Jeffrey Miron Nails It on Prop 19

I was talking about the failure of Prop 19 at work yesterday, and (unknown to me at the time) pointed to the same employment law overreach that Miron notes here. They couldn’t be satisfied with mere legalization; no, they had to find a way to restrict employer rights as part of the deal. Idiots.

Jacob Sullum at Reason, although admitting the basic validity of this point, can’t bring himself to accept it as sufficient, and tries to defend the totality of Prop 19 anyway.

Nope… not buying it, and neither should the voters have. Try again next time, Californians, but without the overreach and violation of employers’ rights, maybe?

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Krugman on Getting Mugged by Moralizers

In the NYT today, Paul Krugman, after recounting the birth of the Tea Party movement in the Rick Santelli outburst on CNBC and stating the Keynesian macro position without defense, writes:

So what should we be doing? First, governments should be spending while the private sector won’t, so that debtors can pay down their debts without perpetuating a global slump. Second, governments should be promoting widespread debt relief: reducing obligations to levels the debtors can handle is the fastest way to eliminate that debt overhang.

As a student of Modern Monetary Theory, and someone with a decent respect for the implied neo-Keynesian position, I think the first recommendation is correct — although I doubt Krugman and I want to “spend” in the same way (I’d favor tax cuts, or suitcases full of money dropped in peoples’ backyards, or, if forced to go for real government programs, actual infrastructure spending, including the military infrastructure).

The second recommendation is quite problematic. Apparently, Krugman will attack those who don’t think it meets the standard of justice to ask investors to take a haircut as “moralizers.” The same “moralizers” who have always stood in the way of leftist “progress,” no doubt.

But here’s the thing: we’ve basically accepted, as a people, for decades now, that government has a role in making everyone, on average, better off, even if it means making a few worse off than they would be in a free market with a night watchman state. So, if a thorough analysis could establish that it serves “the common good” to force certain investors to forgive large portions of debt (to avoid a very ugly foreclosure wave), is that just a “sacrifice those people will have to be willing to bear?” After all, there are many scenarios in which Americans have adopted similar policies (we drafted particular men and sent them to die in two world wars to serve some abstract notion of the common good, to take but one example). It’s not like this would be breaking any really new moral ground.

What do you think?

Reason at Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear

This video of reason editors interviewing people at the Stewart/Colbert rally this weekend in DC is very entertaining. It’s well worth watching all the way to the end — in fact the last few seconds are especially hilarious. I LOLed several times throughout.

While the two guys at the end are kind of hard to beat, I think the woman who criticizes people who compare other people to Nazis, only to concede it’s a pretty apt comparison in the case of George W. Bush comes in a close second. Let me know in the comments which parts made you laugh (or cry) the most.

Shelby Steele Identifies the Party of Bad Faith in America

I read Shelby Steele’s opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, and was astounded at Steele’s perceptiveness and courage in writing about President Obama’s identification with a certain kind of American: the kind who finds little but evil in his own nation, and virtue only in himself and his left-wing ethos.

Steele first devastates Obama’s policy making:

…His policymaking has been grandiose, thoughtless and bullying. His health-care bill was ambitious to the point of destructiveness and, finally, so chaotic that today no citizen knows where they stand in relation to it. His financial-reform bill seems little more than a short-sighted scapegoating of Wall Street. In foreign policy he has failed to articulate a role for America in the world. We don’t know why we do what we do in foreign affairs. George W. Bush at least made a valiant stab at an American rationale—democratization—but with Mr. Obama there is nothing.

He then describes the world view of those whose instinct is to blame their country, its citizens, and its distinctive institutions for all of the evil in the world:

Bad faith in America became virtuous in the ’60s when America finally acknowledged so many of its flagrant hypocrisies: the segregation of blacks, the suppression of women, the exploitation of other minorities, the “imperialism” of the Vietnam War, the indifference to the environment, the hypocrisy of puritanical sexual mores and so on. The compounding of all these hypocrisies added up to the crowning idea of the ’60s: that America was characterologically evil. Thus the only way back to decency and moral authority was through bad faith in America and its institutions, through the presumption that evil was America’s natural default position.

Yes.

So why am I astounded? I’m astounded because a respected public intellectual, an award winning author and journalist (and not “just a politician”), has identified a world view that is unique to the American left, and has in effect ascribed that world view to millions of Americans, along with their president and the current leaders of Congress. And we all know that those Americans find a home, almost to a man, in the modern Democratic party — the party currently headed by Barack Obama.

The Democratic party is the political home for Americans whose world view is based on bad faith in America. That’s what Shelby Steele is telling us. President Bush would have never said this — I’m not sure he was even capable of believing it. If candidate McCain had said it, he would have been savaged as a hater — as outside the mainstream. Let’s see what happens to Shelby Steele’s reputation in coming days and weeks.

Sit in the Back Republicans!

Anyone wondering whether the Obama people will have had enough of the “car in the ditch” analogy any time soon? Maybe Nancy Pelosi can pick up on it, and tell us we’ll need to buy the car so the American people can find out what’s in the trunk.

Honest question: can anyone remember, in eight long years, President George W. Bush demeaning the other party like President Obama has done regularly? Even once? All I can remember are things like his reaching across the aisle and working with people like Ted Kennedy. The current president may be the most partisan president of our lifetime.

James Donald’s Liberty File Collection

Quick post tonight to share a link to a very nice collection of webbed writings from the classical liberal and libertarian tradition collected, and sometimes written, by James A. Donald: http://www.jim.com

I don’t know James Donald, but I wish I did. He must be a long time denizen of the world wide web to be the owner of “jim.com”!

I found his essay on Natural Law and Natural Right to be fascinating reading. I think I first discovered this stuff 15 years or so ago. He spent a lot of time debating left wing anarchists over Spanish history, especially on what really happened in Catalonia. He also despises Chomsky, and has spent a lot of energy debunking Chomsky’s politics.

His demonstration that morality is objectively knowable was very influential in my thinking on these matters, and I still enjoy revisiting it from time to time.

Highly recommended.

Geithner Believes in Capitalism

Jokes Tunku Varadarajan…

Geithner must be a huge believer in capitalism, because he thinks it can withstand everything he’s throwing at it

Interesting piece, especially the embedded video of Niall Ferguson speaking at the Reboot America conference.

Defining Nuttiness

David D. Friedman has an essay (which I just now discovered, having been reintroduced to his blog) on what counts as “nutty.” Apparently this grew out of a series of previous posts about the putative “nuttiness” of Christine O’Donnell, Republican candidate for Senate in Delaware — who, in the absence of some deus ex machina, seems in any case destined to lose the race to an avowed Marxist and “pet” of Harry Reid named Coons.

Like everything DDF writes, every word is worth reading. But let’s cut to the chase:

So what does qualify one as a nut? I think the best answer I can come up with is holding beliefs that no reasonable person with your intellectual background could hold. In practice, since one rarely knows enough about some else’s background to apply that criterion, it comes down to observing how someone holds and defends his beliefs.

There are few minds I admire as much as I do DDF’s but I don’t think I agree with him here. Some of the commenters seem to have a position closer to what I hold.

What I think is meant by “nutty” is a single belief or set of beliefs that lies sufficiently outside the mainstream of the culture. Note that my definition of nuttery makes no mention of whether the beliefs have a basis in fact, or whether or not they are justified and true (as in knowledge). Nuttiness is an entirely social construct. And it is not a binary state, but one characterized by degree of divergence from the mainstream. It is completely contextual (time and place). Copernicus was a nut for believing that the planets moved around the sun. The Wright Brothers were nuts for believing man-made contraptions could fly. People who believe that AIDS was engineered by the CIA to wipe out the people of Africa are nuts. Libertarians are nuts, relative to the totality of modern Western civilization.

It’s an interesting question whether liberals and/or conservatives are nuts. Based on my definition, and looking at recent survey results, we might say that liberals are nuttier than conservatives, since around 40% of people describe themselves as conservative vs. around 20% as liberal. However, if we restrict our reference culture to the liberal salons of Manhattan, then it is conservatives who are nuts, whereas liberals are the people “who think and vote exactly like all the people I know.”

The really amusing or interesting nuts, though, are the 3-or-more-standard-deviation nuts. These are the people who really stand out from the crowd. People who think the “white race” was created by a Satanic scientist on the lost island of Patmos, for example. Or that returning to the gold standard would solve America’s economic problems. Or that wearing an energy bracelet can improve your balance.

Maybe you could provide some more amusing examples of the truly nutty in the comments section?

Citizens Against Government Waste and the Yellow Menace

At The Atlantic, James Fallows comments on the brilliance of the new Citizens Against Government Waste ad.

While I agree that this ad will resonate with the American people, the economics in it is really stupid.

This idea that if China “owns our debt” that we “work for them” or that they “own us” is severely mistaken. They have pretty pieces of paper (cash and T-bills) which have no value except that they can be exchanged some time in the future for goods and services produced by Americans, at prices we then set. That’s it. They’ve spent decades working their people like dogs to produce goods for us and get slips of paper in return. This has been a huge win for the American people. I hope China takes a long time to figure this out.

Over at The Belmont Club, a guy named Kaspar made the great point that you only buy the debt of someone who has a future. China buys our debt, we don’t buy theirs. They buy our debt because they think we have a future (again, for their sake, hopefully a future where we can produce real goods and services to sell them for their otherwise worthless fiat money and T-bills).

Their very real problem is that they aren’t going to be able to “keep ’em down on the farm” any longer now that Chinese peasants are used to improving their lives by moving to the cities to get jobs in industry. If they try to stop this, they may have a revolution on their hands. And that almost certainly means they’ll continue to export goods at amazing prices, to our benefit, for a very long time to come. And our idiot politicians are going to try to put an end to this, in part inspired by ads like this — I guess because they’d rather we were the ones working to export goods to the rest of the world in exchange for pieces of paper. Why would anyone in his right mind want to spoil this great thing we’ve got going on?

Juan Williams Hit the Jackpot

I’ve listened to Juan Williams’ reporting over the years on NPR, and have enjoyed his recent stint as a panelist on Brett Baier’s Special Report which I catch most weeknights. Like many others, I’ve come to appreciate the guy as an honest and reasonable liberal, with a real human quality. Come to think of it, I guess I can understand why he doesn’t fit in at NPR any more. What he was guilty of here was honesty: he admitted to a feeling that 99% of non-Muslim Americans would probably share (one poll I saw reported on Fox showed 88% of respondents agreeing with Williams – but that’s only those who were willing to admit it to the pollsters).

Anyway, he’s hit the jackpot now. I’m not sure he could have planned this any better. A $2 million-a-year contract with Fox News and (no doubt) a barrage of book deals from publishers seems like a very nice way to soothe the pain of his firing.

For many of the rest of us, we’ll also get to enjoy watching NPR and its posse of pipsqueaks be savaged by Bill O’Reilly, Fox News, and a number of other outfits on the political Right. Deservedly so. The Stalinist creature (Vivian Schiller) who appeared in a public interview to explain the firing, while simultaneously insinuating that Williams is either psycho or a publicity hound, is likely in for a long period of suffering or at the very least a lot of damage control. Ah, sweet, sweet Schadenfreude. (Would it be wrong of me to point out that in real life she doesn’t look like her airbrushed publicity photo?)

Ironically, I predict that, rather than making people more ashamed of their feelings of fear regarding Muslims on airplanes, this affair will make it more popular to admit the truth. Only the leftist totalitarians really enjoy political correctness – most Americans despise it, and sympathize with those who are forced to suffer at its hands.

In reading up on this issue, I also learned, for the first time, that Juan called Michelle Obama “Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress.” Ouch! Impolite, to be sure. But I can’t bring myself to hold it against him.

Good luck Juan.

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