A Think Tank for Liberty

A Personal History of Reason Foundation

[Amazon Link]

I got this as a freebie for being a contributor to Reason magazine. So I felt obligated to read it.

Make no mistake, the author, Robert B. Poole, should be one of the heroes of the libertarian movement. He transformed Reason from a cranky mimeographed rag into a high-quality professional magazine with national import. He was also the driver of the Reason Foundation (the "think tank" of the title), which performs solid scholarship on the various misfeatures of the "mixed economy."

So, good news: there are parts of this book that are very interesting, notably Poole's own story, his relationships with co-Reasoners, his insights into various controversies he's been part of.

But there's also bad news: at times, the book reads like one of those annual evaluation reports put together for The Boss. Details about what meetings were taken, with whom, what happened as a result. Phone calls. Trips to different places. We got money from this guy. But this guy got a little pissed off by something in the magazine! Bob, don't worry! You can have your raise! It's richly deserved!

Instead of reading "then we did this study" over and over again, I think would have been significantly more interesting to read the studies themselves. Poole has long been a champion of privatizing infrastructure and some state-provided services. That's an ongoing battle, with Poole and his Reason friends providing ammo for the side of the angels. (You can check out the current foundation work at their website.)

But I shouldn't complain overmuch about the book Poole chose not to write. Especially a freebie.

URLs du Jour

2019-04-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Veronique de Rugy notes something that will make not one whit of difference to supporters of state-mandated paid leave: Government-Mandated, Paid Leave Programs Proven Ineffective.

    Paid leave advocates often argue that paid family leave and other social policies will reduce gender inequality in the workplace. Recent research on Denmark, however, suggests that this is hardly the case.

    Denmark is often cited as an example of working-parent paradise. The government offers 52 weeks of paid leave and other generous family-friendly benefits. But even in paradise, there's no such thing as a free lunch. A January 2018 National Bureau of Economic Research paper by economists Henrik Kleven, Camille Landais and Jakob Egholt Sogaard looks at what happened to the earnings of 470,000 Danish women who gave birth for the first time between 1985 and 2003. These researchers found that having children was a career bummer for women.

    For instance, they found that while men's and women's pay grew at roughly the same rates before they had kids, mothers saw their earnings rapidly reduced by nearly 30% on average, compared to the trajectory they were on before having kids. Men, on the other hand, saw their pay grow at the same rate before and after their children were born. Women may also become less likely to work, and if still employed, had earned lower wages and worked fewer hours.

    It's sad that the American Enterprise Institute seems to be weighing in on the pro-mandate side.


  • The cover story in the May 2019 Reason is out on the web, and it's a sobering query from Dan Drezner: Will Today's Global Trade Wars Lead to World War III?. History lesson:

    In the first decade of the 1900s, it was the newly independent Serbia taking actions to try to reduce its economic dependence on the Austro-Hungarian empire. The country increased its imports from France and signed a customs union with Bulgaria. In 1906, Austria-Hungary responded by slapping high tariffs on Serbia's chief export: pork. The "Pig War" lasted another five years, during which time Serbia painfully weaned itself from economic dependence on the Habsburg empire. Austria-Hungary's share of Serbian trade fell from 90 percent to 30 percent.

    The Pig War prompted Austria-Hungary to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina, a move that escalated tensions with Russia—and sowed the seeds for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 by a Bosnian Serb.

    Economic closure in the Balkans did not ignite the First World War. It did make the kindling that much easier to spark, however.

    An article that Donald Trump should read (but won't) and understand (but probably couldn't).


  • And the Washington Free Beacon notes … irony, maybe? … in the recent voting behavior of some legislators: Kittens Over Kids.

    Four Democratic senators who voted against protecting newborns sponsored a bill designed to protect baby cats.

    Senators Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.), Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Gary Peters (D., Mich.), and Tom Udall (D., N.M.) cosponsored a bill designed to put an end to animal testing using kittens. The KITTEN Act of 2019 came after it was revealed that the Department of Agriculture was testing suspect Chinese meat on cats, posing a potentially fatal risk to the felines. It was introduced about a week after all of those Democratic senators voted to block legislation that would have required doctors to provide medical care to newborns who survive abortion.

    Of course it's different. Because the kitty thing might save human lives, and the abortion thing ends them.


  • You don't have to have a very long memory to realize that (as Jim Geraghty points out at National Review): Joe Biden Got Away With It for Eight Years.

    A lot of us have been making fun of Joe Biden for decades. He’s got a goofy charm, but half of what comes out of his mouth makes no sense. In the 2008 debate with Sarah Palin, he declared, “Along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon,” and everyone just acted like he hadn’t hallucinated a major foreign-policy event. His gaffes are particularly tone-deaf, he’s a blustery blowhard, he’s been wrong about a heck of a lot in his long history, and he’s often an egomaniacal BS artist.

    For eight years, Biden got away with a lot because the media chose to perceive him as that “wacky, lovable Uncle Joe” and if the media paid too much attention to his flaws outside of comic relief from the usually serious Obama, it would call into question Obama’s judgment in picking him.

    Biden didn’t just start touching women in public this way recently. In BuzzFeedKatherine Miller writes, “Everybody already knows what they think about Joe Biden putting his hands on people, because we’ve all seen this happen in public. We’ve seen Biden kiss people at public events! We’ve all had years to think about it!” And not many people were upset about it while Biden was vice president — at least not many people on the Left; our John Fund mentioned this in 2015, as did Victor Davis Hanson. I wrote that year that “Biden’s style is a bit ‘hands-on.’”

    I think it's overwrought, sure. But as Sarah Hoyt points out at Instapundit: what Biden has been seen doing is objectively worse than anything Clarence Thomas was accused of.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for (pay attention here) a San Francisco Chronicle story about the new design for Mississippi licence plates: Humanist group objects to 'In God We Trust' license plate.

    A national group that includes atheists and agnostics is objecting to Mississippi's new standard license plate design that has the phrase "In God We Trust."

    The American Humanist Association sent a letter Thursday to the state's revenue commissioner and attorney general. It demands that Mississippi either set a new standard license plate design without a religious phrase or allow people to get another license plate design without paying an extra fee.

    The plates contain an image of the Mississippi state seal, which (in turn) contains the IGWT phrasing. And the LFOD reference is:

    The American Humanist Association's letter to Mississippi officials cites a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a dispute over the phrase "Live Free or Die" on New Hampshire's standard license plate. People who were Jehovah's Witnesses sued the state, saying the phrase was "repugnant to their moral, religious and political beliefs."

    The article fails to note the presence of IGWT on every bit of American currency. Wikipedia article on the phrase here.

    I bet the American Humanist Association wouldn't be griping about E Pluribus Unum.