Tickets for sandwiches, not guns

July 31, 2008
From Reason:

"So I just want to be clear," I asked [Atlanta public transit system] MARTA police Chief Wanda Dunham. "If I had a turkey sandwich in one hand and a gun in the other hand, MARTA police would ticket me for the turkey sandwich?"

"If you're eating it," she replied. "Only if you're eating it."


Britain and GDP

July 31, 2008
From Ms McArdle:

When you see the map, it becomes radically apparent just how firmly Britain was the root of the Industrial revolution.  With the lone exception of Japan, the darkest places on the map are either next to Britain, or former British colonies.  And aside from Saudi Arabia and Chile, all the growth seems to spread outward from those Anglosphere points of infection.  Nowhere, not even Saudi Arabia, has the income density of Western Europe and North America.

"The 2nd-amendment-attorneys full-employment decision"

July 31, 2008
I think that’s what we should call the Heller decision, since it seems to have had no effect on who is actually allowed to carry guns. On the other hand, it certainly seems to be keeping attorneys busy challenging and defending state and local gun laws.

The Milton Friedman Institute

July 31, 2008
This is funny.  Though if I were to write something like that, I'd be "anti-elitist" or some such nonsense.  What do you do if you can't be anti-elitist and all the elites are idiots?

The apology for slavery

July 31, 2008
Permanent white guilt.

The shorts suit

July 31, 2008
What he said.  The pictures are ridiculous.

Review of "The Driver" by Garet Garrett

July 30, 2008
Either there were some major coincidences, or Ayn Rand read this book before she wrote Atlas Shrugged (I say this as a huge fan of Ms Rand).  I don't mean this comment to take anything away from Atlas.  However, the similarities – railroad executives, heroes named Galt about whom everyone is wondering who he is, the hero's ability to overcome everything but government, etc. – are striking (as the Wikipedia page about Atlas says).

Here's a good plot summary and review.  Here's more on the similarities to Atlas.  It's worth noting that Garrett's character seems to have been modeled on a real-life character.

I don't think I have anything to add to these summaries, so I'll take a minute to contrast the view of business found in Mr Trollope's The Way We Live Now, which I reviewed below and in Mr Garrett's book.

At first glance, they seem to be taking two totally opposing sides of the same issue.  The question they seek to address is whether working as a business executive or as one who trades stocks as a profession, or etc. is fundamentally immoral?

There is one major issue that is not often examined in the literature critical of business (we are taking Mr Trollope as our example here).  In the end, even a writer as gifted as Mr Trollope has to make his executive/stock-jobber cross the line into outright fraud.  Without this more overt, immoral action – beyond normal business conduct – I don't believe the downfall of the character would have been satisfying to the reader.  In other words, I think even the critics admit (implicitly in their writing) that people do not consider business activities to be inherently immoral.

On the other side, a true, principled executive like Mr Garrett's (and Ms Rand's) Galt are almost non-existent in the real business world.  Those of us who defend free markets and free reign for businesses do not have luxury of defending Galt's.  We get stuck executives who are way too cozy with politicians and who seem to be concerned with growing their own empires instead of building the best possible products or maximizing shareholder value, let alone exemplars of high ethical standards (or even executives who agree with our free market views!).

So, is it possible that everybody is correct?  I hope not, since I hate conclusions like that.  I see nothing inherently immoral in business activities (unlike Mr Trollope seems to); but I have no trouble believing that immoral people are attracted to and rise to the top in business (perhaps unlike Mr Garrett).

Similarly, I can agree with Mr Trollope that the rise of very wealthy businessmen has tended to degrade morality, without necessarily blaming the rise of business (after all, correlation is not causation, I would lay the blame on increasing wealth which is a byproduct of business, but who knows?).  I can also agree with Mr Garrett that even if big business is a problem, big government isn't a solution, it's just a transformation to another type of worse problem.

Interestingly both authors reserve the harshest treatment for the people who suck up to the business men when they are successful (Mr Garrett)/wealthy (Mr Trollope) and shun they when they are unsuccessful.  Perhaps this is the message that we should take first and foremost from these works.

Some correction to a stupid David Brooks piece

July 30, 2008
and some good details on productivity, technology, and demography

“In essence, they found that climate models have no predictive value”

July 30, 2008

Vindicating Herbert Spencer

July 29, 2008
100 years too late.