Worrying About the Important Stuff

You don't know any of the dozens of people who've touched that before you:

Also of note:

  • Calling a proposal "bipartisan" significantly raises the odds that it's horrible. Joe Lonsdale outlines the latest example: The Graham-Warren Plan to Kill Innovation

    Sens. Lindsey Graham and Elizabeth Warren are teaming up to try to build something called the Digital Consumer Protection Commission—a new federal agency with the power to sue, write rules and even shut down internet platforms.

    RTWT, of course, but let me also quote this bit:

    Ms. Warren has also demanded that Amazon suppress the sale of books offering views that differ from hers on subjects like climate change. She once suggested that the tech and retail giant be broken up after a Twitter spat with its corporate account, saying that antitrust action was needed so that Amazon wouldn’t be “powerful enough to heckle Senators with snotty tweets.” She has shown exactly how she would want a digital regulatory commission to operate. It would use its financial and legal authority to suppress criticism of elected officials, suppress freedom of speech on controversial policy issues, and bully technology companies into obeying every whim of Washington bureaucrats.

    That first link goes to Senator Liz's snitfit about Covid "misinformation". She doesn't quite say that Your Federal Government should be the sole purveyor of misinformation, but she gets pretty close.

  • On that general topic… Virginia Postrel notes: The Power to Regulate Is the Power to Destroy. Principled skeptics of governmental power are tough to find these days:

    Earlier this month, the NYT ran a scary exposé titled “Trump and Allies Forge Plans to Increase Presidential Power in 2025.”

    Mr. Trump and his associates have a broader goal: to alter the balance of power by increasing the president’s authority over every part of the federal government that now operates, by either law or tradition, with any measure of independence from political interference by the White House, according to a review of his campaign policy proposals and interviews with people close to him.

    Mr. Trump intends to bring independent agencies — like the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television and internet companies, and the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces various antitrust and other consumer protection rules against businesses — under direct presidential control.

    It sounds scary because more power for Donald Trump is a scary prospect. Any power for Donald Trump is a scary prospect. He’s an erratic bully.

    On policy merits alone, however, the shock and terror with which sensible centrists like Damon Linker (in a paywalled post) greeted the plan is unwarranted. Regulatory agencies should not be free to wield unchecked power. The president is head of the executive branch of government. If Congress doesn’t want him to enforce regulations, it shouldn’t pass them—doubly so if they’re vague. The 20th-century conceit that a technocratic elite should replace politically accountable appointees is based on the myth of disinterested agreement about the “right kind of civilization.”

    But, as in arguments over freedom of speech, you should never assume that your friends will always be in charge. You also shouldn’t presme that your side is coolly rational. FTC chair Lina Khan and Donald Trump both hate Amazon for reasons of their own. Neither should have the power to exercise their animus under cover of law. If the prospect of Donald Trump possessing a power scares you, consider the possibility that no one should have that power.

    The power to regulate is the power to destroy.

    That's a long quote, but here's another interesting tidbit illustrating the same point:

    Back in 1980, economic historian Peter Temin published a book on pharmaceutical regulation that challenged the way prescriptions evolved into restrictions on consumers. He pointed out that their sole original justification was, in the words of the then-FDA chief, “to make self-medication safe.” The 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act required labels on over-the-counter drugs, but a prescription would free consumers to buy unlabeled drugs. Self-medication was the norm, and the law wasn’t supposed to prevent it. Once the act passed, however, the FDA changed the rules. “The agency moved within six months of the bill’s passage to curtail self-medication sharply,” Temin wrote, “and thereafter used a substantial and increasing proportion of its drug resources to enforce its imposed limitations.”

    VP wrote The Future and its Enemies a quarter century ago and it's still one of the timeliest books on my shelf.

  • Spoiler: it's the help. Kevin D. Williamson describes The Achilles’ Heel of the Rich and Powerful

    As Hunter S. Thompson observed in a different Palm Beach-related scandal many years ago—the infamous Pulitzer divorce case—“The servant problem is the Achilles’ heel of the rich. That is the weak reed, a cruel and incurable problem the rich have never solved—how to live in peace with the servants. Sooner or later, the maid has to come in the bedroom, and if you’re only paying her $150 a week, she is going to come in hungry, or at least curious, and the time is long past when it was legal to cut their tongues out to keep them from talking.”

    The people with whom Trump surrounds himself are … not the “best people,” as he promised. (But if you are surprised that Trump has failed to keep a promise, you should have asked Mrs. Trump, or Mrs. Trump, or Mrs. Trump, for that matter, or maybe Stormy Daniels.) The list is one that a novelist would blush to invent: Mike Pence, the pious fraud who did Trump’s bidding right up until the moment doing so stopped serving his interests and now presents himself as the second coming of St. Francis; Rudy Giuliani, the knee-walking grifter who still remembers enough law that he already has stipulated the falsehood of his stolen-election nonsense—that swill is fine for the slavering proles in the Fox News audience, but even Giuliani wouldn’t try to defend it in court; Roger Stone, literally the kind of cuckold he likes to accuse others of being metaphorically; etc. And now Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, is facing the prospect of time in a federal penitentiary after what reports describe as a truly clownish cloak-and-dagger affair involving “shush” emojis, sneaking through the hedges at Mar-a-Lago, and roping another minion into a scheme to destroy evidence when he did not have the technical chops to get the job done himself. These putzes make the White House Plumbers of Watergate infamy look like the Count of Monte Cristo crossed with Professor Moriarty. Criminal masterminds, they ain’t.

    It's a paywalled Dispatch article, so you'll probably have to pay up to discover why the former chief of staff at Homeland Security described Trump as "incandescently stupid".

    That's the kind of stupid Your Federal Government can't regulate out of existence.

  • Tackling the important questions. WIRED usually specializes in environmental hysteria these days, but they also have physics prof Rhett Allain in their stable of writers: When You Drop a Rock Overboard, What Happens to the Water Level?

    PHYSICS QUESTIONS ARE the most fun when people don't immediately agree on the answer. What feels intuitive or obvious—sometimes isn’t. We can argue over the solution for hours of entertainment, and we might even learn something in the end.

    Here's one of these seemingly obvious questions that's been around a long time: Suppose a large rock is on a boat that is floating in a very small pond. If the rock is dumped overboard, will the water level of the pond rise, fall, or remain unchanged?

    "The answer may surprise you."

Last Modified 2023-08-02 4:44 AM EDT