URLs du Jour

2019-08-08

[Amazon Link]

  • David Henderson takes off on The Deep-seated Authoritarian Impulse. Spurred by an article that begins "If I were a state education minister I would endeavour to make it a compulsory part of a high school curriculum for …"

    And it doesn't really matter what comes next, no matter how praiseworthy. David:

    I’ve noticed that many people who have a good idea jump pretty quickly to a proposal to make it compulsory. That’s what [the quoted author] does and I’ve seen it a lot. When I was the health economist with President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, I went to a lot of lunches where a health care expert would give a talk on a health care issue. I remember one time when a speaker said he learned a lot about how disabled people must feel when he had to be in a wheel chair for a week or so. Someone in the audience then spoke up to say she thought it would be a good idea if doctors, as part of their training, were required to be in wheel chairs for a day or two.

    Or consider how many people, when they start to understand an academic discipline (I’ve seen it a lot with economics), advocate that everyone be forced to study that discipline.

    The authoritarian impulse seems to come easily to many people.

    Pun Salad Fact Check: True. [If I were appointed grand dictator, I'd resign. Although first I'd ban radio ads with sirens. Those panic me.]

    When I first espied the Amazon Product du Jour, I thought it was an obviously bogus quote, too good to be true, like so many ascribed to Jefferson, Lincoln, et. al.. But guess what? It's real.


  • Speaking of that authoritarianism thing… Kevin D. Williamson writes at National Review on Democrats & Illiberal Democracy: Short Road to Tyranny.

    There are two rules for illiberal democracy.

    The first rule is that during an emergency certain illiberal and anti-democratic measures are necessary to ensure public safety, national security, and the practice of democracy itself.

    The second rule is that there is always an emergency.

    Which reminds me…


  • The Kevin D. Williamson article I linked to yesterday had an intriguing aside:

    Those old war propaganda posters had it right: “I am Public Opinion! All men fear me.”

    That set me to Googling. I was able to find plenty of war propaganda posters, but I was only able to find that particular phrasing in newspaper ads hectoring the citizenry to buy war bonds. Here's an example from the November 1917 edition of the Texaco Star, an employee newsletter:

    [Public Opinion Propaganda]

    Scary, because you know she's about to punch you out with that balled right fist. And … yet, she's kinda hot, amirite?

    Yup, they did propaganda right back in those days. When they pass compulsory confiscation of those nasty-looking "military-style weapons" in 2021, perhaps they could recycle Lady Public Opinion.


  • Veronique de Rugy's column discusses Passing Laws, Passing Taxes and Passing the Buck.

    What do the French digital services tax, the employers' share of payroll taxes and the corporate income tax all have in common? They are rarely shouldered by those entities and individuals targeted by legislators. In fact, one of the most important things to know about taxes is that the people who actually write the checks to the Internal Revenue Service (or to its French equivalent) are seldom the ones who actually shoulder its burden.

    In 2004, economist Stephen Entin wrote, "The economic burden of a tax frequently does not rest with the person or business who has the statutory liability for paying the tax to the government." That's because taxes are paid only by flesh-and-blood individuals. The actual incidence of any tax is not determined by the formalities of the tax code but, rather, by the realities of markets — specifically, by how sensitive buyers are to price changes, relative to sellers. It makes it difficult to fully predict the full impact of taxes, but as a general rule, it is rarely what politicians think.

    Take, for example, the employer's statutorily stipulated share of the payroll tax. On paper, workers and employers each pay 7.65% of the employee's salary and wages. Employers send their portion of the tax as well as the one collected from their employees to the government. But this fact doesn't tell us anything about the tax's true burden. Economic research shows that employers shift the burden of the payroll to their employees by decreasing workers' wages by almost 7.65%.

    Veronique grants the good intentions of the pols who pass such taxes. I'm not as charitable as she.


  • At Reason, J.D. Tuccille tells those of us who need to be reminded: White Supremacy Is Alien to Liberal and Libertarian Ideals.

    Amidst a grab-bag of authoritarian ideas, including xenophobia, anti-capitalism, and radical environmentalism, the El Paso mass murderer was primarily motivated by a bigoted hatred for immigrants from south of the border. His manifesto is full of denunciations of "race mixers," "Hispanic invasion," and "cultural and ethnic replacement"—buzz phrases for racists and white supremacists who elevate an illusory collective racial and cultural heritage over respect for people as individuals.

    He couldn't have more thoroughly distanced himself from the liberal/libertarian ideas of the pro-liberty movement if he'd gone through a checklist of shitty notions.

    The liberal tradition that libertarianism inherits and extends doesn't treat people as members of some sort of Borg collective or as any other representation of a group identity. While we're all humans and sometimes fail to live up to our aspirations, libertarians at least aspire to treat with people on their own merits—or lack thereof, as in the case of people who mouth the sort of nonsense espoused by Patrick Wood Crusius in El Paso.

    Certainly we've seen this point before: the nature of politics is to appeal to your "demographic", telling them what you think they want to hear. (And, of course, not saying anything that might offend.)

    Our current overpoliticized environment has no room for speaking to people as individuals.


  • So let's move off politics for the rest of the post. Five Thirty Eight has a clever headline that makes me want to throw my computer against the wall: The Red Sox Were The Toast Of Baseball Last Year. Now They’re Just Toast.. ("It's infuriating because it's true.")

    If the Boston Red Sox harbored any hopes of returning to the playoffs after last year’s magical World Series run, they knew they’d need to make a very strong push over the regular season’s last couple of months. Boston entered the final week of July running eight games behind in the American League East race, though it had just taken five of six games against the division-rival Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees and were scheduled to play 25 of their final 56 contests against AL East opponents. The Red Sox would have plenty of chances, and the FiveThirtyEight model gave them essentially a coin flip’s probability of making the postseason as at least a wild card.

    But a weekend massacre at the hands of the Yankees has all but destroyed Boston’s playoff hopes. After New York swept the four-game series (which included a pair of losses in a double-header Saturday), the Red Sox are down to a mere 8 percent chance of getting back to the postseason, with basically no hope of winning the division. As the recriminations begin to fly for Boston’s lifeless title defense, we ask: What has happened to leave a team so good on paper sitting on the outside of the playoffs looking in?

    What follows is a stat-filled geekout, so if that's your thing…

    I was surprised (somewhat) to learn that the Red Sox were not (at least as I type) leading the MLB in blown saves this season. They "only" have 20, behind the Mets (22), Padres (also 22), Athletics (21), and the Cubs (21).

    But it seems I've seen every one of those blown saves.


  • And there's terrifying news from space: Tardigrades Are Now On the Moon Thanks To a Crashed Israeli Spacecraft.

    Tardigrades, the microsopic water-dwelling animals that can survive almost any environment, may be on the moon thanks to an Israeli spacecraft called Beresheet. The spacecraft was carrying thousands of dehydrated tardigrades (among other cargo) when it crashed due to glitches with the landing process.

    At Transterrestrial Musings, Rand Simberg comments: "Yeah, it’s all fun and games until they mutate and become our giant lunar tardigrade overlords."

    I, for one, welcome…


Last Modified 2019-08-08 11:06 AM EDT