URLs du Jour

2022-09-10

  • Also a totally pointless tweet, but… I made a totally non-snarky tweet in response to our state's junior senator:

    The "economic report" to which she refers is from the totally unbiased "Seacoast Shipyard Association" (website "saveourshipyard.org"). That report is not on their website as I type but this local newspaper story summarizes it uncritically.

    A lot of good people work at the shipyard, including one of my neighbors. And, yes, many of the defense dollars spent at the shipyard "trickle down" to the betterment of the local economy.

    But to repeat my tweeted point: the "economic report" is the sort of garbage that Frédéric Bastiat debunked back in 1848 with his essay "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen". I won't repeat everything I wrote back in 2017, except to embrace the fallacy (as Bastiat did) and see where it leads us: if defense spending is by its nature so economically beneficial, why don't we put the entire nation to work in it, and get rid of all these fripperies produced by the private economy?

    I won't hold my breath waiting for an answer.


  • Speaking of wisdom from dead authors… David R. Henderson is on an Ayn Rand kick these days, and he chooses one of his favorite segments in her very long book, on: The Aristocracy Of Pull.

    One of Ayn Rand’s best scenes in her novel Atlas Shrugged has her hero Francisco d’Anconia complete the statement of one of her villains with a surprise ending. Villain James Taggart states:

    “We will liberate our culture from the stranglehold of the profit-chasers. We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by—”

    “the aristocracy of pull,” interjects [Francisco] d’Anconia.

    Ayn Rand was getting at two things. First, she was saying that those who make a lot of money in a free society do so by producing goods or services that consumers value highly. But I’m pretty sure, having read almost all her fiction and nonfiction, that Rand would not have accepted the term “aristocracy of money” to describe the laissez-faire economic system she favored. “Aristocracy” normally refers to a form of government in which a small elite calls the shots; Rand wanted a government that called very few shots.

    Second, and more important in this context, Rand was saying that if you replace a society in which people are free to make contracts with one in which the government interferes, inevitably political pull will be more important. So, for example, if a government sets tariffs on certain imports but grants exemptions to some importers, the people and companies that get to be the exempt importers will disproportionately be those who have some connection with the decision makers in government. 

    David has a number of examples, pulled from the headlines.


  • Offering advice that will not be taken. Veronique de Rugy gives it a try: Championing Opportunity is a Winning Strategy for Democrats.

    Today's political parties lack ideas. The Republicans define themselves as opponents of Democrats. Yet many of the GOP economic policy positions resemble, with minor variations, those of Democrats. Meanwhile, the Democrats repeat the same simplistic refrain: "solve" every problem with more money and stricter regulations. How dreary and unproductive.

    To the Democrats in charge right now, let me offer an idea as you try to fight poverty, inequality and corporate influence: Transform yourselves from the party of handouts and regulations into the party of opportunity.

    […]

    Why should Democrats embrace what might sound like conservative talking points? As conservatives encroach more and more into government control over the economy, progressives, who've failed at their traditional approach for decades, have nothing to lose.

    It would be nice if Democrats thought that way. But at least since FDR, their strategy has been to make more people dependent on government for more stuff. Why should they abandon that winning strategy?


  • Democracy in action. At Techdirt, Mike Masnick relates some senatorial hijinx: Amy Klobuchar’s Link Tax Bill Put On Hold Because She Doesn’t Understand Her Own Bill And Ted Cruz Doesn’t Understand The 1st Amendment.

    Earlier today, there was a Senate Judiciary Committee markup on the JCPA the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act put forth by Senator Amy Klobuchar. Last week I wrote a long post about just how broken the bill is. It does almost everything it seeks to do badly, in ways that are genuinely dangerous. That post has the details, but in short: it tries to force big internet companies to pay news organizations for linking to them, which fundamentally changes how the internet works (you should never have to pay to link). While it pretends not to, it fundamentally messes with copyright law, because while it talks about “licensing,” it never explains what these sites need to actually license. That’s because the reality is that they’re trying to license links, news snippets, and headlines. All of those are fair use and require no license. Yet under this bill, they’ll need to be licensed.

    So the bill was already garbage. Masnick goes into further detail, if you're interested. But Ted Cruz (sort of) saved the day:

    Either way, somehow, Ted Cruz, who ranted nonsensically for way too long about “big tech censorship”, got his own amendment to the bill approved by the committee. And… once that happened, Klobuchar insisted that it ruined the bill and basically took her ball and went home, refusing to allow the bill to go for a vote. Of course, it’s unclear how Cruz’s amendment actually does anything here, because he’s (yet again) confused about how the 1st Amendment works, and how it’s the 1st Amendment that allows websites to moderate as they wish.

    It was only via dumb—literally dumb—luck that we were spared further action on Senator Amy's bad bill. There's an argument for electing stupid Republicans, I suppose.


  • We're number … eh, seven. The Fraser Institute has published its latest report on the: Economic Freedom of the World. And yes, the Land of the Free is now the Land of the Somewhat Less Free. The previous annual report had the US in fifth place (behind Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, and Switzerland. In this report, we also fell behind Australia and Denmark, putting us in a precarious seventh.

    And Estonia is nipping at our heels.

    Further note the data is from the pre-Biden year of 2020.

    The authors look hard for the pony hiding in all the horseshit:

    In 2000, the average rating fell to 6.84 in 2020 from 7.00 in 2019—erasing about a decade’s worth of improvement in economic freedom in the world. The policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly contributed to an erosion of economic freedom for most people in 2020. Even after the recent decline, between 2000 and 2020 the average economic-freedom rating increased to 6.84 from 6.59.

    I'm seemingly feeling more pessimistic by the day.


  • Disparate treatment. Tristan Justice has a long enough memory to compare and contrast July 2020 with September 2022 and everything has changed. Biden’s Speech From Hell Was Everything The Media Called Trump’s Address At Mount Rushmore.

    Some might say President Joe Biden’s prime-time speech in Pennsylvania last week amplified “racial division.” Critics could also say the speech featured a president “leaning into the culture wars” to exploit the nation’s historic polarization. Others might even say the speech was “dark and divisive,” where the president accused his political opposition of being a “threat” to “the very soul” of America.

    These descriptors, however, weren’t used to characterize President Biden’s opening message for the November midterms delivered under a blood-red background flanked by marines as his personal stormtroopers. This was how the media portrayed President Donald Trump’s patriotic address to celebrate Independence Day in 2020.

    Among the interesting data points was this widely-circulated AP "news" story, headlined "Trump pushes racial division, flouts virus rules at Rushmore".

    Pun Salad mentioned the Rushmore speech back in 2020: here, here, here, and here. Among the interesting observations therein:

    • Senator Tammy Duckworth complained on CNN that Trump “spent more time worried about honoring dead Confederates” than talking about Covid. In fact, Trump didn't mention Confederates at all.
    • Trump complained about "cancel culture" which was "driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees." Neatly ignoring all the times he demanded that people be fired, and companies be shut down, for doing/saying things he didn't like.


  • And just for the fun of it… Jeff Maurer provides another R-rated rant about one of his pet entertainment peeves: Enough With the Lore, Thank You.

    What follows is just one man’s opinion, and worse yet: I am that man. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from a lifetime of consuming and producing entertainment, it’s that my opinions are not widely shared. When it comes to what’s good and what’s bad, I am a lonely idiot atop a mountain, whispering opinions into an icy wind that will carry my thoughts quickly to oblivion.

    Still, I’m compelled to share this thought: Lore — the explanatory preamble that begins most fantasy tales — is a big bag of hot nothing. It gets in the way of good stories and should be minimized, if not eliminated. We can have tales about elves and dragons and all that fruity mystical crap that people including me love so much, but it would be better if we had it without the lore.

    The proximate cause of this tirade is the fact that I recently watched Elves of the Rings: Power of the Lord of Hobbits (or whatever it is — I refuse to look it up). The show begins by burying the viewer under a big steaming pile o' lore. Before we see Hobbit One, we're told about Morgoth and the Legion of Elves and the exodus from Valinor and the orc diaspora and Sauron and a million other things. It felt like an assignment; it felt like I should be taking notes for a test that the TV show was going to give me later. I find it taxing to feel expected to remember things that were thrown at me quickly in a (still too long) montage. I assume that knowing these things is critical to the story, and if that’s not the case, then why was some elf bending my normal-sized ear with this crap in the first place?

    Maurer makes an interesting observation about that good old Star Wars movie, and that text crawl right at the beginning. Did we really need that to understand what the movie was about to show us?

    (Still, as Maurer says, it was preferable to the text crawl at the start of The Phantom Menace, all about "the rules of Interstellar NAFTA". Heh.)


Last Modified 2022-09-10 4:42 PM EDT