Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Backfire Economics: 6 ways Trump's tariffs are hurting the very people they're supposed to help

It seems almost embarrassing to have to rehearse the case for free markets and free trade, a case thoroughly established centuries ago by the likes of Adam Smith, Richard Cobden, and especially Frederic Bastiat. But support for Trump’s tariffs is not something generated by desire for greater prosperity, says Mark J. Perry in this guest post -- a compilation of soundings on how the tariff experiment is going this time round ...

1. How Trump’s Policy Decisions Undermine the Industries He Pledged to Help (New York Times):
Even as the president’s pro-business stance is broadly embraced by the corporate community, in some significant cases the very industries that Mr. Trump has vowed to help say that his proposals will actually hurt them. They also warn that policies designed to aid one group will eat into someone else’s business in ways that policymakers should have anticipated.
“I would like to tell the president, ‘Man, you are messing up our market,’” said Kevin Scott, a soybean farmer in South Dakota and the secretary of the American Soybean Association. The idea of changing Nafta, he said, “gives us a lot of heartburn in farm country.”
At the same time, Mr. Scott said, China’s threat to impose tariffs this week on United States soybeans—in direct response to Mr. Trump’s tariffs on other Chinese-made products—is already having a negative effect on the prices farmers see. In recent days, Canada imposed its own retaliatory tariffs against the United States. And on Friday, General Motors warned that Mr. Trump’s threat of tariffs on imported cars could backfire, killing American jobs and leading to “a smaller G.M.”
2. U.S. Exporters Will Be a Surprise Loser From Tariff Fight (Wall Street Journal):
Though completely counter-intuitive, theory and evidence show that taxes on imports act just like a tax on exports. Though it’s early, the Trump administration’s recent round of tariffs is already rippling out to exporters: Soybean farmers face plunging prices as China raises tariffs, Harley-Davidson will move production of motorcycles destined for the European Union out of the U.S., and BMW says foreign retaliation may hit exports from its South Carolina plant.
Economists credit Abba Lerner, then a graduate student at the London School of Economics, for proving theoretically in 1936 that an import tariff was equivalent to a tax on exports. The Lerner Symmetry Theorem is considered a key principle of trade economics, like 18th-century economist David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage.
3. New Chinese Tariffs Mean Lower Prices For Wisconsin Farmers (Wisconsin Public Radio):

Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said it’s reminiscent of the “guns versus butter” model in economics. Normally, the concept is used to talk about the relationship between a country’s investment in defense versus civilian goods. But Stephenson said it feels relevant on the issue of tariffs. “Right now, agriculture in particular, and dairy for us especially is just getting the blow-back of these retaliatory tariffs on steel and aluminum,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson said the new tariffs have already caused Class III futures prices to decline by $2 per hundredweight or 100 pounds of milk. “Going into our fourth year of relatively low milk prices and now seeing the price that had been recovering stumble, and significantly stumble, it’s not a good thing,” Stephenson said. “So producers are not feeling good about that impact of tariffs.”

4. U.S. Soybeans Are A Prime Target For Chinese Tariffs (National Public Radio).
Minnesota soybean farmer Michael Petefish and president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association:
"Since the announcement of retaliatory tariffs, the soybean market has dropped almost $2 per bushel. For my family farm, with the amount of soybeans we produce, that’s close to $250,000 in lost value."
5. Donald Trump’s Trade War Is Proving The Free Traders Right (The Federalist):

It seems almost embarrassing to have to rehearse the case for free markets and free trade, a case thoroughly established centuries ago by the likes of Adam Smith and especially Frederic Bastiat. But Donald Trump is determined to make us learn that case all over again, the hard way.
The key argument for free trade is that a tariff on imports may benefit one particular industry or group of producers, but it raises prices for everyone else, including other manufacturers who import the taxed material. You think the country is getting ahead because you see the increased profits for, say, domestic steel producers. The problem, as Bastiat famously pointed out, is what you don’t see—or at least, what Trump refuses to see—namely, all of the costs that tariffs impose on other companies and individuals.
Part of the reason President Trump’s unilateral trade war is becoming such a quagmire is that it is carried out with no apparent plan or strategy. It is not a negotiating ploy to push other countries into a trade deal with the United States, because Trump announced this war by withdrawing from trade deal negotiations. Instead, his targets seem random and capricious. As with his hairstyle and many of his other political views, Trump’s attitude toward trade and industry seems to have been cemented in 1978, so he’s laying down trade barriers around the industries that associated with American economic might back then, like steel and cars.
Yet he is finding that even the quintessential American firms of 1978 are connected to the world if vast webs of trade. Take one of the brands Trump has lauded, Harley-Davidson. These days, Harley sells a lot of motorcycles in Europe, so Trump’s trade war is causing them to move some production overseas to avoid European retaliatory tariffs. Rather than rethink the tariffs, Trump threatened the company and accused it of “surrender” in his trade war.
6. Trump Voters Stand by Their Man as He Wrecks Their Jobs (Reason):
All of which leaves the impression that support for Trump’s tariffs is not something generated by a sense of a greater good. It’s not about voters agreeing to take a hit now because they understand it is necessary for something beneficial down the road. It seems to be, mostly, about tribalism. About the fact that our guy is “better than the Muslim we had in the White House,” even if his policies cost my job.
At least that’s how it seems for now. Once more jobs are actually lost, and perhaps once it becomes clear that the tariffs aren’t accomplishing whatever goals Trump has, perhaps that will change. The partisan hatred might not go away, but maybe voters will stay home. Until then, parts of so-called Trump country seem to be fine with their man destroying their jobs just to "own the libtards."

Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus. 

This post previously appeared at FEE, reprinted from AEI.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Q: What does Putin want? A: Chaos

What does Putin want? Surprisingly, to me, I found a speech to the US Senate by Marco Rubio very helpful, and fairly persuasive, in giving an answer that makes sense.

With serious delusions about how the world works (it's a "zero-sum world," folks) and a leader of an economy not much bigger than Belgium and Holland, Putin still, somehow, wants to pretend he matters; he still wants to project power -- to strut on a world stage.

And how to do that with so little to call on ... ?

Answer: Chaos.

D'you think it's working?

Monday, 16 July 2018

QotD: From an Open Letter to Theresa May

"The Remain Establishment to which you have fallen prey fails to grasp - or wilfully ignores - that Brexit represents a constitutional imperative, the compromise of which is not justified by an economic calculation. The Remain coup that you led last Friday is a travesty both in content and conduct. I don’t know if the counter-coup, flagged with the resignations of two Cabinet ministers, two party Vice-Chairmen and a number of others of honour, will succeed. I hope that it does because the fate of our country should not depend on rejection of the scurrilous Chequers proposal only because of further EU intransigence requiring additional concessions, beyond those that you already contemplate, reaching a point that even you cannot stomach what is required to make this dreadful proposal stick. Regardless, if what you propose is implemented, eventually it will be reversed. That means that your principal legacy will be to leave the country in a continuing quagmire of discord over the EU, poisoning both our present and our prospects for as long as what you have done is not undone...
    "My forebears have been part of the efforts to see off Buonoparte ... the Kaiser and Hitler. Some shed blood and were decorated for their courage and resolve... It would dishonour such as they, and betray all the generations, not to take the stand today that is our duty and obligation to support the outcome of the democratic process and defend the freedom of our country."

~ Paul Cuthbert-Brown, former Thatcher Cabinet official & MoD official, former member of Territorial Army and RAFVR, member of the Conservative Party

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Will the Coalition for Free Speech instead play a part in its muzzling?

In this guest post, Terry Verhoeven shares his concern that pending legal action in the name of free speech may instead cement in place legal precedents outlawing so-called "hate speech."

After having spent the week seriously considering contributing to the Free Speech Coalition legal challenge, I want to share my reasons for not contributing. Given how some of the frontmen of the challenge are genuine free speech advocates and the name of the Coalition is advertising itself as being pro-free speech, the motivation to contribute and support the challenge has naturally been a strong one for me.

With Peter’s recent article, in my mind the case is now clear that the Coalition is not in the right. Equally important though, and what had already been weighing on my mind, is just what the legal ramifications of the Coalition's challenge are going to be, and what they would ultimately produce in terms of impacting free speech in New Zealand. I don't think the outcome will be good.

My thinking is as follows...

As far as I can see the Coalition's legal challenge is likely to end up becoming case law that supports the worst muzzling provisions of the (mis-named) Human Rights Act. My thinking goes like this: 
  1. Goff will most likely argue that his and the Council's actions were intended to uphold the Human Rights Act rather than simply exercise their property right;
  2. the judicial review will most likely find that the Human Rights Act trumps the Bill of Rights (which it does, but shouldn’t);
  3. the likely result will be a ruling in Auckland Council’s/Goff’s favour, with councils and mayors everywhere having thereby obtained a legal precedent and sanction empowering officials to muzzle speech on public "property" everywhere, and to a much greater extent than they would ever exercise by merely acting as a prudent property owner in the interests of ratepayers and taxpayers. 
My concern then is that rightly-motivated folk might be being used to help make this happen: to essentially bringing a ban on so-called "hate speech" by the back door -- one to be exercised by  councils and mayors.

My concern is based simply on the way the law has been framed, as far as I can tell. If things do play out this way, and I don't see how they cannot, then if the court finds in Auckland Council's favour here then the decisions of councils everywhere need no longer be based on the interests of the properties they are managing, nor of the ratepayers who fund them, but because (in their minds) they will be enforcing the muzzling provisions of the Human Rights Act.

This would then become the thin edge of the wedge leading to more and more cases of Human Rights Act violations on private property being prosecuted, and speech being shut down instead of celebrated. 

That is the way the law has been framed and it is where this case seems to be headed. If it is to be lost, this is how it may begin -- with, ironically, a Free Speech Coalition acting as midwife to its birth. 

So instead of the interests of free speech being advanced by the Coalitions's challenge, I fear it will instead give the Act that muzzles free speech more teeth.

Looking at the roster of names supporting the Free Speech Coalition, the name of Chris Trotter does seem to be a sort of odd one out. On the face of it, it pits him as an outlier against his "comrade(s)" at the Auckland Council -- as a face of the radical left being concerned with upholding the “rights” of the radical right. Why would he do this?

Putting on my cynical hat now: the scenario envisaged above (being the unspoken end-game of the recently empowered Left) may explain why Trotter, this most left of lefties, might put himself forward as a front-man for this legal challenge.  

This is not just an idle concern. Trotter has expressed support before for these muzzling provisions of the Human Rights Act, as have his leftist comrades internationally, which on its face makes him and them no champions of free-speech. Furthermore, in responding to a letter I had published in the NZ Herald he argued explicitly against property rights being the basis upon which free speech must ultimately be implemented, expressly supporting Peter Davis's idea that “limits on the rights to 'purchase' speech are justified to protect our democracy from money politics." 

Mr Trotter is no champion of free speech. 

And this legal action seems to advance the opposite of that cause.

So could it be that well-intentioned defenders of free speech have joined in and are supporting Mr Trotter and comrades' “struggle” unwitting of what their support will ultimately produce? I fear so. 

Just as I fear that the game plan all along was to yoke free-speech defenders to their virtue to the effect of their own demise. 

QotD: "...the permanent, if not innocent, victims of modern philosophy."

"It is in their teens and early twenties that most people seek philosophical answers and set their premises, for good or evil, for the rest of their lives. Some never reach that some; some never give up the quest; but the majority are open to the voice of philosophy for a few brief years. These last are the permanent, if not innocent, victims of [post]modern philosophy."
~ Ayn Rand

Friday, 13 July 2018

Molyneux & Southern V Goff: This was never about free speech

Having achieved its $50,000 target, NZ's newly-minted Free Speech Coalition has proceeded immediately into battle by demonstrating that it knows very little about free speech.

Free speech does not require that you, or the state, provide anyone with a microphone. It simply means that the state must refrain from banning anyone from using their own.

In the case being litigated by the Coalition, the state (in the guise of the Auckland mayor) has not banned speech. It has simply withdrawn a taxpayer-funded microphone.

That is not a free speech violation. It is a judgement call.

It's true that the issue is more confused because the microphone is ratepayer-funded. But as Thomas Jefferson long ago pointed out,* there is little that is more repugnant than to force people to pay to support views they despise. I, for one, (as I've said here many times) despise everything these two stand for. I would not want a cent of mine to go towards supporting their views. Many others, I'm grateful to learn, feel the same.

And that said, nothing stops these oafs from purchasing their own microphone and continuing their tour. They haven't, perhaps because touring here was never their genuine intention. Their true intention, I strongly suspect, was simply to achieve what they've already achieved: headlines and notoriety and a small degree of public martyrdom by a little bit of astute guerrilla marketing.

You really can't buy the publicity garnered in the last few days. Before this spat, there were probably 12 people in the country who knew who these two alt-right morons were, and maybe half-a-dozen who may have ever paid to hear them. Now, many thousands do, and might.

Well played Mr Promoter -- because it seems clear that those thousands, and Mr Goff, have been well played. Have been very well played indeed...

But ... but ... the venue they'd booked is "public property," I still hear many of you cry. But ... but ... "the premises in question are public!" screams an anonymous commenter here this morning. Well, since this is perhaps the part of this issue that most confuses free speech supporters, let's have it out.

Do you think there might be a reason their promoter booked a ratepayer-paid venue instead of a private one?

Yes, I think there probably is.

Bear in mind that one of the defining characteristics of alt-right activism is to use left-wing tactics and ideas against the left.

Hence, for example, the whole-hearted and facile embrace by the alt-right of identity politics.

Hence, as well, the adoption of the mis-directional guerrilla marketing of the left to popularise the alt-right people.

Leave aside for a moment the idiocy of adopting your erstwhile opponent's principles; but the adoption of their tactics is here proving very effective.

And about those tactics and the question of "public property": cast your mind back to the first and very public student protests at Berkeley back in the early 60s, to the protests on "public property" that kicked off the Free Speech Movement (as it was officially called) which swiftly morphed into more violent and more obscene action (such as the Filthy Language Movement, as it was also officially called, that plastered the places with precisely what is said on the label) -- a movement that challenged university regents across the United States to shut down frequently obscene and violent behaviour on public campuses, to then be tarred with the erroneous claim that the regents had "shut down free speech." The aim of the activism being, naturally, to achieve the shutdown.

The key feature here, argued Ayn Rand in a piece analysing the birth of this movement, is
that a radical core uses legitimate issues ambiguously in order to manipulate a larger mass.
The legitimate issue is free speech. The ambiguity involves so-called public property. The manipulation is to gain credibility and public attention for what in any other context should attract only odium.

Isn't that precisely what happened here in New Zealand this week?

To paraphrase Johnny Rotten, "Ever get the feeling you've been manipulated?"

There was a very good reason that so-called "public property" was chosen for those protests and this booking: not because no other venues were more suitable (a back room in a small pub would have been far more appropriate for the booking) but precisely because of the concept's very ambiguity. (And because of it, a larger mass than the oafs truly deserve are doing all they can to publicise two people who never more deserved anonymity.)

This is one of the many important points made in Rand's analysis, and is worth considering here: that the many contradictions of the mixed economy are those so well exploited by these movements. Consider it in the case of the so-called Free Speech Movement that erupted on those campuses:
There can be no such thing as the right to an unrestricted freedom of speech (or of action) on someone else’s property. The fact that the University at Berkeley is owned by the state merely complicates the issue, but does not alter it. The owners of a state university are the voters and taxpayers of that state. The University administration, appointed (directly or indirectly) by an elected official, is, theoretically, the agent of the owners—and has to act as such, so long as state universities exist. (Whether they should exist is a different question.)... The right to determine what sort of language is permissible belongs to the administration of a university—fully as much as to the owner of a barroom.
Just as the right to determine what sort of activity is permissible in a council concert venue belongs to the administration of the council.

But what proper ideological policy should such an administration adopt in taking bookings? Answer: In a free society, there is no proper policy they can take. As Rand observes, "it is a question that has no answer."
 There are no solutions for the many contradictions inherent in the concept of “public property,” particularly when the property is directly concerned with the dissemination of ideas. This is one of the reasons why the rebels would choose a state university [or a council-run venue] as their first battleground...
A good case could be made for the claim that a state university [or council administration] has no right to forbid the ... advocacy of any political viewpoint whatever... An equally good case could be made for the claim that [it] has no right to permit the ... advocacy of any political viewpoint which (as, for instance, communism) is a direct threat to the property, freedom, and lives of the majority of the taxpaying owners... 
On the one hand, a government institution has no right to forbid the expression of any ideas. On the other hand, a government institution has no right to harbour, assist, and finance the [ratepayer’s] enemies...
In the context of a mixed economy, the question is quite literally irresolvable.

Does this then illustrate that free speech is inherently unworkable in a free society? Not at all. What it demonstrates instead is that free speech is inherently unworkable without property rights.
The source of these contradictions does not lie in the principle of individual rights, but in their violation by the collectivist institution of “public property.”
And this, I suggest, is precisely why "public property" was chosen for the farce. Precisely because of its ambiguity.
The technique of the rebels, as of all statists, was to take advantage of the principles of a free society in order to undercut them by an alleged demonstration of their “impracticability”—in this case, the “impracticability” of the right of free speech. But, in fact, what they have demonstrated is a point farthest removed from their goals: that no rights of any kind can be exercised without property rights. It is only on the basis of property rights that the sphere and application of individual rights can be defined in any given social situation. Without property rights, there is no way to solve or to avoid a hopeless chaos of clashing views, interests, demands, desires, and whims.
That obvious principle has been demonstrated over and over -- and has again, here, this week.

If that could be the one lesson the supporters of the mis-named Free Speech Coalition would at least recognise, I would be happy.

* "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves & abhors, is sinful & tyrannical." ~ Thomas Jefferson

QotD: "I am so old that I can remember when other people's achievements were considered to be an inspiration, rather than a grievance."

"I am so old that I can remember when other people's achievements were considered to be an inspiration, rather than a grievance."
~ Thomas Sowell

Thursday, 12 July 2018

QotD: "It's turned worse than that: Trump has resurrected old, failed, long-debunked interventions, and made them popular again. And now these are all part of the package-deal that people are swallowing as capitalism!"

"Before the U.S. election, I was asked to compare Trump to Hillary. Isn't Trump better?
"At the time, I said he will implement a similar socialist disaster to Hillary. Maybe it will be slightly less disastrous (too early to tell). However, the key distinction is that he would do so in the name of capitalism. He would make people hate capitalism. How could people even know that he was implementing socialism, if his most ardent supporters were calling it capitalism?
"It's turned worse than that: he has resurrected old, failed, long-debunked interventions in the economy. And made them popular again. For the sake of America, we're told, the US govt must impose a partial blockade on America!
"And now this is all part of the package-deal that people are swallowing as capitalism!"
~ Keith Weiner

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

QotD: "Nothing that happens here in the UK matters very much. Wherever the action is, it is no longer in London."

"Theresa May is no Iron Lady. But what really struck me [on my recent visit] was that when I first lived here in the 1970s, even then the UK was at the centre of things. Now, it seems, nothing that happens here matters very much. Wherever the action is, it is no longer in London."
~ Steven Kates, from his post 'It’s not just London Bridge that’s falling down'

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Bonus QotD: "So it turns out that dressing up economic protectionism, white supremacism and tribalism as a defence of western civilisation has flushed out many things once deservedly dead and buried..."

"So it turns out that dressing up economic protectionism, white supremacism and tribalism as a defence of western civilisation has flushed out many things once deservedly dead and buried...
    "Encouraged ... by the phoney equation that being politically incorrect also means being noxious--by the non-thinking that says that if “they” are against it, then “we” must be for it – what this unthinking reaction has produced is the non-idea that the appropriate response to “their” racism is to go hard out on your own.
    "With some, the racism is genuine (and genuinely unwelcome). With others like Stefan Molyneux, it’s more like a career move...
    "Strange are the things people turn to when they think that the world is on fire. Stranger still how they think eugenics and white supremacy would help extinguish and not fan it."

~ excerpt from my 2017 post 'Friends don’t let friends listen to Stefan Molyneux'

QotD: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction..."

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
~ Ronald Reagan

Monday, 9 July 2018

Some propositions on free speech

Since berks are going berserk over the so-called “death of free speech” because a property-owner has said blowhards can't speak on that property,* let’s examine again some basic propositions of free speech, just so we know what the animal looks like -- and how denying someone the right to your platform does not deny their free speech:

Some propositions on free speech

The right to free speech means the right to express one's ideas without danger of coercion, of physical suppression or of interference by the state. 
Censorship is interference by the state in the expression of ideas. (And laws against murder, rape, assault and child sex are sufficient to cover any violation of rights in the censor's current domain.)
A private network refusing to broadcast your views or a property owner deciding not to hire you their venue is not censorship - it is their choice. (Remember choice?)  
A private network choosing to offend is their business. Choosing not to watch or to withdraw advertising is yours.
Bad ideas are still ideas. You should be just as free to air them as I should be to ignore them, or to pillory them, ore to refuse to give them a home.
Just as the right to pursue happiness doesn't require that you be made happy, the principle of free speech doesn't demand that anyone provide you with a platform and a microphone.
Just as the right to do what I like with my health and my life does not mean that I have to smoke cannabis, neither does the right to free speech mean I must offend. Just as I must take responsibility for what I do with my health and my life, so too must I take responsibility for what I say.
I may choose to offend, and I have the right to, but free speech doesn't mean I have to. However, anyone able to épater le bourgeosie has always been able to count on free publicity from those being épater-ed. Drawing attention to something you dislike may give that which you dislike even more attention. Think about it.
By itself, "I'm offended," is not an argument. It's just a whine.
Saying you don't like 'South Park' is not a call for censorship. Saying you want it banned would be. Saying "I don't like that," is not censorship.
Organising a voluntary boycott is not censorship. Organising a government ban however would be.
I may be offended, but I may not commit violence against those who offend me. I may boycott, but I may not behead.
Blocking traffic, threats, and forced entry are no part of the right to protest. They are respectively a traffic hazard, an initiation of force and an act of trespass.
"Hate speech" is an illegitimate package deal. Laws against "hate speech" are illegitimate. Laws against conspiracy to commit murder are not.
The right to free speech gives the smallest minority the absolute protection of the state to air their views. The smallest minority is the individual.
My freedom ends where your nose begins. My free speech ends where your rights begin. The right to free speech does not mean that I may incorrectly besmirch your reputation by telling lies about you. This would be called fraud. Nor does it mean you may shout "fire" in a crowded theatre in which there is none, and in which the exit doors have been locked. This would be called fraud with menaces.
Speech is speech, not violent destruction.
Ridicule is better than bans.
Moral persuasion is better than force.
When tyranny occurs, it can be challenged from a thousand presses - but only if free speech and a free press has been valued in the interim; tyranny can never be easily challenged in the absence of the freedom to speak out.
Free speech has been more valued in the abstract than in reality.
"Freedom but..." is not freedom.
Forcing ideas underground does not eradicate them, it incubates them. Bad ideas are anaerobic -- the oxygen of free inquiry kills them. Bad ideas can only be fought with better ones.
If you don't like it, then just turn it off.  Don't get an arm of the state to do it for you.
_ _ _ _ _ _  _
* No, the council shouldn't be in the business of owning venues. But as long as it does, it has the right to deny hiring them to whomever it chooses. (we can have a discussion about not being required to fund those oppose in the comments, if you like.) But consider that nothing in the council's refusal to hire a venue to these idiots denies them the right to take their business elsewhere. The fact that these particular hirers have chosen not to perhaps says more about their ticket sales that they might like to let on.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

QotD: "The cultist mentality is universal. It is not unique to libertarians."

"The most important perspective one can acquire on the problem of the cultist mentality is to see its universality. It is not unique to libertarians. The problem, in fact, is epidemic in every cultural and political group in the land. The country is literally overrun by liberal robots, emitting their latest trendy responses; by conservative robots emitting the entrenched prejudices of their grandfathers; and by socialist robots, consumerist robots, [BLM] robots, health food robots, gay robots, ... feminist robots, etc., etc.—all reciting their sacred texts. To the degree that there is sense or sensibility in any of these movements, they are almost obliterated by the ritualistic incantations...
    "If the libertarian cultist is similar, in principle, to all other cultists, he differs strikingly in details. Characteristically, he is young and inexperienced. He gulps down a few books by libertarian writers, and rushes to change this society before he has understood either this society or the books. He tends to restrict himself to a shrunken conceptual repertoire. It generally consists of a one-note opposition to the evil of government intervention, and frequently this is the only aspect of social reality of which he seems to be aware. Monumentally important political, social, cultural and intellectual problems leave the cultist indifferent. He is only concerned with government misdeeds. His 'thinking,' consequently, is eternally out of context, and his value system flattened and hostile...
    "Now, is there a solution for this problem? There is, indeed—and that is why it's so useful to think about cultism-in-general, and not just about the libertarian form thereof. All cultists are gripped by the desire for a simple world which can be explained by a few all-purpose formulas. Thus, the first solution is simply to face the fact that it isn't that kind of world at all. How does one go about such "facing"? By reading...
    "The second solution emerges from the other major trait of all cultists—namely their disconnectedness from social reality. And again, the solution is tailor-made to the symptom: To cure disconnectedness, one must connect. Connect with what? In the case of a libertarian, he must connect with those individuals or groups who are moving in the direction of liberty. In other words, he must look for fellow travellers. If he does, he will discover from his reading that the country is now full of them...
    "The most important message I would give to young libertarians is this: libertarianism isn't an imaginary world; it isn't a bible; it isn't a spiritual state; it isn't a chastity belt. It is a compass."

~ Edith Efron, from her 1977[!] article on 'Secular Fundamentalism

Friday, 6 July 2018

QotD: "The trouble with the legal profession is that 98% of its members give the rest a bad name."

There is truly much to said for lawyers, and many who've said it well ....
I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, two men are called a law firm, and three or more become a Congress.-- John Adams, in the play "1776" 
It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing, and to talk by the hour.-- Thomas Jefferson
"Lawyers Are": Those who use the law as shoemakers use leather; rubbing it, pressing it, and stretching it with their teeth, all to the end of making it fit their purposes.
-- Louis XII 
A lawyer is someone who lies for a living. 
The judicial process is like a cow. The public is impaled on its horns, the government has it by the tail, and all the while the lawyers are milking it.

He who has said that 'talk is cheap', has never hired a lawyer.

I don't think you can make a lawyer honest by an act of legislature. You've got to work on his conscience. And his lack of conscience is what makes him a lawyer.
-- Will Rogers

LAWYER: A professional advocate hired to bend the law on behalf of a paying client; for this reason considered the most suitable background for entry into politics.
-- The Cynic's Dictionary

He saw a lawyer killing a viper on a dunghill hard by his own stable; And the Devil smiled, for it put him in mind of Cain and his brother Abel.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Diogenes went to look for an honest lawyer. "How's it going?" someone asked. "Not too bad," answered Diogenes. "I still have my lantern."
Between grand theft and a legal fee, there only stands a law degree.
As your attorney, it is my duty to inform you that it is not important that you understand what I'm doing or why you're paying me so much money. What's important is that you continue to do so.
-- Hunter S. Thompson's Samoan Attorney

It is better to be a mouse in a cat's mouth than a man in a lawyer's hands.
Spanish Proverb

A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.
-- Benjamin Franklin.

Where there is a rift in the lute, the business of the lawyer is to widen the rift and gather the loot.
-- Arthur G. Hays

“All the extravagance and incompetence of ... Government is due, in the main, to lawyers, and, in part at least, to good ones. They are responsible for nine-tenths of the useless and vicious laws that now clutter the statute-books, and for all the evils that go with the vain attempt to enforce them. Every judge is a lawyer. So are most politicians. Every invasion of the plain rights of the citizens has a lawyer behind it. If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we’d be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half.”
—H.L. Mencken
[Hat tip James Fuqua]

"You have no enemies, you say?"

A poem by Charles Mackay (English Chartist poet, 1814–1889) on those who say they "have no enemies" ...
You have no enemies, you say?
Alas, my friend, the boast is poor,
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes.
If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never set the wrong to right.
You’ve been a coward in the fight.
[Hat tip Lisa Van Damme]

Thursday, 5 July 2018

QotD: On the anti-reason corruption of science

There is a limit to how far [scientists] can stray when you are forced to face the results of observations or experiments that give clear answers. So sciences that are closest to reality—-to definitive, objective tests of its theories and claims—-are the most resilient. Or if nobody is trying to impose an agenda beyond the truth, you are reasonably safe just following the clues where they lead.    Physics is a good example. Experimental physics is one of the most rigorous sciences, and the facts rule. Yet speculative theoretical physics is often unbounded by even the possibility of an experiment, and can run wild. And even with experimental physics, we have to distinguish between the facts and their interpretations, and know where one ends and the other begins. But where the facts are more debatable, there is both the temptation to claim more certainty than you have, and the temptation to bend them to an agenda (whether that is monetary, political, or philosophical). So a field with big political implications—big implications for someone’s power—is more easily corrupted, both by pressure from outside (e.g. funding) and pressure from within (e.g. luminaries who agree with the political ends or are chasing the bandwagon).    Dare I mention climate science? Here we have an immature science—I’d put it around the level of geology before the proof of continental drift. Its greatest experts are experts in … computer modelling. What real world data there is, is ambiguous, and explanatory theories have big unknowns. Couple that with the advantages to a variety of groups to either talking up the certainty and threat or simply going along with it, and the field is ripe for corruption.
~ scientist Rob Craig, from his interview on 'The Anti-Reason Assault on Science'

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

2 minutes of good advice for the young 'Social Justice Warrior'

Philosophy professor Stephen Hicks has two minutes of good advice for the young 'Social Justice Warrior':
You’re a younger person, and things matter to you … but keep an open mind to the possibility that you have received only a partial education — one side of a set of arguments from some very clever people...
    Your life is important, and if you let yourself get sucked into a deeply alienated, poisoned worldview, you will throw your life away.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

A word from Thomas Sowell on the government's expansion of welfare ...

"The more people who are dependent on government handouts, the more votes the left can depend on for an ever-expanding welfare state."
~ Thomas Sowell

QotD: Jordan Peterson et al on inequality, the soul, and how to organise your bookshelf

@jordanbpeterson: "I don't think that you can generate wealth without generating inequality."
@yaronbrook: "Inequality is a feature of freedom, not a bug."
~ exchange from the discussion at #OCON2018 between Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, Yaron Brook & Greg Salmieri on Philosophy and the Soul [VIDEO HERE]

Monday, 2 July 2018

QotD: On adulthood and middle-class welfare

"In New Zealand, every citizen is a beneficiary... We are insulated from the full consequences of failure and hampered by a progressive tax and social regime that places a drag on success. The results are rising numbers of single-parent families, record levels of incarceration and persistent pockets of poverty and low academic achievement.
    "The response to this ongoing failure is ever-increasing intervention.
    "Today [marks the extension] of the Orwellian Working For Families programme, where middle-class parents receive even more government cash paid for by scrapping the last government's tax cuts.
    "We have become infantilised by this paternalistic managing of much of our economic life and are unwilling to embrace the freedom and responsibility of adulthood."
~ Damien Grant, from his oped 'Nanny state insulates us from the consequences of failure'

Saturday, 30 June 2018

QotD: "Designating immigrants as 'murderers' and 'rapists' flies in the face of data..."

"Caroline Baum points out that President Trump’s opposition goes far beyond 'rapists and murderers': 'Designating immigrants as 'murderers' and 'rapists' flies in the face of data that show that undocumented immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than their native-born counterparts. And legal immigrants are even less likely offenders than their illegal counterparts."Before you insist that Trump is protesting illegal immigration, consider that his administration has tried to clamp down on all forms of legal immigration..."~ Scott Sumner in his post 'Us and Them' summarising Caroline Baum's Oped 'If You Want To Start a Business Here, the U.S. Should Roll Out the Red Carpet'

Friday, 29 June 2018

QotD: "The tribal notion of 'the common good' ... "

"The tribal notion of 'the common good' has served as the moral justification of most social systems -- and of all tyrannies -- in history."~ Ayn Rand
[Hat tip the Ayn Rand Bot]

Thursday, 28 June 2018

QotD: "Nationalism is more absurd and more criminal than socialism" ~ Lord Acton

"The theory of [nationalism] is more absurd and more criminal than the theory of socialism ... and marks the final conflict, and therefore the end, of [these] two forces which are the worst enemies of civil freedom, - the absolute monarchy and the revolution."~ Lord Acton, concluding his essay on 'Nationality'

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Monday, 25 June 2018

QotD: "The false impression that the modern economy has left most people behind encourages Luddite and beggar-thy-neighbor policies that would make everyone worse off" [updated]

"To acknowledge that the lives of the lower and middle classes of developed counties have improved in recent decades is not to deny the formidable problems facing 21st-century economies... Perhaps most damaging: the false impression that the modern economy has left most people behind encourages Luddite and beggar-thy-neighbour policies that would make everyone worse off."~ Stephen Pinker from his book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Quoted by Don Boudreaux, who comments,
Trump’s presidency – although fuelled also by several other noxious notions, fallacies, and superstitions – was made possible in part by the absurd refusal by many people, largely those on the political left, to acknowledge that the living standards of ordinary Americans have improved dramatically since the mid-1970s.

"Improved?" you ask? Hell yes. For examples:

from Stephen Pinker's book, hat tip Utopia]


Sunday, 24 June 2018

QoTD: “Nobody can be a great economist who is only an economist...”

Nobody can be a great economist who is only an economist—and I am even tempted to add that the economist who is only an economist is likely to become a nuisance if not a positive danger.”~ FA Hayek

Saturday, 23 June 2018

QotD: "The agreement of the Paris COP 21 was not signed to save the planet..."

"The agreement of the Paris COP 21 was not signed to save the planet and to prevent us from roasting due to an imaginary temperature increase of +2°C. Behind all that masquerade is hidden, as always, the ugly face of power, greed, and profit. All the industrialists who are in favour of that commitment, which will ruin Europe and immensely impoverish its citizens, do so for the good reason they find in it a huge and easy source of income. As for NGOs, when they are not simply motivated by greed, their motive consists in a resolutely Malthusian ideology. Their object is to return the world to a very small population, on the order of a few hundred million people. To do so, they impoverish the world, remove the power of fossil fuel energies, and thus ensure that the number of deaths increases."~Professor István Markó, (1956 – 2017), formerly professor and researcher in organic chemistry at the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium’s largest French-speaking university, from a 2017 interview with French journalist Grégoire Canlorbe

Friday, 22 June 2018

QotD: "If you think that people fleeing Hell should be forced back ... "

"If you think that:-- people fleeing Hell should be forced back-- people fleeing Hell are responsible for thugs taking their kids-- taking their kids is OK because maybe they're not their kids-- they bring their kids to embarrass Trump-- the law is the law, regardless of how unjust-- all laws must be enforced no matter how unjust-- there's no such thing as an unjust law-- Ayn Rand should have been deported-- borders limit, not government power, but moving goods and peoplethen we don't have a difference of politics, but of morality!"~ Keith Weiner