What have stupid people done lately?

April 29, 2011

I decided to comb through my neighborhood listserv for the past week (Monday through Thursday) to look for examples of how my neighbors have been affected by stupid people. Keep in mind that were talking about an expensive neighborhood – I’m guessing that no one posting has a house that’s worth less than $500,000. Here is what I found:

1) One person’s kitchen constantly smells like urine because people keep peeing in the alley directly behind his house.
2) Several bikes were stolen.
3) Two people are being driven insane by their neighbor’s dogs barking constantly for 10 hours at a time. The neighbor is apparently breeding pit bulls in his house (the typical yard in my neighborhood is not much bigger than 100 square feet).

4) While standing at a bus stop, one women was yelled at to, “fucking go away” and “move on, bitch” by a friendly neighbor. (Incidentally someone on the listserv told her that this might have been due to “cultural differences.” No doubt the person who said this believes that all cultures are equally good).

5) One neighbor watched as some guy broke into a house across the street.

That covers all I could find this week.

James Taranto has a long-running feature in which he quotes a story which describes something terrible that happens in a government-run healthcare system. He then quotes a Paul Krugman editorial in which Krugman says that horror stories about bad things happening under government-run healthcare systems are false.

I’m tempted to start a long run series of these things and then link to Aretae and Caplan saying that such things don’t happen. Unfortunately, it would probably be a full time job.

Randoms of the day

April 29, 2011

Professor Bainbridge does an unintentionally excellent job of explaining the problems of free trade. Basically he’s complaining that China continues to act in its own interests instead of properly subjugating its interests to the common good.

Divorce is for dumb people.

You can be too alpha.

Ulysses on marriage. I also have a lot of trouble writing about the good stuff. I’m not sure why this is. Partly, I think the things that make me happy aren’t the things that make other people happy – especially when it comes to women. For example, I’ve always been attracted to ambitious women. The stuff that works for me, then, doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else. Nevertheless, Ulysses has done a great job summing up the important stuff.

Devin and Aretae are in a back and forth (here, here, here and here) on authority. The more I read libertarians defend libertarianism the more the whole philosophy seems divorced from any realistic assumptions about what people are actually like. Granted, if I was allowed to re-make people, I’d make them in such a way that libertarianism would be best form of government. But that doesn’t mean that libertarianism is the best form of government for people as they are.

Matthew Yglesias has apparently not heard of the ’70s (this is a great use of a chart to lie, by the way. The chart starts just when stagflation ends).

Megan McArdle thinks that the good old days weren’t that good for women. Unfortunately for today’s women, most of them don’t have jobs as cool as hers and they still want to have kids. I’m guessing that today’s deal which forces more women to work in crappy jobs and not spend time with their kids is worse for the average woman. Even for above average ones, it’s not clear to me that many wouldn’t prefer raising their children.

Suck it, plebes.

A critique of pure exit

April 29, 2011

In a couple of comment threads lately, I’ve been pummeled with the concept of exit.

Basically, I argued something like: I don’t like being hit in the head, regardless of whether I’m being hit in the head by a person who is employed by government or a person who is not employed by government.

The response has basically been: You have no choice about whether or not you’re going to get hit in the head by the person who is employed by government, so that’s bad. The other sort of getting hit on the head is not bad, because exit from it is easier.

I’m highly unpersuaded by this response.

If you follow the link in the first line of this post, you’ll be directed to my review of the book that introduces the concept of exit. Basically, people have two ways of expressing their frustration with another entity (be it a person, a corporation or a government): 1) voice (e.g. complain, vote, etc.) and 2) exit (e.g. leave, don’t buy a product, etc.). Voice and exit are means for achieving desirable ends (e.g. better government, good products, etc.).

Note that voice and exit are not moral concepts. They are two potential means for achieving desirable results. If such results were obtainable in other ways, voice and exit are not useful or good. If you lived in heaven, voice and exit would be absurd. In other words, there is nothing necessarily moral about voice and exit.

My first problem with the response above is that it turns exit into something moral. It may be true that – all else equal – making exit easier will improve the quality of governance. However, this statement no way implies that if exit is impossible (a highly debatable assertion anyway), an entity’s actions become necessarily immoral. If there was a perfect government but exit was impossible, such a government would not be immoral.

My second problem is that exit – at root – is a cost, and all costs are subjective. It’s therefore impossible to discuss the cost of exit, as it differs for everyone. Let’s say that you really don’t like USG. Can you exit? Of course you can – I’ve known several people who have moved out of the US. To return to my initial argument about being hit in the head, there’s no way for anyone to know whether the cost to me of exiting the USG head-hitting is higher or lower than the cost of exiting the non-USG head-hitting.

I don’t mean to suggest that exit is not a useful concept. I do, however, mean to suggest that it’s not nearly as useful

Left libertarianism

April 29, 2011

I’ve been thinking a bit about left-libertarianism lately.

As I understand it, like libertarians, left-libertarianism don’t like government. However, they also don’t like other powerful non-governmental groups. The only ones they can generally think of are corporations and since lefties don’t like corporations, you get the “left” part of the left-libertarian. Also like leftists, and as a consequence of not liking power, they tend to wield the poor as a weapon with which to club their intellectual opponents.

I don’t consider myself a libertarian anymore. However, if people were like I wanted them to be instead of how they actually are, then I would agree that libertarianism would be the best form of government.

My problem with left-libertarianism is that my conception of what a libertarian world would look like is not leftist. If people were really free, there would be large companies. Certain people are really good at things, think Steve Jobs or John D. Rockefeller. In free competition with other people, they would win. They would therefore concentrate power. These concentrations of power might not last long, but I think it would take a lot of force (i.e. a lot of unlibertarianism) to prevent this from happening. Similarly, in a more libertarian world, I would seek to live near people more like me and to keep other people. All experience indicates that this is how people act. So, a more libertarian world would be a more discriminatory world. This doesn’t fit with left-libertarianism, so again, force would be necessary to ensure equality – or whatever word they prefer to use that means basically the same thing.

To put it as simply as possible: I don’t see a way of making the world more leftist, without using a lot of force.

Perhaps the problem here is that – as I said – libertarianism is not a realistic way to govern humans as they are but only if humans were as we would like them to be. Perhaps in imagining the type of beings that could live under a libertarian system of government, I’m simply not going far enough to imagine the type of person that could live under a left-libertarian government.

Randoms of the day

April 27, 2011

Dennis Mangan links to a study which finds: "The genotypic IQ decline will ruin the economic and social infrastructure needed for quality education, welfare, democracy and civilization. DRDS is currently unopposed politically, so existing fertility differentials may eventually lead to Western submission or civil resistance."

Democracy and lying.

A lot of free market types have spilled some ink on Roger Goodell’s op-ed in the WSJ yesterday defending the NFL’s current organizational structure. For example, here is Professor Bainbridge calling Goodell a commie. I think this is a really bad argument for libertarians. Baseball works in a more libertarian manner . . . and it sucks. Same for the NBA. Blasting the commissioner of the NFL because he wants to keep his product from sucking seems like a losing argument to me.

While I’m on the subject of bad arguments from libertarians, Radley Blako is having IRS problems. That sucks. But it sounds no different than any interaction with a large company.

I regret not keeping a list of all the things I’ve heard that will "destroy the financial system" since I’ve started working at a financial agency. In my head, whenever I hear that "policy X will destroy the financial system" I substitute "policy X is a good idea."

Kalim Kassam linked to this interview with Lee Kuan Yew a few times, it’s worth a watch.

John Derbyshire on libertarians.

Radical Democracy Punishes and Eliminates Beauty

Jim on democracy in the Ivory Coast:

The Ivory Coast illustrates the two great problems of democracy: The fact that bids for votes have no limit, since the politicians are bidding with the promise of stolen goods, and the propensity of governments, pursuing a cheaper vote, to elect a new people. A government composed of people native to the ivory coast elected a new people, a people not native to the ivory coast, and that new people, in turn, elected a new government, a government of tranzis in place of a government of people native to the Ivory Coast.

More on stupid people

April 27, 2011

In response to my last post, Aretae says:

Fundamentally, the Caplan claim is…as a rich person, what anyone else does to me is LARGELY within my control. Unless they’re some asshole government bureaucrat who relies on gun-wielding thugs to collect their salary in a rich part of town. Apart from those folks, your choices are your own.

There are lots of problems with this argument.

First “rich person” isn’t defined. It seems that no one who uses this term ever defines it. I’m partial to the claim that it’s basically a meaningless term in the US for all but a very few people (so few that they’re not really worth considering in situations like this one). Individuals’ incomes fluctuate during their lives and measurements of wealth are hard. As the WSJ notes today, we’re all a lot poorer now than we were 10 years ago if wealth is measured in gold. In general, I try to avoid using the term (though this could be a side effect of working in DC, were wealth is less valuable than power).

Second, I think the claim is wrong. By most people’s measures, my family is rich (our income is well over the President’s threshold of $250,000). If anyone is willing to spend their money to avoid stupid people, I am. So far I haven’t found any ways to get totally away from stupid people.

For example, I have to buy food. Going to the grocery store around my home is an adventure in stupidity. In general, I try to have as much of my food delivered as possible, but still, the delivery guy isn’t a rocket scientist and if too much stuff is left outside my house during the day, some dumbass will steal it.

Also for example, crime has negative externalities. Even if I can afford to protect my family (arguable), I can’t control it’s effect on my property values. The list goes on and actually impacts virtually every area of my life. No man is an island, so to speak.

Third, the argument consists of two sentences. The first tells me that I shouldn’t mind having my wealth effectively used up by the stupid people around me (implicitly, it suggests that the way I can cope with stupid people is by spending money to avoid them). The second tells me that I should mind having the government effectively use up my money. What’s the difference? In both cases, stupid people are making it so that I have less money. Why should I care if one set of the stupid people works for the government?

Finally, I can’t resist pointing out that the Caplan/Aretae claim is totally reasonable for someone living in Fairfax, VA or San Luis Obispo, CA (there, it’s true that you can generally avoid the one idiot in the village), but not for someone living in DC. Frankly, I find it pretty annoying that people who have moved as far away from stupid people as possible are tell others how easy it is to live around stupid people. It’s trivial to suggest that it’s easy to avoid stupid people when you don’t live near any.

What have dumb people done to me?

April 27, 2011

Bryan Caplan asks: “What did stupid people ever do to you?”

Steve Sailer points out that Professor Caplan is the one who wrote a book about how our political system doesn’t work if voters are stupid . . .

But leaving aside that obvious, humorous, and devastating re-tort, I think there are some additional answers to the question.

For example, unlike Professor Caplan the government entity that employs me is not located in Northern Virginia. Therefore, I am not allowed the opportunity of staying entirely outside DC on a daily basis (DC is filled with more people of a low IQ than Northern Virginia). So, stupid people force me to make a choice: 1) get a different job; 2) commute long distances in a car; or 3) live near stupid people. Most people that defend stupid people, like Professor Caplan, don’t live near them. I chose option 3), so I do.

My house is worth about $800,000. It would easily be worth over a million if it weren’t for stupid people who commit crime in the immediate areas around my house and who send their stupid children to the local schools thereby making them useless to non-stupid kids. I have additional costs associated with living around stupid people, which include payments on a security system, having to drive a crappy car, higher taxes for terrible services, etc.

Rarely does a day go by in which I don’t waste a significant amount of time waiting for a stupid person to do their (incredibly simple) job. Service in DC is run by stupid and they’re not very good at it.

At work, my office has a secretarial staff that is completely useless. It’s gotten to the point than I never ask them to do anything for me.

I long for the distant days in which my job would be relocated to a location in which the stupid people all lived far away and customer service was run by college students . . . unfortunately, those days have not arrived yet. At least for me.