Public

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

Poking Around the Friesian Web Site

I was poking around the Friesian web site when I came across this article that jogged my memory. The topic is criticism of Poppers philosophy of science, and in particular falsification.

To put some context to the first sentence please remember that Popper himself had already assumed and explicitly addressed the issue of "explaining away falsifying evidence".

Here we have the interesting case of an actual event that falsifies Kuhn's theory of science. I'd forgotten about it.

"Kuhn's critique contains a considerable element of truth, since people, scientists included, often do just see what they want to see, and it is possible to explain away falsifying evidence. On the other hand, anomalies are often recognized that are inconvenient to a theory, and most scientists are now aware that if the theory cannot ultimately accommodate them, then a new theory will be necessary. And then there is the Great Devonian Controversy. Once all the major geologists recognized that there was no unconformity in the sequence, and that there were plants in the lower strata, there simply was no existing theory that could accommodate the facts. Thus, we had a situation that, in Kuhnian terms, was impossible. The evidence could not be interpreted to sustain any existing theoretical views.

The situation was sometimes discussed by participants in what sound like modern terms. Thus, John Phillips, professor of geology at King's College, in London, wrote to De la Beche that his discovery of certain plant fossils, "is a fact to be introduced into the induction, not an anomaly to be frightened at" [p. 223]. Here "anomaly" would mean just what it means now: Some fact inconsistent with a received or desired theory. As "Baconians," both Phillips and De la Beche think that the appropriate theories will be produced by "induction" from a sufficient catalogue of facts. Neither Kuhn nor Popper could agree with that old "Baconian" view of theories, but Kuhn and deconstructionists cannot allow that an anomaly all by itself could potentially falsify a theory, rather than vice versa. But in the Devonian Controversy, the anomalies overthrew all the theories."


Doing My First Write In Vote

Based on watching the Obama-McCain debate and their absolute ignorance of economics I have decided that both are totally unacceptable candidates.

Ron Paul is the only candidate that is talking sense at this point. I'm writing him in.


Gold delivery default

Right now, the price of gold implied by Comex futures is $928.60 per troy ounce, down $83.8

According to Bloomberg, investors are selling gold to get cash. Are they? On the bullionvault.com (greedy referral included in the URL) internal market, the bid ask spread is huge, but still shows a different picture. In the New York vault, people are selling for $917. Holy crap, why the difference ? Well, it could be that BullionVault only has gold bug users who will hold to their gold no matter what, but consider that gold is being BOUGHT at $892.

The truth is that there are defaults on the future physical delivery, where you are allowed to settle in cash (if you whine)... at the level of the future... which in turns prices the risk of default. This circle brings the value of the future to essentially zero. Fast. Patri Friedman asked recently,

Are there realistic situations where it would be better to stock up on physical gold & silver than on financial futures related to gold & silver.

Here's one.


LOL, Take That Halo Hardcore Gamers

There is an article over at Gizmodo I thought was funny and seems to have a grain of truth titled, "Scientists Find Gene That Makes You Good at Halo Also Makes You a Premature Ejaculator".

After a study of 200 Dutch men, scientists found that those with a premature ejaculation problem all had a version of a gene that controls the release of serotonin. And, unfortunately for all of you awesome Call of Duty players out there, those affected seem to "have very quick reflexes. They may be excellent at playing tennis or computer games, for example." Oh, cruel fate!

Now I understand why I lose so quickly to some of these guys. Bad news for the South Koreans also? I know, I know, South Korean gamers.


The Dupes of Fractional Reserve Banking

I had a discussion with a commenter called Midwesterner at Samizdata back in March that will give a fairly good idea of my understanding of fractional reserve banking. I thought it was a useful exercise for both Midwesterner and myself, and is one of those rare occasions on the internet where there was a changing of minds.

Midwesterner had posted a comment which included a hypothetical situation and his interpretation of it.

"Let's you and I play Monopoly™ some time and see how it works.

Lets say nine players start with 100 dollars each and all sales are done at open auction (simulates the market). Democratic vote will decide which players may engage in fractional reserve lending (simulates politics). Everybody else can only lend hard currency.

Lets say four players and I collude to engage in preferential treatment of each other. We five can use fractional reserve the other four cannot.

To keep it simple, let's say the other four colluders (in the real world, a couple of dupes would, too) all deposit their money with me and I lend it back to them. We have an initial kitty of 500 dollars (mine and their $100 starting stakes). By practicing fractional reserve lending I can actually loan them by the tenth deposit/loan cycle a total of $1785.25 (5 x $357.05) . This assumes that the player they spend the loan with turns around and deposits the money with me. So the five of us now have $1785.25 to bid against the other four players $400. We could actually have almost $1000 each if we managed to ring every last cent out of the system. By borrowing for all of our expenses and depositing all of our receipts, one can see how quickly the game would shift to the five of us with each lap around the board.

Players not in the lend/borrow/lend/borrow/.../... system have $100 each to spend. People in the system have $357.05 each to spend. Needless to say, a little collusion goes a long way. Separating the players from the dupes in this example makes the racket a little more obvious."

So what would be your answer to this and why? Do you think you would be able to give an explanation that would convence Midwesterner of your position?

Well surprisingly, I was able to convince him that in fact he was wrong, and along the way this exercise lead me to realize some things that were implicit in my beliefs but that I had never explicitly derived.

This was a series of comments exchanged on fractional reserve banking that also touched on anti-empiricism in Austrian Economics.

Turns out the only dupes in the system were those holding the bank accounts and accepting the bank notes and not the non-participants.

Here's my first salvo:

"Midwesterner,

Their are restrictions on who can collude which prevents the collusion from being as easy as you make it out.

First off they have $500 between them. No matter how they lend the money out to each other there is still only $500.

When they borrow they must have access to the possibility of buying an asset with a revenue stream in order to service any loan they may take out to buy that asset. However in your example there are no assets with revenue streams.

Even if there were if any back and forth lending and purchasing occurs betwen the 5 colluders then the net benefit to them is zero.

The non-colluders could always decide to lend to each other also. So there is no asymmetry of fairness there. Nice player a could lend to nice player b who happens to buy a performing asset with the money. He then provides a with part of his revenue stream to service the interest on the loan. Player a no longer has the money he lent to b. He only has a promise to pay it back based on the revenue stream. So a has less cash on hand. As long as a understands this and doesn't think he can just retract the loan at any time then there is no problem.

Any "collusion" that occurs between the five colluders requires one of the colluders to lend and one to borrow with a net gain in cash of zero. Of course colluder c1 is not going to lend to c2 out of the goodness of his heart. He going to want proof that c2 can pay him back with interest.

So your model here is not sufficient to capture the nuances of the issue of fractional reserve banking. It's not merely that every schmoo on the street is harmed by people lending money to each other. There is something more that goes on.

Hint: There is a problem if and only if any player a lends to player b with b buying a long term capital asset that only has a revenue stream sufficent to pay back the loan, while telling a he has the capability to pay him back fully with cash out of hand he doesn't have.

This however is a fraud between a and b and doesn't involve the other people, and gives a no ability to bid up prices in the economy. Player a may overspend on his budget based on his mistaken trust in player b but that's only his problem when he runs out of cash and b can't pay him. That does not effect any person who is not lending to player b.

There's no reason why a bunch of players might cooperate, not collude which is a loaded word, to pool their cash on hand, just in case any one of them has an emergency.

I leave it to you to figure out how banks play a role in this."

BTW, there was another good article on Samizdata on the role of China in this crisis. It's something I recognized more than a decade ago. I've commented in that post also and although it's a rushed comment I think it would be helpful for anyone who doesn't understand why some people oppose loosening credit as a response to the crisis.

Remember these comments in the second article are not polished in a way that makes them easy to understand, unlike the comments to the first article. Repeatedly explaining this will help me understand why people can't grasp the argument and I will improve it.

I understand the causes of this problem, I understand the current situtation, and I understand the proper "solution". Getting anyone else to grasp it is another matter.


Lick this USPS!

Hassling the postal service, the perennial libertarian hobby, has a long and storied history. Perhaps the most celebrated example is Lysander Spooner's private mail company.

In the 1840s, Lysander Spooner, jurist, abolitionist, and bearded anarchist badass, founded the American Letter Mail Company to compete directly with the United States Postal Service monopoly. Unlike other illegal mail carriers, Spooner advertised widely and openly challenged the the Postmaster General to fuck with him. His rates were half that of the USPS and "in a few short months, the private mail companies had engrossed the bulk of the service between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore." Eventually the Post Office managed to hound Spooner out of business, but not before they were forced to adopt Spooner's rates.

Wendy McElroy tells us more about the postal service hating ways of our individualist anarchist predecessors in an article about the radical stickers sold in the pages of Benjamin Tucker's journal Liberty.

Seeing as the offices of Liberty burned down 100 years ago this year, taking the journal and stickers with it, I decided to make some of these "bits of gummed paper" for my own use. Take that, Postal Service!

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

These are the original sticker captions I was able to collect from the article:

Considering what a nuisance the government is, the man who says we cannot get rid of it must be called a confirmed pessimist.

Whatever really useful thing government does for men, they would do for themselves if there was no government.

Government regularly enforces its commands by the threat of violence; and government often commands things which it is ridiculous and outrageous to enforce by such a threat.

At almost every point in history government has been found to be the greatest scandal in the world. Why? And when anything else has been extremely scandalous, this has usually been on account of its association with government. Why?

Don’t enlist in any service where you are liable to be ordered to help kill a man (or men) that you think ought not to be killed.

Where everything is done through the bureaucracy, nothing to which the bureaucracy is really adverse can be done at all.

The institution known as “government” cannot continue to last unless many a man is willing to be government’s agent in committing what he himself regards as as an abominable crime.


If only

Debates rotting your brain? Here's an antidote.

(inspired by Cafe Hayek)


National Smallness Conservatives

Dan McCarthy talks about The Return of the National Greatness Conservative.

But if [pro-gov, pro-war, pro-empire cons] are the national greatness/heroic/compassionate conservatives, what does that make the rest of us?

Maybe we could do worse than call ourselves “National Smallness Conservatives.” That gets at the ideas of anti-imperialism and decentralism and perhaps suggests something about the constitutional limits of federal power. It nicely echoes Chesterton, too.

I don't know about you guys but I love this label. For me the attractive parts of the mixed-bag of conservatism have always been epistemological modesty and the traditionalism, localism, and respect for diversity, community, and restraint that naturally follow from it.


Mencius

For libs interested in China I recommend Roderick Long's "Rituals of Freedom: Austro-libertarian Themes in Early Confucianism"

Long argues, contra David Boaz and Murray Rothbard, that

"From a libertarian perspective, the Taoists have been overrated and the Confucians underrated."

I was forced to read some Mencius(sort of the Rothbard to Confucius' Mises in the Confucian canon) today on my long flight and I was impressed with the sophistication of his political economy--he explains the principle of division of labor, argues against fixed prices for goods, and discusses the advantages of different systems of taxation. I was also surprised with the radical tinge to some of his sayings: (not the best example but I think its funny)

Mencius said to Emperor Hsuan of of Ch'i: "Suppose one of your ministers entrusts his family to the care of a friend and then leaves on a journey to Ch'u. When he returns, he finds that the friend abandoned his family to hunger and cold. What should be done?"
"End the friendship," replied the emperor.
"And if a chief judge can't govern his court - what should be done?"
"Turn him out," pronounced the emperor.
"And if someone can't govern this land stretching out to the four borderlands - what then?"
The emperor suddenly turned to his attendants and spoke of other things.


We Need These Democrats Today

These guys sound awesome.
The Locofocos

Lassiez-faire. Hard money. Labor unions.


Recombinant Memetics

Meme complexes, "memeplexes", are groups of memes that are passed on together. Like genes, memes often coexist in groupings that further their collective survival and replication. The memeplexes with the fittest and most synergistic memes and are the ones that flourish in the memetic ecosystem, i.e. the collection of human minds.

One well adapted memeplex is the Mormon church I grew up in. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the fast growing religions in the world. What about the Mormon faith makes this possible?

For one, a collection of kick-ass memes. Mormons have lots of offspring, most of which adopt the LDS faith. Mormon doctrine and culture emphasizes marriage and encourages large families. Mormonism also encourages behavior that facilitates financial stability and accumulation of wealth. The church glorifies the small businessman and inculcates bourgeois values like saving money, getting and holding jobs, and low time preference. By avoiding the debt and divorce that attend financial hardship, Mormonism increases the fidelity with which the faith is transferred to offspring, makes Mormons respected and enviable members of the community--aiding conversion, and encourages satisfaction with the Mormon lifestyle status quo and the belief that the Mormons really are favored by god--thereby reducing apostasy and back-sliding.

In addition to powerful memes, the church also benefits from the multitude of ways that these memes work together to amplify their effects. The memes for financial success combine with the tithing meme to finance proselytism around the world as well as institutions like the Mormon welfare system that encourage organizational allegiance. The financial memes also help make possible Mormonism's most impressive meme: missionary work. Mormon families pay out of pocket for their young men to put their careers and educations on hold and devote two years of their lives to work more than full-time recruiting new members. These, and other elements of the Mormon memeplex, gives it a leg up against other religions--like the celibate, and unsurprisingly moribund, Shakers--in the competition for human mind space.

One comparatively poorly adapted memeplex is the libertarian movement. Much of this is our fault. We have bundled our ideological memes like "Don't initiate coercion." with incompatible and ineffective praxis memes like the Libertarian Party and electoral politics in general. In all fairness, libertarian memes also start out with several inherent disadvantages. The whole point of libertarianism is to combat a number of particularly virulent and pernicious memes. Richard Dawkins showed how genes, not organisms, are the basic unit of evolution and that the sole interest of genes, reproduction, does not always line up with the interest of their carriers, i.e. organisms, hence the title of his book “The Selfish Gene.” It's the same way with memes. The meme "The state is indispensable." is bad for the well being of individuals and societies, but it has achieved dominance because those with power and wealth accumulated through plunder have used these resources to disseminate it and have made holding it as a prerequisite for social advancement and some semblance of a normal life. By rejecting statist memes we renounce use of the reproductive power which made them such a common problem in the first place. The anti-politics political movement faces obvious challenges just as an anti-technology movement would have trouble getting its ideas heard. As a result, libertarian ideology, no matter how ironclad its arguments and beneficial its potential effects, languishes on the margins of the marketplace of ideas.

I think the solution to these problems for libertarians lies in superior memetic engineering.

Diabetics used to depend on insulin extracted from cattle and pig pancreases. In the late 70s, scientists figured out how to produce insulin by splicing animal insulin genes into bacteria that would then produce insulin as well as more insulin producing bacteria. Today most artificial insulin is produced with modified E. coli bacteria or yeast at lower cost and higher quality. This is called recombinant DNA.

E. coli genes co-evolved to create a highly efficient system for their rapid and accurate expression and reproduction. All scientists had to do was piggy-back another bit of evolved genetic machinery onto this complex and the resulting chimera would reproduce and express the desired genes for them.

If someone could put together a neutral carrier--a collection of memes that, like the E. coli genome, was an effective machine for reproducing itself--he could splice in whatever ideas he liked and set it loose. The recombinant memeplex would then, barring mutation, spread the message for him.

This already happens all the time. The basic self-reproducing ideas behind the chain letter or pyramid scheme have been used again and again in the service of many different ends. As our knowledge of how memes work improves, even more powerful and complex "recombinant memetics" should become possible. By swapping out different memes for L. Ron Hubbard's ravings, the Church of Scientology, stripped of its crazy-ass belief system leaving just the mechanisms used for churning out zealous Scientologists could be used for producing zealous vegans, zealous Pastafarians...or even zealous libertarians.


I am getting old

My feeling about the bailout, which I believe is going to pass (though I hope that I am wrong) is that this is the turning point, the beginning of end of the United States. But stepping back, I think this may just be the turning point of my life, when I stop being a young person with hope for the future and become an old person who won't shut up about how bad things are today compared with the happy days of his youth. After all, this isn't really the first time government has deeply disappointed.

Here are four things that could have happened once the bailout was rejected in the House, ranked from best to worst.

1) No more was heard about the bailout.

2) A revised more helpful or at least less harmful bailout was submitted.

3) A revised bailout, no better than the first, and with a bunch of pork and other crap added to appeal to the corruption of the congress was submitted.

4) (3) was done but it was first passed in the Senate and submitted to the House from the Senate, in flagrant violation of the unmistakable intent of the Constitution.

Number (4) is, as we now know, what actually happened.

My problem is not as much with the bailout itself, as it is with what this reveals about Congress and about our government generally. If we assume 200 million adults in the United States, then the price of the bailout, which I will estimate at 2 trillion (not to be confused with the official price tag), is merely ten thousand dollars per adult. Painful but I'll survive - seeing as so far I survived the cost of the Iraq war, which is a sizable fraction of this.

So how do young people focused on hopes for the future turn into old people focused on disappointments of the past? It may be that a person can tolerate only so much disappointment before he breaks. A young person hasn't been on the planet long enough for many of his hopes to be dashed. The longer we remain on the planet, the greater the number of disappointments. Added to this, of course, is the approaching end of one's own life. The less time I have left to live, the less plausible is my hope that things will have turned around by my death.


Economic laws of conservation

I do not have detailed knowledge of this situation, but I am pretty familiar with what might be called "economic laws of conservation", and the bailout violates several of these.

When some crackpot inventor claims that he has created a perpetual motion machine or similar impossible device, and he has a long, detailed argument as to how and why this machine works, you have two choices:

1) You can spend the next several hours or days of your life going through his argument to see whether it is correct. You are likely to get this wrong, because the errors in a long argument, especially one which fooled the inventor, may be subtle and easy to miss.

2) You can point out that a perpetual motion machine violates fundamental physical principles. One example I've seen is a machine which violates the law of conservation of momentum. The inventor claimed that his machine managed to accelerate without pushing back on anything or throwing anything back, which is a straightforward violation of the law of conservation of momentum. Another law which is likely violated by any perpetual motion machine is the law of entropy, the second law of thermodynamics.

One of the economic broad principles that I am familiar with is that, while the market can be wrong, you (whoever you are) are almost certainly unable reliably to do better than the market. Claims that the government will probably recoup its investment and even profit violate this principle.

Another of the economic broad principles that I am familiar with is that the market works by no other means than rewarding wise investment and punishing foolish investment. That is how it works. A more general broad principle, upon which this relies, is that you get more of what you reward. The bailout violates this principle as well. Miron appeals to this principle when he writes:

In contrast, a bailout transfers enormous wealth from taxpayers to those who knowingly engaged in risky subprime lending. Thus, the bailout encourages companies to take large, imprudent risks and count on getting bailed out by government. This "moral hazard" generates enormous distortions in an economy's allocation of its financial resources.

One can go on.

Miron, and other economists who have spoken out against the bailout, have tended to make arguments that I find comprehensible and persuasive, because they appeal to broad economic principles that I am familiar with and have long since accepted. Those who have spoken out in favor of the bailout - well, for one thing, rather than see actual arguments from them I have seen appeals to authority, appeals to hidden knowledge, sky-is-falling warnings that have no actual content but serve merely to shift the reader into panic mode, vehement attacks on those who disagree, and the like. I've seen glimpses, here and there, amidst the ocean of invalid argumentation, of something that looks like an actual argument, but what I have seen has displayed that narrow focus, that missing-the-forest-for-the-trees aspect, which I remember from arguments of the inventors of perpetual motion machines.

Good economics since Bastiat has been largely about noticing "that which is unseen" - i.e., noticing the forest while the rest of the world obsesses over the trees. The arguments against the bailout have that look to them. The arguments for, the ones that I have seen, do not.


Question for Bailout Opponents

Suppose the bailout doesn't pass, in any form. What information would you need for you to conclude that you were more likely wrong than right in opposing it, at least in the sense of the economy being worse than it otherwise needed to be? (Setting aside purely moral libertarian concerns.) I.e., if GDP declines 25%, are you still sure that it would have been worse with a bailout? 99%? Is your rejection of the bailout falsifiable?

(I'm not supporting the bailout, by the way. But as someone who is continually, and increasingly, awestruck by the degree of certainty people express in their political beliefs, not to mention their predictions about the future state of the economy, I'm genuinely curious about what results would cause them to re-examine their opinions.)


Poverty Wiped Out Life Expectancy Plummets

You often hear that the privileged are at fault for inequality because they selfishly tolerate poverty, thus preventing minorities from getting an education, good housing, proper health care or a decent paying job. Look at the Indians on reservations, living at subsistence levels.

For example the Colville Indian Reservation in Okanogan County Washington which ranks in the top 10 in a five-year average of alcohol-related traffic fatalities, and juvenile arrests for alcohol violations. Okanogan County had 62 drug- or alcohol-related deaths out of 367 total deaths in 2006.

“-- Addiction knows no bounds,” said Ben Descoteaux, behavioral health program manager for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. He said income levels are more likely to play a role in addiction problems. “If you look at the economic data of the county, or the unemployment rate — those figures are some of the highest,” he said.

But, what would happen if poverty were to be wiped out?

See this link:

With annual revenues from casinos and other businesses that have topped $1.4 billion, the tribe provides each of its 3,300 members with an income of about $120,000 a year, a free education and a guaranteed job. And many college-educated Seminoles are coming home to work in the tribe's Hollywood headquarters.

Despite these positive developments, young Seminoles die at an alarming rate from drug overdoses, alcohol-involved car crashes and suicide.”

The stunning thing about this situation is that the life expectancy of tribe members actually decreased since casinos began operation. The average age of a Seminole at death has dropped from 59.7 years old in 1997, similar to the rate on many reservations, to 48.5 in 2007, an analysis of state records shows.

“A recent spike in accidental deaths among tribal members, along with a troubling school dropout rate and an eroding work ethic, is linked to growing prosperity, many Seminoles believe.

Simmons, who as a teenager went through years of drug use and rebellion, said she sees a correlation between money and excess.


Conquering the Final Frontier

They did it! With the successful launch of the Falcon 1, Space X has become the first company to launch a privately built rocket into Earth orbit.

I eagerly await the founding of an anarcho-capitalist Spacesteading Institute. Someone get Peter Thiel on the phone.

Science fiction is becoming science fact before our eyes. It's an awesome time to be alive.


I don't understand credit

Or how it affects the real economy. (This is part of my general ignorance of / disbelief in macro).

In micro, a common technique is to look past the money to the stuff. For example, if someone prints a bunch of new dollars (inflation), then we don't have any more wealth. More dollars chase the same resources, and prices go up, but we aren't any better off. In fact, the people closed to the new dollars (the spenders, the first receivers & re-spenders) benefit at others expense. Similarly, government spending always comes from somewhere, so to act as though it "stimulates" the economy when in reality it just moves spending from one place or time to another is bogus. It's not about money, it's about the allocation of resources.

But then I read in the paper:

Without a mechanism to shed the bad loans on their books, financial institutions may continue to hoard their dollars and starve the economy of capital. Americans would be deprived of financing to buy houses, send children to college and start businesses. That would slow economic activity further, souring more loans, and making banks tighter still. In short, a downward spiral.

Fear of this outcome has become self-fulfilling, prompting a stampede toward safer investments. Investors continued to pile into Treasury bills on Thursday despite rates of interest near zero, making less capital available for businesses and consumers.

Superficially, this makes sense, just like it makes superficial sense that government spending creates jobs. But then I think "look past the money to the stuff."

Before tight credit and after tight credit, the resources in the economy are the same. The people, the skills, the capital, the natural resources - all the same. So how can tight credit slow down the economy? The factory that my business doesn't build means that the factory building resources are available to someone else more cheaply.

In fact, shouldn't the effect be the opposite? If tight credit means higher interest rates, then it encourages saving and investment over consumption. In fact, tight credit cures itself - it raises interest rates, which encourages saving, which provides more credit.

I am especially suspicious of the phrase "hoard their dollars and starve the economy of capital". Dollars are not capital, they are pieces of paper. You could burn them all, and the economy would still have all the capital it had before. Hoarding should just cause temporary deflation, as a lower supply of dollars chases the same amount of stuff.

But maybe I'm missing something about the nature of credit? Please enlighten me.


Shout it from the Rooftops

September 30, 1999

In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.
[. . .]
Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.
[. . .]
In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.''


The uses of libertarianism

Here are some things libertarians might spend their time on.

  1. Affect policy. Persuade. It doesn't matter whether libertarianism is "true" or not as long as you prefer freedom to slavery. Make your dreams come true. Persuasion might take the form of convincing people to become libertarians by getting the message out, or convincing the powers that be that libertarian policies are better than the alternatives.
  2. Understand. Predict. Libertarianism can be a part of a larger project of understanding the world we live in. People who want to clear away their delusions and face reality may decide that libertarian ways of looking at the world are superior to alternative ways of looking at the world (e.g. Marxism). Libertarianism on this view is not merely a preferece, but is or recognizes truths which are obscured by alternative ideologies. Example.
  3. Be prepared. Profit. Escape. Understanding the world is all well and good but if you improve your own life through your superior understanding of the way the world works, so much the better. Recognize, anticipate, and escape the hungry malice of wolves in sheep's clothing.
  4. Be virtuous. Save your soul. Be guiltless. You don't want to be a bad person. You want to be on the side of the angels. Libertarian ethics will provide you with guidance.
  5. Pose. Improve your social standing. Brand yourself a libertarian and work to improve the brand. Denounce others, even other libertarians if association with them threatens your social standing.

Posse comitatus?

I ran across this.

…pardon my French, but what the fuck is going on with this?

Maybe I’m missing something. Could someone with a military background please convincingly explain to me how this isn’t as scary as it sounds? Because it sounds pretty damned scary. Or at least the start of something scary.