URLs du Jour

2018-12-01

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Happy December to all!

  • When I was a young 'un, I remember reading Frank Meyer's book In Defense of Freedom, which set forth his "fusionist" philosophy attempting to reconcile mostly-libertarian conservatism and mostly-traditionalist conservatism. And I was favorably impressed. But (a) I was a kid; (b) I probably wanted to believe it. Still, as someone who subscribes to both Reason and National Reivew, I'm still kind of in his corner, over fifty years later.

    So I was interested in Jonah Goldberg's retrospective look at Meyer: Fusionism Today.

    Fusionism was an idea championed most forcefully by Frank Meyer, the longtime literary editor of National Review. He argued that libertarianism — then often called “individualism” — and traditionalism are the twin pillars of conservatism and, more broadly, of a just and free society. The chief obligation of the state is to protect individual liberty, but the chief obligation of the individual is to live virtuously. Coerced virtue is tyrannical: Virtue not freely chosen is not virtuous. Or as Meyer himself put it: “Truth withers when freedom dies, however righteous the authority that kills it; and free individualism uninformed by moral value rots at its core and soon brings about conditions that pave the way for surrender to tyranny.”

    Now I largely agree with this. But as both a philosophical and a prudential matter, we understand — just as Meyer did to some extent — that freedom is a concept with limits, that each principle must be circumscribed at the extremes by other important principles. A society where literally everything is permitted isn’t free except according to some quasi-Hobbesian or fully Rousseauian or Randian theory about the freedom inherent in a state of nature or an anarcho-capitalist utopia. Some forms of authority must be morally permissible, even to the lover of liberty.

    Doesn't seem too tough. But see Jonah's caveats.


  • Pierre Lemieux, at the Library of Economics and Liberty, asks the musical question: Does the Chicken Tax Imply Prices Lower for Domestic than for Foreign Pickups?. Short answer: are you kidding?

    The tariff on light trucks—the so-called Chicken Tax, which I discussed in a previous post—cannot be avoided by buying domestic. In the general case, as I explained in another blog, a tariff equally increases the price the imported good and of its domestically-produced equivalent. Domestic producers want the tariff precisely in order to be able to increase their prices and sales. They will charge what the market will bear, that is, as much as the sellers of the imported good charge tariff included.

    In other words, a "protective" tariff screws consumers even worse than is commonly believed. Good point.


  • Speaking of getting screwed … Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center notes the fallout from the Supreme Court's Wayfair ruling: The sales tax invasion has begun.

    In zombie movies, unsuspecting innocents often fail to recognize that the zombie apocalypse has begun. The first of the undead stumble through the village or city unnoticed or mistaken for drunks. Only when it’s too late do the living realize they’re surrounded.

    This horror movie cliche came to mind when Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan released a letter on Wednesday urging Congress to pass a one-year moratorium on internet sales tax collections that were allowed by this year’s Wayfair ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court.

    “Some states have established implementation dates as soon as January 1, 2019,” they wrote jointly with Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeffrey Merkley.

    In zombie movies, as in real life, politicians are usually the last to know.

    Vendors are already getting "you may have already lost" letters from states looking to collect from them. Aieee!


  • At the Federalist, Dean Clancy has a good idea that won't happen: The Government Needs To Stop Subsidizing Tesla Owners And Start Taxing Them.

    Is there anything so permanent as a “temporary” government program? To test that question, consider the “Tesla Tax Credit,” the federal subsidy program for cars that don’t use gasoline. Created in 2005 as a way to jumpstart a market for pure-electric plug-ins, the Tesla credit allows taxpayers to take up to $7,500 off their taxes for purchasing one.

    This regressive subsidy primarily benefits Americans earning more than $100,000 a year. Happily, it’s fading away, as the market for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) matures. But the “green” car industry, led by Tesla Motor’s eccentric CEO Elon Musk, is lobbying Congress to make the gravy train permanent — and more generous.

    I like Elon a lot, but he (and other EV makers) should put on his free-market big boy pants.

    (The "tax" part is making sure EV owners cough up some dough to pay for their road use, something normal-car drivers do through the gas tax.)


  • I found this Motherboard story via Slashdot, and it tickled my long-dormant physics geek: This New Atomic Clock Is So Precise Our Ability to Measure Gravity Constrains Its Accuracy.

    Researchers at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed an atomic clock that is so precise that our models of Earth’s gravity aren’t accurate enough to keep up with it. As detailed in a paper published this week in Nature , the atomic clock could pave the way for creating an unprecedented map of the way the Earth’s gravity distorts spacetime and even shed light on the development of the early universe.

    Very cool. If I were elected (oxymoronically) Libertarian Dictator, I'd start terminating scads of government bureaus. But I'd definitely keep the NIST.


Last Modified 2018-12-02 5:23 AM EST