Friday, October 26, 2012

"How Sarcasm and Insult Took Over the Democratic Party"

"Obama, whom National Journal ranked the most liberal senator in 2007, exemplified movement progressivism. But he also had a talent for conveying liberal ideas in an inoffensive, positive way.  Obama took pains to avoid ideological conflict. He was about hope and change, not insult and blame...His first Gallup approval rating as president was 68 percent...The untold story of the last four years is President Obama’s squandering of that good will...The Obama coalition, piece by piece, has been disassembled. All that remains is the antiwar, anti-Republican core of the Democratic Party...The most important part of the story is the gradual unmasking of Obama—not as a Kenyan Marxist, but as a thoroughly typical liberal Democrat who believes there is no trouble in the world not created by George W. Bush.  The Obama team came in thinking United States foreign policy could be fixed simply by doing the opposite of whatever Bush had done. What they found instead is that Bush’s policies are difficult to overturn because they are not as unreasonable or as superfluous as his opponents had thought...It turns out the people who supposedly knew better did not, actually, know better."

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Voices of Moderation

I just posted this at Washington Square News where it is awaiting moderation.

"Do values of free speech override the values of equality and of preventing profound personal offense to any singular group?"  Yes, I think it's pretty clear that they do, and should.  Leaving aside any other issues with this article -- for example, it is the writer of this article, not the writer of the advertisements, who explicitly assumes that "Jihad" is synonymous with all of Islam -- I will simply point out that if we outlaw any speech that causes "profound personal offense to any singular group," then this article itself would be outlawed, because there are people (including myself) who feel profoundly offended by it.

Perhaps the author should clarify what, if any, other criteria ought to be met in order for something to qualify as "hate speech" that can legitimately be outlawed.  And then she ought to discuss how those standards would apply to, say, calls for eliminating the existence of the State of Israel.

BTW, I'm Jewish, and I'm also libertarian, so I believe the United States government should be neutral in the Middle East, and not supply government aid to any country there.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day!

Apparently Brett Kimberlin managed to get Wikipedia to take down the article about him because it revealed his connection with the Ku Klux Klan, or something like that.  He's scum, and I wish he served all fifty (50) years of the sentence he received for his domestic terrorist actions, instead of being let out early.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fat, Mean, and Stupid Is No Way To Go Through Life

Bradley Long takes an "ideological Turing test" and shows that while he is fatter than I am, he is also less intelligent, which is pretty sad, since we're both supposedly in the same field. (Actually, the chances are that I will be practicing law instead of economics, but that's another story.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Been Ladin

Ron Paul has been getting a lot of flak for saying he wouldn't have ordered the SEAL raid that killed OBL. Well, retired US Army Ranger John T. Reed (one of my heroes) also would not have ordered the raid, for several reasons; instead, he said it should have been done by the Air Force with three 2,000-pound bombs spaced 30 seconds apart. A "SWAT-type" raid (as he aptly describes it) was irresponsible grandstanding by our Incompetent-in-Chief.
The SWAT approach was simply too risky—again, assuming the fix was not in with the Pakistan Air Force and that the U.S. knew there were only three guys protecting Obama and they were not well armed and booby trapped and all that.
If I were in the military now and were offered the chance to be on or command this operation, I would have said, "No way. This is totally unnecessary. It’s strictly an Air Force operation."
Bin Laden was a symbolic military mission, not a valid military target like, say, Adolf Hitler would have been during World War II. Bin Laden was a financier and leader back in the day, but lately he seems to have evolved into a sort of elder statesman/philosopher with a Just-For-Men colored beard and an intermittent, lame TV show on al Jazeera. You do not risk men’s lives to kill such a person. If the chain of command wanted not only me but also my men to go on this mission, I would have gone to war with my chain of command fighting all the way to the president if necessary and resigning my commission in protest. I went to war with my chain of command over a lot less when it came to mistreating my men when I was an officer.

Monday, April 04, 2011

I Like to Be an Intellectual of This and That, and So It's Good.

From Hannah Volokh, via Instapundit:
I also find conservative anti-intellectualism troubling, and I think it’s important to separate it into three separate points:

1. Left-wing intellectuals are wrong substantively.

2. Many people who claim to be intellectuals are actually not intellectuals at all, but activists.

3. Central planning is not the best way to run a government or economy, so intellectuals do not need to be running things.

Still, to understand why central planning is a bad idea, and what we should have instead, and to get at the answers to numerous substantive policy issues, intellectuals are crucially important.

Drum and Dumber

/B/r/i/t/n/e/y/ /S/p/e/a/r/s/ Kevin Drum at Mother Jones magazine claims that
I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I'd literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he's smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted.

I couldn't agree more. Kevin, on whether you're less-intelligent than President Obama, I trust *your* expert judgement!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Comment on "Progressive Nudges for Household Savings"

"If I were a card-carrying progressive" I would start by cutting (preferably eliminating) all corporate welfare, "community development grants" (which go to big construction firms and real estate speculators) and other government programs that primarily benefit the rich. I'd put an income limit on who was allowed to receive agricultural subsidies.

Remember, all income tax *deductions* (as opposed to credits) are perverse because they benefit the rich more than the poor, because a poor man getting a $1000 deduction only gets 15% of it, while a rich guy gets 30% or more. So I'd change all income tax deductions (primarily mortgages and health insurance) to tax credits.

For the record I *am* a card-carrying progressive, or at least a bleeding-heart libertarian. Which means I care more about the poor than Obama, Rahm, and the rest of the "let's bail out the rich and ignore the poor" gang in both parties. And I also know which policies actually work, as opposed to the "let's have rallies and riots" all-mouth no-brain crowd.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Task Set Before Us

First, I believe that the president's power as commander-in-chief of the military is very simple to understand. He has the power to give any (lawful) order to anyone in the military, and it must be obeyed. That includes things like ordering the military to blockade, bomb, or even invade Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iran.

However, the definition of a lawful order is limited by both international law -- which means treaties that the U.S. has signed, and more importantly the "law of war" that says things like you're not allowed to harm, and in fact have a duty to protect, civilians, prisoners, and anyone else who doesn't try to harm you or disobey your orders.

Furthermore, lawful orders are restricted by the specific rules that the U.S. military follows, such as the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and that's set by Congress, as specified in the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Paragraphs 10-16 and especially Paragraph 14, "To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces."

That means if Congress wants to specify that "No member of the armed forces of the United States shall enter Libya," they can do it. And they can certainly specify the various conditions listed in the War Powers Resolution.

That being said, I am all in favor of intervening in Libya as long as we do it good and hard. In fact, I'm in favor of intervening in Syria even better and harder, since Assad is worse than Qadaffi. And if Iranian Revolutionary Guard units are in Syria, that gives us a really good excuse to attack those units.

On the other hand, I will also repeat what I warned about before we went into Afghanistan and Iraq, which is that we need to have a clear plan, including a clear objective. Glenn Reynolds is right: "Waging war halfheartedly, on the cheap, and by committee is not a formula for success."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Good Question!

BRIAN LEITER ON BUDGET CUTS: “At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified.”

I'll tell you when they're justified: when they're against rich white establishment law professors like that guy. How much do you make a year, Brian Leiter? More than the working stiffs in the unions, I'll bet. A lot more!

Well, it's time for *you* to take a pay cut and distribute to the rest of us whatever you make above the national average. Power to the people.

We know where you live.

Up against the wall, m**********r!

(It's okay for me to attack his ethnic group, since it's my ethnic group as well -- although I'm a graduate student in economics, rather than a law professor. See 0:56 in the court scene in Woody Allen's Bananas.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

On Wisconsin!

As a good progressive, of course I support the State-employee unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere. (See the photo of me helping out at their protest!)

In fact, I urge them all to go out on strike for their rights immediately.

Even if this means shutting down all government schools and most other government agencies, it will be worth it!

Brothers and sisters, venceremos, we will be victorious!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Viva Che'!

I am a democratic socialist and a follower of the ideals of Che!

Che was right, that there is no right to strike against the State. These striking teachers should be thrown into prison or even better put into labor camps to work for the public good. They could easily be replaced with teachers from so-called "private" schools or "parochial" schools (and drafting all those "private" teachers into government service, forcing them to work for the current low-wage contracts that government teachers have, would help shut down those corrupt capitalist schools).

I assume all other progressives who support Che will join me in supporting this modest proposal!

Venceremos, hermanos y hermanas!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Task Set Before Us

This is the task before us: to accept that we are dissidents and opponents. To accept that it is our duty to resist. To use art to express that resistance, the win intellectuals and people of ability to our side. To forge contacts with supporters in the outside world. To slowly expand our influence and never, ever stop laughing at the State.

And when it comes crashing, and I believe it will, we will be there, smiling and laughing.

[End of piece by anonymous author Albert, who identifies as a State Dept. employee in Europe].

Politics is Not About Policy

Robin Hanson famously said that "Politics is not about policy, it is not even about power, it is about status." I concur.

An anonymous poster on Unqualified Reservations said:
*talk matters*.

Clinton talked left, and acted right. Clinton was an amazing president in many ways. Black incarceration rates tripled under Clinton (, one of the main reasons behind the drop in crime in the 1990's. Clinton pushed deregulation and capitalism.

Bush talks right and acts left. That's why the left hates him, even as he gives them NCLB and illegal aliens and Medicare spending and "the government is here to help".

Therefore, whatever you want to do in politics, you can (and possibly should) talk in whatever way appeals to the majority (i.e. the median voter), specifically by saying good things toward groups and behaviors they want to be high-status and bad things toward groups and behaviors they want to be low-status. And especially you should say things toward groups whose status the majority hopes will change.

You can also tailor this message toward a particular audience, depending on where you are speaking.

And then govern whatever way you want, or at least push the envelope as far as you can in the direction you want it to go.

On the other hand, this doesn't always work. It worked fine for Clinton and Reagan, and and even for Junior Bush (since because of his rhetoric and personal style he is still hated by leftists and respected by some conservatives, despite all his left-wing policies) and it seems to not be working at all for Obama. So there has to be some finesse in the execution. Of course, if you come up with garbage policies like the PPACA (a/k/a "Obamacare") you will get despised no matter what. You know, for some supposedly bright guys, they came up with some dumb policies -- and speaking as a bright guy who also considers himself pretty good at politics as well as policy, I don't buy the "We had to compromise in order to get it passed" excuse, on that piece of . . . legislation. Or on anything else.

Reflections on CPAC

I posted this on Pajamas Media:

For those of us who can remember back that far, the 1990's were a time of Republican unity as well, during which the annoyance of being out of power was great enough for people to be willing to overlook minor differences over social policy in the hope of retaking the White House.

At the very least, when one is out of power the opposing party is the Great Satan while other factions within one's own party are the enemy of one's enemy.

I predict this unity, based around economic issues, will persist until we retake power -- and then we will have to deal with differences on social issues and foreign policy.

I'm a big-tent Republican, and I hope we can deal with those differences properly. And I'd like to remind my fellow-Christians that if government is allowed to enforce social values, it will almost always enforce values that we do *not* want. This will happen all the time when we do not control the federal government, and it will even happen most of the time that we do control it, because the both the government bureaucracy and the intellectual establishment are against us. (How much conservative social policy came out of the federal government during the last administration?)

So the best policy (pun intended) will be to get the government out of our lives in every respect. Once the government stops actively subsidizing sin (paying for abortions, and welfare, and blasphemous, poor-quality "art") and its practitioners are forced to pay for it themselves, it will disappear.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Back in Black?

School choice is a no-lose proposition for any politician outside of Maryland. Government-school teachers, and especially their union leaders and agitators, are now seen as the selfish monsters they are, who care only about their pay raises and outrageous pensions, and don't give a d--- about kids.

The GOP ought to bring back the DC school voucher program, with at least twice as many students to balance the fact that it was cut out before. In fact, our starting point (from which we will compromise) should be to make *every* poor and/or minority student in DC eligible for this. This will force the Democrats to choose between betraying the teachers' union or betraying the poor and minorities, so *someone* will hate them no matter what they do.

I am *all about* driving wedges between different parts of the traditional New Deal coalition. It's like a Frankenstein's monster, except that I have no sympathy for it. I want to see it ripped apart like the patchwork man in Britannia Hospital.

Another good idea is to require the DC government schools to follow the reforms recommended by Charles Murray in Losing Ground.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Clint Bolick got it perfectly:
Obama gave two speeches, one to his liberal base and one to the middle. Lots of inconsistencies, such as "I'm going to cut domestic spending and veto earmarks," while we "invest" in myriad new things. But I don't think most people noticed.

Obviously there's an opportunity for the GOP (and the LP) to point this out and hit the administration at a vulnerable spot, forcing it to abandon either "progressives" or moderates. If the administration is really inept, it might even lose both.

Another opportunity, much less obvious, is for the GOP to hammer the Democrats on Social Security. Specifically, they can say (truthfully)
Social Security is bankrupt. It owes more than it has, and its debts are piling up faster than money is coming in. We have to either cut benefits, or cut spending on other programs, or do nothing until the entire Social Security program collapses. *We* favor cutting spending on other programs in order to save Social Security, but if you prefer one of the other options, vote for a Democrat.

This forces the Democrats to either support cutting other programs -- and they would rather cut their own throats -- or cutting benefits (which is political suicide) -- or claiming there is nothing wrong with Social Security, which isn't political suicide yet, but can easily be made into it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Steampunk RPG Campaign

Perfidious Albion is a steampunk RPG campaign -- a Scientific Romance for ladies and gentlemen of good breeding (ahem), set in the late 19th Century in a well-developed alternate-history setting in which a peaceful compromise (Ben Franklin's "Albany Plan") prevented the American Revolution, the British Empire is the world's dominant power, and steam-powered supercomputers perform econometric calculations in mere minutes! (For those who really like trivia, there was an earlier point of divergence at the Putney Debates in 1648.)

For Perfidious Albion: A Scientific Romance, I recommend either GURPS Lite or FUDGE. Even more, I recommend any good steampunk fiction, such as The Difference Engine, Girl Genius, The Two Georges, and so forth.

Some good references for steampunk, and for the Victorian period in general, are:
* What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist -- The Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England by Daniel Pool (available for cheap on;
* An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn't, specifically the section on English Literature, which discusses obscure details of nineteenth-century British life (likewise available for cheap on Amazon);
* GURPS Steampunk by my old friend Bill Stoddard (available for cheap as a PDF at, hands-down the single best reference source for the period, whether realistic historical or steampunk.;
* Forgotten Futures: The Scientific Romance Role Playing Game by the brilliant Phil Masters (available for free as shareware, he asks that you make a donation to charity, God bless him!)
* Comme Il Faut, a supplement for Castle Falkenstein on daily life and manners in the 19th Century.

(For what it's worth, I did graduate work in English literature and specialized in both sf/fantasy and Victorian/industrial revolution fiction.)

I prefer "system" games, because the system helps answer questions like "How far can I jump?" and "How long will it take to fix the engine?" I strongly believe in a good story rather than rolling dice, and I also believe in realism and balance.

Above all, I want to make sure that people who are interested in the genre and/or the setting, and are not familiar with the system, to join and play and learn the system as we go along.

For more information about the game, or if you wish to join, please contact the Management of the game via electronic mail for any questions about the setting, or for the Approval of Characters.

Excerpted from a survey report by the Infinity Corporation:


A libertarian British Empire (including America) vs. the Holy Alliance (France, Spain, Austria, Russia) and Ottoman Caliphate.


1648: The Levellers win the Putney Debates to decide the new government after the English Civil War.
1765: Ben Franklin's "Albany Plan of Union" is accepted by the Whig government of Britain.

Western (multipolar), Chinese (empire), Islamic (empire).

British Empire (feudal technocracy, CR2), France (dictatorship, CR5), Spain (dictatorship, CR5), Austria (dictatorship, CR5), Russia (dictatorship, CR6), Prussia (dictatorship, CR4).

Ottoman Empire (dictatorship, CR5), Manchu Empire (dictatorship, CR5), Sweden (democracy, CR4), Japan (feudal technocracy, CR 5).


Technological Level: 5+2 (except TL5 weapons/armor)
Mana Level: low
Quantum: 7
Infinity Class: P1
Centrum Zone: YELLOW


"A Series of Tubes"
"Can You Get Sound On That Thing?"
"First Contacts"
"Hearts of Steel"
"League of Extraordinary Ladies & Gentlemen"

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Which Parents, When Their Child Asks for Bread, Give a Stone Instead? Amy Chua!

@cp puts it perfectly:
How many Yale law professors would want to allow terror suspects to be denied access to food and water?
I'm sorry, I consider Amy Chua's parenting methods to be dead to me. I strongly recommend the methods suggested by The One-Minute Mother and The One-Minute Father.

Matthew 7:9
Luke 11:11

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Giants in the Earth

I'm a born-again Christian and I've always said that God wants us to play Dungeons & Dragons (and other roleplaying games).

Furthermore, those who claim that "unicorn" is a mistranslation of "rhinoceros," or that "dragon" is a mistranslation of "crocodile," are as mistaken as those who claim that "day" in Genesis is a mistranslation of "time period." Obviously we need to take the King James Version literally (in the simplest and most obvious sense); if Shakespearean English was good enough for Christ Himself to speak, then it is good enough for the rest of us. Thus, "unicorn" means "horse with a horn on its forehead" and "dragon" means "giant lizard that breathes fire."

It's all in the Bible, and the Monster Manual. King James Version, and OGL -- none of this modernized scripture for me, and no 4th Edition D&D either!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Cloward-Piven: Bring It On

Maybe I'm overlooking something here; if so, please let me know!

The Cloward-Piven strategy was to overwhelm the system with a massive amount of both protests (possibly violent) and also welfare recipients; this was supposed to cause a breakdown of both public discourse and also of public finance.

The idea was that the status quo in both politics and public programs would not be able to handle the new situation and would have to be replaced by something else.

According to Piven, the activism of the 1960s and 1970s was this strategy in action.

As I understand it, those are her claims -- and I completely agree with them so far. Her mistake is believing that the response of the system would be to give in to the demands of the activists and welfare applicants, and replace capitalism with democratic socialism.

Instead, in the 1980s and 1990s the system -- I hesitate to say "Silent Majority" -- responded by voting for right-wing Republicans and moderate Democrats, and by pushing for welfare reform.

The reasons why her strategy failed are that the number of producers must be greater than the number of parasites (or else the entire society collapses into chaos) and also that the producers tend to vote and otherwise participate in politics more than the average parasite. (There are other reasons as well, such as the fact that free-market capitalism allows upward mobility for those who are willing to work, so a temporarily-unemployed producer is on the side of the producers, rather than the parasites.)

As a hard-core political activist I'd like to encourage Ms Piven to agitate as much as possible, because I look forward to the results of her tactics. Bring it on, baby! As Lenin said, "The worse, the better."

As William F. Buckley, Jr., remarked, there may be a million violent rioters; there are a million and one lampposts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Investing in America

Frank Wolf (R-VA 10) has introduced a bill called the "Bring Jobs Back to America Act."

Jobs are a top priority and Frank Wolf's bill will actually make things worse.

Here are some concerns that his bill does not address:

1. It provides a subsidy of $71,000 per job, but there is no provision in the bill for how long the jobs have to last.
In other words, a company could set up a factory with jobs that pay $20,000 and operate it for one year before shutting it down, and still receive $71,000 per job, which means they are tricking the government -- or the taxpayers -- out of $51,000 per job.

Frank Wolf is apparently either an idiot (if he didn't think this part through) or corrupt (if he did).

2. This bill rewards companies for bringing jobs back that were already outsourced. So a company that already did its patriotic duty by keeping jobs here gets no benefit.
In other words, it's like a version of affirmative action that only helps former criminals, and doesn't give anything to law-abiding citizens.

Again, Frank Wolf is apparently either an idiot (if he didn't think this part through) or corrupt (if he did).

I am a loyal Republican but Frank Wolf embarrasses me. I look forward to his NOT being in Congress after 2012. He is already past the Biblical three score and ten years old, and it's probably long past his time to retire. Perhaps someone should run against him in the 2012 primary. Not me, though -- I've already got *my* sights on Gerry Connolly's seat!

I have no problems with any proposed tax cut, including credits and deductions, with three minor, common-sense conditions.
First, the cuts should be fair, i.e. equal, rather than being "targeted" to only certain specific firms or industries. "Targeted" cuts are both unfair and also wasteful.
Second, there should be no *subsidies* or other benefits which are greater than the cost of the action; otherwise we are paying for businesses to do things that waste money.
Third, any business -- or other organization -- which receives more money from the government than it pays in taxes should be prohibited from lobbying or making political contributions, even indirect "issue advertising."
(I also think that any individual who receives more from the government than *they* pay in taxes should not be allowed to vote -- not my idea, it goes back at least 150 years to John Stuart Mill.)

As far as immigration policy goes, I want to have a policy which encourages smart, honest, hard-working people to emigrate to America, and which discourages stupid, dishonest, and lazy people from coming (or staying) here.

One policy that would do that is to prohibit any government benefits (such as welfare, Social Security, education, or health care) to anyone except U.S. citizens.
Since naturalization requires being in the country for at least five years, this means they would have to support themselves for five years in a row.
I think that's a pretty good indication that they didn't want to come here to leech off our welfare system.
Of course anyone who tried to get benefits should have to prove citizenship, and be deported if they couldn't.
This means that someone who needed emergency medical care would receive it, but be deported as soon as it was medically safe.
I'm also in favor of *increasing* immigration of skilled, educated workers, i.e. those with a graduate or professional degree.
I'm also in favor of requiring each immigrant to post a bond which would cover the cost of a return ticket and other expenses for deportation.

Red State Diary

I just posted the following at RedState:
I am a financial conservative. I agree that this is an issue that 70% of the voters will support. Regardless of how you feel about social issues, it is a good idea for all of us to work together on economic issues. Even in the worst possible case, wouldn't you rather succeed on only one set of issues than not succeed on anything at all?

I am also a social conservative, and I think we can find common ground on social issues as well. Even the most libertine libertarian agrees that we should not have welfare benefits for drug addicts, unwed mothers, or lazy hippies (or anyone else). Without such programs there would be no need to have laws to protect the family or punish promiscuity -- it will happen naturally, as those who behave badly end up homeless and starving, or turning to churches for charity.

Libertarians also want no anti-discrimination laws or other special privileges for homosexuals (or anyone else). So even if you spurn Christ's teachings (1 Corinthians 5:12, Matthew 7, Matthew 9:10-13, Matthew 13:27-30) and think it's a good idea to have laws against homosexuality, and against heterosexual adultery and fornication, and against divorce . . . on a practical level those are not going to happen. So I suggest settling for a "level playing field" and letting God sort things out.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Modest Proposals: Agenda for the 112th Congress

Social Security, Medicare, Defense, Interest, Welfare, Education, Other.

Useful links:
"A Modest Agenda for a New GOP Congress" by David H. Horwich

"How the New Congress Can Roll Back Obama’s Agenda"

"Republicans won the midterm elections. Now can they survive?"

"Top 10 challenges John Boehner will face as Speaker of the House"
By Bob Cusack

Thousands of Democrats to be jobless in Washington
By Al Kamen

"The Six Arguments You Meet in Political Hell"

"How to Cut $343 Billion from the Federal Budget"

"What Republicans Need to Do Now"

"Conservatives Treat a Foe Like a Foe"

"The Globe discovers that Massachusetts has shot itself in the foot…AGAIN"

1. Replace the current tax system with either a flat-rate income tax or a national sales tax, or some combination. This should replace both individual and corporate income tax, capital gains tax, and the Alternative Minimum Tax. A possible tax rate would be 20% or 25%.

It's not necessary to make this revenue-neutral because "starving the beast" doesn't work, and apparently raising taxes makes people more opposed to government spending!

2. Eliminate all earmarks, and all discretionary spending. The first targets should be corporate welfare and the very next targets should be all spending in "blue" areas, i.e. those which voted Democrat. Once that happens, we can expect bipartisan support for eliminating all spending in "red" areas.

Perhaps we can start by using "reverse earmarking": bills will specify that no funds for their programs can be spent in certain areas. When Democrats are faced with a choice between eliminating a program, or keeping it but having it only go to Republican areas, I expect they will see the light.

We can certainly keep government programs such as interstate highways and other transportation, national parks, the United States Postal Service, PBS and anything else, simply by making them self-supporting. Highways will have to be funded by tolls, license fees, and gasoline taxes; parks will be funded by ticket sales and donations; the USPS and PBS will simply have their subsidies eliminated.

3. Replace all current welfare and other social programs (other than Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) with a flat-rate demogrant of, say, $10,000 per person per year.

4. Replace Medicare and Medicaid with a comprehensive universal system that gives each person a voucher for whatever it would cost the government to give them basic health care plus catastrophic health insurance from Medicare/Medicaid, but allow people to use the voucher for private insurance, including HSAs that can roll over instead of being literally stolen at the end of each year. To clarify, people with preexisting conditions or other issues which cost more will get bigger vouchers, because the amount of the voucher will be whatever it would cost the government to provide Medicare/Medicaid for that particular person.

This could be funded out of the $10,000 per person demogrant.

5. Replace

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Nothing But Class

I just filled out a survey on When asked what I disliked about their website, I replied, truthfully, that
It is very difficult to find a specific clip or episode. Your "filing system" is a horrible mess. Many times I have clicked on a link for a clip or episode, or something else related to a show (such as cast biography), and gotten something completely different. Sometimes I clicked on the link for a show and been taken to a completely different show. This happened so frequently that I COMPLETELY QUIT USING YOUR WEBSITE EXCEPT WHEN I WAS DIRECTED TO IT FROM AN OUTSIDE LINK. THIS IS A BAD THING FOR NBC. BAD JOB! I never go to your website except on the rare occasions when there is a link to it within an article that I read -- and even when there is a link to your site, I usually don't bother to click on it if I see it goes to By the way, since I no longer use a regular television set, this means the only time I ever see any of your shows is on Hulu. Congratulations: from my perspective it would be hard to do a worse job if you were actually trying to do badly. In fact, it seems to be happening right now with the clip that I want to see, which is the link to "Saturday Night Live - Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Morals" Laws are Immoral

I mean laws against *vices* (a/k/a victimless crimes, a/k/a “morals laws”) such as intoxication (alcohol and/or drugs), masturbation, fornication, sodomy, and gluttony.

Murder, theft, assault and trespass are all examples of real crimes. They are not examples of *subjective* or “personal” morality because literally no one wants to be the victim of such acts — even those criminals who want to commit them on others. Therefore, enforcing those laws is legitimate.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss?

"The Risk of Post-Election Republican Betrayal and What We Should Do about It."

I am a "public choice" economist, i.e. someone who analyzes politics using the theories and techniques of economics.

Bottom line: I believe that we get whatever policies the average voter wants, or rather whatever policies that special interests want and the average voter is willing to put up with.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Modest Proposals: A Gentlemen's Agreement on the Supreme Court

[Dogbert has been nominated to the Supreme Court:]
Senator: Do you have any opinions on the right to privacy?
Dogbert: No. In fact, I never formed an important opinion in my entire life.
Senator: You must think we're idiots!
Dogbert: Okay, I've formed one opinion, but that's all.

I personally would refuse to confirm a nominee who didn't give clear answers on how they would rule in various hypothetical cases. Furthermore, I would specifically point out their evasive answers meant they were either dishonest or incompetent, probably the former, and that's why I didn't consider them qualified.

On the other hand, I would not have any problem confirming a nominee whose opinions I disagreed with. Like many of the posters on The Volokh Conspiracy I believe that the Senate should give deference to the President's nominees.

One way of handling this would be to have a rule -- not a law but a "gentlemen's agreement" -- that each President is entitled to nominate one new justice to the Supreme Court. In other words, rather than a lifetime appointment, being a justice of the Supreme Court should be the equivalent of a 36-year term.

Like other "constitutional bargains" -- this is something we study in economics, specifically in my favorite field, public choice -- the idea behind it is that it treats both sides equally and neither of them knows whether they will be benefited or harmed by it.

If this were the case, i.e. if each of the last nine presidents had appointed one justice, it would be:

Obama (D)
Bush (R)
Bush (R)
Clinton (D)
Clinton (D)
Bush (R)
Reagan (R)
Reagan (R)
Carter (D)

In other words, the court would be divided between five Republican justices and four Democratic ones.

Monday, June 07, 2010

You Scored as Anarcho-capitalist

Anarcho-capitalists are libertarians who oppose the state entirely and propose to have a free market in the provision of security and arbitration. The term anarcho-capitalism derives from Murray Rothbard to describe a stateless society based on the principles of laissez-faire or the philosophy in support of such a proposition. Anarcho-capitalists may tend to still associate more with the political right and make use of the political process, unless they are agorists or left-libertarians at the same time.











"Small L" libertarian






Libertarian socialist


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Will Opine For Food

I'm still working on a list of topics for papers I want to submit for publication.

One set is the list of "interfaces" between political science and economics, which Bryan Caplan listed in his ECON 854 course.

Also these:
A survey to measure the Mueller Effect.
An analysis of the concept of "collective intelligence" in public- and private-sector organizations.
What *should* be done (and have been done) concerning the BP oil spill.
A critique of Rand Paul's gaffe about the 1964 Civil Rights Act (from a perspective very close to Richard Epstein's).
Why it's actually beneficial that Islamofascists are challenging some of our most fundamental concepts like religious tolerance.
A response to Is the Welfare State Justified? by Daniel Shapiro.
A critique of so-called "libertarian paternalism."
An analysis of the economic-efficiency (social-welfare) effects of the so-called "Neutrality" or "Generality" rule.
A response to Dan Klein's criticism of the social welfare function as "loose, vague, and indeterminate."
A response to Bryan Caplan's criticism of Pareto optimality (possibly combined with the previous topic). Both of these would build on the defenses of economic efficiency as a standard, made by David Friedman and Richard Epstein.
Something else that I forgot.

Friday, April 09, 2010

How To Solve The Financial Crisis

Someone asked me to recommend him some academic economics journal articles about the causes of the Financial Crisis. I demurred, and explained why:

Mainstream economics, and at least 80% of all economics, is "free-market" in the sense that it understands and approves of the free market, and only wants to interfere with it when it will actually do some good for society as a whole, and wants the intervention to be as small and as market-based as possible.

So it would only support things like a Negative Income Tax (which Milton Friedman invented), or school vouchers (which Friedman also supported), and other sorts of vouchers.

To clarify even more: The overwhelming majority of economists dislike the vast majority of current government programs, even though they are moderate-liberal Democrats themselves. (For the question of why they still support the Democrats even though they oppose their programs, I refer you to Professor Klein, whose class I'm typing this in, and also Arnold Kling. Kling says it's "culture" or "psychological identification" -- they're more comfortable with fellow-intellectuals that they disagree with, rather than rednecks that they despise. They'd rather belong to the party of Soft Heads than the party of Hard Hearts.)

So just about *any* economics journal article would be acceptable.

Second, to quote Nobel Prize-winner George Stigler, "The typical article in a professional journal is unrelated to public policy -- and often apparently unrelated to anything in reality." So from that point of view *no* journal article would be acceptable. Use blogs, or articles in "popular journals," e.g. Atlantic or The Economist, instead.

Third, people -- even experts who are generally within the same economic doctrine -- are still arguing about what went wrong, never mind how to fix it.

Bottom line: Google "financial" and "crisis" at

Here's my take on what happened:

1. For a variety of reasons, some due to human miscalculation and some due to government intervention, we had a housing bubble: prices rose above a reasonable level, people kept buying anyway, and people overextended themselves buying housing on credit (zero-down mortgages).
Clear definition of a reasonable level: If bonds are paying 3% per year (33 x earnings) it's not reasonable to pay 50 x (expected) earnings for stocks. It makes no sense! It might make sense for a specific stock if you thought its expected earnings were going to skyrocket, or if you thought everyone else was about to mistakenly think its expected earnings were going to skyrocket, but not to do it across the board.

2. Eventually the bubble burst and housing prices dropped drastically. Therefore some people started defaulting on their mortgages (because they weren't worth keeping -- the debt was higher than the new value of the house) and even the mortgages that didn't default (yet) had to be re-valued and banks suddenly found their collateral for loans had disappeared and their balance sheets were horrible. For a variety of reasons, partly because the housing bubble had so many participants and partly because the risk was "spread around" by "bundling" mortgages, this meant a *lot* of banks and other financial houses were hit.

3. When the housing bubble burst, it also affected people who were relatively solvent, by dropping the value of their houses; and this affected the stock market. People *were* buying stocks by using the equity in their homes, and felt fine about it; now the equity disappeared -- it was just as if they found out their rich uncle who previously said he would leave all his wealth to them had suddenly decided to disinherit them -- started selling off stocks because they wanted cash in hand. This drove the value of stocks down, which caused even more panic selling.

4. Therefore, not only were people defaulting on mortgages but there were also people whose lives were unaffected by anything physical, anything that could be seen by watching a silent videotape of Before versus After, who felt poor and/or panicked. People who still had jobs and could meet their mortgage payments (same as before) and pay their groceries and utility bills (same as before) because all their paper wealth (the equity of their houses, and the value of their stock portfolios) had evaporated. (By the way, one extremely important thing to understand is that my vampire RPG character, Mr Grey a/k/a Caliban, lost 3/4 of his wealth in the crisis, because almost all of his wealth was in stocks and real estate -- I had established the basics of his investments when I created him back in 2002!)

5. Also, businesses were affected because capital dried up. People saved/invested less because they didn't have paper wealth, so they didn't have as much money to put into banks. (Previously, they had been getting cash by refinancing their houses, or by selling them, at inflated prices, or from the stock market, and then putting it into banks or stocks or more real estate.) And so banks didn't have as much cash on hand *and* they couldn't make any new loans anyway, because they were overextended because the value of the collateral on all their previous loans was gone. It was exactly as if tornadoes had devastated all the houses so there wasn't any collateral value left.

6. Banks reacted by drastically reducing the amount of new loans they made. Partly they raised their interest rates but mostly they just became very, very cautious; they wanted to see huge amounts of collateral before they would make a loan for anything, either homes or business loans or automobile loans or anything else. This helped cause a *real* recession (decline in employment and production and incomes, which then causes more decline, etc.) in addition to the crash of *paper* wealth (loss of value of real estate and stocks).

7. IMO the proper response by government would have been to say "Nobody is too big to fail; when you play with fire, you gonna get burn'; when you take the profits you gotta take the losses as well. We have guaranteed people's bank accounts up to $100,000 per person if they failed; we will make a special temporary increase up to $250,000 or $500,000 for the next year or two to cushion the blow so people aren't hurt *too* badly. We will also increase unemployment benefits to help those who have temporarily lost their jobs due to the recession. We will also reform the welfare system" -- hey, I'm like Rahm Emmanuel, I never want to let a good crisis go to waste, and reforming welfare to be more like a Negative Income Tax / Guaranteed Income system is something we should have done 40 years ago -- "and eliminate corporate welfare and other subsidies" -- as I always say, I don't know if we need more spending the less-fortunate but we definitely need less spending on the more-fortunate -- "and use all those savings to cut the deficit, which will boost the economy while bringing us *out* of debt instead of further into it."

8. Unfortunately, the government decided, by the most amazing coincidence, to do something to help out the people and groups who were politically powerful and well-connected. So they decided to bail out Wall Street bankers and brokers, and also the people who defaulted on their mortgages that they should never have gotten in the first place, and the non-Wall Street bankers who should never have given those mortgages in the first place -- in other words, gangs of criminals who ripped off hard-working taxpayers. I have some sympathy for poor, uneducated people who lied on their mortgage documents, but no sympathy for white-collar criminal "banksters" who told them to do it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

In the Seattle Daily Weekly: Gay, Mentally Challenged Biracial Male Cheerleader Claims Discrimination

Well, I for one am proud to live in a country where a guy like that can be elected President.

After all, Obama is biracial; Jimmy Carter is mentally-challenged; Bill Clinton was a male cheerleader.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Just Posted on Vanity Fair

If the Supremes had made the decision Mr Rollins wanted, it means (as Ilya Somin points out) that *unions* would have been banned from making political contributions, and (as Matt Welch points out) *nonprofit* corporations would have been banned from making political statements.

Would Mr Rollins have approved if’s Campaign to Defend America had been blocked by George W. Bush’s Federal Elections Commission from broadcasting a documentary called “McCain: The Movie” during the 2008 election?

Because that's exactly what the FCC tried to do with Citizens United, and apparently he supports that decision.

Or does he only want free speech rights for those who agree with him? Is he a fool or a hypocrite?

[Update:] I apologize for calling Mr Rollins a fool or a hypocrite; I do think his *opinion* is either foolish or unjust. If organized groups are banned from politics then only individuals will be able to make political statements and contributions -- and that gives a big advantage to rich individuals. It's easier and simpler to get $1 million from one donor than to get $1000 from a thousand or $10 from ten thousand. Organized groups like PACs and unions help coordinate the contributions of the middle- and working-classes so they can help balance those of the rich. And I repeat that if we allow this for progressive organizations it is unfair to deny equal rights to reactionary ones.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kenesaw Mountain Chicken Droppings

To the tune of "Kenesaw Mountain Landis" by Jonathan Coulton:

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was a scumbag and a bigot
and shouldn't even be immortalized in funny songs;
he should be mocked and ridiculed forever
for keeping baseball segregated for so long . . .

Not to mention all the First Amendment vi-o-lations
at the trials of dissidents that he presided at;
while I love Jonathan Coulton I hate Kenesaw Landis
(although he had a cool name)
and that is all that I have to say about that!