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You Can\'t (?) Take The Sky From Me

It strikes me that the whole Firefly series can be viewed as a commentary on Patri's "dynamic geography" concept-- both its promise and its pitfalls. A little spaceship is not so different from a little seastead, and Mal's motivating idea is definitely one of escape from a tyranny he can't defeat. As he tells the Operative in the movie (paraphrasing): "I can't beat you [the Alliance]. Don't have to. Read more »


An Unheralded Victory

In a recent, excellent Agitator post one statistic stood out to me. According to this table, the incidence of reported rapes per 1000 women has dropped by a factor of six in the last twenty years. This is a much greater reduction than for the other crimes in the list, which have also dropped but by factors of "only" 2.5 to 3, so it can't be explained just by the general downward trend in violent crime. Read more »


The Price We\'ve Paid

Lt. Gen. Honore has garnered, quite rightly, praise for telling his troops, "Point your weapons down. This is not Iraq."

But what gets me is, he had to say it. Twenty years ago, he wouldn't have had to.

Twenty years from now, when the next disaster strikes, will an Honore be around to say it? Will anyone?


Yet Another Charity Worth Your Attention

I've given several times in the past to Modest Needs. They specialize in making small, one-time donations to people for the sorts of things that can make the difference between struggling at the edge of poverty and falling over it-- car and home repairs, job interview clothing, utility bill payments, that sort of thing. They're clever and innovative and take private funds only; they exemplify the best of American civil society. Radley Balko has written about them before. Read more »


Two Thoughts

One sober-minded, one less so. Read more »


Protection Money

Jim Henley makes a fair point, but I can't get over the implications of this Agitator post. Just $250 million to fix the damn levees and water pumps could have mitigated this horror so greatly. ("Mitigated", not alleviated; no amount of fixing-up was going to save the Mississippi coast, but without the flooding of NO this whole thing would be "only" a great tragedy, not an epic disaster). Read more »


Bubbles, Zoning, History

Patri's recent posts on the housing bubble put me in mind of the paper by Gyourko and Glaeser arguing that, within the US at least, the relative heights of housing prices could be explained by the stringency of zoning laws. Read more »


Brunel on Patents

In emulation of Arnold Kling, a quotation with discussion question —

The quotation is from the 1851 memoirs of the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, arguing against the patent system: Read more »


Oldies But Goodies

Two items that are now oldish-- by Internet standards-- but nonetheless well worth your time.

First, Jim Henley is in very fine form on lies and killing by the British state. The ending is a darn good candidate for Libertarianism In One Sentence:

They [the State] will always have powerful reasons to fail and powerful incentives to lie.


On Autonomy

If you're interested in wonkish debates on the philosophy of liberty, I recommend you go read the last ten or so posts over at Will Wilkinson's The Fly Bottle. Will has made a variety of astute observations on happiness and its implications for liberty, with Bill Korner serving as a foil/heckler in comments.

Bill made a comment to this post that typifies a quite common modern-liberal argument against classical liberalism:

I have argued... that an individual's [relative] autonomy should be evaluated by looking at the whole range of choices he/she faces and how attractive those are compared to others' (in his/her view). I suggest that this is a much more meaningful view of autonomy than one that sees it as having ones rights as side-constraints respected.

This, IMHO, is clearly wrong, and it's worth exploring why it's wrong, because it is such a common philosophical claim, and it attempts to hijack one of the most important and appealing values of classical liberalism and twist it to the purposes of modern liberalism. To that end, a thought-experiment below the fold. Read more »


Consequences of IP

As Patri posted below about one set of recent speakers at work, I'll finally give voice to a thought I had about another. Some time ago Michael Lesk came to talk at work about the Million Book Project, which aims to scan in books and OCR them to create a vast, free searchable database of printed material. Read more »


No Single Cause

Doug's post provides a nice counterpoint to a too-common logical fallacy of blogospheric arguments: the idea that an event can have only one major cause. Read more »


Leftism: The Search for a Superior Moral Justification for Envy

In online discussions of inequality, one often sees leftists argue that increasing inequality is bad even if nearly everyone is getting better off in an absolute sense, because relative position in and of itself affects happiness. Since people often feel less happy, more stressed, etc. when they know that others are doing far better than they, the argument goes, redistributive taxation can increase the sum of happiness in society. Read more »


Only in America

While I'm newsblogging, this piece from the NY Times is one of those things that really-seriously-no-cliche-here-at-all makes me proud to be an American.

Funny, too, how neatly it undermines the thesis of the Times' recent (now archived) series on class and social mobility. If you pitched a tale like this guy's to a fiction publisher, a cynical laugh would be the nicest response you could hope to receive; it makes Horatio Alger look realistic-- except that it happened. Read more »


Two Quick News-Takes

Hi again, Catallarchy audience! I apologize for my long absence-- a very stressful + long cross-country move followed by a very busy first week of work left me w/o much mental energy to blog until now.

Anyway, this weekend's SF Examiner contained a couple of items of interest.

First, this local item details a "Lost Liberty Hotel"--style revenge action; sadly, this one is not just a publicity stunt. Read more »