You are currently viewing the aggregator for the Distributed Republic reader blogs. You can surf to any author's blog by clicking on the link at the bottom of one of his/her posts. If you wish to participate, feel free to register (at the top of the right sidebar) and start blogging.

The main page of the blog can be found here.

Outrage misunderstood

Speaking of L'affaire Marcotte, I was a bit dismayed to see two bloggers (Julian Sanchez and Megan McArdle) whom I've both met and admire quite a bit seeming to fall for the conventional wisdom that "Bill Donohue done run them off for slagging Catholics," and that the whole 'scandal' is essentially pseudo-outrage over one piece of ill-considered ranting. And if that were the case, I'd agree with them. But as the lefty kids like to say these days, sadly, no. This isn't about Donohue in the slightest. It's about Marcotte qua Marcotte.

The problem is, as pointed out in the first post on the matter over at Hit and Run by Jeff Taylor, the initial 'outrage' per the non-leftosphere was not about the anti-religion, it was this post:

In the meantime, I’ve been sort of casually listening to CNN blaring throughout the waiting area and good fucking god is that channel pure evil. For awhile, I had to listen to how the poor dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and fucked her against her will — not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out. Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair.

This wasn't right after the rapes occurred, this was January, 2007. A time when anyone with any shred of intellectual honesty realizes that via circumstantial and forensic evidence there is really no chance at all that the accused raped this woman. It's even doubtful whether they even did anything to her at all, just given the massive reasonable doubt the continually shifting story of the accuser has generated, let alone the airtight alibi of the main accused.

So after seeing all of the lies and cover-ups emanating from the DA’s office, the wanton obstruction of justice, the total lack of forensic corroborating evidence—she still wrote that. And pardon me to borrowing some Marcotte-ish language, but to do so given all we now know, that’s pretty fucking vile.

Even if that were the sum total, it's still pretty fucking vile, not to mention evidence of either complete cynical contempt for the truth, or batshit insanity. A sort of “she said it, I want to believe it, that settles it” creed that is immune to reality. Not the best traits for a potential employee in what amounts to public relations, and even if it were just one post I’d be hesitant as an Edwards campaign manager to bring that sort of potential loose cannon on board.

After that, Donohue’s later slam is pretty much filler. The scandal was the rape post, then the weasel reaction to getting called on it.

But as another Reasonite, Cathy Young points out, this isn’t just the sum total of what’s wrong here. The post above is just one part of a long, established, continual pattern of puerile abuse and intellectual dishonesty. If she’s not grossly misrepresenting one person’s views to the point of slander[1], she’s dismissing someone else’s views out of hand simply because they’re “not left” (and if you’re not left, you’re either evil or stupid. No evidence, reason, or really any thought process required.)

So no, it's not a matter of pseudo-outrage or just some anodyne perfidy, nor is it being excoriated for one slip-up, it's a matter of a seriously unhinged and cowardly rageaholic being tapped by a supposedly serious candidate for the Democratic nomination to be part of their ‘outreach’ and message team. Having her go is a victory for anyone claiming to be part of a "reality-based community" as well as for civility and good taste.

(Footnote below) Read more »


Tylenol now to be served in new \'Blunt\' form

News: Tylenol (paracetamol/Acetaminophen) found to work via the cannabinoid receptor pathway, and works by unleashing natural cannabinoids that do the actual painkilling work.

i.e. Tylenol is literally the gateway drug for weed cannabinoids.

pass that joint

RIP: Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

Free to Choose

A great thinker & champion of freedom during the dark days of the 20th century has left us, and the US and the entire world's stock of human capital has been diminished with his passing.

(Obituary from the Financial Times)


Will the scourge of the Urbs never cease?

More fuel for the fire.

related: Lyrics to Avenue Q's Schadenfreude.


I\'m rich in Africa

Katherine Mangu-Ward lets us know she could totally school a generation of Angolan kids- this by way of the nifty Global Rich List rank calculator.

While KM-W gave the faux-precise rank for the median US income, I'll point out that it puts one in the top ~2% of the world income ranking, which helps put everything in a different relative light.


Greg Mankiw reads my mind

Though I dont have any permalinks to prove it, I totally came up with this idea first:

The tax system is probably the best vehicle to accomplish the Dems' goal. One possibility would be to reduce the payroll tax rate and to make up the lost revenue by increasing, or perhaps even eliminating, the cap on taxable payroll. That would benefit, approximately, the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution.


Tyler Cowen on why Germany should be rich vs. deliberately poor

Due to the time I took in writing up my earlier post, the blogosphere news cycle is a few steps ahead of me. Tyler Cowen offers a response to Chris' post that is concise and to the point: Read more »


Schadenfreude


\'

Curious post from Chris Bertram over at Crooked Timber. Responding to twin critiques, one of Europe and one of obsession with relative inequality by Tyler Cowen and Will Wilkinson, respectively, he says that Tyler and Will have it backwards, and that domestically, relative inequality matters quite a bit, but globally, i.e., beyond the sovereign state with no controlling overauthority, relative inequality doesn't matter at all once you're past an absolute level. Given that I also occupy the same/similar ideological space as Tyler and Will, I agree with them and disagree with Chris. But in the course of Chris' reasoning it seems to me that he underlines their points rather than refuting them.

Going straight to his point that international inequities don't matter, Chris says:

By contrast, I see no good reason to think that analogues of these arguments hold for international relativities. If Germans end up poorer in wealth and income than Americans, this will not thereby undermine political inequality among Germans. Position in local rather than global hierarchies is what matters for health outcomes and self-esteem. Just so long as all Germans, say, continue to enjoy those capabilities that are important for full participation as citizens in their communities, something that can certainly be assured on the basis of a level of wealth and income such as Germans enjoy today, I see no special reason for moral concern about the relative decline of Germany compared to the United States. Of course, there may be a problem if there is mass emigration by talented and productive people in Europe to the United States (in the way that there is currently a movement from Eastern to Western Europe). That would be bad if it impacted directly on the access of Europeans to, say, health care, and it would be bad if the talented were able to use their opportunities elsewhere in a way that made European countries domestically more unequal. But just so long as European countries can give people adequate opportunities to live absolutely decent lives in Hamburg, Paris or Bristol, there will a limit on those who will leave just for increased wealth and income, especially if that wealth and income[1] can’t be guaranteed to translate into a higher level of well-being.

(emphasis added.)

I don't see the theoretical justification for stopping at the nation-state level when it comes to comparing inequality. If the problems of relative inequality are problems qua relative inequality (as Chris' list implies) and not simply in their secondary effects on political outcomes, then in theory you must object to international relative inequity as well. First, I don't think that the claim that local v. global positioning mattering really holds, especially given that there is at least prima facie evidence that ideological Islamic terror draws greatly on resentment of global positioning in the heirarchy (Arab chauvinists feel their position is unjustly low and, therefore, a root cause for radicalization), and certainly health outcomes absolutely track GDP comparing 1st world to 2nd and 3rd world outcomes at least (e.g. Japan has better health than China, Germany has better health than Russia, etc). And assuming arguendo that all of the problems with relative inequality are more or less true, the problems would seem to also apply internationally relative to the US and Europe (two areas that have, by far, met the 'adequate opportunities to live *absolutely* decent lives' test):

[...] it seems to me that relativities in wealth and income matter because of the way that they can impact upon people’s absolute levels of well-being. There are a number of components to this, and I needn’t rehearse the arguments in grim detail. Amartya Sen goes through some of them in his well-know essay “Poor Relatively Speaking”: if wealthier people come to have access to new technologies, and if access to important goods get mediated through access to those technologies, then the poor who lack such access will find it harder and more expensive to supply their needs. You can run this one from everything from cars and out-of-town shopping centres to the internet. Second there are arguments about how inequalities in wealth and income undermine political equality. Third there are the Frank-style arguments about how relativities impact directly upon happiness. Fourth there are the Marmot and Wilkinson (the other one) arguments about how inequality impacts on health. Fifth, there arguments such as those put forward by Adam Swift concerning how people can translate their advantage in wealth and income into better educational opportunities for their children and place them better in the queue for jobs that those of poorer individuals. Some of these arguments may have flaws (I’m inclined to be more skeptical about the Frank ones than the others) but together they make a compelling case for the idea that inequality is bad for people, domestically.

If wealthier nations come to have access to new technologies (as is the case in the US v. Europe in general), and if access to resulting important goods gets mediated through this access to new technology, then the poor countries who lack such access will find it harder and more expensive to supply their needs. You can run that one from everything from cars to information technology to medical equipment to industrial processes. Second, there is demonstrable political inequality between the EU and the United States [see: German/French political resistance to Iraq war, futility thereof] which can be credibly traced to the raw fact of economic power[2] that supports military and other power. Global relative inequality seems to get under Euro skin, given the amount of kvetching they do about US consumption habits, popular trends, etc. French angst about "Anglo" culture possibly undermining and dominating La France is directly related to the relative inequality in terms of popular cultural output between the US and France.[3] So certainly even in Euroland relative global inequality (can) directly impact happiness. And as Trent has pointed out, when you look at actual outcomes for individual diseases, the US trumps the EU, too.[4] And certainly the ever-increasing divide between the US and Europe in terms of absolute output and per capita output lends credence to the idea that if the US can translate its advantage in wealth and income into better educational and employment opportunities for its children/immigrants, that would further exacerbate the relative inequality and drive the other aspects, too.

Conversely, if all that matters is "giv[ing] people adequate opportunities to live absolutely decent lives", then its not clear at all why this doesn't apply all the way down to some minimum monkeysphere level (something like 150 to 22,350 people[4]) where sociobiological hardware kicks in. That is to say, so long as some BFEast German town (say, Suxbruck) gives adequate opportunities to live absolutely decent lives, what would it then matter that, say, Bonn's citizens have a 5-10x wealth advantage? Certainly all of the arguments that Chris employs to pooh-pooh the significance of international relative inequality would apply to Suxbruck v. Bonn or Bavaria v. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania for that matter. (or, to go even smaller, West Suxbruck v. East Suxbruck.)

It seems that either relative inequality does matter all the way (and thus Tyler's critique is poignant) or else it doesn't (and Will's point is affirmed). I can see how Tyler and Will's points can coexist, but not how Chris' inversion coheres. Read more »


Does relative inequality matter globally, or not?

Curious post from Chris Bertram over at Crooked Timber. Responding to twin critiques, one of Europe and one of obsession with relative inequality by Tyler Cowen and Will Wilkinson, respectively, he says that Tyler and Will have it backwards, and that domestically, relative inequality matters quite a bit, but globally, i.e., beyond the sovereign state with no controlling overauthority, relative inequality doesn't matter at all once you're past an absolute level. Given that I also occupy the same/similar ideological space as Tyler and Will, I agree with them and disagree with Chris. But in the course of Chris' reasoning it seems to me that he underlines their points rather than refuting them.

Going straight to his point that international inequities don't matter, Chris says:

By contrast, I see no good reason to think that analogues of these arguments hold for international relativities. If Germans end up poorer in wealth and income than Americans, this will not thereby undermine political inequality among Germans. Position in local rather than global hierarchies is what matters for health outcomes and self-esteem. Just so long as all Germans, say, continue to enjoy those capabilities that are important for full participation as citizens in their communities, something that can certainly be assured on the basis of a level of wealth and income such as Germans enjoy today, I see no special reason for moral concern about the relative decline of Germany compared to the United States. Of course, there may be a problem if there is mass emigration by talented and productive people in Europe to the United States (in the way that there is currently a movement from Eastern to Western Europe). That would be bad if it impacted directly on the access of Europeans to, say, health care, and it would be bad if the talented were able to use their opportunities elsewhere in a way that made European countries domestically more unequal. But just so long as European countries can give people adequate opportunities to live absolutely decent lives in Hamburg, Paris or Bristol, there will a limit on those who will leave just for increased wealth and income, especially if that wealth and income[1] can’t be guaranteed to translate into a higher level of well-being.

(emphasis added.)

I don't see the theoretical justification for stopping at the nation-state level when it comes to comparing inequality. If the problems of relative inequality are problems qua relative inequality (as Chris' list implies) and not simply in their secondary effects on political outcomes, then in theory you must object to international relative inequity as well. First, I don't think that the claim that local v. global positioning mattering really holds, especially given that there is at least prima facie evidence that ideological Islamic terror draws greatly on resentment of global positioning in the heirarchy (Arab chauvinists feel their position is unjustly low and, therefore, a root cause for radicalization), and certainly health outcomes absolutely track GDP comparing 1st world to 2nd and 3rd world outcomes at least (e.g. Japan has better health than China, Germany has better health than Russia, etc). And assuming arguendo that all of the problems with relative inequality are more or less true, the problems would seem to also apply internationally relative to the US and Europe (two areas that have, by far, met the 'adequate opportunities to live *absolutely* decent lives' test):

[...] it seems to me that relativities in wealth and income matter because of the way that they can impact upon people’s absolute levels of well-being. There are a number of components to this, and I needn’t rehearse the arguments in grim detail. Amartya Sen goes through some of them in his well-know essay “Poor Relatively Speaking”: if wealthier people come to have access to new technologies, and if access to important goods get mediated through access to those technologies, then the poor who lack such access will find it harder and more expensive to supply their needs. You can run this one from everything from cars and out-of-town shopping centres to the internet. Second there are arguments about how inequalities in wealth and income undermine political equality. Third there are the Frank-style arguments about how relativities impact directly upon happiness. Fourth there are the Marmot and Wilkinson (the other one) arguments about how inequality impacts on health. Fifth, there arguments such as those put forward by Adam Swift concerning how people can translate their advantage in wealth and income into better educational opportunities for their children and place them better in the queue for jobs that those of poorer individuals. Some of these arguments may have flaws (I’m inclined to be more skeptical about the Frank ones than the others) but together they make a compelling case for the idea that inequality is bad for people, domestically.

If wealthier nations come to have access to new technologies (as is the case in the US v. Europe in general), and if access to resulting important goods gets mediated through this access to new technology, then the poor countries who lack such access will find it harder and more expensive to supply their needs. You can run that one from everything from cars to information technology to medical equipment to industrial processes. Second, there is demonstrable political inequality between the EU and the United States [see: German/French political resistance to Iraq war, futility thereof] which can be credibly traced to the raw fact of economic power[2] that supports military and other power. Global relative inequality seems to get under Euro skin, given the amount of kvetching they do about US consumption habits, popular trends, etc. French angst about "Anglo" culture possibly undermining and dominating La France is directly related to the relative inequality in terms of popular cultural output between the US and France.[3] So certainly even in Euroland relative global inequality (can) directly impact happiness. And as Trent has pointed out, when you look at actual outcomes for individual diseases, the US trumps the EU, too.[4] And certainly the ever-increasing divide between the US and Europe in terms of absolute output and per capita output lends credence to the idea that if the US can translate its advantage in wealth and income into better educational and employment opportunities for its children/immigrants, that would further exacerbate the relative inequality and drive the other aspects, too.

Conversely, if all that matters is "giv[ing] people adequate opportunities to live absolutely decent lives", then its not clear at all why this doesn't apply all the way down to some minimum monkeysphere level (something like 150 to 22,350 people[4]) where sociobiological hardware kicks in. That is to say, so long as some BFEast German town (say, Suxbruck) gives adequate opportunities to live absolutely decent lives, what would it then matter that, say, Bonn's citizens have a 5-10x wealth advantage? Certainly all of the arguments that Chris employs to pooh-pooh the significance of international relative inequality would apply to Suxbruck v. Bonn or Bavaria v. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania for that matter. (or, to go even smaller, West Suxbruck v. East Suxbruck.)

It seems that either relative inequality does matter all the way (and thus Tyler's critique is poignant) or else it doesn't (and Will's point is affirmed). I can see how Tyler and Will's points can coexist, but not how Chris' inversion coheres.

(footnotes below) Read more »


Hayek v. Sullivan v. Goldberg

In a post addressing Jonah Goldberg's review of Andrew Sullivan's book "The Conservative Soul", Julian Sanchez cuts right to the heart of the matter (and the Catallarchy political philosophy in a nutshell) by invoking Hayek and provides the synthesis to Sullivan and Goldberg's thesis & antithesis, respectively:

I can be fanatical in my defense of liberal societies, not because (like Islamists) I'm sure they have discovered the One Best Way of Life, but because they embody a process that allows fallible people to seek continual improvement.


Second, Jonah takes issue with Andrew's "divinization of conscience," which he casts as an arrogant rejection of tradition. And this brings us back to what I regard as the misreading of Hayek that keeps Jonah in the conservative camp—a point that Nick Gillespie tried to make when they debated a few months back, but I don't think Jonah fully grokked. First, to say we should "rely on tradition" doesn't actually relieve us of the responsibility for making our own moral judgments, for much the same reason the argument that the argument that we need religious texts as a guide to morality doesn't go through. There are multiple traditions to choose from, and multiple strains within each tradition, so an apparent "deference to tradition" always still involves the exercise of one's own judgment. (In the same way that you may outsource your health decisions to a doctor, but you're still responsible for finding a wise doctor.) Moreover, recall that Hayek's argument is meant to show why tradition's evolved rules are likely to produce better results than a wholesale constructivist rationalism. But this argument actually depends on people making use of critical reason, which is quite different. In effect, Jonah wants to say: Look what cultural evolution has produced—great, freeze it! But evolution works because of mutation, variation, and selection, and it's still going on. A tradition that can't accommodate that kind of variation is unlikely to stay adaptive for long.

Reading both Sullivan and Goldberg, I think Goldberg's characterization and critique of Sullivan's argument is essentially correct, in that Sullivan *is* divinizing conscience to where tradition is OK unless and until it conflicts with some moral intuition or, worse, a contingent desire, in which case 'conscience' must take precedence. This is the 'progressive' mindset in a nutshell and no constraint at all to taking the next step to, as Julian says, a fully constructivist rationality[1] (if your conscience dictates that the world must be Y and it is currently X, then why not attempt to get there via applied reason, and while you're at it, why not apply reason to everything...)

Goldberg's alternative is often too much the case of "everything's great, so for goodness' sake, don't touch it! It might collapse!", and the usual misreading of Hayek as to constituting a social version of the precautionary principle. Julian is absolutely correct in that the Hayek view is more "less French Revolution, more American Revolution"; tradition, aka the evolved rules of social cooperation, is a good guide to future action and should be side constraints on proposed change but should not be a presumptive barrier to change. Piecemeal change, bottom-up change, evolved change, but change nonetheless. After all, since the 19th century we've seen yesterday's radical idea become today's mainstream practice to being tomorrow's solemn tradition, and America itself, as both a social and political experiment, represents a major break with world civilizational tradition (esp. the tradition of the previous 1700 years, which was to a lesser or greater extent centralized monarchism). The question, as always, is what to change, when, and how.

(footnote below) Read more »


A modest proposal

Engaging in pure fantasy for the moment at the tail end of lunchtime, but if you will- given that there is a problem of too many unchallenged incumbents and uncompetitive districts, if I could wave my magic wand and change things, why not require that an incumbent's margin of victory improve by 1% over their previous year's result? (and perhaps 2% for Senators.) That is to say, if you won by 50.1% last year, you need 51.1% or better to stay in office (rather than simple plurality), and so on and so forth.

I see a few things from this: Read more »


Quick hits for lunchtime

Via Cafe Hayek, a great quote from George Will that underscores just how little money is in politics (and IMO how obscenely unnecessary McCain-Feingold was):

About $2.6 billion was spent on the 468 House and Senate races. (Scandalized? Don't be. Americans spend that much on chocolate every two months .)

Radley Balko (Linebacker, recently traded to Reason) notes who does and does not get it among the Republicans[1], warning that the Republicans lost because they governed like Democrats and thus to avoid the temptations of continuing down that road; his teammate Julian Sanchez piles on by noting that a finely split congress is theoretically just as likely to collapse into logrolling as it is to crystallize into gridlock.

Greg Mankiw has a pithy conclusion for sick people given the (perceived) intentions of our new Donk overlords:

My interpretation: The Dems will likely give us lower drug prices and less research into new drugs. Good news if you plan to be sick soon. Bad news if you plan to be sick in the more distant future.

And to answer John Quiggin's question, aggregated vote tallies by party for the House *and* the Senate can be found via the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

(explanation below) Read more »