Randoms of the day

November 29, 2011

Ilkka translates some aphorisms.

Lots of people have been commenting on this article, which criticizes public sector unions. It makes some good points, however, I think it misses the most pernicious aspect of public sector unionism. Some public sector workers now draft, enforce and interpret laws. If you can’t fire your lawmakers, executives or legislators, you’re screwed – paying them well is the least of our problems.

Sonic Charmer had a good post on regulation a while back. I would only add that most of the industry representatives I deal with want more regulation. If you support "more" regulation in order to punish financial institutions, you’ve got things generally backwards.

Not getting married is prole: "As Murray documents in his new book, the key class divide today centers around marriage and legitimacy."

nydwracu did some good DC-demographics blogging a while back.

China’s IQ geography.

Eugenicist asks what we’ll (HBDers) do when the truth comes out. My suggestion would be that we return to an older system of organizing society. Everyone should have a place in society that is suited to their abilities. If we can’t do something this productive, at least we could stop wasting so much money trying to improve the un-improvable.

Elusive Wapiti reviews Gibbon.

ZH: "Kyle Bass was right about everything . . . again"

Mangan on doing what you love (a phrase which I also hate – I particularly dislike "follow your passion"):

Why should we care? Because this mantra enchants and fools legions of young people. It’s akin to the idea that if you practice 10,000 hours you can be an expert at anything, or that anyone can be president. People who take the mantra seriously – and since the average inhabitant of our benighted land is so uneducated and culturally illiterate that he is unlikely to have the wit and examples at hand to refute it easily – can go on to put a serious dent in their life prospects. I suspect that all those OWS folks who feel entitled to earn a living through puppetry or bachelor’s degrees in anthropology are following this script.

Mangan is also good on the NYT’s discovery that IQ maybe sort of matters.

Jim: "In general, it may not be a good idea to utilize financial instruments regulated by an insolvent state." In unrelated news, gold continues to increase in value for no apparent reason.

Sometimes it’s surprising how little things change. For example, this story could easily have been written anytime after the Civil War.

OneSTDV on the police. My own views on the police are a bit more nuance, but not much.

WRM: "What’s interesting, of course, is how much more mature physicists seem to be than climatologists." That’s because physicists are scientists and climatologists are statisticians.

Jehu on the benefits of diversity:

Most of said middleman costs would be calculated in as part of what economists call GDP. Something to think about when one hears that economists say that ‘immigration is good for the economy’. How can one take them seriously when they have not even a mechanism to measure how much the degradation of trust created by diversity costs? You could probably even argue that increasing diversity creates an artificial economy of scale benefiting larger firms versus the guy—probably a retiree, who likely enjoys cutting wood.

He also has a good post on getting the money out of politics.

Alex Tabarrok: "It’s one of the ironies of American history that when the Pilgrims first arrived at Plymouth rock they promptly set about creating a communist society." Actually, I think it’s about right.

Isegoria links to a review of Herbert Hoover’s book, Freedom Betrayed, which sounds quite interesting.

Aretae summarizes the zero marginal product workers debate that was very interesting last week.

Whiskey has some interesting thoughts on divorce in your 20s.

Aretae tries to explain democracy, he believes its purpose is:

To constrain the executive. 2000-10000 years of history demonstrate that roughly all kings all the time are horrid. They range from uninterested, and therefore only minimally oppressive to interested and(theref0re) atrocious. Democracy is an attempt to constrain the power of kings, whose power is known to be dangerous on a level somewhere between forest fires and Cthulhu.

Interestingly I think this is wrong on every possible dimension. Far from restraining executives, democracies have set them free. They are now not shackled by any restraints. After all, they represent the people, and who dares oppose the people? The kings of old (many of whom were – obviously – not horrid) could only dream of exercising the power that modern executive branches exert. The modern executive is also free from any consequences of his actions – the most terrible sort of freedom.



November 18, 2011

– Government regulation of certain aspects of private financial transactions are fascinating.

Yglesiocracy: "Smart People have no use for the concept of the Rule of Law. Smart People favor the rule of Smart People."

– More massive mail bailouts for entities that "didn’t case the crisis." (Do I need a trademark sign after the quote?)

Words to live by: "the sane alternative is to be a reactionary with a sense of humor."

– I’ve written before that huge portions of the blogosphere and economic research are dedicated to explaining that which Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein already explained. This debate between Tyler Cowen and Erik Brynjolffson is a good example. Cowen argues that we have economic and technological stagnation while Brynjolffson argues that we’re experiencing massive gains in both areas. Of course, they’re both right. If you look at median levels, as Cowen does, you see stagnation. If you look at mean levels, as Brynjolffson does, you see advancement. Murray and Herrnstein predicted that we’d see massive gains among the intelligent and stagnation (or regression) among the increasingly larger non-intelligent. In other words, yawn, Murray and Herrnstein were right. The Bell Curve was written in 1994. How long will it be before mainstream economists figure out what it says?

Peggy Noonan:

Later, with an almost beautiful defiance, Mr. Cain told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "I’m not supposed to know anything about foreign policy." That’s what staffers are for. "I want to talk to commanders on the ground. Because you run for president [people say] you need to have the answer. No you don’t! No you don’t!"

Yes you do. It was as if history itself were unknown to him, as if Harry Truman told Douglas MacArthur, "Do what you want, cross the Yalu, but remember to tell me if we invade China."

Cain is right, of course.

Regulatory topics

November 15, 2011

– Carl from Chicago has a nice post on the bureaucracy. Punchline:

My advice is to befriend governmental workers and medical care professionals in the future as our system moves more towards the “Greek” model of over-promising care to everyone and under-funding and not incenting the hard work necessary for quality care to occur. And be prepared for a wall of government workers who can rule with impunity based on arcane processes and standards not tied to the free market or any sort of accountability based system as our “investment” in government increases; the first thing these workers will do is build a system where they are put “first” before the mission that they are trying to accomplish.

– The NYT started a discussion about "technocrats" with this article, which is a waste of time. Everyone wonders whether "technocrats" can solve Europe’s problems, without mentioning that the definition of "technocrat" seems to be: "unelected government official who caused Europe’s problems." Seems odd, no?

– Peter Suderman notes (seemingly with favor) a proposal that would require the FCC to "publish rules before voting on them." I’m sure this will work, since it’s worked so well to curb regulations at other agencies since 1946.

– Keoni Galt’s post "bureaugamy" is worth a read as well.

The goal of the reactionary

November 15, 2011

"It is only the minority that counts." – Mencken

I’ve had several conversations (in person and online) with reactionaries about the end-game of reactionary blogging. In all these conversations I haven’t been able to express myself very well. Frankly, I never assumed that there was an end-game. I don’t blog to help create a new society or change the world. I blog for the purely selfish reasons of increasing my own knowledge and talking to other like-minded people. That’s good enough for me. It never occurred to me to want more.

I also think that mainstream systems – notably progressivism – are incredibly resilient. One could argue that progressivism in some form has been winning consistently for several centuries against opponents that, in many cases, are better/more powerful/etc than us. Your humble blogger harbors absolutely no expectation that this situation is about to change. Frankly, given the record of how progressivism deals with its opponents, I wouldn’t advise fighting it. My point is that I certainly don’t expect to live to see any meaningful changes. In other words, Whittaker Chambers was right.

The reactionary then, writes for himself and the small minority that matters. If some higher purpose is necessary, I’d suggest that it’s worthwhile to expose as many other people as possible to long lost, superior ideas, in hopes of finding more members of this (never large) minority. The structure of our society is very good at ensuring that people are only exposed to certain viewpoints (dissenting viewpoints are allowed, but only some dissenting viewpoints). There are very few places to encounter truly different ideas.


November 15, 2011

A reactionary take on China.

"Without structure, there can be no virtue, only subsistence."

Bryan Caplan: "Right-wingers should spend a lot more time reading left-wing ethnography of the poor. It may seem strange, but when leftist social scientists actually talk to and observe the poor, they confirm the stereotypes of the harshest Victorian. Poverty isn’t about money; it’s a state of mind. That state of mind is low conscientiousness." I find that everything I read confirms Victorian stereotypes, bring on the neo-Victorians.

Arnold Kling doesn’t think it’s possible to say what is motivating OWS. I still think it’s about violence and I think that my prediction is looking pretty good.


The worst aspect of a meritocracy is its lack of respect for tradition. Meritocracy represents the ultimate triumph of theory and potential over experience and reliability, so it should come as little surprise that by historical standards, the new meritocratic societies appear to be destroying themselves in a remarkably short period of time.

On prescription drug abuse and legalizing drugs.

"The Middle Ages did not care about giving everybody an equal position, but did care about giving everybody a position." – Chesterton


Looks like blacks commit most of the hate crimes in DC (assuming that its mostly blacks targeting those with different "sexual orientations," a gay name for gays).

The actual list of Journolisters is pretty interesting, if unsurprising.

Malcolm Pollack:

We are reminded daily by our ruling elites that “our diversity is our strength”, but the truth — a truth that was simple common sense in a saner era — is that it comes at a heavy cost. What is intolerable to an ideology that sees Diversity as the greatest possible good is the simple, natural fact that discrimination — meaning, at its most basic, “we are this and not that” — is intrinsic to, and essential for, the very existence of culture itself.

The last judgement of Darwin

November 15, 2011

I can’t ever remember disagreeing with Heartiste, but I disagree with this post:

Alpha males who use game to attract women are doing those things which favor passing on their DNA in the state of nature, but they are thwarting the final step in the reproductive process with modern contraceptives. The use of the condom or Pill to prevent pregnancy does not render the successful alpha male womanizer any less alpha; a legal ban on all contraceptives would quickly restore his primacy in the snot-nosed litter market.

The pill changes some things, but it does not change nature itself.

Heartiste is a devout follower of the laws of nature and reality. However, I think he’s gone astray here. Nature does not recognize the distinction he’s making. "Doing those things which favor passing on their DNA" but which don’t actually pass on DNA are no different to nature than things that don’t pass on DNA. Similarly, nature does not recognize potential changes to the law that would enable someone to pass on his DNA with success.

Nature’s a bitch, but she’s not hard to understand. You either pass on your DNA or you don’t. There are no grey areas here.

Game vs MRA

November 15, 2011

While I was taking an unplanned vacation from blogging, there was a big debate on game versus MRA. Frost ably represented the game movement.

I agree with the pro-game side (perhaps closest to OneSTDV), but not without much more nuance that (apparently all other) pro-game commentators. I think the gamers are correct about the problem and the solution, but they’re too nihilistic for my tastes. Frost, for example, is moving to Thailand to chase women, apparently. Best of luck to him, but he – in some ways – encapsulates my reservations about the game-types. At least the MRAs know what they want at the end.

In my experience, happiness – it turns out – isn’t that hard to find. It’s the same, old, boring lifestyle that everyone mocks or proclaims as dead and that the vast majority of intelligent Americans are still living. The MRAers are just trying to get that back. They don’t know how to do it, and their ideas are generally wrong, but they’ve got an end point. A good one at that.

Central banking

November 15, 2011

Economists are famous for claiming that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Unfortunately (since I believe that is true), economists also think lots of things are free lunches. For example, I’ve written that the mainstream theory of free trade is that it is a free lunch, despite historical evidence that the effects of free trade are more nuanced.

The internet overflows with commentary from economists on how to run a central bank. One thing seems clear: mainstream economists seem to believe that running a central bank that borrows in a currency and prints the same currency is a free lunch.

If you print the stuff that your debts are issued in, you don’t really have debts do you? At least that’s the theory. Free debts for all! And since debts are just money that we print, we can have free money for all!

Prosperity ensued. Er, not exactly.

There has been at least one constraint on this free lunch for a while. The constraint has been that everyone agrees that too much money printing leads to inflation and that once inflation gets started, it’s very difficult to stop. IMHO, if everyone stops believing this, we’re screwed.

(Incidentally, I was looking around and I can’t find any discussion of whether it would be harder to stop inflation in modern welfare states. For example, the US debt/GDP is about 100% today. When Paul Volcker stopped inflation in the ’70s, the same ratio was around 30%. Today, if interest rates were pushed up to 18% to fight inflation, USG would almost certainly be unable to pay it’s debts as interest payments would surge – this was not really a concern in the ’70s when the amount of debt was much lower. Could we even fight inflation anymore?)

This brings us to the economic topic du jour: NGDP targeting. Modern central banks are supposed to keep inflation low and (sometimes) keep unemployment low. As discussed above, the main constraint on money printing is that once you start it’s hard to stop. Central banks therefore want to err on the side of keeping inflation in check. At least until a new academic theory came along.

As I see it, NGDP targeting is designed to remove this final constraint on printing money. Instead of targeting a low rate of inflation, NGDP targeting says you should target a level of NGDP. NGDP is GDP unadjusted for inflation. So, let’s say last period’s GDP is 100 and this period’s GDP is 90. NGDP targeting would direct the central bank to print money until this period’s GDP was 100. Until that point, the central bank should ignore the actual level of inflation.

(NGDPers don’t say how the central bank will do this beyond saying that it will "buy stuff" which seems woefully inadequate to me, but it apparently makes sense to them, so we’re all good.)

Note that this allows you to print a huge amount of money. Theoretically, you’d want inflation to be 10% in one period if there was a big drop in GDP.

What happens when everyone stops believing that once inflation gets started it will be hard to stop?

My guess is that the results won’t be pretty.