Saturday, December 20, 2003

China stems WMD exports 

Another story showing the ripple effect of Bush's war. So in the space of 2 weeks we've crippled the Iraqi resistance, placing closure on the WMD career of one genocidal maniac, we've ended the WMD career of another unstable dictator, and now China's promising to swear off the strong stuff.

Connect the dots. Bush is saving the world.

World Leaders Hail Libya Weapons Decision 

Libya renounces WMD. Gadafi started negotiations on the eve of the Iraq war. Once again I'm stuck by the naivete of the people who opposed Bush's war. Bad people want WMD all over the world, and if the US doesn't discourage them, nobody will. This is an important mission of the calibre of WWII.

We can co-opt the Terrorists 

Thinking about the 19 hijackers. They were all middle class, some were upper class; it seems all revolutions are led by the idle rich, and this was no exception.

What's interesting here is that those same idle idealists are the ones who lead the Democracy movements in Latin America or Eastern Europe. They can be our allies. What they need is to re-focus their energies on democratizing their own societies, rather than obliterating our society. They scapegoat the West because they are impotent against their Talibans, their kings and their dictators.

That is yet one more reason to support this war. It will draw idealists burning with revolutionary fervor to Iraq. There will be a great flowering in the coffee shops of Iraq, and those people will, like Che Guevara's of Democracy, spread the fire throughout the Middle East. It turns our worst enemies into our best allies. That's a good thing.

The role of innovation 

A central question in economics is the role of factors of production in growth. The traditional factors are land, labor and capital, and the "coordinating function", which I'll call innovation. Innovation includes new technologies, the entrepreneur role, and the yet-unnamed concept of a CEO reading about a cool way to improve efficiency in Business Week.

The central question is per-capita growth; if your economy grew 5% but your population increased 6% you'd be none-too-thrilled. So let's stick with per-capita growth, the mother of all that is good in the world. Since the number of atoms on earth is finite, land (and raw materials implicit in that factor) can't be sources of growth. Labor's tricky; human brains per capita is a constant (at around 1), but education presumably improves productivity (although a casual look at English majors might challenge that presumption). Although it's an article of faith that human resources develop countries, I'd like to point out China, where education has been fairly constant since 1978 (at about 95% literacy), while the economy has expanded 10-fold. So while education might have some role, it is empirically small (if I didn't have a job I'd ferret statistics, but welcome any comments).

Next you've got capital, which in itself cannot get more productive; it's simply dollars. What does get more productive is the application of capital; so if you spend your money on digging and refilling holes it's less profitable than, say, semiconductor R&D. Again, keep in mind that it's the same dollar, it's how you use the money that matters. That's where innovation comes in.

So what've we decided? Brains are locked in a 1:1 ration, we are free of molecular inflation, and a dollar is a dollar. The magic juice is innovation. It drives all economic growth. Through innovation land and minerals are allocated to best use (think sand into silicon chips), human resources are reallocated to their best use (think substinence farmers taking jobs in factories), and capital is best allocated. So innovation is the key.

So the question is how you encourage innovation. That is the key to economic growth; the rest of it is just innovation-caused sideshow. The way to create innovation is the carrot (incentives) and the stick (competition). Curiously, in economies the sticks seems more important (consider how inefficient monopolies become, even with the profit incentive), whereas in other fields the incentives are stronger (think the arts, academia, or open source, where despite lack of punishment people work very, very hard).

The policy prescription is simple; match the incentives with the good behavior, use competition to reduce bad behavior, and watch the good times roll.

Incentives Work 

From Fox News:

"More students are taking Advanced Placement classes at Texas high schools where students get a $100 reward for passing the AP exam; teachers get $150 for each passing student. The program, which started in Dallas and is now spreading, is privately funded. Over five years, the number of Dallas students passing the AP exam jumped from 130 to 754, reports the Houston Chronicle. "The passing rate among minority students is 10 times higher than the national average" according to the program coordinator.

Bob Daniel, Tascosa High School principal in Amarillo, calls the program nothing short of "incredible."

"We've had about a 300 percent increase in the number of tests taken over the last three years and a 190 percent increase in the number of tests passed," Daniel said. "We are hearing back from our kids as they come back from college, saying they are much better prepared."

The Chronicle quotes critics who say the money should be spent elsewhere, or that financial incentives would put too much pressure on some students. Actually, this program is creating opportunities for advanced study at mediocre and low-performing schools that typically don't have enough ambitious students to justify AP Physics or AP European History. Once the classes are created, more students can give it a try."

Why are the critics so brain-dead? 300% increase and they worry it'll put stress for a kid to not win $100 he never would've gotten? Do any of these education experts even understand kids? By the way another part of the article mentioned scores are flat when kids're given laptops (another favorite theory of the educrats).

Maybe teachers should run by the community college and take a course in economics? Perhaps they'd understand why people react to positive incentives...

Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe 

A nice new blog from a Dean-o-Phobe.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Unintended Consequences 

One of the axioms of economic analysis is that you've got your consequences, then you've got your consequences of consequences. That means your final result isn't always what you thought you were getting.

So it goes with the new campaign finance reform, which outlaws all political speech 30 days before an election (except self-funded, in case you're a billionaire). Now in the real world 30 days before an election means nearly all the way from now to November (primaries count as "elections", as would dog-catcher elections in theory).

Now I opposed this on First Amendment grounds, but here's a whole new reason to love this monstrosity; as Justice O'Conner noted writing her brief upholding this law, money will find a way to influence the process. So where's the money going?

Well, the only excepted speech are rich people self-funding, and, of course, the media. Where's that leave you? Well, the NRA just announced it'll buy radio, TV and newspapers in an effort to not be silenced. So that old liberal saw about media owned by special interests, you know, the same rich white men who write editorials in support of affirmative action and against tax cuts for the rich, might actually come true. McCain-Feingold means the only way to get their message out is for special interests (which, mind, includes Planned Parenthood or Sierra Club), is to buy a media outlet.

So where will be with this gem of a law? Forget NBC, CBS, ABC; it'll be NRA, NOW and Jim Baker. Forget the NY Times and Wash Post, they'll get bought and re-christened the UAW Times and Chamber of Commerce Post. Think we got media bias today? You're going to love when every article is an advertisement, every commentary a delicately crafted advertorial helping you make sense of the fascinating work of our nation's lobbyists. Leading you to all the right choices... Meanwhile, the only other politically sanctioned speech will be from billionaires.

So for the low, low price of one unconstitutional law, we finally get a special interest-owned media and silence all but the richest individuals. What a stroke of genius!

Oh, I almost forgot the best part. Once we live in a world where all major media is expressly run for the benefit of special interests, how long will it take for Congress to tell the corporate media it can't discuss politics 30 days before an election either? We might even demand it, since media would be as much fun as deleting spam. And, hell, if 30 days is good why not 365? And why should the rich get an outsize voice? Outlaw self-funding as well. Ummm, let's see, that would make us different from North Korea in what way?

Take a bow Justices O'Conner, Stevens, Breyer, Ginsberg and Souter. And an ovation for the incumbent-protecting congress, nice to know you'll have your jobs until you die. And, finally, a special prize for hypocrisy to our (allegedly) small-government President.

Then again, maybe if the media had bothered to explain the issues here (they almost universally called it "a law to clean up politics", rather than what it is, which is a law to protect incumbents and muzzle free speech). So, to the soon-to-be New York Trial Lawyer Times, I say you guys made your bed, and now we've got to lie in it. Thanks a bunch.

Rich are also happier 

An article from Australia about the wealthy.

Let's see, a common idea in our society is that the rich are selfish, conniving, have petty concerns and petty lives. The poor are giving, heroic in the face of overwhelming odds, doing the best they can in a world that conspires against them. Try again:

"[the wealthy] give back to the community.

Almost 40 per cent of people living in households within the top 20 per cent income bracket did voluntary or charity work in the past year, the ABS's first General Social Survey found.

Twenty-six per cent of those in the lowest household income bracket did voluntary work in the same period.

It included a range of questions designed to gauge people's "attachment" to their family and community, including whether they had contact with family and friends outside their household in the last week, whether they could ask for small favours from people outside their home, and who they would turn to for help during a crisis.

"The level of social attachment, as measured by each of the indicators, increased progressively across each income distribution quintile from lowest to highest," the survey found.

So let me get this straight, the wealthy are more likely to volunteer, more likely to care for their friends and families. They're caring and help each other and strangers, in other words. Perhaps that's why their rich? Ah, but that would violate the liberal accusation of the indolent conniving rich, now wouldn't it?

Pedophile Thrill Pill? 

Just when I was forgetting how rabid conservatives can be, here's a charming piece from Illinois Conservative Politics calling the new "Plan B" emergency contraceptive a "pedophile thrill pill". Our enlightened author provides lighthearted commentary on the proceedings, such as

"...the National Organization for Women paraded several pathetic 20-somethings up to the mic to brazenly tell the world about the horrors of their boyfriends’ condoms breaking or slipping off at the wrong moment..."

She then goes on to remind us that

"Sexual predators would welcome this tool to keep assaults of stepdaughters, nieces, daughters of friends, or infatuated students hidden, storing a stash of ECs in their bedroom drawer or pocket to give their victim after each rape. No pregnancy, no evidence."

What kind of sicko comes up with this sh*t? For those who hyperventilate against Bush, be thankful he's rational, centrist and compassionate, unlike this nutcase.

The Road to Serfdom 

In a strange coincidence, I found this comic version of The Road to Serfdom just as I was thinking what a great idea such a comic would be...

Jefferson's Slaves 

A news story today about a certain Jefferson High School wishing to change its name since he was a slave owner.

I read an analysis of Adam Smith's economics where it noted most of his contemporaries believed economic growth was bad for the poor. That is, they believed man in his original state was noble; hard working, living on the edge, cutting wood in rags rather than tending the fireplace in silk robes, whereas if the poor were made wealthy they would lose their drive and become debased. Now this notion is obviously not popular today, but should we declare as evil any person holding this ancient belief, on the grounds that today it is not acceptable?

Well, signs at Yellowstone ask that you not feed the bears. Now, in wintertime bears may starve for lack of nuts and berries, yet we are all complicit in this form of torture and genocide because we think it's noble that bears hunt for their own food. We like the idea, even though bears would prefer McDonald's leftovers. Now, will future generations conclude that you and I are morally bankrupt for abetting this sadistic bear-starving practice? I would hope not.

It's an interesting question, and of course you could counter that anti-semitism was accepted in Nazi Germany. I don't really know the answer, but I myself try to keep a sense of the times when evaluating historical figures. Perhaps it comes down to considering what kind of person would become a slaveowner today (who would obviously be a criminal), versus what kind of person would in the colonies in 1776 (Washington, Jefferson, etc).

The idea's not to excuse their crimes, but we need to be able to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Does anybody even know whether Aristotle had slaves, as was common in Athens? And if he did, would we edit the man out of the historybooks? I suspect not, and that makes me think the revisionism thing is emotional (since time does heal wounds), and therefore maybe there is a kind of statute of limitations, past which we discount then-socially acceptable crimes of the past.

Libertarian vs Anarchy 

I had drinks with a friend who pointed out, to my chagrin, that I'm not a "raving" libertarian. The occasion was my support for anti-squeegie laws and my distaste for aggressive panhandling.

While I still do think she has a point, that libertarianism makes the absolute maximum of behaviours legal, I think my opposition is based on the principle that people should not bully each other. That is, I'm politically libertarian insofar as it means letting people live their own lives, but I also believe people shouldn't be allowed to impose upon others. So that means Yes to smoking pot, No to driving while stoned. It means Yes to gay marriage, no to forcing the boy scouts to integrate. Yes to equal protection, no to quotas.

In every case, the imperative is net increase in freedom. Kind of a utilitarian libertarianism. I believe the alternative, a pure extreme libertarianism where people can yell in the street at 4am and can aggressively harass you for spare change, that extremism would be anarchy.

I'm reminded of an experience in Tokyo. Police generally do not prosecute drug users, homosexuality is widely tolerated, and abortion is legal and very common. Yet I saw a drunk yelling on a street corner and the cops were there within 3 minutes. That to me is a society with the maximum freedom.

Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe 

A new blog about Dr. Dean

The New Republic Online: Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe

Interesting point; people are so excited about the 'net and Dean, I wonder, once he flames out, if they'll conclude Dean was the "dot-com" of candidates. Overhyped, meteoric rise, self-destruction.

Libya to Allow Weapons Inspections 

This is why I, even as a libertarian, supported the war in Iraq. The question of proliferating WMD is not partisan. No sane individual can want to live in a world where Iraqs and North Koreas have nukes. Does anybody wonder why Gadhafi's doing this now? Or why Iran has recently accepted inspectors? They are afraid, and must be kept afraid. Call it arachno-hole-phobia.

FOXNews.com - Top Stories - Libya to Allow Weapons Inspections

Tiananmen in London 

Great article on the enemies of freedom, from the liberals to the islamicists. Money quote:

At this time in the world's history a great turning point is imminent. And here we begin to see why there is this strange and unholy alliance between idealistic liberalism, the vestiges of the old socialist left, traditional third world authoritarians, and the unrelenting forces of Islamic totalitarianism, theocracy, and terror. However various their ideas of what is the good, all are united in their desire for an enforced law of the good. Even elements of the human rights movement, much of the anti-globalist community, and a large swatch of the philanthropic world -- the so-called NGOs -- still yearn for a government that, through sumptuary laws, high taxation, political correctness, and entitlements, would force to happen what people ought to, but do not make happen of their own free will.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Gift Guides That Surprise 

Wired News: Gift Guides That Surprise

And Galileo spun 'round the sun... 

TCS: Tech Central Station - Skeptical Environmentalist Vindicated!

The bike path left 

"when Howard Dean, shortish and stocky, comes out in his rolled-up shirtsleeves, he looks like Bruce Banner just before he turns into the Incredible Hulk, as if his head's about to explode out of his shirt collar. "

What's a truly liberal foreign policy? 

A strong committment to removing dictators.

News you can use 

ScrappleFace: 'Rings' Fans Awed by Sequel's Car Chase Scene

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Dean in a spiderhole? 

Washington Times about the Dean campaign calamity. Good riddance angryboy.

CA Appeals Court OKs Medical Marijuana 

Is this one step closer to ending the misuse of the commerce clause? There are two reasons why the federal government keeps growing and keeps taking our freedoms. One is the commerce clause which, for example, claims the feds have authority to outlaw narcotics because they involve trade between the states. Considering the commerce clause was to ensure free-trade, this is patently ridiculous justification.

The second bugbear is the "general welfare" clause. In reading the Federalist papers (78, etc), it's clear this does not mean "anything you think is good for the people", rather it means "things which are equally for the good of ALL the people", meaning congress can build infrastructure like highways and improve rivers and such. It seems general welfare clause doesn't confer any powers beyond the delegated powers over military, treaties, external trade, currency and the post office. Indeed, if "general welfare" just meant "good for people", there is no power imaginable that congress could not assume, since anything it passed it'd just say "this is for the welfare of the people". To interpret it otherwise is to deep six the separation of powers, investing all power in the federal legislature. That clearly goes against the fundamentals of the constitution.

So let's hope the 9th succeeds in gutting the commerce clause misuse, then on to the general welfare clause. At that point the stage would be set for the Supremes to reverse the legacy of FDR and give us back our freedom. How exciting!

Anger Management 101 

Just what are Al and Howie up to?

Prime time libertarian 

Looks like Dennis Miller will be another libertarian voice on prime time.

What makes CEO's tick? 

Interesting article about what motivates CEOs. Short answer; it's not the money, it's the challenge.

2003 Global Influentials

Yahoo! News - The Best Tech Toys 

Yahoo! News - The Best Tech Toys

Monday, December 15, 2003

Don Dean? 

Godfather II: Gore Makes Dean an Offer
Don Corleone would fit right in as Democratic Party boss.

Monday, December 15, 2003 12:01 a.m. EST

Maybe Saddam's capture changes the dynamics of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. But I doubt it. Change of direction is not something that comes easily to this party anymore. Al Gore's grandly public endorsement of Howard Dean last week confirms my view that the easiest way to understand the Democratic Party today is by watching "The Godfather."

Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying they are crooks. What I am saying is that the Democratic Party has the look, feel and smell of a very old institution. It must move about in the real world but is determined to remain insulated from it. Sen. Hillary Clinton, who somewhat resembles Morgana King (Mama), said recently that President Bush was a "radical," that he was trying to "undo the New Deal." Sen. Clinton was speaking of a way of life, which she believes to be honorable, however antique its rituals may seem to modern eyes. It's their thing, and like Michael Corleone, the most you can hope to achieve in life is to control it.

If you are willing to think in these terms, much of what is going on in the Democratic Party begins to be understandable. It has power, and it bestows benefits. President Bush is not someone waging a war on global terror, but is simply a man who is a threat to them, and the system through which they bestow benefits and therefore survive.

I think of Bill Clinton as the Don Corleone of the Democratic Party. In the organization, there is no one above him. Terry McAuliffe is his Tom Hagen, who talks to the outside world. I leave it to others to fill out the rest of the cast.

The events inside the Democratic Party leadership now are very serious, unlike the past 10 months. When Al Gore took Howard Dean's hand into his own in Harlem (an insult to Bill Clinton and Al Sharpton), everyone in the party knew that the party's organizational structure, controlled by the Clintons, was being challenged. Mr. Gore will either win this struggle for control, or retire to Vegas to run a talk show.

Now, in "The Godfather" you saw that everyone adhered to an elaborate and formal system of courtesies, as in the phrase, "senatorial courtesy." But when Tessio betrayed the Corleones, when these men made decisions from which you could never go back, they did not bother with the courtesies. They only offered explanations later, when they were doomed.
Al Gore did not extend Sen. Lieberman the courtesy of a phone call. And Dick Gephardt and John Kerry, former associates in many old battles against the Republicans, they too did not receive a call. Nothing personal. As Hyman Roth said in his life-is-tough speech to Michael Corleone, "Politics is the business we have chosen to be in."

Al Gore doesn't care what the press thinks of what he did to Joe Lieberman. After this act of political ruthlessness, he gains the respect of the pols. Al Gore gave Howard Dean what Howard Dean couldn't get on his own--"stature," proving that other than Bill Clinton, he is the only person in the Democratic Party who can bestow stature. On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times said it had convened a poll of the party's 450 local and state leaders; 32% have thrown in with Mr. Dean, with Messrs. Gephardt and Kerry down near 15%.

It has been talked about among the cognoscenti for some weeks now that the new Dean organization, if he secured the nomination, would challenge the Clintons' control of the party apparatus, meaning mainly the cash flow from contributors and the unions. But I thought it more likely that if Mr. Dean got the nomination, he would be visited over a table in a nice restaurant, the Palm in Washington, by Mr. McAuliffe and Harold Ickes, who would explain that he could win the presidency with them, but not without them.

With this understanding, an alliance of partners would result. The old organization and its traditional sources of income--the patronage mills, the government contracts, the public-bond issues, the legal jobs--would survive, and Mr. Dean's people would be given significant control, maybe half. Now it's not so clear that Howard Dean needs to cut a deal with the Clinton factions, because maybe the factions aren't so close to the Clintons anymore.

Inside the organization, Mr. Gore has never been Bill Clinton's equal, not even when he ran for president. But kingpins can fall. Bill Clinton showed weakness by allowing his stature to be associated with Wesley Clark, an outsider, who turned out to be a weak candidate. The old order can miscalculate, and collapse. The word was put out that Howard Dean's candidacy was a problem because the candidate's views and volatility would be a hard sell in the contributor salons run by Wall Street Democrats; a "hothead." But Mr. Dean's operatives unlocked the power of the Internet to drive street money toward his campaign. New power flows to the new kingmakers, like Al Gore. He will be talking to men like George Soros, new men with new money.

Some are suggesting that Mr. Gore's Dean endorsement looks unprincipled, or that the internal contradictions of the Gore-Dean alliance--are they centrist? liberal? progressive?--are confusing and therefore destructive for the party's chances in the election.

Maybe. But politics is more than ever a mass-market phenomenon. Whatever else, mass-marketing is short on ideas and high on emotion, which means it's currently well-suited for the Democratic Party. I think Al Gore gets this.

Until the party evolves a new ideas package, which despite nine active candidacies isn't happening, its best bet is to muscle another Election 2000 voter-turnout miracle. Ideas and beliefs? The party faithful restate the old ways every day to discrete cells of believers via new pathways of communication such as MoveOn.org, a Web site run by people out of a house in Berkeley, which overnight became a new force in the party.

For a Democratic Party now rooted almost wholly in ancient beliefs, the candidate mainly has to be a willing, charismatic vessel of the believers' mass energy. I don't think there is any other explanation for Howard Dean's remarkable success. Amid loathing of George Bush, fear of war, even a just war, and the aura of community created by the Internet, Howard Dean becomes the man, the one.
It may still add up to only 42% of the November vote and Mr. Dean evaporates. But so what? In "The Sopranos" the feds win occasionally, and take some guys off the street. The organization remains. Al Gore is in place. He is aligning himself with the progressive foot soldiers who make the party run. Hillary will remain the darling of the Old Media families and a contender. But if the Gore-Dean alliance attracts more party regulars, Bill and Hillary will have to give Al Gore a call. When's the last time that happened?

Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.


From volokh.com:

[David Bernstein, 1:45 AM]
Troubling News From Pakistan: The (justified) euphoria over Saddam's capture has obscured the story from Pakistan that President Pervez Musharraf came within thirty seconds of assassination Sunday, probably by Islamic radicals. We can only hope the U.S. and Indian governments have failsafe contigency plans in case Pakistan (and its nuclear weapons) falls to Islamicists.


This from Tyler Cowen at volokh
[Tyler Cowen, 12:26 PM]
Peaking too early can kill you:
"Here's some reassuring news for those of us whose career plans are slightly behind schedule: It turns out that peaking too early may kill you. That's the finding of Stewart J. H. McCann, a professor of psychology at the University College of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.

McCann's research, published in the February issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, concerns what he calls the ''precocity-longevity hypothesis.'' McCann analyzed the lives of 1,672 U.S. governors who served between 1789 and 1978 and found that those who were elected at relatively tender ages generally died earlier than their less precocious counterparts. Even when he controlled for the year that the governors were born, how long they served and what state they governed, the pattern held. No matter how he sliced the data, ran the regressions or accounted for various statistical biases, the story remained the same: governors elected to office at younger ages tended to have shorter lives.

And what holds for state executives seems also to hold for other young achievers. McCann also analyzed smaller but more diverse sets of accomplished people -- including American and French presidents, Canadian and British prime ministers, Nobel laureates, signers of the Declaration of Independence, Academy Award winners and seven centuries' worth of pontiffs. Again, he found that ''those who climb to the loftiest peaks in the shortest time also die younger. For the eminent, and perhaps for all, an early rise may lead to an early fall.''

That's from the New York Times's notable ideas of the year section. I think it is the subsequent loss of relative status that kills these people. This mechanism also would explain why post-Soviet males are dying off at such young ages. The Russian market reforms have reallocated power and status to much younger men. The older men feel less important and the quality of their health is plummeting. So if you are doing well in life, beware. Make sure that your future holds something even brighter.

COMMENT: So that's why all those hollywood types suicide. It's not just that fame/$ are bad for you, it's the swings in status that wreck them. Another damned fine reason to spend all your time vegging on the couch avoiding your little shoulds...

Yahoo trumps world bank 

I have a degree in Economics and had planned to work in development. What changed and put me in business was the realization that international organizations don't develop countries, companies do.

Yahoo just announced their new money transfer service. It's free. Today millions of migrants from poor countries pay extortionary fees to send money home. I used to live in Mexico and have seen this. It tends to cost 10% or 15% of the money transferred, and the total transferred is well over $50 billion, to places like Philippines, Guatemala, India, Ethiopia, etc. That 10% comes out of malaria medicine or school fees. It's blood money.

By reducing those fees Yahoo will, effectively, be sending over $5 billion in foreign aid. Not just that, but this aid doesn't get siphoned off for third world Learjets. It's real money, going right to the heart of need. I daresay that Yahoo today has done more for the world's poorest than the World Bank will manage this whole year, with its thousands of rosy-faced idealists trumping through the bush in air conditioned Range Rovers.

Hats off to Yahoo, and another reminder why the innovativeness and energy of business is the only way to solve the world's problems. It's beautiful.

Bruce Bartlett on Manufacturing, Taxes & Trial Lawyers on NRO Financial 

Fabulous article about we lose jobs. It's not just labor costs, it's taxes, regulation and lawsuits. Now, clearly we don't want to lower our wages to Chinese levels, so what's the other option? Anyone? Bueller? Bruce Bartlett on Manufacturing, Taxes & Trial Lawyers on NRO Financial

Your 401k in 2080 

My favorite obsession.

Sunday, December 14, 2003


Thinking about this whole blogging thing. I spent most of the weekend reading & blogging, and discovered scads, just scads of scary-smart people (read my links below to some of them). It's enough to get me excited; so much material in the mediacracy is written by bad writers and stupid people. I always wonder why reporters can't understand why, say, rent control is unfair to new lessers (I'm a fairly new Manhattanite so a bit of indulgence, please).

So cruising through all these blogs I find all these exciting people. At some point they're going to start influencing, then replacing some mainstream mediacrats. That brings up the intelligence of reporting, and it plants these fabulous writers all over the place. Result? A civilized, intelligent media that understands the issues (including the economic issues, the constitutional issues, the historical issues), and writes so well that more and more people watch the news & political shows for entertainment! How exciting for us all in a country where today 45% of Democrats cannot identify a single candidate (so much for people-powered Dean). We'll be a country of philosopher-citizens, Jefferson's wet dream. Can it happen?

Joey captures the nomination? 

Just checked out the action on TradeSports where they've got betting for the 04 elections.

According to the odds, the capture helped Lieberman, hurt Dean and Clark. Kerry and Edwards got slight boosts (probably because Dean looks less inevitable now), and Gephardt dropped a bit (probably because now everyone else is back in play).

My guess is Dean wins NH & Iowa, stumbles in Missouri & SC when 7 states vote Feb 3rd, at which point the mediacracy rediscovers Lieberman. At that point Hillary can king-make either one, and she'll go for Joe if he's not trailing too bad.

I know this will happen because new Gore is stupider than old Gore. Picking Joe was pretty much the last smart thing Gore ever did.

Saddam in the subway? 

No wonder we couldn't find him.

Best shop of Saddam 


Hat tip to instapundit

The ball starts rolling 

Great article on Iraq by Hanson in the National Review. The momentum is with us. Three big events iin the past 2 days: Saddam's capture, linking Hussein with 9/11 (see post below), and a report of Saudi clerics jumping on the bandwagon for pacifist Islam (on CNN?). Everyone said we were naive, that you simply cannot declare war on international terorism. But we did, and the momentum is definitely with us. Let's finish these bastards off, and militant Islam with it. Let them go to their mosques praying for good health and fortune like the rest of humanity, not for child suicide bombers. May the muslim world rejoin civilization.

Why does authoritarianism appeal to the left? 

What I'll never understand is why more on the left are not libertarian. In every other respect they are great people, and 99% of my friends are lefties. They appreciate diversity and novelty, reason and compassion, tend to be kind, open-minded and open-hearted. That's why I like them.

In my mind libertarianism is based on loving humanity. It's an appreciation that the human mind is the pinnacle of art. That human society is a thing of beauty. That everything good in the world has been and will continue to be made by the "masses". Libertarian trusts and respects people, celebrates non-conformity and dissent. It believes that, without free minds and a free society, we would have no art, no beauty, no humor.

In contrast the left believes people are flawed and in need of correction, as disgusting abominations that need to be re-engineered. To the left we are selfish, greedy cigar-chomping SUV drivers who misteach our children, who don't know right from wrong and need to be guided by a dictatorial leader. The communists are the extreme of this ideology, but even lefties today are never short of new rules to tell us benighted freaks of nature how to live our lives. It displaces charity with state-mandated welfare, excises the parent from childrearing, assumes businesses (which, by the way, are simply us when we're at work) are out to dehumanize, demean and oppress. It believes we're all closet racists and chauvenists, chomping at the bit to visit horrible violence and humiliation upon one another. It does not tolerate dissent, calls people Nazis and Klansmen at the drop of a hat, and looks at the mass of people as redneck stains on the honor of humanity, or as selfish clients to be satisfied with government handouts.

I truly do not understand how people who love humanity and love freedom could ever call themselves leftists, and I am only consoled with the knowledge that leftists are good people at heart and will eventually come round to appreciating the beauty of freedom and that the innate goodness of people are what make life worth living.

Now, to be fair, conservative intolerance of freedom is just as bad. The fundamental problem is that both conservatives and liberals see humans and human society as diseased, immoral and in need of correction. While I can understand where the conservatives get this awful idea from their religion, I truly cannot understand how progressives have come to despise us all just as much.

Big Gov't Created the Christian Right 

The constitution gave us two important things; secular government and small government. That was fine in the old days; religious people could raise their children, give their charity, run their businesses, basically live their lives according to their religion.

Then a funny thing happened. Leftists, beginning with FDR then LBJ, dramatically expanded the purview of government. Today about 1/3 of all the money in this country is filtered through taxes then redistributed to gov't's favorites. Over 20 million Americans (1 in 7 workers) are employed by the government. 90% of schools are run by the government, and we are told how to run our businesses, even charities. And since gov't must be secular it pitches seculars against Christians with every new expansion of federal power. Indeed, it oppresses Christians and creates a backlash which could eventually destroy the separation of church & state. I doubt the Christian right would be trying to get involved nearly as much in politics if it wasn't under constant threat from gov't which so dominates society that its secularism ultimately oppresses Christian. And that makes the Christians fight back, as they should.

The solution everybody can live with is to deregulate schools and businesses and to reduce the scope of gov't. That's good for Christians tired of secular bureaucrats, and it's great for seculars fearful of a Christian takeover of gov't. In a sense it's disarmament; a promise by both sides to not use gov't to oppress the other. Unfortunately the Democrats butter their bread by scaring people; they get more votes when they convince seniors or minorities or women or seculars that there's a vast conspiracy against them. Perhaps we all could agree to take the weapons (i.e. a big government) out of the hands of both sides, and live-and-let-live. So we need Democrats to stop scaremongering, and more importantly, Republicans to stay true to the small government ideology and competently explain this grand bargain to the Christian right.

Flash Fun - The Real Hussein 

Y'all seen this but here's an honorary re-play
Flash Fun - The Real Hussein

Wes Clark is an idiot 

"Just weeks before formally announcing his candidacy, this exchange occurred on CNN's Crossfire program:

Q: Would you sign the partial-birth abortion bill, which is about to be passed by Congress?
CLARK: I don't know whether I'd sign that bill or not. I'm not into that detail on partial-birth abortion. In general, I'm pro-life--excuse me, I'm pro-abortion rights. "(from On the Issues: Wesley Clark on Abortion)


The big news today is, of course, the capture of Saddam. But possibly even bigger is this from the London Telegraph detailing evidence that Mohammed Atta was trained in Baghdad in July, 2001 at an Abu Nidal camp. The second part of the memo refers to a shipment of uranium from Niger destined for Iraq via Libya and Syria.

While the Saddam capture is testimony to the competence of our forces, the Atta memo is, in a sense more important: it establishes that every single justification for the war, from 9/11 ties to uranium-seeking (i.e. WMD), and even the much-criticized Niger angle, were all true. Indeed were it not for Bush we can only imagine whether Saddam would have uranium and be passing it to the next gang of suicide bombers.

I live in Manhattan and my family lives in DC so I, personally, am enormously thankful. I'm curious what all the war doubters now have to say; that we should've let Saddam get his uranium and give it to the next Atta for special delivery to me? I'm glad the grownups are in charge.

Roe the boat 

Thinking about Roe v Wade. As it stands it's clearly unconstitutional; there's no constitutional right to privacy (i.e. Roe's basis is illegitimate). However, there most definitely is a constitutional right to private property. And clearly my body and mind are my most precious property; leave me my house and take my body and I'm unquestionably poorer for the offense.

The next question is what happens if it's overturned. It's important to remember that overturning Roe does NOT make abortion illegal in the whole country. What it does is give that choice to states. I would guess what happens when Roe is overturned is that states like California or New York keep it legal, and states like Alabama restrict. I believe most states (30-40?) will remain pro-choice, and Roe will have gotten us over the hump needed to break the tyranny of the status quo in states where majorities are pro-choice.

So the question is, if we get a strict interpretationist from a conservative president, will they rule according to the body=private property rationale, or will their religious beliefs trump their logic? Considering Bush looks like sticking around, and Stevens is not long for this earth, it'll be a very interesting question.

Now what really gets interesting is the implications of a reaffirmation of the body as private property. How then could we justify laws against drug use, prostitution, helmet laws, assisted suicide? If I decide to knock down my house I clearly have that right, and if I choose to hurt myself by smoking pot that's clearly my right. It is frivolous to defend my right to a nice house yet deny me custody of my own body.

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