URLs du Jour


  • Via Cafe Hayek, a Facebook question from Nobelist Vernon Smith:

    Proposition: Whatever the policy choice, people will die that otherwise would not have died. So, who shall we choose to live?

    Posted by Vernon L. Smith on Saturday, May 23, 2020

    My fumble-brained attempt to answer has been, arguably, a recurring theme of this blog, even pre-Covid. And likely to continue into the future.

  • Jonah Goldberg updates and amends a Churchill quote: The Only Thing Worse Than Capitalism Is Everything Else. It's a G-File, meaning it's a grab-bag of a number of topics, but here's something I thought stood out:

    One of the biggest problems with capitalism is the downside of its best features: It’s disruptive. It unsettles the settled. This is a glorious thing when it erodes bad institutions and customs. At various points, it helped overthrow tyranny, aristocracy, monarchy, slavery, and prejudice. But it can also wear down good stuff. It can disrupt settled communities, customs, and institutions that would not necessarily benefit from being unsettled. The factory in a factory town may have been built there for fairly arbitrary reasons, but it became a valued shade tree of sorts over time.

    The disruptive nature of capitalism—“creative destruction” if you prefer Schumpeter’s phrase—is a net benefit over time. But in the moment of destruction it doesn’t feel that way, particularly by the people for whom it is not actually a net benefit. That’s why disruption itself isn’t the problem, the pace of disruption is. The wool and cotton mills were bad for the Luddites, but good for humanity. Humans can adapt. Americans are particularly good at it. But even the best of us need time to catch up.

    The "shade tree" reference is to the British imperialists cutting down big trees in conquered territories. Allegedly.

  • The Heritage Foundation's Arthur Milikh writes on a problem that seemingly won't go away: “Hate Speech” and the New Tyranny over the Mind.

    America is the only Western nation that does not criminalize “hate speech.” Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most nations of Europe already do so. The United Nations relentlessly pressures the remaining holdouts to follow suit: “As a matter of principle,” says the U.N. Secretary-General, “the United Nations must confront hate speech at every turn.”

    Meanwhile in America, Members of Congress issue their support for speech restrictions, and Big Tech’s digital oligarchs, enjoying a disproportionate power over society, continue to impose speech restrictions in exchange for access to their platforms. So are America’s colleges and universities more and more governed by an aggressive chorus of students, faculty, and administrators who demand and impose speech codes. These fronts promises to grow in size, strength, and confidence in the coming years.

    Leading restriction advocates want not only to banish “hate speech,” but also to criminalize it. In the words of Mari Matsuda, an influential professor at the University of Hawaii Law School, “[F]ormal criminal and administrative sanction—public as opposed to private prosecution—is also an appropriate response to racist speech.” Perhaps most surprising, legal precedents that would bring this revolution fully into existence in America are already embedded in two areas of our legal system: antidiscrimination and harassment laws, and Supreme Court rulings favoring sexual liberation that are based on a new view of “dignity.”

    All it would (probably) take is a couple flipped Supreme Court seats to put a big judicial imprimatur on a First Amendment "exception" for some vaguely defined area of Things You Aren't Allowed To Say.

  • In an NRPLUS article, Kevin D. Williamson wonders: Who Speaks for Whom?

    Who among us, in the presence of a man calling himself Charlamagne tha God, would be immune to grandiosity’s temptation?

    Mr. God hosts a popular radio show and had as a guest Joe Biden, the presumptive and presumptuous Democratic nominee for president in 2020. During the interview, Mr. Biden declared that any black American having a difficult time choosing between him and Donald Trump “ain’t black.”

    Charlamagne tha God is black, as is much of his audience, and Mr. Biden ain’t.

    It was an awkward moment.

    KDW goes on to Kevinsplain the devotion of (most) African Americans to the Democratic Party, something no amount of Biden condecension is likely to shake significantly.

  • Michael Huemer has an interesting essay on The Memory of Evil.

    From my years in middle school, I recall one occasion when a teacher used the word “evil”. It was a history teacher, and he said that we were about to study one of the rare examples of pure evil. The subject was Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. I was struck by his opening description. As far as I could recall, no teacher had ever called anything “evil” before. None ever did so since then either, until I went to philosophy classes in which examples of “evil” things would appear occasionally, mainly in metaethical discussions.

    Incidentally, the teacher was right to use the word, but wrong that this was a rare example. Humans have committed great evil throughout history, including many senseless genocides. It’s just that one that we today tend to remember the most. Of course, we in America also work to keep alive the memory of slavery, Jim Crow, gender oppression, and other wrongs.

    I don’t care whether you deem the word “evil” appropriate for all these things, though. My question is: How important is it to remember past wrongs? Is a strong cultural memory of past misdeeds a good thing or a bad thing? I suspect that the memory of evil has been greatly overvalued, and perhaps it’s more important to be able to forget.

    Professor Huemer goes on to list things "you might hope" people would learn from studying the Holocaust:

    1. Beware of charismatic leaders who exploit scapegoats.
    2. Don’t give anyone absolute power.
    3. Don’t blame a whole, huge category of people for your problems.
    4. Society is not divided into good and bad races, genders, or other groups like that. Individuals must be evaluated as individuals.
    5. Don’t just follow orders. Use your conscience.

    And what do people actually learn?

    1. Beware of Hitler.
    2. Don’t give absolute power to the Nazi Party.
    3. Don’t blame the Jews for your problems.
    4. The bad race is the Germans. More broadly, white people, especially white men.
    5. Don’t just follow an order to push Jews into gas chambers. Only blindly obey orders that are democratic. And finally:
    6. A great rhetorical tactic is to compare anyone who disagrees with you to Hitler.

    For this educational malfeasance, I blame… well, not the Jews.

  • Our local fishwrap generated a Google LFOD News Alert, with their intrepid reporter bothering folk who ventured outdoors on a nice day: Some Seacoast residents want normalcy now.

    Stacey Marchionni, owner of Revolution Taproom and Grill, said businesses need to reopen to survive.

    Marchionni was getting outdoor tables ready for business on Sunday.

    “I understand that a complete reopening does not fit with the governor’s orders right now,” said Marchionni. “But I really think we need to get back to business, to get back to being the live free or die state. We are all adults and can make our own decisions.”

    People are all aware of COVID-19, said Marchionni.

    “We need to give people the freedom now to make their own choices at this point,” she said. “If you do not feel comfortable going out, stay home but our businesses cannot survive on takeout, on curbside service. I think a lot of the guidance we have been issued is counterproductive, government overreach and it has tied the hands of business owners. Also, you can walk on a beach, but not sit? People can stay 6 feet apart at the beach, more so than in many places that were never closed. I think there are too many contradictions.”

    Ms. Marchionni's restaurant is up in Rochester, and it is a swell place for freedom-lovers. I gotta get back up there… as soon as Mrs. Salad allows.

  • Also dinging the LFOD bell are those lovable libertarians at Free Keene: The Real Virus is Fear… and the Belief in “The State”.

    It’s been particularly disappointing to witness the effects of fear here in the supposed “Live Free or Die” state. Sure, there have been some great protests with hundreds attending at the state house , but we haven’t had much in the way of resistance against this tyranny from businesses, the activity of which is what gives life to the economy. Though one NH salon owner has this week filed a lawsuit against “HIS EXCELLENCY” governor Chris Sununu’s office, even this “pushback” still acknowledges that the state is in charge. Suing works within their system, acknowledging its legitimacy. It’s asking one tentacle of the monsterous state to stop the other one from choking you to death.

    I admit the state mandates/guidelines are pretty far down the list of my concerns. I just want to not have to sleep in the car. Which is what will happen if I violate a Spousal Mandate.

Last Modified 2020-05-27 5:20 AM EDT