Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Mother Jones reports that Humbolt County, California, home to prolific marijuana growing, now has some great new bumper stickers.

Recently, “Keep Pot Illegal” bumper stickers have been seen on cars around the county. In chat rooms and on blogs, anonymous writers predict that tobacco companies will crush small farmers and take marijuana production to the Central Valley. With legalization, if residents don’t act, “we’re going to be ruined,” said Anna Hamilton, a radio host on KMUD-FM (91.1) in southern Humboldt County.

Bruce Yandle might be proud that actual bootleggers have signed on to his theory.

Via Boing Boing.

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Despite being an evil capitalist souless rape-machine, I do love me some Earth. So happy Earth Day, and please browse through Don Boudreaux and Russ Roberts’ series Cleaned by Capitalism over at the Cafe.

Also, if you really want, celebrate with whatever this guy has. I can’t decide if it’s natural or man-made, but it seems awesome.

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April Fools’!

In case you haven’t figured it out, I haven’t lost my mind and become a progressive leftist. Yesterday’s post was just a fun April Fools’ joke.

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Weekendy Links

Spring’s hitting DC full force this week, and god bless. Makes it hard to focus on policy stuff, but here’s some stuff worth checking out while you wait for the clock to tick towards checking out.

– Ilya Shapiro will travel anywhere, anytime, to debate (read, correctly deny) the constitutionality of Obamacare.

– Eileen Norcross notes how bad policies are like vampires.

– Good video from the Atlas Institute chiding Paul Krugman, among others, for failing to grasp Bastiat.

– Tyler Cowan and a host of smarties take on the flaws in the Labor Theory of Value.

– I know everyone’s Irish in the middle of March, but the Other Gealic Peoples have their Tartan Day this Saturday. As a partial Scot, I love everything about it. Except the food. Feast your eyes on feats of strength!

Cherry Blossom season officially goes full blown this weekend.

Radley Balko demands someone make this comic into a movie. I love the tagline.

– Never buy expensive gold-plated home-entertainment-center cables.

For your health, replace sweeteners with natural Maple Syrup.

– And finally, the other sign of spring, Gus Johnson. He’s like college basketball’s version of Punxsutawney Phil.

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Rainy Day Links

Lots of interesting writing this weekend, which I didn’t get to notice until today.

John Stossel takes on populist economic myths, and name-drops Don Bourdreaux on Free Trade.

On a similar note, Ezra Klein nails another fallacy, although I disagree with his pessimism.

Most lobbying is pro-business, in the sense that it promotes the interests of existing businesses; not pro-market, in the sense of fostering free and open competition.

Great interview with former Dead Kennedys front-man and professional crazy person Jello Biafra. He’s very anti-Obama-supporters, and calls for a more insurrectionist/populist leftist movement. His newest album is titled “The Audacity of Hype”, a slam on the Obama-as-messiah hysteria that gripped the left during the election cycle. I agree with many of the problems he cites, but disagree with his ‘solutions’. Fascinating, in a ‘scientists discovering a new life form’ kind of way. Money quote:

Well, let’s connect [the title] up with the last song on the album, “I Won’t Give Up,” which is dealing with the aftermath of people realizing, you know, when they get that feeling like what Johnny Rotten said at the last Sex Pistols show, “Did you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Keep in mind the Obama campaign won all kinds of advertising awards for marketing hope and change and for that “O” logo. It’s the most brilliant piece of propaganda art I’ve seen since the swastika.

Will Wilkinson destroys both the “Earth Hour” and “Human Achievement Hour” conceits. Nifty animated graph correlating CO2 emissions (a proxy for economic growth) and life expectancy is excellent, especially when you consider new evidence that air quality in the U.S. is improving. Typically, the EPA and the media are over-emphasizing the influence of government and under-selling ‘voluntary actions’ that led to this result, but still, results are results.

It rained on my nightmares.

We Love DC has great shots from the beautiful spring weekend in DC, including the coolest kite I’ve ever seen.

Via Reason Magazine, thanks to a leak, you can download a draft of the secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

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Keith Olbermann is a racist. He’s a hate-mongering bigot who lacks any sense of irony or proportionality.

I fully support freedom of opinion, and he has every legal right to espouse his un-researched ill-tempered hyperbolic bat-shit crazy rants. Just as I have every right to think he’s an self-aggrandizing, self-satisfied asshole who can’t see past his own prejudice.

I’m not a tea partier, but I sympathize to the extent they advocate limited government and personal freedom. Freedom means the opportunity to self-select, and to form associations based on commonalities. To claim the limited government movement commonality is racism is either to purposefully set up a straw-man, or to be so dumb as to grasp the most basic and emotional response and lash out violently. Either way, how can anyone take this man seriously?

To be fair, Bill O’Reilly evokes the same reaction. Let’s get them in a gladiatorial death-match as soon as possible, then shoot the winner. I’ll bring the popcorn and foam fingers.

Note: Because of all the bad language and emotion here, please note our new disclaimer.

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Hob Nob with Nobs

Tomorrow night at the Mercatus Center there’s a reception to welcome 2009 Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom. It’s going to be a great event, and if you’re in the D.C./Arlington area, you should come. You can register here.

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I disagree with Seth, and by extension Professor Hanson. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with first principles, it’s just that most first principles are incorrectly derived. I do agree with Prof. Hanson when he reminds me of this classic xkcd. And if you don’t think xkcd is funny, well, sometimes you’re right but not this time.

I disagree with both Seth and Prof. Hanson when the later writes

Liberty is a fine heuristic, but efficiency is more what I want, so I’m willing to consider sometimes violating your liberty axiom.  Like you I am wary of big government, but because of bad consequences that often follow, not a liberty axiom violation.

Efficiency is a fine ideal, and in the absence of a valid first principle, it’s probably the most appropriate one. The question is, can there be a valid first principle? Seth categorically denies that. Instead, as Seth begins, “consequentialism is true”. In many respects it is. Someone who dies in a car accident and someone who has a heart attack are in most respects similar. Dead is dead. (more…)

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Reply to Seth

Seth disagrees with Timothy Sandefur’s challenge of Hayek’s spontaneous order paradigm and its purportedly normative implications. I tend to agree with Sandefur, and see Hayek’s concept as a good conceptualization of complex systems but inadequate to justify favoring one institutional arrangement over another. Seth objects:

Sandefur oversimplifies.  He wants to classify systems into absolute categories while ignoring the existence of messy continua.  While it is possible to nitpick, we can easily classify the United States as a liberal market economy, and Cuba as a socialist economy.  It would be dishonest to deny these categorizations; we wouldn’t say that because the U.S. has public schools, and that because Cuba has a money supply, we simply can’t distinguish any difference between these economies.

I think this is a misreading of Sandefur. He’s not trying to make a neat divide between spontaneous and constructed orders; to the contrary, he is acknowledging that the divide is more blurred than even Hayek realized. It depends on perspective: the U.S. can be seen as a constructed order, and likewise Cuba can be seen as but one more experiment in a larger spontaneous order. Sandefur surely wouldn’t deny the differences between the nations, but he is saying that depending on the choice of perspective, the differences can be either infinite or nonexistent:

Hayek exploited his concept’s flexibility when he said that “deliberate efforts… [to] improve the existing system by laying down new rules” were actually consistent with the principle of spontaneous order because “it remains true that the system of rules as a whole does not owe its structure to the design” of planners. The phrase “as a whole” is doing all the work here. As a whole, no order is constructed. The term “as a whole” here represents Hayek taking a convenient and unwarranted step back to look at the system through a lens so wide that anything, no matter how rationally constructed, can still qualify as part of the spontaneous order.

Sandefur notes that this is how both the opponents and proponents of gay rights are able to use Hayek’s distinction in their arguments. Opponents say “Stop planning our social norms and systems! They’re spontaneous!” Proponents say “Stop trying to prevent the natural motion of our spontaneous order!” The concept becomes meaningless: it is valid as a perspective, but useless to form imperatives. We could say to socialists “Stop trying to plan our economy! It’s spontaneous!” They retort “Stop trying to prevent our spontaneous experimentation!”

History proved Hayek correct, but departure from spontaneous order is only a proximate cause of socialism’s failure. There are more fundamental arguments as to why socialism fails, e.g. perverse incentives, economic calculation, etc. These arguments were made against socialists’ original claims that socialism would produce more wealth than capitalism. They dropped that claim circa 1991, but it was all the rage (even corroborated in Paul Samuelson’s famous intro textbook) all the way up until then. Socialism always had its egalitarian element, but originally the idea was that capitalism was merely a prerequisite for socialist utopia. Socialist systems fail to efficiently utilize localized knowledge. But it is this “is” that begets the “ought” – it is better to use prices and property rights because they lead to greater efficiencies. Though prices and property rights can be seen as a spontaneous order, it is not the “spontaneity” that leads to the normative statement; it is the positive observation that the price system works. And which is it? Are property rights a constructed or a spontaneous order? It depends on how you choose to look at it.

I think the great virtue of the concept of spontaneous order is that it helps us to wrap our minds around chaotic and abstract systems – and subsequently, to overcome our cognitive biases. Folk intuition leads to the conclusion that individuals pursuing their separate interests will lead to social destruction – but this tribal mentality is proven wrong in elegant portrayals of spontaneous order. Smith’s invisible hand and Hayek’s analogous spontaneous order are deft distillations of complexity, but they have no necessary normative implications.

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This is the kind of thing I was referring to. Two Post editorials in the same day opining about how communal property (Metro and GM/Chrysler) should be handled.

Talk is cheap. Reading these pieces brought to mind something Ludwig von Mises wrote in Human Action about socialism: “Socialism is the religion of self-deification.” I’d say it applies to leftism and statism in general. Everyone wants to see things run his own way, even though very few are willing to put money where their mouths are. The beauty of state owned enterprises? One can voice opinions with little to no consequence, and moralize against everyone else. If only the world was run my way…

The Post declared that John B. Catoe, Jr. ought to be left alone as general manager of Metro. “Penetrating reporting” about the poor quality and safety record of the system gives the Post’s opinions credence, they suppose. Right now, I’m not focusing on the fact that it is a moral travesty that some taxpayers help pay for other taxpayers’ Metro use, or that economic justifications for such a system are flimsy. Instead, imagine the Metro were private. Guess what would decide whether Mr. Catoe is an acceptable manager? Patronage and stock prices; e.g. people who actually use the system and people who know what they’re talking about and are willing to put money on it.

That’s the appeal of statism. Everyone gets the benefit of moralizing against this and that policy, and no one has any stake. It’s the same with environmentalism, which Charles Krauthammer dissected on the same pages a few days ago. Comparing the current “green” trend to the “population bomb” craze of the 70s, Krauthammer sees the movement as a facade for a political power-grab.

Think about it from the citizen’s perspective, though. Why is environmentalism so popular? Because it’s the best religion in town, really. It’s all benefit and no cost: you can act morally superior to everyone you know, feel certain that the world would be a utopia if not for those who disagree with you, and best of all, there’s no ethics involved, no uncomfortable moral imperatives.

It’s the same way with government-run enterprises. We all get to feel superior, form opinions that have absolutely no necessary basis in reality, and feel justified in our cowardliness. I’m telling you right now, and Bryan Caplan agrees: democracy is religion for most people. Problem is, it’s an incredibly destructive one.

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