Sunday, September 30, 2007

FDR and Fascism

A blogger (to whom I will not link) once tried to disparage me by referring to my position that (in his words) "Franklin Roosevelt, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin were all essentially dictators." I suppose that the blogger in question believes Hitler and Stalin to have been dictators. His poorly expressed complaint, therefore, is my lumping of FDR with Hitler and Stalin.

I doubt that the not-to-be-named blogger considers FDR a saint, or even a praiseworthy president. Such a view would be inconsistent with the blogger's (rather murky) paleo-conservative/libertarian views. The blogger's apparent aim was not to defend FDR but to discredit me by suggesting that my view of FDR is beyond the pale.*

To the contrary, however, the perception of FDR as a dictator (or dictator manqué) with a fascistic agenda is of long standing and arises from respectable sources. Albert Jay Nock, an early and outspoken opponent of the New Deal -- and a paleo-libertarian of the sort admired by the blogger in question -- certainly saw Roosevelt's fascistic agenda for what it was. Many mainstream politicians also attacked Roosevelt's aims; for example:
While the First New Deal of 1933 had broad support from most sectors, the Second New Deal challenged the business community. Conservative Democrats, led by Al Smith, fought back with the American Liberty League, savagely attacking Roosevelt and equating him with Marx and Lenin.[21]
That Smith and others were unsuccessful in their opposition to FDR's agenda does not alter the essentially fascistic nature of that agenda.

Now comes David Boaz's "Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt: What FDR had in common with the other charismatic collectivists of the 30s," a review of Wolfgang Schivelbusch's Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933–1939. Toward the end of the review, Boaz writes:
Why isn’t this book called Four New Deals? Schivelbusch does mention Moscow repeatedly.... But Stalin seized power within an already totalitarian system; he was the victor in a coup. Hitler, Mussolini, and Roosevelt, each in a different way, came to power as strong leaders in a political process. They thus share the “charismatic leadership” that Schivelbusch finds so important.

...B.C. Forbes, the founder of the eponymous magazine, denounced “rampant Fascism” in 1933. In 1935 former President Herbert Hoover was using phrases like “Fascist regimentation” in discussing the New Deal. A decade later, he wrote in his memoirs that “the New Deal introduced to Americans the spectacle of Fascist dictation to business, labor and agriculture,” and that measures such as the Agricultural Adjustment Act, “in their consequences of control of products and markets, set up an uncanny Americanized parallel with the agricultural regime of Mussolini and Hitler.” In 1944, in The Road to Serfdom, the economist F.A. Hayek warned that economic planning could lead to totalitarianism. He cautioned Americans and Britons not to think that there was something uniquely evil about the German soul. National Socialism, he said, drew on collectivist ideas that had permeated the Western world for a generation or more.

In 1973 one of the most distinguished American historians, John A. Garraty of Columbia University, created a stir with his article “The New Deal, National Socialism, and the Great Depression.” Garraty was an admirer of Roosevelt but couldn’t help noticing, for instance, the parallels between the Civilian Conservation Corps and similar programs in Germany. Both, he wrote, “were essentially designed to keep young men out of the labor market. Roosevelt described work camps as a means for getting youth ‘off the city street corners,’ Hitler as a way of keeping them from ‘rotting helplessly in the streets.’ In both countries much was made of the beneficial social results of mixing thousands of young people from different walks of life in the camps. Furthermore, both were organized on semimilitary lines with the subsidiary purposes of improving the physical fitness of potential soldiers and stimulating public commitment to national service in an emergency.”

And in 1976, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan incurred the ire of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), pro-Roosevelt historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., and The New York Times when he told reporters that “fascism was really the basis of the New Deal.”

You get the idea by now, I hope. The correlation of FDR's regime with those of Hitler and Mussolini (not to mention Stalin's) is hardly discredited or beyond the pale.

Boaz writes, also, about the ends and means of the New Deal:
On May 7, 1933, just two months after the inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the New York Times reporter Anne O’Hare McCormick wrote that the atmosphere in Washington was “strangely reminiscent of Rome in the first weeks after the march of the Blackshirts, of Moscow at the beginning of the Five-Year Plan.…America today literally asks for orders.” The Roosevelt administration, she added, “envisages a federation of industry, labor and government after the fashion of the corporative State as it exists in Italy.”

That article isn’t quoted in Three New Deals, a fascinating study by the German cultural historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch. But it underscores his central argument: that there are surprising similarities between the programs of Roosevelt, Mussolini, and Hitler....

The dream of a planned society infected both right and left. Ernst Jünger, an influential right-wing militarist in Germany, reported his reaction to the Soviet Union: “I told myself: granted, they have no constitution, but they do have a plan. This may be an excellent thing.” As early as 1912, FDR himself praised the Prussian-German model: “They passed beyond the liberty of the individual to do as he pleased with his own property and found it necessary to check this liberty for the benefit of the freedom of the whole people,” he said in an address to the People’s Forum of Troy, New York.

American Progressives studied at German universities, Schivelbusch writes, and “came to appreciate the Hegelian theory of a strong state and Prussian militarism as the most efficient way of organizing modern societies that could no longer be ruled by anarchic liberal principles.” The pragmatist philosopher William James’ influential 1910 essay “The Moral Equivalent of War” stressed the importance of order, discipline, and planning....

In the North American Review in 1934, the progressive writer Roger Shaw described the New Deal as “Fascist means to gain liberal ends.” He wasn’t hallucinating. FDR’s adviser Rexford Tugwell wrote in his diary that Mussolini had done “many of the things which seem to me necessary.” Lorena Hickok, a close confidante of Eleanor Roosevelt who lived in the White House for a spell, wrote approvingly of a local official who had said, “If [President] Roosevelt were actually a dictator, we might get somewhere.” She added that if she were younger, she’d like to lead “the Fascist Movement in the United States.” At the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the cartel-creating agency at the heart of the early New Deal, one report declared forthrightly, “The Fascist Principles are very similar to those we have been evolving here in America.

Roosevelt himself called Mussolini “admirable” and professed that he was “deeply impressed by what he has accomplished.”...

Schivelbusch argues that “Hitler and Roosevelt were both charismatic leaders who held the masses in their sway—and without this sort of leadership, neither National Socialism nor the New Deal would have been possible.” This plebiscitary style established a direct connection between the leader and the masses. Schivelbusch argues that the dictators of the 1930s differed from “old-style despots, whose rule was based largely on the coercive force of their praetorian guards.” Mass rallies, fireside radio chats—and in our own time—television can bring the ruler directly to the people in a way that was never possible before.

To that end, all the new regimes of the ’30s undertook unprecedented propaganda efforts. “Propaganda,” Schivelbusch writes “is the means by which charismatic leadership, circumventing intermediary social and political institutions like parliaments, parties, and interest groups, gains direct hold upon the masses.” The NRA’s Blue Eagle campaign, in which businesses that complied with the agency’s code were allowed to display a “Blue Eagle” symbol, was a way to rally the masses and call on everyone to display a visible symbol of support. NRA head Hugh Johnson made its purpose clear: “Those who are not with us are against us.”...

Program and propaganda merged in the public works of all three systems. The Tennessee Valley Authority, the autobahn, and the reclamation of the Pontine marshes outside Rome were all showcase projects, another aspect of the “architecture of power” that displayed the vigor and vitality of the regime.

If FDR's aims were fascistic -- and clearly they were -- why didn't the U.S. become a police state, in the mold of Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union? Boaz concludes:
To compare is not to equate, as Schivelbusch says. It’s sobering to note the real parallels among these systems. But it’s even more important to remember that the U.S. did not succumb to dictatorship. Roosevelt may have stretched the Constitution beyond recognition, and he had a taste for planning and power previously unknown in the White House. But he was not a murderous thug. And despite a population that “literally waited for orders,” as McCormick put it, American institutions did not collapse. The Supreme Court declared some New Deal measures unconstitutional. Some business leaders resisted it. Intellectuals on both the right and the left, some of whom ended up in the early libertarian movement, railed against Roosevelt. Republican politicians (those were the days!) tended to oppose both the flow of power to Washington and the shift to executive authority.

Germany had a parliament and political parties and business leaders, and they collapsed in the face of Hitler’s movement. Something was different in the United States. Perhaps it was the fact that the country was formed by people who had left the despots of the Old World to find freedom in the new, and who then made a libertarian revolution. Americans tend to think of themselves as individuals, with equal rights and equal freedom. A nation whose fundamental ideology is, in the words of the recently deceased sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, “antistatism, laissez-faire, individualism, populism, and egalitarianism” will be far more resistant to illiberal ideologies.
In other words, Americans eluded fascism not because of FDR's intentions but (in part) because FDR wasn't "a murderous thug" and (in the main) because of the strength of our "national character."

Will our character enable us to resist the next FDR? Given the changes in our character since the end of World War II, I very much doubt it.

(For more about FDR's regime, its objectives, and its destructive consequences, see this, this, and this.)
* That the blogger was trying to discredit me in order to discredit someone related to me is only one bit of evidence of the blogger's intellectual ineptitude. Further evidence is found in his resort to name calling and logical inconsistency. For example, I am, in one sentence, guilty of "extreme libertarianism" and, in another, an attacker of extreme libertarians, that is, those who "adhere[] to the [non-aggression] principle with deranged fervor" (my words).

As for my so-called extreme libertarianism, if the blogger had bothered to read my blog carefully he would have found plenty of evidence that I am far from being an extreme, individualistic, anti-state libertarian. See, for example, this post and the compilation of posts referenced therein, both of which I published more than a month before the blogger attacked me and my views about FDR.

I could say much more about the blogger's rabid irrationality, but the main point of this post is FDR's barely contained fascistic agenda, so I will stop here. Happily for the blogosphere, the blogger-not-to-be-named-here seems to have suspended his blogging operation.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Election 2008

Your best "bet" for forecasting the outcome of election 2008 is to follow the Iowa Electronic Markets, in particular, the IEM odds for the presidential nominations and election. I have placed three important IEM links at the bottom of the sidebar. I go there daily.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Now, It's Over

The Red Sox have clinched the AL East title, thanks largely to another blown save by the Yankees' Mariano Rivera in tonight's 9-10, 10-inning loss to the Orioles.

It was over, effectively, when the Yankees failed to hold a 5-1 lead against the Devil Rays, and lost 6-7 in 10 innings on September 25. That loss put the Yankees 3 games behind the Red Sox, with only 5 games to play.

Contrary to the mindless mathematical manipulations of a blogger who shall remain nameless here, it was not over following the games of July 4, when the Yankees trailed the Red Sox by 11.5 games (not 12 games as asserted by said blogger).

But the Yankees rallied to come within 1.5 games of the Red Sox on September 19 and again on September 24. Which just goes to show you: "It ain't over 'til it's over." *

Now, it's over.

Related posts:
Overcoming Adversity
Are the Yankees in Meltdown?
Yankees vs. Red Sox: The End Games
Yankees vs. Red Sox: The End Games (2)
As I Was Saying...
* Said byYogi Berra in 1973 when his New York Mets were, on August 7, 9.5 games behind the leader of the NL Eastern division. The Mets rallied to win the division title by 1.5 games, and went on to take the NL title before losing the World Series to the Oakland A's. The Mets took the A's to the seventh game of the Series. It was over for the Mets only when they lost that seventh game.

The 2007 Mets, by contrast, led their division from May 16 through September 26. As of this morning, the Mets trail the Phillies by 1 game, with 2 games left to play. To wrest the division title from the Phillies, the Mets must win both of their final games while the Phillies lose both of theirs. There will be a one-game playoff if the teams finish in a tie.

Moreover, even if the Mets win both of their final games they can be eliminated from post-season play, as follows. First, the Phillies win both of their final games to take the NL East title outright. Then, both the Diamondbacks and Padres win at least one of their two final games, which gives the wild-card slot to the Padres.

The best the Mets can do is tie the Padres and/or the Rockies in the W-L department. (That outcome requires the Padres to lose both of their final games.) The Mets and Padres and/or Rockies would then have a playoff game (or games) to determine the NL's wild-card team for 2007.

It's almost over for the Mets. But it ain't over 'til it's over -- ain't it?

P.S. (09/30/07): Now, it's over for the Mets. Amazing.

On the morning of September 13 the Mets had a .572 record and led the Phillies by 7 games with only 17 games remaining. A mindless prognosticator might then have opined that the Mets would have to play only .500 ball the rest of the season in order to win the NL East title -- as if that would be a cinch.

Well, the Mets could have won the title by playing .412 ball the rest of the way, even had they lost their 3 remaining games with the Phillies (as the Mets did). But the Mets played only .294 ball the rest of the way. In the process, their 7-game lead became a 1-game deficit, as the Phillies won 13 of 17 while the Mets were dropping 12 of 17. Thus the Mets fell 2 games short of taking the NL East title outright, and 1 game short of entering a playoff (with the Padres and Rockies) for the NL wild-card slot.

C'est la vie en baseball.

Compare and Contrast, Again

In praise of Kay S. Hymowitz's realism about the limits of libertarianism, I say in "Compare and Contrast" that
Good things don't just happen, they must be made to happen. If they are not, bad things will prevail because the anti-social aspects of human nature -- dominance, enviousness, and aggressiveness -- outweigh the pro-social ones.
Hymowitz's "libertarian" critics (e.g., Ilya Somin), just don't get it. Somin thusly ends a post about Hymowitz's response to his critique of her stance on libertarianism:
Hymowitz concludes her response by criticizing what she calls the libertarian "tendency to view individual personal liberty as The Good that should swallow up all others." In reply, I can only reiterate a point I made in my critique of her original essay: believing that protecting liberty is the highest or even the sole legitimate purpose of government does not require libertarians to conclude that it is the highest good for all institutions. Still less does it commit us to believing that it is a good that "swallows up all others." To the contrary, libertarians have long contended that liberty actually facilitates the achievement of other important values and does so far more effectively than government coercion.
What Somin (and other so-called libertarians) fail to understand is this: Liberty doesn't just happen; it is not innate in human nature.

The true choice is not between liberty and government coercion, it is between ordered liberty, in which government does not (by omission or commission) undermine morality, and social dissolution, in which it does precisely that.

It is quite clear that we have been, for quite some time, in a state of government-condoned and government-sponsored social dissolution. As civil society dissolves, government takes over its functions, in ways that no self-styled libertarian could possibly endorse.

The key defect of libertarian absolutism (of the kind preached by Somin et al.) is its adherents' blindness to its consequences. They cannot seem to grasp the fact that wanting liberty and having it are two different things. They are fixated on "what ought to be" and blind to "what is possible," given human nature.

Related posts:
A Century of Progress?
The Case against Genetic Engineering
Social Norms, State Action, and Liberty
A Critique of Extreme Libertarianism
Anarchistic Balderdash
The Meaning of Liberty

Collegiate Crap-ola

When I was a freshman in college, Voltaire was held up as an exemplar of wit and clear thinking. This is Voltaire, at (perhaps) his best, that is to say, his worst:
"The Bible," sighed Voltaire. "That is what fools have written, what imbeciles command, what rogues teach, and young children are made to learn by heart."
This nonsensical generalization bears scant resemblance to the truth. (It does not, for instance, credit the civilizing influence of the Bible, as it is conveyed through Judaism and Christianity.) Voltaire's statement is nothing more than propaganda for anti-religionism.

It is no wonder that so many young minds were irretrievably corrupted by their exposure to the "heroes" of collegiate "open-mindedness." I was corrupted for a while, but I began to see the world as it is, not as Voltaire and his ilk would have it seem.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Katie Couric: Post-American

What is a post-American? From Mark Krikorian of NRO, via an earlier post:
Let me be clear [as to] what I mean by a post-American. He's not an enemy of America — not Alger Hiss or Jane Fonda or Louis Farrakhan. He's not necessarily even a Michael Moore or Ted Kennedy. A post-American may actually still like America, but the emotion resembles the attachment one might feel to, say, suburban New Jersey — it can be a pleasant place to live, but you're always open to a better offer. The post-American has a casual relationship with his native country, unlike the patriot, "who more than self his country loves," as Katharine Lee Bates wrote. Put differently, the patriot is married to America; the post-American is just shacking up.
What makes Katie Couric a post-American? This:
“The whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying ‘we’ when referring to the United States and, even the ‘shock and awe’ of the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable. And I remember feeling, when I was anchoring the ‘Today’ show, this inevitable march towards war and kind of feeling like, ‘Will anybody put the brakes on this?’ And is this really being properly challenged by the right people? And I think, at the time, anyone who questioned the administration was considered unpatriotic and it was a very difficult position to be in.” (Quotation from Jonah Goldberg of NRO, via many bloggers.)
Katie, Katie, Katie, how could anyone possibly question your patriotism after reading that?

Actually, one cannot fault the patriotism of a person who questions how the administration pursues the enemy, as long as that person offers a reasonable alternative in good faith. But the loony Left and whacky Right simply assert that "we" are the enemy and "we" had it coming to "us," when they are not peddling the notion that "we" did it to ourselves -- as in "inside job."

But Couric is, by her own admission, unpatriotic. She is more than unpatriotic, however. She is, at best, a dupe for the loony Left and whacky Right. She is, at worst (I think), a witting dupe (to coin an oxymoron).

Related post: Depressing But True (and the links at the end)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Evidence Against Anthropogenic Global Warming

Add "Scientists Counter AP Article Promoting Computer Model Climate Fears" and "Questioning 20th Century Warmth" to what I say in "Warmism: The Myth of Anthropogenic Global Warming." The second item is especially damaging to warmist hysteria.

P.S. See also "A Whole New World: Climate Change Debate Could Be Changing," here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Let Me Be Perfectly Clear...

...about "black redneck culture," which I have addressed in earlier posts (e.g., here and here). It is a possible explanation for the persistent black-white achievement gap. (There is also IQ.) But blacks certainly do not dominate the boisterous, live-for-today, take-what-you-can-from-the-man, in-your-face, quick-to-take-offense, often-violent "lifestyle" that is summarized in the term "black redneck culture." White redneck culture is all too prevalent.

White redneck culture is not, as depicted in the following passage, restricted to the rural poor:
Rednecks typically are more libertine, especially in their personal lives, than other country brethren who tend towards social conservatism. In contrast to country people, stereotypical rednecks tend not to attend church, or do so infrequently. They also tend to use alcohol and gamble more than their church-going neighbors.
Redneck culture is no longer dominated by "rural poor to working-class people of rural extraction." It is alive and flourishing among whites of all socio-economic classes and in all locales: from small towns to large metropolitan areas.

The prevalence of redneck culture -- black, white, and tan -- is evident in popular culture. Look at what's offered and imbibed avidly via TV (both network and cable), movie theaters, CDs and DVDs, video games (or whatever they're called now), shopping malls, and professional sporting events (most notably basketball). Noise, violence, vulgarity, profanity, and prurience prevail, usually all at the same time.

Redneck culture has these essential -- and socially destructive -- characteristics: disregard for other persons and their property, indolence, a sense of entitlement (as if in compensation for the effects of indolence), a ready acceptance of myths and prejudices in place of facts and reason, a sneering attitude toward education and hard work, and (thus) a tendency to "live for today and let tomorrow take care of itself."

Liberty, which depends upon mutual restraint, cannot survive in a redneck milieu: a culture of moral anarchy which invites totalitarianism. The spread of redneck culture further encourages the emergence of totalitarianism because rednecks (of whatever race, class, and clime) are seduced easily by "bread and circuses" -- and perhaps by the promise of "free" health care.

(I am indebted to my son for a crystallizing conversation on this topic.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Political Case for Traditional Morality

Lee Harris makes it, in "Drug Addiction and the Open Society," at The New Atlantis. Here is one of many telling passages:
Herein may well lie one of the great advantages that highly authoritarian forms of government have over open and liberal society. They are in a position to crack down on social epidemics, like drugs, in ways that are far more effective, because far more brutal, than any option available to societies like Dalrymple’s England or DeGrandpre’s America. If so, what a fascinating paradox to present to Mr. Mill—those societies that most closely followed his “simple universal principle” could eventually be undone by their excess of liberty; in which case, the epitaph of the open society might well be taken from Dalrymple’s assessment of the addicts he dealt with in the British slum: “Freedom was bad for them, because they did not know what to do with it.”
Moral anarchy is fertile ground for totalitarianism.

Related posts:
The Meaning of Liberty
Social Norms, State Action, and Liberty

Friday, September 21, 2007

Depressing But True

From Mark Steyn's post of Monday last:
In his pugnacious new book [World War IV: The Long Struggle against Islamofascism: LC], Norman Podhoretz calls for redesignating this conflict as World War IV.* Certainly, it would have been easier politically to frame the Iraq campaign as being a front in a fourth world war than as a necessary measure in an anti-terrorist campaign. Yet who knows? Perhaps we would still have mired ourselves in legalisms and conspiracies and the dismal curdled relativism of the Flight 93 memorial's "crescent of embrace." In the end, as Podhoretz says, if the war is to be fought at all, it will "have to be fought by the kind of people Americans now are." On this sixth anniversary, as 9/11 retreats into history, many Americans see no war at all.
Depressing but true.

In a related essay at OpinionJournal, Podhoretz writes this:
It is impossible at this point to predict how and when the battle of Iraq will end. But from the vitriolic debates it has unleashed we can already say for certain that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did not do to the Vietnam syndrome what Pearl Harbor did to the old isolationism. The Vietnam syndrome is back and it means to have its way. But is it strong enough in its present incarnation to do what it did to the honor of this country in 1975? Well acquainted though I am with its malignant power, I still believe that it will ultimately be overcome by the forces opposed to it in the war at home. Even so, I cannot deny that this question still hangs ominously in the air and will not be answered before more damage is done to the long struggle against Islamofascism into which we were blasted six years ago and that I persist in calling World War IV.
We have, I fear, gone beyond the "Vietnam syndrome" -- the simplistic view that war is always bad -- to something much worse: Many Americans -- far too many -- simply think of America as the enemy. Thus these posts:
Shall We All Hang Separately?
Foxhole Rats
Foxhole Rats, Redux
The Faces of Appeasement
We Have Met the Enemy . . .
Whose Liberties Are We Fighting For?
Words for the Unwise
More Foxhole Rats
Post-Americans and Their Progeny
Anti-Bush or Pro-Treason?
Com-Patriotism and Anti-Patriotic Acts

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

As I Was Saying..., "past performance is no indication of future returns," especially when it comes to this year's Yankees.

I have been all over the lot on the fate of the 2007 Yankees (here, here, here, and here). I should follow my own advice and quit trying to make predictions, even if they are informed ones and not mindless arithmetic games.

I had effectively written the Yankees off for failing to sweep their recent series with the Red Sox, which left the Yankees 4.5 games in arrears. But three days later, the Yankees are only 1.5 games behind the Red Sox.

What happens now? I dunno. I hereby swear that I will not make another prediction about baseball -- until I make another one.

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Michael Cannon of Cato-at-Liberty writes:

In response to Andrew Sullivan: all liberals understand free markets.

It’s the leftists that are the problem.

Cannon assumes that modern "liberals" -- you know the kind: LBJ, Hubert Humphrey, Ted Kennedy -- actually understand free markets. It's true that LBJ, HHH, EMK, and their ilk are not really "liberals" by the classic definition of the word "liberal," but they long ago absconded with the word and corrupted it.

That "liberals" now call themselves "progressives" is evidence of the corruption of the word "liberal." The use of "progressive" is an obvious semantic dodge, an effort to avoid association with what "liberal" has come to mean: a proponent of the nanny state.

As far as I can tell, all "liberals" (and "progressives") are Leftists: anti-libertarian statists extraordinaire.

P.S. A Cato-type libertarian probably thinks that such "rights" as abortion-on-demand and same-sex marriage are manifestations of liberality, in the old-fashioned meaning of the word (see Noun 1. here). In fact, abortion-on-demand and same-sex marriage are not manifestations of liberality, they are manifestations of statism because they are (or would be) state-imposed -- which is what "liberals" want.

If abortion-on-demand and same-sex marriage were manifestations of liberality, they would have arisen from voluntarily evolved social norms. That they have not done so means that they are destructive of the social order -- of civil society -- upon which liberty depends.

By the way, segregation in the South was state-imposed.

Some related posts:
Why I'm Not a Democrat or a Liberal
Left, Right, What's the Difference?
The Liberal Mindset
The Meaning of Liberty
Social Norms, State Action, and Liberty

For much more, click on Leftism - Statism - Democracy

A New Motto

"Not enough boots, but plenty of nukes." And the nukes may be needed.

Re: Climate "Science"

There's this (via John Ray):
The authors compared, for the overlapping time frame 1962-2000, "the estimate of the northern hemisphere mid-latitude winter atmospheric variability within the available 20th century simulations of 19 global climate models included in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] 4th Assessment Report" with "the NCEP-NCAR and ECMWF reanalyses," i.e., compilations of real-world observations produced by the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), in collaboration with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and by the European Center for Mid-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF)....

Quoting...the scientists who performed the model tests, "this study suggests caveats with respect to the ability of most of the presently available climate models in representing the statistical properties of the global scale atmospheric dynamics of the present [our italics] climate and, a fortiori ["all the more," as per Webster's Dictionary], in the perspective of modeling [future] climate change." Indeed, it gives one pause to question most everything the models might suggest about the future.
And this:
It is difficult to understand how scientific forecasting could be conducted without reference to the research literature on how to make forecasts. One would expect to see empirical justification for the forecasting methods that were used. To provide forecasts of climate change that are useful for policy-making, one would need to prepare forecasts of (1) temperature changes, (2) the effects of any temperature changes, and (3) the effects of feasible proposed policy changes. To justify policy changes based on climate change, policy makers need scientific forecasts for all three forecasting problems and they need those forecasts to show net benefits flowing from proposed policies. If governments implement policy changes without such justification, they are likely to cause harm to many people....

Based on our literature searches, those forecasting long-term climate change have no apparent knowledge of evidence-based forecasting methods....
P.S. See also this post at World Climate Report.

Related post: "Warmism": The Myth of Anthropogenic Global Warming

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Irrationality, Suboptimality, and Voting

In "The Rational Voter?" I define rationality as the application of "sound reasoning and pertinent facts to the pursuit of a realistic objective (one that does not contradict the laws of nature or human nature)." I later say that
[m]any (a majority of? most?) voters are guilty of voting irrationally because they believe in such claptrap as peace through diplomacy, "social justice" through high marginal tax rates, or better health care through government regulation. To be perfectly clear, the irrationality lies not in favoring peace, "social justice" (whatever that is), health care, and the like. The irrationality lies in knee-jerk beliefs in such contradictions as peace through unpreparedness for war, "social justice" through soak-the-rich schemes, better health care through complete government control of medicine, etc., etc., etc. Voters whose objectives incorporate such beliefs simply haven't taken the relatively little time it requires to process what they already know or have experienced about history, human nature, and social and economic realities....

Another way to put it is this: Voters too often are rationally irrational. They make their voting decisions "rationally," in a formal sense (i.e., [not "wasting" time in order to make correct judgments]). But those decisions are irrational because they are intended to advance perverse objectives (e.g., peace through unpreparedness for war).
Voters of the kind I describe are guilty of suboptimization, which is "optimizing some chosen objective which is an integral part of a broader objective; usually the broad objective and lower-level objective are different."

I will come back to suboptimal voting. But, first, this about optimization: If you aren't familiar with the concept, here's good non-technical definition: "to do things best under the given circumstances." To optimize, then, is to achieve the best result one can, given a constraint or constraints. On a personal level, for example, a rational person tries to be as happy as he can be, given his present income and prospects for future income. (Note that I do not define happiness as the maximization of wealth.) A person is not rational who allows, say, his alchololism to destroy his happiness (if not also the income that contributes to it). He is suboptimizing on his addiction instead of optimizing on his happiness.

By the same token, a person who votes irrationally also suboptimizes. A vote may "make sense" at the moment (just as another drink "makes sense" to an alcoholic), but it is an irrational vote if the voter does not (a) vote as if he were willing to live by the consequences if his vote were decisive and/or (b) take the time to understand those consequences.

In some cases, a voter's irrationality is signaled by the voter's (inner) reason for voting; for example: to feel smug about having voted, to "protest" or to "send a message" (without being able to explain coherently the purpose of the protest or message), or simply to reinforce unexamined biases by voting for someone who seems to share them. More common (I suspect) are the irrational votes that are cast deliberately for candidates who espouse the kinds of perverse objectives that I cite above (e.g., peace without preparedness for war).

Why is voter irrationality important? Does voting really matter? Well, it's easy to say that an individual's vote makes very little difference. But that just isn't true. Consider the presidential election of 2000, for example, where the outcome of the election depended on about five hundred votes out of the almost six million cast in Florida. I recall that Florida was thought to be safely in Bush's column, until after all the votes had been cast.

If you are certain that your vote won't make a difference (as in Massachusetts, for example), don't bother to vote -- unless the act of voting, itself, gives you satisfaction. Otherwise, always vote as if your vote will make a difference to you and those about whom you care. Vote as if your vote will be decisive. To vote otherwise is irrational, in and of itself.

The next (necessary) step is to vote correctly. Short-sighted voters (i.e., irrational ones) vastly underestimate the importance of voting correctly. As Glen Whitman points out, there is a tendency to
give[] too little attention to the political dynamics of...a mandate, instead naively assuming that the mandate could be crafted once-and-for-all in a wise and lobbying-resistant fashion.
That is to say, voters (not to mention those who profess to understand voters) overlook the slippery slope effects of voting for those who promise to "deliver" certain benefits. It is true that the benefits, if delivered, would temporarily increase the well-being of certain voters. But if one group of voters reaps benefits, then another group of voters also must reap them. Why? Because votes are not won, nor offices held, by placating a particular class of voter; many other classes of them must be placated as well.

The "benefits" sought by voters (and delivered by politicians) are regulatory as well as monetary. Many voters (especially wealthy, paternalistic ones) are more interested in controlling others than they are in reaping government handouts (though they don't object to that either). And if one group of voters reaps certain regulatory benefits, it follows (as night from day) that other groups also will seek (and reap) regulatory benefits. (Must one be a trained economist to understand this? Obviously not, because most trained economists don't seem to understand it.)

And then there is the "peace-at-any-price-one-world" crowd, which is hard to distinguish from the crowd that demands (and delivers) monetary and regulatory "benefits."

So, here we are:
  • Many particular benefits are bestowed and many regulations are imposed, to the detriment of investors, entrepreneurs, innovators, inventors, and people who simply are willing to work hard to advance themselves. And it is they who are responsible for the economic growth that bestows (or would bestow) more jobs and higher incomes on everyone, from the poorest to the richest.
  • A generation from now, the average American will "enjoy" about one-fourth the real output that would be his absent the advent of the regulatory-welfare state about a century ago.
Conclusion: Voters who have favored the New Deal, the Square Deal, the Great Society, or almost any Democrat who has run for national office in the past seventy-five years have been supremely irrational. They have voted against their own economic and security interests, and the economic and security interests of their progeny.

This isn't rocket science or advanced economics or clinical psychology. It's common sense, a quality that seems to be lacking in too many voters -- and in the politicians who prey on them. What else can you expect after seven decades in which creeping socialism and "internationalism" have been inculcated through public "education" and ratified by the courts.

"The Shoe Is on the Other Foot" -- Updated

I have added three updates to "The Shoe Is on the Other Foot," a post about the un-hiring and probable un-un-hiring of Erwin Chemerinsky as founding dean of the UC Irvine law school.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tonight's Wisdom

Be pleasant toward persons whom you dislike or mistrust. They might be nice to you because they mistake your pleasantness for amicability.

In any event, being pleasant can help you avoid conflict. And with less conflict in your life, you will have more time for the things that you enjoy.

HillaryCare Returns

It's all over the blogosphere. Glen Whitman has the best take on it because he ackn0wledges the slippery-slope, camel's nose-in-the-tent factor.

What's next after mandating health insurance for all? How about: the kind of health care we must have, who must deliver it, how it must be delivered, at what price, and on and on into the night. It's a poisonous prescription for America's still-excellent -- if already somewhat socialized -- health-care industry.

And there's nowhere left to turn. Canada's out because it already has fully socialized medicine. (Canadians in search of better medical attention are coming here, for crying out loud.) Mexico's out because it's a third-world country with fourth-rate health care and quacks who cater to desperate, terminally ill Americans with more money than sense. Medicine on the Moon, anyone?

P.S. A good post here.

P.P.S. More about health care in Canada here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Blood for Oil

Jules Crittenden reminds us that "oil is worth fighting for"; specifically:
If the world’s single most important stragetic resource isn’t worth fighting for, in addition to peace, truth, justice, the American way, and slightly less abstract threats to U.S. national interests and security, then what is?
My take (on September 19, 2006):
The war on terror should be guided by three strategic objectives: searching out and destroying or capturing terrorists until they are truly a "law enforcement" problem, neutralizing the state sponsors of terrorism, and securing the oil reserves of the Middle East against terrorism and economic extortion.
That's still my take.

P.S. From John Ray:
Greenspan clarifies Iraq war, oil link: "Clarifying a controversial comment in his new memoir, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he told the White House before the Iraq war that removing Saddam Hussein was "essential" to secure world oil supplies, according to an interview published on Monday. Greenspan, who wrote in his memoir that "the Iraq War is largely about oil," said in a Washington Post interview that while securing global oil supplies was "not the administration's motive," he had presented the White House before the 2003 invasion with the case for why removing the then-Iraqi leader was important for the global economy. "I was not saying that that's the administration's motive," Greenspan said in the interview conducted on Saturday. "I'm just saying that if somebody asked me, 'Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?' I would say it was essential."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Footnote to a Footnote

In "A Footnote..." I say this about black Americans' persistent achievement deficit:
If East Asians and Azhkenazic Jews could rise to the top of the IQ charts, as they have, why can't blacks rise too? [Thomas] Sowell would answer [e.g., here] that they could rise, if only they would break the bonds of the "black redneck" culture, which hinders so many of them. The law cannot break those bonds, for, as Sowell argues, the law only reinforces those bonds by making blacks dependent on the affirmative action, welfare programs, and other "white liberal" contrivances.
Whether blacks can break the bond of "black redneck" culture, is a good question. (Though, even if they could, it might not improve* their relative economic standing, on the whole.) Kerwin Kofi Charles, Erik Hurst, and Nikolai Roussanov, writing in an NBER working paper ("Conspicuous Consumption and Race"), say:
A large body of anecdotal evidence suggests that Blacks devote a larger share of their overall expenditure to consumption items that are readily visible to outside observers than do Whites. Automobiles, clothing, and jewelry are examples of these forms of "visible" consumption. There has to date, however, been little formal analysis by economists of the degree to which these racial differences in consumption patterns actually exist in the data, what accounts for them if they do, and what the consequences of any such differential expenditure might be. We address these questions in this paper.

The first part of our paper documents differences by race in expenditures devoted to visible consumption items. Using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX) from the period of 1986-2002 [sample here: LC], we show that although, unconditionally, racial minorities and Whites spend approximately the same fraction of their resources on visible consumption, Blacks and Hispanics spend about thirty percent more on visible goods, after accounting for differences in permanent income. These expenditure differences are found within all sub-groups, except older households.

We find that these racial gaps have been relatively constant over the past seventeen years. And, we show that spending on housing or differential treatment in the housing market cannot explain these patterns. Finally, the gaps are economically large: the absolute level annual dollar differential for visible consumption is on the order of $2300, which is a non-trivial quantity given Black and Hispanic average income.

Because household spending must satisfy an inter-temporal budget constraint, spending devoted to visible consumption must be diverted from some alternative use. Reduced spending on specific types of current consumption on the one hand and lower savings (future consumption) on the other are the two possibilities. We show that the higher visible spending of racial minorities seems to come out of both future consumption and all other categories of current consumption: Blacks consume less than Whites in essentially every other expenditure category (aside from housing) to maintain higher visible consumption....

Strikingly, we find that, consistent with the status argument, there is a strong negative association between visible spending and the mean income of one’s reference group within all races....

We then turn to the obvious next step: Do differences in...income explain the racial expenditure gaps that are our main focus? In a series of regressions, we show that accounting for [relative income] explains most of the racial gap in visible spending...

Controlling for the mean income of one’s reference group at the state/race level dramatically reduces the measured difference in wealth holdings between similar Blacks and Whites. Specifically, roughly 60% of the unexplained racial gap in wealth holdings after controlling for permanent income and demographics is accounted for by average differences in reference group income...[I]t does appear that the mechanism that leads Blacks to consume more conspicuous
goods than their White counter parts could also explain some of the well documented Black-
White wealth gap.
So, the propensity for visible (exhibitionist) consumption varies inversely with socio-economic status. But, socio-economic status explains only 60 percent of the black-white wealth gap. That leaves a lot of room for the influence of "black redneck" culture. My question stands: Can blacks (on the whole) break the bonds of "black redneck" culture?
* This is a subtle reference to inherent racial differences in IQ, which I examine at length in the linked post. Following the lead of Arnold Kling, I hereby abandon subtlety.

I further direct you to this post by John Ray.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Liberal Condescension... Hillary Clinton. Nailed by Walter Williams.

There's Always Solitude

Eliezer Yudkowsky, of Overcoming Bias, writes:
...I suspect the vast majority of Overcoming Bias readers could not achieve the "happiness of stupidity" if they tried. That way is closed to you. You can never achieve that degree of ignorance, you cannot forget what you know, you cannot unsee what you see.

The happiness of stupidity is closed to you. You will never have it short of actual brain damage, and maybe not even then. You should wonder, I think, whether the happiness of stupidity is optimal - if it is the most happiness that a human can aspire to - but it matters not. That way is closed to you, if it was ever open.

All that is left to you now, is to aspire to such happiness as a rationalist can achieve. I think it may prove greater, in the end. There are bounded paths and open-ended paths; plateaus on which to laze, and mountains to climb; and if climbing takes more effort, still the mountain rises higher in the end.

Climbing the mountains of the mind is aided immensely by solitude. It need not take the form of physical isolation; indeed, physical isolation often is impossible. But, with practice and determination, mental solitude is attainable, even in the midst of tumult.


This article at the website of the Ludwig von Mises Institute reinforces what I say in "Monopoly and the General Welfare." Both items are fairly short. Read them and overcome your fear of Microsoft.

Austin: Not the Live Music Captial of the World

The City of Austin likes to claim that Austin is "The Live Music Capital of the World." I suppose that's a more palatable claim than the more apt description, "The People's Republic of Austin." That moniker is owed to the predilections of Austin's all-Democrat city council, which dispenses taxpayers' money like manna from city hall, itself a monstrous monument to Austin's commissariat:

In any event, Austin is not the live music capital of the world. It isn't even the live music capital of the U.S., according to a new study of the music industry in the nation's 50 most populous metropolitan areas:
  • Figure 4 of that study indicates that Austin ranks fourth in the number of musicians employed in the music industry per 1,000 residents. The top three: Nashville (first by a wide margin), New York, Los Angeles.
  • Figure 6 indicates that Austin ranks fourth in the total number of persons directly employed in the music industry per 1,000 residents. The top three: Nashville (first by a wide margin), Los Angeles, New York.
  • Austin is among the laggards in absolute numbers of musicians, other industry employees, number of establishments, payrolls, and revenues (figures 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11).
It's evident that Austin is not the capital of anything, when it comes to music. It may be the capital of smugness, though San Francisco, Manhattan, and a few other places are probably in Austin's class (and I don't mean "classy").

Austin is the capital of Texas. Well, more precisely, the Capitol of Texas is in Austin. But that's a historical accident. Austin is to the rest of Texas (Houston excepted) as George W. Bush is to

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why Ohio Is Getting Bluer

A post at RealClearPolitics notes that "Ohio Is Looking Blue" for election 2008. That's not surprising, given that enterprising Ohioans have been fleeing the Buckeye State for decades; for example:

So, Ohio turns Blue, while sun-belt Red States (e.g., Texas and Georgia) turn a deeper shade of Red. Quelle surprise!

P.S. See also.

Compare and Contrast

On the one hand, we have Bryan Caplan's naïve anarcho-libertarianism:
I...think that the best way for Americans to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks on Americans is to imitate the Swiss by minding our own business. Or to be more blunt, the U.S. should buy peace in the Middle East and elsewhere the same way that Britain, France, Holland, Belgium, and Portugal bought peace with their colonies after World War II: leave them to their own devices.
So, we mind our own business and terrorists do what, reciprocate? Hah!

On the other hand, we have Kay S. Hymowitz's realism about the limits of libertarianism:

A libertarian, according to Brian Doherty, "has to believe" that "the instincts and abilities for liberty . . . are innate," that we possess "an ability to fend for ourselves in the Randian sense and to form spontaneous orders of fellowship and cooperation in the Hayekian sense." But this view of the relationship between the individual and society is profoundly and demonstrably false, especially when applied to the family.

Children do not come into the world respecting private property. They do not emerge from the womb ready to navigate the economic and moral complexities of an "age of abundance." The only way they learn such things is through a long process of intensive socialization--a process that we now know, thanks to the failed experiments begun by the Aquarians and implicitly supported by libertarians, usually requires intact families and decent schools.

Libertarianism did not have to take this unfortunate turn. Ludwig von Mises himself warned that the attempt (of socialists) to undermine the family was a ploy to strengthen the state. Hayek, too, grasped the family's role in upholding the free market. Coming of age in Europe around the time of World War I, he stressed the state's inefficiency but also warned, more generally, of the limits of human reason. "Hayek's economics was rooted in man's ignorance," Mr. Doherty writes; so were his political views, which included both an enthusiasm for freedom and a Burkean respect for customs and institutions.

It is difficult to say why this aspect of libertarianism has faded away, but the sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset once provided a partial answer. In Europe and elsewhere, he observed, modern radicals have tended to be of a Marxist, collectivist bent; in America, with its peculiar Lockean legacy and Jeffersonian ideals, radicals have gone to the other extreme, searching for absolute freedom. It is a quest that has left little room for the confining demands of family and other unchosen social bonds.

Good things don't just happen, they must be made to happen. If they are not, bad things will prevail because the anti-social aspects of human nature -- dominance, enviousness, and aggressiveness -- outweigh the pro-social ones.

Related posts:
Social Norms, State Action, and Liberty
Anarchistic Balderdash
The Meaning of Liberty

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Testing for Steroids


Here are the top eleven home-run hitters in the history of major league baseball,* based on home runs as a percentage of times at bat over the course of a career:

Mark McGwire


Babe Ruth


Barry Bonds


Jim Thome


Ralph Kiner


Alex Rodriguez


Harmon Killebrew


Manny Ramirez


Sammy Sosa


Ted Williams


Ken Griffey Jr.


The list includes six active players (Bonds, Thome, Rodriguez, Ramirez, Sosa, Griffey) and one retired player (McGwire) who was a contemporary of the active players. Here are the stats for those seven players, by season:

Note McGwire's "explosion" from 1995 through 2000, and Bonds's me-too binge from 1999 through 2004. Were McGwire and Bonds -- who were born less than a year apart -- simply "peaking" in those years? I don't think so.

Here's why I don't think so, namely, the stats for the same seven players, by age:

So, we have five sluggers (Sosa, Rodriguez, Thome, Ramirez, Griffey) who seem to have aged more or less normally (allowing for injuries). Then, we have the "big two" (McGwire and Bonds) whose late-career "accomplishments" stand out from the rest.

Perhaps the "big two" really aren't that unusual. How do they compare with the older members of the top-eleven club, for instance? Here's how:

As the late Phil Rizzuto would say, "Holy cow, would you look at that!" Or, as Detective Delvecchio (of Barney Miller) used to say, "What an amazing coincidence!" Two guys who "peaked" late, one right after the other.
*Source and notes: All statistics are derived from and are current through the end of the 2007 regular season. I have excluded two active players -- Adam Dunn (career, 7.04%) and Albert Pujols (career, 6.96%) -- who are less than 30 years of age and have compiled far fewer at-bats than the players whose records I analyze here.

The Shoe Is on the Other Foot


From Law Blog - The O.C.:
According to Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports, a blog on comings-and-goings in legal academia, UC Irvine, which recently got approval to start a law school, reached an agreement with Duke’s Erwin Chemerinsky (pictured), a prominent constitutional law scholar, to have Chemerinsky be its inaugural dean — and then rescinded the offer yesterday because of his [liberal] political views....

“I’ve been a liberal law professor for 28 years,” Chemerinsky said. “I write lots of op-eds and articles, I argue high-profile cases, and I expected there would be some concern about me. My hope was that I’d address it by making the law school open to all viewpoints.”...

He added: “Obviously I’m sad because it’s something I was exciting about. I’m angry because I don’t believe anyone liberal or conservative should be denied a position like this because of political views.”

I must here admit to a bit of schadenfreude, given that academia is ruled mainly by Leftists who are in the habit of not hiring and not promoting conservatives.

But, but, but...many (even some conservatives) will say "two wrongs don't make a right." Actually, thousands of wrongs have been committed against conservative academics, but the un-hiring of Chemerinsky isn't a wrong. I have encountered his view of the Constitution, and have found it highly unconstitutional. He shouldn't have been hired for the deanship in the first place. The man has no place teaching constitutional law, anywhere. It has been his good luck (and our misfortune) that many law schools (like most of academia) are dominated by the Left.

UPDATE (09/17/07): Conservatives just play too nice. UC Irvine has been suckered into hiring Chereminsky as law dean, after all.

See the new law school open next year. Hear the new dean promise "to respect all points of view." Wait for the new law school to begin veering to the Left. Peer into the not-so-distant future as the school drives out the few conservative-libertarian profs it was willing and able to recruit.

You can what's going to happen because Brian Leiter, a Marxist who parades as a law prof, is happy about the news of Chereminsky's hiring. (For more about Leiter, see this, this, this, and this.)

UPDATE (09/18/07): Chereminsky, I now learn, has been representing Rachel Corrie's family in its suit against Caterpillar, Inc. Corrie, as you will remember, was the pro-Palestinian protester who failed to get out of the way of an Israeli-wielded Cat. So, Corrie's family sued the company. “This is a case about direct commercial sales,” Chemerinsky said. “It’s about holding corporations liable when they aid and abet violations of human rights.”

Corrie's family has a right to representation, but Chemerinsky wasn't obliged to represent the family. In choosing to do so, he revealed his anti-U.S., anti-Israeli bias.

Fortunately, in this case, the Ninth Circuit (surprisingly) did the right thing: It affirmed the dismissal of the family's suit by a district court judge. A telling passage from the court's ruling:
It is not the role of the courts to indirectly indict Israel for violating international law with military equipment the United States government provided and continues to provide. . . . Plaintiffs may purport to look no further than Caterpillar itself, but resolving their suit will necessarily require us to look beyond the lone defendant in this case and toward the foreign policy interests and judgments of the United States government itself.
Which is precisely what the Corrie family, their supporters, and Chemerinsky sought: judicial intervention in what are essentially political questions. Isn't that the Left's preferred way? You bet it is. And that's part of the mindset Chemerinsky will bring to the deanship of the new law school.

UPDATE (09/19/07): See this related post by Gail Heriot of The Right Coast.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Mini-Fest of Links

It's time to disgorge some of the links that I've been hoarding.

First up is Arnold Kling's "Religion, Government, and Civil Society." I had missed it because it was published in February of this year, when I was neither blogging nor reading blogs. Kling compresses much wisdom into a relatively short essay. (For my views on the importance of civil society -- as opposed to statism -- read "On Liberty" in the sidebar and go here.)

Relatedly, here is Tyler Cowen's post about philanthropy. (I hereby apologize for having thought bad thoughts about Cowen.)

Next is a piece (reproduced here) by Douglas Kmiec about the (now-stayed) ruling by an Iowa judge, in which he struck down Iowa's defense-of-marriage act. That is to say, the judge ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. (My views on the subject are in this post, among others.)

"Crunchy cons" -- love 'em or hate 'em -- always stir the pot. Here are two posts by Mr. Crunchy Con himself, Rod Dreher. It seems, on the surface, that Dreher is a "civil societarian," as Arnold Kling defines it. But do not be deceived by the reasonable tone of Dreher's posts (linked above). Dreher is, in fact, a pseudo-civil-societarian with a statist agenda. For more on that, go back and read this post (toward the bottom) and this one.

I wrote recently about "The Slippery Slope of Constitutional Revisionism." The U.S. may not have traveled as far down the slope toward vicious statism as has the U.K. But it could do so, quite easily. Let this be a warning to you.

September 11, 2001

I cannot add to what I have said before.

But Arnold Kling, as usual, says it best. I like all of Arnold's points, especially this one:
I believe that civilization is a fragile thing. It is easy to imagine a more peaceful world. It is easy to imagine a less nationalistic world. But I find it even easier to imagine a world that is worse along both dimensions. My guess is that if the United States becomes less nationalistic and less assertive, then the world as a whole will take a turn for the worse rather than for the better.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Yankees vs. Red Sox: The End Games (2)


The Red Sox remaining games at home through the end of the season

Devil Rays -- 2 games -- home vs. Devil Rays: 5-2 to date
Yankees -- 3 games -- home vs. Yankees: 4-2
Athletics -- 2 games -- home vs. Athletics: 1-1
Twins -- 4 games -- home vs. Twins: 0-0
The Red Sox away
Blue Jays -- 3 games -- away vs. Blue Jays: 5-1
Devil Rays -- 3 games -- away vs. Devil Rays: 4-2
The Yankees at home
Orioles -- 3 games -- home vs. Orioles: 2-4
Blue Jays -- 4 games -- home vs. Blue Jays: 3-2
The Yankees away
Blue Jays -- 3 games -- away vs. Blue Jays: 3-3
Red Sox -- 3 games -- away vs. Red Sox: 2-4
Devil Rays -- 3 games -- away vs. Devil Rays: 3-3
Orioles -- 3 games -- away vs. Orioles: 2-4
Combined home and away records against remaining opponents
Red Sox: 19-8
Yankees: 15-20
Current standings
Red Sox lead Yankees by 5 games (The Yankees' deficit is the same as it was after the games of August 30. That's zero progress by the Yankees in a span of 11 days. Plus, the remaining schedule is more favorable to the Red Sox now than it was 11 days ago.)
Draw your own, bearing in mind that "past performance is no guarantee of future results."

Here's mine:
  • The three-game series between New York and Boston (in Boston) this coming weekend (Sept. 14-16) will be decisive.
  • If the Yankees trail the Red Sox by 5 games or less when the two teams meet, the Yankees will win the American League East title if (and only if) they sweep the Red Sox.
  • Conversely, no matter where the Sox and Yankees stand entering the series, the Sox will take the title if they beat the Yankees at least twice.
UPDATE (09/14/07, 11:30 a.m. CT): The Yankees trail the Red Sox by 5.5 games going into their three-game series. So, the Yankees still have a shot at the AL East title, but only if they sweep the Red Sox.

Reasons Not to Read...

...Tyler Cowen and Megan McArdle any more. Not a word in either post about the most likely scenario: "Global warming" (i.e., the warm episode of the past 30-some years) is not caused by human activity.

If two of the (supposedly) brighter lights of blogdom can't even acknowledge that possibility, why should I bother reading their stuff? On the other hand (as economists are wont to say), one or the other of them occasionally offers up a gem or a link to a gem.

P.S. Thomas Sowell (on the other, other hand) never disappoints. Par example.

UPDATE (09/13/07): McArdle admits that she voted Democrat in 2006, and says that she'll vote either for Obama or an independent in 2008. Proof that I can no longer take her seriously. How can she mouth (mostly) free-market economics and then vote for those who would complete the destruction of free markets in this country? Perhaps she is voting with her hormones instead of her brain. Anyway, she's outta here, that is, off the blogroll and off the list of blogs that I follow via Bloglines.

The Better Half or the Worse Half?

Arnold Kling, writing about a post of Robin Hanson's, says:
My guess is that if Robin were to try to make this argument to a general audience, he would get a hostile response.
Hanson's argument?
Cutting half of medical spending would seem to cost little in health, and yet would free up vast resources for other health and utility gains. To their shame, health experts have not said this loudly and clearly enough.

...The claim is not that there would be no harmful health effects of such a policy, but rather that harmful effects would be roughly balanced by helpful effects. And the claim is not that harmful and helpful effects would exactly balance, but rather that any net health harm will be small compared to the health gains possible by spending the savings on other health influences, and to the utility gains possible from spending the savings in other ways.
Kling continues:
However, the opposition would be almost entirely emotional, with little or no rational component....The intensity of the emotions is probably a sign that Hanson is onto something.
I don't think it's emotional to ask two questions:
1. Who does the cutting?

2. How does the cutter know, for each affected individual, whether the cut removes the better half or worse half of that individual's health care?
Cato Unbound (where Hanson's post appears) seems to be off-line. Perhaps I'll have more to say when I'm able to read the whole post.

Okay, I've now read Hanson's post. Hanson's point about over-spending on medical care is well supported, but here's the key passage about how to cut spending:

How should we cut medical spending? There are many possibilities, and I may prefer some possibilities to others....The obvious first place to cut would be our government and corporate subsidies for medicine, including direct payments, tax exemptions, and regulatory requirements. Socially, we should also try to give medicine far less prestige than we now do. After these one could consider taxing medicine, limiting it by law, or nationalizing the industry and using agency budgets to limit spending.

Yes, I know, these are not politically realistic proposals.
The least realistic proposals, politically, are to cut government and corporate subsidies, tax exemptions, and regulatory requirements. Such changes would be the most beneficial because they would restore income and discretion to the actual recipients and beneficiaries of medical care.

The politically realistic proposals (taxing medicine, limiting it by law, or nationalizing the industry) would be ruinous. Necessary medical care would become more expensive and harder to come by.

Does Hanson seriously endorse taxes, government-imposed rationing, and nationalization as substitutes for the the judgments of individuals who actually need medical attention? Perhaps he would prefer to live in Canada or the UK.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Rational Voter?

To act rationally is:
(a) to apply sound reasoning and pertinent facts to the pursuit of an objective, or

(b) to apply sound reasoning and pertinent facts to the pursuit of a realistic objective (one that does not contradict the laws of nature or human nature).
Answer: (b).

It's true that voters often reason poorly and are largely ignorant of particular facts when they cast their ballots. But voters mainly fail to vote rationally because their objectives are wanting in reality. They (and the candidates for whom they vote) tend to believe in "six impossible things before breakfast" (the White Queen to Alice, in Alice in Wonderland).

Given that, the likelihood of finding a rational voter in a polling booth is vanishingly small. That most voters are irrational is certainly my view, and that of Bryan Caplan of EconLog and George Mason University's economics department.

Ilya Somin (of The Volokh Conspiracy and the George Mason University School of Law) argues, on the other hand, that American voters are "rationally ignorant." Somin spells out his theory of rational ignorance in "Knowledge of Ignorance: New Directions in the Study of Political Information," the abstract of which reads, in part:
For decades, scholars have recognized that most citizens have little or no political knowledge, and that it is in fact rational for the average voter to make little effort to acquire political information. This article shows that rational ignorance is fully compatible with the so-called paradox of voting because it will often be rational for citizens to vote, but irrational for them to become well-informed....
Somin, however, offers a naïve view of rationality; for example:
Assume that Uv = the expected utility of voting; Cv = the cost of voting; and D = the expected difference in welfare per person if the voter’s preferred candidate defeats her opponent. Let us further assume that this is a presidential election in a nation with 300 million people; that the voter’s ballot has only a 1 in 100 million chance of being decisive....

If we assume that Cv is $10 (a reasonable proxy for the cost of voting) and that D is $5000 (this can incorporate monetary equivalents of noneconomic benefits as well as actual income increases), then Uv equals $5, a small but real positive expected utility.

To be sure, actual voters are unlikely to calculate the costs and benefits of voting this precisely, but they might make an intuitive judgment incorporating very rough estimates of D and C. Furthermore, the fact that voting is a low-cost, low-benefit activity ensures that there is little
benefit to engaging in precise calculations such as these, so voters might rationally choose to go with a default option of voting and forego any detailed analysis....

By contrast, the acquisition of political information in any significant quantity is a vastly more difficult and time-consuming enterprise than is voting itself. Assume that Upi = the utility of acquiring sufficient political information to make a “correct” decision, and Cpi = the cost of acquiring political information...

If we conservatively estimate Cpi at $100 by assuming that the voter need only expend 10 hours to acquire and learn the necessary information, while suffering opportunity costs of just $10 per hour, then the magnitude of D would have to be nearly seven times greater — $33,333 per citizen — in order for the voter to choose to make the necessary expenditure on information acquisition. It is unlikely that many otherwise ignorant voters will perceive such an enormous potential difference between the opposing candidates as to invest even the equivalent of $100 in information acquisition. And this theoretical prediction is consistent with the empirical observation that most citizens in fact know very little about politics and public policy, but do vote.

The analysis changes only slightly if the voter does not care about the welfare of the entire nation, but only about that of a subset, such as her racial or ethnic group. Alternatively, she may care about everyone in the nation to at least some extent, but value the utility of some groups more than others. Similarly, it may be that the voter believes that her preferred candidates’ policies will benefit some groups more than others....

For example,...the result that obtains if...a voter...cares far more about the welfare of a subgroup of the population numbering 50 million than about the rest of the public, valuing members of the group five times as much as the rest....

...Uv will turn out to be $8.33, a slightly higher figure than [$5, calculated above]. At the same time, it would still be irrational for the voter to pay the costs of becoming adequately informed....[T]he per-person difference in welfare would have to be over $20,000 in order to justify a decision to pay the price of becoming informed.
Most of that is rote, simple-minded cost-benefit analysis. Aside from being no more than a vague, non-operational description of how voters choose to vote, it ignores the fundamental question: What do voters want? Or, in Somin's terminology, what is "D" -- the "welfare" (i.e., objective) that the voter is trying to attain by voting in a certain way?

Many voters can perceive (and long have perceived), in Somin's words, "enormous potential difference[s] between...opposing candidates," without making any special "expenditure on information acquisition." Voters certainly knew, without benefit of research, the essential differences between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Alfred M. Landon, between Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry M. Goldwater, and between Ronald W. Reagan and James Earl Carter -- to take a few, obvious examples from the annals of presidential elections.

In such cases, which are a-plenty, voters eschew Somin-ized gyrations. They simply "know" whether they "like" the policies advocated by a candidate. That is, they "feel good" about what the candidate seems to "stand for": peace through diplomacy, "social justice" through higher taxes on the rich, better health care through greater government control of it, and so on. (Alternatively, they are "put off" by candidate A's opponent's views on such matters, and vote for A as the lesser of two evils.)

That's where the irrationality comes in. Many (a majority of? most?) voters are guilty of voting irrationally because they believe in such claptrap as peace through diplomacy, "social justice" through high marginal tax rates, or better health care through government regulation. To be perfectly clear, the irrationality lies not in favoring peace, "social justice" (whatever that is), health care, and the like. The irrationality lies in knee-jerk beliefs in such contradictions as peace through unpreparedness for war, "social justice" through soak-the-rich schemes, better health care through complete government control of medicine, etc., etc., etc. Voters whose objectives incorporate such beliefs simply haven't taken the relatively little time it requires to process what they already know or have experienced about history, human nature, and social and economic realities. (Consider, for example, rich liberals who strive to get richer so as to leave wealth to their privately educated children, all the while propounding higher taxes that will hinder the efforts of the less-rich to do the same.)

Why do such voters not "know" what they know? Because they "feel" certain ways about certain things. They feel -- for example -- that higher defense spending is likely to lead to war, even though (in the America of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries) defense spending has risen only after we have been attacked or an avowed enemy is already well armed. Voters who know such things, but nevertheless reject their policy implications, prefer to view history and human nature through the lens of their emotional preferences. They compartment what they know from what they feel, and they succumb to what they feel.

Another way to put it is this: Voters too often are rationally irrational. They make their voting decisions "rationally," in a formal sense (i.e., as outlined by Somin). But those decisions are irrational because they are intended to advance perverse objectives (e.g., peace through unpreparedness for war).

Related posts:
IQ and Personality
IQ and Politics
The Right Is Smarter Than the Left
Things to Come

See also this post by Don Boudreaux.