Party Crashers. One-party rule goes the way of vinyl records—slowly but surely out. Opposition parties do the impossible: Win in Japan. Take a governorship in Mexico. Exist in (parts of) Eastern Europe. Who knows, there may soon be Republicans in Massachusetts.
Legal Disobedience. Antiapartheid activists exploit legal loopholes to further integration and free speech. A group of blacks and whites takes a dip in a Johannesburg municipal pool—establishing that there's no law against integrated swimming, only a law permitting such a law. Journalists publish photos of and statements by Nelson Mandela. Since its own propaganda does the same, the government backs down when challenged. Parts of the ANC's Freedom Charter appear on t-shirts and in newspapers.
Plan of Steel. Bush announces an end to steel quotas but, wimp that he is, postpones it until 1992. Better late than never. By one estimate, the quotas have saved 17,000 steel-industry jobs over the last five years—at a cost of 52,000 jobs in other business sectors.
Uncommon Valor. A few Democratic lawmakers prove notably resistant to the virus of economic populism. One group splits with party demogogues to support a cut in the capital gains tax. The result: less jaw-flapping overall about giveaways to the rich, more consideration of what a cut would do for the economy. Also brewing is support for a higher Earned Income Tax Credit, which directly targets the working poor, and less emphasis on the minimum wage.
Reefer Madness. Castro is shocked, shocked to find drug smugglers among his officers. Those naughty officers have got to go. Castro wants to join the noble U.S. drug war. Honestly, some journalists and politicians will believe anything if drugs are involved. What's next—a brave Chinese campaign against opium peddlers in Tiananmen Square?
Binding Contracts. Big government types use the HUD scandals to attack privatization, deregulation, and the free market. This is wrong but effective. Lavishing government money on business does not a free market make, but free-market advocates have too often equated handing out contracts with cutting back government. It's time we started making distinctions.
Time Served. New York State considers requiring all attorneys to perform 20 hours a year of pro bono service in exchange for the right to practice their profession. The New York Times raves about the proposed draft, attacking "affluent lawyers [who] balk at making even a modest contribution to equal justice." Who knows, maybe those securities lawyers would indeed make great tenant advocates. And maybe the Times will support a law requiring editorialists to write press releases for indigent entrepreneurs.
Textbook Case. California wants to smarten up its textbooks. Now we see how they got dumbed down. Everybody has a complaint. First, the publishers griped that interesting history books are too hard to produce. Now the creationists demand biblical teachings in the science books. Just wait till the feminists weigh in. This is what happens when you make one curriculum fit all.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Balance Sheet".