URLs du Jour

2019-08-21

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Tim Sandefur criticizes the New York Times' "1619" project, its effort to revive discussion of the legacy of American slavery: The Founders Were Flawed. The Nation Is Imperfect. The Constitution Is Still a ‘Glorious Liberty Document.’.

    Where the 1619 articles go wrong is in a persistent and off-key theme: an effort to prove that slavery "is the country's very origin," that slavery is the source of "nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional," and that, in Hannah-Jones's [one of the "1619" essayists] words, the founders "used" "racist ideology" "at the nation's founding." In this, the Times steps beyond history and into political polemic—one based on a falsehood and that in an essential way, repudiates the work of countless people of all races, including those Hannah-Jones celebrates, who have believed that what makes America "exceptional" is the proposition that all men are created equal. 

    For one thing, the idea that, in Hannah-Jones' words, the "white men" who wrote the Declaration of Independence "did not believe" its words applied to black people is simply false. John Adams, James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others said at the time that the doctrine of equality rendered slavery anathema. True, Jefferson also wrote the infamous passages suggesting that "the blacks…are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind," but he thought even that was irrelevant to the question of slavery's immorality. "Whatever be their degree of talent," Jefferson wrote, "it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others." 

    Ironically, the thrust of the "1619" thesis echoes the insistence of actual white supremecists of the 1800s: the myth that America's founding was inherently racist.

    I find the Amazon Product du Jour amusing, but I wonder if anyone outside a Certain Age Range will get it. Here is an explanation, sorry.


  • At the Hoover Institution, David Henderson opines that A Carbon Tax Is Not A Slam Dunk. Specifically, it may not be the best way to combat climate change. For example…

    […] one important technological development over the last decade has been “geo-engineering.” The idea here is to change other things in the atmosphere that are easier to change than the amount of carbon used. Consider what we learned from the June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines. That eruption poured 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. Over the next two years, the effect of that one eruption was to reduce the earth’s temperature by about 1 degree Fahrenheit. That might not sound like much but it’s actually over half the 1.4 degree warming that has happened over the last century. What if every year we could put sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere so as to permanently prevent the earth from warming? In their 2009 book Superfreakonomics, University of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt and writer Stephen J. Dubner point out that if we could get just 34 gallons per minute of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere (which translates to about 100,000 tons per year), that would reverse warming in the high Arctic and reduce it in much of the Northern Hemisphere. Why focus on such high latitude areas? Because, note Levitt and Dubner, “high-latitude areas are four times more sensitive to climate change than the equator.” How would you get the SO2 into the atmosphere. Levitt and Dubner cite the thinking of Nathan Myhrvold, at one time the chief technology officer for Microsoft. Mrhrvold argues that if we had a big enough hose, we could do it.

    As I've said before: the problem isn't figuring out how to adjust the global thermostat; we're only going to get better at doing that over the coming decades.

    The problem is: once we have that power in hand, who decides where to set it? You think arguments over your house's thermostat setting are bad? Just multiply the arguers by billions, and give some of them nuclear weapons.


  • Kevin D. Williamson, writing at National Review asks about Patriotism: Is It Possible?.

    Is it possible for, say, Robert Francis O’Rourke? The Dave Matthews Band of Democratic presidential candidates put this into writing: “This country was founded on racism, has persisted through racism, and is racist today.” If by patriotism we mean simply to indicate love of country, would it be unfair to ask: How could a man of conscience love such a country? O’Rourke here is neither writing about the state nor any particular administration nor any of our nation’s many episodic failures to live up to its own ideals, but about the nation per se.

    One cannot love a hateful country the way one might love a racist uncle in spite of his shortcomings, because the love of country cannot survive the contempt and condescension one unavoidably feels toward doddering old men who should have learned better by now but are too old to be taught. You might cut your dotty uncle some slack, but love of country assumes a certain minimum of respect for it and confidence in it that are precluded by the kind of eye-rolling indulgence that in the South is accompanied by the exclamation “Bless your heart!”

    Among KDW's further observations is a drive-by hit on the term Latinx: a "neuter neologism" used "to refer to people descended from speakers of a language that is unintelligible without gender specificity."


  • In her column, Veronique de Rugy proposes A Truly Populist Social Security Reform. Specifically, how to deal with the whole "going broke" thing, which pols in both parties are diligently trying to ignore?

    We must rethink the system entirely, root and branch. The current universal age-based system requires relatively high taxes and spreads the benefits thinly across everyone. Considering that much of the support for Social Security comes from people who incorrectly assume it's mostly helping poor Americans — economists have shown that Social Security is a regressive system that mostly benefits higher-income Americans — we need reform that truly targets people who can't help themselves. Such a reformed program would provide better and larger benefits to fewer recipients and, in turn, require less revenue and lower taxes.

    To be sure, such a reform would be sweeping. Yet, so are the problems faced by the program.

    I buy Veronique's premise: it would be a sensible matter to cut benefits for people [gulp, like me] who have a comfortable nest egg to fall back on. I don't know how the politics will work out, though.