Archive for the ‘Dances with liberals’ Category

Reason.tv released this short video on marijuana legalization.

My question for pro-legalization liberals:

Can you reconcile legalization with food regulation? My contention is that centrists (of both parties) favor regulations that advance their desired world, without reference to the logical consistencies and assumptions underling their imagined preferences.

That is, their policy preferences are arbitrary bullshit.

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Coming Around

Lately I’ve been reconsidering a lot ideas about politics, philosophy, and economics, and have a few concessions to make.

Libertarianism isn’t such a great idea after all. So often libertarians claim to value freedom and liberty, but this is really just to conceal their ulterior motive of favoring the wealthy corporate elite at the expense of the poor. A free market is intrinsically exploitative, and without the benevolence of a democratic government to redistribute from the wealthy to the poor, some people just can’t afford basic life necessities. The wealthy wouldn’t pay their fair share otherwise. We have to rely on the government to serve the public interest, because private companies fail to do so. They’re just interested in maximizing their own profit, cutting costs even when they produce unsafe working conditions and dangerous products for consumers. They maximize profits at the expense of the public interest.

We need the government to support labor unions, because otherwise companies wouldn’t pay their workers a high enough wage. Without the government, the wealthy wouldn’t pay their fair share. Private companies don’t care at all about society, so government needs to regulate wages.

There are all sorts of industries that must be reformed through government action, if society is to function at all. We must devote far more funding to public schools, because of the nation’s lagging test scores. We must provide far more funding for college tuition, because everyone has a right to education. We must increase subsidies to our farmers to protect good American jobs from being exported overseas. We need to crack down on illegal immigration because otherwise immigrants will only continue to steal jobs from Americans.

Fortunately, there has been great progress. President Obama is guaranteeing that everyone in this country will have the best health care. Life expectancy will go up dramatically, and all the care is free. Who could possibly oppose free health care? Health care is a fundamental right, so there’s no question about the morality of such a program. It’s the only just way to provide health care. We can’t decide such things on the basis of costs and benefits. This isn’t about economics. This is about people’s health.

There are other things that the government needs to do to make sure that society is healthy. We also need to crack down on recreational drug use. Marijuana and harder drugs are extremely dangerous, and the government needs to protect us from such dangerous drugs. No only will cracking down make us healthier, but we’ll also prevent all the associated crime from junkies robbing and murdering people to support their addiction. With government rightly in control of people’s health, we can end the obesity epidemic, simply by eliminating trans-fats, banning them from restaurants and grocery stores. Doing so will be easy when we set up a public option for grocery stores. Current grocery stores only care about profits, stealing money that would otherwise provide lower prices for the poorest segments of society. A public chain of grocery stores will force private grocery stores to compete honestly.

Fast food restaurants should be abolished altogether, not only because they steal jobs from local “Mom and Pop” stores, but because they infest areas where poor people have no other options, making them obese. Poor people have no options and don’t know how to care for themselves, so government must make all the important choices for them. Think of all the money that will be saved from the efficiency of such healthier citizens! We must entrust the government to make us all healthier, wealthier, and happier.

In short, free markets are completely unaccountable. We must replace our system of free enterprise with democratic central planning, for the social good. With government, poor people can find relief from their lower intelligence and ability. We must help these poor souls. Society has an obligation to bring these poor people up to our level. Equalizing income among all people in society is the only way to achieve fairness, and that will be best accomplished by a 100% marginal tax rate. This is the only way society should ever be organized.

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Regarding my previous thoughts on gun control, a reader writes,

Wow, do you ever miss the point. Put simply, drunk people do stupid things – and have bad aim! Picture the escalation of your average bar fight with guns instead of glasses and bar stools. They’re redesigning bar glasses to be less likely to shatter. How do you redesign the gun to be less lethal? And who would pay for that?!

Also, as one of many people who has worked in a restaurant with areas designated “smoking” and “non-smoking” – not everyone has a reasonable choice to make to avoid the smoke. Despite the significant decrease in tips, I chose to avoid working in the smoking section (not all places would even allow an employee to make that choice). I also, however, didn’t have a rent to pay at the time. Smoke travels easily inside a building. There were days I felt nauseated by the smoke. If the alternative is unemployment, it isn’t a reasonable option.

The objection is that I have missed the point because the reasoning for such a ban is that people have a higher propensity to do stupid things while drunk. Such an objection indicates to me that the reader entirely missed my original point.

Different people have different preferences, different tolerances for risk. There do exist bar owners and clienteles who prefer that patrons are able to carry a concealed weapon, or at least, do not mind it enough to to forgo patronizing the establishment. A blanket ban needlessly constrains those individuals.

Why constrain patrons in a uniform way? There are people who can be responsible with a firearm in a place that serves alcohol. Maybe they don’t drink, maybe they have one or two drinks, or maybe they get very drunk but are still responsible with a firearm. The point is that classically liberal philosophy explicitly condemns probabilistic models of policing to preemptively constrain people, as if they are irresponsible. Should we use racial profiling? Does the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” mean nothing? Thanks to the Second Amendment, by default a person can have a firearm on a public sidewalk. It is borderline arbitrary to remove that liberty when that person walks five feet into a bar or restaurant, provided the owner of the establishment allows it.

The state does not possess the knowledge to determine who is responsible with a firearm around alcohol, and who is not. The state does not have the knowledge to determine who prefers private environments where people are allowed to carry a concealed weapons. One aspect of the jurisprudence for the Second Amendment is to decentralize power. The state complements such decentralization of power with an additional mechanism, property rights.

Redesigning bar glasses to be less likely to shatter is an extreme absurdity. We already have penalties for assault and battery in the law. Why take measures to increase the cost to bar owners and patrons? Why punish, by making them pay more, the majority of drinkers who avoid violence? It’s hard to conceive of an individual owner who believes that suffering the cost of replacing types of glasses is profit-maximizing behavior. So this is a new regulation? If it is, it’s an absurd bureaucratic grab for power.

What is a “reasonable choice to make to avoid the smoke?” Who decides? Some people value the work highly enough to endure the secondhand smoke; some people wouldn’t. Appealing to “reasonable choices” for employees when advocating for a smoking band is a fallacious abuse of language. A smoking ban only reduces choices. The reader has fallaciously conflated incentive and coercion. Brandon Berg explains the difference well. The poor aren’t having their options limited by a restaurant offering a position in a smoke-filled environment; their options are limited by being poor. The option to work in a smokey restaurant expands their choices.

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David Brooks writes about the rise of “vehement libertarianism”. I’ll wear that badge with pride. It would also be a good blog name. As always, he’s grossly incoherent and totally divorced from facts. There’s so much idiocy crammed into so few words. Time to break out the machete of reason and cut this down. (Brooks in bold.)

The United States is becoming a broken society. The public has contempt for the political class.

Two sentences and he’s already wrong; could be a new record. The implication is that respect for the political class is required for a working society. The only time that’s ever been true has been when arbitrary authority could kill you. Then you’d better show some friggin’ respect or go to jail, or worse.


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Last week commentator and all-around great guy Brice weighed in with two long responses to two separate posts. There’s quite a lot going on in his comments but they’re fairly interrelated, so rather than deal with them in the comments section, it makes sense to make a unified response here. Sit back, grab some coffee and get ready to nerd up because this is a big one. Let’s go with Part I. (more…)

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We all know Michigan’s economy is craptastic; it’s become proverbial, like the Pope crapping in the woods.  (Is that a joke anyone makes besides my dad?)

Michigan’s a poisonous mix of high, progressive taxes, union influence, and “investments” in public money-sinks like education, public works, and corporate subsidies. From the WSJ

Meanwhile, the new business taxes didn’t balance the budget. Instead, thanks to business closures and relocations, tax receipts are running nearly $1 billion below projections and the deficit has climbed back to $2.8 billion. As the Detroit News put it, Michigan businesses are continually asked “to pay more in taxes to erase a budget deficit that, despite their contributions, never goes away.” And this is despite the flood of federal stimulus and auto bailout cash over the last year.

Following her 2007 misadventure, Ms. Granholm promised: “I’m not ever going to raise taxes again.” That pledge lasted about 18 months. Now she wants $600 million more. Among the ideas under consideration: an income tax increase with a higher top rate, a sales tax on services, a freeze on the personal income tax exemption (which would be a stealth inflation tax on all Michigan families), a 3% surtax on doctors, and fees on bottled water and cigarettes. To their credit, Republicans who control the Michigan Senate are holding out for a repeal of the 22% business tax surcharge.

As for Ms. Granholm, she and House speaker Andy Dillon continue to bow to public-sector unions. There are now 637,000 public employees in Michigan compared to fewer than 500,000 workers left in manufacturing. Government is the largest employer in the state, but the number of taxpayers to support these government workers is shrinking. The budget deadline is November 1, and Ms. Granholm is holding out for tax increases rather than paring back state government.

The decline in auto sales has hurt Michigan more than other states, but the state’s economy would have been better equipped to cope without Ms. Granholm’s policy mix of higher taxes in order to spend more money on favored political and corporate interests.

Where’s Harold Meyerson on this blow to manufacturing?  Oh that’s right, he thinks only private industry can screw up this badly.

In related links, check out Forgotten Detroit, for an on-going pictorial study detailing the death of a city.  Sadly fascinating.

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Good Question

This weekend a good friend of mine came to town.  She’s been one of my best friends for years, but she wasn’t coming exclusively to visit me.  While we don’t always (or even rarely) see eye-to-eye on social issues, there’s one we can agree on.  It’s pretty indefensible to keep homosexuals from having legally binding marriages.

And that’s how I ended up hanging out with these women, and marching through D.C. on a remarkably beautiful sunny Sunday. (My friend is on the far left, literally and figuratively.)

After reflecting on it, I’m ambivalent about the event.  I went to support my homosexual friends and family, because I support their fight for freedom.  I resent that anyone believes that they have the authority to tell anyone else how, or with whom, to live their life. (more…)

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