URLs du Jour

2019-10-04

[Amazon Link]

  • It's a bit too early for Thanksgiving, but Reason's Nick Gillespie won't let that stop him: Let Us Now Thank Donald Trump for Revealing Brutal Truths About How Power and Privilege Operate.

    Trump is great at reminding people about all the things they don't like about "the swamp" in D.C. And while Trump may well be removed from office, it's much more likely that Joe Biden is the real casualty of the telephone call now at the center of the impeachment process. The same poll that finds 45 percent of Americans favor an impeachment investigation of Trump also finds that by a margin of 42 percent to 21 percent, Americans "there are valid reasons to look at the behavior of Joe and Hunter Biden in Ukraine." Biden has long campaigned as a working-class stiff whose career is completely aboveboard (never mind his history of plagiarism). All of the details emerging about the way his son used his father's position to live large—"Hunter Biden's whole career is being Joe Biden's son," as [Vox writer Matthew] Yglesias puts it—betray an ugly reality that helps explain why Americans have been losing trust and confidence in "the system" for decades.

    Nick also points out that partisans on both sides want to divert your gaze away from the obvious abuses of power, and instead concentrate on the relatively trivial procedural details.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour is a print titled "Power and Privilege" from Wildlife Artist Randy McGovern; it will set you back $25 plus shipping and handling. But there are (it says) 8 hidden wildlife animals in the background!


  • At National Review, Daniel Lee compares two young ladies being used: Greta Thunberg & Samantha Smith: Propaganda Poster Girls. Are you too young (or—ahem—too old) to remember Samantha?

    Samantha Smith was a ten-year-old American who in 1982, at her mother’s suggestion, wrote to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov — a former KGB chief and agent who took part in the brutal takedown of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and, later, suppression of dissent in Russia — about her fear of nuclear war between the USSR and the U.S. “I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country,” she wrote.

    Of course, Andropov wrote back quickly — and publicly — to let her know that the peace-loving people of the Soviet Union had no such intention. He invited her on a “fact-finding” mission to his country to prove it.

    Smith’s trip fit neatly with the Nuclear Freeze and No First Use movements of the time — Andropov explicitly endorsed the latter in his response — and was covered exhaustively by an international press eager to make her the spokeschild of youth desperate to stop adults from destroying the world with nuclear weapons. Today, Greta Thunberg plays that role. She is the new spokeschild for young people who believe that they’re battling to save the earth from the cupidity of grownups.

    Samantha died in a small-plane crash near Lewiston, Maine in 1985. Hope things work out better for Greta.


  • Veronique de Rugy sings us a lullaby: Hush, Little Voter, Don't Say a Word (About Tariffs).

    There are many bad ideas flying around right now in Congress. The recent proposal by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to give some taxpayers a rebate check funded with the tariff loot is one of those ideas. It's not only bad economics, but it comes across as hush money to keep tariff victims silent in advance of the next election.

    […]

    Up until now, Cotton has bent over backward to defend President Donald Trump's trade war. He even defended the tariffs by claiming they inflicted no pain on consumers or farmers. But this bill suggests that he has changed his tune. He's contradicting one of the administration's main talking points — namely, that the tariffs are paid by the Chinese. Obviously, anyone who understands economics knows that American consumers pay most of the tariff costs.

    And despite Trump's assertion that trade wars were "easy to win"… well, we're still waiting.

    Not that replacing Trump with a Democrat would help; none of the D candidates have pledged to remove the Trumpian tariffs. Instead they issue vague promises to use them as "leverage" to help "deal". Which is pretty much what Trump is saying.


  • James Pethokoukis at AEI is Taking another look at America’s superentrepreneurs.

    So how did the richest Americans get that way? Through government largess, such as crony contracts and bailouts? No, they didn’t. Glance at the new Forbes 400 list, and you will see massive entrepreneurial fortunes built on the ability to expertly exploit the latest advances in information technology, not political connections. Among the tech superbillionaires: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, the Google Guys, and Mark Zuckerberg. 

    Quibble: Getting onto the Forbes list is a trailing indicator of wealth creation. Bezos et. al. guessed right decades ago. We won't know who's guessing right today until 2035 or so.


  • Ex-Senator Phil Gramm and Jerry Ellig had a good (but probably paywalled) WSJ column on antitrust. At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux has a quibble: Gramm and Ellig Bust Myths that Fuel Antitrust Activism... But.... It's about "censorship" allegations against "Big Tech":

    Censorship is an offense committed only by government – or, perhaps more generally, only through the use of force. Each private person – individually or in voluntary league with other private persons, such as in households or firms – is perfectly within his or her rights to govern what is and what is not said on his or her property or with the use of his or her property.

    The right of free expression would be violated by government if it denies or otherwise restricts the ability of private individuals to determine what is and what isn’t said, sung, written, drawn, danced, projected, or otherwise peacefully expressed on their properties. And so when Jerry and Mr. Gramm here lend credence to the complaints of people such as Dennis Prager that some tech companies  “censor” conservatives, they not only err; they court danger. Their express agreement that the actions of private companies are censorious encourages – in an awful irony – the use of the state to supplant these private parties in determining what sorts of expression are permitted on their private properties.

    There's also the utilitarian argument: you may not like what Big Tech does, but please don't imagine that any government "fix" won't make things worse overall.

    However, it would be nice if Big Tech were in spirit believers in that whole John Stuart Mill marketplace of ideas thing. Buying into (for example) some wise words: "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."