URLs du Jour


  • At Quillette, Jordan Alexander Hill has a bone to pick with Economic Inequality—Populism’s Rallying Cry.

    The flaw in “victimhood populism,” a term coined by writer David French, is that it fails to address the agency and responsibility of the individual, railing instead against a vague, indefinable antagonist. Populism, writes French, “tells a fundamentally false story about Americans as victims of a heartless elite and their ‘worship’ of market economics, rather than the true story of America as a flawed society that still grants its citizens access to tremendous opportunity.”

    The inequality fable is an emotionally satisfying tale filled with pathos and poignance. Yet it is untrue. While it is true that our nation faces a bevy of serious problems—including climate change, opioid and obesity epidemics, a decreasing life expectancy rate, gun violence, the decline of the family (a third of US children are now raised by single parents), and a looming national debt crisis—inequality, it turns out, is not one of them.

    It's increasingly appealing to demagogues of all political stripes to tell their followers: "You're a victim, and I'm here to save you."

  • I've been following Jonah Goldberg's new effort The Dispatch. I'm not sure if they're going to do anything that I'd feel comfortable paying for, but it hasn't been decision time for that as yet. But I get their morning mail, and I'll just snip out a good bit on the latest horror story of Federal Government spending:

    But Tuesday brought another, equally troubling example of the current dysfunction, when the House revealed and summarily passed an enormous government spending package—two monstrous bills, 2,300 pages between them, to the tune of $1.4 trillion—less than 24 hours after lawmakers first got the chance to read it. The Senate is expected to matador it through and Trump is expected to sign it in plenty of time to avoid another government shutdown.

    The president will likely do this despite his pledge in March 2018 to “never sign another bill like” the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill Congress had given him. Splitting the package into two bills was Congress’s way of getting around that threat. We wish we were kidding.

    Of course my CongressCritter, Chris Pappas voted for it, and he was pretty smug about it too:

    As a wise person once said: "Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."

  • At National Review, Robert VerBruggen picks out Five Bad Things in the New Spending Deal. Here's number four:

    Killing the “Cadillac tax.”

    The deal actually kills three health-care taxes in total, including an insurance fee, a tax on medical devices, and what’s known as the “Cadillac tax.” That final tax never went into effect — it was delayed repeatedly and set to go into effect in 2022 — but it addressed an actual problem with health-care funding in this country and deserved to be saved, or at least to be reformed rather than repealed outright.

    The underlying problem here is that when you get health insurance through your employer, it’s tax-free, with no upper limit. This is a bizarre distortion of the market that grew out of wartime price controls, and it encourages employers to offer more and more compensation in the form of health benefits, driving up health costs. The “Cadillac tax” basically caps this tax exclusion, requiring people with especially lavish employer plans to pay taxes on some of this form of compensation. It’s not the best possible fix, but it’s better than nothing.

    The others: (1) more spending all around; (2) Funding for “gun-violence research.”; (3) Raising the smoking age to 21; (5) Continuing the “Export-Import Bank.” Robert says "Ugh" and I concur.

  • Reason contributor Jacob Sullum is unhappy (but also unsurprised) about The FBI’s Systematic Dishonesty.

    Former FBI Director James Comey initially portrayed last week's damning report on the bureau's investigation of alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia as a vindication. This week Comey admitted that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz discovered "real sloppiness," which is "concerning."

    That characterization does not begin to cover the problems described by Horowitz, which yesterday prompted a highly unusual public rebuke from the court that reviews secret warrant applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The FISA court called the FBI's conduct "antithetical to the heightened duty of candor" that applies in such cases.

    I didn't think I'd say this, but there's decent reason to vote for Trump: he's the most likely person to root out (or, more accurately, appoint people who'll root out) the corruption in the FBI's FISA process.

  • Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center finds Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) a bad deal for New Hampshire.

    The TCI organizers projected that their initiative would cause gas taxes to rise by 5-17 cents per gallon if distributors passed the costs on to consumers (which they would). That seemingly small figure would extract billions of dollars from the economy, giving it to governments to distribute to projects that they favor but that consumers might not. In fact, the whole point is to replace consumer and investor choices with those made by government officials.

    The program’s assumed effectiveness relies heavily on the premise that government officials will spend billions of dollars in ways proven to be effective at generating additional carbon reductions. Not only would those projects have to be effective on their own, they would have to be more effective than the choices that otherwise would have been made by business, entrepreneurs and consumers in the absence of the TCI.

    Fortunately, we're not gonna do it.

  • Wired author Virginia Heffernan tells her readers about How We Learned to Love the Pedagogical Vapor of STEM.

    That's kind of a lie, because Virginia doesn't love STEM.

    But STEM: come on. Way worse. The acronym, coined in the early 1990s, is pedagogical vapor. It Pasteur-pipettes into a flask all kinds of clashing and differently scaled fields of study, with no shared methodology or pedagogical tradition. Then STEM Bunsen-burns this brew to ashes and calls the precipitate “progress,” “rigor,” a “competitive edge,” and “gross domestic product.” And now, as parents of school-age kids have been told at least since 2001, STEM requires our reverence and our investment.

    Dear Virginia: you may not want to see common threads among STEM disciplines, but there are a pretty obvious ones: (1) facts, logical processes, objective evidence, and rigor matter more than opinions and feelings; (2) answers can be right or wrong; as a result (3) actual progress can be made in expanding knowledge, unlike fields in which people argue about the same things they were arguing about centuries ago.

    And I'm sorry about the "Dear Virginia" lame joke above, but in my slight defense, 'tis the season.