Saturday, April 25, 2009

One of the biggest fools on the editorial pages is Leonard Pitts Jr. When I discovered he won the Pulitzer five years ago it only reinforced my belief that the Pulitzer is a politically-motivated prize given to left-wing writers regardless of the quality of their work. Seriously, Pitts is just a boob. Poor reasoning, regardless of who it is from or what the person is saying, whether I agree with their contention or not, is like claws on chalk board to me. The editorial pages are filled with non sequiturs and Pitts accounts for about 20% of those, among all columnists.

His most recent article is about the tea party protests, specifically the remarks by Texas Governor Rick Perry.

''When we came into the Union in 1845,'' he told reporters, ``one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, pay attention. We've got a great Union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that?''

You may read it twice if you wish, but it does not improve upon repetition. To the contrary, it becomes all the more incredible. That is, indeed the Republican governor of Texas -- not a yahoo from some group of gun-toting goobers that meets in the woods, but the honorable James Richard Perry himself -- saying Texas doesn't like the way things are going in this country and suggesting that if we don't get our act together, his state might take its mountains and rivers and go home.

For the record, Texas last tried that in 1861. It didn't work out so well.

That it is borderline traitorous for Perry to obliquely threaten it might be tried again goes without saying. That it is dangerously irresponsible in a nation where there are, in fact, goobers in the woods with guns, is likewise obvious. And no, I am not unaware of the legal theses which hold that any state has the right to leave the Union, though I tend to agree with Abraham Lincoln that the nation that would stand passively by and watch itself disintegrate is unworthy of the name.

Hooookay..... So, when a governor of a state points out the the Federal government is bound by the Constitution to leave all powers not delegated by the Constitution to the states or to the people, and when he further points out that all states' membership in the US is voluntary and can be revoked at any time the people of the state choose to, he's "borderline traitorous"? For what? Citing the US Constitution, and the political philosophy explicitly laid down by this nation's founders? See what I mean about poor reasoning from this guy?

Also notice the references to the Civil War. Well it may interest Pitts to know that Texas did indeed have the right to secede at the time, just as it does now. It had only been a part of the US for twenty years. The reasons for which the Southern states decided to secede are irrelevant when it comes to the legality of secession. I have every legal right to refuse to shop at my local Wal-Mart if I decide that I don't want to shop their because the manager is black. It makes me a bigot and a fool, but it doesn't make me legally wrong.

To further complicate the issue of the Civil War, a huge percentage of the South's people were slaves, and thus many of them had no say about the decision to secede. To furtherly further complicate things, many slaves were in favor of secession! I point all of this out not to wave the Confederate flag or make some kind of argument in favor of slavery or bigotry or whatever, but merely to point out what a complicated, troubling issue the Civil War was--not at all like the black and white, one-sided version of history we are taught.

In any event, it is not traitorous to say what Perry said. If it were traitorous, my question is, traitorous to whom? The country? You can't betray countries, you can only betray people. How do you betray people by dissolving your relationship with them if you feel they are placing burdens on you and passing laws for you to follow which you feel they have no right to do? Which is more traitorous? For Group A to tell Group B, "sorry, we're splitting because you are taking my money, and forcing me into things I don't like and that you don't have the right to tell me to do," or for Group B to say to Group A "give me your money and follow these rules."

This is not to say that Texas ought to secede. That is for the Texans, and ONLY for the Texans, to decide. This is only to lay down the terms of the argument. One thing you will see me going on about a lot on this blog is the poor quality of debate that most people have. People often debate poorly, just as they often reason poorly.

Jacob's Laws of Economics

I'm not saying that I'm an economic whiz, and that these insights are all my own. Rather this is a combination of key insights from well-known economists, or insights that can be derived from simply economic theory but which are rarely stated--leading to bad reasoning, even among economists.

1. All statistics on incomes are misleading.
2. All statistics on incomes provide an incomplete picture of standards of living.
3. Income inequality is a red herring.
4. Income inequality and global warming are nothing more than poor excuses for socialists and other economic fascists to bring back discredited anti-market, big-government economic engineering policies.
5. There is an inverse relationship between a government's control and/or influence over prices AND that government's spending, and that country's GDP as a reliable measure of economic performance and economic growth.
6. There is not necessarily a benefit to privatization if you are merely trading one monopoly for another.
7. In a mixed economy, the market will always be blamed for recessions and crises.
8. You cannot complain that the market hasn't worked if the market has been impeded from functioning properly by the government or by other coercive means (i.e. gangsters).
9. Government manipulation of the costs associated with the production or sale of a particular good or service not only function as de facto price controls, they are in fact worse than actual price controls, as 99% of people will not know the price is being controlled and will blame the market instead of the government.
10. Economists come in two phenotypes: beard-face and leprechaun. When a beard-face shaves, he becomes a leprechaun. When a leprechaun grows a beard, he becomes a beard face.
11. Women economists are exempt from law 10.
12. Paul Krugman is the only known economist who is simultaneously a beard-face and a leprechaun.
13. The family, not the individual, is the basic unit of the market economy.
14. The state, not the individual, is the basic unit of the command economy.
15. Job creation is a by-product of economic growth, not the cause of economic growth.
16. Artificial make-work policies designed to "create jobs" are in fact job destroyers on net, as they lead to an inefficient use of the tax-payers' capital and thus have a contractive effect on the economy.
17. It is an inefficient use of the tax-payers' capital when the government uses it to buy things that the tax-payers either do not want or when the government uses it to buy things at a higher price than the tax-payers would be willing to pay.
18. "Efficiency" means achieving maximum output with a given amount of input. Unless "input" and "output" are defined for a given situation, then any use of the word "efficiency" is as valid as the next. IOW "efficiency" becomes meaningless if "input" and "output" are not defined.
19. The seven scariest words in the English language are "It will be good for the economy."
20. The term "economic imperialism" was invented by economically illiterate people who do not understand that economics is the study of scarcity and choice, and thus anywhere there are decisions being made about scarce resources is an area where economic theory is applicable.
21. Studying economics will not impress the ladies.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Intro to Libertarianism

I hate politics, which might seem strange for somebody who writes a political blog. But I also hate that I have to take out the trash, and yet I do it anyway. Why? Because it must be done.

But I have a true passion for economics, which unfortunately gets beat up and left in a ditch by politics quite frequently. Underlying all politics is economics. You could describe all government action in terms of economics. Economics explains why we need governments, why they operate the way they do, and what governments are doing wrong.

The branch of economics that deals with politics is called political economy, and it has its various schools of thought (public choice theory, various kinds of Keynesianism, etc.). I fall into the libertarian category, although libertarianism (a misunderstood school of thought in a misunderstood science) is less of a political ideology and more of an apolitical ideology. Keynesians, protectionists, mercantilists, special interests, socialists, communists, etc., all have some idea about what the government ought to be doing, how it ought to spend the tax-payers money, how it needs to interfere with peoples' affairs, and so on. Libertarianism provides a rationale for why the government should not be interfering with peoples' affairs, for why it ought to be spending as little taxpayer money as possible, and why it doesn't need to "do" nearly as much as many people seem to think.

I should point out that there is a difference between politically-minded libertarians cranks on the one hand (the people who campaign for legalized child prostitution, borderline-anarchy, etc.) and the more pragmatic economically-minded libertarians (such as Hayek, Smith, Friedman, Becker, etc.) who hold to various policies not necessarily for moral reasons or for the sake of "rights," but for pragmatic reasons. They hold to libertarianism because it works. Libertarianism is pretty close to what used to be called "liberalism."

Libertarianism, contrary to what you may have heard, is not necessarily atheistic or socially liberal. Many religious, socially conservative individuals subscribe to libertarianism. The idea that there is a conflict between social conservatives on the one hand and libertarians on the other is a false dichotomy. The real conflict is between those who understand economics and those who don't. And I'm sad to say, most of my fellow conservative Christians do not understand economics any better than the average person--which is to say their understanding is downright crappy. But crappy is average. It ain't call the "dismal science" for nothing.

First Post! Whoo Hoo!!!!

Welcome one and all to the rebirth of the right-wing movement! That's right, you THOUGHT the rebirth of the right-wing movement started with Rush's speech to CPAC but you were wrong. I think Rush would agree that this brand new totally unknown blog that I probably won't commit to is the true rebirth of the right-wing movement.

Who am I? Not important.