URLs du Jour


  • Drew Cline at Josiah Bartlett asks: 2020? No, it's 2019, suckers.

    The Legislature opened its session on Wednesday by taking up bills that remain from the previous year, as is its custom. Even with hundreds of leftover bills awaiting disposal, a majority party can set the agenda and tone for a new year on the first days of a session.

    The message coming from Concord this week was crystal clear: 2020 is going to be 2019 all over again.

    The last legislative session was defined by its clashes between the governor and the Democratic majority in the Legislature over the imposition of new costs on employers and consumers, from business tax increases to energy price hikes to costly employer regulations such as mandatory paid leave and large minimum wage increases.

    The House this week signaled that Democrats intend to make the 2020 elections about all of these same issues. They are determined to impose through the legislative process new financial burdens on employers and consumers.

    Click through for the details: mandatory paid family leave; mandatory charges for single-use plastic bags; and a mandatory minimum wage. (Last year's failed bill mandated $12/hr. Apparently deciding that wouldn't destroy enough jobs, Democrats are upping that to $15/hr this year.)

  • At Reason, Ronald Bailey reports on the latest research, which… confirms what you probably already suspected, because that's how confirmation bias works: Facts Still Matter, but They Don’t Change Many Voters’ Minds. You can click over for the details (again) but here's the bottom line:

    In 2016, journalist Salena Zito famously summed up reactions to Trump's constant stream of hyperbole and lies: "The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally." These studies seemy to bolster that idea. As the researchers write, "Trump supporters took fact-checks literally, but not seriously enough to affect how they felt toward their preferred candidate."

    This is disturbing. If politicians suffer essentially no diminution of support from being wrong and/or lying, they'll have no reason to hew to the truth. And the proliferation of lies debases public discourse and inflames partisan passions.

    My take: these studies need to make the philosophical distinction between lies and bullshit.

  • Another worthwhile response to Tyler Cowen's "state capacity libertarianism", this one from David R. Henderson at the Hoover Institution. The Meaning of Libertarianism. On one specific issue:

    Cowen writes, “Many of the failures of today’s America are failures of excess regulation, but many others are failures of state capacity.  Our governments cannot address climate change, much improve K-12 education, fix traffic congestion, or improve the quality of their discretionary spending.  Much of our physical infrastructure is stagnant or declining in quality.” Again, I’ll put climate aside temporarily. But consider K-12 education, which is close to a government monopoly. It’s a particularly insidious monopoly because the government uses tax revenues that allow it to set a price of zero, and when parents either home school or pay tuition to send their children to private schools, they get no break on taxes. That means that if a private school charges a low tuition of, say, $7,000 annually, a parent who values the education at a little more than $7,000 is unlikely to pay that tuition. For it to be worthwhile, the parent must value the education by at least $7,000 more than he or she values the government-provided education. That’s likely the main reason that most parents who could afford private schools for their kids instead send their kids to government schools.

    Government spending on K-12 schools is now at an all-time high, in 2017-18 dollars, of $12,760. Compare that to $9,073 (in 2017-18) dollars just 29 years ago. That’s a real increase of 40.6 percent. Whatever else you can say about the mediocre government schools in America, you can’t attribute the mediocrity to lack of state capacity.

    Cowen writes that “even if you favor education privatization, in the shorter run we still need to make the system better.” I’m not sure that’s true. A case could be made that it’s only when the system gets even worse that people will be more inclined to chuck the government system. But even if it is true, one thing we know is that throwing money at it—oops, I mean increasing state capacity—is not a sure-fire winner. And if you think that we need government in education at all, then I suggest that you read the works of the late education economist Edwin G. West. In his 1965 book, Education and the State, West showed that even in a society where the wealthiest people were substantially poorer than all but our poorest people are today—mid-19th century Britain—education was widespread among all income classes. What’s more, education is what economists call a normal good, a good that we buy more of as our incomes rise. With real incomes being ten to 30 times higher now than 170 years ago, we would, in a free market, buy much more of it.

    Calling US education a "system", I think, attributes to it too much intentional design.

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson (an occasional critic himself) suggests How to Improve Film and TV Criticism. Springing off the all-too-common trope: "Members of oppressed class X have too little screen time (or are portrayed negatively) in movie/TV series Y."

    This is a problem with a technical solution. The film and television business are heavily unionized and regimented, and it would not be terribly difficult to give every actor working in mainstream film and television an intersectionality score (i) on, say, a 100-point scale ranging from Matt Damon to . . . whoever is the dead opposite of Matt Damon. (We could even assign negative scores to Jon Hamm and Chris Pratt.) From there, it would be relatively easy to develop an artificial-intelligence tool to scan every major piece of commercial film and television, automatically tally up how many minutes of screen time (t) each actor has, and produce a score relative to total running time (r) — something simple like (i*t) ÷ r — adding up the scores for each of the actors (perhaps normalizing for cast size) to produce a cumulative quantitative judgment on the work as a whole.

    Who needs film and television critics when AI can do the job?

    Of course, the nation’s newly unemployed film and television critics would be forced to find some new useful occupation, if you’ll forgive my begging the question.


  • And last but not least, my appreciation of actor Michael Shannon got bumped up a few notches by this Tweet.

    You may need to click around a bit to get the full story.