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Web of Trust

Web of Trust gives this blog site a very poor rating. Probably some people who disagree with the politics gave it poor scores, and since there aren't many votes those poor scores can pull it down a lot.

Perhaps some of the people here should vote it up. Also I guess WoT isn't particularly reliable on some less trafficked sites.


Biased Towards Bigger Government

Previously, I made a pitch for an improved form of representative democracy: score voting. With Score Voting we could ditch the two-party duopoly and explore incremental versions of many different ideologies: libertarianism, market environmentalism, Christian liberalism, Georgism, Objectivism, Darwinism, or whatever. While radicals of any school would still have difficulty getting elected, different districts could tentatively explore a few of many possible directions. Our state and local governments would become true laboratories of democracy. Meanwhile, our national legislatures would be filled with a variety of near-moderates; diverse enough to represent the nation while moderate enough to work together. Power would likely flow back from the executive to the legislative branch. We would be a working republic once again, instead of elected near dictatorship (in the classical sense).

Some of you received the idea warmly. Others were troubled. A more democratic system means rule by the median voter, and many of you distrust the median. With the median voter in charge, would we get even more largesse for the middle class? A more progressive income tax? Protectionism? Persecution of minorities?

Legitimate concerns all, but I think a bit misplaced. The median voter is no libertarian, for sure, but government has grown beyond the median voter's desires. We are biased towards bigger government, in several ways.

Civil servants and other recipients of government largesse vote for more. As the number of government employees, contractors and subsidy moochers grows, so grows the demand for bigger government. Moreover, these are the people who show up to vote even when the general public is disengaged. Reengage the general public; make elections interesting contests instead of coronations for incumbents; and the special interests lose some clout. Score Voting has the potential to reduce this bias somewhat, but by no means completely.

The bigger bias, however, is ideological. Our two-party duopoly virtually guarantees that government will ratchet ever upwards. Have a look at this political map. We have a bigger government party of the Left and a party of the Right which includes both big and small government coalition members. The aforementioned map is not the Nolan Chart, BTW, but a map using Left and Right in a more traditional sense: Left means a call for a more egalitarian society and looking out for the poor; Right means defense of the existing order, including wealth distribution. The Democratic Party is dominated by moderate socialists and welfarists. The Republican Party represents defense against the Democrats. The Republican Party thus contains a fair number of free market capitalists, but it is also the home of mercantilists, militarists, authoritarian traditionalists, crony capitalists, and others who wish to preserve economic elite.

The existing alignment makes government ratchet upwards. The Republicans increase the demand for socialism by widening the wealth gap, and the Democrats provide it. The United States lacks a party of the Upper Left, a party which calls for smaller government and a narrower wealth gap. So government grows bigger and the wealth gap widens. Since our society moves Down and to the Right due to systemic bias, it is reasonable to hypothesize that the median voter is somewhere in the Upper-Left quadrant. A new political party which occupies this quadrant might well become a dominant party.

But starting a new party under current conditions is a problematic indeed, and I doubt this audience is much interested in taking on such a risky and expensive venture. Our other option is to open the market to new parties -- or new non-party political factions. That is, with Score Voting in place we can expect one or several new parties of the Upper Left to enter the political market. With the Lower-Right ideological bias gone, we have hope of shrinking government back to the size desired by the median voter. And with government thus shrunk, the civil service/special interest bias shrinks as well. Positive feedback might work in our favor for a change.


Forget Iran, the next war could be Venezuela

Don Boudreaux highlights some Hugo Chávez shenanigans from the WSJ:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, beset by a recession that is hurting his popularity, has turned his sights on international car companies, threatening them with nationalization and pledging to ramp up government intervention in their local businesses.

The populist leader has threatened to expropriate Toyota Motor Corp.’s local assembly plant if the Japanese car maker doesn’t produce more vehicles designed for rural areas and transfer new technologies and manufacturing methods to its local unit. He said other car companies were also guilty of not transferring enough technology, mentioning Fiat SpA of Italy, which controls Chrysler Group LLC, and General Motors Co.

Let's assume that Chávez indeed nationalizes a General Motors plant. Being that the U.S. Department of the Treasury owns a majority of GM, we could expect more war almost instantly. I know Chávez is a little off, but I think he's smarter than that.


Juror Qualification Questionnaire

I recently got a letter that I have to fill out and return under threat of fine or imprisonment, the "juror qualification questionnaire". I won't get into a discussion about jury duty per se here, but this form was already a pain in the ass. One of the questions was "Are you qualified to vote in X County?"

Well, is anyone qualified to vote? Not really, but but I doubt that's what they mean. I'm not registered to vote, so I guess I'm not qualified. Or does that mean I've never been convicted of a felony and could theoretically get my papers in order to vote? In that case, I am qualified.

In any event, I answered no.


No Leader? No Problem

Ann Althouse has here one of the odder criticisms of President Obama I've heard, in response to yesterday's attempted plane bombing:

"President Barack Obama’s Christmas Day began with a briefing about a botched attack on an airliner in Detroit and ended with a visit to a dining hall for members of the military. His holiday vacation was designed to be an island respite from the pressures of the White House."

Well, tough. Whoever puts himself forward to become President is asking to be on call constantly for the next 4 years — every day of the year, around the clock.

"Obama and first lady Michelle Obama made a quick trip to Marine Corps Base Hawaii after a private day exchanging gifts and eating a holiday meal of roast beef at their rented home in Kailua — between briefings on the disrupted plot of suspected terrorism."

Why, exactly, are they in Hawaii — over 5,000 miles* from the White House? I'm not criticizing Obama in particular for going on vacations. I mean to criticize all the Presidents who go far away from Washington.

But what, precisely, do we expect presidents to do? She admits that there was essentially nothing Obama could do about this but that it is a "a reminder of what can happen".

OK, then, think back to 9/11, which is what "can" happen. What, in a precise way, did Bush do that day? What could he have done? I don't mean that as a criticism of him in any way. When you have a functioning organization, the fact that the top leader is momentarily out of the loop is of little consequence. I admit my memory is a little fuzzy, but I remember great acts of heroism, but little in the way of federal government action. And that is OK.

Presidents matter. They help set policy at a broad, macro level. But what they do not do, and cannot do, is run the government as a micro level. Even in a "crisis" situation, ordinary people, government functionaries, police, doctors, etc. will do their jobs, and it doesn't make a damn bit of difference if Obama, McCain, Clinton, or Kucinich is "in charge".

Obama was in Hawaii? Irrelevant. There were people on the plane who subdued the attempted bomber. Ordinary citizens, being heroes, with no government orders from On High.

The greatest President in American history was inaugurated on August 2, 1923. He was woken up after the death of his predecessor, strolled downstairs, took the oath of office, and went back to bed. Would that we understood today how to behave as the chief bureaucrat of the central public goods administration.


More proof that China will one day own us

I came across this clip while surfing Youtube for Jim Rogers clips. It's of Soros being interviewed in China in front of a large audience of what appears to be reporters. I have no idea who the two Chinese men are sitting next to him, whether they be journalists or have some connection to the government, but the guy on the right challenges Soros on his views of what causes and cures recessions. What's interesting is that the Chinese man makes arguments straight out of the Austrian economics catechism. If his views are common in China, the Chinese will one day own us (if they don't already).

Soros eventually does talk about Jim Rogers at the end, basically belittling him and claiming he hasn't been successful since he left the Quantum Fund. I've been following Rogers for over a decade, and his predictions have been basically correct, moreso than any other talking head I've seen. I haven't, however, seen any hard numbers on his returns.


Macroeconomics is complete and total horseshit

Though I've felt this way since the beginning, I don't think I've actually spelled it out. So there it is.

Merry Christmas!


More proof that Jason Mraz is immanentizing the eschaton

The only part I understood was "But I..."


Sheriff Arpaio… of Nottingham?

As recently brought to my attention by Randall McElroy III, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County has gone off the deep end. The link in his post doesn’t adequately inform the individual who may have just recently stumbled upon this horrid mess in Maricopa County.

Let me say that the first time I had ever learned anything of substance about Arpaio was in the documentary American Drug War. He seemed like a relatively harmless little statist with no ambitions beyond tormenting those unfortunate enough to be arrested in his County, turns out I was dead wrong.

Excerpts from The Thin Blue Whine: The Crybaby Thugs of Maricopa County by William Norman Grigg.

Male prisoners are required to wear pink underwear; until a lawsuit ended the practice, female detainees were under constant video surveillance, including hidden cameras in the toilet facilities. Inmates are fed green bologna and forced to work in chain gangs. Many are housed in surplus military tents that offer little effective shelter from the elements.

That really doesn’t bother me too much, what else would you expect from a county dungeon?

After several people charged with non-violent offenses died of culpable abuse or neglect while in Arpaio’s custody, the county was forced to pay millions of dollars in legal settlements.

Ok, now that is real problem. Now it is sounding like a Pre-Magna Carta dungeon.

[...]Arpaio — with the aid of the similarly megalomaniacal Maricopa County prosecutor, Andrew Thomas — attempted to prosecute and imprison the people who had brought those irregularities to light: The reporters and editorial staff of the independent Phoenix New Times newspaper.

In August 2007, the Maricopa County Prosecutor’s Office hit the Phoenix New Times with a grand jury subpoena demanding detailed information, including “Every note, tape, and record from every story written about Sheriff Arpaio by every reporter over a period of years” as well as “detailed information on anyone who has looked at the New Times Web site since 2004″ as well as every individual “individual who looked at any story, review, listing, classified, or retail ad [in the publication] over a period of years.”

If that doesn’t really get your goat, just read the whole article and see if you can justify (to yourself) the actions of this statist fool, who makes the Sheriff of Nottingham seem like a reasonable fellow.

Sheriff Arpaio is mad as a March Hare and is absolutely drunk on power.

originally posted to http://fedland.tk


Malice or Stupidity?

In a conversation with my wife this weekend, I was complaining about some new acts of regulation that emerged from the sausage factory of government. I framed these as the unintended consequences of stupid politicians, and in this case, she took the opposing side of that age-old debate and suggested that they were the intentional consequences of malicious politicians.

I was suddenly reminded of a passage from Murray Rothbard's "Conceived in Liberty" (Volume 3, p. 272):

Suddenly America erupted again, and now the British saw that the colonial problems had never been really quieted. They also began to see something more: that generally only the "extreme" poles are logical or viable, and that in-between states are logically self-contradictory and unstable mixtures that impel persistently toward one pole or the other. And so the British began to realize that continued drift and repeated near conflicts with Americans were unworkable, and that Great Britain must finally choose—either to pursue appeasement and go back to the salutary neglect and colonial quasi-independence of the pre—Seven Years' War era, or to take the hard line and crush the colonists and impose absolute British rule. The choice was appeasement and peaceful co-existence on the one hand, or maximum force for total victory on the other. In keeping with its nature, of course, the Tory imperialist ruling clique opted unhesitatingly for coercion and the mailed fist.

It made me consider the following idea. There are two stable social systems--central authoritarian control, and distributed individual action. A mix of the two is inherently unstable. When a solution is sought for a problem, the system incrementally moves in one of the two directions--either towards central control or distributed individualism. Someone who believes in authoritarian control, when faced with an unstable situation, will suggest to impose greater control, and incrementally move a step closer toward totalitarian government. Someone who believes in distributed action will act individually, and reinforce the distributed system. As the system reaches one of the two equilibria points, it is more difficult to move toward the opposing point.

Social systems are difficult to isolate. Previously, there may have been many independent societies separated geographically, but they are becoming ever more interlinked. As they come into contact with one another, either similar systems coalesce, or opposing systems display turbulence until they resolve.

Personally, I think the jury is in. The Internet shifted power toward individual control. The central planners are trying to shore up their system, and reaching totalitarian conclusions that may sound workable within the DC Beltway, but would take a near infinite amount of resources to implement. As Kevin Carson suggests in this C4SS paper (albeit discussing a more specific social structure--the Alternative Economy), we have passed a singularity.