URLs du Jour

2019-04-10

[Amazon Link]

  • I hear you out there wondering: Will simple government solutions fix complex societal problems? Well, bunkie, let me direct you to Kevin D. Williamson at NR, who has the answer: Simple Government Solutions Won’t Fix Complex Societal Problems.

    Imagine that you are the czar of all building in San Francisco, and that you have been asked for your thoughts on the design of a new apartment building that is under consideration. What is your top concern?

    If you are a halfway competent and benevolent dictator — and, goodness knows, history has shown us few enough of those! — then you’d probably put “affordability” at the top of your list. The people of San Francisco and the surrounding areas are very much in need of new affordable housing: In the city itself, the median price of a house is now just over $1.6 million, more than 16 times the median household income. Affordable housing is a big issue not only for regular middle-class people but for the high-tech titans of Silicon Valley, who worry that some highly productive potential employees are looking elsewhere for their futures, not to mention that the housing market forces them to pay more for all their workers. There are other places that have faced such problems, notably resort communities such as Aspen, Colo., but it is unusual for a major city to become so comprehensively unaffordable. Even famously expensive New York City has its more affordable enclaves, without which many industries — from food-service to publishing — would have enormous human-capital problems.

    But if the czar of building in San Francisco were presented with a design for the most affordable apartment building that possibly could be built (for the purpose of our thought experiment, there is no building code), he almost certainly would reject it, because it would lack certain health and safety features that most of us regard as essential. It probably would not be very attractive or very energy-efficient. It probably would not be very comfortable to live in, either.

    Bottom line is straight outta Hayek/Mises: the Czar lacks (and by his nature, can't get) the distributed information available to private entrepreneurs via market prices.


  • Who knew there was such a thing as Betteridge's law of headlines? It's simple: "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

    But I'm not sure that applies to Scott Shackford's Reason article: Will a Free Press Cheer on Government Censorship of the Internet? It seems the answer there could be "Gulp. Maybe."

    The United Kingdom appears to be following in the footsteps of the European Union and Australia in trying to punish online platforms that don't censor content the way government officials want them to.

    The British authorities are pondering a proposal to create an entirely new government agency to regulate, and even punish, online communication platforms to make them more thorough in removing content the government deems dangerous or violent.

    You might be saying: "Other countries, so who cares?" But Shackford goes on to note the news report in the Washington "Democracy Dies in Darkness" Post which "contains a lot of loaded language" on the side of speech suppression.


  • Veronique de Rugy has a suggestion: How Free Traders Can Improve Their Case. It is spurred by the latest threats from President Trump to blow up the NAFTA replacement agreement (USMCA) by sticking a 25 percent national-security tariff on Mexican cars. (Or, even worse, closing the Mexican border to trade entirely.)

    According to Veronique, the problem might be the nature of trade agreements themselves:

    But here is the thing: as effective as free trade agreements have been at lowering trade barriers, there’s one way in which they have impaired the fight for a world of even freer trade. They suffer from the weakness of fundamentally being rooted in mercantilist misunderstanding.

    Indeed, trade negotiations and the agreements that they produce rest on the mistaken belief that the ultimate benefit of trade is exports, while imports are the unfortunate but necessary price to pay in order to export more. The multilateral and bilateral trade treaties “worked” to make trade freer in practice because each government was willing to allow its citizens to import more as the necessary condition for persuading other governments to allow their citizens to do the same. Each government, in short, agreed to lower import barriers only as a means of increasing its country’s exports.

    But this entire approach is backwards. The economic case for free trade is fundamentally a unilateral one. Tariffs imposed in the U.S. are a tax on American consumers. It’s not that we wouldn’t love it if other countries stopped hurting their consumers with tariffs on U.S. goods, but their idiocy is no reason to “retaliate” by inflicting an identical harm on our consumers. Besides, the truth of the matter is that it is not our place to tell other governments how to govern their countries.

    'Strewth! But in these nutty days, how many pols can we get behind non-backwards thinking?


  • I'm not a yuuuge fan of American Greatness, but Victor Davis Hanson uses their site to provide a pretty good article on: All the Progressive Plotters.

    Right after the 2016 election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein—cheered on by Hillary Clinton dead-enders—sued in three states to recount votes and thereby overturn Donald Trump’s victory in the Electoral College. Before the quixotic effort imploded, Stein was praised as an iconic progressive social justice warrior who might stop the hated Trump from even entering the White House.

    When that did not work, B-list Hollywood celebrities mobilized, with television and radio commercials, to shame electors in Trump-won states into not voting for the president-elect during the official Electoral College balloting in December 2016. Their idea was that select morally superior electors should reject their constitutional directives and throw the election into the House of Representatives where even more morally superior NeverTrump Republicans might join with even much more morally superior Democrats to find the perfect morally superior NeverTrump alternative.

    And it goes on from there. Chrome counts ten subsequent occurrences of "When that did not work". Pretty funny, but grim, stuff.


  • And (yes) another WalletHub state-by-state comparison: 2019’s States Most Dependent on the Gun Industry.

    In light of the recent developments in the firearms industry and debates on how, if at all, it should be restricted, WalletHub compared the economic impact of guns on each of the 50 states to determine which among them leans most heavily on the gun business, both directly for jobs and political contributions and indirectly through ownership. Read on for our findings, methodology and expert commentary from a panel of researchers.

    Bottom line: Idaho is ranked most "dependent", and New Jersey least. New Hampshire is smack in the middle of the pack at #26.

    But it's slightly more interesting when you look at the components of the ranking. For New Hampshire is number one in the "Firearms Industry" component. It has the most firearms industry jobs per capita. It is in fourth place for the highest average firearms industry wages and benefits. And we're well "below average" on the Giffords Law Center rankings of "gun law strength".

    So how did we get such a mediocre ranking? Well, we're in 47th place on the "Gun Politics" component. Which is based on three criteria:

    • Gun-Control Contributions to Congressional Members per Capita
    • Gun-Rights Contributions to Congressional Members per Capita
    • Senator Score – How Senators Voted on Gun Bills

    So (unsurprisingly) our Democratic Congresscritters are heavily supported by gun controllers, ignored by gun rights people, and they reliably vote for weapon restrictions.

    I think this means that WalletHub's overall methodology is flawed and misleading, but nobody asked me.


Last Modified 2019-04-10 10:30 AM EDT