Public

Public posts will appear on the Community blog, and may be promoted to the front page.

Obama will cure leprosy

He might. Leprosy:

I wept because, on several occasions, I've been told I can't date someone because her parents wouldn't approve of my race; that in spite of my intelligence, my responsibility, my diction, my future prospects, my talents and my everything else that makes me a good person--and even the fact that I look white--I'm different. It didn't matter whether the parents were liberal or conservative; or whether they were college educated or not: being black made me not good enough.

The example of a black man in the White House will surely go a long way toward eliminating what remains of the social leprosy that afflicts blacks in the United States.

The obese, in the meantime, should despair. They will remain social lepers until humans evolve into sea lions, which is to say, forever.


I Call For McCain

Here's my reasoning. Obama has raised so much cash and has run so many ads that the American public will blame him for all the commercial interruptions during their favorite shows. Mark my words.


Martin gets ripped, by the RIPTIDE!

Martin Sargent, of TechTV and Infected infamy was canned late October from his post at Revision3. Jim Louderback, CEO or Revision3, stated in a blog post that:

We’ve had a number of great successes here at Revision3, including Diggnation, Tekzilla and The Totally Rad Show. But not everything pans out. Just as in the past, when we ended shows that just weren’t building audiences or driving revenue, we had to make changes. As you may have heard, today we had to make some tough staffing decisions as we ended the run of a few of our shows.
For our long-running Photoshop show Pixel Perfect, it’s the end of a show that’s done over a hundred episodes, and delivered essentially a graduate level course in graphic design and technique. For PopSiren and Internet Superstar, it’s the end of 2 shows that had great promise, but never really found their audience.

Internet Superstar was the Sarge's latest show, after the end of Infected and Web Drifter.

His drunken humor and fake Olive Garden commercials will be greatly missed. I leave you with one of his most entertaining and informative episodes of Infected, number 27, the pornography special.


Direct Democracy: Power to the People!

Via David Broockman at the Flaming Libs blog, a study that suggests "that localities with direct democracy have much lower government spending as compared to those with representative democracy."

This contradicts a lot of my conservative friends who, fancying themselves aristocrats, tend to argue that the rabble would vote themselves bigger and bigger entitlements and fritter their money away on faddish programs without the wise hand of a (democratically assented to) representative elite to check them.

I'm in no position to judge the social science behind the study, but I think there are many reasons to favor direct democratic decision making as a second-best alternative to contract and anarchy.

  • Direct democratic referenda are about the only form of electoral politics where libertarian laws can get considered seriously and where libertarians can vote without holding their noses. Think of things like Prop 215, which legalized medical marijuana in California.
  • Direct democratic voting avoids a lot of the problems with log-rolling and special interests. It's prohibitively expensive, both due to the transaction costs and total number of electors involved, to bribe off the entire voting population.
  • A serious commitment to direct democracy naturally tends towards the decentralization of power and smaller jurisdictions. The unwieldiness and slowness of direct democracy are features not bugs. Because of the hard limits on the number of questions that can be seriously considered and voted on, a direct democratic system will of necessity tend to cleave to the principle of subsidiarity, the notion that decision making should be deferred to the smallest competent units.
  • Another feature of the ponderousness of direct democracy is that in many situations, cooler heads would prevail. If it had required several months for the gears of democratic legislation to turn, there would have been more debate regarding the response to 9/11, especially things like the PATRIOT Act, and more time for people's emotions to cool down.
  • The slowness of direct democracy would also give the market and civil society a shot to solve problems and get a head start on government intervention before the state could bring the hammer down. Perhaps the question of a financial bailout would be a moot point by the time voters got to decide on the issue and one reason that the internet is so free is that it changes faster than bodies like Congress can react to regulate it.

I find the example of Switzerland very encouraging. Direct democracy has a long history in Switzerland and the country is notably more decentralized, libertarian, and conservative than most developed countries.


Kid Rock & Dale Earnhardt Jr. lend a hand recruiting cannon fodd...erm..."Citizen Soldiers"

All-American Kid "And if you arrest me you dumb cop/I'll find your daughter and I'll give her this cock" Rock, serves his country with this stirring ode to the National Guard.

Choice lyrics:
So don't tell me who's wrong and right
when liberty starts slipping away.
and if you ain't gonna fight,
get out of the way.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
I love how the Army National Guard only pays for the best talent at the peak of its popularity to record their recruiting music. For another example, check out this 3 Doors Down video "Citizen Soldiers."

I saw the latter video at a theater during the advertisements before the movie "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," a movie in which the characters' response to discovering an ancient underground golden city in South Dakota is eclipsed by their awe-struck wonder at meeting the President of the United States.

Ha ha, take that Theophanes!
# Constant - 12 posts
# Theophanes - 12 posts

If it's a post war you want Constant, you got it, because I AM A WARRIOR.


Somali Report: Freedom fighters, Islamist bombin' and pirate booty.

The Somali Report: A biased, polemic report where we (pluralis majestatis) black marketeers salute the free Somali people and their struggle against international imperialism.

African Union thugs late last month reported heavy fighting for the strategic K 4 traffic circle in midtown Mogadishu. "This was the third day in a row that we were attacked at K4." Ugandan army Maj Bahoku Barigye said in an interview. They reported no casualties and also left out any numbers regarding deaths on either side. The BBC would sure have printed it, so they must not have bagged any of those nationalist or Islamist belligerents they are shooting at.

After making sure to create a correlation between the civil war and Islam, furthering the fear of the brown menace in the west's populace, the BBC continues:

Meanwhile, the peacekeepers are stuck in the middle of the belligerents with a questionable mandate and insufficient troops.

They then blather on about the disease and famine that has acutely affected that region for decades. Parroting the call of the internationalists: "Restore order and deliver food". Didn't they already try that, a bunch of times? Didn't these backwards little people force the withdrawal of the strongest military in the world by simply presenting a diffuse threat?

Echoes of Afghanistan. Gary Brecher, the War Nerd opens his Exile piece with:

Can I time these articles or what? The day after I put up my article on Ethiopia’s troubles in Somalia, 5 car bombs go off in two Somali cities targeting the Ethiopian consulate in Hargeisa, the Presidential Palace (such as it is), a UN HQ, and the Puntland Intelligence Service.

According to the BBC, the state captures a cleric and holds him, without evidence. You dont have to ask me to know that the state controlled media of the west constantly reports on islamists held for questions. Naturally, most of these would be terrorists are never charged. The threats and lies of the media having already done their job. Fear Islam folks, its the LAW.

The humorous headline reads:

Cleric held over Somali car bombs

A paragraph or two down and bam, truth:

No-one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the US has said it believes they were carried out by militants linked to al-Qaeda.

The Empire of Lies only opens its mouth to lie or devour our children.

Avast mateys! we set a c'rse round the harn!

Gary continues:

God, that’s got to be one of the scariest sights in the world, a speedboat full of Somali skeletons armed to the teeth coming aboard. These crews are mostly from hardworking South Asian places, Tamil or Bengali, and they didn’t sign on to play straight man to the Pirates of Puntland.

Once in a while you get a little more poetic justice, like when they boarded a French yacht and took the crew hostage a while back. Unfortunately, the champagne-poppers were rescued.

To the pirates and other belligerents of Somalia, I salute you!


Free Markets and Moral Character

The Templeton Foundation recently commissioned a group of thinkers to answer the question, "Does the Free Market Erode Moral Character?" I've read a good number of the entries (some I guessed weren't worth the time), and the series as a whole is pretty interesting. I wanted to highlight Kay Hymowitz's response. She putatively argued that it does, and the front part of her article is a jeremiad against all things modern, from the car to the television. But towards the end, she gets much more interesting:

In the United States, indicators of juvenile moral health, like rates of violence and promiscuity and rebellious attitudes toward adults, have declined in recent decades even as the electronic media have increased the market's reach.
[. . . ]
The relative moral health of the young has also been bolstered, it must be said, by the free market's relentless encouragement of self-discipline. To succeed in today's knowledge economy, young people understand that they must excel at school. Despite the temptations of consumerism, middle-class and aspiring immigrant children grow up knowing that education is crucial to maintaining or improving their status and that competition in the knowledge economy is keen. In an earlier day, children imbued with the Protestant ethic did their chores and minded their p's and q's. Today's kids go to cram schools and carry 40-pound backpacks.

I think this is precisely correct. It's an old (and correct) libertarian argument that markets discourage discrimination through the use of impersonal exchange. What maybe has been understated, though, is the extent to which capitalism builds moral virtues. Deidre McCloskey has written extensively on this (I haven't read it yet myself though), and I think it's absolutely true. Building a society of hard-working, honest citizens is made easier by the market, not harder.

What I wish the article had focused more on is this assertion:

The free market's celebration of hedonism and autonomy has had its predicted effect on those with less cultural capital – the poor and, more recently, the working class. In low-income communities, the assault on norms of self-restraint and fidelity in personal relations has undermined both the extended and the nuclear family.

I'm not so sure I agree, but it's provocative at least. I think it's very arguable that changing "traditional" mores has been a net negative for the lower class. But what I would say is that the poor are also the most insulated from the market economy. If we want to improve the lot of the poor, we need them to be integrated into the market system that she herself argues has done so well to improve the moral character of the middle classes, to say nothing about what it has done for the material standard of living.


Global terrorist network attacks civlians in Syria.

Bringing the world under the oppressive grip of petro-imperialists is dirty business. Directed killings and mass murder go hand in hand when the Empire of Lies spreads its tentacles deeper into Babylon.

Juan Gonzalez of DN! :

JUAN GONZALEZ: Thousands of Syrians have taken to the streets of Damascus to protest Sunday’s US military raid that killed eight people in the Syrian village of Abu Kamal, five miles from Syria’s border with Iraq. The US embassy in Damascus is shut down for the day and surrounded by heavily armed police.

On Tuesday, Syria lodged a complaint with the UN and ordered the closure of an American school and cultural center. The Assad government is demanding a formal apology from the US and has threatened to cut off cooperation on Iraqi border security. On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem called the attack an act of “terrorist aggression.”

WALID AL-MOUALEM: Killing civilians in international law means terrorist aggression. The Americans do it under daylight. This means it is not mistake. It is by determination, by blunt determination. For that, we consider this criminal and terrorist aggression. We put the responsibility on the American government, and they need to investigate and return back to us with the result and explanation why they did it.

The White House comment is, in essence: Be a "Good German" and stop asking questions.

DANA PERINO: Jim, what I can tell you is that I am not able to comment on reports about this reported incident, and I’m not going to—I’m not going to do so. You can come up here and try to beat it out of me, but I will not be commenting on this in any way, shape or form today. Or tomorrow—

REPORTER: What about another agency? Nobody? If it comes, it’s going to come from here, and so it’s not going to—nothing is going to come out of it?

DANA PERINO: I don’t believe anybody is commenting on this at all. April?

REPORTER: Dana, why can’t you comment? Is it a reason for national security, or is it political? I mean, why not—

DANA PERINO: To give you an answer to that would be commenting in some way on it, and I’m not going to do it. So, I—

REPORTER: But, I mean, Dana, you can’t give us anything? I mean, this is a major issue.

DANA PERINO: Nothing.

REPORTER: This is a major issue.

DANA PERINO: I understand the reports are serious, but it’s not something I’m going to comment on in any way.

The jingoist, bloodthirsty MSM has been avoiding this for the most part. Those not avoiding it are defending the action as being necessary to fight the War on Terror. War is peace, ignorance is strength.

I can't help but see Doctor Strangelove, attempting to prevent his arm from shooting up into a straight armed, 45 degree salute. JA WOLLE mein fuhrer!


Australia to implement mandatory internet censorship

Human Rights Watch has condemned internet censorship, and argued to the US Senate "there is a real danger of a Virtual Curtain dividing the internet, much as the Iron Curtain did during the Cold War, because some governments fear the potential of the internet, (and) want to control it"

Read the Herald Sun story here.

When ideas are weapons too, they must be regulated and eventually confiscated. That is the position of the state it appears. Funny thing is even the great firewall of China cannot stop dedicated individuals from finding ways past the wall.

With open source projects such as TOR and various altruistic groups providing proxies for surfers, bloggers and reporters, I cannot help but laugh when I hear about this. Building a wall simply provides a mountain for the Edmund Hillary types among us, we need not bring down the wall, only climb it.

There is no spoon.


Franklin D Hoover for President

One misconception about the Great Depression was that Herbert Hoover was a free market Republican Conservative. He was actually a technocratic government activist, with a disastrous track record. His predecessor Calvin Coolidge was a true conservative whose motto was “All freedom is individual.” Conservatives get a bad rap from libertarians because of modern day pseudo-conservatives. Unfortunately true conservatives today are even more peripheral than libertarians. Never fear, we are about to get some change. But what sort of change?

When Obama takes over will he be the new Franklin D. Roosevelt?

Introducing:
Franklin D. Hoover Obama, President.
Read This and This for more information.


Dawkins approaches self-parody

This reads almost like a piece from The Onion. With minor adjustments it could be placed into The Onion successfully. He carefully surrounds his points with "I'm not sure" and "perhaps", so his remarks on the pernicious effect of Harry Potter on the young mind are not quite Onion material ... yet.

"I haven't read Harry Potter ... I don't know what to think about magic and fairy tales."

Prof Dawkins said he wanted to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards".

"I think it is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know," he told More4 News.

"I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research." ...

But this stuff comes closer to Onion level (my emphasis):

... Prof Dawkins said: "Do not ever call a child a Muslim child or a Christian child – that is a form of child abuse because a young child is too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or morality.

"It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue, for example, about teaching about hell and torturing their minds with hell.

"It's a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. I wouldn't want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it's as bad as many forms of physical abuse."

Ha ha, take that Theophanes!

# Constant - 12 posts
# Theophanes - 12 posts


The road to the fish bowl

Good piece over at Chicago Boyz about the fate of privacy under the nanny state.

... When we set the State a task, no matter how well intentioned or widely supported, we grant it the power to collect and store the information needed to carry out that task. ... Neither can we let the State keep such information secret. The public needs access to that information to determine if the State performed the task set for it or to determine if it abused its power. ...

People forget that the primary modality for control in a modern tyranny is not the secret police but rather fine tuned control over peoples economic lives. ...

Something of the same system arose in the major cities of the northeast during the early half of the 20th Century. ...

Each year we come up with some innocuous little program that we believe will do some good and we tack it on top of the many, many layers of programs from previous years. At the same time, we rarely terminate any programs. ...

People who wet their pants because the NSA reads their international emails are worrying about the wrong part of government. The NSA can only know who you talked to overseas, the rest of government can peer into the totality of your life.


Why Elections Are So Close

Obama will probably win, but will he get more than 60% of the popular vote? Going by history and by the current polls, probably not. Why not? Generally speaking: what are the Democratic and Republican parties, that cycle after cycle they each garner close to 50% of the vote?

Maybe the question almost answers itself and maybe it's been answered much better than I can, but I'm going to spell out my half-baked theory. First I'm going to rule out what I think is a wrong answer: there aren't, to begin with, two kinds of American in about equal numbers, with the Democratic party arising as the representative of the Democratic type of person.

Rather, each party is a heterogeneous coalition of diverse interests, and the coalition grows or shrinks according to the following principles: if the coalition is too small to win elections, then the coalition will seek out new members, granting concessions to the new members in exchange for their support. But the larger the coalition is, the weaker each interest group in the coalition is within the coalition, and this motivates the members of the coalition to try to expel other members, so as to increase their own influence within the coalition.

These two principles lead to the result that the Republicans and the Democrats are about equally large at any given time. If (say) the Republicans drop to 40% and the Democrats rise to 60%, then in the hope of winning future elections the Republicans will seek to expand the party by granting concessions to new interest groups. Meanwhile, the Democrats, victory assured in the near future, will struggle among themselves over the spoils of victory, and the losers will see little value in remaining within the coalition.

For a variety of reasons, members of each party will take up each other's cause, so that what started as a heterogeneous group of diverse interests will become a more homogeneous-seeming group in which each member espouses a diverse and probably incoherent mix of ideas, an ersatz ideology, which is liable to shift over time as interest groups enter and exit the party.

Of course some states of the Union are heavily Democratic and some are heavily Republican. On the surface this might seem to contradict my thesis, but I conjecture that, were the states to secede from the Union, then within the state the two parties (or whatever remained) would evolve to the point that they were about equally able to win votes. Individual states are heavily Democratic (or Republican) because they happen to be heavily made up of members of the national Democratic (or Republican) Party. We might even so expect that, state by state, the parties seek out (or expel) coalition members depending on their strength within the state, so that they each take on a slightly different flavor state by state. We might, for example, expect Massachusetts Democrats to be more liberal than Texas Democrats. (Though the category "liberal" might itself be susceptible to a similar analysis as the category "Democrat".)


Guru George on Grand Systems

P. George Stewart has a good entry up on the ability of theory to seduce and then imprison the mind because it gives the thinker the feeling of knowing. The whole thing is short and worth reading, but here are some choice passages anyway.

Like Ayn Rand's thought ... the nature of Marxism as a "closed circle", prevents interlocutors from getting a word in edgeways - in order to properly counter any random Marxist or Objectivist point, one would have to explain one's own whole philosophy, which would just be too tedious and impolite in most circumstances.

The situation is made all the more difficult by the fact that these grand systems do have truth flashing through them here and there, sometimes great truth; one always wants to say "yes, but" - in the same breath, one sees a point of agreement, but one also sees complicated rifts of disagreement. ...

The feeling of knowing is too easily bought by these grand systems, possibly at the expense of the possibility of knowledge discovery - precisely because the anomalous is more valuable to the process of knowledge discovery, and showing where we are wrong is often more of a step in the right direction than showing where we are right.


Rich people pay most of the income tax?

This is a humbug because the payroll tax is a capped, flat 16% income tax that is paid on every dollar of income by the working class. Even people with an earned tax credit pay 8% because their employer's half is not returned and it comes out of their total compensation package. The payroll tax goes right into the treasury and is spent for current budget needs same as every other tax.

Social Security is a universal welfare system and there is no legal connection between SS and the tax. Why no connection? Because Congress could repeal the SS benefits.

Second, very rich people don't pay income tax. They have very little income except for dividends and interest payments. They pay 15% capital gains on the money they draw for personal expenses. When Bill Gates was CEO of MS he was regularly reported as being the worst paid CEO in western Washington. He didn't need to draw a salary.


Sam Lived in a Large House on Top of the Hill

Sam lived in a large house on top of the hill. From his favourite seat in the living room he had a view of the entire valley with the ocean in sight several miles away. From his breakfast table he had a view of the town with which he had a mutual dependence. While Sam viewed his home as a modest house for which he had worked hard, to most of the inhabitants of the town it was referred to as “the mansion”.

The river which divided the house from the town was wide, but the flow of people and ideas across the river was incessant.

Sam had grown up in the house and town, as had his father, although his grandfather would not recognize the house if he were to return to see it. It had undergone many changes, in technology and in design as the younger owners had modified it to suit their needs and their perceived notions of their place in the community.

The house had begun as a simple structure lacking the comforts of running water or indoor plumbing. Slowly through the years, as the Allen family prospered, the house had grown with new wings spreading out to the west and a large verandah where family members could go when they wished to look out upon the world, a world which they now dominated and which they quietly considered to be their own. Now the house was the largest one in the community and had many conveniences and technological devices that could not be afforded by most of the other people in town. They looked upon the house with envy, but not resentment, feeling that it was a goal toward which they could work.

When Sam had been born his father had determined to name him after one of the most famous of American generals, Ulysses Simpson Grant. While his mother was sympathetic to this desire, she understood that no boy could venture into a schoolyard as a Ulysses, nor as a Simpson. Consequently she had called him Sam, a corruption of Simpson, from the beginning.

As a boy Sam had enjoyed many privileges not available to his friends and playmates from school. His parents were egalitarian and encouraged Sam to bring his friends home to play with his toys, many of which could not be afforded by their parents. In turn Sam would often travel to their homes and neighbourhoods, realizing that he would not have the conveniences of his home, but relishing the chance to adventure in these unfamiliar environments.

Sam was no angel. At times he would taunt his friends with their lack of nice things and would demand that they follow him when they embarked on their adventures together. He was always “captain” and would seldom admit that another boy’s idea was better than his own. This was the ugly side of Sam’s personality.

Sam did not offer forgiveness easily. After a dispute with one Hispanic boy, over who would be president of their fort in the woods, the boy’s father had to get involved and sent Sam home. Sam never forgot the embarrassment of the day and refused to ever go back to the fort or to ever allow the boy to visit in his home. In fact Sam discouraged all of his friends from ever having anything to do with the boy.

However, Sam was also well liked by the parents of his friends. He was helpful around their houses and would join in to complete the tasks that were required in these simple homes, from carrying water into the kitchens to helping the men erect new buildings on their property. He was known to stop in at the homes of some of the old people and leave gifts of cash to help them meet their daily needs. He was quick to help his friends with their homework or even to give them his expensive toys. Because of this Sam developed a reputation as a good person and was often regarded as a good Samaritan.

Sam had taken over as the owner and operator of the family mill which manufactured bedding from cotton and linen imported from outside the region. Most of the people in town worked at the mill and were dependent upon Sam for their livelihood. Those townspeople who didn’t work in the mill ran or worked for businesses which provided goods and services to the mill or to the people who worked there. It was an arrangement that was good for everyone and had been in place for over a century.

The Allen family mill stood on its own property a short distance from the house. While it was invisible to anyone in the house, or to anyone in town, its presence was felt by everyone. It was located near the river and a short bridge connected it to the town so that the workers who lived in the town could cross over for work each day. This bridge had been built in the early days of the mill and there were many stories about people who had crossed over to get a job and had gone on to provide themselves and their families with an improved lifestyle as a result of the trip. These people were thankful for the opportunity to obtain a job at the mill and proudly defensive of the mill, Sam and everything connected with them.

John Castor had long been Sam’s cousin and best friend. While Sam had been one grade ahead of John in school, they were always found together, engaged in one activity or another. John was an independent sort of person and easily found his own niche in the world. He looked up to Sam like a big brother and was quick to agree to be a part of most of Sam’s schemes. Over the years they had had many disputes, but only one fight of any significance. That had occurred when they were teenagers and both interested in the same girl. After rolling around in the dirt, throwing a few punches and some name calling, they both got up to find the girl had left and neither of them had benefited from the spat. They never saw her again.

John grew up to be a successful businessman in his own right, never as wealthy as Sam, but comfortably well off with no need to have more. Raw materials from his company kept Sam’s mill in operation. He also owned several cotton fields of his own and brokered cotton from other farmers. The result was that Sam never had to worry about having enough cotton to produce the fabric in his mill. In addition John had control of a large supply of silk so that he was able to supply the mill with all the silk it needed to produce their high end fabrics as well. This mutual need for one another for businesses purposes cemented their relationship, but John was more committed to it than Sam who continually searched the world for new and cheaper sources of material for his mill. Just as in childhood John remained slightly in awe of his older cousin and while from time to time he would search for another buyer of his materials he never seriously doubted that the long relationship between the two of them would remain the source of business for his firm.

John was always there for Sam. He was the first to arrive on the scene when a hurricane blew down the barn at the back of Sam’s property and he was the one to rescue Sam’s youngest son when a kidnapper had locked him in an abandoned office building in a nearby town. Still when things got tough for Sam he often overlooked his cousin and sought assistance elsewhere.

It was 22 years after the kidnapping that the mafia became involved. Sam had laughed when they offered to protect his plant for a small monthly fee. In fact he accused them of being a bunch of lazy individuals who were not able to earn a living on their own, but existed off the wealth of the hard working people of the community. One week later a bomb blew up in the factory and killed every one working there. One of the victims was a cousin of John’s who was regarded with respect as an up and coming manager who was capable of doing great things in the future. John grieved for him.

Sam became crazy with anger and grief. He wanted to raid Little Italy on the west side of town and run all of the mafia and its supporters out of town. He appealed to everyone in the area for help. John counseled caution, but was immediately rebuffed because of Sam’s intense anger.

Before long Sam had rounded up a band of vigilantes which included several members of the local police and began a raid on little Italy. Many people were killed and most of the buildings were burned to the ground. Several of Sam’s band also died in the warfare that ensued. Mafia members were among the people killed and injured, but most of their members lived in secret in another city and were untouched. John worked with Sam to help the police investigate and locate the secret mafia members who had planned the attack, but Sam was not mollified. He would not countenance the moral support of anyone who wanted him to deal with the mafia in a legal way, but who were unwilling to get their hands dirty along side him in the battles of Little Italy. He called John a coward and turned his back on his oldest friend when they met at a meeting of the local Rotary Club.

Other citizens of the town were divided. Some agreed that Sam had the right to attack Little Italy because it was the centre for mafia activity. The feeling was that the police would not be able to do anything and if they could attack the mafia at its roots they would end the lawlessness which the mafia represented. Innocent people were bound to be killed, but that was the price they paid for hiding mafia members and failing to co-operate with Sam’s attempts to root out the perpetrators of the explosion in the mill. Other people thought it was wrong for Sam to take the law into his own hands and that ascribing mafia sympathies to all the members of the enclave was wrong. They expressed their disaffection in public and were soon scorned by Sam’s supporters.

Sam continued to be the most important person in town. He hired many people and did business with many others. He was not averse to boycotting a business whose owner was a part of his opposition and so turmoil in the town grew greater and greater.

Over the next eight years the conflict in Little Italy got worse although the intense battles quieted down after a while as most people were too exhausted and poor to continue the fighting that been a part of the initial phases of the struggle. Some of Sam’s supporters dropped away, but no one was willing to take the chance of losing his business to say too much in public. In private however, more and more people were questioning his sanity. It was clear to most people that John had been right in the first place and yet no one was willing to admit that the eight years had been a waste.

Eight years after the bombing Sam passed away. Mourners came from many different places and many different factions. They had kind things to say and buried him with the greatest of honour. Two of Sam’s children were in line to succeed him. His daughter promised to bring changes to the company, but promised to continue the campaign to gain revenge and bring the mafia to justice. The son called for reconciliation with other members of the community and to bring peace to the fight with the inhabitants of Little Italy. He vowed to continue to lead a fight to bring the bombers to justice, but called for a dialogue with all of the other members of the community and to bring healing to the relationships which had been damaged by the long dispute.

The people of the community watched the succession with a great interest. Many company shareholders wondered why there was so much interest from people who were not involved in the company. They did not understand the conflicting emotions which caught at the community as people were torn between envy at the success of the Allen family and resentment at the way in which the family had abused their privilege to achieve the success they had.

Shareholders of the company would have to make a choice. The future of their company would be decided by the choice which they made. The future of the community would be decided by the impact which the choice would have on their company.


Annoyed with Economics Textbooks

Once upon a time, the Carter administration wanted to reduce gasoline usage in the United States. Their plan was to put in place a gasoline tax and rebate the money to the consumer in a lump sum. Would this plan have (1) lessened the U.S.'s use of gasoline, and (2) made consumers better off?

It's pretty easy (especially if you've taken a microeconomics class or two) to see that the answer is (1) yes, and (2) no. Here (on page 3) is the graph (I can't figure out how to upload images) that makes this clear. But intuitively, it makes perfect sense that making a good more expensive will reduce its usage and that the government can't improve on the consumption decision of a consumer by spending and rebating the same money.

Why do I bring this up? This weekend, I was grading the exams from an intermediate micro class I'm TAing. The students are quite good, but a large number of them kept saying that the plan made consumers equally well off. This is clearly not the case: After the tax-and-rebate plan is enacted, the consumer is on a lower indifference curve, and thus worse off. (Some even said the consumer was equally well off while reproducing the correct graph.)

And yet, when I went and looked at the class handout on which the question was based (from a different textbook than we normally use), I can completely see why my students were mislead. The handout (correctly) bashes the critics of the plan who said there would be "no effect", since there is a substitution effect. But here's all it says about welfare:

In the end, the Carter administration's tax-and-rebate proposal was never implemented, largely because of the objections of critics who lacked the economic knowledge to understand it. And as a result, the United States remains dangerously dependent on foreign oil more than 25 years after Carter left office.

That's it. Even leaving aside the issue of whether energy independence makes sense or is as chimerical a goal as my being booze-independent of Binny's Beverage Depot, surely a complete discussion would note the consumer being worse off. Perhaps a rant is necessary in my next section.


He saw the Chuck Baldwin sticker on my Corvair and...

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Brad Spangler: Is Ashley Todd Lying?
"Ashley Todd, a 20-year-old college student and McCain volunteer, admitted on Friday that she made up a widely reported story about being mugged by a so-called big black guy at an ATM in Pittsburgh."


Ayn Rand was right (and so was I)

This is a subject I already touched here
Then I said,

Consequentialists arguments are very efficient because people are generally willing to change their mind easily on those matters... but what make them successful also makes them weak : they can be replaced with other consequentialist arguments. Moral arguments are much tougher to make because people are more reluctant to accept a new moral philosophy, but they are also much more stable, and will likely be successfully passed onto children. Every consequentialist argument however is a step away from freedom as an end instead of freedom as a mean. On the long term, the fate of the new belief is unknown... it may be replaced with an economic fallacy. It's negative effect on morality will always be damaging though.

I was right (duh). Indeed, with the financial crisis raging, it is easy to find free market libertarians getting cold feet. Greenspan confesses

I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,"

or

Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Waxman said.

"Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."

Whoa, this is Greenspan ?
There are other examples, of libertarians hiding, feeling guilty, changing their mind about regulation, etc. I've seen plenty on French classical liberal blogs.

Consequentialist Austrians are ok for now, because they saw it coming long ago, but the problem remains. Regulation is a matter of rights. A state is not a special moral entity, it has no right to tell other people what kind of business they can engage in, provided they respect other people's right. Although I don't believe this crisis was the result of free market gone wrong, I do believe it is possible for big crisis to happen in a free market, especially since globalization has tied so many people together. In any case, even financial Armageddon do not justify regulation, period.

Rand understood this problem very well and kept repeating that if you make promises on the "good" results of capitalism, you might end up with disappointed people turning against capitalism. How many people who where convinced that free market are good on a utilitarian basis are now changing their mind ? Years of the utilitarian / libertarian propaganda have been destroyed in a matter of months.


Free speech dying thanks to John McCain

Long before McCain became the lesser evil, he was busy doing more than almost anyone else in American history to curtail the freedom to speak in the US where it matters most: in politics.

Powerful video clip from John Stossel via The Agitator.

Take this lesson and apply it to economic regulation to see how regulation of an industry protects the big business insiders against competition.