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Against Prison Profit

By Antonia Leggett After Columbia became the first U.S. university to divest from private prisons, largely out of concern for humanitarian issues, both the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that they would review their use of privately contracted facilities for prisoners. While the shift from a privatized to an entirely state run industry would initially seem cringeworthy to Libertarians and individuals within the Corrections industry, federal and state-run prisons have consistently shown to be more fiscally efficient, while also maintaining a better humanitarian track record. Supporters of private prisons have touted ideas that in the private sector, prisons save on costs. These cost savings arise out of lower salaries and fewer benefits by hiring employees who are not unionized, they claim. Additionally, many claim that construction of new facilities is more efficient through private initiative rather than government funding. Several studies have shown these effects to be inconsequential. Specifically, official auditors in Arizona and Hawaii stated in 2010 that private prisons are more costly than public prisons across all levels of security, noting a repeated misrepresentation of costs to sway policymakers. A legal review committee in New Jersey stated in 2010 that the liability of private prisons proves to be more costly, including more reported escapes and lawsuits due to substandard training of private operating KEEP READING >>

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A Fishy but Honest Market

By: Mitchell Mikinski When most people think of commodities, they think of the major global players like crude oil and gold. Indeed, you would be hard pressed to find a day on CNBC where the price of oil was not flashed in red or green lettering next to the screaming face of Jim Cramer. But despite crude’s gargantuan media following, its direct relevance to the everyday American is questionable at best. After all, I can’t seem to remember the last time I rolled home a barrel of crude oil, fresh off a tanker from the Strait of Hormuz. I can, however, remember the last time I wanted to grab some fish & chips or coconut shrimp. This is a feeling most Americans understand: the US spends $60 billion on seafood annually and consumes 15.5 lbs of it per capita. One of the purest forms of this obsession is the all-display seafood auction.  The auctions work in an almost comically simplistic way: The fish are caught and unloaded directly into the auction area. After they go through KEEP READING >>

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Just for Fun: Taxing the Hamilton Stairs

By: Diana Li One of the major problems that students attending classes in Hamilton face is that they see unusually high traffic on stairways during the few minutes before and after class. This creates a bottleneck situation due to a large number of students competing for a tiny space (two narrow stairways) during specific time periods. Naturally, one solution would be to divert some of the students away from the two stairways by offering them alternative ways of transportation. The only alternative route would be the Hamilton elevator, which is equally congested and incredibly slow and inefficient. Some might argue that the school should increase capacity – building a new stairway. However, the extra capacity will not cause additional students to use the stairs because the total number of students taking classes in Hamilton is fixed. Moreover, this tactic can be rather difficult to implement, as the school is likely unwilling to spend extra money to renovate the building and build KEEP READING >>

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The Future of Marijuana on Campus

Marijuana legalization has been a divisive issue in the United States for decades, yet it appears to have finally turned the corner.  While marijuana is still prohibited under federal law, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington - and last week, California, Nevada and Massachusetts - have all legalized the recreational usage of marijuana and the commercial sale of marijuana with a license.   Foreign countries are also easing their stances on marijuana.  Canada is poised to legalize the drug in spring 2017, opening itself up to a $5 billion-dollar industry.   For college students, marijuana legalization may seem like a dream come true.  In 2015, daily marijuana usage on college campuses reached its highest percentage since 1980, even as the consumption of alcohol, narcotics, and amphetamines declined.  Moreover, the rapid growth and diffusion of small dispensaries in states that have legalized marijuana has removed barriers to access.  Colorado, for example, has over 900 licensed KEEP READING >>

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Is College Worth It?

With U.S. presidential contenders such as Bernie Sanders proposing tuition-free education at public universities, I will examine a series of increasingly relevant education issues through an economic lens. Is it worth paying rising tuition bills at universities? What alternatives might one pursue to four years at an undergraduate institution and why? How much, exactly, is a bachelor’s degree worth? First, a monetary analysis. According to the College Board, in the 2015-16 academic year, the average cost of tuition and fees was about $32,000 at private colleges, compared to roughly $9,000 for state residents at public colleges. Out-of-state residents at public colleges fared significantly worse than their counterparts, with a price tag similar to private colleges at $24,000. At Columbia, this year’s sticker price was about $66,000-- more than double of the average private college! With the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates in December and economic instability abroad captured KEEP READING >>

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