URLs du Jour

2018-01-21

Proverbs 16:12 is another apology for monarchy:

12 Kings detest wrongdoing,
    for a throne is established through righteousness.

Said several millennia of history: "Yeah, right."

And yet, the notion is deeply inscribed in world culture, and echoes today even around 21st century US Presidents.


■ David Harsanyi tells us What The Shutdown Tells Us About Modern Democrats. For people of a cynical bent, it is unsurprising:

Democrats, it seems, may [and did] precipitate a government shutdown this week. They’re able to do this because, despite their own best efforts, in the United States, the minority party has a genuine ability to participate in governing the nation. It’s one of our system’s authentic strengths.

Then again, this episode — and many others over the past nine years — reveal something else about the modern Democratic Party: Minority or majority, it doesn’t really matter to them. Process and norms? Largely irrelevant. Not only do they believe it’s undemocratic for elected Republicans to vote against a Democrat president’s agenda when in the minority they believe it’s undemocratic for Republicans to vote for a tax bill even after winning both houses of Congress and the presidency.

The rules get rewritten to fit the situation. I'm sure equally lurid (and probably accurate) takes on GOP hypocrisy are out there, too.

But that's the thing about democracy. We get the governing style we demand.

And when I say "we", I mean "stupid voters".


■ Joel Kotkin has an interesting take on "democracy" at the Daily Beast: Trump Damaged Democracy, Silicon Valley Will Finish It Off. (There's not that much about Trump "damaging" democracy.)

The Silicon Valley and its Puget Sound annex dominated by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft increasingly resemble the pre-gas crisis Detroit of the Big Three. Tech’s Big Five all enjoy overwhelming market shares—for example Google controls upwards of 80 percent of global search—and the capital to either acquire or crush any newcomers. They are bringing us a hardly gilded age of prosperity but depressed competition, economic stagnation, and, increasingly, a chilling desire to control the national conversation.

Jeff Bezos harrumphs through his chosen megaphone, The Washington Post, about how “democracy dies in the dark.” But if Bezos—the world’s third richest man, who used the Post first to undermine Bernie Sanders and then to wage ceaseless war on the admittedly heinous Donald Trump—really wants to identify the biggest long-term threat to individual and community autonomy, he should turn on the lights and look in the mirror.

I'm not quite the alarmist that Kotkin is, but I'd advise people who scream about the Koch menace should especially check out the article.


■ Deirdre Nansen McCloskey has a [PDF] article written for a recent meeting of the Allied Social Sciences Association. Economic History as Humanomics, The Scientific Branch of Economics.

Sessions in any field of the intellect about “whither the future of X” have a deep intellectual problem of an economic character. The problem is that if you or I were so smart, then you or I would be rich. If anyone could predict the future of, say, mathematics, she could arbitrage between the present and the future. As Tom Lehrer sang long ago, she would “publish first.” She would achieve riches in a coin relevant to her preferences, namely immortal fame. She would be the Euler of the 21st century.

The principle is identical to the more obviously economic one that predictions of the stock market or housing prices or hem lines of skirts are useless. As they say in Hollywood, nobody knows anything. That Rocky was a hit doesn’t mean that Rocky 2 or 3 will be. We have to make predictions, of course, and necessarily we place bets on them. The future is coming, whether we like it or not, and our bets as producers of movies or of mathematics will determine how we personally do. But if good predictions—better than what the average punter makes with his bookie or in the forward markets—were achievable by studying econometrics or by following Warren Buffett, we would all be above average, as in Lake Wobegon. It ain’t happenin’.

It's an interesting take on what "science" means when you're talking about economic matters. Milton Friedman comes in for some criticism, but that's OK.


■ And, getting back to the shutdown, let's see what Michael P. Ramirez has to say:

Government shutdown

Fortunately, the government shutdown will not affect the title games today. Or will it?