Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on an anti-poverty program:
Those who want for social justice, decry exploitation and fret about income inequality ought to love the growing global economic trend. This trend pulls people out of poverty, promotes equality and provides greater economic and political opportunities for many.
"The past 25 years have witnessed the greatest reduction in global poverty in the history of the world," wrote Dartmouth College professor of economics Douglas A. Irwin in the Wall Street Journal recently.
Irwin credits the improvement to that old-fashioned economic program that built the United States and the Western World but that liberals love to condemn. It's called "capitalism."
But what about growing income inequality? What about corporate greed? What about the rich getting richer?
The World Bank reported in October that the share of the world population living in extreme poverty fell to 15 percent in 2011, down from 36 percent in 1990, said Irwin.
Earlier in the year, the International Labor Office reported that the number of workers in the world earning less than $1.25 a day has fallen to 375 million, from 811 million in 1991.
"Let's be blunt," Irwin wrote. "The credit goes to the spread of capitalism. Over the past few decades, developing countries have embraced economic-policy reforms that have cleared the way for private enterprise."
Irwin cited China and India as leading examples.
China began allowing private agricultural plots and permitted private businesses in 1978. "The result has been phenomenal economic growth, higher wages for workers — and a big decline in poverty. For the most part, all the government had to do was get out of the way."
India began to dismantle its "license raj" in 1991, which required government approval to start a business, expand capacity and purchase foreign goods. "Such policies strangled the Indian economy for decades and kept millions in poverty. When the government stopped suffocating business, the Indian economy began to flourish with faster growth, higher wages and reduced poverty."
Despite its proven track record of fostering innovation and improving the quality of life for societies across the world, capitalism is under attack in the U.S.
Young Americans ages 18 to 29 have a positive view of socialism and a negative view of capitalism, according to a 2011 Pew Research Poll. About half of American millennials view socialism favorably, compared with 13 percent of Americans age 65 and older.
The nation's anemic economic recovery ought to be some indication that U.S. policies are doing more to strangle capitalism, and hence economic growth and income equality, than improving matters.
The proof is visible across the world. Those who wish to reduce income inequality and other societal ills would do well to work to strengthen capitalism, rather than condemn it.
Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on legislators on education:
When you are trying to improve, it often helps to study the best.
In public education, that road leads to China's largest and richest city, Shanghai.
In 2009, students from the Shanghai school system surprised the world by scoring first in all three categories math, science and reading of the PISA exam, the key international assessment of student performance. The Programme for International Student Assessment is given to 15-year-olds every three years, and the kids from Shanghai ran the table again in 2012.
The United States, by the way, finished 36th in math, 28th in science and 24th in reading. Some argue that the rankings are flawed because the U.S. statistics reflect the performance of students collectively, rather than city by city as in China, but there is little question that the achievement in Shanghai is remarkable.
A national delegation of state legislators, including local state Sen. Robert Plymale, will get to see that first hand, when they visit schools there starting this week. The trip is sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures and will include a visit to Beijing as well.
Of, course the differences between education in China and West Virginia involve much more than just language. Culturally, Chinese families and society put a tremendous emphasis on success in school, and a high score on the gaokao college entrance exam is given the same regard we give to athletic championships. Students are highly motivated and put in long hours.
But with West Virginia's hopes of ramping up student achievement in the coming years, the state will need to look beyond its borders for approaches to implementing a more rigorous curriculum and bringing students, parents and the public along.
As the state's educational audit pointed out a few years ago, the Mountain State spends more per student on education than most states, but student performance typically ranks near the bottom.
"A lot of places don't spend the dollars we do," Plymale told The Herald-Dispatch last week. "What we have to look at is how can we have a major effect on student growth, student achievement and professional development? What are other areas doing that relate to that?"
We look forward to seeing what Plymale and the NCSL delegation learn about what the Shanghai schools do and how they do it.