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2017-09-28

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Proverbs 20:12 is a little puzzling:

12 Ears that hear and eyes that see—
    the Lord has made them both.

I'm hearing the complaints: "Well, yeah. We knew that from Genesis 1. Your point being? Are you trying to correct those people who think the Lord made ears, but not eyes? Or vice versa? There are no such people."

I just don't get it. Why stop there? Brains that think, muscles that contract, tongues that taste, noses that smell…


Reason's Christian Britschgi notes (yet another) betrayal of campaign promises from … well, who else? In Stunning Reversal, Trump Gives Up on Private Sector Infrastructure Investments.

Infrastructure was one of the few areas where a Donald Trump presidency offered any cause for optimism among libertarians.

On the campaign trail and in office, Trump had promised to tap private capital to deliver $1 trillion in infrastructure investments, spin off the nation's air traffic control system from direct federal management, and pump the breaks [sic] on the billions in federal pork currently wasted on local transit projects.

Now Trump appears to be bailing out on that pledge, But as Britschgi notes: "It is also possible that the ever-mercurial Trump is just saying stuff."


■ Also at Reason, Matt Welch notes that Trump's knee-jerk protectionism in the case of the Jones Act (which demands that only American-owned ships transfer emergency supplies from US ports to Puerto Rico) doesn't augur well for any other reform that might make economic sense: Jones Act Protectionism Is Why Tax Reform Is Probably Doomed to Fail.

It's hard to imagine a more vivid example of the notion of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs than the Jones Act, a 97-year-old Mercantilist garbage-law that requires all ships traveling between U.S. ports to be totally American, which in practice means everything on U.S. islands (including hurricane relief) is way more expensive than it should be. As free-trader Scott Lincicome quickly tabulated, "At best, it's 1400 workers in Jones Act shipping in/around PR (GAO 2013) vs 3.4 MILLION suffering Puerto Ricans." The moral calculus is hideous.

If it weren't so hideous the irony might be amusing: "economic populism" causing the unnecessary suffering of actual people.

If ostensibly "free-market conservative" pols can't overcome entrenched special interests to get rid of the Jones Act, how can you expect them to muster up the courage to do actual tax reform? It's not a great bet.


■ But speaking of tax reform, @kevinNR has some thoughts.

I have for a long time been sympathetic to the idea of capping the total annual taxes paid by an individual, say at $1 million a year. I call it the Max Tax. There’s no good economic reason for it, I’ll be the first to admit. Barack Obama used to say that, at a certain point, you’ve made enough money. I think that, at a certain point, you’ve paid enough tax, at least for the year. The Left likes to talk about “fair share,” even though right now, as things stand, the top 20 percent of income earners pay basically all the federal income tax — their share of taxes is wildly disproportionate to their share of income. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a million bucks a year is more than one’s “fair share.” I like the idea of other tax caps, too: For example, I’d cap the lifetime property taxes on a residence at the price of the house itself. If you’ve paid off your house once, and then paid for it again through property taxes, it should be, at long last, your house. Yes, this would create some weird economic incentives, but I’m okay with some of that, and much of it could be mitigated through designing the cap rules intelligently.

Looking at my property tax bill: yes, let's do that.


■ Jonah Goldberg has some wise warning words: If you deny the ‘right to be wrong,’ blood will flow.

People are growing intolerant of any dissent from their idea of what everyone should believe. Agree with me and you’re one of the good guys; disagree with me and you’re not just wrong, you’re my enemy, a heretic, a traitor, a bigot. Opportunists recognize that exacerbating this polarization redounds to their own benefit, because at least for now, doing so helps raise money, ratings, clicks and poll numbers.

Goodness knows that I'm no fan of left-wing celebrity/athlete showboating. But I can't excoriate Google for firing James Damore, then turn around and argue that (say) ESPN should fire Jemele Hill.


■ Alex Griswold of the Washington Free Beacon notes some recent ignorance from MSNBC host Chuck Todd: Roy Moore Doesn’t ‘Believe In The Constitution’ Because He Thinks Rights Come From God

Todd, introducing his discussion of the former Alabama Chief Justice, said that "the phrase ‘Christian conservative' doesn't even begin to describe him."

"First off, he doesn't appear to believe in the Constitution as it's written," Todd said.

He then played a clip of Moore saying, "Our rights don't come from government, they don't come from the Bill of Rights, they come from Almighty God."

Griswold does what any historically literate person could do: quote the Declaration's "endowed by their Creator" language.


■ A number of bloggers have pointed out an amusingly brutal book review by Emory prof Harvey Klehr: The agony of Alger. The book is Alger Hiss: Framed by Joan Brady. And…

Her book is not only very bad history, but also embarrassingly stupid. She betrays a remarkable ignorance of the American legal system and American government, makes numerous errors, relies on quacks and discredited commentators, and entertains breathtaking conspiracy theories. It would not merit serious attention, except that it bears endorsements from British notables like the former shadow minister Clare Short, the former Nation editor Victor Navasky, and the Pulitzer Prize winner Kai Bird. To boot, Brady is an award-winning novelist, demonstrating once again that, for leftists of a certain variety, evidence, logic, and coherence are not allowed to get in the way of vindicating a core ideological value. When it comes to Soviet espionage they write fiction in the guise of nonfiction.

But (see the Goldberg item above), she has the right to be wrong. So very wrong.


■ But there's good news for New England history buffs who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty: Paul Revere’s Outhouse? North End Dig May Have Found Colonial Privy.

Workers digging at the Paul Revere house in the city’s North End believe they may have found an archaeological jackpot that could give them a unique window into history–the Revere family outhouse.

Yes, there's lots and lots of historical poop. But early Americans tossed a lot of more archeologically interesting objects down the unporta-potty.