URLs du Jour


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  • For a while I've been bemused by the hassling over the word "socialism". Some of my Facebook friends think it's Game Over, socialism-wise, if you have a public library card and drive on the public streets to get there. You've already taken the red pill.

    Bernie thinks it's Denmark, although nay-sayers will point out that it's ranked #14 in the world on economic freedom, while the USA is #12. Is all the fuss really about moving us down a couple spots in the ranking to tie with Denmark?

    But if you ask Jacobin, they will tell you it means entirely "nationalizing the financial sector" and "introducing democratic planning and social ownership over corporations".

    So, yeesh. You guys fight it out, OK?

    "Progressive"? That can be even worse.

    I'm flirting with using an older term, one I used to fling around quite a bit in my USENET days, but seems to have gone mostly out of style. Simply put: if you're in favor of granting ever-increasing power and resources to the state, you are a statist.

    Medicare for all? Statist.

    Green New Deal? Statist.

    Tariffs and protectionism? Statist.

    Does your state budget propose $584 million in new spending, $417 million in new taxes and fees? Statist.

    It's not a new idea. While Googling around I found an Albert Jay Nock article in The American Mercury May 1939 (starting on page 101). Key para:

    Individualism, like democracy and many other terms in common use, is a term·which has been so greatly perverted by ignorant persons and scoundrels that when a man speaks praisefully of individualism - especially rugged individualism - you are pretty safe in putting him down provisionally as either one or the other. Nevertheless its true meaning is perfectly clear. If you believe that society ought to be organized on the system of voluntary co-operation, and believe that this system should be indefinitely extended, you believe in individualism. If you believe that society ought to be organized on the other system, and believe in the indefinite extension of that system, you believe in Statism. Whether you call this fascism, Naziism, communism, or socialism is immaterial.

    So maybe for the near future, at least, I'll decrease my use of liberal/progressive/(left|right)-wing/fascism/socialism labels, and try to just stick to "statism", maybe with a leading adjective or two (like "tedious" … "predictable" … "kneejerk" …)

  • George F. Will dissects the Jones Act, coming up on its centenary: This 99-year-old federal law is stifling jobs and shifting higher costs to consumers.

    The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a.k.a. the Jones Act, was passed after one war and supposedly in anticipation of others. Its purported purpose was to encourage the development of a merchant marine sufficient for war or other “national emergency.” Ninety-nine years later, the nation is in a “national emergency” (presidential disappointment regarding his wall); emergencies and national security crises multiply as the ease of declaring them increases. Never mind. The Jones Act has failed to achieve its stated aims while inflicting substantial unanticipated costs, enriching a few businesses and unions, and pleasing the at least 16 congressional committees and six federal agencies that have oversight jurisdiction under the act.

    [Senator Mike] Lee’s Open America’s Waters Act of 2019 would repeal the Jones Act’s requirements that cargo transported by water between U.S. ports must travel in ships that are U.S.-built, U.S.-owned, U.S.-registered and U.S.-crewed. Colin Grabow, Inu Manak and Daniel J. Ikenson of Washington’s Cato Institute demonstrate that under — and largely because of — the Jones Act, the following has happened:

    One of the nation’s geographic advantages — tens of thousands of miles of coastline and inland waterways — has been minimized by making it off-limits to foreign competition in transportation. This increases transportation costs, which ripple through the production process as a significant portion of the costs of goods. Because of the Jones Act’s costly mandates, less cargo is shipped by water, merchant mariners have fewer jobs, and more cargo is carried by truck, rail and air, which are more environmentally damaging than water transportation. Two of America’s most congested highways, Interstate 95 and Interstate 5, are along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, respectively. Yet the amount of cargo shipped by water along the coasts and on the Great Lakes is about half the volume of 1960. Since then, railroad freight volume has increased about 50 percent, and volume by intercity trucks — responsible for more than 75 percent of federal highway maintenance costs — has increased more than 200 percent.

    Yes, it's yet another statist deed perpetrated under the Woodrow Wilson administration. Jerk.

  • At Reason, Brian Doherty notes the latest news about another Wilsonian statist idea: Trump Wants to Name Political Loyalists to Federal Reserve Board.

    In the past couple of weeks, President Donald Trump is reported to have settled on two choices for open seats on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors: former Club for Growth president and Heritage Foundation economic policy analyst Stephen Moore, and former Godfather's pizza boss and 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain. Cain from 1989-96 served in various capacities, including chairman of the board, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, though Cain doubters argue such positions are more honorary for local business leaders than proving any monetary policy savvy.

    Neither Cain nor Moore are technically trained academic economists, which alarms many, although, as has been argued by former Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas analyst Danielle DiMartino Booth, board members with more varied real-world experience might be useful voices in central bank decision-making.

    It is less lack of academic/technical training that's disturbing as the clear sense that both men are being appointed not for expertise but for team-playing loyalty to Trump. Cain has recently been running a pro-Trump political action committee, America Fighting Back; Moore was a former Trump economic adviser during his 2016 campaign.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour speaks for itself.

  • And finally, breaking news from the Babylon Bee: King Solomon Accused Of Inappropriate Behavior By 1,000 Of His Wives.

    Hundreds of women have come forward to accuse King Solomon of Israel of inappropriate behavior, a report revealed. The alleged misconduct reportedly led to strife within Solomon's kingdom as well as the eventual division of Israel.

    "Frankly, he was pretty obsessed with sex and inappropriate touching," one woman claiming to be one of his wives said in a statement. "He was always using these really weird metaphors for my hair, teeth, and other parts of my body. It was a little creepy."

    As they said in Ecclesiastes: there is nothing new under the sun.