Monday, 18 February 2019

"Anyone can become angry... That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not easy." #QotD


"Anyone can become angry… That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not easy." 
          ~ Aristotle, from his Nicomachean Ethics .

"California is an almost perfect place to build high-speed rail. And yet it will probably never happen... There are important lessons here for progressives..." #QotD


"California is an almost perfect place to build high-speed rail. And yet it will probably never happen...     "There are important lessons here for progressives, who have been pushing for exactly this sort of infrastructure project. In short, progressives have not faced up to a number of difficult choices..."              ~ Scott Sumner, from his post 'Lessons From the Golden State'
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Friday, 15 February 2019

"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." #QotD


Today's Quote of the Day comes from a book by Ronald Wright, summarising author John Steinbeck's whinging that America was still not, yet, a socialist paradise:
"Socialism never took root in America because the poor [there] see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."
[Hat tip Marsha Enright] 
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Thursday, 14 February 2019

"When you come away from a building and feel pretty excited, not because of the building, but because of something that has gone on within you while you were in that building — then you are getting pretty close to architecture." #QotD



"When you come away from a building and feel pretty excited, not because of the building, but because of something that has gone on within you while you were in that building — then you are getting pretty close to architecture."
          ~ architect John Scott
Image credit: Photograph by David Straight from his forthcoming book John Scott: Works
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Wednesday, 13 February 2019

"The problem isn't that none of the Green New Deal's goals can be achieved. The problem is that only HALF of these goals can be achieved..." Bonus #QotD


Today's Bonus Quote of the Day comes from Robert Tracinski's latest newsletter, on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's modern-day Morgenthau Plan, aka her so-called "Green New Deal":
The problem isn’t that none of the Green New Deal’s goals can be achieved. The problem is that only half of these goals can be achieved. We can’t build high-speed rail everywhere, but we can abolish air travel. We can’t power the whole economy on “renewable energy,” but we can shut down existing power plants. We can’t give everyone a “family-sustaining wage,” but we can definitely kill cows and tell our kids there’s no more milk to drink. We can’t provide economic security for people who don’t want to work, but we can flood the country with billion-dollar bank notes that won’t buy anything. It is very hard to create, but very easy to destroy.
          

"In former times, contemporary orchestral music survived despite opposition from critics and professional musicians because the public liked it. Today it languishes despite critical and professional support because the public will have none of it. That it survives at all, or at least continues to be played, is due simply to the fact that the public no longer has anything to say about it." # QotD


Today's quote comes from Henry Pleasants's book The Agony of Modern Music, which argues that "modern" orchestral music in the form of Concerto for Vacuum Cleaner and Two Coffee Grinders is not modern and is rarely music, and is performed at all only because critics and subsidised professionals decree that it must:


"In former times, contemporary [orchestral] music survived despite opposition from critics and professional musicians because the public liked it. Today it languishes despite critical and professional support because the public will have none of it. That it survives at all, or at least continues to be played, is due simply to the fact that the public no longer has anything to say about it...   
    "Only in painting and sculpture does so bad a product get so much flattering professional attention. And only in painting and sculpture is such a state of affairs accepted so placidly as proper. Not only have the professionals taken over, lock stock and barrel; they have even persuaded the public that this is the way it should be!... 
    "We are ... faced with the paradox of contemporary society deferring to composers  not worth the deference in an effort to make up for the assumed former failure of society to defer to composers who were. In attempting to correct the alleged previous mistake of under-evaluating the greatly gifted, contemporary society compounds the error by over-evaluating composers who have yet to demonstrate that they are gifted at all."  
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Tuesday, 12 February 2019

"I read the Prime Minister’s economics speech yesterday. I wasn’t impressed. She continues to perpetuate what are little more than lies." #QotD


"I read the Prime Minister’s economics speech yesterday. I wasn’t impressed. There is simply no sign that she cares one jot about New Zealand’s decades of underperformance or that she has any sort of analytical framework (herself or from her advisers) for even thinking about the issue. It may be repetitious to say so – as a reader this week suggested – but the utter un-seriousness about our ongoing relative decline really matters; perhaps not directly or much for many people my age or older, but for our kids, and their future kids. Including for the question of whether the next generations even stay, rather than joining the million or so New Zealanders (net) who’ve left over recent decades.
  "She continues to perpetuate what are little more than lies: 
      “'…on key economic measures the Government is delivering.' 
 "That would be the economy with no productivity growth, with foreign trade flat or falling as a share of GDP, and with houses that are increasingly unaffordable to younger generations. Some delivery."
          ~ Michael Reddell, from his post on 'The PM's Economic Plan'

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Monday, 11 February 2019

"The uneven distribution of wealth in the world is due to the uneven distribution of capitalism." #QotD


"The uneven distribution of wealth in the world is due to the uneven distribution of capitalism."
          ~ Johan Norberg

Hat tip to @HumanProgress, who point out "average incomes in the freest nations are seven times higher than those in the least free." 

RELATED

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Saturday, 9 February 2019

"To rejoice in life, to find the world beautiful and delightful to live in, was a mark of the Classical Greek spirit that distinguished it from all that had gone before. A tomb in Egypt and a theatre in Greece. The one comes to mind as naturally as the other. So was the world changing by the time the fifth century before Christ began in Athens." #QotD


Dancing female figurine, 2nd Century BC, Western Greek (Source: The British Museum)
"To rejoice in life, to find the world beautiful and delightful to live in, was a mark of the [Classical] Greek spirit that distinguished it from all that had gone before. It is a vital distinction. The joy of life is written upon everything the Greeks left behind and they who leave it out of account fail to reckon with something that is of first importance in understanding how the Greek achievement came to pass in the world of antiquity. It is not a fact that jumps to the eye for the reason that their literature is marked as strongly by sorrow. The Greeks knew to the full how bitter life is as well as how sweet... But never, not in their darkest moments, do they lose their taste for life. It is always a wonder and a delight, the world a place of beauty, and they themselves rejoicing to be alive in it...
    "A tomb in Egypt and a theatre in Greece. The one comes to mind as naturally as the other. So was the world changing by the time the fifth century before Christ began in Athens."

          ~ Edith Hamilton, from her book The Greek Way .

Friday, 8 February 2019

Rawls v Nozick on inequality & 'social justice'


"[The popular] conception of social justice [is] associated with the work of John Rawls. Rawls suggested that we should gauge social justice with reference to the social arrangements which individuals would agree upon were they all in an ‘original position’ in which none of them knew what their personal attributes would be and all were ignorant of the place which they would occupy in society. Operating behind such a ‘veil of ignorance,’ Rawls argued ... that we would all agree that resources should be shared out equally, except in those situations where an unequal distribution could be shown to produce greater benefits for those who are least well-off than they could possibly enjoy under any other social arrangement (what he called the ‘difference principle’)... 
    "But no sooner had Rawls established this argument for equality than Robert Nozick offered an equally compelling refutation. He likened Rawls’s ‘original position’ to the situation of a group of students being asked to agree on the distribution of examination grades before starting their course. Having no way of knowing how well they are likely to perform, Nozick accepts that they would probably all agree to share the same marks. But in reality, they do not have to make such decisions in ignorance of their own vices and virtues. Some work hard and revise while others are lazy, and this would make it grossly unfair to insist they should all be graded the same. Nozick therefore proposed that we should gauge a just distribution simply by asking whether people have established a legitimate right to what they have. If they have worked for what they’ve got, or if they have received it from somebody else as a result of a voluntary gift or exchange, then they are entitled to keep it, end of story." 
          ~ Peter Saunders, from his 2010 monogram 'Beware False Prophets'
[Hat tip Utopia...]
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Thursday, 7 February 2019

"Sometimes the hop from bleeding heart to mailed fist is only one page wide." #QotD


"Sometimes the hop from bleeding heart to mailed fist is only one page wide."
          ~ Bryan Caplan, from a short post on An Oral History of Contemporary Cuba.
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Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Happy Waitangi Day?


Why all the whinging?

We say Merry Christmas; we wish a Happy New Year; we might even wish our friends “a great long weekend.” I’ve heard friends say things like “Happy 4th of July!” and even “Happy Australia Day!” 

So how come nobody here ever says anything like “Happy Waitangi Day”?

You’d think we would. There are many worse places on the planet to to wake up, and there are very few that are better. 

And the symbol this day commemorates, the only day we actually do celebrate the birth of this great little country, played some part in its creation.

We celebrate the signing of a Treaty: an agreement that ended legal slavery and ritual cannibalism. What's not to celebrate about that?

A deal that put a stop (for a time) to never-ending inter-tribal warfare. There was no-one even at the time who didn't celebrate that.

A Treaty that, for the first time in British colonial history, explicitly offered to natives the same rights and privileges as the colonisers themselves, overturning the absolutism of chiefly tribal rule and bringing to these islands the promise of liberty, peace and the rule of law – and not the French absolutist law that might have arrived here if a French explorer had annexed the islands for Louis XVIII (as was feared at the time), but instead British common law and (with that) the protection of property rights that, for over 800 years in the home of its birth), it had delivered.

Sure, as a founding document it was far from perfect. 
  • There was some confusion between Articles I  and II over what sort of authority remained with the various chiefs.
  • And between them, the promoters of the New Zealand Company (who literally wished to pay for colonisation by legalised land sharking) and the missionaries of the Aborigines’ Protection Society (who altruistically thought that Maori, already demonstrating their abundant entrepreneurial acumen, nonetheless needed to be “saved from the impact of commerce”) managed to have inserted in the Treaty a disturbing nannying clause (part of Clause II) that prohibited Maori selling their land to anyone except the Government's own agents --- the cause of many a problem (and many a battle) from that day to this.
  • And, what is also true, those same meddlers also wanted the British class system exported here, and so (conscious that the American and Australian frontiers had liberated non-aristocratic lives), wanted to limit the land available to emigrating labourers here by opposing individual Maori title, and encouraging instead the retention of collective tribal ownership and “aristocratic” tribal leaders. The reason, said the Protection Society's promoters, was that there had to be “a class of persons in the island, who, by common consent and prescriptive right hold a position of eminence above the others.”
        To reverse Thomas Jefferson’s famous maxim, through the influence of the likes of the Society, they sought through these two means (and through the absorption of Christian mysticism) to create a mass of natives born with saddles on their backs, with a favoured few (beginning of course with those of the missionary persuasion themselves) booted and spurred to ride them, even by the grace of this bright new Treaty.
  • Also true is that, instead of promoting individual rights by treating with individual Maori individually and breaking up tribal land holdings, the British colonial government instead cemented in the tribalism and collectivism that had already benighted these lands for so long. 

Socialism in several tweets


So the oft-ignorant Ben Shapiro said this:


On which he was swiftly educated:






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Monday, 4 February 2019

Shut-down disharmony: The lesson from Bastiat


The continuous encroachment of government into people's everyday lives was dramatically demonstrated in the recent U.S. Federal Government partial shutdown. You might think, write Gary Galles in this guest post, that with the shutdown at an end, that national harmony would now break out.
But you would be wrong: because as Frédéric Bastiat famously pointed out, as long as government coercion continues, and expands, then there is no possibility of any genuine harmony.
The reason is simple: Genuine harmony requires cooperation, it relies on voluntary human interaction; coercion makes this impossible. Freedom requires government “exerted solely for the maintenance of order, security, and justice.” Every expansion beyond that narrow bound expands disharmony.



Amid the hyperbole devoted to the partial government shutdown, Americans have heard the soap-opera details of behind-the-scenes jockeying and Twitter smack-downs while being told how dire things are as a result. In fact, with all the blaming of opponents for extremism and unprincipled intransigence in preventing a resolution, you might think that the government status quo they are trying to get back to is the means to national harmony. That would be seriously mistaken.

The government we suffer from is the primary cause of our disharmony, which is why liberty itself requires a partial government shutdown.

Continually leveraging government power into ever-more areas where people’s views dramatically differ expands how frequently some people’s preferences are forced on others. That guarantees acrimony, not harmony. And our public servants in Washington could use some wisdom on that score. For that, they could turn to one of the most insightful observers of government’s influence on social comity—Frédéric Bastiat, among history’s ablest defenders of freedom. In his seminal book, Economic Harmonies, he writes:
"All men’s impulses, when motivated by legitimate self-interest, fall into a harmonious social pattern…the practical solution…is simply not to thwart those interests or to try to redirect them.
    Coercion…[has] never yet done anything…except to eliminate liberty.
    Where do you…establish the acting principle of coercion?... if you entrust men with arbitrary power, you must first prove that…their minds will be exempt from error, their hands from greed, and their hearts from covetousness.
    But it is not necessary to force into harmony things that are inherently harmonious.
    Let men labour, exchange, learn, band together, act, and react upon one another…there can result from their free and intelligent activity only order, harmony and progress.
    The question is whether or not we have liberty...not profoundly disrupted by the contrary act of institutions of human origin.
    Social order, freed from its abuses and the obstacles that have been put in its way…[is] the most admirable, the most complete, the most lasting, the most universal, and the most equitable of all associations.
    The laws of Providence are harmonious…only when they operate under conditions of freedom…Therefore when we perceive something inharmonious in the world, it cannot fail to correspond to some lack of freedom or justice.
    The state always acts through the instrumentality of force…What are the things that men have the right to impose on one another by force?... I have no right to force anyone to be religious, charitable, well educated, or industrious; but I have the right to force him to be just: this is a case of legitimate defence.
    If, therefore, the use of force by the individual is justified solely on grounds of legitimate defence, we need only recognise that government action always takes the form of force to conclude that by its very nature it can be exerted solely for the maintenance of order, security, and justice. All government action beyond this limit is an encroachment upon the individual’s conscience, intelligence, and industry—in a word, upon human liberty.
    Accordingly, we must [turn]…to the task of freeing the whole domain of private activity from the encroachments of government.
    It seems evident to me that to restrict the public police force to its one and only rightful function, but a function that is essential, unchallenged, constructive, desired [xxxvi] and accepted by all, is the way to win it universal respect and co-operation.…from what source could [then] come all our present ills of systematic obstruction, parliamentary bickering, street insurrections, crises, factions, wild notions, demands advanced by all men to govern under all possible forms, as dangerous as they are absurd, that teach the people to look to the government for everything. We shall have an end … to the ever increasing and unnatural meddling of politics into all things.
"[Many] causes of disturbances, friction, disaffection, envy, and disorder would no longer exist…it reduces evil to the smaller and smaller area left open to it by the ignorance and perversity of our human frailty, which it is the function of harmony to prevent or chastise."
Bastiat's Economic Harmonies identified the principled defence of individual rights and freedom as central to social harmony and progress. But such freedom required government “exerted solely for the maintenance of order, security, and justice.” Every expansion beyond that narrow bound expands disharmony.

Politicians promise harmony and blame opponents for destroying it. But government acting as the ubiquitous dispenser of goodies and garnishments destroys harmony. So the fight in Washington is not the cause of division, and no temporary DC détente can eliminate it. The core fight is over how invasive, and thus how destructive of harmony, government will be.

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Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. His recent books include 'Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies' (2014) and 'Apostle of Peace' (2013). He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.
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"The great and chief end, therefore, of men's uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property." #QotD


"The great and chief end, therefore, of men's uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property."
           ~ John Locke, from Chapter 9 of his Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690)
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Friday, 1 February 2019

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Why use an acronym when decent words will do?


"They are detached from the language
and inflated like little balloons."
- Wolcott Gibbs

Why do so many so-called writers fill their screeds with acronyms and neologisms when decent and real words will do instead? One simple answer: pretentiousness.

The "nonce-word" or -phrase may be, rarely, one constructed simply to serve a need of the moment, but invariably the motive is an attempt to pass off pedestrian thought as profundity. Unfortunately, this is to reverse cause and effect: as the authors of one of the greatest writing guides warn: "The writer should not indulge in these unless he is quite sure he is a good writer." [Emphasis mine.]

Too often today, however, the usage only confirms the opposite.

A repast of neologisms and acronyms aplenty across a writer's prose -- an alphabet soup of EBITDAs, ATMs and MOBIEs poured out across the page -- confirm only that he is neither the writer, nor the thinker, he deems himself to be. He dreams of the heights, and very publicly attains not even the lowlands of mere adequacy.

Acronym over-use is, perhaps, the worst of these crimes.
Even the most knowledgeable audience needs you to define each acronym right away, since some acronyms have double meanings even within a single field. If you must use an acronym or difficult term, it's best to define it the first time you say it. My advice: avoid acronyms altogether.
    When I'm baffled by an unclear acronym, I jokingly tell people, "I'm in the SAA."
    Then I go silent, to make them ask me what it means. "I belong to the Society Against Acronyms."
"Write things out," advise those sound advisers Strunk and White
Not everyone knows that MADD means Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and even if everyone did, there are babies being born every minute who will someday encounter the name for the first time. They deserve to see the words, not simply the initials....
    Many shortcuts are self-defeating; they waste the reader's time instead of conserving it. There are all sorts of rhetorical stratagems and devices that attract writers who hope to be pithy, but most of them are simply bothersome. The longest way around is [often] the shortest way home, and the one truly reliable shortcut in writing is to choose words that are strong and surefooted to carry readers on their way. 
Oddly enough, it turns out that these pieces of pestilence, these admissions of writer's sloth, are relatively new accretions upon civilised life. Like many big bad modern things, they grew to prominence with the rise of big bad modern government, the rise of the aptly-christened FDR ushering in the rise of the many alphabet-soup departments to which his "New Deal" gave birth -- and which, in their obese adolescence, gave aid and comfort to much waffle bolstered by this form of over-capitalised pretension.
The condensation of a word or phrase into a pronounceable initialism (acronym) seems to be a fairly recent invention, identified as being American [declares the textbook]. 
An acronym is a nuance of word‐group abbreviation, wherein the word group (usually a single entity or noun, but sometimes a verb) is pronounceable. The neologism is usually operationally more valuable (and ideally, easier on the ear and tongue) than the parent word group. The line between simple initialism and pronounceable acronym can be indistinct (e.g. ELISA) although general usage favours the case for simple initialism. Fowler labelled abbreviations ‘curtailed words’ and noted the special circumstances of acronyms.

‘Another way of forming curtailed words is to combine initial letters, a method now so popular, especially in America, that a word ‘acronym’ has been coined for it. The first world war produced a few; Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), Dora (Defence of the Realm Act), Wrens (Women's Royal Naval Service)...'
... Implicit in Fowler's interpretation of the acronym is the pronounceability as a word, although not all authorities have demanded this test...
The practice of acronymology is far older than its representation by a word. Students have long made mnemonic initialisms to help retain tedious information. Thus the six critical elements of life, referring back to the periodic table, are CHNOPS, which, if pronounced as ‘chin‐ups’, qualifies it as an acronym. To locate the femoral artery generations of medical students have depended on NAVEL, going from lateral to medial under the right inguinal ligament: nerve, artery, vein, empty space, and lymphatic. The corporate world and scientists were doing this sort of thing early in the 20th century, but the first acknowledgement of this practice as a general tool in language with the neologism acronym was 1943. Defining examples in the Oxford English Dictionary include MASH (mobile army surgical hospital), Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).
 
The Second World War era provided several useful and often colourful acronyms, including SNAFU (situation normal, all fouled up), RADAR (radio detecting and ranging), and SONAR (sound navigation range). With their incorporation into everyday speech, radar, sonar and other terms have become so commonplace that they have lost their capitalisation, as if they have become less overtly acronyms. 
Acronyms are not un-useful, and if the abbreviation is already well-known, (BBC, CIA, DNA, NATO, OECD) may be well used.
However, there is widespread evidence of overuse in technical writing and it may be wise to follow some simple rules for "acronymology":

  • An acronym is at least three letters.
  • The word must be easily pronounceable.
  • It must simplify communication.
  • An acronym should have utility beyond a single paper/report.
  • Spell out the complete term at first usage.
  • More than one new neologism or novel abbreviation per paper burdens the reader.

Do not put the reader in the position of having to refer back to a key of novel abbreviations. It is preferable to spell out most repetitive phrases...
Some acronyms and initialisms fit the needs of the moment, to compress a paper or abstract, whereas others are destined for longevity. Overuse of abbreviations for the writer's convenience or for the constraints of word counts, generally obfuscates information. 
The advice of the writers' writers: "Stick to words when you can. Acronyms make writing easier but reading harder. Your shortcut is the reader’s hindrance."
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The words "are detached from the language and inflated like little balloons, and presently sent spinning, lovely, iridescent, and meaningless into the wild, blue heaven of prose." #QotD


"The result is...a very special vocabulary in which words come to transcend their exact and customary meanings -- in which, in a sense, they are detached from the language and inflated like little balloons, and presently sent spinning, lovely, iridescent, and meaningless into the wild, blue heaven of...prose."
 ~ Wolcott Gibbs, quoted in Strunk and White's Elements of Style  on the pretentious vocabularies used in courtrooms, boardrooms, government reports and spin -- nonsense words and phrases like "step change," "deep dive," "trickle-down," "learnings," and now "recalibration."
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Wednesday, 30 January 2019

"Any time we experience a work of art for the first time, the only reason we notice it at all is because it completes a circuit within us and engages our attention." #QotD





"Any time we experience a work of art for the first time, the only reason we notice it at all is because it completes a circuit within us and engages our attention.
    "It’s important to try and refrain from criticising the work; simply respond to it naturally.
    "In order for a work of art to survive the moment of surprise, the work must contain mystery... No matter how much you know it, as in knowing nature or people, the mystery is what keeps our interest."

          ~ architect Bruce Goff, in an interview with Robert Morris

[picture: Bruce Goff's Bavinger House, from above]
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Tuesday, 29 January 2019

"If all mankind but one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind." #QotD


"If all mankind but one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
          ~ John Stuart Mill, from his book On Liberty.

Monday, 28 January 2019

"When one country exchanges, in other words, when one country traffics with another, the whole of its advantage consists in the commodities imported. It benefits by importation, and by nothing else." #QotD


"The benefit which is derived from exchanging one commodity for another, arises, in all cases, from the commodity received, not from the commodity given. When one country exchanges, in other words, when one country traffics with another, the whole of its advantage consists in the commodities imported. It benefits by importation, and by nothing else. … That country, or, more properly speaking, the people of that country, have certain commodities of their own, but these they are willing to give for certain commodities of other countries. They prefer having those other commodities. They are benefited, therefore, not by what they give away; that it would be absurd to say; but by what they receive."
          ~ James Mill (father of John Stuart), from his Elements of Political Economy
[Hat tip Pierre Lemieux]
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Friday, 25 January 2019

Cocktail Hour: "With the martini we reach a fine and noble art ... you need not sing, for presently there will be singing in your heart."



"With [the martini] we reach a fine and noble art ... 
     "The proper union of gin and vermouth is a great and sudden glory; it is one of the happiest marriages on earth, and one of the shortest lived. The fragile tie of ecstasy is broken in a few minutes, and thereafter there can be no remarriage... 
    "There is a point where the marriage of gin and vermouth is consummated. It varies a little with the constituents, but for a gin of 95 proof and a harmonious vermouth it may be generalised as about 3.7 to 1... 
    "The goal is purification [of the mind] and that will begin after the first round has been poured, so I see no need for preliminary spiritual exercises. But it is best approached with a tranquil mind, lest the necessary speed become haste. Tranquility ought normally to come with sight of the familiar bottles. If it doesn't, feel free to hum some simple tune as you go about your preparations [the Blue Danube being an excellent choice] ... [but] do not whistle, for your companions are sinking into the quiet of expectation. And you need not sing, for presently there will be singing in your heart." 
          ~ Bernard De Voto, from his book The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto 
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"From what I can see, the people of Venezuela do not want to end socialism. They want to end the rule of Maduro, and get back to when socialism 'worked.' They don't understand that socialism only seems to work only as long as the seed corn lasts." Bonus #QotD


"From what I can see, the people of Venezuela do not want to end socialism. They want to end the rule of Maduro, and get back to when socialism 'worked.' They don't understand that socialism only seems to work only as long as the seed corn lasts."
          ~ Keith Weiner, on Twitter

[edited for clarity]
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"It would be a miracle if the democratic political process were ever to renounce the use of the envy-motive. All one needs is to promise the envious the destruction or confiscation of assets enjoyed by others; beyond that there is no need to promise anything more constructive." # QotD



"It would be a miracle if the democratic political process were ever to renounce the use of the envy-motive. Its usefulness derives, if for no other reason, from the fact that all that is needed, in principle, is to promise the envious the destruction or the confiscation of assets enjoyed by others; beyond that there is no need to promise anything more constructive. The negativism of envy permits even the weakest of candidates to sound reasonably plausible, since anybody, once in office, can confiscate or destroy. To enlarge the country’s capital assets, to create employment etc., requires a more precise programme. Candidates will naturally try to make some positive proposals, but it is often all too apparent that envy looms large in their calculations. The more precarious the nation’s economy at election time, the stronger the temptations for politicians to make ‘redistribution’ their main plank, even when they know how little margin is left for redistributive measures, and, worse still, how likely they are to retard economic growth." 
          ~ Helmut Schoeck from his seminal book Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour

[Hat tip Steven Kates]
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Thursday, 24 January 2019

#QotD: 'How to read authors of earlier times who expressed views or created characters that we find repugnant today'


"It’s as if we imagine an old book to be a time machine that brings the writer to us. We buy a book and take it home, and the writer appears before us, asking to be admitted into our company. If we find that the writer’s views are ethnocentric or sexist or racist, we reject the application, and we bar his or her entry into the present.
"As [my] student had put it, 'I don’t want anyone like that in my house'.
"I think we’d all be better readers if we realised that it isn’t the writer who’s the time traveler. It’s the reader. When we pick up an old novel, we’re not bringing the novelist into our world and deciding whether he or she is enlightened enough to belong here; we’re journeying into the novelist’s world and taking a look around."
          ~ Brian Morton, author and director of the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College, as quoted in the post
             'How to read authors of earlier times who expressed views or created characters that we find repugnant today'.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

#QotD: "Not to disparage him, but Donald Trump is a truth-challenged, narcissistic ignoramus. What he doesn’t understand about economics could fill many libraries, and his specialty in economic ignorance is trade policy."


"Not to disparage him, but Donald Trump is a truth-challenged, narcissistic ignoramus. What he doesn’t understand about economics could fill many libraries, and his specialty in economic ignorance is trade policy. For instance, he is incapable of comprehending that tariffs are taxes on American consumers. At the recent G7 summit in Quebec he said, 'We as a nation lost $817 billion dollars on trade. That’s ridiculous and it’s unacceptable.'
    "Actually, that statement is ridiculous and unacceptable. The idea that a trade deficit represents a 'loss' to America (or any country) is stunningly stupid. Looked at through Trump’s eyes, the couple hundred bucks I leave at the Safeway each week is accumulating into a pretty impressive loss… Except I bring food and beverages home from the Safeway, numbnuts."
          ~ Ed Crane, from his post 'Trade Policy? Just Leave Me Alone, Donald'

[Hat tip Cafe Hayek, which can boast many more links of similar quality]
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Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Catastrophism Failure



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Don’t call them the 'mainstream media' because they are not this any more. They’re (we’re) all the media now."


"Don’t call them the 'mainstream media' because they are not this any more. They’re (we’re) all just media – CNN, Scott Adams, Uncle Tom Cobley on YouTube, me and my pals posting and maybe you commenting on Samizdata – for the kind of people who see things the way they (we) do, and want the kind of news – true, false, dazzling, daft – that they (we) want to offer.
"It used to be that you only discovered what liars and nincompoops journalists were capable of being when you were in the middle of one of their stories and actually knew what lies they were telling, if they were. Now, we can all see this whenever we want to..
"This is a very important change ...
"No amount of censorship or bias – by Google, by credit card companies, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the rest of them – can even seriously reverse these liberalising (in the true sense) developments, let alone put any sort of complete stop to them."

          ~ Brian Micklethwait, from his post 'Scott Adams catches a video being used to lie by being edited lyingly'.

Monday, 21 January 2019

#QotD: "...the very word 'nation' has been endowed by nationalism with a meaning and a resonance which until the end of the eighteenth century it was far from having."


"Nationalism is a doctrine invented in Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It pretends to supply a criterion for the determination of the unit of population proper to enjoy a government exclusively its own, for the legitimate exercise of power in the state, and for the right organisation of a society of states.
    "Briefly, the doctrine holds that humanity is naturally divided into nations, that nations are known by certain characteristics which can be ascertained, and that the only legitimate type of government is national self-government.
    "Not the least triumph of this doctrine is that such propositions have become accepted and are thought to be self-evident, that the very word 'nation' has been endowed by nationalism with a meaning and a resonance which until the end of the eighteenth century it was far from having...
    "Goethe, reviewing in 1772 a book entitled On the Love of the Fatherland, written to promote loyalty to the Habsburgs in the Holy Roman Empire, had this to say [instead]: ‘Have we a fatherland? If we can find a place where we can rest with our possessions, a field to sustain us, a home to cover us, have we not there a fatherland?’    "Such was the current opinion in Europe at the outbreak of the French Revolution...
    "[It is said that] ‘the principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the Nation.’ What, then, was meant by a nation? Natio in ordinary speech originally meant a group of men belonging together by similarity of birth, larger than a family, but smaller than a clan or a people... Thus [the University of Paris had four nations]: the nation de France referred to speakers of Romance languages including Italians and Spaniards; the nation de Picardie referred to the Dutch, that of Normandie to those originating from North-Eastern Europe, and that of Germanie to Englishmen as well as to Germans proper.    "By extension, the word came to be used as a collective noun... This use of the word as a collective noun persists into the eighteenth century, and we find Hume stating in his essay Of National Characters that ‘a nation is nothing but a collection of individuals’ who, by constant intercourse, came to acquire some traits in common, and Diderot and D’Alambert in the Encyclopédie defining ‘nation’ as ‘a collective word used to denote a considerable quantity of those people who inhabit a certain extent of country defined within certain limits, and obeying the same government’... Such is the sense in which Montesquieu uses the term in The Spirit of the Laws, when he says that 'under the first two dynasties [in France] the nation was often called together, that is the lords and the bishops'....
    "This is the claim implicit in Diderot’s and D’Alembert’s definition just quoted, and later made quite explicit by Sieyès. ‘What is a nation?’ asked Sieyès. ‘A body of associates living under one common law and represented by the same legislature.’"         
          ~ Eli Kedourie, from his book Nationalism.


Friday, 18 January 2019

"When evening quickens in the street, comes a pause in the day's occupation that is known as the cocktail hour. It marks the lifeward turn. The heart wakens from coma and its dyspnea ends. Its strengthening pulse is to cross over into campground, to believe that the world has not been altogether lost or, if lost, then not altogether in vain." #QotD



"When evening quickens in the street, comes a pause in the day's occupation that is known as the cocktail hour. It marks the lifeward turn. The heart wakens from coma and its dyspnea ends. Its strengthening pulse is to cross over into campground, to believe that the world has not been altogether lost or, if lost, then not altogether in vain."
          ~ Bernard DeVoto, from his manifesto to this civilising ritual, 'The Hour'
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