URLs du Jour

2018-06-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:16 is another bit of good advice…

    16 Fools show their annoyance at once,
        but the prudent overlook an insult.

    This makes two days in a row that our Proverb du Jour seems aimed at President Trump. Can we go for three? Tune back in tomorrow.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie notes: New York Spent $15 Million in Taxes To Build Upstate Film Studio. It Just Sold for $1.

    Few investments are more famously fraught with failure than making movies. That extends especially to states and localities that attempt to lure filmmakers to their locales via sexy and economically useless subsidies that end up costing far more than they generate in new business activity and tax revenue. As the Tax Foundation reported in 2012, film subsidy programs generate between 7 cents and 30 cents in return for each dollar spent, guaranteeing a massive loss to taxpayer for every tax credit, rebate, or other handout.

    The latest data point is summed up in the headline: bright promises in 2014 and $15 mil from NY taxpayers turn into $1 in 2018, zero "jobs created", and (almost certainly) no lessons learned.

    As Steve Macdonald notes at Granite Grok, New Hampshire is doing its own thing, equally misguided:

    On May 31st, Gov. Sununu signed into law (along with 41 other bills) SB 564, an act introducing corporate rent seeking for special tax favors in the Granite State.

    No, that’s not the actual title, but that’s what it does. It opens a new door to a new era into which lobbyists may stick their foot and their deep pockets to promote special tax treatment for their benefactors.

    Concord is now no better than Washington, DC.

    The specific beneficiary isn't Hollywood, instead it's "regenerative manufacturing businesses", companies attempting to "grow" organic replacements for malfunctioning body parts. And it's not a direct write-a-check expenditure, it's preferential tax treatment and taking over the student debt of industry employees. But the idea is equally misguided, imagining the state can pick a economic "winner".

    It seems like only last month (because it was) that we cheered today's handout-demander, Dean Kamen, for getting out of "the people’s republic of New York", and moving to New Hampshire because he was allegedly inspired by our "Live Free or Die" motto.

    Sigh.


  • But enough about New York wait I have something else about New York, also from Reason: In New York–Massachusetts Rivalry, Massachusetts Is Winning.

    f the flow of businesses and residents has tended in the direction of Massachusetts in recent years, it is the result of a policy experiment. Massachusetts has a flat state tax of 5.1% on all income, while New York has a graduated state income tax that tops out at 8.82%. Add in the 3.876% New York City income tax rate, and high-earning New York City residents pay an income tax rate more than double what Boston residents do.

    Since Republican Governor George Pataki left office in 2006, New York has elected a series of Democratic governors who have done little to make the state more competitive. In Massachusetts, meanwhile, Republican Governor Charlie Baker, elected in 2014, has followed in the Weld-Romney-Pataki tradition, surviving in a liberal-tending state by blending fiscal conservatism with environmentalism, social liberalism, and winsome geniality.

    What has transpired isn't exactly rocket science. Put a state with a top marginal tax rate of 5.1% right next door to a state with a top marginal tax rate more than double that, and people, and jobs, will flow to the state with the lower tax rate. It's like water flowing downhill.

    A sobering fact: the article notes that MA population is growing faster than NY's; but both NY and MA are growing faster than NH.


  • Philip Greenspun notes the NYT headline Supreme Court Rules Against Gay Couple.

    But the story says that the case is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In other words, the happy now-married couple is not part of the litigation so the ruling could not have been either for or against them.

    The NYT apparently changed the inaccurate headline. But note their first instinct was to cast the issue into "oppressor (Supreme Court) vs. oppressed (gay couple)".

    Phil also makes the point I've seen elsewhere:

    Another way to look at this is that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of litigation. Instead of a bright-line rule that would enable everyone to know in advance how a cake situation should be resolved, they suggest a more elaborate process for litigating cake-related disputes. The process has to include judges who, if they are hostile to religious believers, keep this hostility secret and find a neutral-sounding way to stick it to the haters.

    The most likely outcome is the same as we saw with "affirmative action" in college admissions: years of dragged out lawsuits with "progressive" institutions doing their darndest to obfuscate what they're really doing.


  • David Harsanyi also has worthwhile commentary: SCOTUS’s Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision Is A Win — But It’s Also A Warning.

    Although I’ll leave legal parsing to lawyers, the fact is that we still don’t know if a state can compel a baker — or any other small business owner in the service industry, for that matter — to create specialized products that infringe on his sincerely held religious convictions simply because a consumer demands it. The biggest problem, it seems to me, is that legal decisions can be meted out using mind reading that favors the state’s bias over the individual’s belief.

    Appropriate way to resolve this? Return to the standard model of mutually-voluntary trade, except in clear cases of monopoly. Take it away, Richard Epstein.


  • Oh, yeah. President Trump says he can pardon himself. You've seen the resulting freakout; let Charles C. W. Cooke (at NRO) describe What the Freakout over Trump’s Self-Pardon Claim Misses.

    That it would be a disgrace for Trump to take such a step is self-evident. As a matter of elementary political hygiene, voters must always oppose politicians who would separate themselves from the law. But I must confess to fearing that, should Trump elect to go down this road, we will comfort ourselves with the insistence that the cause of the crisis was this president rather than a persistent structural imbalance that has been nine decades in the making. I must confess to worrying, too, that we will respond by damaging the constitutional order in a misguided attempt to save it. There’s not been much reflection to go along with the outrage. This will only matter if we let it.

    Over the course of the last century, Americans have inflated the executive branch to a size and influence that was never imagined by the Founders. This inflation has trained us into some perverse habits, the most pernicious among which is that we now consider the presidency, rather than Congress, as the central player within the federal system, and, in consequence, that we expect any defects within the White House to be fixed by the White House itself. It is said reflexively these days that the three branches of the federal government are “co-equal.” But this, I’m afraid, is badly incorrect — a hangover from the Wilson era, during which the president hoped to make himself the unquestioned leader of the people. The three branches are separate, certainly, and they enjoy discrete powers and functions. But they are not “equal” in any meaningful way. On the contrary: Congress, by design, is far more powerful than are the other two. That matters a great deal.

    If the Trump presidency results in Congress clawing back its rightful Constitutional powers from the Executive, that is not entirely a bad thing.

    Unfortunately, I can see a lot of ways that could go wrong.


  • As an enthusiastic Kevin D. Williamson fanboy, I dug out another article from the Weekly Standard. The "official" headline is The Scientistic Delusion. However the URL indicates that the original may have been something like "The Vehement Sneering of Ezra Klein and How it Echoes Freudianism".

    Sigmund Freud’s reputation has never been lower. The scholar Frederick Crews and the rest of the so-called Freud Bashers have reduced his intellectual position to almost nothing among those who bother about such things. His theories were unscientific, his methods unsound, his evidence at least partially falsified, his ethics monstrous. He mutilated female patients by ordering dangerous and unnecessary surgeries based on pure quackery, e.g., removing part of a woman’s nose in order to treat pain from what was almost certainly an ovarian cyst. Freud thought that the patient bled as a result of sexual frustration. The more obvious explanation is that he was a butcher, and she was (as the case evidence suggests) a hemophiliac. Crews, who set out his findings in a 2017 book, Freud: The Making of an Illusion, speaks for many current Freud scholars in his conclusion that there “is literally nothing to be said, scientifically or therapeutically, to the advantage of the entire Freudian system or any of its component dogmas.”

    KDW notes that "Freudian thought has gone from “established science” to obvious poppycock in a remarkably short period of time." But few people have learned anything from that lesson.

    Studies—and those holy facts and fact-checkers we’re always hearing about—are reliably subordinated to the social and political ethic of the party citing them. Take Vox’s cofounder, Ezra Klein, who writes with precisely the same faintly ridiculous certitude with which André Tridon presented the scientific facts of Freudian psychology. Klein’s hectoring, sneering, “just-the-facts” school of rhetoric is best exemplified by his indefensible claim during the 2009 debate over the grievously misnamed Affordable Care Act that Connecticut senator Joseph Lieberman was “willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.” Klein had a study to back him—something from the Urban Institute. It didn’t exactly say what he was saying it said, and it certainly did not say that if Congress failed to pass a specific piece of health-insurance legislation that tens of thousands of people would die. Nonetheless: Study proves you have to support my policy preferences or you’re a mass murderer!

    Well, enough excerpting, you should read the whole thing. We've quoted this tweet before: