A Bun Dance 2: Electric Boogaloo

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"Abundance". I confess I'm really beginning to dislike that word. Because apparently people have been yammering about it for years. Behind my back. Without my knowledge.

For example, today's Eye Candy is a video from 2016. Ancient history.

And an Amazon search shows that it's a keyword for all sorts of products pushed by quacks, maniacs, dimwits, and grifters.

I know: this is a classic example of frequency illusion.

Still, as noted a couple days ago, it seems to be showing up more in the sites I visit. For example, at Discourse they have an entire series of articles, kicked off by this one: We Need an Abundance Agenda (from last December).

Policymakers, the commentariat and others in positions of power are waking up to the fact that scarcity is a serious public policy problem. While some of that scarcity comes from technological limitations which will require innovation, a good deal of it is self-inflicted. What is needed is a reversal of the policies that created these scarcity trends. What is needed is an agenda based on abundance.

There's a lot to like there. But why can't people just say: "We need to clear-cut a whole bunch of government regulations that stand in the way of economic growth, innovation, and prosperity." Abundance Agenda? That's just adspeak.

Or, as Christian Britschgi summed up in that article I linked to a couple days back:

The libertarian critique of this vision is that individualistic ends require individualistic means—that is, a free market largely free from state intervention. Supply-side progressives see a big government as a problem and solution. That's a problem in and of itself.

Briefly noted:

  • Jason L. Riley points out an inconvenient truth about Affirmative Action: it's Unpopular, Polarizing, and Ineffective. ("Other than that, though, it's fine!")

    Last year, in anticipation of two Supreme Court cases challenging the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the New York Times ran a story on public opinion of affirmative action. The coauthors queried a dozen college students and were flabbergasted by the responses, though they shouldn’t have been.

    “For those Americans who assume that college students today are left-wing activists who aren’t in touch with the real world, our latest focus group will be especially eye-opening,” the article began. “Rarely have we been as surprised by a focus group as when we asked this racially and socioeconomically diverse group of 12 students whether they supported affirmative action in college admissions. Just one person said yes.”

    The NYT article Riley references is here.

  • But some older folks trapped in a progressive bubble, convinced that they've got a new and spiffy idea that will work this time for sure … well, Alison Somin describes the latest: New executive order will expand race preferences throughout the federal government.

    Individuals should be treated as individuals and not on the basis of their membership in racial groups, especially by our government. Unfortunately, a new executive order encourages federal agencies to focus on racial group identity rather than the character and qualifications of employees and contractors. It will result in racial quotas in hiring, procuring, and even using artificial intelligence throughout the government.

    The executive order’s stated goal is advancing racial equity throughout the federal government. The word “equity” appears 21 times. The order brims with talk about “new action plans to advance equity,” “extending and strengthening equity-advancing requirements for agencies,” and requires agencies to convene “Equity Teams” charged with ensuring that their agencies are “delivering equitable outcomes.”

    I would have loved to be a fly on the wall of the meeting room where someone said: "I know! We'll call it "equity"!" And everyone else went "Ooooo!"

  • I've mentioned "directionalism" a couple times in past posts. Michael Munger makes a (renewed) good case for it: This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Directionalists vs. Destinationists.

    Destinationism insists that any new policy must be the ideal, or oppose it; directionalism is willing to support any move toward the ideal, if the ideal is not on the table as an alternative. Most people take a combination of these views, depending on the context.

    But on almost every major policy question — school choice, tax policy, immigration, and so on — we end up fussing with folks who agree with us on almost everything. Tiny points of doctrine (“vouchers mean the government is still involved, and I reject that!”) become the very fulcrum of the faith. We pursue, but give infidels a free pass.

    That’s why we can’t have nice things, like coherent party platforms or effective political organization. It’s more fun to fight among ourselves. To be fair, this is hardly new. One of the most famous instances of the never-ending “direction vs destination” battle was the “FEE rent-control pamphlet” incident of the late 1940s.

    Munger tells the story of how "two then-young college professors", Milton Friedman and George Stigler, were accused by Rose Wilder Lane(!) of propagating "the most damnable piece of communist propaganda I have ever seen done."

    Good times.

  • David Boaz suggests that libertarians might want to add Quotations Missing from Bartlett's. (There's a new edition of the reference work, heavy on the leftism.) Lots of encapsulated wisdom, including this one from Thomas Sowell:

    The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.

    And of course, P. J. O'Rourke's greatest quote ever:

    Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:27 AM EDT