Health care

Each individual has personalized health care needs. This individuality cannot be addressed by a government monopoly insurer with a single one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it plan. Nor would a tiny field of heavily regulated insurers be much of an improvement. A diverse nationwide market of competing health insurance plans, on the other hand, should be able to offer the variety of choice that matches individual and family needs with available options at competitive prices.

Only the small minority that could not afford to buy even a basic health insurance policy would need to be subsidized by taxpayers if such a nationwide market were available. Doctors would be able to set their own fees, subject to checks and balances exerted by their patients and their patients’ insurers. Personalized medicine would return, ending the present era of tests and services distorted by absurd government compensation schedules.

Where’s my classical repertory theater?

If I had to name the one artistic institution that the U.S. most palpably lacks and could most benefit from, it would be a permanent repertory theater that focuses not just on Shakespeare but the entire classical repertory of world theater: Schiller, Goethe, Lope de Vega, Calderon de la Barca, Tirso de Molina, Cervantes, the Greek and perhaps Latin playwrights, Marlowe, Corneille, Kalidasa, Yuan and Noh drama, etc. — as well as the usual suspects who do get regularly performed (Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov, Moliere, etc.).

I’m not sure that a repertory theater with such scope exists even in Europe.

What combination of impresario, directors, actors, and foundations will make this possible? Would such an enterprise best be located in a large city such as New York or Chicago, where it would compete with many commercial companies? Or in a medium-sized city, where it would become a national, perhaps even international, cultural magnet?