URLs du Jour

2018-10-26

[Amazon Link]

  • Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is on my short list for near-automatic inclusion in these "du Jour" postings. At Reason, she lets you (and me) know Why You Are Not a Conservative.

    I get this all the time: "Oh Deirdre, you're such a conservative." My friends seem to think politics operates exclusively on a left-right spectrum. They therefore suspect me and other self-described "libertarians" of being sneaky versions of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

    In truth, libertarians sit nowhere on the left-right map, which merely captures a dispute about how to use the government's monopoly of violence. The right wants to use violence to support 800 U.S. bases abroad. The left wants to use it to boss poor people around. Libertarians want neither.

    What is the difference between libertarians and conservatives? It is our unique belief in liberty and its spontaneous ordering, in the way that language or art or science is ordered. We see a world ordered by people having a go within a loose framework of honest rewards. Conservatives (and socialists and most people in the middle) believe in top-down order, as in a loving or authoritarian household.

    As someone who coin-flips between describing myself as a libertarian or conservative, Deirdre provides a lot of food for thought. She prefers the term "liberal". And she references Hayek's famous essay "Why I am Not a Conservative", in which he makes a plea for "Whig".

    Hm, a couple more suggestions, and I could go from coin-flipping to die-rolling. Or maybe just refrain from self-pigeonholing.


  • At NR, Jonah Goldberg offers a dire (but seemingly accurate) observation: Logic of the Vendetta Now Guides Our Politics.

    Whether the packages delivered to leading Democrats and liberals turn out to be functioning bombs or dummy devices intended to send a message, the effect is largely the same: American politics is descending further into the logic of the vendetta.

    If you read about famous feuds or intergenerational rivalries — Hatfields vs. McCoys, Israelis vs. Palestinians, etc. — one simple truth makes everything much more complicated: Everybody has a valid point. The Hatfields shout, “Your family shot my uncle!” The McCoys reply, “Well, you folks hanged my father!”

    And they’re both right.

    And they’re both wrong.

    They’re right that the other side did something bad, but they’re wrong that the first bad act justifies the second.

    Someday I will have to go back to my dusty game theory books to discover how this whole tit-for-tat thing plays out. My recollection is: badly. But I could be misremembering.


  • At the Federalist (an extremely apt site for this topic), Mike Nichols and Dan Benson describe How Federal Grants Are Turning State Governments Against Their Own People.

    James Madison had already been buried in his Montpelier grave in 1836 when territorial leaders named the place that would become the capital of Wisconsin after him. But it’s safe to presume the “Father of the Constitution” who advocated for the “numerous and indefinite” powers of state governments would have appreciated the honor — at first.

    It’s less clear — given the massive infusion of federal money into state capitols and the accompanying loss of local control — that he would be all that pleased today. Federal grants-in-aid to state and local governments have grown from just $7 billion in the 1960s to an estimated $728 billion in 2018. Almost a third of the money in many state government budgets now comes directly from Washington, D.C.

    I can attest that, on the ground, incoming Federal cash is widely perceived as "free money".

    For people who want to look at the data, this seems to be the latest and greatest from Pew (Pew! Pew!) Charitable Trusts. (Caveat: There are a lot of other ways to look at the numbers.) For my fellow Granite Staters: New Hampshire seems to be depressingly normal, with 31.9% of its budget coming from DC. This is pretty close to the all-50-states value (32.6%). The numbers range from 43.3% (Mississippi) to 21.1% (Virginia).


  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation sometimes gets things right, other times (very very) wrong. But here's one they're getting right: Corporate Speech Police Are Not the Answer to Online Hate, a rebuttal to Change the Terms ("recommended policies for corporations to adopt and implement to address hateful activities on their platforms").

    Our key concern with the model policy is this: It seeks to deputize a nearly unlimited range of intermediaries—from social media platforms to payment processors to domain name registrars to chat services—to police a huge range of speech. According to these recommendations, if a company helps in any way to make online speech happen, it should monitor that speech and shut it down if it crosses a line.

    This is a profoundly dangerous idea, for several reasons.

    I bet you can think of three or four reasons yourself.


  • A fun site from Merriam-Webster: Time Traveler. Set up to answer the burning question:

    When was a word first used in print? You may be surprised! Enter a date below to see the words first recorded on that year.

    Most people seem to be using it on their birth years. And for myself… whoa, "Murphy's Law". That figures.