Author: Thomas

Egoism and Altruism

From Wikipedia:

Psychological egoism is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest, even in what seem to be acts of altruism. It claims that, when people choose to help others, they do so ultimately because of the personal benefits that they themselves expect to obtain, directly or indirectly, from doing so. This is a descriptive rather than normative view, since it only makes claims about how things are, not how they ought to be. It is, however, related to several other normative forms of egoism, such as ethical egoism and rational egoism.

I addressed psychological egoism and altruism several years ago in “Redefining Altruism” and “Enough of Altruism.” In the extended version of the second post, I wrote:

There is no “egoism” or “altruism,” there’s simply behavior that reflects an individual’s values, and which seeks to serve those values….

What we call “altruism” and “egoism” are simply manifestations of an integrated, internal decision process that thinks not in terms of “altruism” or “egoism” but in terms of serving one’s values.

My purpose was to deny the existence of egoism and altruism as “forces” that exist independently of human thought. I was especially set on showing that the motivation for an act which is considered altruistic can only be understood in terms of its effect on the the actor. That is, the actor necessarily advances his own values, even if he seems to make a sacrifice of some kind.

I admit that my position can be taken as a defense of psychological egoism. So, although “psychological egoism” stands for a simplistic explanation of complex behavior, it’s a better explanation than altruism.

Here is Jason Brennan, writing at Bleeding Heart Libertarians:

Peter Singer made famous a thought experiment like this:

You are walking down the street when you see a small toddler drowning in a shallow pool. You can save the toddler easily, but only if you jump in right now. Doing so will destroy your hard-earned smart phone, costing you $500.

Most people judge that we must save the child here; it would be wrong not to do so.

Now, what does ethical egoism say about this case? …

Ethical egoism isn’t quite the same thing as psychological egoism. Returning to Wikipedia:

Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their own [sic] self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people can only act in their self-interest.

Nevertheless, what follows from Brennan can be read as an attack on the idea of psychological egoism and a defense of the idea of altruism:

Many people … are deeply confused about what counts as egoistic action….

Consider the following argument: Saving the kid is egoistic, because I care about kids….  Therefore, if I voluntarily save the kid, I save him out of self-interest.

But,

If I care about the drowning toddler and thus save him, I am acting to promote his welfare, not my own. It’s true that I am interested in his interests, or that his interests are an interest of mine, but that’s just a funky way of saying that I am altruistic. To be altruistic is to hold other people’s welfare as an end in itself….

If my sons died, I’d be sad. But the reason I feel joy when things go well for them and sad when things go badly is that I love them for their own sake–I view them as ends in themselves apart from my own welfare. Consider: Suppose my younger son is hurt. A genie appears and gives me two options. 1. He fixes my son’s injury. 2. He casts a spell instantly killing my son, erasing him from everyone’s memory, erasing all traces of him, and thus allowing us to go on as if he never existed at all. If I were just trying to avoid the bad feelings, I’d be indifferent between these two options. But I’m not–I’d pick option 1 over option 2, hands down. This means that I’m concerned not merely to avoid bad feelings, but to help for his sake. Again, it means I’m genuinely altruistic.

This reminds me of Rawls’s “veil of ignorance,” wherein the reader is invited to imagine an impossible counterfactual. In Brennan’s case, the impossible counterfactual is the non-existence of his son. The fact of his son’s existence colors Brennan’s evaluation of the the options posed by the genie. Brennan has feelings about his son, feelings that he (laudably) values over the alternative of having no such feelings.

What about Brennan’s assertion that he is genuinely altruistic because he doesn’t merely want to avoid bad feelings, but wants to help his son for his son’s sake. That’s called empathy. But empathy is egoistic. Even strong empathy — the ability to “feel” another person’s pain or anguish — is “felt” by the empathizer. It is the empathizer’s response to the other person’s pain or anguish.

Brennan inadvertently makes that point when he invokes sociopathy:

Sociopaths don’t care about other people for their own sake–they view them merely as instruments. Sociopaths don’t feel guilt for failing to help others.

The difference between a sociopath and a “normal” person is found in caring (feeling). But caring (feeling) is something that the I does — or fail to do, if the I is a sociopath. I = ego:

the “I” or self of any person; a thinking, feeling, and conscious being, able to distinguish itself from other selves.

I am not deprecating the kind of laudable act that is called altruistic. I am simply trying to point out what should be an obvious fact: Human beings necessarily act in their own interests, though their own interests often coincide  with the interests of others for emotional reasons (e.g., love, empathy), as well as practical ones (e.g., loss of income or status because of the death of a patron).

It should go without saying that the world would be a better place if it had fewer sociopaths in it. Voluntary, mutually beneficial relationships are more than merely transactional; they thrive on the mutual trust and respect that arise from social bonds, including the bonds of love and affection.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Sophomoric Libertarianism
On Liberty
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
Tocqueville’s Prescience
Society and the State
Our Enemy, the State
The Golden Rule and the State
Government vs. Community
Evolution, Human Nature, and “Natural Rights”
The Meaning of Liberty
Evolution and the Golden Rule
Empathy Is Overrated
The Golden Rule as Beneficial Learning
Facets of Liberty
Why I Am Not an Extreme Libertarian
True Libertarianism, One More Time
Human Nature, Liberty, and Rationalism
Utilitarianism and Psychopathy
Liberty and Society
The Eclipse of “Old America”
The Criminality and Psychopathy of Statism

My Claim to Prescience

On April 24, 2009, just three months after Obama ascended to the presidency, I posted “Sizing Up Obama“:

On the one hand, we have FDR II, replete with schemes for managing our lives and fortunes.

On the other hand, we have Carter-Clinton II, ready to: kowtow to those who would bury us, create the illusion that peace will reign perforce, and act on that illusion by slashing the defense budget (thereby giving aid and comfort to our enemies).

Through the haze of smoke and glare of mirrors I see a youngish president exhorting us to “fear nothing but fear itself” while proclaiming “peace for our time,” as we “follow the yellow-brick road” to impotent serfdom.

I wouldn’t change a word of it.

Case closed.

Election 2014: Indicators at E-Day Minus 70

REVISED AND UPDATED, 08/27/14

In 2010 the GOP candidates for the House of Representatives garnered 53.4 percent of the two-party popular vote. As a result, the GOP gained 64 House seats. That showing was echoed in the Senate, where the GOP gained 6 seats.

What’s the prognosis for 2014? It’s 70 69 days before the election, so it’s too soon to tell for sure. But I’ve concocted some indicators that I’ll update as election day approaches. They’re based on the Obama Approval Index History published at Rasmussen Reports, and Rasmussen’s sporadic polling of likely voters about Obamacare (latest report here).

Election indicators - 2014 vs 2010

The first indicator (blue lines) measures Obama’s overall rating with likely voters. The second indicator (black lines) measures Obama’s rating with likely voters who express strong approval or disapproval. Obama’s overall approval rating for 2014 is on a par with his overall approval rating for 2010, which is a good sign for the GOP. Obama’s strong approval rating is running well below the pace of four years ago, which is a very good sign for the GOP.

The third indicator (red lines) represents Obama’s strong-approval quotient (fraction of likely voters who strongly approve/fraction of likely voters who approve) divided by his strong-disapproval quotient (fraction of likely voters who strongly disapprove/fraction of likely voters who disapprove). I call this the “enthusiasm” indicator. Higher values represent greater enthusiasm for Obama; lower values, less enthusiasm. It confirms Obama’s lower standing with voters thus far in 2014, relative to 2010.

The green points (connected by lines) are plots of Obamacare’s standing, as measured by the ratio of strong approval to strong disapproval among likely voters. Obamacare is faring worse in 2014 than it did in 2010 — another good sign for the GOP.

As of now, the indicators herald a repetition of the GOP’s resounding victory in the 2010 mid-term election — something like a 50-seat majority in the House and 51-49 control of the Senate.

Poverty, Crime, and Big Government

Dr. James Thompson (Psychological Comments) reports the results of a thorough study of the link between poverty and crime. Near the end of the piece, Dr. Thompson quotes The Economist‘s summary of the study’s implications:

That suggests two, not mutually exclusive, possibilities. One is that a family’s culture, once established, is “sticky”—that you can, to put it crudely, take the kid out of the neighbourhood, but not the neighbourhood out of the kid. Given, for example, children’s propensity to emulate elder siblings whom they admire, that sounds perfectly plausible. The other possibility is that genes which predispose to criminal behaviour (several studies suggest such genes exist) are more common at the bottom of society than at the top, perhaps because the lack of impulse-control they engender also tends to reduce someone’s earning capacity.

Neither of these conclusions is likely to be welcome to social reformers. The first suggests that merely topping up people’s incomes, though it may well be a good idea for other reasons, will not by itself address questions of bad behaviour. The second raises the possibility that the problem of intergenerational poverty may be self-reinforcing, particularly in rich countries like Sweden where the winnowing effects of education and the need for high levels of skill in many jobs will favour those who can control their behaviour, and not those who rely on too many chemical crutches to get them through the day.

In brief, there is a strong connection between genes and criminal behavior. Inasmuch as there are also strong connections between genes and intelligence, on the one hand, and intelligence and income, on the other hand, it follows that:

  • Criminal behavior will be more prevalent in genetic groups with below-average intelligence.
  • Poverty will be more prevalent in genetic groups with below-average intelligence.
  • The correlation between crime and poverty must, therefore, reflect (to some extent) the correlation between below-average intelligence and poverty.

As The Economist notes “merely topping up people’s incomes … will not by itself address questions of bad behaviour.” This would seem to contradict my finding of a strongly negative relationship between economic growth and the rate of violent-and-property crime.

But there is no contradiction. Not all persons who commit crimes are incorrigible. At the margin, there are persons who will desist from criminal activity when presented with the alternative of attaining money without running the risk of being punished for their efforts.

How much less crime would there be if economic growth weren’t suppressed by the dead hand of big government? A lot less.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Crime, Explained
Lock ‘Em Up
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Spending Inhibits Economic Growth
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
“Conversing” about Race
Evolution and Race
“Wading” into Race, Culture, and IQ

Murder Is Constitutional

A federal judge says so:

Ruling that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage murder “stems entirely, or almost entirely, from moral disapproval of the practice,” a federal trial judge in Tallahassee on Thursday ruled that the prohibition is unconstitutional.

The judge evidently moonlights as Humpty Dumpty:

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

Walking the Tightrope Reluctantly

A friend sent me a link to Peter Baker’s recent article in The New York Times, “As World Boils, Fingers Point Obama’s Way” (August 15, 2014). You can read it for yourself. This was my initial reaction:

All the world’s a stage…

…and whether the play’s a tragedy, or not, seems to depend on how its critics (the media) depict it.

Obama’s policy toward the Middle East seems to have been based on wishful thinking about rapprochement with “progressives” in the Middle East. His underlying “strategy” of disengagement hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially because it’s consistent with the continued shrinkage of U.S. military power.

This mixture of bumbling and willful impotence could only have invited aggressive moves — even  though not aimed directly at the U.S. Thus Putin’s adventures and the growing militancy of China may seem to flow from Obama’s handling of foreign and defense policy. Would such things have happened anyway? Perhaps. They certainly did in the past, and in ways more directly threatening to U.S. interests (from the Berlin blockade to the Cuban missile crisis). But memories are short, and it’s easy to think of the relatively quiescent decade after the first Gulf War as the norm.

If the aggressiveness continues, and especially if it’s aimed more directly at U.S. interests, the next administration — and the public — will come face to face with the crucial choice: Withdraw more completely or reengage (with requisite rearmament). Obama has tried to walk a tightrope between the two alternatives, but it’s a tightrope that can’t be walked for long.

Having given the matter more thought, I must add that Obama is walking the tightrope reluctantly. He cannot overtly abandon the world stage and leave American interests entirely unprotected. That way lies greater disgrace than he is almost certain to endure, if not removal from office.

But aside from that consideration — and no other — Obama would make America into a “pitiful, helpless giant.” I turn (not for the first time) to Norman Podhoretz:

… [A]s astute a foreign observer as Conrad Black can flatly say that, “Not since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, and before that the fall of France in 1940, has there been so swift an erosion of the world influence of a Great Power as we are witnessing with the United States.”

Yet if this is indeed the pass to which Mr. Obama has led us—and I think it is—let me suggest that it signifies not how incompetent and amateurish the president is, but how skillful. His foreign policy, far from a dismal failure, is a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to accomplish….

… As a left-wing radical, Mr. Obama believed that the United States had almost always been a retrograde and destructive force in world affairs. Accordingly, the fundamental transformation he wished to achieve here was to reduce the country’s power and influence. And just as he had to fend off the still-toxic socialist label at home, so he had to take care not to be stuck with the equally toxic “isolationist” label abroad.

This he did by camouflaging his retreats from the responsibilities bred by foreign entanglements as a new form of “engagement.” At the same time, he relied on the war-weariness of the American people and the rise of isolationist sentiment (which, to be sure, dared not speak its name) on the left and right to get away with drastic cuts in the defense budget, with exiting entirely from Iraq and Afghanistan, and with “leading from behind” or using drones instead of troops whenever he was politically forced into military action.

The consequent erosion of American power was going very nicely when the unfortunately named Arab Spring presented the president with several juicy opportunities to speed up the process. First in Egypt, his incoherent moves resulted in a complete loss of American influence, and now, thanks to his handling of the Syrian crisis, he is bringing about a greater diminution of American power than he probably envisaged even in his wildest radical dreams.

For this fulfillment of his dearest political wishes, Mr. Obama is evidently willing to pay the price of a sullied reputation. In that sense, he is by his own lights sacrificing himself for what he imagines is the good of the nation of which he is the president, and also to the benefit of the world, of which he loves proclaiming himself a citizen….

No doubt he will either deny that anything has gone wrong, or failing that, he will resort to his favorite tactic of blaming others—Congress or the Republicans or Rush Limbaugh. But what is also almost certain is that he will refuse to change course and do the things that will be necessary to restore U.S. power and influence.

And so we can only pray that the hole he will go on digging will not be too deep for his successor to pull us out, as Ronald Reagan managed to do when he followed a president into the White House whom Mr. Obama so uncannily resembles. (“Obama’s Successful Foreign Failure,” The Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2013)

Jackson Diehl offers wise counsel about the situation in Iraq, where Obama snatched defeat from the jaws of victory: “To fix foreign policy mistakes, President Obama must first admit them” (The Washington Post, August 14, 2014). But the headline says it all — Obama won’t admit his deliberate “mistakes” in Iraq, or anywhere else.

No, he’d rather play the victim of G.W. Bush’s decisions and world events beyond his control. (See Peter Wehner’s “Obama Still Feeling Sorry for Himself,” Commentary, August 17, 2014.) Petulant whining is unattractive, but it’s better (for Obama) to be called a whiner than to be outed as a traitor.

*     *     *

Related reading:
James A. (Ace) Lyons (Admiral, USN, retired), “The fallout from foreign policy malfeasance and nonfeasance,” The Washington Times, August 14, 2014)
Ed Lasky, “Obama’s Willful Blindness,” American Thinker, August 25, 2014

Related posts:
Why Sovereignty?
Liberalism and Sovereignty
Delusions of Preparedness
A Grand Strategy for the United States
The Folly of Pacifism
Why We Should (and Should Not) Fight
Rating America’s Wars
Transnationalism and National Defense
The Folly of Pacifism, Again
Patience as a Tool of Strategy
Defense as an Investment in Liberty and Prosperity
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
The World Turned Upside Down
Defense Spending: One More Time
The Fall and Rise of American Empire
Presidential Treason

Round Up the Usual Suspects

UPDATED BELOW

From Obama’s remarks about events in Ferguson, Missouri:

[I[t’s important to remember how this started.  We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances.

Yes, let’s remember how “this” started:

A suburban St. Louis police chief on Friday identified the officer whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager ignited days of heated protests, and released documents alleging the teen was killed after a robbery in which he was suspected of stealing a $48.99 box of cigars.

Ferguson, Mo., Police Chief Thomas Jackson said that the robbery took place just before noon on Saturday at a nearby convenience store roughly 10 minutes before a police officer identified as Darren Wilson fired the bullet that killed Michael Brown. Police say that the shot was fired after a struggle touched off by Wilson’s confronting Brown. Jackson said Wilson is a six-year veteran with no disciplinary action on his record….

Police released still images and were planning to release video [here] from the robbery, at a QuikTrip store in Ferguson. Jackson said Wilson, along with other officers, were called to the area after a 911 call reporting a “strong-arm robbery” at a nearby convenience store….

According to the police reports, Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, were suspected of taking a box of cigars from a store in Ferguson that morning…. [Johnson has since confirmed that he and Brown committed the theft.]

Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car before the struggle spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times, according to police.

Why am I inclined to believe the account offered by the police chief? Because the “martyrdom” of Michael Brown bears an uncanny resemblance to previous cases involving “blameless” victims; for example:

  • the “rape” of Tawana Brawley, a black female
  • the fatal beating of Matthew Shepard, supposedly because of his homosexuality (more here)
  • the “rape” of a black female members of Duke University’s lacrosse team
  • the media lynching and unwarranted prosecution of George Zimmerman for defending himself from a violent punk named Trayvon Martin.

The “usual suspects” in the Ferguson fiasco are Obama, “liberals,” and (pseudo) libertarians. Obama converted a local problem into a federal issue, à la Trayvon Martin. “Liberals,” as usual, chose to depict a black thug as a victim.”Liberals” and (psuedo) libertarians (i.e., most self-styled libertarians) — speaking from the comfort of their affluent enclaves, where they rarely encounter thugs like Martin and Brown — began to shout “police brutality” without benefit of the facts.

Do I have all of the facts? Of course not. But I’m not the one who’s rushing to proclaim another innocent victim at the hands of a brutal policeman. If it turns out that the policeman deliberately shot a non-threatening victim, I’ll be the first to acknowledge it.

UPDATE 1 (08/18/14): It seems that Brown was not shot in the back. Nor does it seem that he was shot at very close range, that is, close enough to leave powder burns on skin or clothing:

This seems to contradict the statements of Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, who said the officer … grabbed Brown’s neck with one hand and shot him with the other.

The location of the bullet wounds, especially one in the top of the head, suggests that Brown was “giving up, or … charging forward at the officer.” My money is on “charging forward” — all 6’4″ and 292 pounds of him. Thus the seemingly large number of shots (six), which probably were fired in rapid succession. Why? Here’s an analogy: When a beast charges a hunter, the hunter doesn’t shoot once; he keeps shooting until he runs out of bullets or the beast drops dead.

UPDATE 2 (08/19/14): Consider the source, but this version of the shooting is consistent with the (plausible) explanation offered in Update 1.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Obama’s Latest Act of Racism
Not-So-Random Thoughts (III) (see “Trayvon, George, and Barack”)
Left-Libertarians, Obama, and the Zimmerman Case

Bleeding-Heart Libertarians = Left-Statists (Redux)

Jim Manzi nails Matt Zwolinski’s call for a Basic Income Guarantee:

At the highest level, Zwolinski argues that a BIG is consistent with libertarian theory. And in the alternative, argues that in the real world of practical politics a welfare system of some kind will be with us for a long time, and a BIG is better than the dog’s breakfast of social welfare programs that we have today. Nested within this is another narrower argument in the alternative. He claims that social science evidence indicates that it not clear that a BIG would result in a reduction in work effort. But he argues that even if it did, this would not necessarily be a bad thing.

In other words, Zwolinski and his bleeding-heart ilk on the so-called libertarian left just want to dole out taxpayers’ dollars to satisfy their urge for “social justice.” Liberty has nothing to do with it. If it did, they’d care about the liberty of those taxpayers who would be forced to subsidize the indolent.

Yes, the indolent. Manzi explains:

It is fairly extraordinary to claim [as Zwolinski does] that the government could guarantee every adult in America an income even if they did zero work of any kind, and that somehow this would not reduce work effort. Zwolinksi should be able to provide strong evidence for such a claim. But we have scientific gold standard evidence that runs exactly the other way. A series of randomized experiments offered a version of Zwolinski’s proposal between 1968 and 1980. These tested a wide variety of program variants among the urban and rural poor, in better and worse macroeconomic periods, and in geographies from New Jersey to Seattle. They consistently found that the tested programs reduce the number of hours worked versus the existing welfare system, and the tested levels of progressivity of implicit tax rates did not get around this problem by encouraging work, as Zwolinski’s theoretical argument asserts they should.

But that doesn’t bother Zwolinski. In fact, he seems rather proud to be a proponent of indolence:

[S]uppose that a BIG actually would, on net, increase unemployment somewhat…. [S]o what? Is it so obviously a flaw in the system if it leads more parents to take time off work to stay home with their children? Or college graduates to take a year off before beginning to work? Or if, among the population as a whole, the balance between work and leisure is slightly shifted toward the latter? My point is not that there isn’t any story that could be told about why work disincentives might be a problem. My point is simply that, even if they were guaranteed to occur, they wouldn’t obviously be a problem.

Well, they obviously would be a problem, as Manzi points out. And, anyway, who is Zwolinksi to decide that my tax dollars should subsidize parental leave, gap years, or more leisure. Those are personal decisions to be made by the persons involved, not by Zwolinski.

One more thing. Zwolinkski’s defense of BIG on the ground that it might promote leisure is a faithful echo of the defense mounted by the left when confronted by a CBO study that estimates the work disincentives of Obamacare’s premium subsidies. Their defense? Those who work less will simply “choose more leisure.” The inconvenient fact that more leisure comes at taxpayers’ expense goes unmentioned.

I repeat what I say here. Zwolinski and his bleeding-heart brethren are birds of a feather with left-statists like Barack Obama, most Democrats in Congress, most professors of the so-called liberal arts, and most members of the media.

*     *     *

Related posts:
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
More Social Justice
On Self-Ownership and Desert
Corporations, Unions, and the State
Burkean Libertarianism
What Is Libertarianism?
True Libertarianism, One More Time
What Is Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism?
The Morality of Occupying Private Property
Liberty, Negative Rights, and Bleeding Hearts
Why Conservatism Works
Bleeding Heart Libertarians = Left Statists
Enough with the Bleeding Hearts, Already
Not Guilty of Libertarian Purism
Liberty and Society
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
The Pseudo-Libertarian Temperament
Parsing Political Philosophy (II)
Getting Liberty Wrong

Income Inequality and Economic Growth

Standard & Poor’s adds fuel the the already raging fire of economic illiteracy with its research report entitled, “How Increasing Income Inequality Is Dampening U.S. Economic Growth, and Possible Ways to Change the Tide.” The S&P paper mines the Marxian-Pikettian vein of “underconsumption,” which (in the Marxian-Pikettian view) leads to economic collapse. (That Marx was wrong has been amply demonstrated by the superior performance of quasi-free economies, which have lifted the poor as well as the rich. Many writers have found grave errors in Piketty‘s reasoning– and data — these among them.)

The remedy for economic collapse (in the Marxian-Pikettian view) is socialism (perhaps smuggled in as “democratic” redistributionism). It is, of course, the kind of imaginary, painless socialism favored by affluent professors and pundits — favored as long as it doesn’t affect their own affluence. It bears no resemblance to the actual kind of socialism experienced by the billions who have been oppressed by it and the tens of millions who have been killed for its sake.

I have read two thorough take-downs of S&P’s screed. One is by Scott Winship (“S&P’s Fundamentally Flawed Inequality Report,” Economic Policies for the 21st Century at the Manhattan Institute, August 6, 2014). A second is by John Cochrane (“S&P Economists and Inequality,” The Grumpy Economist, August 8, 2014). Cochrane summarizes (and demolishes) the central theme of the S&P report, which I will address here:

[I]nequality is bad [because] it is bad for growth, and if the reason it is bad for growth is that it leads to insufficient consumption and lack of demand….

That bit of hogwash serves the redistributionist agenda. As Cochrane puts it, “redistributive taxation is a perennial answer in search of a question.” Indeed.

There’s more:

Inequality – growth is supposed to be about long run trends, not boom and slow recovery.

Professor of Public Policy at U.S. Berkeley Robert Reich argues that increased inequality has reduced overall aggregate demand. He observes that high-income households have a lower marginal propensity to consume (MPC) out of income than other households.

Let us begin at the beginning, that is, with some self-evident postulates that even a redistributionist will grant — until he grasps their anti-redistributionist implications:

  • All economic output is of two distinct types: consumption and investment (i.e., the replacement of or increase in the stock of capital that is used to produce goods for consumption).
  • The output of consumption goods must decline, ceteris paribus, if the stock of capital declines.
  • The stock of capital is sustained (and increased) by forgoing consumption.
  • The stock of capital is therefore sustained (and increased) by saving.
  • Saving rises with income because persons in high-income brackets usually consume a smaller fraction of their incomes than do persons in middle- and low-income brackets.
  • The redistribution of income from high-income earners to middle- and low-income earners therefore leads to a reduction in saving.
  • A reduction in saving means less investment and, thus, a reduction in the effective stock of capital, as it wears out.
  • With less capital, workers become less productive.
  • Output therefore declines, to the detriment of workers as well as “capitalists.”

In sum, efforts to make incomes more equal through redistribution have the opposite effect of the one claimed for it by ignorant bloviators like Robert Reich.

So much for the claim that a higher rate of consumption is a good policy for the long run.

What about in the short run; that is, what about Keynesian “stimulus” to “prime the pump”? I won’t repeat what I say in “The Keynesian Multiplier: Phony Math.” Go there, and see for yourself.

For an estimate of the destructive, long-run effect of government see “The True Multiplier.”

Abortion Rights and Gun Rights

Eugene Volokh quotes from yesterday’s decision by U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson in Planned Parenthood Southeast Inc. v. Strange (M.D. Ala. Aug. 4, 2014). Here’s part of the decision, with some obvious editing by me:

In order to give “real substance to the woman’s liberty ability to commit murder,” while at the same time fully honoring the State’s ability to pursue, in good faith, its own acknowledged legitimate interests, one of which is to prevent murder, this court concludes that it must hold that this requirement [that all doctors who provide abortions must have staff privileges to perform designated procedures at a local hospital] is unconstitutional. The evidence compellingly demonstrates that the requirement would have the striking result of closing three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics, clinics which perform only early abortions murders, long before viability the births of the children who in almost all cases would have become “viable” fetuses were it not for abortion. Indeed, the court is convinced that, if this requirement would not, in the face of all the evidence in the record, constitute an impermissible undue burden, then almost no regulation, short of those imposing an outright prohibition on abortion, would deny some women their manufactured constitutional right to commit murder….

In deciding this case, the court was struck by a false parallel in some respects between the manufactured right of women to decide to terminate a pregnancy murder defenseless fetuses and the right of the individual to keep and bear firearms, including handguns, in her home for the purposes of self-defense. At its core, each protected right is held by the individual: the manufactured right to decide to have an abortion commit murder and the time-honored right to have and use firearms for self-defense, that is, to prevent murder and other types of crime.

However, neither right can be fully exercised without the assistance of someone else. The manufactured right to abortion murder a fetus that would almost certainly have become viable cannot be exercised without a medical professional (a misstatement that bolsters my false analogy), and the right to keep and bear arms for defense against murder means little if there is no one from whom to acquire the handgun or ammunition….

With this parallelism in mind, the court poses the hypothetical that suppose, for the public weal the purpose of depriving citizens of their time-honored right to self defense, the federal or state government were to implement a new restriction on who may sell firearms and ammunition and on the procedure they must employ in selling such goods and that, further, only two vendors in the State of Alabama were capable of complying with the restriction: one in Huntsville and one in Tuscaloosa.

…Similarly, in this case, so long as the Supreme Court continues to recognize a manufactured constitutional right to choose to terminate a pregnancy murder a defenseless fetus that almost certainly would have become viable, any regulation that would, in effect, restrict the exercise of that right murderous act to only Huntsville and Tuscaloosa should be subject to the same skepticism condemned for not having gone far enough….

Judge Thompson’s patently biased analogy abets barbarism.

P.S. Only after publishing the original post and later making some editorial changes did I learn that Judge Thompson was appointed to the bench by Jimmy Carter. Jimmy must be proud of Myron’s use of twisted logic in the service of left-wing orthodoxy.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Privacy, Autonomy, and Responsibility
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty

Radio Days, and Beyond

This trip down memory lane is about some of the shows that I remember from the 1940s and 1950s.

The 1940s were my radio days. I listened on my parents’ Philco console radio, which resembled this one:

These are the radio shows that I remember:

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
The Adventures of Superman
The Aldrich Family
The Baby Snooks Show
Blondie
Burns and Allen
Challenge of the Yukon (Sgt. Preston of the Yukon)
A Date with Judy
Fibber McGee and Molly
The Fred Allen Show
Gang Busters
Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch
The Great Gildersleeve
I Love a Mystery
Inner Sanctum Mysteries
The Jack Benny Program
Life with Luigi
The Lone Ranger
Lum and Abner
Martin Kane, Private Eye
Meet Corliss Archer
Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons
Nick Carter, Private Detective
Our Miss Brooks
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show
The Romance of Helen Trent (overheard while my mother listened)
The Shadow
Suspense
Tom Mix
Twenty Questions
The Whistler

That’s just a small sample of the shows that aired during the Golden Age of Radio. Several of the shows made the transition to television. Those that I remember watching on TV in the 1950s are Ozzie and Harriet, Superman, Blondie, Burns and Allen, Gene Autry, Jack Benny, The Great Gildersleeve, Life with Luigi, The Lone Ranger, Our Miss Brooks, Suspense, and Twenty Questions.

Some shows that I watched on TV in the 1950s got their start on radio, but I followed them only on TV. Among their number:

Abbott and Costello
The Alan Young Show
Amos ‘n’ Andy
Beulah
The Big Story
The Cisco Kid
Death Valley Days
Dr. Kildare
Dragnet
Ellery Queen
Ethel and Albert
Father Knows Best
Five Star Theater
Four Star Playhouse
The Goldbergs
Gunsmoke
The Halls of Ivy
Have Gun, Will Travel
I Was a Communist for the FBI
The Kate Smith Hour
The Ken Murray Program
Kraft Music Hall
The Life of Riley
The Milton Berle Show
Mr. and Mrs. North
My Friend Irma
The Original Amateur Hour
Perry Mason
Quiz Kids
The Roy Rogers Show
Studio One
The Voice of Firsstone
You Bet Your Life
Your Hit Parade

My parents’ first TV set was a 12-inch Sparton, which resembled the table model at the left in the bottom row:

Sparton wasn’t a misspelling of Spartan. Sparton stood for Sparks-Withington, a company in Jackson, Michigan, that made TV sets until 1956. Not nearly as classy as the Philco radio, was it?

Those were the days when radio and TV were safe for kids: no sex, less-than-graphic violence, actors who didn’t mumble or swear, and musical themes of redeeming value:

Not-So-Random Thoughts (X)

How Much Are Teachers Worth?

David Harsanyi writes:

“The bottom line,” says the Center for American Progress, “is that mid- and late-career teachers are not earning what they deserve, nor are they able to gain the salaries that support a middle-class existence.”

Alas, neither liberal think tanks nor explainer sites have the capacity to determine the worth of human capital. And contrasting the pay of a person who has a predetermined government salary with the pay earned by someone in a competitive marketplace tells us little. Public-school teachers’ compensation is determined by contracts negotiated long before many of them even decided to teach. These contracts hurt the earning potential of good teachers and undermine the education system. And it has nothing to do with what anyone “deserves.”

So if teachers believe they aren’t making what they’re worth — and they may well be right about that — let’s free them from union constraints and let them find out what the job market has to offer. Until then, we can’t really know. Because a bachelor’s degree isn’t a dispensation from the vagaries of economic reality. And teaching isn’t the first step toward sainthood. Regardless of what you’ve heard. (“Are Teachers Underpaid? Let’s Find Out,” Creators.com, July 25, 2014)

Harsanyi is right, but too kind. Here’s my take, from “The Public-School Swindle“:

[P]ublic “education” — at all levels — is not just a rip-off of taxpayers, it is also an employment scheme for incompetents (especially at the K-12 level) and a paternalistic redirection of resources to second- and third-best uses.

And, to top it off, public education has led to the creation of an army of left-wing zealots who, for many decades, have inculcated America’s children and young adults in the advantages of collective, non-market, anti-libertarian institutions, where paternalistic “empathy” supplants personal responsibility.

Utilitarianism, Once More

EconLog bloggers Bryan Caplan and Scott Sumner are enjoying an esoteric exchange about utilitarianism (samples here and here), which is a kind of cost-benefit calculus in which the calculator presumes to weigh the costs and benefits that accrue to other persons.  My take is that utilitarianism borders on psychopathy. In “Utilitarianism and Psychopathy,” I quote myself to this effect:

Here’s the problem with cost-benefit analysis — the problem it shares with utilitarianism: One person’s benefit can’t be compared with another person’s cost. Suppose, for example, the City of Los Angeles were to conduct a cost-benefit analysis that “proved” the wisdom of constructing yet another freeway through the city in order to reduce the commuting time of workers who drive into the city from the suburbs.

Before constructing the freeway, the city would have to take residential and commercial property. The occupants of those homes and owners of those businesses (who, in many cases would be lessees and not landowners) would have to start anew elsewhere. The customers of the affected businesses would have to find alternative sources of goods and services. Compensation under eminent domain can never be adequate to the owners of taken property because the property is taken by force and not sold voluntarily at a true market price. Moreover, others who are also harmed by a taking (lessees and customers in this example) are never compensated for their losses. Now, how can all of this uncompensated cost and inconvenience be “justified” by, say, the greater productivity that might (emphasize might) accrue to those commuters who would benefit from the construction of yet another freeway.

Yet, that is how cost-benefit analysis works. It assumes that group A’s cost can be offset by group B’s benefit: “the greatest amount of happiness altogether.”

America’s Financial Crisis

Timothy Taylor tackles the looming debt crisis:

First, the current high level of government debt, and the projections for the next 25 years, mean that the U.S. government lacks fiscal flexibility….

Second, the current spending patterns of the U.S. government are starting to crowd out everything except health care, Social Security, and interest payments….

Third, large government borrowing means less funding is available for private investment….

…CBO calculates an “alternative fiscal scenario,” in which it sets aside some of these spending and tax changes that are scheduled to take effect in five years or ten years or never…. [T]he extended baseline scenario projected that the debt/GDP ratio would be 106% by 2039. In the alternative fiscal scenario, the debt-GDP ratio is projected to reach 183% of GDP by 2039. As the report notes: “CBO’s extended alternative fiscal scenario is based on the assumptions that certain policies that are now in place but are scheduled to change under current law will be continued and that some provisions of law that might be difficult to sustain for a long period will be modified. The scenario, therefore, captures what some analysts might consider to be current policies, as opposed to current laws.”…

My own judgement is that the path of future budget deficits in the next decade or so is likely to lean toward the alternative fiscal scenario. But long before we reach a debt/GDP ratio of 183%, something is going to give. I don’t know what will change. But as an old-school economist named Herb Stein used to say, “If something can’t go on, it won’t.” (Long Term Budget Deficits,Conversable Economist, July 24, 2014)

Professional economists are terribly low-key, aren’t they? Here’s the way I see it, in “America’s Financial Crisis Is Now“:

It will not do simply to put an end to the U.S. government’s spending spree; too many State and local governments stand ready to fill the void, and they will do so by raising taxes where they can. As a result, some jurisdictions will fall into California- and Michigan-like death-spirals while jobs and growth migrate to other jurisdictions…. Even if Congress resists the urge to give aid and comfort to profligate States and municipalities at the expense of the taxpayers of fiscally prudent jurisdictions, the high taxes and anti-business regimes of California- and Michigan-like jurisdictions impose deadweight losses on the whole economy….

So, the resistance to economically destructive policies cannot end with efforts to reverse the policies of the federal government. But given the vast destructiveness of those policies — “entitlements” in particular — the resistance must begin there. Every conservative and libertarian voice in the land must be raised in reasoned opposition to the perpetuation of the unsustainable “promises” currently embedded in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — and their expansion through Obamacare. To those voices must be added the voices of “moderates” and “liberals” who see through the proclaimed good intentions of “entitlements” to the economic and libertarian disaster that looms if those “entitlements” are not pared down to their original purpose: providing a safety net for the truly needy.

The alternative to successful resistance is stark: more borrowing, higher interest payments, unsustainable debt, higher taxes, and economic stagnation (at best).

For the gory details about government spending and economic stagnation, see “Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Spending Inhibits Economic Growth” and “The True Multiplier.”

Climate Change: More Evidence against the Myth of AGW

There are voices of reason, that is, real scientists doing real science:

Over the 55-years from 1958 to 2012, climate models not only significantly over-predict observed warming in the tropical troposphere, but they represent it in a fundamentally different way than is observed. (Ross McKittrick and Timothy Vogelsang, “Climate models not only significantly over-predict observed warming in the tropical troposphere, but they represent it in a fundamentally different way than is observed,” excerpted at Watt’s Up With That, July 24, 2014)

Since the 1980s anthropogenic aerosols have been considerably reduced in Europe and the Mediterranean area. This decrease is often considered as the likely cause of the brightening effect observed over the same period. This phenomenon is however hardly reproduced by global and regional climate models. Here we use an original approach based on reanalysis-driven coupled regional climate system modelling, to show that aerosol changes explain 81 ± 16 per cent of the brightening and 23 ± 5 per cent of the surface warming simulated for the period 1980–2012 over Europe. The direct aerosol effect is found to dominate in the magnitude of the simulated brightening. The comparison between regional simulations and homogenized ground-based observations reveals that observed surface solar radiation, as well as land and sea surface temperature spatio-temporal variations over the Euro-Mediterranean region are only reproduced when simulations include the realistic aerosol variations. (“New paper finds 23% of warming in Europe since 1980 due to clean air laws reducing sulfur dioxide,” The Hockey Schtick, July 23, 2014)

My (somewhat out-of-date but still useful) roundup of related posts and articles is at “AGW: The Death Knell.”

Crime Explained…

…but not by this simplistic item:

Of all of the notions that have motivated the decades-long rise of incarceration in the United States, this is probably the most basic: When we put people behind bars, they can’t commit crime.

The implied corollary: If we let them out, they will….

Crime trends in a few states that have significantly reduced their prison populations, though, contradict this fear. (Emily Badger, “There’s little evidence that fewer prisoners means more crime,” Wonkblog, The Washington Post, July 21, 2014)

Staring at charts doesn’t yield answers to complex, multivariate questions, such as the causes of crime. Ms. Badger should have extended my work of seven years ago (“Crime, Explained“). Had she, I’m confident that she would have obtained the same result, namely:

VPC (violent+property crimes per 100,000 persons) =

-33174.6

+346837BLK (number of blacks as a decimal fraction of the population)

-3040.46GRO (previous year’s change in real GDP per capita, as a decimal fraction of the base)

-1474741PRS (the number of inmates in federal and State prisons in December of the previous year, as a decimal fraction of the previous year’s population)

The t-statistics on the intercept and coefficients are 19.017, 21.564, 1.210, and 17.253, respectively; the adjusted R-squared is 0.923; the standard error of the estimate/mean value of VPC = 0.076.

The coefficient and t-statistic for PRS mean that incarceration has a strong, statistically significant, negative effect on the violent-property crime rate. In other words, more prisoners = less crime against persons and their property.

The Heritability of Intelligence

Strip away the trappings of culture and what do you find? This:

If a chimpanzee appears unusually intelligent, it probably had bright parents. That’s the message from the first study to check if chimp brain power is heritable.

The discovery could help to tease apart the genes that affect chimp intelligence and to see whether those genes in humans also influence intelligence. It might also help to identify additional genetic factors that give humans the intellectual edge over their non-human-primate cousins.

The researchers estimate that, similar to humans, genetic differences account for about 54 per cent of the range seen in “general intelligence” – dubbed “g” – which is measured via a series of cognitive tests. “Our results in chimps are quite consistent with data from humans, and the human heritability in g,” says William Hopkins of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, who heads the team reporting its findings in Current Biology.

“The historical view is that non-genetic factors dominate animal intelligence, and our findings challenge that view,” says Hopkins. (Andy Coghlan, “Chimpanzee brain power is strongly heritable,New Scientist, July 10, 2014)

Such findings are consistent with Nicholas Wade’s politically incorrect A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. For related readings, see “‘Wading’ into Race, Culture, and IQ’.” For a summary of scholarly evidence about the heritability of intelligence — and its dire implications — see “Race and Reason — The Achievement Gap: Causes and Implications.” John Derbyshire offers an even darker view: “America in 2034” (American Renaissance, June 9, 2014).

The correlation of race and intelligence is, for me, an objective matter, not an emotional one. For evidence of my racial impartiality, see the final item in “My Moral Profile.”

A Sideways Glance at Politicians’ Memoirs

This is an edited version of a column that appeared in my long-defunct weekly newspaper on February 23, 1977. Gerald Ford had recently relinquished the presidency to Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon had fallen from grace less than three years earlier.

It’s expected that Richard Nixon will rake in millions for his printed and televised memoirs. Mr. Nixon wants the government to turn over the documents he compiled while an employee of the taxpayers, so that he can refer to them in writing his memoirs.

Henry Kissinger, another incipient memoirizer, wants the same deal. In fact, it’s reported that he removed from the State Department the stenographic records of thousands of phone conversations he had while Secretary of State. Dr. K. claims that those are personal documents. If that’s so, he should refund a good chunk of his government salary, to compensate taxpayers for the thousands of hours that he spent on personal phone calls.

There’s something to be said for allowing ex-presidents and other high officials access to their records so that they can tell us how great they were: Memoirs are a boon to insomniacs. Sleeping-pill manufacturers should have sued Truman, Eisenhower, and Johnson for unfair competition.

Many Americans are eager to read Nixon’s version of his presidency. I’m among them, mainly because I want to see if Nixon will say that he was Deep Throat*. I’m serious. Can you recall another politician who reveled in misery like Mr. Nixon? Remember the “Checkers speech“; the 1960 election that Nixon lost to JFK, but probably could have won by contesting the Illinois results (enough votes turned up in Chicago to swing the outcome)**; the lashing-out at the press after losing the California governor’s race in 1962; and the sweaty, lying performance during the Watergate affair. Why couldn’t the person who as a boy signed a letter to his mother “Your good dog, Richard” have become a man who satisfied his need to grovel by blowing the whistle on himself?

Whatever the truth about Nixon’s role in the Watergate affair—the cover-up, the cover-up of the cover-up, and the uncovering of the cover-ups—we are unlikely to learn it from Nixon’s memoirs, except by inference. Look for the parts where his innocence is most stridently protested, and assume that the opposite is true.

Will Gerald Ford also write his memoirs? The question doesn’t seem to be keeping book publishers awake at night. But, if he does, you can throw away your Sominex.

Jerry Ford would be a good guy to have a beer with. I even voted for him. But I draw the line at self-inflicted boredom. Rather than read Ford’s memoirs, I would watch grass grow.

As for Kissinger’s version of events, one should keep in mind Voltaire’s remark that “History is the lie agreed upon.”

_________
* In 2003, long after I published the original piece, Deep Throat was revealed as Mark Felt, then Deputy Director of the FBI. In 1972, following the break-in by White House operatives at Democrat headquarters in the Watergate Hotel and Office Building on Virginia Avenue in Washington, D.C. Felt fed inside information to Bob Woodward, who with Carl Bernstein wrote the series of articles in The Washington Post that led to congressional hearings into the Watergate affair, and Nixon’s eventual resignation on August 9, 1974. Felt’s secret meetings with Bob Woodward were held in the parking garage of an office building at 1401 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia. At the time, I worked at 1401 Wilson Boulevard.

** This is a common bit of folk-lore. In fact, even if Nixon had won Illinois, JFK would still have led Nixon in electoral votes: 276-246. Another 15 electoral votes were cast for Senator Harry Byrd by Virginia’s electors. Even if those electors had switched to Nixon, the tally would have been 276-261. It’s possible that if Nixon had won Illinois, enough Kennedy voters in the West would have stayed home to swing New Mexico or Nevada to Nixon. Kennedy won both States narrowly, and a Nixon victory in either State, coupled with a win in Illinois, would have made him the winner. Maybe.

A Sideways Glance at the Cabinet

This is a polished and updated version of a column that appeared in my long-defunct weekly newspaper on January 26, 1977, six days after Gerald Ford relinquished the presidency to Jimmy Carter.

President Ford, shortly before leaving office, urged Republican partypersons to form a “shadow” cabinet. (This is an old tradition in Britain, where the Loyal Opposition assigns certain of its members in Parliament the duty of keeping cabinet ministers honest.) But before proposing a shadow cabinet, Mr. Ford should have considered the need for a cabinet in the first place. I will venture to do so here.

Consider the Defense Department, which contains three military departments: Army, Navy, Air Force. Right away you can see the possibilities for confusion, if not riot, because there is no Secretary of the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is a separate military service—which is the first thing that any Marine with one day in boot camp will tell you. But the Marine Corps is administratively in the Department of the Navy. If for nothing else, the Secretary of the Navy is paid to referee the daily combat between the Navy and and the Marines Corps.

But. you may ask, why should the Navy and Marine Corps be in conflict if they belong to the same department? If you have to ask, you haven’t seen any movies made during World War II, wherein it was common to have a scene that included the following elements: a bar, some sailors, some jarheads (as Marines are often called), and a brawl. Those fraternal tiffs have not been forgotten. For many decades after World War II, the Chief of Naval Operations (the top sailor, who has nothing to do with operations) and the Commandant of the Marine Corps (the top Marine) were housed in different buildings.* (Who says that time heals all wounds?) I question the wisdom of the decision to house both of them in the Pentagon. It’s a huge place, so they can be kept well apart, but …

Before moving on, I must mention the Navy-Air Force relationship. The Air Force has an air force, as you might expect. The Navy, too. has an air force. The result is that the Navy and Air Force spend a lot of time quibbling about whose air force should have the biggest, fastest airplanes. Neither will admit that it has the most expensive ones, of course.

The fact that the Navy has an air force leads to another reason for having a Secretary of the Navy. It is he who must make the Navy’s case for its air force. Why couldn’t the Chief of Naval Operations do that? Well, the Marines have their own air force, too. If the Chief of Naval Operations were to go before Congress to plead his case, the Commandant would have to do the same. Imagine what would happen if they showed up on the same day!

If you think inter-service rivalry is a problem in the Department of the Navy, consider life in the Pentagon, which also houses the chiefs of staff of the Army and Air Force. There are not only four air forces to fight over (yes, the Army has one, too), there are two services with soldiers (but don’t call a Marine that), two with long-range missiles (the Air Force and Navy), four with air-defense missiles, and so on, into the night. Thus the need for a Secretary of Defense.

Therefore, as to the necessity of cabinet officers: it is dire — in the Pentagon, at least. If the Secretary of Defense didn’t get the troops pretty much in order before they marched to Congress with their demands, Congress would have to referee the fights among the services. This would leave Congressmen with no time to interview secretaries (the typing kind**).

Long live the cabinet, whoever they may be!
__________
* The Commandant’s office and other elements of Headquarters, Marine Corps, moved to the Pentagon in 1996.

**A reference to a scandal that broke in 1976. U.S. Representative Wayne Hays (D-Ohio) had hired one Elizabeth Ray as a member of his staff. Ms. Ray was nominally a secretary, but her real job description was “mistress.” She admitted that “I can’t type. I can’t file. I can’t even answer the phone.”

A Sideways Glance at Military Strategy

This is a column that appeared in my long-defunct weekly newspaper on January 12, 1977, eight days before the inauguration of Jimmy Carter, who succeeded Gerald Ford.

James (“just call me Jimmy”) Carter has filled his new Cabinet with “old” faces. Will the old
faces, and the old minds behind them, come up with the same old answers? It is likely.

Despite promises of efficiency–which means collecting our tax money faster–the Carter regime is likely to follow the pattern set by a certain former governor of Georgia: more government employees, more government spending, and more government debt.

Perhaps Mr. Carter can improve on the performance of the Ford flivver. There will be plenty of opportunities. Shortly before leaving office Mr. Ford apparently decided not to ask for an aircraft carrier in the new budget to be submitted to Congress. Not having the carrier (we already have a dozen or more, all in good shape) and the planes that would go on it, could save us over $4 billion during the next several years. This may seem sensible, but there’s more.

It is reported that during the past year, Mr. Ford-through his super-salesman. Mr. Kissinger, agreed to renew the leases on some of our bases in Spain. Turkey. Greece, and the Philippines. It is estimated that the right to have bases in those countries would cost over $4 billion during the next several years. (The bases themselves are optional extras.) Maybe the Navy should have its new carrier. Make that two!

But, politicians should not be accused of stupidity until all the returns are in. I, for one. can
plainly see the method to Mr. Ford’s machinations. First, he expects that Congress will agree that the Navy should not have a new nuclear aircraft carrier.

Second. Mr. Ford expects that Congress will not be foolish enough to pay $4 billion to our third-string allies for the privilege of parking military hardware on their property on the remote chance that it will be useful in a war.

Third, the Puerto Ricans will overwhelmingly endorse Statehood, and Congress will vote it.

What does Puerto Rico have to do with carriers and bases? Puerto Rico is a big island.
(Right!) It can hold a lot of airplanes, tanks, and missiles. (Right again!) It’s probably just
as strategically located as the Philippines, and less likely to be overrun than Spain, Greece, and Turkey. (Give that man a cigar!)

Therefore, we get a new State, new taxpayers, a well-located base bigger than a thousand
aircraft carriers, and save $8 billion in the bargain.

Who said that Mr. Ford couldn’t ski and chew gum* at the same time? Top that. Jimmy.

__________
* During his presidency, Ford became the brunt of jokes for a few well-publicized instances of clumsiness. One joke was that he couldn’t chew gum and walk at the same time. Ford was, in fact, an excellent athlete, who counted skiing among his abilities. Thus “ski and chew gum at the same time.”

Two-Percent Tyranny

In case you hadn’t noticed, marriage — long the cornerstone of civil society — is being redefined out of existence by the gay lobby. I say redefined out of existence because marriage becomes meaningless when any odd coupling is recognized in law as marriage.

In case you hadn’t noticed, bicycle lanes are choking the streets of “progressive” cities — Austin being a case in point with which I’m too familiar. The bicyclists for whose benefit those lanes have been marked are notable for their arrogant behavior (e.g., deliberately hogging traffic lanes and forcing lines of motor vehicles to crawl behind them).

The recognition of gay “marriage” and the encouragement of bicycling are “liberal” causes, of course. And as is usual with “liberals,” the causes are promoted with religious fervor, regardless of the consequences. Both causes have led to the manufacture of “rights” manufactured by public officials. To put it another way, the “rights” in question aren’t rights that arise from voluntarily evolved social norms. (To anticipate a “liberal” objection to voluntarily evolved social norms, slavery isn’t one — it’s a state-sponsored practice.)

In sum, the gay “marriage” and bicycling movements are instances of tyranny on behalf of two-percent minorities. It just happens that about two percent of Americans are homosexual, and about two percent of commuting is done by bicycle in most “bicycle friendly cities.” (The nationwide share is a paltry 0.6 percent.)

It’s “our” government at work, in its usual wrong-headed way.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Same-Sex “Marriage”
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual “Marriage”
Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
In Defense of Marriage
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm

Life in Austin (1)
Life in Austin (2)
Life in Austin (3)
Driving and Politics (1)
Driving and Politics (2)

Decline

Although I’ve declared baseball the “king of team sports,” I would agree with anyone who says that baseball is past its prime. When was that prime? Arguably, it was the original lively ball era, which by my reckoning extended from 1920 to 1941. The home run had become much more prevalent than in earlier dead-ball era, but not so prevalent that it dominated offensive strategy. Thus batting averages were high and scoring proceeded at a higher pace than in any of the other eras that I’ve identified.

In 1930, for example, the entire National League batted .303. The Chicago Cubs of that season finished in second place and batted .309 (not the highest team average in the league). The average number of runs scored in a Cubs’ game was 12.0 — a number surpassed only by the lowly Philadelphia Phillies, whose games yielded an average of 13.8 runs, most of them scored by the Phillies’ opponents. Despite the high scoring, the average Cubs game of the 1930 season lasted only 2 hours and 5 minutes. (An estimate that I derived from the sample of 67 Cubs’ games for which times are available, here.)

In sum, baseball’s first lively ball era produced what fans love to see: scoring. A great pitching duel is fine, but a great pitching duel is a rare thing. Too many low-scoring games are the result of failed offensive opportunities, which are marked by a high count of runners left of base. Once runners get on base, what fans want (or at least one team’s fans want) is to see them score.

The game in the first lively ball era was, as I say, dynamic because scoring depended less on the home run than it did in later eras. And the game unfolded at a smart pace. That pace, by the way, was about the same as it had been in the middle of the dead-ball era. (For example, the times recorded for the Cubs’ two games against the Cincinnati Reds on July 4, 1911, are 2:05 and 2:00.)

Baseball has declined since the first lively ball era, not just because the game has become more static but also because it now unfolds at a much slower pace. The average length of a game in 2014 is 3:08 (for games through 07/17/14) — more than an hour longer than the games played by the Cubs in 1930.

Baseball is far from the only cultural phenomenon that has declined from its peak. I have written several times about the decline of art and music, movies, language, and morals and mores: here, here, here, and here. (Each of the foregoing links leads to a post that includes links to related items.)

Baseball is sometimes called a metaphor for life. (It’s a better metaphor than soccer, to be sure.) I now venture to say that the decline of baseball is a metaphor for the decline of art, music, movies, language, and morals and mores.

Indeed, the decline of baseball is a metaphor for the decline of liberty in America, which began in earnest — and perhaps inexorably — during the New Deal, even as the first lively ball era was on the wane.

*     *     *

See also “The Fall and Rise of American Empire.”

Baseball: The King of Team Sports

There are five major team sports: baseball, basketball, football (American style), ice hockey, and soccer (European football). The skills and abilities required to play these sports at the top professional level are several and varied. But, in my opinion — based on experience and spectating — the skills can be ranked hierarchically and across sports. When the ordinal rankings are added, baseball comes out on top by a wide margin; hockey is in the middle; basketball, football, and soccer are effectively tied for least-demanding of skill and ability.

Ranking of sports by skill and ability