URLs du Jour

2019-09-30

[Amazon Link]

I liked the built-in cognitive dissonance of the Amazon Product du Jour: socks that say Don't Tread on Me. But maybe I'm reading too much into this product.

  • Kevin D. Williamson, writing at National Review, bemoans The Radicalism Arms Race of American Politics.

    It is sobering to realize that there are young Americans serving in Afghanistan today who had not been born on September 11, 2001, who have only known post-9/11 politics and a post-9/11 America, with all the angst and paranoia that goes along with them. This profoundly abnormal period in our history is their normal, the only world they have ever known. For them, there is no return to normalcy and no possibility of it. “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” These young Americans were not around to hear all those fine speeches about how turning away from our national ethos of liberty and citizenship, turning toward fear and hatred and turning against each other, would mean, in the inescapable phrase of the time, that “the terrorists have won.”

    Haven’t they?

    Maybe. I occasionally think/hope the country will muddle through, as it always had before. Other times, there doesn't seem to be a lot of political support for anything resembling "muddling through".


  • A possibly related question from Scott Sumner at Econlib: Are libertarians being purged?. Specifically, from the GOP. He notes the shove given to Rep. Justin Amash, a likely primary challenge to Rep. Thomas Massie, and the annual "FreedomFest" gathering moving in "a noticeably Trumpian direction".

    Given Trump’s opposition to free speech, free trade and immigration (both legal and illegal), as well as his support for the War on Drugs and higher spending on social programs, it’s hard to see why “FreedomFest” would want to move in a Trumpian direction. While I’ve never attended that event, I do receive an enormous amount of material (both paper and e-mail) from various free market organizations. In the past two years I’ve seen a big upswing in hard right nationalist advocacy from traditionally libertarian-leaning groups. Now I see calls for things like “industrial policy” and protectionism, which libertarians would have opposed even 5 years ago. I’m not clear as to whether this represents a turnover of personnel or a change of views of people who previously supported libertarian positions, but the change is quite pronounced.

    As conservatism changes its focus from the previous free market/religious/hawkish coalition to a more nationalistic posture, there is a danger that the movement will become more intolerant of dissent. Throughout history, nationalists have favored controlling information in such a way as to impose one view. Thus history books are re-written to glorify the homeland, and are sanitized of events that make the nation look bad. (Of course the left has its own problems when it comes to writing history—PCism.)

    Jonah Goldberg seems to have been prescient in calling his podcast "The Remnant".

    Of course, he did that explicitly crediting Albert Jay Nock who wrote of the "Remnant" back in 1936, a perhaps even darker time for liberty. (Note: link goes to unz.com, which is kind of problematic, but that's where Nock's essay is). And Nock was referring back to the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. Who was writing at a pretty dark time himself.

    So cheer up, I guess. Things have been worse.


  • But speaking of worse, Mark J. Perry writes at AEI: Backfire economics: Trump’s steel tariffs have harmed US steelmakers, who are suffering from job losses and falling stock prices. He's put a handy graph into a tweet:

    Tariff Man’s tariffs on imported steel were supposed to help revitalize the US steel industry by protecting them from more efficient foreign rivals. But it turns out that the Mercantilist-in-Chief’s trade policy has seriously backfired as Eric Boehm reported recently at Reason.com:

    Eric provides data on stock price declines, layoffs, shutdowns. His conclusion:

    Bottom Line: It is well past time to stop believing that tariffs are going to resurrect or save the American steel industry. Trump has given little more than false hope and faulty economics to the steelworkers and other blue collar employees for whom he’s promised a return to the good old days. The slow decline of American steelmaking cannot be halted or reversed by executive order or presidential tweet. Unfortunately, most of the Democrats running to unseat Trump in 2020 are promising the same sort of protectionism. The beatings, it seems, will have to continue until morale improves.

    I find it difficult to believe that steel can't be made competitively in the USA. I do know that "protecting" the industry is only likely to make steelmakers less competitive.


  • Reason's Jacob Sullum continues to be a lonely voice of sanity on vaping. CDC Confirms That the Vast Majority of Vaping-Related Lung Disease Cases Involve THC Products.

    Today the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally confirmed that the vast majority of patients with vaping-related respiratory illnesses have reported using cannabis products, typically purchased on the black market. Among 514 patients for whom the information was available, the CDC found, 77 percent reported using THC products. Just 16 percent said they had vaped only nicotine, although the types, sources, and brands of the products were not identified.

    Just yesterday, my local Sunday paper, Seacoast Sunday, contributed to the panic with the headline "Early signs of vaping health risks were missed or ignored". (Reprinting this Bloomberg article.) There's one mention of that inconvenient THC fact, far down in the article. Otherwise, it's blanket fear and loathing of vaping products.


  • LFOD fans will want to check out this informative article from Valley News: How New Hampshire adopted its famous motto. Something I didn't know:

    At the end of 1944, The Manchester Union (a predecessor of today’s New Hampshire Union Leader, albeit with a different owner and editorial perspective) noted that New Hampshire was the last state in the country without a motto. The newspaper sponsored a public, statewide contest to solicit potential mottos. Under the terms of the contest, a panel of judges convened by the newspaper would review the entries, choosing one that would be forwarded to the New Hampshire Legislature, where it would be considered for adoption.

    Public response to the contest was enormous. More than 1,500 people submitted some 3,500 entries. It took the committee of judges months to review the entries, and in late April 1945, the committee made its recommendation.

    The winner was “Strong and Steadfast as the Granite Hills,” proposed by a then well-known writer from Gilmanton, Curtis Hidden Page.

    "Strong and Steadfast as the Granite Hills"—sheesh. How did we manage to dodge that bullet? We can thank Rep. J. Walker Wiggin, of Manchester.

    The Valley News writer, by the way, makes it clear that he considers LFOD to have been a poor choice.


  • And Valley News also weighs in with a perennial non-starter: Seat belt law eyed in N.H..

    Debates over whether to mandate seat belt use go back decades in New Hampshire and tap into the state’s “libertarian tradition and ethos,” said Dean Spiliotes, a political scientist and professor at Southern New Hampshire University.

    Opponents often refute calls for more regulation, such as seat belt and helmet laws, by pointing to the state motto of “Live Free or Die” or characterizing them as “nanny-state issues,” Spiliotes said.

    Typically, only progressive Democrats champion seat belt laws and are challenged by Republicans, Spiliotes said. However, moderate Democrats appear split on the matter amid crossover opposition.

    That was made clear to Rep. Mary Jane Mulligan, D-Hanover, when she sponsored a seat belt law last year. The legislation was ultimately killed, with 23 Democrats joining 172 Republican to vote in opposition.

    Mulligan said she heard from several people who felt that wearing a seat belt is too uncomfortable. Others just refused to start buckling up or retorted “Live Free or Die.”

    “I am really tired of people telling me that,” she said in a phone interview on Thursday. “Who doesn’t want to be free? It’s a small group of people that try to define what freedom means for all of us.”

    Mary Jane Mulligan doesn't want these picky definitions of "freedom" get in the way of passing laws to force people to do what she wants them to.