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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.


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.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Might Makes Right: Intuitive Keynesians

One of the fundamental areas of study in economics is the "Scarcity" problem which has the following definition:
The basic economic problem that arises because people have unlimited wants but resources are limited.
"Wants" is another word for demand, and if people have unlimited wants, then aggregate demand is unlimited as well.  Much of economics is thus focused on the "Supply Side" or how to produce as much as possible to best satisfy the never completely satiable aggregate demand.

For the steady state, the economist John Maynard Keynes would agree with all of the above.  But Keynes believed that:
[P]roblems such as unemployment, for example, ... result from imbalances in demand ... Keynes argued that because there was no guarantee that the goods that individuals produce would be met with demand, unemployment was a natural consequence especially in the instance of an economy undergoing contraction."
The solution to such a situation, according to Keynes and his Keynesian followers, is to:
"step in and put under-utilised savings to work through government spending."
The Keynesian position has an intuitive appeal, especially to someone who has never studied economics.  Such a person might say, "I don't have unlimited wants, I have modest wants to match my modest income, and even if my income went up, I wouldn't increase my consumption to match.  Therefore, I can see that lack of demand could always be a problem, and with technological job destruction and off-shoring of some of the remaining jobs, I can see it leading to a catastrophic downward spiral of employment and demand."  In other words, "unlimited wants" is not intuitive for most people I've talked to, which makes them highly skeptical of the whole economic enterprise since "unlimited wants" is a premise to the fundamental economic problem of Scarcity.

Once the citizen-voter rejects the "unlimited wants" premise, politicians play to that perspective to get votes, especially because they get additional power because of the government expansion required to "put under-utilised savings to work" via government action.  Because the politicians push this, economists who want funding are more than happy to advocate it.

So, whether or not Keynesian economic theory is right or wrong, Might makes it Right.