URLs du Jour

2020-06-02

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson, writing at National Review (warning: NRPLUS), provides a rare exception to Betteridge's law of headlines. Specifically, he asks whether we are Tired of ‘Winning’ Yet?

    He examines the notion that "we" (the good guys) have to act like rat bastards because "they" (the bad guys) act that way.

    Republicans used to be the freedom people: free speech, free trade, free enterprise, free markets, freedom of religion, freedom of association, free to keep and bear arms. Trump and his partisans too often are the opposite of that: the neo-mercantilism people, the wildly expansive government power people, the Orbán toady people, the “total authority” people, the people who complain about abuses of presidential power on Monday and think up implausible excuses for them on Tuesday, the people who conflate corporatism with patriotism, the slanderers, the conspiracy goofs, the shut-down-Twitter-if-Twitter-doesn’t-do-what-we-want people.

    Our friends on talk radio insist that we are one election away from “losing America.” If the president can shut down media he doesn’t like on a whim, then we already have lost it. All that talk of “winning” assumes a prize worth having and champions who deserve it.

    That kind of winning looks a lot like losing.

    I am a lousy predictor, but it's hard to see how things will get better without them getting a whole lot worse first.


  • Bryan Caplan tells us What [He's] Thinking. It's almost certainly better than what I'm thinking. Here's a bit from the middle:

    1. I was convinced that coronavirus was a dire threat by early March, but I opposed the lockdown from day 1.
    2. Why?  Because per Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority, I accept a strong presumption in favor of human liberty.  You cannot rightfully shut businesses and order people to “stay at home” out of an “abundance of caution.”  Instead, the burden is on the advocates of these policies to demonstrate that their benefits drastically exceed their costs – by at least 5:1.  Almost no one even tried to discharge this burden.
    3. Telling government to “err on the side of caution” is a recipe for severe oppression.  Individuals, in contrast, have every right to personally “err on the side of caution.”  In early weeks of the crisis when risk information was scarce, erring on the side of caution was reasonable.

    Note how easy advocates of "caution" (e.g., mandatory mask edicts) have it: if they don't get their way, they can blame any subsequent deaths on failure to follow their advice.

    And in places where their advice is followed, they can always claim that things would have been a lot worse.

    No proof is necessary in either case.


  • At AIER, Doug Bandow points out that as far as economic destruction goes, The Real Looters are the Politicians.

    In Portland, Oregon, “rioters have broken into Portland’s main mall in downtown and began looting the Louis Vuitton. Youths ran out with designer bags. They shouted about expropriation,” as Andy Ngo tweeted. But that state suffered far more from Gov. Kate Brown’s edict that banned residents from leaving their homes except for essential work, buying food, and other narrow exemptions, and also banned all recreational travel, even though much of the state had few if any COVID cases. Almost 400,000 Oregonians have lost their jobs after Brown’s shutdown. 

    In Grand Rapids, Michigan, looters pillaged a shoe store and many other businesses. But the damage they inflicted was not even pocket change compared to the wreckage produced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. She prohibited anyone from leaving their home to visit family or friends. Whitmer severely restricted what stores could sell; she prohibited purchasing seeds for spring planting in stores after she decreed that a “nonessential” activity (unlike buying state lottery tickets). Though COVID infections were concentrated in the Detroit metropolitan area, Whitmer shut down the entire state – including northern counties with near-zero infections and zero fatalities, boosting unemployment to 24% statewide

    At least they've arrested some of the freelance looters. I think. The looters working under the imprimatur of government will go scot-free.


  • At Politico, Rich Lowry notes the amusing libertarian conversion of a former "common good" populist:

    The intellectual fashion among populists and religious traditionalists has been to attempt to forge a post-liberty or “post-liberal” agenda to forge a deeper foundation for the new Republican Party. Instead of obsessing over freedom and rights, conservatives would look to government to protect the common good.

    This project, though, has been rocked by its first real-life encounter with governments acting to protect, as they see it, the common good.

    One of its architects, the editor of the religious journal First Things, R.R. Reno, has sounded like one of the libertarians he so scorns during the crisis. First, he complained he might get shamed if he were to host a dinner party during the height of the pandemic, although delaying a party would seem a small price to pay for someone so intensely committed to the common good.

    More recently, he went on a tirade against wearing masks. Reno is apparently fine with a much stronger government, as long as it never issues public-health guidance not to his liking. Then, it’s to the barricades for liberty, damn it.

    Mr. Reno will probably snap back to populist statism once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, and resume his slander classical liberals.

    As someone says: "A libertarian is a conservative who's been …" Oh, well, let's hand the mic over to Proudhon:

    To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.


  • I am an occasional commenter at Granite Grok, usually just one-offs, but I got into a mini-debate in comments to this article with a guy who claimed "by nearly every indicator, living standards in this country have declined for the vast majority since 1980."

    Since 1980? I assume he dated America's long slog into the cesspool from the election of President Reagan.

    Anyway, I think his claim was ludicrous, and that I got the better of the ensuing argument. But I wish I'd had this article by "gwern" at hand: My Ordinary Life: Improvements Since the 1990s. Not quite 1980, but the list would be longer in that case.

    It's difficult to excerpt, and he doesn't even go into raw economic indicators (inflation, income, employment, …). But bookmark it, and if you ever find yourself nostalgic for the Good Old Days, click over to be cured.


Last Modified 2020-06-02 11:11 AM EDT