URLs du Jour

2019-06-25

[Amazon Link]

The (so far) last book in the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction Series is our Amazon Product du Jour. Nothing says "New Hampshire" than … dragons?

  • I'm (so far) a devotee of the "marketplace of ideas" concept. At Quillette, Mohamed Ali offers up What Defenders and Critics Get Wrong about the 'Marketplace of Ideas'.

    In his book How Fascism Works, Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley exposes the weakness in the most common argument for free speech. According to this argument, which can be traced back to liberal thinkers such as John Stuart Mill, free speech leads to a “marketplace of ideas” in which the truth prevails and falsehoods are widely rejected.

    Stanley argues that the recent proliferation of conspiracy theories and dog-whistles refute the premise that “reason always wins out in the public square of liberal democracy.” He is primarily concerned about conspiracy theories, such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which serve to spread fascistic worldviews. This type of speech, he concludes, cannot be effectively countered through a free exchange of ideas.

    Stanley's book, Ali contends, doesn't explicitly advocate censorship of dangerous conspiracy theories and dog-whistles, but the implication is clear.

    Ali notes, correctly, that you can't tell that a particular view is incorrect unless you get to hear and evaluate it. Will the truth always win out in a free and open "marketplace"? There are no guarantees, and it means we'll always have to put up with loons and liars. Still, the problems of liberty are invariably less than the problems of prohibiiton.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson rebuts a recent "very silly" NYTop-ed by Cory Doctorow Lobbying Is Not the Decoder Ring of American Politics. Doctorow advocates "antimonopoly" enforcement against Big Tech in order to give them "less lobbying capital". But:

    There are many people who believe that the world of politics looks the way it does because of spending on lobbying. But that is not the case. Apple, for example, spends almost nothing on lobbying: less than $7 million in 2018. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by way of comparison, spent almost $95 million. Relatively big-spending Alphabet, the only of the Internet giants among the top-ten lobbying spenders last year, spent about $21 million. Facebook spent $12.6 million. Add those three firms up and you end up with just a little over half of what the National Association of Realtors spent on lobbying in the same year.

    The tech firms would have to up the spending quite a bit before catching up to George Soros’s Open Society Policy Center or the American Hospital Association.

    You'd think I'd like Cory Doctorow; he's a three-time winner of the Prometheus Award for "libertarian fiction". But I read Little Brother back in 2010 and I thought it was awful. Haven't bothered with him since. And I no longer take the Prometheus Award as a reading recommendation.


  • Cato's Russell Rhine looks at the latest effort by a Democrat presidential candidate to buy his way to office (with other peoples' money) by promising (in this case) student loan forgiveness: Senator Sanders’ Not So Great Free College Proposal. A good point not made often enough:

    If student loans are forgiven, those who borrowed—in some cases irresponsibly—are rewarded, whereas those who paid for their education by making sacrifices are punished. If anything, this would cause resentment and may discourage future responsible financial behavior. If Americans believe that debt is something that can magically be eliminated by government, why not maximize mortgages, car loans, and credit card debt?

    "Indeed".


  • But almost as bad as Bernie's vote-buying is the media reporting of it. At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux shares his letter to the WSJ about its headline: “Sanders Proposes to Wipe Out All Student Debt With Funds Raised From Wall Street." [Emphasis added.] Don lets 'em have it: Raise the Alarm.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders doesn’t propose to retire all student debt with money raised from Wall Street; he proposes to retire this debt with money taken from Wall Street.

    An entrepreneur raises money when she entices venture capitalists voluntarily to risk their own money to back her business plan. A business raises money when it motivates investors voluntarily to buy its shares issued in an IPO. A development officer raises money when he persuades generous souls voluntarily to contribute funds to an institution or cause that the generous souls support. Government, in contrast, doesn’t raise money; it takes money.

    Unlike people who actually raise money, Sanders doesn’t have to creatively present those with money with a win-win proposal. No. Like a thug well-armed, he simply and uncreatively – and with a motivation utterly primitive – seizes other people’s money.

    Don's letter didn't make it into today's WSJ, I just looked.


  • And, speaking of the marketplace of ideas, there are some ideas that you better not mention while kitting. Because (Robby Soave at Reason): Knitting Website Ravelry Bans All Pro-Trump Content.

    Ravelry, a website and forum for the knitting community, announced Sunday that it would no longer allow users to show support for President Trump and his administration, either by speaking in favor of Trump, or by designing Trump-inspired patterns.

    "We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy," wrote Ravelry's site administrators. "Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy."

    Undeniably, huh? Convenient, that. Attempts to deny will get you dropped from the site faster than a bad knitter can drop a stich.

    This is an absurd position to take—no, not everyone who supports Trump is a white supremacist—though the site is free to take it. Ravelry is a privately-owned space, and is within its rights to enforce all kinds of restraints on its users behavior. Anyone who doesn't like this should go find a rival knitting community, or start their own.

    I note that Ravelry's announcement credits a similar announcement from RPGNet, a role-playing game discussion site.

    You'll see a lot of complaints in victimhood culture about "erasure". This is actual erasure.