URLs du Jour

2019-06-19

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson at National Review wonders ‘Moral Relativism’: Do Conservatives Really Object?. (And you'll wonder: does Betteridge's Law of Headlines apply here?)

    The Right has always been comfortable with moral ambiguity, most plainly in the matter of foreign policy. That was especially true in the Cold War, when conservatives went to great lengths — often too far, and sometimes far too far — defending such characters as Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet as bulwarks against Communism. F. A. Hayek’s overwhelming admiration for the Chilean dictator was sufficient to inspire a chiding letter from Margaret Thatcher, who described the general’s methods as “quite unacceptable.” Nelson Mandela was the leader of a revolutionary Communist movement and refused to foreswear political violence, but what he was up against was not a Madisonian republic. Perhaps it was the demands of political rhetoric, but conservatives have from time to time failed to cleave to the knowledge that necessary evil is evil.

    My two-sentence summary: Trade-offs are unavoidable in the real world. Pretending that the "lesser of two evils" is therefore good is a fallacy.


  • Peter Suderman notes at Reason that Deficit Politics May Have Gone Away, but Debt and Deficits Are Worse Than Ever.

    For most of the Obama era, the federal deficit—and, by extension, the debt—was a crisis.

    This was a bipartisan belief, held, or at least paid respectful lip service, by the Tea Party radicals and top administration aides as well as by President Obama himself. Hence the battles over the debt limit; the imposition of sequestration cuts that, fully implemented, were intended to reduce spending by more than $1 trillion over a decade; the concurrent increase in tax rates on high earners; the creation of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, better known as the Supercommittee; and the Simpson-Bowles debt-reduction proposal to which it led.

    In the end, that plan was rejected by party leaders on both sides. But the idea, that trillion dollar deficits and the pile-up of debt they incur represented a problem, remained alive and powerful to the end. Even President Trump campaigned on (fanciful and mostly incoherent) promises to eliminate the federal debt. The federal budget was an emergency or at least a looming threat. Something had to be done.

    But two and a half years into the Trump administration, neither party acts as if there's a crisis.

    Indeed. For my sin of being a registered Republican, I occasionally get fundraising appeals from the party, often attached to a phony we-want-to-know-what-you-think poll. The latest one invited me to name my most important issue. and helpfully listed my choices. I believe they were issues like illegal immigration; taxes; "unfair" trade; opioids.

    Unmentioned: out-of-control federal spending. I helpfully wrote that in, along with my donation of $0.00. Had to waste a stamp, and probably nobody's listening at the other end, but … at least I got that off my chest.


  • Bjørn Lomborg injects a note of sanity into the latest environmental issue at the Globe and Mail: Sorry, banning plastic bags won’t save our planet. Some interesting factoids:

    Research from 2015 shows that less than 5 per cent of land-based plastic waste going into the ocean comes from OECD countries, with half coming from just four countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. While China already in 2008 banned thin plastic bags and put a tax on thicker ones, it is estimated to contribute more than 27 per cent of all marine plastic pollution originating from land.

    Moreover, banning plastic bags can have unexpected, inconvenient results. A new study shows California’s ban eliminates 40 million pounds of plastic annually. However, many banned bags would have been reused for trash, so consumption of trash bags went up by 12 million pounds, reducing the benefit. It also increased consumption of paper bags by twice the saved amount of plastic – 83 million pounds. This will lead to much larger emissions of CO₂.

    The current bag/straw brouhaha only makes sense when viewed as a combination of moral posturing and hectoring one's fellow citizens for their insufficiently virtuous behavior. (My favorite example of the latter here.)


  • Could you resist being tempted to Grab a drink with Elizabeth Warren? This is a trick I recall seeing from Hillary's past campaigns.

    Why, yes, I would enjoy sitting down with Elizabeth Warren and asking her some pointed questions.

    Now, it's a campaign contribution scheme. But (as I believe they are legally obligated to) they provide an entry form where you don't need to donate. I'm sure the odds of winning are long, but that's OK.