URLs du Jour

2018-04-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:26 assures us that all will be well, if…

    26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
        and for their children it will be a refuge.

    Good to know, Proverbialist. Thanks. For those looking for something a little more, um, concrete, see our Amazon link du jour.


  • David Harsanyi (at the Federalist) has a takeaway from Mark Zuckerberg's Congressional inquisition: Zuckerberg Hearings Prove Government Shouldn’t Regulate Facebook.

    In the year 2018, at the height of The Russia Scare, the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in front of a tribunal of tech-illiterate politicians and asked to explain himself. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” Zuckerberg told senators upset about the company’s exploitation (and fumbling) of user data – which, unbeknownst to them, was social media’s entire business model.

    A number of panics have brought us to this preposterous place: The notion that Russian trolls on Facebook could swing the 2016 election and undermined our “democracy;” the idea that Facebook’s leftward bias is so corrosive the company should be regulated like a utility; and, finally, the general way in which social media tends to reveal the ugly side of human nature — which is indeed scary, but has little to do with any particular platform.

    Harsanyi is, as usual, an insightful commentator, picking whatever wisdom he can out of ongoing absurdities.


  • Tyler Cowan analyzes a Facebook regulatory proposal: Zeynep Tufekci’s Facebook solution — can it work? Spoiler: the proposal is vague, loaded with the feelgood adjectives ("clear", "concise", "transparent", "truly consensual"—as opposed to falsely consensual, I guess.)

    What instead?  I would instead start with the sentence “Most Americans don’t value their privacy or the security of their personal data very much,” and then discuss all the ways that limits regulation, or lowers the value of regulation, or will lead many well-intended regulations to be circumvented.  Next I would consider whether there are reasonable restrictions on social media that won’t just cement in the power of the big incumbents.  Then I would ask an economist to estimate the costs of regulatory compliance from the numerous lesser-known web sites around the world.  Without those issues front and center, I don’t think you’ve got much to say.

    Fine, Tyler, but I think…


  • Arnold Kling has a better approach in Let’s Compete with Facebook. Specifically, I like his opening:

    I am sick of reading about people who want to regulate Facebook. You didn’t come up with the idea. You didn’t build the business. Now that it’s here, who the heck do you think you are telling them how to run it?

    Ah, if only Zuck had said something like that to the Congresscritters. Like one of the heroic characters in an Ayn Rand novel. Alas…

    Arnold has a lot of ideas about what a better social media site would look like. Facebook is stupid.


  • Enough with Facebook Follies. At Reason, Steve Chapman goes Libertarian 101: Overdose Deaths Are the Product of Drug Prohibition

    During Prohibition, drinkers never knew what they would get when they set out to slake their thirst. Bootleggers often sold products adulterated with industrial alcohol and other toxins. Some 10,000 people were fatally poisoned before America gave up this grand experiment in suppressing vice.

    So it was a tragedy but not a total surprise when three deaths were reported in Illinois from synthetic marijuana laced with an ingredient (possibly rat poison) that caused severe bleeding. Nationally, in 2015, says the Drug Policy Alliance, "poison control centers received just under 10,000 calls reporting adverse reactions to synthetic cannabinoids, and emergency rooms received tens of thousands of patients."

    Nowadays, the politicos, aided by an uncritical media, measure their "compassion" on druggies by directing a firehose of taxpayer cash to those offering "treatment". E.g.:

    Or, in short: "Gimme more money."


  • Paul Ryan's going someplace saner than Congress next year. Dan McLaughlin writes at NR on Paul Ryan’s Missed Opportunities on Spending. Specifically, he wasted a lot of time and political capital on unfeasible entitlement reform, when he could have…

    Worse, over the past 15 months, Ryan failed to fix the system for budgeting, a goal that should have appealed to him as a Beltway veteran versed in the process from his time running the House Budget Committee. One of the reasons why it has been so hard to eliminate any individual category of spending is that the House deals only in massive all-or-nothing omnibus bills rather than break down appropriations into smaller pieces that can be individually debated and voted on. This excess of brinksmanship gives a massive structural advantage towards the passage of individual spending items that could not survive on their own, since the choice is literally one between shutting down the government and approving all the spending on everything. Of course, as the leader of the caucus, Ryan understood that those smaller fights could be politically painful for some of his members, but so is voting for a big, ugly omnibus, and the latter has no corresponding positives in terms of showing voters that the people they elected were actually serious about their promises on spending. (This is similar to the strategic failure on health care as well as the persistent and misguided effort to pass thousand-page “comprehensive” immigration bills.)

    We could have done worse than Paul Ryan. We almost certainly will do worse.


Last Modified 2018-04-12 10:39 AM EDT