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Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Case Against Free Trade

I'm generally for allowing trade to occur between entities with as little interference from government(s) and others as possible.  I'm pretty vocal about that, so people are often very surprised when they learn that I'm NOT for completely free international trade.

Let's start with a specific definition for Free Trade found by typing "Free Trade Definition" into Google:
free trade noun
noun: free trade; modifier noun: free-trade 
1. international trade left to its natural course without tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions.
I'll focus on tariffs because that's my preferred way of "restricting" trade.  A tariff is just a tax.  Taxes are required for governments to operate.  Even radical libertarians think that at least a minimal government is required for civilization to flourish and therefore, taxes of some sort (or multiple sorts) need to be collected from somewhere.

I've yet to see a good argument why the tariff sort of tax is less legitimate than any other sort of tax such as the sales tax, income tax, real estate tax, estate tax, capital gains tax, health tax, etc.  To the extent that revenues from tariffs can replace those other taxes, I don't think that tariffs are any more onerous for an economy and society than any of those other taxes.  In addition, tariffs are a fairly efficient tax in that there are a limited number of ports where goods can enter the country, as opposed to income tax where 300,000,000 individuals in the United States alone have to file.

Trade enables specialization.  Specialization leads to efficiency and innovation and enhanced wealth creation, leaving the trading entities better off overall, potentially far better off.

But I think that the incremental advantages of trade diminish as the scale increases.  Two people trading with each other are much better off than each doing everything for himself, 100 people better off than 2, a million better off than 100, etc., but it may break down at some point.  500 million may be better off trading with each other compared to restricting trade within groups of 50 million, or maybe not.

How about 5 billion versus a half a billion?

My guess is no.

Consider the approximately half billion people in the North America Free Trade Area (NAFTA).  It contains labor from first and third world countries, at least some of nearly all natural resources required for any economy, and extensive diversity of people and geography. I think that NAFTA and the trade that occurs within it is a good thing and very beneficial for the countries that are members.

But I think that if we expand beyond NAFTA, the adverse effects of the chaotic nature of trade will begin to overwhelm the benefits of specialization and economies of scale provided by trade.  As a result, I think that NAFTA should impose across-the-board, uniform tariffs on all goods coming into it and that the Eurozone and other free-trade areas should do the same.

A description of the chaotic nature of markets is provided by Professor David Ruelle in his book Chance and Chaos:
A standard piece of economics wisdom is that suppressing economic barriers and establishing a free market makes everybody better off.  Suppose that country A and country B both produce toothbrushes and toothpaste for local use.  Suppose also that the climate of country A allows toothbrushes to be grown and harvested more profitably than in country B, but that country B has rich mines of excellent toothpaste.  Then, if a free market is established, country A will produce cheap toothbrushes, and country B cheap toothpaste, which they will sell to each other for everybody's benefit.  More generally, the economists show (under certain assumptions) that a free market economy will provide the producers of various commodities with an equilibrium that will somehow optimize their well-being.  But, as we have seen, the complicated system obtained by coupling together various local economies is not unlikely to have a complicated, chaotic time evolution rather than settling down to a convenient equilibrium.  (Technically, the economists allow an equilibrium to be a time-dependent state, but not to have an unpredictable future.) Coming back to countries A and B, we see that linking their economies together, and with those of countries C, D, etc., may produce wild economic oscillations that will damage the toothbrush and toothpaste industry.  And thus be responsible for countless cavities.  Among many other things, therefore, chaos also contributes to the headache of economists. 
Let me state things somewhat more brutally.  Textbooks of economics are largely concerned with equilibrium situations between economic agents with perfect foresight.  The textbooks may give you the impression that the role of the legislators and government officials is to find and implement an equilibrium that is particularly favorable for the community. The examples of chaos in physics teach us, however, that certain dynamical situations do not produce equilibrium but rather a chaotic, unpredictable time evolution.  Legislators and government officials are thus faced with the possibility that their decisions,  intended to produce a better equilibrium, will in fact lead to wild and unpredictable fluctuations, with possibly quite disastrous effects.  The complexity of today's economics encourages such chaotic behavior, and our theoretical understanding in this domain remains very limited.
A graphical example of "tipping" points in a chaotic system is shown by the bifurcations in the following graph:
The system is perfect stable for r < 3, enabling a false sense of security and ability to predict the system response for other values.  By r = 3.6, the system has become completely unstable and unpredictable with rapid further increases in instability as r increases from there.

There are many real-world physical examples of this such as turbulent versus laminar flow of a fluid in a pipe where linear increases of pump pressure lead to more-or-less linear increases in flow rate until a certain flow rate is hit, after which the flow becomes turbulent and massive increases in pump pressure give little or no increase in flow rate. Eventually the pipe will burst from the pressure.

In the economy, chaotic effects are manifested in things like shifting comparative advantages between regions leading to the collapse of whole industries and sub-economies.  Examples include: steel shifting to Asia, gutting the U.S. steel industry and leaving the badly damaged rust-belt in its wake; and accelerated devastation of Appalachia from the changing economic viability of coal and farming.  Each of these examples were exacerbated by rent-seeking unions, government and environmental regulations, less than optimal management, technological innovation, and foreign subsidies, but the chaotic nature of markets still played a significant role and these other factors are an inherent part of the chaotic global political economy.

As the chaotic effects increase, investment risk also increases.  It's easier to get investment for a venture that can provide a positive ROI and an exit strategy in a short time frame than for ventures that have a longer time horizon.  This is partly inherent in the risk assessment and its effect on the subjective discount rate used in Net Present Value calculations which penalize longer time horizons.  However, a substantial part of the risk analysis takes the chaotic nature of markets into account.

I have personally experienced this sort of effect.  I may have a high degree of confidence that I'm the only one working on a certain innovation in a given region, but I'm unable to predict the status of this innovation world wide.  Investors, however, want to know if there's a chance they'll be blindsided by some competing group in India, or Israel, or Ireland, or Italy, etc. and if so, will be far less likely to invest.  I think that part of slowing of worldwide investment is partly due to this sort of phenomenon.  There's a lot money sitting, doing nothing, with nobody willing to pull the trigger to invest that money, because that money will be wasted if competing entities are working on the same thing.

Resilience is affected by chaos as well.  In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami damaged a portion of the northeast coast of Japan and this affected the global supply of motor vehicle parts:
Located in the disaster region and adversely affected by these forces are a number of manufacturing facilities which are integral to the global motor vehicle supply chain. They include plants that assemble automobiles and many suppliers which build parts and components for vehicles. Some of the Japanese factories that were forced to close provide parts and chemicals not easily available elsewhere. This is particularly true of automotive electronics, a major producer of which was located near the center of the destruction.
While efficiency is increased by global trade, the above example shows that resilience is not.  Concentrating manufacturing in one or a handful of facilities to benefit from economies of scale leaves the world economy more vulnerable to natural and man made disasters.

Trade and fluid flows have similarities.  When fluid flows become turbulent, backing off the pressure helps. In a more complex fluid system, adding baffles can help.  Tariffs are essentially baffles in this context.  A 20% across the board tariff would enable redundant manufacturing of various products in different and independent regions, reducing chaos, increasing resilience.  While possibly somewhat less efficient, if the manufacturing is shut down in one region due to an earthquake, tsunami, meteor strike, political unrest, invasion, war, etc., the impact on the rest of the world economy will be mitigated.

In summary, I think there are issues of scale when it comes to free trade. I see no reason why tariffs are any more onerous than other types of taxes, and the chaotic and fragility effects are reasons to use across the board tariffs to restrict international trade.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Quote of the Time Since the Last Quote of the...

It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into. Jonathan Swift.
I have little doubt that Swift meant this in a derogatory manner.  But I take this quote as a bit of positive advice.  Many things, such as subjective preferences, have nothing to do with reason, though sometimes we attempt to rationalize such preferences after the fact.

I hate the color pink. Ugly, ugly, ugly, in my subjective opinion.  I didn't reason my way into that preference and nobody can reason me out of it.  Swift's quote points out that it's pointless to try and that it's a good idea to figure what things are just preferences to avoid silly debates - like arguing about my aesthetic revulsion to the color pink.

Friday, April 04, 2014

New Format

Due to popular reader demand for various features, with great trepidation, I'm going to upgrade the blogger template for Great Guys tonight at approximately 8:00 PM PST.  Supposedly I can always go back to the older template, supposedly everything'll be backed up (and I'll back up everything by hand that I have reasonably easy access to), supposedly it won't lose any comments, supposedly we'll have access to more features, and supposedly it'll be better.  Blogger has been bugging me (and probably my co-bloggers too) to do this for about 5 years.

Just in case, if you have any pearls of wisdom in the comments that are critical to well-being of the human race, please make a copy of them (I'm not backing up comments - in theory, there's no need to).

This might be a long weekend.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Laugh or Cry?

Via Instapundit, an article titled "What Can Educators do to End White Supremacy in the Classroom?" was published on April 1st. It's a perfect parody of what some people on the right (ummm, like me), when they get way too carried away by their paranoid delusions, might imagine people on the left thinking and saying.  I assumed it was an April Fools Hoax and found it hysterically funny (I can laugh at myself with the best of them), but in the extensive comment section below the article, people were taking the article seriously.

Some people will take a really good hoax seriously, but it got me wondering, so I emailed the author and asked him about it.  His response:
The article is not an April Fools Day joke. We attended multiple sessions at the conference and reported on a few of them.
Here are some excerpts from the article:
One attendee, a teacher and the diversity director at his school, spoke about the activities he is implementing and said it is important for teachers and administrators to discuss social justice with their students. Radersma echoed his sentiment.
"If you don't want to work for equity, get the fuck out of education," Radersma said. "If you are not serious about being an agent of change that helps stifle the oppressive systems, go find another job. Because you are a political figure."
That explains a lot about the state of our educational system.
Radersma also argued the first step is realizing that all white people are carrying the signs of oppression.
"Being a white person who does anti-racist work is like being an alcoholic. I will never be recovered by my alcoholism, to use the metaphor," Radersma said. "I have to everyday wake up and acknowledge that I am so deeply imbedded with racist thoughts and notions and actions in my body that I have to choose everyday to do anti-racist work and think in an anti-racist way."
We're all raceaholics.  Who knew?
Radersma said she taught a lower-level English class at the high school and her students were exclusively people of color. However, she said the Advanced Placement course in her school was almost all white and Asian students. Her principal observed class one day and commented on the difference in students between the two courses. 
That experience, and the fact that her boss did not know how to tackle the problem, led her to leave the classroom and work toward her Ph. D. Radersma told the group she realized the problem was the institutionalized racist structure of education and her white privilege was causing the racial achievement gap.
Yup. Institutionalized racism.  That's the only possible explanation.  But apparently not against Asians.
"Who's at fault? My white body is at fault," she said.
Her white body may well be at fault for some of the ills in our educational system, but I don't think "white" is the operative word and probably not "body" either.
"I can't teach students of color nearly as well as a person of color can."
Is that because 2+2 doesn't equal 4 for a person of color?
The conference was paid for in part with taxpayer dollars.
Yup.  Because there's nothing more worthwhile than something like this conference to spend the money on.

So are you laughing or crying?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Terrifying Inequality

The French economist Thomas Piketty is concerned about growing income and wealth inequality:
[I]f current trends continue, “the consequences for the long-term dynamics of the wealth distribution are potentially terrifying.”
We're doomed! Doomed, I tell you, Dooooomed!!!

Errr, well, what are these terrifying consequences?  Scanning the article, I don't see any terrifying consequences at all.

The article above is in a nice liberal rag, The New Yorker, so I decided to go to that bastion of conservative thought, the New York Times, which summarizes the current understanding of inequality's effects thusly:
For all the brain power thrown at the problem since then, however, specific evidence about inequality’s effects has been hard to find.
Apparently, terrifyingly hard to find. As a result, folks like Piketty seem to have decided they might as well jump on every little terrifying possibility:
“People that worry about inequality for normative reasons have been very quick to jump on plausible hypothesis and a little bit of evidence to make sweeping conclusions about its consequences,” Professor Kenworthy told me.
Professor Kenworthy himself had been hoping to write a terrifying book on inequality's impacts, but disappointingly (for him), couldn't really find anything that would hold up to close scrutiny:
To avoid misleading correlations and better isolate inequality’s impact, Mr. Kenworthy studied its evolution over time, comparing how changes in income concentration across the world’s industrialized nations related to changes in a whole set of social and economic outcomes, from growth and employment to health and educational attainment.He came up mostly empty-handed: “My tests suggest it seems to be a small player in the overall story.”
Professor Stiglitz notes that the United States grew faster during the decades of low inequality immediately after World War II than it did after inequality started rising in the 1980s. But Mr. Kenworthy finds no meaningful impact of inequality on growth one way or the other. “Income inequality isn’t the only thing that differed between these two periods,” he said.
Similarly, Mr. Kenworthy found no significant relationship between increasing inequality and life expectancy, infant mortality or college graduation rates, among others. Even when some patterns do mesh — teenage pregnancy rates fell a little more slowly in countries where the share of income going to the top 1 percent grew fastest — the relationship is weak. If you take the United States and Britain off the list, the relationship disappears.
The relationship between inequality and the alleged stagnation of others' incomes is also not yet terrifying according to a colleague of Kenworthy:
“Most economists don’t feel there’s a logical mechanism that really is persuasive” linking the rise of the 1 percent and the stagnation of incomes for the rest, Professor Jencks said.
Even though hardly terrifying, Mr. Jencks still thinks we should take action:
Mr. Jencks describes the state of the debate between friends and foes of inequality in these terms: “Can I prove that anything is terrible because of rising inequality? Not by the kind of standards I would require. But can they prove I shouldn’t worry? They can’t do that either.”
That, alone, is enough to spur action. “Something that looks bad is coming at you,” he said. “Saying that we shouldn’t do anything about it until we know for sure would be a bad response.”
So not terrifying, but hey, something looks bad. So. We. Must. Do. Something!

And there's no doubt in my mind that "something" involves reduced freedom, bigger government, and more taxes. What a surprise!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Guess the author

In short, we repudiated all versions of the doctrine of original sin, of there being insane and irrational springs of wickedness in most men.  We were not aware that civilization was a thin and precarious crust erected by the personality and the will of a very few, and only maintained by rules and conventions skillfully put across and guilefully preserved.  We had no respect for traditional wisdom or the restraints of custom.  We lacked reverence ... for everything and everyone.  It did not occur to us to respect the extraordinary accomplishment of our predecessors in the ordering of life (as it now seems to me to have been) or the elaborate framework which they had devised to protect this order.  ...   As cause and consequence of our general state of mind we completely misunderstood human nature, including our own.  The rationality which we attributed to it led to a superficiality, not only of judgement, but also of feeling.

update:

author: John Maynard Keynes

Although Keynes showed some willingness to change his mind when the facts changed, his near certitude expressed on many matters left me in the position of being rather stunned to learn of this quote.  It is particularly relevant for the conflict of visions that are at the heart of many disagreements that underlay policy differences and differing attitudes towards the desirability of limited government.

A slightly more extended excerpt is here.  A video from which I became aware of this quote is here (with a slightly extended version of the quote starting around 18:00).

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ever Deeper in Political Correctness

I know most of the readers here also read Instapundit, so you're probably at least vaguely familiar with a recent kerfuffle at UCSB between a small "pro-life" group and a professor:
Dr. Mireille Miller-Young — an associate professor with UCSB’s Feminist Studies Department — approached the demonstration site and exchanged heated words with the group, taking issue with their pro-life proselytizing and use of disturbing photographs. Joan claimed Miller-Young, accompanied by a few of her students, led the gathering crowd in a chant of “Tear down the sign! Tear down the sign!” before grabbing one of the banners and walking with it across campus.
While wrong and probably in violation of the law, acting out on the basis of strong emotion is neither surprising nor can I get too worked up about it since no one was significantly hurt.  What's slightly more surprising and definitely more disconcerting, is that after the heat of the moment passed, Miller-Young still believed herself to be the victim. From the police report:
I asked Miller-Young what crimes she felt the pro-life group had violated. Miller-Young replied that their coming to campus and showing “graphic imagery” was insensitive to the community. I clarified the difference between University policy and law to Miller-Young and asked her again what law had been violated. Miller-Young said that she believed the pro-life group may have violated University policy. Miller-Young said that her actions today were in defense of her students and her own safety. 
Miller-Young said that she felt that this issue was not criminal and expressed a desire to find a resolution outside of the legal system. Miller-Young continued and stated that she had the “moral” right to act in the way she did. 
I asked Miller-Young if she could have behaved differently in this instance. There was a long pause. “I’ve said that I think I did the right thing. But I acknowledge that I probably should not have taken their poster.” Miller-Young also said that she wished that the anti-abortion group had taken down the images when they demanded them to. 
Miller-Young also suggested that the group had violated her rights. I asked Miller-Young what right the group had violated. Miller-Young responded, “My personal right to go to work and not be in harm.”
I guess free speech can be traumatic and "harmful" to others.  And many rallied to Miller-Young's defense.  For example, from the Belmont Club:
Stephanie Gilmore at The Feminist Wire lost no time in supporting Miller-Young, describing what happened to the professor as “domestic terrorism is intended ‘to intimidate or coerce a civilian population’” — meaning Miller-Young —  from feeling safe at her workplace."
Domestic terrorism? Wow. A couple of signs at a small, peaceful rally or bombs and jetliners flown into buildings.  Apparently, much the same.  Afterall, they do say that the pen is mightier than the fuel-laden jumbo jet.

But it turns out that Ms. Gilmore herself then stepped beyond the politically correct pale of the left by proclaiming:
But I stand with Mireille Miller-Young because she stands with women – ALL women – in the face of political intimidation and harassment.
As Heidi Cautrell pointed out in a comment to Ms. Gilmore's article:
“stand with” is abelist toward those who are unable to stand.
I hate to admit it, but I had no idea what "ableism" was prior to following the above thread.  In case you were also equally unenlightened, here is the definition:
a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities. It may also be referred to as disability discrimination, physicalism, handicapism, and disability oppression. It is also sometimes known as disablism, although there is some dispute as to whether ableism and disablism are synonymous, and some people within disability rights circles find the latter term’s use inaccurate. Discrimination faced by those who have or are perceived to have a mental disorder is sometimes called mentalism rather than ableism.
By now I am so far into the unknown that I hardly know which way is up. Take any active verb and there's probably someone who can't do it.  If so, perhaps ableism should be called active-verbism?  What a crazy world.  As is often the case, I found much of Belmont Club's commentary on this topic insightful:
“Abelist” is a word from the world of Mireille Miller-Young, Stephanie Gilmore and Heidi Cautrell. If you don’t recognize the word, you might be forgiven. The Left is another country. They do things differently there. Even the words are different. The inhabitants of that strange country routinely refer to objects you might not recognize. They talk about Whiteness Theory, Phallogocentrism, Gynocriticism, and the Écriture féminine as you would WD-40, grass, spare tires or doorknobs.  They are everyday objects of their world though you may never have heard of them. 
If it has never occurred to you that to use the phrase “to stand with” is a mortal insult then you’re not with it. [...]
The inhabitants of the strange country take umbrage for reasons known only to themselves and it’s all that matters. It’s a clash of cultures, a collision between one part of America and another. 
The pro-life demonstrators holding up their poster can be forgiven for thinking they were still in America. After all they had crossed no marked boundaries. So they thought it was alright to peaceably assemble. But in reality they had wandered into the precincts of some strange tribe where such things are not tolerated; a kind of Twilight Zone; a place governed by mysterious customs, prey to obscure taboos and worshipping some monstrous, unnamed  idol. Everything was different there. Thus what followed was predictable. 
When Mireille Miller-Young snatched away the banner from Joan and Thrin Short, she was doing no more than fulfilling her tribal duty, defending her “workplace” against some interloper from Flyover Country, rumored to exist somewhere beyond the borders of the University of California, a place imbued with strange ideas about the First Amendment and the Constitution. [...] 
Neither Mireille Miller-Young nor the Short sisters are bad people judged by the standards of their own cultures. But they are different cultures.  Mireille Miller-Young has a simple desire: not to stop until her tribe conquers all the rest. And in that she is just as ordinary; just as commonplace, just as unimaginative as any tribesperson who ever lived in the long and doleful history of the world.
I disagree with the last sentence though.  I could never be so imaginative to create such a convoluted and crazy world.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Delayed Informative Speculamatation: MH370 is a Precedented, Prosaic Tragedy

Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared two days before I left on a trip that left me no time for blogging, so at the time I was scarcely able to delve into that stygian space between speculation and cogitation on the whats and whys. (Much of what follows comes from an email I dashed off to a friend of mine on March 11th, just before heading for the airport. This, too, is a bit dashed.)

At first I didn't pay it much mind, since I automatically assumed that some group had managed to get a bomb on board and blow the thing up. However, after a day without finding any debris, as improbable as it might be, the lack of debris from a 600,000 pound airplane along the route of flight could only mean one thing: it wasn't there.

Then I saw this graphic showing the last ATC radar contact with MH370.

Hmmm. The moment I saw it, I had that very ugly feeling that comes along with being among the first (excluding airline pilots) to know how a terrible tragedy transpired.

This is a screen shot from my iPad showing the first part of the route to Beijing. The coordinates I marked are essentially in the same place as shown in that graphic.


I have flown out of Penang (WMKP, about 180NM northwest of Kuala Lumpur, WMKK). At a glance, it was obvious that the last radar hit was at the boundary between Malaysian and Vietnamese airspace.

Someone specifically picked that point to turn off the transponder, because at that point MH370 was no longer Malaysian ATC's responsibility, and it would be awhile until Vietnam realized MH370 didn't check in because of a botched handoff, but rather due to something far worse. Because airliners (almost) never willfully deviate from assigned routing, everyone immediately assumed crash.

Meanwhile, as it turns out, the plane was flying southwesterly along the Flight Information Region boundary between Malaysia and Thailand.

(Air Traffic Control radars do not display primary (i.e., reflections from the aircraft itself) radar returns. Rather, they show transponder information (Callsign, altitude, airspeed) at the primary return location. However, military radars, since they are looking for things not announcing themselves, would see primary returns. That accounts for the discrepancy between ATC and mil radars about what they saw. What remains unexplained is that if the plane went southwest to west, it would have gone through an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) without air defense trying to identify it. (I have no idea what Jakarta's or Malaysia's air defense capabilities are.) UPDATE: The Malaysian has plenty of capability, and even more complacency.

Therefore, someone intentionally diverted MH370, and knew precisely where to do it in order provide the maximum time until someone noticed. In and of itself, that is not particularly arcane knowledge. Nor is the primary automation (heading and altitude controls on the glare shield control panel). Plenty of people have enough "hands-on" experience with the B777 via personal computer based simulation to have understood what needed doing (Here is an example of how detailed these things are.)

So, in theory, at this point it is well within the realm of reason that a great many people, sufficiently motivated, could have pirated the airplane.

However, there are other facts demanding attention.

The first, and most important, is the Intrusion Resistant Cockpit Door (IRCD) installed on all airliners since 9/11. The odds of someone getting onto the flight deck without cooperation from the other side of the door are extremely small; not quite zero, but so close as to render any piracy by that avenue so unlikely as to deter the attempt.

Second, and nearly as fundamental, once commandeered, then what? Per the 9/11 plot, the airplane should have been used as a missile.

Except it wasn't.

That still leaves the possibility that the plan was to disappear the airplane for some future horror show, perhaps, or especially, including 249 human shields.

Yet this raises further obstacles. To bring some such atrocity to fruition would first require bringing the airplane back to earth in a reusable condition. In order to attain that end, at least 5,000 feet of runway is essential. At night, that runway would have to be lit (for a manual landing) or have an Instrument Landing System. GPS will get an airplane in the close vicinity of a runway, but isn't suitable for an automated landing. An ILS is extremely precise, but the citing and operational requirements are extremely demanding. So in the former case, a very skilled pilot is required; in the latter, the facility requirements are so demanding that there is no possibility of a 777 showing up unnoticed. Yet given the extreme improbability of breaching the IRCD, the only source of a skilled pilot (Asiana not withstanding) is the flight deck. And there are hardly any runways that meet the most minimal requirements and could hide an unnoticed B777.

In the words of Sir Conan Doyle, via Sherlock Holmes, having eliminated the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, is the explanation.

MH370 is both precedented and prosaic.

The only non-impossible explanation is that one of the pilots commandeered the airplane. It has happened. Someone I met flew an A10 into a mountain west of Denver. An Egypt Air pilot committed suicide, and took 217 people with him. A FedEx pilot attempted to kill the crew with the goal of crashing the plane into the Memphis hub. A Singaporean Captain likely crashed a B737.

So this the least unlikely sequence of events. On some pretext, one of the pilots got up out of the seat approaching the handoff point, grabbed the crash axe and killed the other pilot. That pilot then turned off the transponder, flew along a course most likely to exploit military radar complacency, and used cockpit circuit breakers to remove power from almost all the aircraft reporting systems. (All of this was glaringly apparent by March 11th.)

Then he flew the airplane to one of the most remote parts of the planet and committed suicide.

Sexist Math Nerd Humor

In mathematics, a manifold is "a topological space that is connected and locally Euclidean," that is to say flat and predictable, at least in the region of interest.

But what if it's still curvy and unpredictable locally? Would that be a womanifold?

Back to the Garden of Eden

Many people are concerned about (allegedly) increasing inequality and some people are concerned about fertility rates permanently decreasing to below non-replacement leading to eventual extinction of the human species.  While I'm not personally worried about either of those issues, the good news is that there are long term forces that may eliminate both of these "problems."

I base this on the glorious and well-known (though not universally accepted) fact that stupid people have more children than smart people:
Demographic studies have indicated that in humans, fertility rate and intelligence tend to be inversely correlated, that is to say, the more intelligent, as measured by IQ tests, exhibit a lower total fertility rate than the less intelligent.
We're getting stupider at a pretty good clip:
Retherford and Sewell examined the association between the measured intelligence and fertility of over 9,000 high school graduates in Wisconsin in 1957, and confirmed the inverse relationship between IQ and fertility ..., they calculated a dysgenic decline of .57 IQ points per generation.
So that's 20 to 30 IQ points per millennium, making a person of average intelligence, one-thousand years from now, borderline imbecilic.

And probably plenty fertile.

The intelligence range of humans will probably be quite compressed as well.  That has the added benefit of compressing inequality since nobody will be smart enough to "get ahead" and humans will eventually become one big happy tribe wallowing in the muck in a new Garden of Eden, where ignorance and stupidity is bliss.

Hopefully, no one will then be stupid enough to eat the fruit of knowledge and bring the numerous problems associated with intelligence upon humanity again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Oh The Possibilities!

One of my facebook friends posted the following:
Sitting next to a woman in Starbucks with her toddler and I overhear her say "Yes, someday you will marry a nice woman." 
How sad. Not only is she not allowing for the fact that maybe her son is gay and might marry a man [...]
I started to chuckle as I imagined the poor woman trying to explain the full range of LGBT options to her toddler: "Someday you might marry a nice woman - or a man, or you might have a sex-change operation in which case you could still marry either the man or the woman but it would be a little different, or by the time you grow up anti-polygamy laws will probably be repealed in which case you could marry one of each, or two of each, or heck, go for a dozen of each, and you could live on a sheep farm and..."  I don't know, but given the complexity of possibilities and the fact that even where gay marriage is allowed there are still one-hundred times as many hetero marriages as gay ones, I can't blame the woman for playing the odds and keeping the explanation as simple as possible. Hopefully, if the toddler does end up gay, he'll not be forever traumatized by this one conversation with his mom.

I'll be you all can quickly guess which city in the United States this woman lives in.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Challenge Accepted

Harry, being the local stand-in for progressives everywhere, frequently hauls out the racist slime bucket, which, subject to merely cursory examinations, has thus far proved completely empty.

The goal, right out of Alinsky's playbook, is to demonize dissent, stifle disagreement, and force those too stupid or evil to accept Progressives' glorified self-estimation into defending themselves against scurrilous nonsense.

This time, though, they have heartless conservatives dead to rights. Via Harry(page search on "heartless"), and provided by that bastion of unexamined ideas, ThinkProgress, comes this clip from a GOP presidential primary debate, entitled "Crowd Yells Let Him Die":

Yep, no doubt about it, conservatives are heartless.

Hmmm. Instead of indulging progressives in their leaping to self-congratulatory conclusions, perhaps it might be worth a few seconds to — and I know this sounds extreme — consider facts, context, and consequences.

Wolf Blitzer asks Ron Paul this question, slightly paraphrased:

A healthy 30 year old young man has a good job makes a good living, but decides not to spend 200 or 300 dollars per month for health insurance because he's healthy, decides he doesn't need it, but something terrible happens, who pays for that?

Ron Paul's response focused on freedom and personal responsibility.

To which Blitzer replies:

But Congressman, are you saying society should just let him die?

First, a couple trivial facts. As it happens, the crowd clearly did not yell "let him die" even once, never mind, pace Harry, chant it; instead, it was Blitzer himself. Oh, and Think Progress Instead of Accuracy cut off the bulk of Ron Paul's response. Dowdification is strong in progressives.

Where reality is allowed to rear its ugly head, several people in the crowd did in fact yell "yes" in response to Blitzer's prompting. Which really isn't the same, or even remotely like, the crowd chanting it. But never mind, in this case I'm happy to take progressive feelings as a stand-in for reality, and that heartless conservatives really want to let him die.

Which is precisely where progressive thinking, such as it is, stops, and reaching for the slime bucket starts.

Perhaps, though, there is rather more going on here than the instant offense brigade either understands, or acknowledges.

Remember the question's context: a healthy young man who could afford to purchase health insurance instead rolls the bones, and loses.

Now what? To Blitzer, who is so steeped in progressivism he, despite having a great deal of time to prepare still asked the wrong question, the answer he is trying to trap Ron Paul into giving is obvious: society must step in.

To non-progressives, though, this isn't the least bit apparent. For those who don't buy earthquake, fire, or flood insurance, should society be on the hook if their house is knocked down, burned to a crisp, or swept away? For those who neglect to pay for car insurance, should society pony up to replace for the unlucky their rides that ended up nose first in the jersey wall?

What those "heartless conservatives" are reacting to, and progressives can't spot, is a question that, shorn of its emotional baggage is asking precisely this: what do the rest of us owe parasites?

Progressives' reflexive accusation of conservative heartlessness, instead of even casting a glance at the underlying situation, proves they are unable to ascertain the moral hazard that is at the heart of socialism. It inevitably rewards vice, penalizes virtue, makes personal responsibility worse than futile, and positively encourages dependency.

In that light, "yes" isn't heartless, but rather an expression of the seemingly obvious. The best way to get more of something is to pay for it. If the goal is to make responsibility the inferior option to shirking, then by all means subsidize the parasite.

While at the individual level being compassionate with other people's money may be emotionally appealing, it isn't perhaps the acme in heartlessness to not be wild about an entire society like the feckless hypothetical.

So why do progressives keep trotting out these transparently fallacious instigations for two minutes hate? Only one reason I can think of: progressivism is a religion that worships the sanctity of progressivism. Because it is self-evidently correct, everything that at first glance confirms the wonderfulness of progressives to themselves is ipso facto true.

And just like unquestioning religionists throughout history, nothing, not even their own repeated failures (Robertson, Justine Sacco, Carlton, Walker staff emails, this video, to name but a few of the most recent examples), will either stop their drive to demonize, or start them thinking.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lots of little gems

A recent Michael Barone column about Obamacare is full of little gems.  First there is the subtitle:
The Washington elites who designed the law must be bewildered: Why doesn't everyone behave as they do?
I think that speaks for itself as a common state of most statists.  He then gives attention to three assumptions about the health insurance market that aren't holding up very well.

He concludes with highly relevant cultural and historical perspectives:
But policies that work well in Scandinavia or Minnesota and North Dakota won't necessarily work well in a wider United States, where a much larger proportion of people are socially disconnected.

And such policies may not work as well as they might have in the United States of the 1950s and early 1960s, in which disconnectedness was much less common. That was an America in what I call the Midcentury Moment, a period when World War II and unexpected postwar prosperity produced a conformist and (mostly) culturally homogeneous nation with low rates of divorce and single parenthood, and high rates of social connectedness. A nation accustomed to a universal military draft and wage-and-price controls, and in which increasing numbers worked for giant firms and were members of giant labor unions, probably would have been more amenable to a centralized command-and-control policy like ObamaCare than the culturally fragmented America of today.

In the long run of American history, the Midcentury Moment was just that—a moment, an exception, not the rule. We have been in some sense a multicultural nation from our colonial beginnings. The Founding Fathers, seeking to unite Puritan New England, Anglican Virginia, Dutch New York and Quaker Pennsylvania with the Scots-Irish warriors on the Appalachian frontier, determined that the federal government would impose no religious test for office and make no law regarding a religious establishment. They provided for a limited central government and a wide free-trade zone in which local cultures could prevail, local preachers could convert, and local entrepreneurs could innovate. 

ObamaCare cuts against this grain. The trouble that has resulted—from the architects' apparent failures to anticipate the behavior of fellow citizens who don't share their approach to the world, and the architects' determination to impose their mores, such as contraception coverage, on a multicultural nation—is a lesson to national policy makers, conservative as well as liberal. Govern lightly if you want to govern this culturally diverse nation well.
Not only are we culturally different from other places, we are to some extent different from ourselves.  Some of the conflicts are a continuation of the English Civil War.  Wherever you wish to place the roots of such conflict, we will not get along if there are no limits on the things we must all do together.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Ready...aim...sing!

Earlier this week Pete Seeger died.  There are some interesting perspectives outside the conventional mainstream praise that I thought were of note.  Bird Dog over at blog Maggie's Farm had this to say:
Grew up middle class, went to prep school and Harvard, affected a working class style but I doubt any working class people were ever interested in him. A likeable old commie, naive and innocent to the end.
Ron Radosh at PJMedia who knew Seeger personally concluded with this:
I know Pete would not have said that if I had been writing books about fascism.

More than likely, he would have praised my doing so. Pete, like so many others on the Left, simply failed to realize that communism is fascism’s twin.

Some also take umbrage, as does Graham, with calling Seeger anti-American. In his Mother Jones [8] article, David Hajdu, who spent time with Seeger before writing the article, called him “devoted to a few simple ideas, a nostalgist whose worldview often seems frozen in the era of his own coming-of-age.” He adds: “A strain of anti-Americanism has always run through Seeger’s work.”

If you don’t think that is the case, listen to the Smithsonian Folkways CD “Pete Seeger Sing-a-Long,” recorded at the Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Mass., in 1980. In an impromptu remark, Seeger makes a comment about how if the people had guns, you better watch out, because you don’t know whom the people would use the guns against. The comment receives huge cheers. That is to be expected of from an audience in the People’s Republic of Cambridge.

Sunkara is right about one thing. He quotes Bruce Springsteen, who wrote that Seeger showed how song could “nudge history along.” Seeger did indeed help make communism more fashionable, and that is a tragedy, not something for which Pete Seeger should ever have received praise.

 Glen Reynolds at Instapundit linked to others...
JOHN FUND: Pete Seeger, Totalitarian Troubadour. “We shouldn’t forget that Pete Seeger was Communism’s pied piper.”

Related: Spengler: Pete Seeger: A Mean-Spirited and Vengeful Recollection. “I was not just a Pete Seeger fan, but a to-the-hammer-born, born-and-bred cradle fan of Pete Seeger. With those credentials, permit me to take note of his passing with the observation that he was a fraud, a phony, a poseur, an imposter. The notion of folk music he espoused was a put-on from beginning to end. There is no such thing as an American ‘folk.’”
Instapundit  finished the post with a link to a fitting song by mathematics professor and satirist Tom Lehrer:
(which is as good an excuse as any for this post)


Monday, January 20, 2014

Appropriate perspective on this day

Two very good articles offer something of value on this day.  The first item restores what should be clear, the connection between religious roots and the advocacy for freedom propounded by MLK.
Like his namesake, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr fought against the systems of his day. King used religion and God as his tools. And as a good friend and fellow black Conservative said to me recently, "God will free people who believe from slavery." And that's exactly what happened. Black people escaped bondage once again, as racist Democrats led by a racist government were forced to bend to the will of God.

So why is Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr, now referred to as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr?


It's simple.


The Left wants no remnants of the Christian revolution that changed this country.  They want to make people forget that the biggest change to happen to American since the Civil War was led by a black Christian who was also a Republican.

Referring to King as "Dr. King" implies that the Civil Rights movement was led by an academic, that academia brought us "change we can believe in."


Liberals believe in their educations, even if they have not a lick of practical experience or even common sense. Ph.D. King can lead a revolution, but a Republican pastor cannot be put in charge. That role is exclusively for black demagogues and fake reverends.
Both the first and the second item touch upon a proud legacy that is now a sorry legacy misappropriated by what Walter E. Williams calls "poverty pimps & race hustlers."  This item also places the King vision in the context of the American ideal.
He references the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He pleads for real justice, the abolition of force-wielding institutions of racial segregation, not the false “social justice” of material provision. He explicitly condemns hatred and violence, recognizing whites as “brothers and sisters.” Most powerfully, he concludes with the exhortation to “let freedom ring!”

Who among those laying claim to King’s legacy sound like him today? Who among the organized Left advocates for objective freedom and true justice? Who rejects hatred and fosters the healing of racial divides? Al Sharpton? Jesse Jackson? Van Jones? Barack Obama? Who?

The truth, laid bare for the discerning to see, is that those who most vocally lay claim to King’s legacy fundamentally reject his noble dream. Recall that quote most cited whenever King is evoked:
I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will no longer be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Consider what such a nation requires. In order to judge someone by the content of his character, you must remain free to do so and to act upon that judgment in pursuit of your own happiness. Effectively, you must be free to discriminate, to judge this as right and that as wrong, to deem one person good and another bad. Liberty proves foundational to King’s dream. Yet those laying claim to King’s legacy stand opposed to liberty at every turn.

We cannot force individuals to judge others by the content of their character. Any attempt to do so, any attempt to abolish racism by state decree, will fail on account of its ignoring the primacy of choice in the formation of values. King’s dream can only be achieved through persuasion, by appealing to reason and securing individual consent. Consequently, the world necessary to foster racial harmony counter-intuitively must tolerate offensive attitudes and choices.

True, under liberty we may never reach the ideal. But we’ll come a hell of a lot closer than under any other condition.
Yes, there are myriad benefits to liberty.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Does Scale Matter?

Mathematicians have devised a new way to fly:

When the Wright brothers pioneered powered flight, said Leif Ristroph, they “didn’t solve a lift problem; they solved a stability problem.”

Dr. Ristroph, who works in applied mathematics at New York University’s Courant Institute, also solved a stability problem recently, with a small, hovering, flapping-wing flying machine that looks for all the world like a flying jellyfish.

The lightweight, electrically powered machine, which seems to be the first of its kind, keeps itself right side up without the benefit of sensors or any righting mechanism. Its stability is completely a result of its shape and the movement of its three-inch wings.

...

As to the problem of stability, Dr. Ristroph said they solved it from an engineering perspective, but the math is still not settled. “We don’t really understand for the active flyers how this works,”

UN Says Lag in Confronting Climate Woes Will be Costly:

Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a draft United Nations report. Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, experts found.

The flying jellyfish's stability is very difficult to understand because non-laminar airflow is chaotic. Modeling chaotic systems is extremely difficult, even when trying to understand something as simple as stability for something small and eminently observable.

Yet climate scientists claim certainty for their models, which involve a chaotic system that is large and, in many respects, very difficult to observe.

Hmmm.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

More Proof That God Hates American Men

Eighty-two percent of victims of being struck by lightning in the United States are men.

On Irish "Austerity"

Tyler Cowen has exactly described my view on the great Irish austerity debate.  It's impossible to excerpt anything without the context of the whole, but here's one bit:
Overall, it is amazing how the single largest extension in the responsibilities and fiscal obligations of the Irish state — ever — has been turned into a PR defeat for the idea of fiscal conservatism.
In other words, it's rather difficult to see (for both Mr. Cowen and me) how Ireland, which has not been anything like austere on average over the last decade or so, could have taken any other path than the "austere" one and not collapsed completely.  In addition, if they had been only a bit more "austere" prior to the financial crisis, they wouldn't have been in their current predicament, from which they are finally, slowly, and painfully escaping.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Behind Enemy Lines

It was only a matter of days until Crooked Timber (which recently starred in Progressives on Parade) delivered on the Duck Dynasty kerfuffle.

John Holbo, a philosophy professor at the University of Singapore, alleged he had predicted A&E would cave, because money. Apparently not worthy of mention was the fact that A&E's ignominious collapse came with unseemly haste, and without even a hint of an apology, or even a nod in the general direction of one.

Were I truly devious, I might hypothesize that the whole episode was engineered as part of a vast liberal media conspiracy to keep the GOP boxed as a regional ethnic party.

Seriously: even NRO went for a HuffPo-style ‘stand with Phil’ slideshow. (You can click it after reading Steyn’s column on “The Age of Intolerance”.) Man, there’s no way GOP outreach proceeds by convincing lots of undecideds this sort of ‘the only intolerance is intolerance of intolerance!’ double-talk is the bright future of freedom.

Up until now, I have largely stayed out of the progressive fever swamps. However, several things caused me to abandon caution: a lot of time in hotels, the conviction that progressives and GLAAD had tried to perpetrate a character assassination, and this:

[#25] Get more misty eyed about how, while you decry the GOP, the firing of the Duck Dynasty Patriarch for saying that he never saw a black person mistreated in Jim Crow Louisiana, and that that black people were “happy” before civil rights–so much so that they were a-singing in the fields as they worked, and they weren’t singing the blues …

To which I responded:

[#27] Oh, for pete’s sake. Here is what he actually said:

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

It is obvious to anyone without an axe to grind that he never saw blacks being treated any differently than he was, and that they had a nobility that welfare and entitlements destroyed.

Now you may disagree with his assessment of the Great Society et al; although it is worth keeping in mind he is echoing Patrick Moynihan, among others. But you have absolutely no basis upon which to disagree with the factual elements of what he said; to do so amounts to, on precisely zero evidence, calling him a liar.

Very classy.

Which ignited a 527 comment thread. Did I mention I spend a lot of time in hotels?

Greatly condensed:

My position: Calling someone a racist, or a liar, and especially both without cause is very nasty. He said nothing racist; rather, his point is about welfare, not blacks. Progressives are not in a position to contradict his first hand experience, so calling him a racist (or liar, or idiot) on that account is baseless. Doing so, despite that, is clear evidence of the progressive totalitarian reflex: those who disagree aren't even entitled to their own experiences, and the goal is to first demonize, then delegitimize the speaker. As to charges of homophobia, GLAAD is setting itself up as the arbiter of rightthink and rightreligion, and is demanding Robertson bow to them.

Their position: You are defending someone against being called a racist; therefore, you are a racist. It doesn't matter that he said nothing about Jim Crow, therefore Robertson is okay with it, therefore racist. John Holbo, a philosophy professor and author of the post, decides his inference powers are sufficient to determine Robertson's racist meaning, even if there are no racist words, or evident intent. Anyone who defends him is an idiot. And lynchings. And obviously widespread abuse of blacks, therefore Robertson is a racist, idiot, and liar.

I found several things amazing … no … appalling about the thread. Not the amazingly antagonistic tenor — that's internet 101 — but rather the way that nearly all the commenters proved my argument for me: that progressives are inherently totalitarian, and are immune to anything contradicting their progressiveness.

They immediately insisted that Robertson was lying about seeing black sharecroppers mistreated. Yet when I noted that The Immortal Life of Hentrietta Lacks which included a lengthy description of her life growing up poor in the 1920s south, neglected to mention any mistreatment, then so much the worse for the book. One of the very few to seriously consider my point, Mao Cheng Ji, even went so far as to read histories of black sharecroppers, and noticed the same thing.

So much the worse for those histories, then, because nothing may contradict the progressive narrative.

Nor could the fact that the Robertson family adopted a half black child.

But ignoring reality isn't enough to exhaust the progressive mind, so they invented some by vandalizing (#312, 321) and eliding (#345, like our own Harry Eagar did here) Robertson's words.

By the end of the thing, they had gone the full progressive monty: demanding he not be allowed to preach his false religion, and insisting it is OK to prevent incorrect speech, so as to avoid spreading thoughtcrime. And a philosophy professor to the very end thought his inferences to be the gold standard of reality.

The eeriness of the whole thing is being able to see how when progressives get power, murder is never very far behind.

The irony of the whole thing is delicious. Progressives attacked Robertson because they hate his kind.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pondering the Minimum Wage

As frequent readers know, I'm against minimum wage legislation.  As I've written previously:
However, from the perspective of an unskilled and inexperienced person who cannot provide adequate value to justify being paid the minimum wage, minimum wage laws are egregiously unfair.  The minimum wage law says to that person, "you may not work for anybody, any time, under any circumstances since no rational business person can justify hiring you at the required wage".
Ignoring the freedom aspect and the damage it does to at least some of the poor who would like to work but are unable to because of minimum wage laws, I think it's possible to make a case for minimum wage laws on practical grounds in at least certain hypothetical situations.

Consider the following hypothetical situation.  Let's say the minimum wage is $10 per hour and everybody in the private sector makes the minimum wage.  Let's say that there's a fixed tax of $90 per hour for every employee.  Also, assume no profits and no other costs.  The total cost to employers is therefore $100 per hour.  Also assume that the only cost to the employers for producing their products is the $100 per hour for the wage and the tax.

Now let's say that the public sector employees are paid $900 per hour and their only activity is to dig holes and fill them back in and/or to manage the hole activity.  There would thus be 1 government employee for every 10 private sector employees and the government employees would be paid 90 times the private sector employees for doing absolutely nothing useful.

In this hypothetical situation, raising the minimum wage from $10 to $20 per hour would be hugely stimulative.  The private sector employees would have twice as much money to spend while the cost of labor would only rise 10% (from $100 per hour to $110 per hour) since the $90 per hour tax remains fixed and the price of products would also only need to rise 10%.  The employees would be better off AND business would probably expand AND hire more employees.

In effect, in this situation, raising the minimum wage acts like a government spending cut and reduces the dead weight of the government relative to the productive economy.  Instead of an 900% tax on productive wages, there would only be a 450% tax on productive wages which is effectively a very large tax cut.  This would be hugely beneficial to everybody EXCEPT the government employees who essentially get a pay cut of 10%.

To the extent that reality overlaps partly with this hypothetical situation, a rise in the minimum wage could actually boost both wages and employment.  The hypothetical situation can be generalized to high fixed costs per employee, either due to regulation, taxes, or general costs of doing business.

One of the things I find interesting about economic studies about the effect of minimum wage legislation is that over time, raising the minimum wage has less and less adverse impact.  For example:
Until the mid-1990s, a strong consensus existed among economists, both conservative and liberal, that the minimum wage reduced employment, especially among younger and low-skill workers.[21] In addition to the basic supply-demand intuition, there were a number of empirical studies that supported this view. For example, Gramlich (1976) found that many of the benefits went to higher income families, and in particular that teenagers were made worse off by the unemployment associated with the minimum wage.
Then the infamous Card and Krueger (CK) "bombshell" struck:
In 1992, the minimum wage in New Jersey increased from $4.25 to $5.05 per hour (an 18.8% increase) while the adjacent state of Pennsylvania remained at $4.25. David Card and Alan Krueger gathered information on fast food restaurants in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania in an attempt to see what effect this increase had on employment within New Jersey. Basic economic theory would have implied that relative employment should have decreased in New Jersey. Card and Krueger surveyed employers before the April 1992 New Jersey increase, and again in November–December 1992, asking managers for data on the full-time equivalent staff level of their restaurants both times.[51] Based on data from the employers' responses, the authors concluded that the increase in the minimum wage increased employment in the New Jersey restaurants.
And while there was and is contentious debate about everything about CK, what is striking is that modern studies show little if any negative impact in direct contrast to studies from earlier last century.

My belief (I say this as someone who runs a business and has to constantly deal with overwhelming, stifling, and increasing regulation and taxes on all fronts), is that the increasingly onerous government impositions on business, especially small business and especially businesses that hire lower wage employees, acts pretty much like the drag of a government digging and filling in holes.

That's why the minimum wage did empirically have a significant negative impact decades ago, but doesn't make much difference (to a point) anymore.  The government is dragging us down.