Thursday, September 30, 2004

A Profile of the Past

Drew Barrymore, in the first photo below, is a granddaughter of screen legend John Barrymore (1882-1942), shown in the second photo. She's also a great-niece of another screen legend, Ethel Barrymore (1879-1959), shown in the third and fourth photos. Look at Drew's profile, then at John's and Ethel's. Genetic inheritance at work.






Back to Baseball -- Hyping the Heros

The big news of the moment: Ichiro is within one hit of George Sisler's all-time, single-season record. Ichiro has 256 hits this season; Sisler had 257 in 1920. The difference is that Ichiro is batting .371, whereas Sisler batted .407 when he made his record. And he did it in 154 games, not the 159-plus it will take Ichiro to make the same number.

Remember when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record by hitting his 715th? Well, Ruth hit 714 in 8,399 official at-bats. By the time Aaron got to 714 home runs he already had more than 11,000 official at-bats.

Then there was Pete Rose eclipsing Ty Cobb's all-time record for base hits. Rose surpassed Cobb's record (4,191 hits) but it took him about 2,400 additional at-bats in which to do the trick. That's why Rose's lifetime batting average is only .303 to Cobb's .367.

Wake me up when someone is about to break a real record, like Ty Cobb's lifetime batting average. It'll never happen. I'd better set my alarm clock.

Speaking of the New Washington Baseball Team...

...as I have been in recent posts, "Best of the Web Today" at OpinionJournal.com notes the latest D.C. mania -- naming the new team:
...WTOP radio is inviting listeners to suggest a new name for the Washington team. Among the "most popular" suggestions are Senators, Nationals and Monuments; the "most interesting" include Gridlocks, Filibusters and Ex-Expos.

We got to thinking: There's been a trend recently toward the use of abstract singular nouns as team names: Utah Jazz, Orlando Magic, Colorado Avalanche. This has mostly been a basketball and hockey phenomenon, though baseball does have the Tampa Bay Devilry. Why not click through to this link and cast your vote for calling the team the Washington Kerfuffle?
Not me. I'll vote for the Washington Spend-and-Tax, and nothing less.

Subsidizing Multi-millionaires

I recently expressed some realism about the return of major league baseball to D.C.:
...To succeed financially, the new Washington team must draw well from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Attendance will be high for a few years, because the closeness of major-league baseball will be a novelty to fans who've had to trek to Baltimore to see the increasingly hapless Orioles. But suburbanites' allegiance to the new Washington team won't survive more than a few losing seasons -- and more than a few seem likely, given the Expos' track record. As the crowds wane, suburbanites will become increasingly reluctant to journey into the city. And, so, the taxpayers of D.C. (and perhaps the taxpayers of the nation) are likely to be stuck with an expensive memento of false civic pride.
Now, here's Michelle Malkin:
THE MOTHER OF ALL STADIUM BOONDOGGLES
By Michelle Malkin · September 30, 2004 11:10 AM

The media cheerleading here in the D.C. area over the Expos deal is nauseating. I have nothing against baseball. I have everything against taxpayer-funded sports statism. (A commendable exception to the media slavering over this government rip-off is the Washington Times, whose scathing editorial today is dead-on.)....
And what did the WashTimes have to say? Among other things, this:
...To finance the $440 million project, the District would issue 30-year bonds. Annual debt-service costs would total more than $40 million. Those annual costs would be financed by $21 million to $24 million from a gross-receipts tax imposed on businesses with more than $3 million in annual revenues; $11 million to $14 million from taxes on tickets and stadium concessions; and $5.5 million in rent payments from the ballclub.

The team's owners will receive all the income from ballpark naming rights, which can be quite substantial. The Redskins, whose stadium was privately financed, will receive more than $200 million over 27 years from Federal Express. It is outrageous for taxpayers to be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 30 years while the taxpayer-subsidized owners pocket perhaps hundreds of millions more for the naming rights of a ballpark they received as a gift. Should such a travesty come to pass, it would be the real legacy of Mayor Williams.
And just wait until fans start staying away in droves and the team's owners lobby for better terms. Won't the taxpayers of D.C. be happy then?

"Sick" Isn't the Right Word...

...for the sub-species of the lowest form of life responsible for this:
Pair of Car Bombs in Iraq Kill Dozens, Including Many Children
By DEXTER FILKINS

Published: September 30, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 30 — In one of the most horrific attacks here since the fall of Saddam Hussein, a pair of car bombs tore through a street celebration today at the opening of a new government-built sewer plant, killing 41 Iraqi civilians, at least 34 of them children, and wounding 139 people.

The bombs exploded seconds apart, creating a chaotic scene of dying children and grieving parents, some of them holding up the blood-soaked clothes of their young, and howling in lament. Arms and legs lay amid pools of blood, with some survivors pointing to the walls of the sewer plant, now spattered with flesh....
Does anyone think there would be less of this if the U.S. were to cut and run from Iraq? Well, there might eventually be less of it if the Ba'athists who are behind it were to retake power. Then the atrocities would go on as before -- behind the scenes, where the squeamish of the world could pretend that nothing is amiss.

To paraphrase President Bush: You're either for decency or you're against it. And if you're for it you sometimes have to fight for it. And the fight often is unpleasant. But the alternative is surrender to the forces of evil. And I do mean evil -- of the sort that was unleashed against the children of Baghdad today.

Thinking Ahead to '08

UPDATED BELOW

Here's a scenario: Bush is re-elected. Iraq slowly progresses economically and politically. Other rogue nations (Syria, Iran, N. Korea) are tamed by military action or the fear of it. The economic recovery looks like a replay of the 1990s (if not better). Deficits are no longer an issue because tax revenues rise with the recovery. Social Security reform is underway, and there are good prospects for Medicare reform.

Upon Bush's re-election, Edwards and Clinton (of the female gender) instantly become the leading contenders to head the Democrat ticket in '08. By '08 they will have spent almost four years exposing their left-wing positions to the country and bashing each other. Out of that wreckage a less compelling nominee might crawl.

Thus, given my scenario, Republicans should be able to hold onto the White House simply by putting up someone -- not named Bush -- whose politics are to the right of the Democrat nominee's.

Hold that thought.

UPDATE:
What about Barack Obama? Too young and inexperienced to be a candidate in '08. But if Repubs hold the White House in '08, look for Obama in '12.

Dribble from Drabble

Margaret Drabble remains a favorite author, in spite of dribble like this:
My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux, that fashionable American sickness.
Unlike John the Square, Drabble has kept her anti-Americanism out of her fiction -- except in mild, typically Brit-snob doses. My tolerance has limits, however. She goes off my list of favorite authors when her novels become hysterically anti-American, like John the Square's Absolute Friends. So presposterous I couldn't finish it. Nor will I link to it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Kerry's Slave-Labor Plan and Shell Game

Kerry's website used to carry a statement about his position on national service. The statement was taken off the site, but intrepid (no doubt pajama-clad) bloggers have found a cached version. Here's a bit of it, courtesy Say Anything:
As President, John Kerry will ensure that every high school student in America performs community service as a requirement for graduation. This service will be a rite of passage for our nation’s youth and will help foster a lifetime of service. States would design service programs that meet their community and educational needs. However, John Kerry does not believe in unfunded mandates. No state would be obligated to implement a service requirement if the federal government does not live up to its obligation to fund the program.
So, Kerry would make slave laborers of high-school students. But he wouldn't make the States fund the slave-labor program. No, he'd simply ship the money to the States from Washington, D.C., where money grows on trees. Oops, no, that's not it; Washington's money comes from the citizens of the very States that he'd ship the money to. Nice try, John, but we've seen that move before.

I Demand a Recount

According to a story at news.telegraph.co.uk, everyone now alive on Earth -- all six billion of us -- is descended from a person who lived only 3,500 years ago:
We are all related to man who lived in Asia in 1,415BC
By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent
(Filed: 30/09/2004)

Everyone in the world is descended from a single person who lived around 3,500 years ago, according to a new study.

Scientists have worked out the most recent common ancestor of all six billion people alive today probably dwelt in eastern Asia around 1,415BC.

Although the date may seem relatively recent, researchers say the findings should not come as a surprise.

Anyone trying to trace their family tree soon discovers that the number of direct ancestors doubles every 20 to 30 years. It takes only a few centuries to clock up thousands of direct ancestors.

Using a computer model, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology attempted to trace back the most recent common ancestor using estimated patterns of migration throughout history.

They calculated that the ancestor's location in eastern Asia allowed his or her descendants to spread to Europe, Asia, remote Pacific Islands and the Americas. Going back a few thousand years more, the researchers found a time when a large fraction of people in the world were the common ancestors of everybody alive today - while the rest were ancestors of no one alive. That date was 5,353BC, the team reports in Nature....
Got that? Here's what I take from it: There was a guy living 3,500 years ago who's the common ancestor of everyone now living. (His mate should be our common ancestress, but maybe he had more than one mate.) Anyway, that guy was descended from a bunch of people who are, therefore, our common ancestors, too. But a big bunch of people -- everyone else living 3,500 years ago, and all their ancestors -- don't have any living descendants. I guess you could say their genes faded.

(Thanks to Captain Ed for the tip.)

Reveries

Sleep rarely eludes me, but when it does I take a mental trip to the past...to the golden past of boyhood, where all the days are sunny and summery, or Christmas-y.

I stand on the sidewalk in front of the first house I lived in. There it is, a cream-colored, clapboard, two-story house with a small detached garage to the right. It sits on a corner lot of some size on a tree-lined street. An alley runs behind it. The street at the front and to the left side of the house are unpaved, as were many streets in that small city where I was a boy in the 1940s.

The porch runs the width of the house. I walk up the steps to the porch and enter the front door, which opens into the living room. With sunlight streaming through the windows, I wander through the living room to the dining room and kitchen. I go out the back door to the enclosed back porch, from which I can see the garage and the back yard.

I return to the house and venture to the basement, with its huge, coal-fired furnace, coal bin, and my father's work shop. I go back up -- and then up again, climbing the stairs to the second story -- the stairs with a wrought-iron railing. I reach the upper hallway and visit, in turn, the three sunny bedrooms and the black-and-white tiled bathroom.

Yes, it was a modest house. But it was the first place I thought of as home, and it's a place that still seems golden in my memories. By the time my mental tour is complete, I am ready for sleep.

At other times I remember my grandmother's house in a small, lakeside village about 90 miles north of where I grew up. Her modest, two-story bungalow sat on a deep lot that backed up to open fields where doves cooed as I awoke on sunny, summer mornings to the smell of bacon frying. My favorite room was the kitchen, with its massive woodstove and huge, round, oak table, around which my grandmother, parents, and various aunts and uncles would sit after a meal, retelling and embellishing tales from the past.

Click here to read the full post.

On the Eve of the First Debate

I think betting markets are better than polls at predicting election outcomes. Nevertheless, here's a fairly accurate depiction of the state of the Bush-Kerry race (from realclearpolitics.com):

What's Wrong with Canada?

The New York Times asks -- and fails to answer -- that question in "Canada's Prophets of Pessimism (Is It the Weather?)." The article hints at the problem by noting that
The country...has seemingly come to define greatness by how much money it sinks into health care or day care. Even so, education budgets are shrinking and there is brain drain of doctors and other professionals to the United States.
And why? Because Canada has become something of a socialist paradise, along the lines of East Germany. Then, there's rampant suppression of speech. And a lot more.

How to Write a Headline about Iraq

The New York Times loves to editorialize in its headlines. Here's one from this morning: "Iraq Study Sees Rebels' Attacks as Widespread." I think the message we're supposed to take from that selective bit of information is this:

Nyah-nyah-na-nyah-nyah.

Or this:

Cut and run.

Actually, the article goes on to attain a degree of balance:
...The number of attacks has risen and fallen over the months....[T]he highest numbers were in April, when there was major fighting in Falluja, with attacks averaging 120 a day. The average is now about 80 a day....

But it is a measure of both the fog of war and the fact that different analysts can look at the same numbers and come to opposite conclusions, that others see a nation in which most people are perfectly safe and elections can be held with clear legitimacy....

Indeed, no raw compilation of statistics on numbers of attacks can measure what is perhaps the most important political equation facing Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and the American military: how much of Iraq is under the firm control of the interim government. That will determine the likelihood - and quality - of elections in January.

For example, the number of attacks is not an accurate measure of control in Falluja; attacks have recently dropped there, but the town is controlled by insurgents and is a "no go" zone for the American military and Iraqi security forces. It is a place where elections could not be held without dramatic political or military intervention.

The statistics show that there have been just under 1,000 attacks in Baghdad during the past month; in fact, an American military spokesman said this week that since April, insurgents have fired nearly 3,000 mortar rounds in Baghdad alone. But those figures do not necessarily preclude having elections in the Iraqi capital.

Pentagon officials and military officers like to point to a separate list of statistics to counter the tally of attacks, including the number of schools and clinics opened. They cite statistics indicating that a growing number of Iraqi security forces are trained and fully equipped, and they note that applicants continue to line up at recruiting stations despite bombings of them.

But most of all, military officers argue that despite the rise in bloody attacks during the past 30 days, the insurgents have yet to win a single battle.

"We have had zero tactical losses; we have lost no battles," said one senior American military officer. "The insurgency has had zero tactical victories. But that is not what this is about.

"We are at a very critical time," the officer added. "The only way we can lose this battle is if the American people decide we don't want to fight anymore."...
It will be a Vietnam if we decide to make it a Vietnam. But not otherwise.

Think of the headline the Times might have run: "Iraq Progressing Despite Insurgency; Fate Hinges on Americans' Resolve." Now that is editorializing in a headline.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Baseball in the Nation's Capital

The original Senators stuck it out from 1901 through 1960. (Washington: first in war, first in peace, last in the American League.) That team moved to Minnesota, where there was a long tradition of high-grade minor league baseball to sustain it. A pennant in 1965 also helped get the team off to a good start with local fans.

The expansion Senators started up in 1961 and lasted through the 1971 season. That team moved to Arlington, Texas, smack in the middle of the hugely populated Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. The size of the fan base helped to sustain the Rangers until the team finally got into post-season play in 1996.

Now the failed Montreal Expos seem to be headed to D.C. The transplanted Expos will spend a few years in old D.C. Stadium, due east of the Capitol building (but far from the gentrified precincts of Capitol Hill). The team will then move to a new park on the Anacostia River in southeast D.C.

To succeed financially, the new Washington team must draw well from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Attendance will be high for a few years, because the closeness of major-league baseball will be a novelty to fans who've had to trek to Baltimore to see the increasingly hapless Orioles. But suburbanites' allegiance to the new Washington team won't survive more than a few losing seasons -- and more than a few seem likely, given the Expos' track record. As the crowds wane, suburbanites will become increasingly reluctant to journey into the city. And, so, the taxpayers of D.C. (and perhaps the taxpayers of the nation) are likely to be stuck with an expensive memento of false civic pride.

P.S. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos has to be bought off. He doesn't want a National League team 40 miles from his American League team. Mmmm...remember when Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis had a team in each league? In fact, New York had two National League teams -- one in Manhattan (the Giants) and one in Brooklyn (the Dodgers). Not only that, but for many years the teams in Philadelphia and St. Louis shared stadiums.

Junk-Food Addict

Bruce Springsteen: "I am a dedicated Times reader, and I've found enormous sustenance from Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd on the op-ed page."

I've always found his music boring. Now I know why. His idea of intellectual fulfillment is the equivalent of a quarter-pounder with greasy fries.

Democracy vs. Liberty

A point worth pondering, from a review by John B. Judis of Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom:
...Zakaria argues that the United States suffers from an excess of democracy, which is threatening liberty. The analysis appears to come full circle -- liberty leads to democracy and democracy ends up undermining liberty, prompting him to call for "a restoration of balance" between them....
A return to constitutional principles would do the trick. But how to get there?

Fear of Corporate Power

Arnold Kling, writing at Tech Central Station, spells out the right way to deal with "corporate power":
...One of the differences between Sweetwater and Saltwater economists concerns monopoly. On the left, saltwater economists tend to share [the] view that government is the logical check on corporate power. On the right, sweetwater economists believe that government naturally allies with large interests, so that more government involvement tends to strengthen the hand of the corporate giants and weaken the position of consumers and small businesses.

My own reading of history is that it supports the Sweetwater point of view. Once an industry becomes regulated, economic competition dries up, to be replaced by lobbyist infighting. The profit center moves from the market to Washington, and resources shift accordingly.

Corporate power is a bad thing. I like to see big corporations humbled by innovation and competition.

But fear of corporate power can be a worse thing. Politicians play up that fear, because they are eager to intervene. However, it seems to me that government interventions do not wind up reining in corporations, and the net result is to leave ordinary individuals less powerful than in a less-regulated environment....
No form of legislation has done more to harm consumers -- and to shackle the economy -- than anti-trust legislation.

Libertarians and Individualism

Tom G. Palmer of the Cato Institute -- neither being at the top of my libertarian hit parade -- actually says something I can endorse:
...Libertarians recognize the inevitable pluralism of the modern world and for that reason assert that individual liberty is at least part of the common good. They also understand the absolute necessity of cooperation for the attainment of one’s ends; a solitary individual could never actually be "self-sufficient," which is precisely why we must have rules--governing property and contracts, for example--to make peaceful cooperation possible and we institute government to enforce those rules. The common good is a system of justice that allows all to live together in harmony and peace; a common good more extensive than that tends to be, not a common good for "all of us," but a common good for some of us at the expense of others of us....

The issue of the common good is related to the beliefs of communitarians regarding the personality or the separate existence of groups. Both are part and parcel of a fundamentally unscientific and irrational view of politics that tends to personalize institutions and groups, such as the state or nation or society....

Group personification obscures, rather than illuminates, important political questions. Those questions, centering mostly around the explanation of complex political phenomena and moral responsibility, simply cannot be addressed within the confines of group personification, which drapes a cloak of mysticism around the actions of policymakers, thus allowing some to use "philosophy"--and mystical philosophy, at that--to harm others.

Libertarians are separated from communitarians by differences on important issues, notably whether coercion is necessary to maintain community, solidarity, friendship, love, and the other things that make life worth living and that can be enjoyed only in common with others. Those differences cannot be swept away a priori; their resolution is not furthered by shameless distortion, absurd characterizations, or petty name-calling.

Perfect Understanding

Melana Zyla Vickers writes "About That National Intelligence Estimate..." at Tech Central Station:
The important thing about the now infamous National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is not so much what it says, but rather what it reveals about how different politicians might use it.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Colin Powell told TV watchers that the estimate that appeared in the press almost two weeks ago "wasn't a terribly shocking assessment. It was something that I could have written myself." ...

Here's a reminder of how the New York Times first described it:
The estimate outlines three possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005, with the worst case being developments that could lead to civil war, the officials said. The most favorable outcome described is an Iraq whose stability would remain tenuous in political, economic and security terms.
The 'one hand, other hand' analysis is what one would expect from an institution that has been pilloried lately for drawing firm but incorrect conclusions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And from an institution that was pilloried in the past for other errors in judgment: The CIA got the size of the Soviet economy wrong. It got the fall of the Shah of Iran wrong. It failed to predict India's detonation of a nuclear weapon.

Indeed, intelligence analysis more often than not has a heavy quotient of C-Y-A. The ambivalence isn't motivated only by analysts' self-preservation instincts. It's also motivated by the fact that predicting world events with certainty is impossibly hard.
As I said, here, "The CIA is...trying to lower expectations about the future of Iraq. Thus its new -- "pessimistic" -- intelligence estimate." Vickers continues:
Which is why it's not enough for a president to make foreign policy based on "hard evidence," to quote John Kerry's Democratic convention speech. Rather, a president has to make foreign policy based on his convictions, his judgment, and his will.

Kerry doesn't agree with that: "As President, I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system -- so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics. And as President, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to."

To complete Kerry's thought, the U.S. would "have to" go to war if and only if the president had "hard evidence" of such a need.

Kind of like the hard evidence Kerry's foreign-policy brains trust -- Sandy Berger, Madeleine Albright, Bill Cohen -- wanted to have before going after Osama bin Laden. In their 9/11 Commission testimony, those officials regularly cited the lack of actionable intelligence as their reason for doing nothing.

Consider that the Clinton administration never launched a military attack against the terrorist group after it bombed the U.S.S. Cole on Oct. 12, 2000, killing 17 U.S. sailors. CENTCOM commander Gen. Tommy Franks presented the administration with 14 military options, according to the commission staff report. But Clinton's SecDef Cohen said that "we did not have specific information that this was bin Laden" (attacking the Cole) and that military retaliation against Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan "would not have been effective." The administration also resisted sending special forces to Afghanistan.

In another instance, Clinton administration NSC Adviser Samuel Berger and counterterrorism group chair Richard Clarke decided in 1996 not to bring Bin Laden to the U.S. from his hideout in Sudan. There was no legal basis for bringing him to the U.S. nor holding him here, Berger told the commission. Berger, a lawyer, said he was not aware of any intelligence that bin Laden was responsible for any act against a U.S. citizen, and consequently bin Laden could not be indicted.

There's no reason to believe that John Kerry -- ambivalent about his own personal likes and dislikes, let alone questions of war -- would be any less paralyzed than these pols were.

The Iraq National Intelligence Estimate gives Americans a pretty good illustration of the limits of intelligence. And Kerry's foreign-policy philosophy gives Americans a pretty good illustration of how, armed with such intelligence, he and his advisors would do absolutely nothing.
I discussed Kerry's analysis paralysis recently. It's pathological.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Carter's Election Strategy

It's simple: Preemptively discredit the outcome in Florida. From BBC News:
Florida officials stand by ballot

Election officials in Florida have rejected a suggestion that the state's preparations for the presidential election are seriously flawed.

Jimmy Carter, the former US president and veteran election monitor, predicted polling in the key state would be neither free nor fair....

Mr Carter said that Florida's top election official in 2004, Glenda Hood, showed "strong bias".

He accused of her of favouring Republicans by trying to get the name of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader included on the state ballot, knowing he might divert Democrat votes.

The former president also alleged that an attempt had been made to disqualify black Americans more likely to vote Democrat on the basis of criminal records....
Hey, Jimmy, even the Florida Supreme Court, not known as a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, said that Nader should be on the ballot. But I guess it's "un-Democratic" to offer citizens too many choices.

As for the charge about disqualifying black Americans with criminal records. You don't want to open that bucket of worms, do you, Jimmy?

Race and Acceptance

In some recent posts I have touched on racial discrimination and the law (here, here, here, and here). Now comes an article by Richard Dawkins ("Race and creation," Prospect Magazine, October 2004), noted ethologist (a biologist who explores and explains the nature of animal behavior). Dawkins writes:
...It is genuinely true that, if you measure the total variation in the human species and then partition it into a between-race component and a within-race component, the between-race component is a very small fraction of the total. Only a small admixture of extra variation distinguishes races from each other. That is all correct. What is not correct is the inference that race is therefore a meaningless concept....

Interobserver agreement suggests that racial classification is not totally uninformative, but what does it inform about? About things like eye shape and hair curliness. For some reason it seems to be the superficial, external, trivial characteristics that are correlated with race - perhaps especially facial characteristics. But why are human races so different in just these superficially conspicuous characteristics? Or is it just that we, as observers, are predisposed to notice them? Why do other species look comparatively uniform whereas humans show differences that, were we to encounter them elsewhere in the animal kingdom, might make us suspect we were dealing with a number of separate species?

The most politically acceptable explanation is that the members of any species have a heightened sensitivity to differences among their own kind. On this view, it is just that we notice human differences more readily than differences within other species....

...We are indeed a very uniform species if you count the totality of genes, or if you take a truly random sample of genes, but perhaps there are special reasons for a disproportionate amount of variation in those very genes that make it easy for us to notice variation, and to distinguish our own kind from others. These would include the genes responsible for externally visible "labels" like skin colour. I want to suggest that this heightened discriminability has evolved by sexual selection, specifically in humans because we are such a culture-bound species. Because our mating decisions are so heavily influenced by cultural tradition, and because our cultures, and sometimes our religions, encourage us to discriminate against outsiders, especially in choosing mates, those superficial differences that helped our ancestors to prefer insiders over outsiders have been enhanced out of all proportion to the real genetic differences between us....

...Different languages, religions and social customs can serve as barriers to gene flow. From here,...random genetic differences simply accumulate on opposite sides of a language or religion barrier, just as they might on opposite sides of a mountain range. Subsequently,...the genetic differences that build up are reinforced as people use conspicuous differences in appearance as additional labels of discrimination in mate choice, supplementing the cultural barriers that provided the original separation....
And here we are, locked into differences that took eons to mature and are now deeply seated in human nature. Those differences will not disappear quickly or easily, as long as physically identifiable groups persist in clinging, overtly and defiantly, to their own languages and social customs. Asians have been quicker to assimilate the language and social customs of white America than have blacks and Hispanics. But all who have chosen to assimilate -- Asian, black, and Hispanic -- have been more readily accepted into the mainstream of American society, to their social and economic benefit.

There is only so much the white majority in America can do to erode racial barriers through the law. The minority, if it wants social acceptance, has to move closer to the mainstream in its languages and customs.

Favorite Posts: Affirmative Action and Race

Epstein's Freedom, Revisited

Yesterday, in response to a post by Tim Sandefur at Freespace, I posed five questions about Richard Epstein's new book, Skepticism and Freedom. Sandefur and Jonathan Rowe, writing at jonrowe.blogspot.com, have addressed the questions, here and here. Herewith, the five questions (italicized), followed by excerpts of Sandefur's and Rowe's responses:

1. In light of Epstein's belief that we ought to be highly skeptical of the idea that an outside party has better knowledge about the choices (and the benefits from them) that a person makes, how does Epstein reckon that the state, as an outside party, is able to determine that the parties to a forced exchange will be better off as a result of the exchange?

Sandefur:
The issue is one of valuation—if third parties can’t compute value for the two contracting parties, how can the state know that a forced exchange will leave them worse off? This challenge echoes Randy Barnett’s challenge to Epstein in their recent debate in the pages of Reason magazine. Although Epstein didn’t really answer, I think one answer would be that the value isn’t always indecipherable. People are often able to put a money value on their losses, including the loss of their rights. In theory, just compensation would leave parties no worse off, even in their own eyes. (One major problem in eminent domain is that the erosion of the public use clause necessarily undercompensates, in addition to its other negative effects.) Epstein would probably say that in many cases people can tell you whether they’re worse off or not. True, this subjectivism could exacerbate holdout problems, but it’s at least a partial answer. Also, suppose everyone in the state agrees to the proposition that dollars shall be legal tender for subjective losses. If they do that, then it might be perfectly fine for the state to measure people’s losses in money values, and decide that they’re better off when those money values rise, even in the face of a person claiming that he’s been wronged.
2. What happens to the transactions costs that (presumably) keep the parties from undertaking an exchange that the state decides to force? Do the costs simply vanish or does the state (that is, taxpayers) defray them?

Sandefur:
[J]ust compensation would make up the transaction costs (which, presumably, would be lower anyway for the state than for the parties themselves, since in Epstein’s view, the lower transaction costs for the state are a primary justification for state action to begin with), and that compensation would come from flat taxation.
3. Is Epstein's concept of forced exchange a justification of the integration of commerce (e.g., forcing whites to accommodate blacks at hotels, restaurants, etc., and forcing whites to offer houses to black as well as white buyers)?

Sandefur:
[See no. 4: ED.]
4. If Epstein's concept of forced exchange justifies the integration of commerce, how does the state account for the preference of whites not to trade with blacks, or does the state simply regard that preference as illegitimate?

Sandefur:
Epstein doesn’t, so far as I know, use his forced exchange principle to justify curbs on private racial discrimination—but, as I said, I haven’t read Forbidden Grounds, so perhaps Jonathan Rowe knows better than I....
Rowe:
Let me note two points that Epstein makes in Forbidden Grounds (a polemic against anti-discrimination laws). First, like me, Epstein doesn’t believe that the pattern of segregation that we saw in the Jim Crow south could have persisted absent enforcement by state and local governments. He notes the efforts of segregationists to restrict the black vote as powerful evidence of this. “Without ironclad white political control, someone, somewhere would have tried to gain entry into local markets, given the supra competitive returns.” (Epstein, Postscript, 8 Yale Law & Policy Rev. at 331).

In those areas of life where explicit ordinances demanding segregation weren’t present, private violence enforced the color line and the Jim Crow governments let that violence go by refusing, in violation of the 14th Amendment, to enforce the “equal protection of the laws.” Moreover, Epstein points outs that state governments could also enforce collateral restrictions against such firms that bucked the color line—taxes, zoning permits, health inspections, and the like, “could be brought to bear on firms that did not toe the line set by Jim Crow.” (Epstein, Forbidden Grounds, at 246.)

Yet, Epstein would indeed be willing to allow for the existence of anti-discrimination laws in the private sector so long as they were Pareto justified. But the problem is, according to Epstein, they clearly aren’t. Much of Forbidden Grounds and his law review articles on the subject were written to demonstrate this....
5. If the state chooses to treat the preference of whites as illegitimate, by what criterion does the state judge the legitimacy of the preferences of parties to a forced exchange being contemplated by the state?

Sandefur:
[This] question confuses me a bit. I think one problem is that Epstein’s not arguing that these preferences are illegitimate, or even that the state should ignore them. He’s saying that the state could adopt a forced exchange: that is, force a new state of affairs on the world while compensating those who would prefer otherwise, in most cases. But this raises the spectre of the protection racket—that is, people will demand compensation for refraining from doing things they had no right to do. Epstein sees this problem, but I don’t think he has sufficiently answered it, at least, not in Skepticism And Freedom....

The best solution that Epstein offers in his context is to “den[y] the monopolist the absolute right to exclude by requiring him to supply his goods or services, not at whatever price he [can] fetch, but only at reasonable prices”—that is, he introduces a notoriously vague term which brings up all sorts of extra problems. Are those problems so bad that the cure is worse than the disease? I don’t think so, in the context of segregation, but as [the author of Liberty Corner] says, it’s awfully hard to draw the line, once we’ve conceded the state’s authority to force whites to accommodate blacks. Good intentions can then go terribly awry, as we all know.
Both Sandefur's and Rowe's posts are worth reading in their entirety. Again, they're here and here.

Favorite Posts: Affirmative Action and Race

Time Out for Baseball

I first paid attention to a radio broadcast of a major league baseball game in about 1947. My grandmother, who was a die-hard fan of the Detroit Tigers, would tune in the Tigers' games when she could pick up the signal of WXYZ, a Detroit station about 150 miles distant from her small lakeside village atop Michigan's "thumb". (If you didn't know that Michigan has a thumb, look at a map.)

Anyway, at that time Detroit's play-by-play announcer and baseball analyst, rolled into one, was Harry Heilmann -- not a household name these days, but a former Detroit great who was a four-time American League batting champ in the 1920s. The Tigers, by default, became the team I rooted for until I switched my allegiance to the (gasp!) New York Yankees about 30 years later. (That's another story.)

I'm reciting this bit of personal trivia just to let you know how long I've been a baseball fan. Because...when I opened the sports section of today's paper to the baseball standings, I was struck by this fact: Each of the teams that now lead baseball's six divisions (three in the American League, three in the National League) represents a franchise that was established before major league baseball began to expand after the 1960 season. From 1901 through 1960, there were 16 major league baseball teams (that number has since grown to 30). In fact, from 1903 through 1952 those 16 teams stayed put. And they stayed put in relatively few cities: Boston (one American League team, one National League team), New York (one AL team, two NL teams, including Brooklyn), Philadelphia (one AL, one NL), Pittsburgh (one NL), Washington (one AL), Cleveland (one AL), Cincinnati (one NL), Detroit (one AL), Chicago (one AL, one NL), and St. Louis (one AL, one NL).

Now, the six division-leading teams are:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
New York Yankees (what a surprise!), representing a franchise that has been in New York City since 1903. (The New York franchise replaced an original American League team known as the...Baltimore Orioles.)

Minnesota Twins, formerly the Washington Senators (1901-60).

Oakland Athletics, formerly the Philadelphia Athletics (1901-54) and the Kansas City Athletics (1955-68).

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Atlanta Braves, formerly the Boston Braves (1876-1952) and the Milwaukee Braves (1953-65).

St. Louis Cardinals, in business since 1892.

Los Angeles Dodgers, formerly (of course) the Brooklyn Dodgers (1890-1957). And here's where the Dodgers played, from 1913 through 1957 -- famed Ebbets Field:



Oh, and here's Harry Heilmann, in his playing days:

Lileks Nails the Sunday Times Set

I used to subscribe to the Sunday edition of The New York Times. I quit when I got tired of being pounded by a point of view, in every damned section (even Sports). I hung on until I found that I no longer enjoyed the Magazine. Then I quit taking the Sunday Times and did my bit to prevent deforestation. James Lileks knows whereof I speak:
The Sunday Times is the weekly sermon: let us reinforce your world view, your sense of belonging to the Thinking Class, the Special Ones....Anyway, it’s a sunny fall morning – well, noonish. Now comes the capstone moment when you lay the slab of the Times in your lap and begin the autoposy of the week. Scan the A section headlines - yes, yes, yes, appalling. Scan the metro: your eyes glaze. The arts section – later. Travel – Greece again? Good for Greece....No comics . . . there was always comics on Sunday back home. But that was IOWA, for heaven’s sake, what else would you expect but Blondie and Ziggy and the rest . . . ah.

The Magazine.

Let’s begin! A little humorous piece – not funny haha funny, but, you know, arch, which is very urbane. Then there’s an essay on words, which is wonderful because you love words, and then a big serious piece about that horrible situation the administration isn’t doing anything about. You’ll read it later – skim the pull quotes for now. Best of all are the ads, because you really wouldn’t want to wear any of that stuff but it’s fun to look at....

(The New York Times Sunday Magazine is placed on the top of the toilet tank)

(The New York Times Sunday Magazine slides off the toilet tank, reminding you why you don’t put it there)

(The New York Times Sunday Magazine is strategically placed on the coffee table to alert anyone who comes into your flat that you read the New York Times Sunday Magazine)

(One week later, unread and unobserved, it is replaced by another edition. Cover story: global climate change and tourism threatens biodiversity in Antarctica. But you suspected as much. The whole world is going to hell. Except for New York. New York is fabulous. It just has to be.)

(Two weeks later: none of your friends are bloggers and none of your friends read blogs. So nevermind.)
But then there was the Book Review, which I kept taking (by mail) for a few more years. Then the Book Review began to get ever more serious -- less fiction, more "relevance" -- and ever more stridently left-wing -- with a few libertarian-conservatives thrown into the mix, just for fun, in the spirit of "let's show our compassion to the masses by inviting some anti-globalist protesters to our black-tie party." Well, I quit taking the Book Review, too.

So, I've kicked the Times habit, and I wake up every morning feeling better about myself.

Fighting Myths with Facts

REVISED AND RE-DATED

Liberals and deluded economists (the same thing) constantly decry the fact that one-fifth of the nation's households are in the lowest 20 percent of the income distribution. (A quasi-intellectual joke -- get it?)

Anyway, there's this clamor for someone (namely taxpayers) to do something (namely redistribute income or simply tax higher earners to provide expensive and needless training, healthcare, and daycare programs for low earners). Many sensible economists (a rare breed) know better. They know two important facts:

1. There's a lot of up and down movement in the distribution of incomes.

2. Even those who stay near the bottom of the income distribution are a lot better off than they used to be.

The first pont is illustrated by these data* from a panel of families surveyed in 1975 and again in 1991 (income quintile in 1975 and percentage that had moved to the top two quintiles in 1991):

Lowest Fifth - 59% moved to the top two quintiles

Second Fifth - 52% "

Middle Fifth - 49% "

Fourth Fifth - 70% remained in the top two quintiles

Highest Fifth - 86% "

The second point is illustrated by this** graphic:


__________
* Source: Myths of Rich & Poor, W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm, via Arnold Kling, writing at Tech Central Station.)

** Source: The Washington Post, via Wizbang.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Determination

That's the title of a piece by Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker. Some key points:
...America’s strategic vision and will to use force are also hugely important to the tyrants who oppose us. Ask Colonel Gadhafi of Libya, who has voluntarily surrendered his nuclear arms program. Strangely enough, Senator Kerry has nothing to say about this when denouncing Iraq as the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Contrary to what Americans are being told relentlessly, our forces in Iraq are not posted there to serve as targets for Islamist terrorists. Nor are they present in Iraq solely to ensure the transition of that country into a democratic state – a project which will take years, even decades to accomplish fully. That mission is extremely important, to be sure.

The American forces in Iraq are also a forward deployment in the War on Terror – a signal of the utter seriousness placed on removing the bases from which terrorists operate. As President Bush's re-election is looking more probable, people like Assad are realizing that they are not to be granted relied from this pressure by a verdict of the American electorate....

Students of the history of warfare realize that as the enemy is facing defeat, casualties often mount, as desperation attacks are carried out, in the consciousness that the only alternative is capitulation. In World War II, consider the awful toll in American blood paid in the Battle of the Bulge, the invasion of Okinawa, and in the Kamikaze suicide attacks on American aircraft carriers. The escalation in casualties was not an indicator of defeat or a "quagmire."...
Determination is what it's all about. We can stay the course and tighten the noose around the necks of terrorists and their sponsors, or we can retire to the illusory safety of our homeland and allow the enemy to capture the Middle East, make nuclear weapons, and train terrorists with impugnity.

Determination is what wins wars and keeps the peace.

Determination is a character trait. Some have it; many don't.

I speak from experience. I know the determination it takes to achieve a strategic objective. I succeeded in moving my company out of the second-rate quarters we were forced to take, in a political deal, and into first-rate quarters. It took 12 years, and it happened only because I was determined to make it happen, in spite of considerable internal opposition and diffidence on the part of my CEO.

Determination on the part of Democrats is what changed the dominant economic system in the United States from something like laissez-faire capitalism to something much more like socialism. If only Democrats had the same determination to win the war on terror.

Defense, Anarcho-Capitalist Style

The Traditional View: Defense Must Be Produced by Government

Defense usually is considered a public good, which Wikipedia defines thus:
In economics, a public good is one that cannot or will not be produced for individual profit, since it is difficult to get people to pay for its large beneficial externalities. A public good is defined as an economic good which possesses two properties:

• ...once it has been produced, each person can benefit from it without diminishing anyone else's enjoyment.

• ...once it has been created, it is impossible to prevent people from gaining access to the good....

The public goods problem is that a free market is unlikely to produce the theoretically optimum amount of any public good: such important goods as national defense will be underproduced due to the free-rider problem....

A free-rider is an individual who is extremely individualistic, considering benefits and costs that affect only him or her. Suppose this individual thinks about exerting some extra effort to defend the nation. The benefits to the individual of this effort would be very low, since the benefits would be distributed among all of the millions of other people in the country. Further, the free rider knows that he or she cannot be excluded from the benefits of national defense. There is also no way that these benefits can be split up and distributed as individual parcels to people. But just because one person refuses to defend the country does not mean that the nation is not going to be defended. So this person would not voluntarily exert any extra effort, unless there is some inherent pleasure in doing so....

If voluntary provision of public goods will not work, then the obvious solution is making their provision involuntary. (Each of us is saved from our own individualistic short-sightedness.) One general solution to the problem is for governments or states to impose taxation to fund the production of public goods....
Defense as a Marketable Good: The Anarcho-Capitalist View

Anarcho-capitalists take an entirely different view. They see the state as illegitimate. Defense, therefore, is something that individuals should provide for themselves. How would that work? To find out, we turn to the Mises Institute, which in 2003 published a book of essays with the title The Myth of National Defense: Essays on the Theory and History of Security Production. The Mises Review (Vol. 10, No. 1; Spring 2004) carries an incestuous and, therefore, sycophantic and faithful review of that tome. Here are excerpts of the review, with my comments interspersed:
...History shows that no civilized community of substantial size can exist without a state; and arguments from political theory and economics show that the state is a necessity for adequate defense. The state may be evil, but it is a necessary evil.

The contributors to the Myth of National Defense dissent entirely from the line of thought just sketched. They raise a host of objections to the conventional view....

Jeffrey Hummel succinctly presents the argument that history shows the necessity of the state: "If private defense is better than government defense, why has government kept winning over the centuries? Indeed, the State’s military prowess has more than seemingly precluded the modern emergence of any anarcho-capitalist society....How can [radical libertarians such as Rothbard] attribute the origins of government to successful conquest and simultaneously maintain that a completely free society, without government, could prevent such conquest"...?

Both Hummel and the team of Luigi Marco Bassani and Carlo Lottieri endeavor in differing ways to respond to the argument just posed. According to Hummel,..."The free-rider problem, long presented by economists as a normative justification of the State, is in reality a positive explanation for why the State first arose and persisted"....

[D]oes not his very explanation render impossible successful resistance to the contemporary state? Will not the free-rider problem once more explain the persistence of the state?

Hummel has an ingenious response. Since the Industrial Revolution, wealth has become much more important than before in military conflict. This gives stateless groups a better chance of success than before, given the undoubted fact that the free market promotes economic growth more efficiently than a state-controlled society.
Aha! Things are different now. We're in a "new economy" -- just as we were before the stock market bubble burst in 2000. Well, when are the stateless groups going to get off their duffs and provide their own defense? We have stateless groups providing "offense" against which we must defend. Why haven't the wealthy investment bankers who were victimized on 9/11 (and who might well be victimized again) raised mercenary armies to track down terrorists?
But what about the free-rider problem? Hummel maintains that this does not totally rule out collective action. It can be overcome if people have a strong enough commitment to the rightness of their cause....
If, if, if! The magic word. The world would be perfect only if it weren't imperfect
Bassani and Lottieri respond in a different way. They reject the conquest theory of the state, as well as other accounts that postulate for the state a vast antiquity. Quite the contrary, they contend that the state began only when the Middle Ages came to an end. Not until then did people suffer from that baleful development, a centralized authority holding a monopoly of force over a national territory....

Once we grasp the modern origins of the state, is not our task of resistance to it made easier? No longer need we view the state as a fixed and irremovable presence. If the state did not always exist, may we not hope to remove it?...
Bad logic. It won't work unless you can remove the conditions that arose at the end of the Middle Ages. That is, it won't work unless you have a time-reversal machine.
Hobbes argued that without a state, individuals would find themselves in constant conflict. In order to avoid the "war of all against all," must not everyone surrender his arms to the sovereign, who will then protect us? Hans Hoppe finds this argument less than convincing. Hobbes maintains that "in order to institute peaceful cooperation among themselves, two individuals, A and B, require a third independent party, S, as ultimate judge and peacemaker....To be sure, S will make peace between A and B, but only so that he himself can rob both of them more profitably. Surely S is better protected, but the more he is protected, the less A and B are protected against attacks by S"....Hobbes fails to show that the sovereign improves on the state of nature....
Well, by that example the sovereign doesn't do worse than the state of nature. But there's more:
[T]he question raised earlier recurs. Even if the state acts as a predator, is it not needed for defense against other states? But why should we accept this contention?

Here we must turn to arguments from economic theory. It is often alleged that national defense is a "public good" that the market cannot supply in adequate quantity. Both Larry Sechrest and Walter Block dissent from this all-too-prevalent orthodoxy. Why should we think that defense is a single good that must be supplied on an equal basis to everyone resident in a nation? "It is neither impossible to exclude nonpayers nor is it true that bringing in an additional person under the safety umbrella costs no additional resources"....With his customary imaginative flair, Block offers numerous ingenious examples to support his challenge to the standard view....
Well, here's a counter-example for you: How would you have excluded non-payers who happened to be working in the World Trade Center on 9/11? And, if the Air Force had arrived on the scene in time to shoot down the hijacked airliners before they struck the World Trade Center, how would it have cost more to shoot them down if, say, one more non-payer had been present in the World Trade Center?
Joseph Stromberg strengthens the case with a vital point. It by no means follows that a free society must match the bloated expenditures of the Leviathan state in order to defend itself effectively. "I assume that minimal states and anarchies can do without nuclear bombs, cruise missiles, stealth bombers, and expensive ‘systems’ suited to world conquest or universal meddling.
This is merely an assertion that a people who "mind their own business" don’t' need to be ready to defend themselves of their overseas interests against potential aggressors. It's head-in-the-sand isolationism of the most na├»ve sort. It assumes that aggressors act only when provoked and not for their own reasons.
As for the ‘force structure’ of mere defense, I believe we would see some rough combination of militias and ‘insurance companies’—perhaps not as mutually exclusive as we think—with resort to mass-based guerrilla war, however and by whomever organized, in extremis"....
Right! Our overseas economic interests won't be attacked if we lack offensive weapons and we can protect our domestic interests solely with militias and "insurance companies". How would that work? The militias would rise up on the spot to protect...whom? subscribers?. What happens when those who underwrite the militias get tired of paying for protection when nothing's happening? Do they just drop out of the syndicate? And what happens when enough of them do it and the militias are practically disarmed? Aha! That's when terrorists strike. And what do "insurance companies" do, sell protection? How do the bad guys discriminate between policy-holders and free-riders? They can't, unless you believe that terrorists will go door-to-do and attack only those who don't have a policy. And there's the problem of what happens when people tire of paying premiums when things have been calm for a long while.

The state, like it or not, is less likely to lose interest in what's going on. The state isn't perfect, certainly, but it has an incentive to make things look bad so that it can maintain large, standing armed forces and intelligence systems. Now, that may seem like a damaging admission on my part, but it isn't. There are things it's better to have too much of than too little of. Too much defense is expensive -- but it's likely to save your neck. Too little defense is cheap -- but fatal. And anyone who thinks he can prescribe just the right amount and kind of defense must also think he knows, now, when the next stock market bubble will form and burst.

And so we approach the finale:
The argument for libertarian defense rests on two points. First, a libertarian society would have a much less ambitious agenda than states in the contemporary world.
Oh really? No overseas economic interests? And what about predators who don't care about our agenda?
Murray Rothbard, with characteristic incisiveness, makes clear the drastically limited circumstances in which war is justified. Specifically, there is no universal mandate to impose a good society all over the world: nations must mind their own business....
That is, the United States must mind its own business. And if other nations -- or independent operators -- decide not to mind their own business, they'll simply leave us alone because of the purity of our motives. There's more of that, but it's just nonsense:
…Democracies, swollen with self-righteousness, tend to wage unlimited wars that ignore humane restraints....
As opposed to fanatical totalitarian regimes?
[T]here is good reason to think that if a libertarian society found itself the victim of invasion, guerrilla warfare would prove a successful response…"We start from the truism that defense has the advantage....And once people are driven to guerrilla tactics defeating them raises the ratio of attackers to defenders to somewhere between 4-to-1 and 6-to-1 or higher. Successful ‘pacification’ and occupation may require a 10-to-1 superiority"....
These guys have been watching too many movies. (Red Dawn comes immediately to mind.)

Conclusion

The merry band of anarcho-capitalists at the Mises Institute must believe that Laden and his ilk wouldn't bother us if we were retreat to within our borders, though that would mean abandoning vital economic interests overseas. (I guess those are of no interest to anarcho-capitalists, who are free to assume oil wells in every yard.) The critical assumption, of course, is that we would be left alone. Is that a reasonable assumption to make? I don't think so. Bin Laden and his ilk are religious fanatics, bent on avenging the past failures of Islam, which they attribute wrongly to infidels.

Anarcho-capitalists also must believe that by effectively disarming we wouldn't be inviting other nation-states to arm and fill the power void. That belief flies in the face of human nature. Greed and power-lust are self-generating; they aren't brought into existence by provocation. If these anarcho-capitalists believe that Hitler only wanted "lebensraum" and Stalin only wanted a buffer zone around his "utopia", then these anarcho-capitalists are bigger fools than Neville Chamberlain, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Jimmy Carter.

Finally -- resorting to the logic that "my client isn't guilty, but if he is guilty he only acted in self-defense" -- anarcho-capitalists admit that we might be attacked by terrorists or nation-states even if we were to withdraw within our borders and effectively disarm, as a nation. Then, they assert, some of us could resort to guerrilla warfare, for which militias and "insurance companies" would be well prepared. Now there's a strategy for you: Wait until the enemy attacks us, then hope that he only attacks those who haven't paid for protection. Or hope that enough of us have voluntarily paid someone to have stockpiled the right kinds of weapons and trained properly -- for a guerrilla war against weapons of mass destruction. I'd laugh if it weren't suicidally stupid.

Anarcho-capitalists, meet Alice. I'm sure you'll all be very happy together in Wonderland.

P.S. Notice how I got through all that without invoking images of competing ganglords, gunbattles in the streets, innocent bystanders being shot, and other innocents being forced to pay protection money at gunpoint? Well, I couldn't resist adding this P.S. about those, the penultimate consequences of anarcho-capitalism -- before an outside enemy would swoop in and bring "peace" to our troubled shores.

Epstein's Freedom

In a post about Richard Epstein and his book, Skepticism and Freedom, Tim Sandefur of Freespace says:
The title comes from Epstein’s belief that we ought to be highly skeptical of the idea that an outside party has better knowledge about the choices (and the benefits from them) that a person makes. The person making the deal is in the best position to know whether the deal meets his desires or not, and unless the bystander is directly injured, he shouldn’t be able to substitute his choices.
But Sandefur later says:
A related element of Epstein’s argument -- indeed, I think it’s the real thesis of the book -- is that he believes the state may force exchanges between parties, without their consent, so long as these exchanges leave no party worse off, and leaves at least one party better off. The principle of eminent domain -- about which Epstein wrote extensively in his book Takings -- embodies this idea, ideally. Epstein acknowledges that this element of his thought makes him pretty unique among libertarians, who probably would not accept it. But Epstein believes that it is a necessary element of society; there are many collective agreements which would leave everyone better off, but which, due to some transaction cost, cannot be enforced. The law can then serve to enforce these agreements. This principle allows Epstein to (in theory) escape some of the more complicated problems of political philosophy, since it allows society to evolve in a direction that accommodates liberty in a practical manner[.]
Which leads me to ask:

1. In light of Epstein's belief that we ought to be highly skeptical of the idea that an outside party has better knowledge about the choices (and the benefits from them) that a person makes, how does Epstein reckon that the state, as an outside party, is able to determine that the parties to a forced exchange will be better off as a result of the exchange?

2. What happens to the transactions costs that (presumably) keep the parties from undertaking an exchange that the state decides to force? Do the costs simply vanish or does the state (that is, taxpayers) defray them?

3. Is Epstein's concept of forced exchange a justification of the integration of commerce (e.g., forcing whites to accommodate blacks at hotels, restaurants, etc., and forcing whites to offer houses to black as well as white buyers)?

4. If Epstein's concept of forced exchange justifies the integration of commerce, how does the state account for the preference of whites not to trade with blacks, or does the state simply regard that preference as illegitimate?

5. If the state chooses to treat the preference of whites as illegitimate, by what criterion does the state judge the legitimacy of the preferences of parties to a forced exchange being contemplated by the state?

Favorite Posts: Affirmative Action and Race

Saturday, September 25, 2004

What's a "Doozy"?

Yesterday I used "doozy" in a post. If you're too young to know what a "doozy" is, here goes:
It was John Ciardi, I think, who suggested that doozy (as some dictionaries prefer to spell it) had something to do with the famous Duesenberg automobile, a car named after the brothers who developed it. Certainly the vehicles were known as Duesies in the 1920s and 1930s. But...the noun doozy was already well established.

[R]eference books, especially the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, suggest it first appeared about 1903.

You might think etymologists are slipping their mental gears if I tell you that they’re fairly sure that it comes from the flower named daisy. But that was once English slang, from the eighteenth century on, for something that was particularly appealing or excellent. It moved into North American English in the early nineteenth century....

Experts think that that sense -— which was still around at the end of the nineteenth century -— might have been influenced by the name of the famous Italian actress Eleonora Duse [pronounced "doo-zay": ED], who first appeared in New York in 1893. Something Dusey was clearly excellent of its kind, and it is very likely that it and daisy became amalgamated in people’s minds to create a new term.

(Source: Questions & Answers.)
So here's Duse and a Duesie:



Recommended Reading

From my son:
Escape from the Soviets, by Tatiana Tchernavin, 1934. Just finished it. An account of a woman's escape with her husband and son across the border into Finland. It's the kind of book we should have been given to read in school. I seem to recall that the worst thing about the USSR, as we understood it, was that jeans were expensive and people had to stand in long lines. Amazing that with accounts like this people only began to admit to Soviet concentration camps (word author uses in the original, before the German variety became well known) and massive deaths through executions and starvation in the 1980s. If nothing else, it's an excellent commentary on socialism, which she doesn't hesitate to excoriate.

Don't Le(f)t the Facts Confuse You

Lambert at corrente is still pushing this line:
Cowardly Broadcasting System....
CBS News said yesterday that it had postponed a "60 Minutes" segment that questioned Bush administration rationales for going to war in Iraq....

According to the Newsweek report, the "60 Minutes" segment was to have detailed how the administration relied on false documents when it said Iraq had tried to buy a lightly processed form of uranium, known as yellowcake, from Niger. The administration later acknowledged that the information was incorrect and that the documents were most likely fake....

(via the pretty-cowardly-themselves Times)
WHEN WOULD IT BE MORE APPROPRIATE TO RUN A STORY ABOUT FAKE DOCUMENTS THAT BUSH USED TO JUSTIFY THE WAR THAN BEFORE AN ELECTION IN WHICH BUSH IS RUNNING? HAS THE WHOLE WORLD GONE MAD? WHY DOESN'T CBS JUST SHUT THEIR WHOLE OPERATION DOWN? WTF?
The problem is this (from Clarice Feldman at The American Thinker):
...In his State of the Union speech, the President said these sixteen words:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

The statement was true, and recently a British Commission confirmed that was so. Days afterward, however, the US received forged documents about uranium sales from Africa to Saddam. (Documents, I should add that an Italian inquiry established were forged by a man working for French intelligence - apparently to discredit the good information upon which Bush and Blair had relied, and thereby to embarrass them.)

And was this French farce forgery used for that purpose? Indeed it was. By Joseph A. Wilson (author of Politics of Truth), then an outspoken Kerry supporter and advisor. And where is Wilson today? Well, he has been thoroughly discredited by anyone who actually studied his testimony before the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee. That includes the Committee and the brilliant Christopher Hitchens.

How could CBS have missed that? After all, once the Senate Intel report came out, the Kerry website was scrubbed of the special page devoted to Wilson.

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post did report that the very media (including, of course, CBS) which had given enormous play to Wilson’s tale had failed to report his denouement. So if all the news Sixty Minutes got was from CBS, maybe they missed it.

Still, how clueless can you be?...
As clueless as a left-wing blog like corrente.

In the "Stupid Headline" Department

AP: Carter Still Promoting Peace at 80

No, no, no! It is not promoting peace when you cozy up to left-wing dictators, coddle Arab terrorists, and oppose the liberation of Iraq. It's promoting war and terror and torture.

When will the press learn to look beneath the surface of Carter's prissy moralism to the depths of its consequences?

A Very Telling Profile of Kerry

The New York Times has this:
Kerry as the Boss: Always More Questions
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and JODI WILGOREN

Published: September 26, 2004

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 - For 15 minutes in Milwaukee the other day, Senator John Kerry pummeled his staff with questions about an attack on President Bush, planned for later that morning, that accused the White House of hiding a huge Medicare premium increase.

Talking into a speakerphone in his hotel suite, sitting at a table scattered with the morning newspapers, Mr. Kerry instructed aides in Washington to track down the information he said he needed before he could appear on camera. What could have slowed down the premium increase? How much of it was caused by the addition of a prescription drug benefit? What would the increase cost the average Medicare recipient?

Mr. Kerry got the answers after aides said they spent the morning on the telephone and the Internet, but few of those facts found their way into his blistering attack.

The morning Medicare call was typical of the way Mr. Kerry, a four-term senator with comparatively little management experience, has run his campaign. And, his associates say, it offered a glimpse of an executive style he would almost surely bring to the White House.

Mr. Kerry is a meticulous, deliberative decision maker, always demanding more information, calling around for advice, reading another document - acting, in short, as if he were still the Massachusetts prosecutor boning up for a case. He stayed up late Sunday night with aides at his home in Beacon Hill, rewriting - and rearguing - major passages of his latest Iraq speech, a ritual that aides say occurs even with routine remarks....

In interviews, associates repeatedly described Mr. Kerry as uncommonly bright, informed and curious. But the downside to his deliberative executive style, they said, is a campaign that has often moved slowly against a swift opponent, and a candidate who has struggled to synthesize the information he sweeps up into a clear, concise case against Mr. Bush.

Even his aides concede that Mr. Kerry can be slow in taking action, bogged down in the very details he is so intent on collecting, as suggested by the fact that he never even used the Medicare information he sent his staff chasing....

Unlike Mr. Bush, who was a governor and a business executive before he ran for president, Mr. Kerry - who has spent the past 20 years as a legislator, with a staff of perhaps 60 - has little experience in managing any kind of large operation....
The difference between Kerry and Bush isn't experience, it's temperament. I worked for a Kerry-like CEO -- always asking questions, probing answers, asking more questions, ad infinitum. He always postponed decisions as long as possible, not because he lacked the facts but because he had confused himself with the facts. He sought facts for their own sake, not because they would help him plot the best path toward a specific goal. He was almost purely inductive, hoping to find his principles in a morass of information.

That's how Kerry, with his limitless flip-flopping, has struck me -- a man without principles who hopes to discover them in the next piece of information that he receives. The Times article confirms that view.

To change metaphors: You don't advance the ball down the field by counting the laces on it. You advance the ball down the field by knowing where the goal is and then choosing the plays that will help you reach it. Kerry knows how many laces there are. Bush figures out where to throw the ball, and all Kerry knows how to do is carp like an armchair quarterback when some of the passes aren't caught.

Speaking of V-8s...

...as I was yesterday, here's the first car I remember: a 1938 Ford V-8.




My father bought one in 1940 and ran it until 1951.

A Prescription for Pork-Barrel Spending

FuturePundit has this:
Anti-Depressant Drug Treats Kleptomania

Stanford researchers have shown in a preliminary non-double blind trial that the anti-depressant Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram (Lexapro) reduces the severity of kleptomania.
Quick, buy a truckload and send it to Washington.

Friday, September 24, 2004

More on the Legality of Discrimination

Yesterday, I wrote about the distinction between state-sponsored racial discrimination and private racial discrimination in "Is There Such a Thing as Legal Discrimination?". There I spelled out my theory that collective agreement on an issue (e.g., racial discrimination) isn't tantamount to state action. I argued that
regardless of how many citizens agree on a particular subject, that agreement is not tantamount to state action if the subject lies outside the power granted the state. Enforcement of an extra-constitutional collective agreement rests on the voluntary submission of citizens to that agreement. The same citizens who entered the collective agreement may dissolve it piecemeal by abandoning it, one or a few at a time, whereas they cannot similarly revoke a power specifically granted the state.

I conclude that the state has no business telling its citizens how they may or may not carry their racial attitudes into the conduct of their affairs, as long as that conduct is passive -- that is, as long as it takes such forms as not buying from, hiring, or otherwise associating with members of certain groups. I say that not out of bigotry -- I long ago outgrew the attitudes of my native State -- but because we have gone far beyond the abolition of slavery and the granting of equal civil rights. We have practically repudiated freedom of association, we have severely undermined property rights, and -- more lately with speech codes and hate-crime laws -- we have entered an early stage of thought policing.

In sum, liberty is being vanquished in the name of liberty. It wouldn't be happening if collective agreements were, indeed, tantamount to state action.
My post was prompted by two recent posts written by Tim Sandefur of Freespace. Sandefur has replied at length, and constructively, here. You should read all of it. I'm just going to touch on some of the points salient to my argument.

Sandefur notes that I took him "a bit more strongly" than he intended on the subject of collective agreement as a form of state action. He says:
First, I’m not trying to make an “argument,” since I’ve tried to make clear that I don’t really know what I think on this issue. My only point is that I’m troubled by the too-easy distinction between state-action discrimination (bad) and everyone-in-society-agreeing-privately discrimination (perfectly okay). One reason I am troubled by that is because I think if everyone in society agrees to something, the distinction between that and state action becomes illusory....So there’s no “argument”...just a qualm, and [the author of Liberty Corner] has done nothing to ease my concern.
Fair enough. Sandefur still has a qualm where I have none.

Sandefur goes on, in an aside, to question an antecedent argument to the conclusion I restated above, namely, that
the collective agreement that creates the state doesn't give the state unlimited power of action. In fact it specifically limits the state's power of action. The citizens of the state may -- and do -- withhold certain powers from the state, for the private exercise of citizens.
In response to that proposition Sandefur says:
First, it is true that the social compact doesn’t give the state unlimited power, but we ought to carefully distinguish between the moral and the constitutional limits on the state. The social compact is only limited by moral constraints—-that is, the people may write any social compact they wish so long as it gives the state no power that exceeds their moral authority. Constitutional limits then come on top of those limits. It is in the realm of Constitutional limits that the people withhold powers from the state for the private exercise of citizens (or to vest those powers in a different sovereign). At the level of moral limits on the social compact, the people do not withhold powers for their own private exercise, because they have no right to exercise those powers which are withheld. In other words, the people in forming the social compact are limited only by moral constraints-—they can’t steal, can’t murder, and can’t make a government that does these things. They don’t withhold these powers for their own private exercise.
There are subtleties in that statement which I don't grasp, such as the distinction between moral and constitutional constraints, and whence moral constraints flow. Nevertheless, the statement seems to imply something like this: The state can't have the power to allow slaveholding because slaveholding is an immoral power that the people themselves cannot exercise. But, as Sandefur says elsewhere in his post,
Many slaveowners prior to the [Civil W]ar pointed out that there just weren’t any laws that created slavery. It was closer to everyone-in-society-agreeing-privately discrimination than it was to state-action discrimination.
So, it seems to me that the people can exercise moral authority (or, in this case, immoral authority) that's outside the scope of the state's power. Before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment the (Southern white) people reserved the power to hold slaves and the state didn't have the power to deprive them of slaves. (If I have this wrong, I'm sure I'll hear promptly from Sandefur. And I'll gladly correct it.)

Now Sandefur comes to my point that a collective agreement is not tantamount to state action if the subject of the agreement lies outside the power granted the state. Sandefur says:
Perhaps. But...sometimes that line [between a private, collective agreement and state action] is not so obvious. Or, my favorite conundrum, the situation of tenant farmers in Mississippi, whose white landlords would immediately evict them if they dared register to vote. Now, this attitude was unanimous among the white landlords....[I]s [the author of Liberty Corner] willing to say that he has no problem with such a practice?
I do have a serious problem with such a practice. As far as I'm concerned it was an extortionate denial of a civil liberty granted under the Fourteenth Amendment. But the extortionate denial of the right to vote is a particular manifestation of racial discrimination, which the people (I believe) had empowered the state to deal with through the Fourteenth Amendment. That the state didn't deal with it until the 1960s was due a failure on the part of the state to exercise a granted power, not to a lack of power.

But racial discrimination, in its broader manifestations (e.g., refusal to live near blacks) is neither an action of the state nor an action that the state can prohibit, per se. The state can be -- and has been -- empowered to deal with specific manifestations of racial discrimination, manifestations that deprive blacks of the constitutional rights conferred on them by the Thirteenth and Fourteen Amendments, among them the right to vote.

Sandefur concludes by saying,
I’m not trying to offer a systematic (or even coherent!) theoretical* defense of government intervention to correct racist outcomes. I just think that even in the absence of an explicit agreement...private action can be tantamount to state action. That’s why the Civil Rights Acts strike down “patterns and practices” as well as explicit policies.

*-I would definitely offer a systematic constitutional defense of such intervention. I think Harlan’s 13th Amendment argument regarding slavery and badges of servitude is absolutely right and that attacks on Jim Crow should have been made under that Amendment, or perhaps the privileges or immunities clause of the 14th amendment, and not under the commerce clause.
There's the crux of the issue. Sandefur believes private action can be tantamount to state action. I disagree, for the reasons I have spelled out in my previous post on the subject and in this one. I further disagree with the validity of Harlan's Thirteenth Amendment argument, and with the striking down of "patterns and practices" of racial discrimination. The use of such broad terms as "badges of servitude" and "patterns and practices" gives the state license to butt into private affairs at will.

Favorite Posts: Affirmative Action and Race

The Curse of the Bambino

George Vecsey, a sports writer for The New York Times and the originator of the legend known as the "Curse of the Bambino," distances himself from some of the unsavoriness that surrounds the legend. (You can read his story here.) But he can't distance himself from the underlying facts: Since the owner of the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees after the 1919 season, the Red Sox have failed to win a World Series. If that's not a curse, I don't know what is.

Speaking of Obesity...

...FuturePundit points to a reason to avoid it:
Obesity Causes Inflammation Which Accelerates Aging

Quite a large body of research literature is building in support of the idea that chronic inflammation is a major cause of many degenerative diseases. One of the causes of chronic inflammation is obesity....

From Smoking to Fast Food

We know that the anti-smoking gig reflects middle-to-upper class disdain for the "sweaty masses." The anti-fast food crusade is more of the same. Brendan O'Neill at Spiked has the right take on fast-food bashing:
Bashing the McMasses
by Brendan O'Neill

In the docu-blockbuster-cum-human-experiment Super Size Me, released in British cinemas over the weekend, New York filmmaker Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's meals three times a day for a month...[I]n one scene, having spent 22 minutes eating a Super Size Double Quarterpounder Meal, pukes it up out of his car window - all for the apparently worthy cause of showing Americans 'the real price they are paying for their "addiction" to fast food'....

Sounds radical, right, taking on the Golden Arches of America and charging them with making poor folk sick and miserable by forcefeeding them junk? In fact, Super Size Me, like so many other anti-McDonald's campaigns, comes with a generous side order of snobbery. Its real target is the people who eat in McDonald's - the apparently stupid, fat, unthinking masses who scoff Big Macs without even asking to see a nutritional and calorie breakdown first. Spurlock and his ilk might hate McDonald's, but they seem to loathe the McMasses even more....

On both sides of the Atlantic there's a large portion of moralising in the panics over obesity, school dinners, junk-food-guzzling and the rest. What is presented as straightforward medical concern for our health and wellbeing is often really a judgement on lifestyle and behaviour - and especially the lifestyle and behaviour of a certain class of people....

[I]n the faux class war between anti-McDonald's campaigners and the McMasses, I'm on the side of the 'happy eaters' every time.
Me, too. When I'm on the road I stop at a McDonald's only to use the restroom. But that's only because I prefer other brands of fast food. And I ain't no iggerant, fat slob neither.

If my allergies could stand the smoke, I'd be back on cigarettes in a flash, even though it would make me look like a redneck -- or a movie star.