URLs du Jour

2020-01-13

  • Cafe Hayek's Quotation of the Day... is from the late James Buchanan:

    Both our fiscal and our monetary structures are currently in disarray. And, as members of the body politic, we are behaving irresponsibly in our unwillingness to look at, analyze, and ultimately to support structural reforms that offer the only prospects for permanent improvement. We have allowed a quasi-independent monetary authority to accidentally attain a monopoly over fiat money issue without effective political control…. Alongside this random-walk monetary authority, we have a fiscal structure from which almost all pretense of balancing off the costs of taxes against the benefits of spending have been removed. The problem is not, however, with irresponsible political leaders, in either the executive or legislative branch of government. The problem is that the rules of the game are such as to make fiscal responsibility and fiscal prudence beyond the limits of the politically feasible. Constituents enjoy the benefits of public spending; they do not enjoy paying taxes. The politics of the [government budget] deficit is a simple as that.

    That's from 2000. If anything, the situation has gotten worse since then. Click through for the proprietor's comments.


  • Cato has issued its latest Human Freedom Index.

    Good news for Americans: we are freer than about 147 countries.

    Bad news for Americans: we're only #15, meaning 14 countries are freer than we.

    Our biggest shortcoming is on "Rule of Law" issues, notably criminal justice.


  • And then there are scofflaws. Specifically, as Michael Huemer notes, Outlaw Universities.

    Probably everyone in the academy knows that affirmative action is widely practiced: racial minorities (except Asians) and women are commonly given preference in hiring and admission decisions at American universities. I would guess, however, that some academics — and many more non-academics — are unaware that typical university hiring practices are blatantly illegal. So I’m going to talk about that for a while, in case you find that interesting.

    Job advertisements commonly say things like that the university rejects discrimination, supports equal employment opportunity, and considers all applicants “without regard to” race, sex, religion, etc. What they actually mean by this is that they only discriminate in certain specific ways. E.g., they don’t discriminate against blacks or Hispanics, but only against whites and Asians. They don’t discriminate against women, only against men. And so on. (This sounds to me like a rather Orwellian use of “equal opportunity”. But what do I know? I’m just some crazy libertarian philosopher.)

    If you click through, you'll find a particularly damning table from UC Berkeley's own website, showing how the winnowing process for faculty positions clearly, disproportionately, knocks out Whites, Asians, and males.

    If someone set up an institution of higher education that was honestly color-blind and sex-blind, they'd have a pretty good candidate pool to pick from. But I wonder if they'd get accreditation.


  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Well, according to James Pethokoukis at AEI, it's Time to reset the Doomsday Clock of ‘late capitalism’. Much like the famous "Doomsday Clock", capitalism's time is always about to run out:

    It’s always quite late, apparently. The sun is always setting. German economist Werner Sombart coined the phrase in the early 20th century, and European socialists popularized it during the Great Depression when it probably seemed about 30 seconds to midnight for capitalism. But things were darkest before the dawn. Capitalism survived, flourished, and spread across the globe. And even small doses generated near wondrous improvement.

    Yet we remain stuck and suffering in late capitalism, according to progressives and socialists. And unlike with the Doomsday Clock, the end only approaches, never recedes. Here’s a handy definition from Annie Lowrey in The Atlantic: “‘Late capitalism,’ in its current usage, is a catchall phrase for the indignities and absurdities of our contemporary economy, with its yawning inequality and super-powered corporations and shrinking middle class.” So Jeff Bezos and that $375 “eco-friendly” silver straw from Tiffany’s, basically.

    Well, maybe this time they'll be right. I know which way I'm betting, though. With my own money.


  • From the current print Reason, Jacob Sullum describes How Truth Became a Casualty of the War on Smoking, a review of two books on the history of the anti-smoking movement.

    That trend [of hyping anti-smoking "findings"] also disturbs Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel, a longtime anti-smoking activist and former [Stanton Glantz, a co-founder of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights] protégé who nowadays regularly criticizes the alarmist claims and ad hominem reasoning of his erstwhile allies. Siegel is especially dismayed by the anti-smoking movement's irrational resistance to e-cigarettes as a harm-reducing alternative to conventional, combustible cigarettes.

    "Driven by an almost puritanical inability to accept the fact that a person could obtain pleasure from nicotine without it killing them," Siegel says in a blog post that [one of the reviewed authors] quotes, "we have made the demonization of vaping the solitary goal of the movement, at the direct expense of what I always believed was our primary goal: to make smoking history." For dissidents like Siegel, it's clear that vaping—which is indisputably far less dangerous than smoking—should be embraced as a public health boon by people who say they want to reduce the death and disease caused by cigarettes.

    There's zero scientific reason to impose the same public restrictions on vaping as on tobacco products. Yet, when the moral panic level is set to 11…

Holiday

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn! Directed by George Cukor! For what more could you ask?

And about ten minutes into it… "Did we see this before?" "It seems kind of familiar…"

I don't find it in my movie list, though. And I've been pretty diligent about keeping it complete. So it must have been pre-2004. But consumer note: I remember watching Bringing Up Baby; this one isn't super-memorable.

Anyway: Cary plays Johnny Case, who (as it happens) has just returned from Lake Placid, where he met the love of his life, Julia Seton (not Katherine Hepburn, Doris Nolan). To his eventual consternation, he discovers that, whoa, Julia's rich. As in falling-in-the-ditch rich! (I don't know what that means, but Mom used to say that.) Julia's dad, a scion of finance, is overbearing. Her brother's a drunkard. And sister Linda—ah, there's Katherine Hepburn—is "eccentric", meaning she's more fun than anyone else in the family.

There are some rough spots to overcome: Dad's skeptical, since Johnny's background is lower working class, for example. But he's a hard worker, put himself through Harvard, and has a talent for business. So eventually it's assumed he'll take his place in the Seton empire, and become heir to the throne.

But the plot-driving conflict is this: Johnny has different plans for his life. He wants to make a little money, then take off and have some fun. Then come back to work when the money runs out, then take off again. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

This is obviously unacceptable!

So yeah, the movie is mainly about Rich People Problems. How did this go over in 1938, anyway? Were people flocking to the theaters to watch Rich People Problems?

Or did people flock to the theater because they wanted to see how Cary Grant winds up with Katherine Hepburn? (Spoiler: he does.)