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Gender Segregation in the Military

Scott directs us to Volokh Conspiracy guest blogger Kingsley Browne's arguments in support of continued gender segregation in the military. I wrote some comment's in Scott's thread that I think are worth pulling out and placing in a front page post of their own.

I didn't originally plan to respond to Browne's posts because I figured it would be obvious to most readers that his arguments were poorly reasoned, little more than an excerise in Browne embarrassing himself in public by exposing his outdated gender biases. For the same reason, I don't spend much time rebutting White Nationalist or anti-Semitic blog posts, because I expect (perhaps mistakenly) that smart people living in contemporary America have the wherewithal to figure out what's mistaken about such arguments on their own. But apparently some libertarians take these gender segregationist arguments seriously - indicating that in many ways sexism is more socially acceptable than racism - and therefore it is worth spending some time addressing Browne's project.

Browne argues that there are significant biological and psychological differences between women and men, and that, because of these differences, men (on average) make better soldiers than women, at least in roles like combat which make use of and indeed require greater physical strength or "courage." Recognizing that differences in group averages do not alone justify excluding the group with the lower average score, - after all, there is much overlap between groups, so a recruitment system based purely on merit might allow some women in - Browne makes the further argument that statistical discrimination is simply a more efficient method of recruiting, for more individualized determinations are expensive and may lead to false positives, and because the few women who would pass would hardly provide enough benefit to justify the additional screening costs.

Let's assume all of this is true. Where does that leave us?

Consider the following argument: Some people believe that there are significant biological and psychological differences between blacks and whites (namely, that whites on average tend to score higher on IQ tests than blacks), and that because of these differences, whites (on average) make better soldiers than blacks, at least in roles which make use of and indeed require whichever abilities are associated with higher IQ scores. Recognizing that differences in group averages do not alone justify excluding the group with the lower average score, - after all, there is
much overlap between groups, so a recruitment system based purely on merit might allow some blacks in - we make the further stipulation that statistical discrimination is simply a more efficient method of recruiting, for more individualized determinations are expensive and may lead to false positives, and because the few blacks who would pass would hardly provide enough benefit to justify the additional screening costs. We all cool with that?

One might object to this comparison on the grounds that there are significant differences between the gender/sex divide and the racial divide. And this is surely true. There are significant differences between gender divisions and racial divisions. If there were no such differences, the comparison wouldn't be a metaphor; it would be an identity relationship.

Regardless, the metaphor between gender and race is powerful, as demonstrated by Douglas Hofstadter's classic essay, A Person Paper on Purity in Language. Hofstader's argument works because it takes the progress we as a society have made in thinking about race and extends it to gender with the hope that the same sort of progress will occur there, for the very same reasons. Merely observing that race and gender are not identical is not alone sufficient in rebutting Hofstadter's comparison; rather, to do so, one must show that race and gender are significantly different in such a way that the comparison doesn't work at all for his purposes. I don't think that's the case, though I'm open to the possibility, if given a sufficiently persuasive argument.

In addition to the alleged efficiency of statistical discrimination, one might further attempt to justify gender segregation in the military on the grounds that mixing different groups together into one combat unit creates inefficiencies and trust issues. This claim takes it as a given that the phenomenon of heterogeneous distrust is endogenous to human nature, and not something that can be changed through sufficient education and culturalization. So too, many opponents of racial integration in the military argued that the races should not me mixed in combat units because white soldiers wouldn't sufficiently trust black soldiers, and vice versa. Now we see that this was not the case; the proposed distrust was simply an exogenous product of a racist culture at the time, not a necessary and immutable truth. So too with the present-day arguments justifying gender segregation.


Now Is The Time To Criticize Ron Paul

Now is the time to publicly proclaim what is wrong (while not denying what is right) with the Ron Paul campaign. The last thing we should do is keep our mouths shut for the sake of the "movement"; if you support Paul's campaign as a means of libertarian outreach, then it is your responsibility to steer people towards the ideas themselves and away from the personality cult. It is also your obligation to point out and explain any differences you may have with Paul's positions, so as not to give the impression that Paul speaks for all libertarians or that his positions represent (or are even compatible with) thoroughgoing libertarianism. Don't think for a minute that the appropriate time for public critique is after Paul inevitably loses the primary; by then it will be too late and nobody will care. Rad Geek puts it well:

As for rising libertarian consciousness, or openness to libertarian
ideas, I’d like to believe that it’s true, but I’m not especially
convinced. If it is true, though, I would suggest that absolutely the
most urgent thing to do is to start those conversations and unhitch
them as quickly and as thoroughly as possible from the Ron Paul train,
because we have a very short window of time — somewhere in the vicinity
of 1-3 months, depending on the breaks — before Ron Paul’s prospects in
the primaries are completely decided. If nothing significant happens in
that direction between now and then, then I think that a lot of money
and a lot of organizational energy will disappear right into the same
dark, lonely station where the Clark train, the Buchanan train, the
Perot train, the Nader train, and the Dean train are sitting idle after
all these election cycles. That’d be a shame, because, as much as I
dislike some of what they’re producing, they are certainly showing a
lot of genuine organizational intelligence.

There are a few different ways to try to do the unhitching. One is
to sympathetically engage current Ron Paul supporters in conversation,
to try to lead them to see the higher principles they are fighting for,
and not just the man. Another is to try to body check current Ron Paul
supporters on sloppy arguments or significant problems of consistency
on Ron Paul’s part, in order to try to more forcefully knock out some
of the blinders that may be preventing them from seeing the higher
principles. Another is to try to sympathetically address (for example)
lefty-statist critics of Ron Paul, in order to help them see some of
the genuine merits of the libertarian parts of his platform, and to
convince them that the anti-libertarian parts are a problem with Ron
Paul, not a problem with libertarianism. All of these things are
valuable, but unfortunately most of the stuff coming out of, for
example, LewRockwell.com is just more mindless partisan cheerleading
that does none of these things, and instead throws out some gross
distortions of genuine libertarian criticism on Ron Paul’s positions or
on electoral methods broadly.

Roderick Long does his part by taking on a particularly poor though frequently heard argument from Ron Paul supporters:

The argument goes like this: “Even if you think Paul is wrong on some particular issues, he’s still far, far more libertarian than any of the other candidates, so why not support him?”

The reason I find this argument puzzling is that those who make it
would not, I suspect, find it plausible in most other contexts.

Imagine, for example, that instead of Ron Paul it’s Randy Barnett who’s running for President.


The Minimal State vs. The Remedial State

This Hit & Run thread, which began by announcing Drew Carey's latest video for Reason.tv defending poker, morphed into the always entertaining anarchy vs. minarchy debate. And as if that wasn't enough, the liberventionist, Republican Party apologist, all-around-amusing fool Eric Dondero joined in the fray on another tangent, thereby demonstrating his superb mastery of logic and evidence.

The minimal state vs. no state debate reminded me of an article I've been meaning to discuss: John Hasnas' "Reflections on the Minimal State", 2 Politics, Philosophy, and Economics 115 (2003).

Hasnas exposes a major weakness in the Lockean justification for the minimal state; namely, that its conclusion does not follow from its premises. Hasnas translates the Lockean argument into modern terminology like so:

1) If the market cannot supply the rules of law, impartial adjudicators, and effective enforcement agencies necessary for human beings to live a secure and peaceful life in society, then a state that supplies these services is morally justified.

2) The market cannot supply the rules of law, impartial adjudicators, and effective enforcement agencies necessary for human beings to live secure and peaceful lives in society.

/ A state that supplies rule-making, adjudicative, and enforcement services is morally justified.

While most critics of the Lockean argument usually attack the empirical premise (2), Hasnas attacks the normative premise (1).

There are two main reasons why the market alone may not be sufficiently reliable to supply the goods in question: the public goods argument (absent state subsidy, the provision of rule-making, adjudicative, and enforcement services will be underproduced) and the abusive monopoly argument (the objection voiced in the Hit & Run thread - that anarchy is unstable because of power imbalances).

However, these two objections to anarchy do not alone justify a minimal state that itself provides these goods; rather, these objections, if valid, merely justify a remedial state that ensures that these services are provided. This is the same as the distinction libertarians constantly make between public schools and school vouchers: if it is the case that a free market alone will fail to produce an efficient level of education, then the correct response is state subsidy of education, not necessarily state provision.

Writes Hasnas,

Proving that the market cannot supply the rule-making, adjudicative, and enforcement services human beings need does not prove that a state must supply these services, merely that a state must remedy the market's failure to provide them. Therefore, the antecedent of the normative premise proves, at most, that a state that remedies this market failure is morally justified, not that a state that supplies these services itself is.

If, as a matter of fact, the only way to remedy the market's failure to supply the necessary rule-making, adjudicative, and enforcement services is for the state to provide them itself, then the normative premise can be shown to be true. However, it is far from evident that this is the case. Assume, for example, that Landes and Posner are correct that because private adjudication services lack incentives to establish clear precedents they will fail to produce adequate rules of behavior. Although this might justify the existence of a state that subsidized the private production of precedents, it does not require and therefore does not justify the existence of a state that monopolizes the production of precedents itself. Consider also Professor Cowen's argument. Assume that he is entirely correct that the private provision of basic protective and adjudicative services will lead to a dangerous cartel. This would seem to justify the existence of a state with the power to prevent protective agency collusion, not one that required all citizens to purchase protective and adjudicative services exclusively from itself.

I submit that in the absence of strong evidence that the only way to remedy the market's failure to provide adequate protective, adjudicative, and rule-making services is to supply them via a tax-supported monopoly, the normative premise of the Lockean argument cannot be regarded as true. For this reason, even if the empirical premise is true, the argument cannot establish its conclusion; that the minimal state, one that monopolizes the basic rule-making, adjudicative, and enforcement services, is morally justified.


Re: The Politics of Modern Art

Regarding Scott's art post below, an article in this week's edition of the Economist made a similar point:

MICHAEL BILLINGTON, the Guardian newspaper's chief theatre critic, says he has spent more than 8,000 nights at the theatre. This exhausting qualification enables him to take a long view of British theatre since 1945, and, on the whole, he gives it an excellent review. He recalls most vividly a memorable golden age in the late 1960s when he argues that the scope of British writing for the theatre was unequalled since that of William Shakespeare and his colleagues in the first Elizabethan age.

This is not absurd. The list was extraordinary: Harold Pinter, John Osborne, Peter Nichols, Sir Tom Stoppard and Sir Alan Ayckbourn. With Alan Bennett, Caryl Churchill, Mike Leigh and Sir David Hare waiting in the wings, and Samuel Beckett sending an occasional contribution over from Paris. Moreover, Mr Billington declares that the British theatre had acquired a decisive new role—“a more or less permanent opposition to whichever party was in power”. Since he is an admirer of the state-of-the-nation play, he approves of this development, and his principal criticism of the post-war era is that the theatre has sometimes failed in its duty to define exactly what is rotten in the state of Britain.


How’s that been working out for y’all lately?

Charles Johnson gets it ("it" being public choice theory):

If there’s anything of real value in Leftist economic analysis, it’s the way that the Left insistently points out that businesses are not large automata; that they are run by people, that people are limited in knowledge and are also easily corrupted when they have a great deal of power to gain at the expense of others. As a result, large corporations with critical resources often act in ways that are foolish, selfish, exploitative or destructive. If you’re trying to understand the economic world while ignoring the fact that it is made of people you will always go seriously astray. But if there’s one thing that’s been going wrong with the Left’s economic analysis during the past several decades (basically, since the 1930s, when Marxism and Progressivism each rose to the top of the heap in the radical and reformist wings of the Left), it’s the way in which they have refused to apply exactly the same analysis to the agents of the State. If it’s vital to remember that people run businesses, it is even more vital to remember that people run the government. And that is exactly what is being forgotten, because it is covered over by the shimmering mystical glow of the State. If Leftists are willing to call out cheerleaders for business when they fetishize the anonymous, undirected forces of the market and their supposedly reliable and benign march towards equilibrium, then they had better stop being cheerleaders for the State, and stop fetishizing the anonymous, undirected rules of the government and their supposedly reliable and benign pursuit of the public interest. That ain’t how it works now (just pick up any newspaper) and — this is the important part — it ain’t how it would work under any government. Bureaucracies are run by fallible human beings blundering their way through no matter what the party in power is; in the government they face the same knowledge problems and incentive problems that corporate bureaucrats face. In fact, they face even more severe knowledge problems and incentive problems — beacause, as agents of the government they hold a monopoly on whatever resources they control, and that monopoly is backed with handcuffs, guns, and bombs.

If critical resources are too important to leave in the hands of private businesses, then yes, they are damn well too important to put under the monopolistic control of government bureaucrats.

Now, pro-State Leftists might object at this point that I’m being unfair; the position is not that government is run by people any more perfect than business is, but rather that people in a democratic society, the people in government have restraints put on them that tends to direct them towards the public interest, whereas the environment in which business decisions are made is one that rewards the irresponsible pursuit of private advantage. But this, again, relies on a mystical conception of the State; here the mysticism comes in not with the conception of government intervention, but rather with the conception of control by the people. The idea that government officials — and appointed government bureaucrats especially, who are after all the people who run all the regulatory bodies — are responsive to what people like you and me want under most circumstances is so obviously refuted by a quick look at the daily operations of government that I must conclude that people who make these kind of arguments are being stopped from looking, because democratic mysticism is used as a substitute for observation.

If, to put it another way, the pro-State Left is making their argument for government control over some resource or another by claiming that you can always vote the jerks out of office if you don’t like how they are running things … well, then, how’s that been working out for y’all lately?


The Medium Is The Message: Why I Cannot In Good Conscience Support Ron Paul

The best an intellectually rigorous libertarian can say about the Ron Paul movement is that it's a great form of advertising. No one seriously believes Paul will win the nomination; the most we can hope for is that the campaign will awaken the dormant love of liberty in many who would have otherwise continued living a life of apathy in the campaign's absence. While I no longer actively support the Libertarian Party, and long ago ceased deluding myself into thinking it will ever achieve electoral success, I do owe a considerable debt to the LP for awakening my own personal interest in liberty. (Thank Zeus it didn't all begin with Rand for me; I can only imagine the sort of nutcase I might have become if it did.) If Paul's campaign manages to do the same for others like me, so much the better, and I hope it succeeds in this limited way.

But I am not the norm, and neither are you. Of the many who actively support and are involved in the Ron Paul movement, and who were not already libertarians to begin with, very few will have the time, patience, and energy - let alone the interest - to continue to explore the ideas of liberty long after the campaign ends in miserable failure, as it inevitably will. Don't believe me? Just go to any local LP meeting in your area and observe the topics of conversation. I lucked out; my local LP group consisted entirely of stereotypical white, male, suit-and-tie corporate professionals in their late 20s/early 30s, with no stereotypical Starchild or Papa Smurf in sight. The discussion ranged far and wide, from who among us would consider running as a candidate for the Municiple Water Treatment advisory board, all the way to the importance of promoting property tax cuts and good governance in our public electoral campaigns. Good governance? Tax finagling? A radical and invigorating intellectual discourse on the virtue of - and means of promoting - liberty in society this was not.

As the Bush administration has been piling mistake upon squandered opportunity upon violated campaign promise, increasing the size and scope of government beyond anyone's expection or desire, all the while isolating us from the international community's genuine post-9/11 sympathy, libertarians correctly advised both Democrats and Republicans unhappy with these outcomes that the problems are not (at least not solely) the result of putting the wrong person in office, but instead, are systematic of any massive, centralized bureaucracy given the power to coerce its subjects, expected to solve any and every problem, and with little to nothing in the way of competition to check, balance, and ultimately restrain its limitless authority. To believe that if, next time, we just elect the right candidate, all of these problems will surely be avoided, is to embrace the Care Bear Stare theory of politics: perhaps endearing when exhibited by young children, but embarrassing in adults seemingly incapable of or unwilling to recognize the structural incentives that monopolies of power inevitably create.

What, then, are we to make of these same libertarians who, after so wisely redirecting our focus away from the specific qualities of individual electoral candidates and instead towards the structural limitations of any system of centralized power in theory, now wish to endorse Ron Paul as the presidential candidate worthy of our attention, money, and votes? Of course we don't expect him to win, but even as a vehicle for advertising libertarianism, what sort of message are we sending?

The medium is the message. Communicating a message of liberty through an electoral campaign necessarily entails endorsing electoral campaigns as a legitimate and effective tool for achieving collective goals. In our case, as libertarians, our collective goal is liberty, and in this particular case, our collective goal is increasing our ranks through advertising. Yet if libertarianism means anything at all, it means a strong aversion to the use of electoral politics as a tool for solving social problems - if not categorically restraining ourselves from doing so, than at least doing so as infrequently as humanly possible.

This is not to say that the hypocrisy of using a means libertarians themselves frequently consider illegitimate or ill-advised will have no chance of getting our message across. It certainly worked in my case, and I'm sure it has worked for many others. But it is unreasonable to expect most of the target audience, having been successfully persuaded that Ron Paul is the candidate to support, to then go through the trouble of seperating the wheat from the chaff and come to the self-realization that implicit in Paul's message of liberty is the notion that our focus should not be on selecting a candidate with admirable qualities such as honesty, integrity, and devotion to constitutional limits on government, but instead our focus should be on the inherent threat to liberty of the system itself, regardless of who happens to be temporarily at its helm. Bundling these two things together involves a self-contradiction between the medium and its message. Expecting people to ignore that contradiction, expecting people to hear the message we actually intend to send while rejecting the message of the medium itself, is expecting too much. Far better to communicate the message of liberty through legitimate, direct and non-contradictory means: academia, mainstream newspapers, pop-culture, and alternative, bottom-up sources.

All of the above takes for granted that, apart from the chosen medium, I agree with the overall content of Paul's message. I do not. While his positions on such issues as immigration, gay marriage, abortion, and the gold standard are well within the libertarian milieu and can be justified, with varying degrees of success, using libertarianish arguments, Paul's position on these issues represents a virulent strain of libertarianism, a strain I find in parts distasteful, outdated, kooky, unmarketable, and unlikely to result in a "thick" and flourishing liberal order if enacted.

On a related note, Stefan Molyneu, whose radio show I happily discovered through a favorable endorsement from Brad Spangler by way of Roderick Long, argues that if Ron Paul somehow miraculously wins the presidency, he would be a complete disaster for libertarianism, forever associating libertarianism in the minds of the general public with chaos, violence, and fascism at worst (assuming he actually tries to enact the libertarian policies we and he support), or incompetence, impotence, and failure to make good on any of his campaign promises at best (assuming he doesn't do anything at all).

Edit:  Co-blogger Scott Scheule responds 


Breaking News: Don't Get Rickrolled

Bin Laden captured.

In depth analysis of this important cultural phenomenon here.


Thought Experiment In Lieu Of A Response

I will have to postpone responding to all of the various objections made in my athiesm thread till tomorrow or sometime later in the week. Expect a new post or a series of posts on this topic, defending the claim that "It is not enough to simply respectfully tolerate religion; it must be actively opposed and dismantled by those concerned with truth, progress and reason," and therefore why Hitchens, Dawkins and other vocal athiests are doing culture an important service by showing that religion poisons everything.

For now, here's a thought experiment to chew on:

Are the innovative technical achievements of The Birth of a Nation a credit to the Ku Klux Klan? Or, do we say that D.W. Griffith was a talented and groundbreaking filmmaker despite his white supremacism, and that his filmmaking chops did not benefit from his racist beliefs, but were actually poisoned and reduced by them?


Richard Dawkins Must Be Shepping Nachas

Fellow '05 Koch alum and Liberty Bell Clara channels her inner Hitchens:

For centuries, the brightest Jews on Earth slaved over the Mishna, Talmud and Torah. They grappled with such crucial topics as daily prayer rituals, the “purity” of women, the sinfulness of certain food, and the precise constitution of forbidden work on the weekly day of rest. Often they disagreed, and they responded to each other with finely tuned arguments.

One of the great tragedies of the human race has been the decision to funnel its most promising scholars into such narrow, unproductive professions — Jews into the rabbinate, Christians into the priesthood. It is difficult to fathom the extent of medical, technological and artistic progress retarded during centuries spent contemplating this drivel.

Watching friend after friend throw away the chance to attend college and live a self-sustaining, productive life, but instead get married, move to Israel, have lots of babies, and live off the support of their parents, their wives (who are expected to have a career and raise a litter of children at the same time, while their husbands pour over millennia-old religious texts all day) or the government is what convinces me of the importance of Christopher Hitchens' clarion call that religion poisons everything. It is not enough to simply respectfully tolerate religion; it must be actively opposed and dismantled by those concerned with truth, progress and reason.


Decriminalize It, Don't Legalize It?

Hit & Run commenter Jozef makes an interesting point that I've been going back and forth on for a while. Is it better to legalize or decriminalize immigration?

Responding to Nick Gillespie's claim that "Anything that brings people into the official economy is a good thing," Jozef writes,

That may not always be true. For example, legalizing the status of illegals will price most of them out of the job market, and they'll be replaced with a new wave of (cheaper) illegal labor. As a result, bringing them into official economy will put them into the unemployment benefits/social security bucket, which is not such a great thing.

I'm not so sure I agree entirely with that last sentence. After all, "the existence of easy migration makes welfare state policies less attractive." But the first point remains: legalization - i.e. bringing people into the official economy - necessarily involves subjecting former workers in the black market cash economy to things like minimum wage laws and employment taxes. While it is true that any immigrant who actively chooses to go through the legalization process must believe that participation in the official economy (and the associated welfare benefits that come along with it) is preferable to continued participation in the black market economy, that doesn't necessarily mean this process is good for employers or consumers.

In intra-libertarian immigration debates, the pro-immigration side often argues in favor of second-class citizenship as a way to avoid the "welfare leach" objection of the anti side. The anti side rejoinders that second-class citizenship is politically unpalatable, even though it's the sort of citizenship that every libertarian would choose for themselves - no direct taxes, no direct welfare benefits, and not being subject to minimum wage and other labor laws.

Decriminalization essentially creates this second-class citizenship system, without having to worry about whether it is politically palatable to the electorate. Having border patrol agents look the other way when people cross, and not actively looking for immigrants already here who did not come here legally, might be in many ways preferable to actual immigration legalization. An added benefit is that non-enforcement of laws that are on the books further erodes the public's respect for the rule of law, which is already a huge joke anyway.


Can I Out-Libertarian Bryan Caplan?

While I did get a perfect score on his Libertarian Purity Test, I never thought I'd see the day when I would be willing to accept a more extreme conclusion than Caplan. Well, that day has come.

Caplan discusses a recent Penn and Teller episode about the Americans With Disabilities Act. Apparently, P&T argue against ADA regulations designed to help the disabled on the grounds that they backfire and wind up hurting their intended beneficiaries. While Bryan gladly accepts the notion that employment-related regulations often have perverse effects, it seems ludicrous to Bryan for P&T to say that "using regulation to make life easier for the handicapped stops them from helping themselves, robbing them of the drive to overcome their disabilities."

I have not seen the episode in question so I don't know what specific mechanism P&T might have described to explain this phenomenon. And while I'm not at all interested in defending anything along the lines of the typical conservative critique of welfare, I think there is a perfectly plausible economic argument to explain why regulations intended to make life easier for the handicapped - say, mandatory ramps or elevators to complement stairs - does indeed stop them from helping themselves. Or more specifically, stops others in general from helping the disabled.

We live in a world that is not wheelchair friendly, despite the dictates of the ADA. That is partly due to nature - wheelchairs aren't very good for off roading across bumpy terrain, nor for climbing very steep inclines - and partly due to the ubiquity and cost concerns of manmade structures. Many buildings that were constructed before the ADA was passed, or that were constructed in other countries, are not wheelchair accessible. Further, even if a building is wheelchair accessible, the elevators and ramps may often be much less convenient than the stairs.

The regulations mandating wheelchair accessibility have the unintended consequence of reducing the demand for something like Dean Kamen's iBOT. The iBOT is capable of climbing up and down stairs, traveling off road through a large variety of terrain, and allows the user to rise from a sitting level to approximately 6 ft. tall, in order to reach an object up high or speak to others at eye-level. Of course, at over $26,000, the iBOT may be out of many people's price range. But price is partly a function of demand, and demand for innovations like the iBOT would be even higher in the absence of regulations mandating wheelchair accessibility. Higher demand means a greater incentive for inventors to design a product and introduce it earlier than they might have done otherwise. Earlier introduction and wider production runs also mean that prices drop sooner than they would have otherwise. So it is very possible that something like the iBOT would have been introduced years earlier, and would be much cheaper, if not for regulations that reduce the incentive for innovators to help improve the lives of the disabled. In a sense, regulations like mandated wheelchair accessibility crowd out market solutions.

Now, all that said, I have no idea if the net effect is positive or negative. It may very well be the case that, despite the delayed introduction and higher prices of technologies like the iBOT, the overall effect to the disabled of wheelchair accessibility laws is still positive. I just wanted to come up with a plausible perverse effects mechanism for why this might not be as obvious as it seems.


Family Guy Teaches Regulatory Capture, Giuliani-style Fear Mongering

In what is arguably the most libertarian, anti-democracy (in a good way!) episode of Family Guy to date, May 13's "It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One demonstrates not only a keen understanding of public choice theory and the inevitable corruptive influence of political power on even well-intentioned do-gooders, but also eerily predicts the outcome of the Ron Paul/Rudy Giuliani exchange, which would take place two days later. Here are some choice clips:

(Embedded video html isn't working at the moment so I'll have to make due with text links.)

Lois's Mayoral Speech "9-11"
Legion of Doom
Mayor West Shoots People


Shameless Eugoogly

Heart attacks are the wrath of a just god against people like Jerry Falwell.


More X-Play Clips

These are just too good not to post:

Imperial Press Conference - Emperor Goes Temp:

Ahrnold Says Yes to No Violence:

"Not now, my Night Elf is mining!" World of Warcraft: Online Roleplaying Game and Birth Control Device:

X-Play's "Guide to Dating" Starring Kratos:


Comic Book Specialization

Keeping with the comic book theme here at Catallarchy, Bryan Caplan discusses the complex division of labor in comic book creation, something I've known about for a long time but never really thought of in the context of specialization.

You see, my first job was working at a comic book store. This was not your run of the mill, strip mall comic book store. No, the business was located in the basement of an antique shop, with the only entrance around back near a loading dock, with the outside walls covered in colorful graffiti and used regularly for handball. The area was semi-seedy, but punk and hip at the same time, in the way stores near Little Five Points tend to be.

The two proprietors, Tim and Tony, were old friends in their mid 30s, who decided to pool their respective comic book collections together as back issues, and sell through both the store front and the occasional local comic book convention. I was hired to alphebetize, re-bag and board, and price all of the back issues, as well as run the register one day a week when Tim and Tony had other commitments. I was paid mostly in store credit, but occasionally received cash for register duty. (All under the table, of course.)

Tim and Tony also shared the space and rent with Don Hillsman, a professional comic book artist who was then inking the DC title, Damage.

Damage

As Brian's post points out, an inker is a middleman: Don would receive daily FedEx packages containing oversized pencilled drawings (the art paper used in the creative process is much larger than the final retail product) and work the pencilling over with various types of black ink for a day or two, and then repackage his own workproduct and mail it to the next stage in production (sometimes the colorer, sometimes the letterer). What was amazing about this whole process is that it took place across the entire continental U.S., with some of the production staff in L.A., some in New York, and Don in Atlanta.

Stranger still was the image of me, a 12-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish boy with long sidelocks and a black, velvet yarmalka, working with these three black guys - Tim and Tony were pretty much business casual, but Don dressed semi-Rastafarian with long dreadlocks and a colorful knitted wool cap. Man, I miss those guys.