So this is how it ends . . .

June 24, 2011

You can’t get on an airplane with a 4oz bottle of fluid or without having someone touch your junk, but you can get on an airplane dressed like this.


An insider on government

June 24, 2011

Mickey Edwards has an article in The Atlantic explaining how he believes we can fix democracy. It’s not very good.

In short, he believes that political parties are the root of our problems. Most of his suggestions seek to limit the power of political parties.

Here are his suggestions:

  1. Break the power of partisans to keep candidates off the general-election ballot.
  2. Turn over the process of redrawing congressional districts to independent, nonpartisan commissions.
  3. Allow members of any party to offer amendments to any House bill and—with rare exceptions—put those amendments to a vote.
  4. Change the leadership structure of congressional committees.
  5. Fill committee vacancies by lot.
  6. Choose committee staff solely on the basis of professional qualifications.

It’s shocking to me that someone could have been in Congress for so long and not see why these are stupid suggestions. Here are my responses:

1: He would suggest open primaries. I don’t see how this solves any problems. In most elections, nothing would change. Only people that care a lot vote, and they tend to be rabid partisans. In other elections, you might get more moderate politicians, but so what? Moderate politicians are the worst.

2: There is no such thing as an independent, nonpartisan commission. This should be incredibly obvious.

3: This would expand the power of the bureaucracy. Members don’t write amendments, bureaucrats and interest groups do. Giving these groups less power should be the goal.

4: The idea here is to make the committee process more “deliberative.” No Congressional committee meeting has ever – ever – changed a Congressman’s vote. “Deliberate” is DC speak for “grandstanding.” There are very few things Washington needs less than more opportunity for grandstanding.

5: This isn’t as bad an idea as the others, but the parties will never vote to decrease their own power in this way. In that sense, it might be the most out-of-touch suggestion in the list.

6: See 2


Vargas

June 24, 2011

An illegal immigrant is a decent reporter . . . Bryan Caplan made his pants sticky.

Cooler heads have pointed out that there’s no chance Vargas will get in trouble.

If the pro-immigration people are correct though, shouldn’t this be a non-story? After all, the country should be filled with super successful illegal immigrants, since they’re supposedly just as likely to be successful as anyone else.


Turing test: Fail

June 24, 2011

Bryan Caplan has a clever idea (he has many clever ideas). His claim is that libertarian economists can explain the liberal position on economics better than liberal economists can explain the libertarian position on economics.

The state forces us to attend public schools which teach us liberal positions. For example, you now have to know environmentalist propaganda to graduate in Maryland. If we do well in school, the state puts lots of pressure on us to go to college, where we learn advanced liberal positions. In other words, we all know how liberals think.

However, if you study economics, you also know how mainstream libertarians think about economics. So, I think most liberal economists can explain Milton Friedman (though not Mises or Rothbard) just as well as most libertarian economists can explain Keynes.

I went to school for 16 years. In that time, all of my teachers were liberal except for one, who was libertarian and who taught economics. My point is that you never, ever have to learn how conservatives think.

As if to prove this point, here’s Bryan Caplan trying to articulate the conservative position on immigration:

A few liberals – and many libertarians – literally advocate open borders. I recognize that immigration is the greatest foreign aid program in human history, and I sympathize with the plight of would-be immigrants in the Third World. Most immigrants – legal or not – are nice people. But open borders is crazy. It seriously risks killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. I’m very open to more cost-effective and humane ways to deal with the negative effects of immigration. But as long as immigrants are eligible for government benefits, hurt low-skilled native workers, and vote, the only people we should readily admit are the highly-educated and clear-cut humanitarian cases. I’d put Haitians in the latter category. Asking Mexicans to live on a $10,000 a year in Mexico is reasonable, but asking Haitians to starve in post-earthquake Haiti is a disgrace.

To be honest, I can’t really figure out what Caplan is saying. I think he ends up reverting to the libertarian-anti-immigration position, which says that open borders are preferable when there’s no welfare state, but that since we have a welfare state, we shouldn’t have open borders.

Grade: F

I think the root of the conservative position is that not all people are identical. If you import 25 million Mexicans into California, you don’t get California the way it was before it had 25 million Mexicans filled with 25 million rich Mexicans. You actually get something that looks a lot more like Mexico. Instead of California acting as a “foreign aid program,” post-immigration-California will likely need to be bailed out (i.e. will need some foreign aid of its own).

Or put another way, there are lots of Americans who are only cut out for low-skilled jobs. Importing an effectively infinite amount of unskilled laborers may then cause problems.

Both libertarians and liberals simply cannot admit there might be some people who are only cut out for low-skilled jobs. They can’t admit it even when they’re pretending to be conservative.

(As if to prove my point, Aretae has a super long post in which he basically argues you can’t possibly determine which people will be more productive.)


Review of “The Hobbit” by J. R. R. Tolkien

June 24, 2011

I’ve been reading or listening to good adolescent books for boys. I’m not really sure why these caught my attention. Maybe I’m just hoping to be super well-prepared for the day when my son starts reading.

For some reason, I’d never read The Hobbit. It was great, as I expected. There’s lots of depth to it, yet it manages to remain a book for kids.

Read all about it, but if you’re looking for a good read for a young (or old) boy, go no further.


Progress

June 15, 2011

From AmCon:

The contemporary West’s dominant narrative is the story of human progress. It reigns throughout the Establishment—politically, intellectually, economically, even theatrically (which is important in a decadent age). To question the progressive narrative instantly positions a person or institution beyond the pale: a weirdo, kook, or nutcase. Such people do not merit rational discourse; rather, they are offered psychological treatment.

As formidable as it first appears, the progressive narrative’s dominant position may soon be shaken. Just as the Establishment depends on the progressive narrative for legitimacy, so the narrative depends on the Establishment for protection. But the Establishment itself is failing.

Politically, the Establishment—which includes most members of both parties and almost all office-holders—cannot come to grips with America’s decline. It can act only within a narrow range, limited by controlling interests at court that feed off the country’s decay. Its range of action is too narrow to conceive and implement policies that might reverse decline.

Intellectually, the Establishment has been reduced to parroting the shibboleths of political correctness. Anyone with a contrary idea is not incorrect for this or that reason; he is a “thisist” or a “thatist.” When the only remaining intellectual prop of a ruling caste is name-calling, it is bankrupt.

Do read the rest.


QE2

June 15, 2011

I officially have no idea what QE2 is even supposed to be doing at this point.

Bill Gross is getting ridiculed for thinking that yields on Treasury bonds will rise when QE2 ends, even though the purpose of QE2 is to keep Treasury bond yields low.

It seems that the average economic reporter believes:

1) the end of QE2 will not cause a rise in Treasury yields

while simultaneously believing

2) QE2 is necessary to keep yields low.

Surely I must be missing something. The only way it makes sense is if the real purpose is something more like this.


Randoms

June 15, 2011

Froude on democratic war.

Everyone apparently needs to break out the smelling salts after watching this video. I’m still waiting for someone to actually refute the content of the ad.

Some pro-monarchy videos.

Vox on free trade.

Sailer: "When you take away how pundits look and how they speak and just get down to the words they have to say, it turns out that the big discoveries were … a whole bunch of white guys." The free market is totally racist.

I think this should be Ron Paul’s new slogan: "Weird times call for weird men"


Regulators

June 15, 2011

Robin Hanson is surprised to find that people know that voters don’t control regulators and that people are happy about this state of affairs.

He looks for really complicated reasons for why people feel this way. He also tries to fit the answer into the farmer/forager paradigm, which is a concise example of why I find him almost unreadable.

There is a much simpler answer that doesn’t involve farming or foraging. The answer has two parts: 1) The average voter doesn’t know shit about banking and 2) The whole notion of having voters somehow write banking regulations is absurd (how would it even work?).


Will Wilkinson is all wrong

June 15, 2011

He seems to think that legislators actually legislate. How quaint! Someone needs to tell him that it’s not 1920 anymore.

My modest proposal would involve tying funding of federal agencies to quantifiable metrics of their success. For example, funding to financial agencies should not go up following a financial crisis, as is currently the practice. It would also involve making it possible to fire agency staff if the metrics were not achieved.

It’s probably better to create an aristocracy of assholes, as he suggests.