URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • David R. Henderson pays tribute to Milton Friedman, An 'Elfin Libertarian' Giant at the Hoover Institution.

    In recent months, various critics of the late Milton Friedman have argued that Friedman dominated economic policy for a large part of the last half century. And yet they don’t typically mean that in a complimentary way. In an August 24 New York Times article, for example, editorial board member Binyamin Appelbaum writes that the “most important figure” in postwar economics was Milton Friedman, “an elfin libertarian who refused to take a job in Washington, but whose writings and exhortations seized the imagination of policymakers.” Tellingly, Appelbaum’s article is titled “Blame Economists for the Mess We’re In.”  I have been a fan of Friedman since, at age 17, I read a 1968 column he wrote in Newsweek. I have read much of his academic work and nearly all of his popular writing. And I certainly think Friedman was the most important and influential economist of the last half the 20th century.

    I'm about David's age, and had my come-to-Milton moment slightly earlier. (Described here if you're interested.)

    But as to the claim that Milton Friedman dragged us into some sort of free-market utopia? The only answer to that is: "I wish."

    For example…

  • … even the fact that this question (from Jeff Jacoby) can be asked in the 21st century USA would probably make Uncle Milton plotz: Should it be illegal to sit out an election?

    IN THE NAME of "strengthening our democracy," a Massachusetts legislator named Dylan Fernandes has introduced a bill to force Bay State citizens to vote in November general elections, whether they want to or not. In California, assemblyman Marc Levine goes even further: Declaring that "democracy is not a spectator sport," he has submitted legislation to strong-arm Californians into taking part in every election, including local and primary contests.

    All enlightened people know that the Republicans are eager to drag America into a fascist hellhole, but in the meantime it seems to be the Democrats who are actually the most eager to push people around.

  • Chris Edwards at Cato weighs in on Wasteful Local Infrastructure. And I just wanted to quote this bit (which Chris is in turn quoting from a TV station's news story):

    [The DC-area transit authority WMATA] has spent $3.8 million and taken five years to build two unfinished bike racks—at East Falls Church and Vienna Metro Stations.

    WMATA originally budgeted $600,000 for each rack, but the price tag has soared to $1.9 million each.

    The covered bike shelters will house 92 bikes, putting the price tag at more than $20,000 per bike. Future costs to finish the projects could raise that number even higher.

    The projects were supposed to be completed in December of 2015 but remain unfinished in 2020.

    Dear Democratic Socialists: Since I have a strong preference for survival, could y'all just hold off on "Medicare for All" until you demonstrate basic competence in (say) building bike racks?

  • It's Scientific American, so you know it's gotta be true: No One Can Explain Why Planes Stay in the Air.

    In December 2003, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first flight of the Wright brothers, the New York Times ran a story entitled “Staying Aloft; What Does Keep Them Up There?” The point of the piece was a simple question: What keeps planes in the air? To answer it, the Times turned to John D. Anderson, Jr., curator of aerodynamics at the National Air and Space Museum and author of several textbooks in the field.

    What Anderson said, however, is that there is actually no agreement on what generates the aerodynamic force known as lift. “There is no simple one-liner answer to this,” he told the Times. People give different answers to the question, some with “religious fervor.” More than 15 years after that pronouncement, there are still different accounts of what generates lift, each with its own substantial rank of zealous defenders. At this point in the history of flight, this situation is slightly puzzling. After all, the natural processes of evolution, working mindlessly, at random and without any understanding of physics, solved the mechanical problem of aerodynamic lift for soaring birds eons ago. Why should it be so hard for scientists to explain what keeps birds, and airliners, up in the air?

    But I'm sure Science is giving us nailed-down facts about climate change.

  • And the Bulwark calls a timeout on Trump-hating, and turns to Major League Baseball: The MLB Is Like a Drug Cartel Trying to Kill Its Customers.

    On Wednesday, MLB announced its latest rule change, effective this year, which mandates that every pitcher who takes the mound must either face three batters or complete a half inning. Like virtually every innovation dreamed up by the demented technocrats on Park Avenue, this is something no one asked for, no one wanted, and serves no benefit to the teams, or the players, or the fans.

    Never mind that it penalizes smaller dollar teams, or that games will be lost because of this change. Forget that it kills yet another outlet for strategy the game by hemming in the managers’ ability to square off in pitting relievers against pinch hitters in real time. Why would MLB care that it sounds the death knell for the careers of a cadre of leftie pitchers who have made careers as specialists? Or that it favors big-market teams who can afford deeper and stronger bullpens?

    And, of course, what does it matter that it carves away yet another part of the in-game tension which is the soul of what brings people to the ballpark, year after year?

    The only bit of good news is that the MLB brass plus the Red Sox brass could make the Red Sox suck so badly this year, it might bring ticket prices down to a point where I could actually go to a game without taking out a loan.

    Just kidding, of course. If I skipped a couple months of electric bills, I could totally afford a game.

Last Modified 2022-10-01 10:02 PM EDT

To Say Nothing of the Dog

or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump At Last

[Amazon Link]

A pungent reminder of how deep my to-be-read stacks can get: Amazon tells me I purchased this item on June 21, 2000. Yes, nearly 20 years deep. (I kept putting other books ahead of it. Sorry, Connie.)

To Say Nothing of the Dog won the Hugo and Locus awards for Best (science fiction) novel, and was nominated for the Nebula. And this was in the pre-woke era of SF awards, so yeah, it's pretty good.

As an extra incentive, I was taken in by the dedication: which is a waving green flag that says "Read me, Paul":

To Robert A. Heinlein

Who, in Have Space Suit, Will Travel
first introduced me to Jerome K. Jerome's
Three Men in a Boat,
To Say Nothing of the Dog

And so I finally did. (And, like Connie, RAH's reference to Three Men in a Boat caused me to read that back in 2003. I was less taken with it than Connie was, but that's OK.)

Anyway: this book. In the near future, time-travel has been invented, but with a number of frustrating restrictions caused by the whimsical nature of the space-time continuum. Would-be travellers are prevented from transporting "significant" objects from the past back to their own time. And some "important" times in the past are impossible to reach. Otherwise, time travellers might assassinate Hitler, or prevent the assassinations of Lincoln or Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Nevertheless, bringing back objects that were destroyed in the past are OK. Travellers can rescue them. And the lady bankrolling the time-travel project has demanded that an artifact called the "Bishop's Bird Stump" be rescued from Coventry Cathedral in 1940; it's been missing since the Nazi air raid. (What, exactly, is a "Bishop's Bird Stump"? Well, we find out eventually. Rest assured, it's hideous.)

Disclaimer: I may not have these rules exactly right. (And there are many more, it seems.) This book is Connie's second set in this universe, and the first one might have gone into more tutorial detail.

The narrator, Ned Henry, sets about this task. In the majority of pages, his detective work sends him back to 1888 England, where he takes up with that era's delightfully complex social mores. A whole passel of characters are introduced, a bunch of complications encountered, and confusion reigns as to whether what Ned does will end up ensuring a Nazi victory in WWII, or (slightly worse) destroy the entire space-time continuum.

It's a lot of fun, albeit way long (493 pages in my paperback edition).

Last Modified 2022-10-01 10:02 PM EDT