Balance Sheet



Oil's Well. OPEC members come to terms—barely—but petro-pundits don't expect much higher oil prices. Contrary to '70s dogma, cartels really do crack up. For the moment, at least, Americans have more to fear from Congress's lust for a gas tax.

Class Consciousness. Parents rebel against dictatorial school systems. Detroit voters oust Mayor Coleman Young's crew from the school board, in favor of four upstarts. The new guys say public schools should compete with one another for students. Shockingly, even the teachers' union backs the reformers. Meanwhile, Seattle black leaders demand real competition: they want the school district to hire private schools to teach "at risk" students.

Scroll Survivors. Israel says no, for now, to the ultra-Orthodox agenda, as American Jews threaten an intifada of their own. The long-term problem, however, lies in Israel's uneasy combination of vigorous democracy and East Bloc–style statism.

Zone Defense. The Supreme Court affirms the right of private associations to discipline members. The NCAA, it rules, can ban Jerry Tarkanian, of University of Nevada–Las Vegas, from coaching basketball. For picayune rules, arbitrarily applied, the NCAA rivals any government agency. But the case marks a rare acknowledgement of the public-private distinction.


Dangerous Precedent. Hong Kong stamps "return to sender" on illegal immigrants from China and pens Vietnamese boat people behind barbed wire. Meanwhile, local businesses can't find workers; 10,000 to 15,000 jobs go begging in construction alone. "Economic migrants" find few havens anywhere on earth. But the Hong Kong unions who fight immigration should keep 1997 in mind. Live by the sword…

Grand Inquisitor. Prosecutors use RICO the way their forebears used the rack—to elicit confessions. "Drexel admits guilt," read the headlines, not "Drexel pleads guilty to avoid financial torture." (Some of Drexel Burnham's crimes are as technical as the finest heresies regarding transubstantiation.) Where are those card-carrying ACLU members on this issue?

Corporate Tools. Will Bush bring back big-business Republicanism? And, with it, regulation? The antibusiness crowd forgets that large companies often don't mind government meddling, as long as they can turn it against competitors. Look for more protectionism and securities regulation, plus "kinder, gentler" mandates that crush entrepreneurs.

Junkyard Dogs. Liability worries and EPA zeal threaten to squelch some of America's most-effective environmentalists—scrap-metal processors. They recycle about half the iron, lead, and zinc and a fifth of the aluminum that Americans throw out. But the trashed appliances, cars, and other discards they turn into minimill feedstocks also contain hazardous wastes. And recyclers don't want old PCBs, lead, or cadmium coming back to haunt them in court. So more junk may wind up in the nation's landfills, bringing its hazards along with it.