Here’s a bunch of links which I find viscerally, emotionally satisfying. This of course means that you shouldn’t trust my judgement upon them to be objective… which, considered dispassionately, is a bug rather than a feature. So in an effort to train myself to be less wrong about this stuff, I’ll provide a token nitpick with each link. Hey, it’s a start.
First off, Jason Brennan goes wharrgarbl:
- Dear Left: corporatism is your fault (Bleeding Heart Libertarians)
Unlike we libertarianish people, you people actually hold and have been holding significant political power in the US over the past 50 years. What have you done with this power? You’ve greased the corporatist machine every chance you’ve gotten. You’ve made things worse, not better. Our current problems are your fault. You need to stop.
Public choice predicted that the government programs you created with the goal of fixing problems would often instead exacerbate those problems. Well, the evidence is in. You were wrong and public choice theory was right. If you have any decency, it is time to admit you were wrong and change. Stop making things worse.
Token nitpick: This is a nice story if only libertarianish people and leftists exist (and Brennan makes a better than half-assed case for grouping Reagan — yeah, Reagan — on the “Left” side of the fence), but of course we’ve had decades upon decades of militant international triumphalism and screeching moralizing about drugs and immigrants from the Right. (Leftist politicians have tended to play along, of course, because the Right has so poisoned public discourse that it’s impossible to be seen as a Serious Policy Thinker without demanding that scary brown people both foreign and domestic be shot in the face. See also: Ron Paul.) Public-choice theory predicts that trillion-dollar outlays on a gargantuan military, as well as the War On Drugs and the War On Terror, will be captured just as easily by corrupt and powerful interests. Gosh, look what happened there!
Next, Sonic Charmer (whose blog I really ought to read more often) writes about inequality and unshared premises:
- Why does inequality not matter? (Rhymes with Cars and Girls)
Geras appears to identify justice, and morality, with fairness. It’s not fair that (to use his example) some children are born into wealthier, and therefore more-advantaged, families than others – as I’m sure we’d all agree. Geras however goes on to call this unjust, equating it to a moralissue. I don’t.
[…] More concretely, if different children having childhoods of different wealth is immoral, the only moral outcome would be for all children to have exactly equal wealth. This means, in particular, that no single parent – not I, not you – should even be allowed to privilege his child in any way, with any advantage, as against any other child. It’s unjust and immoral.
Token nitpick: I’m told that when I was very young, I replied to the admonishment “Life’s not fair” with “But God wants it to be fair”. And since religious expression is apparently a proxy for trustworthiness, you should prefer to trust Very Young Matt on this issue rather than Agnostic Blogger Matt. Yeah, that’s all I’ve got.
This one is really just an excuse to point and laugh:
- Anarchists protest small-government conference (Coyote Blog)
Token nitpick: Well, if you’re an anarchist, then even small government is too much government.
Next we’re visited by one of my favourite hobby-horses:
- The FDA’s unhealthy salt obsession (The Volokh Conspiracy)
Is too much salt bad for you? That used to be the conventional wisdom, but more recent scientific research has suggested the emphasis on salt is misplaced. No matter. As Walter Olson notes, the Food and Drug Administration appears to be moving ahead with plans to force gradual reductions in the salt content of processed foods.
Token nitpick: Salt is a proxy here. Maybe the FDA really has been keeping up with the literature and is convinced that people autoregulate their salt intakes. By forcing processed food producers to reduce the salt content of their meals, the FDA is trying to make processed food less appealing, and push people towards a healthier, bacon-rich, paleo diet. In modern bloodless-technocrat parlance: it’s a nudge, not a shove.
Here’s Tyler Cowen on the moral (in)equivalence of Germany and the European Periphery:
- “The moral superiority of the Germans” (Marginal Revolution) (snarky-quotes in the original)
He begins his entirely-speculative polemic (note: I’m not claiming that Tyler believes this, and neither is he) thus:
1. When it comes to default, there is no moral equivalence of debtor and creditor. The debtor is the one breaking the agreement and breaking his word.
2. When it comes to debt, the periphery countries simply don’t want to pay up. Their national wealth is many times their gdp and thus much much greater than their debts, even for Greece. It’s amazing how many people won’t come out and utter or recognize this simple truth. Italy for instance doesn’t have to make a huge fiscal adjustment.
Token nitpick: Fraud is still coercion, which undermines the moral relationship between defaulting debtor and creditor. It’s not difficult to argue that the Eurozone is a fraud perpetrated on the member nations by the collusion of their own technocratic leaders. Of course, it’s not the leaders who’re being asked to pawn their wealth in point 2. above, but the defrauded citizenry. In other words, the argument makes a false public claim on private wealth.
Finally, David at Popehat writes about subsidies for the Humanities:
The issue, as always, is the legitimacy and scope of state subsidization. What stake does the government have, in behalf of its citizens, in perpetuating the production of puppeteers (taken as a proxy for the entire class of overrepresented, underemployable domains of interest)?
The pursuit of a culture of literary salons is not a path orthogonal to hard-nosed capitalism; when successful, it’s a symptom or index of thriving capitalism. And although taking the risk when times are lean may be ill advised, the humanistic goal of chasing a cultural dream isn’t inherently wrong or risible. To the contrary, the humanistic goal is the point not only of the risk, but of capitalism itself, rightly construed.
Token nitpick: Liberty and free exchange are (historically speaking) the product of “a culture of literary salons”, in which broad sweeping questions about the nature of justice and the betterment of humankind can freely be discussed, and in which a fearless examination of common wisdom can occur without threat of subversion or suppression by prevailing opinion. All of this is clearly the product of the Humanities, which is why (as an inveterate computing scientist) I write all of my posts on obscure technical topics in computer graphics and occasionally World of Warcraft. If only I’d taken more English Lit courses I might have an interest in politics, and you, Dear Reader, wouldn’t have to suffer through so many posts on the glories of the Singular Value Decomposition.
(The SVD really is glorious, by the way.)