URLs du Jour

2020-03-13

  • Charles Baird at AIER spells out something which (unfortunately) needs to be said more often: Socialism Must Be Authoritarian.

    Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, asserts that he opposes authoritarianism. He says Fidel Castro’s literacy programs were good, but his authoritarianism was unfortunate. In Bernie’s mind socialism doesn’t have to be authoritarian. This is a pernicious idea. To fight socialism it must be put down every time it is encountered. Hayek explained in The Road to Serfdom that even benevolent socialists must become authoritarians. Worse, people in power under socialism are unlikely to be benevolent.

    The common definition of socialism – government ownership of the means of production – helps socialists avoid the label. American socialists, like Elizabeth Warren, note that since they do not advocate government ownership of the means of production, they are not socialists. 

    Socialism should be understood broadly to mean the use of government power to replace private economic decision-making with collective economic decision-making. Sanders, Warren and Biden may differ (slightly) on the best scope of collective decision-making, but they are all socialists. Hayek’s argument applies to this more inclusive definition.

    There's a lot of explicit coercion involved in "democratic socialist" proposals. But there's a lot of implicit coercion involved in shifting more resources, and therefore choices, out of private hands into the public sector.

    Bastiat might say that some of the coercion is seen, but a lot is unseen: what innovation is foregone by removing private resources.


  • At Cato, John Samples notes Illiberalism Ascendent in proposed antitrust legislation from that allegedly "moderate" Amy Klobuchar. It would shift burden-of-proof onto companies to show that they're not suppressing competition. Liberalism 101:

    In a liberal government, government officials must carry a burden of proof to limit the liberties or rights of individuals. For example, to put someone in jail, prosecutors must show they violated the law beyond a reasonable doubt.

    In an illiberal government, individuals must prove to government officials that they do not deserve having their liberties or rights restricted. In an illiberal government, individuals must prove to the government that they have not violated the law. This assignment of the burden of proof underpins ideals like the rule of law and due process.

    Antitrust has been bad economics for over a century, but Senator Amy wants to make it worse.


  • Brian Reidl is on fire these days. At NR, he asks the musical question: How Effective Would a New Fiscal Stimulus Be? Spoiler: not very.

    The arrival of the coronavirus has plunged the stock market and led to calls for a massive government economic-stimulus package to remedy a possible recession. Reflexive calls for fiscal stimulus are often popular during recessions, for obvious reasons: Voters love tax cuts and spending benefits. Celebrity economists get to show off their mathematical models and play the role of economic savior. And politicians can hand out popular benefits, while claiming to fix the economy.

    Fiscal stimulus may be the wrong tool to address a health crisis in which people decide not to leave their homes. (Where would they spend their rebates? How does this address broken supply chains?) Better to provide targeted relief, such as family-leave benefits to those who lose pay owing to workplace shutdowns.

    But more broadly, do temporary infusions of government spending or tax cuts actually stimulate economic growth? The record is not particularly strong.

    Click through for the weak record. Government spending gets added to GDP axiomatically, no matter how stupid and wasteful. But it also (see above) removes spending power from private hands. To assume that power wouldn't have been used wisely is … problematic.


  • And I love these animated charts from Mark J. Perry. Here's US electricity generation by fuel source, 1949-2019.

    You can draw some obvious conclusions, but click over to get Mark's insights too.


  • Ammoland tells an outrageous story of Brian Harris.

    In August 2015, Brian took a course from me to get his Utah & MA permits. A month later, he was arguing with a woman he was dating. He took his clothes and headed out. After a verbal argument, she called the police. His girlfriend didn’t even know that he had a gun in his trunk.

    They called Brian and asked him to come downstairs. Four police officers greeted him at the door with guns drawn waiting for him. They searched his vehicle and he said he had a firearm and a permit. It was unloaded, locked and secured. There was a temporary restraining order and the police confiscated the firearm. A year later when the restraining order was supposed to be dropped, the district attorney extended it. And pressed charges. He had to spend $13,000 to hire an attorney to fight his case for 2 years.

    We are only seeing one side of the story here ( some more info, don't know how accurate), but Brian (now a New Hampshire resident) wound up spending 18 months in a Massachusetts county jail, which seems steep. What drew my attention: He's started the Live Free Or Die Guys YouTube channel which, as I type, has 18 subscribers. One of the videos there has a guy (don't know if it's Brian) with a "Kill 'Em All" t-shirt. So, um, your call.

The Lavender Hill Mob

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

I have the disquieting feeling that I've already seen this, back in the days when I didn't obsessively blog about every movie I watched. I seem to have a vague recollection of the beginning ("Hey! That's Audrey Hepburn, isn't it?") and the end (no spoilers). And absolutely nothing in between. Ah well.

Alec Guinness plays Henry Holland, a guy for whom the noun "milquetoast" was invented. A self-described nonentity disguising an avaricious and criminal streak, he's in the fortuitous position of accompanying British gold from the smelter to the bank. He's worked out most of the heist details, all he needs is a way to smuggle the purloined metal out of the country, where he can sell it on the black market.

Enter Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway, who really should be singing "With a Little Bit of Luck" in this movie too). He's got a factory that casts base metal into tourist "geegaws". (That's actually the name of the company.) But there's no reason he can't use gold…

Anyway, it's very understated comedy, but dreary 1951 England must have been in the mood to laugh at nearly anything. The best part is Henry reading a crime novel to the elderly Mrs. Chalk, titled You'd Look Good in a Shroud. Oh, heck, here it is:

Henry: Where did we get?

Mrs. Chalk: Duke Milligan was about to take a gander at Mickey the Greek's hideout.

Henry: Oh yes, here we are. "I handed my fedora to a hatcheck girl with all that Venus de Milo had got and then more, and I was admiring the more when I glimpsed something in the back of this frail that set my underwear creeping up on me like it had legs."

Mrs. Chalk: I know that feeling well.

Henry: "A guy had soft-shoed out of the door from the gaming room as quiet as a snake on tip-belly, and I didn't need my case history of Smiling Abe Montana to know that sonny boy was his number-one triggerman, Ricky the Filipino."

Mrs. Chalk: I thought it was Little Boy Shultz who carried the rod for Mr. Montana.

Henry: It was, Mrs. Chalk, but surely you remember? Montana found Shultz taking liberties with that lady.

Mrs. Chalk: Yes, yes, they took him for a ride. Only last night, wasn't it? Oh, I must be getting old. Read on, Mr. Holland.