URLs du Jour

2018-07-20

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10 is labeled as being direct from Solomon, so Proverbs 10:2 should be extremely wise, right?

    2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value,
        but righteousness delivers from death.

    Proverbs flits between "being good pays off in life" and "well, maybe not in life, but…." This seems to be one of the latter.


  • But speaking of ill-gotten treasures, think of all those folks at the receiving end of the spending detailed in the 2018 Congressional Pig Book, the yearly compendium of wasteful spending. Summary:

    Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CAGW) 2018 Congressional Pig Book exposes 232 earmarks in FY 2018, an increase of 42.3 percent from the 163 in FY 2017. The cost of earmarks in FY 2018 is $14.7 billion, an increase of 116.2 percent from the $6.8 billion in FY 2017, or nearly nine times greater than the increase in discretionary spending. The only other time the cost has at least doubled was FYs 1992-1993. Since FY 1991, CAGW has identified 110,861 earmarks costing $344.5 billion.

    Back in May, we in Seacoast NH had a visit from the USS Manchester, which had its commissioning ceremony in Portsmouth. Local pols (notably Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the ship's "sponsor") swooned, thanks to the Navy naming it after Manchester, NH. I attest: it was might impressive looking. But the Pig Book notes the waste involved:

    $544,075,000 for three earmarks funding the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the largest amount ever earmarked for the vessel. Known to some inside (and outside) the Navy as the “Little Crappy Ship,” the LCS has been a disaster since its inception, with problems that include a vaguely defined mission, a lack of firepower and survivability, and design flaws leading to cracks in the hull and corrosion. The number of ships the Navy intends to purchase has been cut in half, from 55 to 28, while the cost per ship has increased by 117.3 percent, from $220 million to $478 million.

    I don't recommend reading the Pig Book to anyone prone to hypertension unless they are well-medicated ahead of time.


  • Stephen Roberts @ the Federalist makes a point to which I've alluded in the past: Everybody Has Religious Beliefs, Some People Just Deny It. In this case, his musings are triggered by SC nominee Brett Kavanaugh's devout Catholicism, and the opposition that's likely to trigger among Senate Democrats.

    Increasingly, progressives will not tolerate deeply religious people in positions of authority. They have written them off as bigots and extremists with dangerous views, which is why Kavanaugh in his Senate confirmation hearings will face charges of bigotry and extremism from Democrats who feel free to flout the Constitution and impose their version of a religious test for public office.

    The only way to pass such a test is to not let on that you have any deeply held religious beliefs whatsoever—unless of course you subscribe to the religion of progressivism, and confess a firm belief in nothing so much as the almighty power of the state.

    Anti-Catholic bigotry, accusations of pro-Russian treason, … man, it really is the Sixties again. Far out!


  • Mark Liberman @ Language Log discusses something that's bugged me for years: when did Incredible stop meaning "not credible" and start meaning "exceedingly great"?

    Well, it's not quite that simple. After analysis of OED entries, and various corpora, Mark concludes:

    […] there has apparently been a proportional shift in the direction of the "exceedingly great" meaning — this is unsurprising, since such semantic "bleaching" (with the residue simply some sort of intensification) is a common process. Examples in the history of English include very, really, terribly, awfully,  etc. etc.

    But the "not credible" meaning is still deployed in legal contexts, for example in a recent Supreme Court decision from the Notorious RBG, which refers to a convicted murderer's "incredible and uncorroborated defense".


  • Bryan Caplan sees rampant dysfunction everywhere, except: Firm Functionalism.

    I have little sympathy for the Panglossian view that the status quo is socially optimal – or even socially satisfactory.  When I look at the world, I see vicious government policies, awful wars, and grotesque waste.  You could chalk this up to my libertarian priors, and not without just cause.  But in my defense, individual behavior often strikes me as sadly dysfunctional, too.  People would be markedly happier if they second-guessed their impulses, built a Beautiful Bubble, and walked away from their own misanthropy.  They don’t, but they should.

    Still, one major form of social organization strikes me as highly functional – not merely from the point of view of the organizers themselves, but for society as a whole.  Ironically, it is arguably the most-maligned form of social organization: for-profit business.  Though I freely acknowledge the many shortcomings of the business community, it is far more sinned against than sinning.

    A balanced and reasonable argument follows.


  • Michael Munger discusses an important schism within libertarianism: Directionalism vs. Destinationism.

    I’m a “directional” libertarian. That means that if a proposed new policy or reform of an existing policy cuts spending or increases liberty, I’m for it, even if it isn’t a “real” libertarian policy.

    Directionalism infuriates the “destinationists.” Destinationists have a notion of the ideal outcome, the perfect solution. Any policy that is not acceptable in the imaginary destinationist world is not acceptable in the present world of realized institutions.

    Good point. I think I'm a Directionalist too. There's also a funny story about shopping carts in Germany and a wise local cop.