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Gus Van Horn blog

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  1. Three Things 1. Part of the reason I was away from here last week was a great family vacation. Comparing notes with Mrs. Van Horn, I realized that we both came back feeling unusually energized. She thought we just really needed the break, and I agreed. But we'd traveled plenty of times before without feeling this refreshed. And I think I know why this time was different: The kids have passed a threshold. Yes, they are still toddlers, but Pumpkin was more mature and Little Man much more independent on this trip. Two things stood out: First, they were much better at entertaining themselves without getting hurt or breaking things; and second, playing with them was much more about having fun with them than being vigilant. Caring for infants and young toddlers has its moments, but it is hard work, and parents are always on call. I am glad I got to be as involved as I have been, but I won't mince words: I feel as if I've had my first real vacation in nearly six years. 2. This guide, "How to Survive the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017," is geared for the curious, not the superstitious. That said, the anticipated "hurricane evacuation-like traffic" -- Scroll down to "Day 2" -- is worth factoring in, if it doesn't outright make you want to stay put. 3. Save a life, get razzed for your painted toenails: Paramedics were getting the officers out of their ice-cold clothing to warm them up when they noticed something funny. Officer Gadwell had gold toenails. Gadwell said, "They're looking at me funny and I'm like, 'This is what happens when you have daughters at home." "I get to the hospital and everyone is making fun of me. They're laughing at me and they go, 'Hey, just so you know, your partner's toes are done too."My toenails remain unpainted ... so far. Weekend Reading "People will not change without first arriving at the deeply held conviction that change must take place." -- Michael Hurd, in "We Change Only if We Want To" at The Delaware Wave "The [value judgment behind the] emotional state of students 'diagnosed' with now-being-debunked 'attention deficit disorder' is, 'Schooling is not important.'" -- Michael Hurd, in "How to Unlock Your Motivation" at The Delaware Coast Press "If we are to truly learn the lessons of Communism's history, it is the moral premise of collectivism that [Ayn] Rand asks us to question and reject." -- Yaron Brook, in foreword to "Our Alleged Competitor (PDF)," by Ayn Rand (1962) at The Conservative -- CAV Link to Original
  2. Finally, thanks to Megan McArdle, there is an even-handed take on the United Airlines incident I heard about every time I happened upon the news while I was away last week. Three things stand out to me. First, the flight wasn't oversold. (This piece explains how we benefit from overbooking, anyway.) Some blogs have mentioned this, but it bears repeating. Second, McArdle notes a misdirection of attention, which is quite curious in these days of media-fanned, anti-cop hysteria: "t was the cops, not United, who made [the passenger] bleed." Third, McArdle outlines how United could have easily handled this situation better: ...United made two really dumb mistakes. First, it let passengers board before the bumping began. [See P.S. --ed.] That was stupid. It's easy to keep someone off a plane, and hard to remove them once they're there. Then the airline compounded its error by trying to remove people by force. Now, United may have the legal right to do so. But that's irrelevant. It would have been cheaper for staff members to just keep offering more cash until four people agreed to get off. At some price, they'd have found takers. They should have found that price instead of slowing down the boarding process and turning themselves into a viral disaster. This bad publicity, cynically magnified by our anti-capitalist media, is bad in the short-term, but I appreciate McArdle seeing and taking the opportunity it presents to help the public understand some of the more annoying aspects of air travel in light of (a) how they beat alternatives and (b) how airlines can easily improve some of them. -- CAV P.S. The Cranky Flier (linked above) notes that the other air crew showed up at the gate. If this is the case, then United couldn't have avoided having to get a passenger off its plane after boarding, but her solution of offering more money to volunteers remains an option. Link to Original
  3. Living in a quintessential suburb so soon after being in the thick of things in Boston (and close to it in Houston and St. Louis), the very title of the following piece had me saying Amen. In "A Leisure Deficit Is Killing Off the Suburbs," Leonid Bershidsky considers a study with pretty good controls about why "the relationship between housing prices and distance from the center of major U.S. cities has reversed since 1980." Indeed, since 1990, the number of skilled people working long hours -- 50 a week or more -- has been growing. There are often two such people to a relatively affluent household, and they know a long commute is not an option: It doesn't just leave little time for fun and family life, it's downright bad for one's health. A 2012 paper showed that increasing the daily commuting time from 62 minutes -- the average for Americans living in urban areas -- by another 60 minutes leads to a 6 percent decrease in health-related activities and so contributes to obesity. Short commutes that can be made by foot or bicycle actually increase a worker's life satisfaction because they're healthy and provide a cushion between home and work life.Another thing Bershidsky considers as a possible solution is telecommuting, whose wider adoption he correctly notes faces cultural inertia. Although I'd caution that telecommuting is no panacea, I think that wise use of remote work could greatly alleviate the burden of commuting. That said, I'd add that suburban living is worse for leisure time than the obvious culprit Bershidsky discusses. Thanks to government planning, the layout of most suburbs is horrendous. I have found that doing almost anything somewhere besides home almost always entails at least twenty minutes of driving time before and after. (Don't be fooled: even a so-called "five minute drive" includes getting into and out of a car, finding parking, and often, gratuitous traffic delays.) So, driving eats away at what little time a suburbanite isn't at work, commuting, or asleep. And walking or biking? My own experience has been that walking, once an integral and enjoyable part of my routine, is now something I have to go out of my way to do. As far as I'm concerned, the suburbs can't die off fast enough. -- CAV Link to Original
  4. Leave it to conservativesto resurrect an idea that had been regarded as "dead on arrival," according to the Wall Street Journal: a carbon tax. This "group of prominent conservative Republicans" hopes the resurrection will come about because they have found a way to make the less-than-observant think they are getting something for nothing: [F]ormer Secretary of State James Baker III, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Walmart Chairman Rob Walton -- met with key members of the Trump administration on Wednesday about their proposal to tax carbon dioxide emissions and return the proceeds to the American people. Such an economy-wide "carbon dividend," as the group calls it, could enable the United States to achieve its international emissions targets with better economic outcomes than under a purely regulatory approach. [links omitted]Further reading reveals that this tax will disproportionately affect those who use the most energy -- i.e., the most productive -- in order to toss crumbs to the less well-off. The World Resources Institute provides the following bullet points about this new proposal (bolded, below), which would make the likes of FDR and Bernie Sanders envious. I provide my own quick takes after each: Significantly reduces emissions. -- This will happen when energy costs go through the roof due to these taxes increasing on a schedule. We won't need to add "energy poverty" to our lexicon, because we'll have good, old-fashioned, plain poverty to deal with once the prices for everything start going up with the energy prices -- I mean, carbon taxes -- needed for production and transport. Benefits for poor and middle classes. -- As long as you (deep breath): (1) don't value your freedom (or that of others you trade with); (2) don't care about what activity the government might decide to tax next; (3) ignore the fact that the hidden costs of this policy will exceed your pittance; and (4) assume that global warming is: (a) real, (b) primarily caused by human activities, (c) has zero upside (including the continued use of the cheapest and most portable energy source there is), and (d) can be averted by this method -- then I guess this is true, in the sense that stealing "benefits" the thief. Addresses concerns about U.S. competitiveness and international action. -- If you don't understand how tariffs reduce the taxing nation's productivity -- See Henry Hazlitt -- you'll love this. As for me, I'd rather come in dead last in a race and walk away, than win one in which all participants have to hobble themselves, first. (This isn't the best analogy since trade isn't a zero-sum game, but involves both sides winning.) Cost-effectively reduces emissions. -- See Item 2 above. Also note that the tax amounts to a government-decreed price. Why not declare that the diesel used to drive carbon-belching farm equipment costs $1000 a gallon, to discourage use, and wheat is now a penny a bushel, so as to drive those ecologically benighted farmers out of business? Oh, wait. That would be too obvious... Offers potential for bipartisan support. -- Hey! Here's one I actually agree with. Both parties are full of panderers, and too many voters are looking for a free lunch, even if consists of seed corn and meat from stud animals. Many of the worst ideas floating around in politics appeal to members of both parties. It astounds me that there is so much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the left: With enemies like these, who needs useful idiots? -- CAV Link to Original
  5. Editor's Note: I am taking next week (and possibly some change) off from blogging. Expect me back here on the seventeenth at the earliest and on the nineteenth at the latest. Three Things 1. In the face of assertions by the likes of Dennis Prager that morality is impossible without God, Craig Biddle of the Objective Standard has written a rebuttal. This takes the form of an easily-understood outline of how the philosophy of Objectivism derives morality from facts. Indeed, his conclusion is so inescapable that I think he is perfectly justified to end his piece in the following manner: People are free to continue claiming, "If there is no God, there is no objective morality." But they are not free to do so honestly. Ayn Rand's derivation of morality from reality is too clear and too accessible for anyone interested in this subject responsibly to neglect. If people think her reasoning is in error, they should point out where and how they think she erred. But to ignore the existence of Rand's ideas while asserting, "If there is no God, anything goes," is to engage in evasion: the refusal to think, the refusal to see, the refusal to know. Such evasion is akin to the Church's refusal to acknowledge Galileo's proof that the Earth orbits the Sun -- except that those who evade Rand's proof have much more knowledge and, consequently, much less excuse. It is time for everyone who cares about human life, happiness, and freedom to repudiate the nonsense that objective morality depends on God. Objective morality depends on reason -- and, if we're willing to look, we can see that it does.I will also echo the sentiments of several of the other members of HBL, where I first learned of this essay: This would make an excellent pamphlet. 2. At Check Your Premises is a good piece regarding the latest academic to have leveled an unjustified attack on Ayn Rand: [R.P.] Wolff does not seem to want to seriously critique Rand. He wants to tarnish her by association with Ryan and tarnish Ryan by association with a caricature of her. Apoplexy over the current "administration" is scarcely avoidable for any one with sense, but it in no way excuses shoddy thinking. The problem is that we diminish ourselves and the quality of our public discourse when we throw out intellectual standards for the cheap thrill of thrashing a straw man. [bold added]Regarding the excerpt, one could replace "Wolff" with any other name from a long list of people from the intelligentsia and politics here, and not just from the left. Perhaps that is why the people who do this do not seem to know enough to be embarrassed by what they are doing. In any event, the above points could stand widespread dissemination. 3. Probably through Hacker News, I got wind of what it takes to start a sports league in the CIA. Muckrock breezily translatessome of a declassified memo on the subject as follows: To cope with these rather unique challenges, the Agency formed the Employee Activity Association (EAA), which, in exchange for membership dues, would ensure that next weekend's fishing trip would have a plausible cover story.The agency classified activities according to "plausible deniability to CIA affiliation." Weekend Reading "Until or unless we get coercion out of health care, there will be no art of the deal or anything close to it." -- Michael Hurd, in "Why There's No 'Art of the Deal' for Healthcare" at Newsmax "f you want to get a point across, don't engage in vague feel-good speak that ultimately says nothing." -- Michael Hurd, in "Let's Replace Psycho-Speak With Real-Speak" at The Delaware Wave "Rather than making it easier for the government to pick our pockets, we should work towards not having it pick our pockets at all." -- Gus Van Horn, in "Simplifying Tax Filing May Just Be Too Easy for Government" at RealClear Markets "[T]here's a lot we can do diplomatically and financially to press the regime to take steps toward protecting free speech and rule of law, while publicly shaming it for flouting those principles." -- Elan Journo, in "Trump Should Break the American Tradition of Ignoring Egypt's Abuse of Its People" at The Hill A Word of Thanks I thank Mrs. Van Horn and reader Steve D. for their comments on an earlier version of the op-ed linked above. -- CAV Link to Original
  6. Writing at Investor's Business Daily, Sally Pipes reports that California, which is considering single-payer medicine, could stand to look at other recent attempts, as well as conditions in other nations that use the system: Vermont's attempt imploded in 2014 following news that it would cost $4.3 billion a year -- nearly as much as the state's entire budget. Gov. Peter Shumlin concluded that the taxes and regulations required to fund the program -- an 11.5% payroll tax on business and a tax of up to 9.5% on individuals -- "might hurt our economy." No kidding. ... The single-payer system I grew up under in Canada, also known as Medicare, condemns sick patients to delays that have grown ever-longer over the past few decades. Last year, Canadians waited an average of five months for medically necessary specialist treatments after receiving a referral from a general practitioner, according to the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank.Also illuminating are Britain's "black alerts," or warnings that certain hospitals "can't guarantee life-saving emergency care." Of course, data like these have been around since long before ObamaCare, and yet the march towards fully socialized medicine goes on, despite lulls in places like Vermont and Colorado: So there's a lesson for opponents of socialized medicine here, too. It is this: There is some other consideration in the minds of its supporters that causes them to ignore or not care about these problems. That consideration is moral, and until those of us who oppose such plans also openly question and oppose the morality of altruism, we will continue to lose ground to such government programs. There is, and has been for a long time, ample evidence that these programs erode our standard of living -- to the point of endangering our lives. Instead of asking how much evidence it takes to deter the likes of Bernie Sanders, perhaps the real question is this: What will it take for people to say, "No. I am not my brother's keeper." -- CAV P.S. My latest column, on the lessons we can learn from a failed attempt at tax filing reform, now appears at RealClear Markets. Link to Original
  7. As an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism, let me immediately be clear that my title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. However we might evaluate them morally, employers should be free to employ (or not) anyone they please, and for whatever reason, sound or not. Unfortunately, our universities are giving employers some very solid reasons to look apprehensively at recent graduates, as you shall see. That said, anyone who reads Suzanne Lucas's latest column, about snowflakes (aka, eggshell plaintiffs) landing in the workplace, will become quite concerned about the blizzard of frivolous lawsuits that will arrive when "the campus culture wars [come] to your office": It's a huge mind shift -- where people are always taught to appeal to an authority and that authority is you, but you're expected to side with the complainant. That's not how ... business works, and you'll prevail (hopefully) in the courts, but do you want to go through that hassle over imaginedracial or gender slights? If you don't, you'll want to be actively aware and involved in what is happening in the universities. [link added]Although the best solution to this problem is to separate state and academy, we are so far from that ideal that the best immediate course of action is the one suggested by Lucas. Read the whole thing. -- CAV Link to Original
  8. Although he does not challenge the moral premise behind his state confiscating his wealth, David DeLucia of Connecticut provides an instructive blow-by-blow account of how Connecticut's gift tax is driving away its "super-wealthy" retirees: Wealthy people have options, especially mobility. If I sell my Connecticut home, move to any other state and then make gifts of my wealth to my heirs, I save them millions of dollars. My super wealthy friends call this the "free move." You can move out of Connecticut and the gift tax savings more than offsets the cost of the move and the new home purchase. Why wouldn't anyone do this? ... When very wealthy people move, their spending moves with them. Wealthy people are great for the local economy. They shop a lot, buy expensive cars, big homes, expensive jewelry, eat at fancy restaurants and hire many local workers like landscapers, plumbers, electricians, etc.I can't help but wonder how many of these very workers keep voting for soak-the-rich politicians. The ones who do are getting what they deserve. The ones who don't are fellow victims, along with those being looted. Along with the fact that DeLucia regards taxation (even at confiscatory rates) as "fair" up to a point, another criticism I have of this piece is that the author focuses on how Connecticut's tax makes it unattractive in comparison to other states. ("I can understand the state estate tax more than the state gift tax. Why? Because states around Connecticut also have an estate tax ...") Would the tax that bothers DeLucia so much be fine if all the surrounding states adopted it? (Hints: (1) The rich lose money whether they are robbed or having to react to the threat of robbery; and (2) jobs disappear whether money goes elsewhere due to its owner fleeing or being plundered.) And why not go further, and argue that Connecticut repeal the state income tax it passed way back, when I lived there? The fact that taxes continually increase despite the well-known maxim that "the power to tax is the power to destroy," may have something to do with the fact that even those most victimized by this form of legalized theft wrongly think it is okay, or even necessary. Ayn Rand identified this phenomenon long ago as "sanction of the victim". This is why we have a man who calculates that he will have been stripped of three quarters of his wealth over his lifetime quibbling about how it is harming his robbers, rather than calling attention to the barbarity of taxation. -- CAV Link to Original
  9. Lifehacker reportsthat the U.S. Post Office is rolling out a service they call"Informed DeliveryTM" (Or is it"Informed Delivery®"?):The service, called Informed Delivery, scans your mail then emails you a black and white scan of that mail. The USPS has been scanning envelopes for a while because it's how their sorting equipment works, and now they're just making those scans available to its consumers.Delving further reveals that this will just be letter-sized items, and that you will be able to, "Get access to interactive content provided by mailers." No surprise there: The service, which I will admit has advantages, comes free of charge. That said, any loyal reader who gets a vague feeling of déjà vumight recalla similar, but vastly superior service that had been on offer a few years ago:[The founders of Outbox] wanted to allow consumers to digitize all of their postal mail so that individuals could get rid of junk mail, keep important things organized and never have to go out to their mailbox again. They set out to "redefine a long cherished but broken medium of communication: postal mail." Customers would opt-in for $5 a month with "Outbox" to have their mail redirected, opened, scanned and available online or through a phone app. Consumers could then click on a particular scanned letter and ask that it be physically delivered, or that certain types of letters not be opened (e.g., bills etc.). [bold added]Do note especially that, not only will you continue being inundated with junk mail if you sign up for this new service, but that you will also have access to its digital twin, "interactive content." That's me whistling through my teeth sarcastically. We all know what that "interactive content" will be. And don't forget that the Post Office killed Outbox, despite the founders approaching the Postmaster General with the idea of improving the bottom line of the Post Office itself. My closing remark from 2014 bears repeating:So if -- even in this day and age of [technological] marvels -- the idea of being able to go through your mail on your smart phone sounds like the stuff of science fiction, you now know why. That -- along with your money -- is what the government took away from you. In return, you get what sounds like a juvenile prank: a pile of trash delivered to your home every day that you have to rummage through, in case something important is buried inside.The only real change is that there is a new twist to this prank: When the Post Office mis-delivers your important mail, you'll have "informed delivery" to thank for going through the pile three or four more times because you "know" it's there. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. Three Things 1. Months ago, my son acquired a flimsy blue plastic bracelet and lost it within days. He may have won it when I took him to a friend's birthday at a Chuck E. Cheese's, but I am not certain. In any event, he lost it within a day or so and seemed to have forgotten it -- until the next time he got upset, when he cried, "I can't find my blue bracelet!" It took me a few moments to realize what he was talking about, but I eventually figured it out. Mrs. Van Horn later purchased for him a couple of nice blue bracelets, but still, he will sometimes make the same complaint when he gets upset or tired. "It's his Rosebud, I guess," I said to Mrs. Van Horn the last time this happened. 2. Discussing our next shoe purchase for the kids, my sleep-deprived wife told me of a shoe sizer from the web site of the store. "Print two," she said. "Why do we need two?" I asked. Then, feeling mischievous, I added, "I'll print four." Justice came swiftly in the form of a quick poke to the ribs. 3. Ayn Rand has become required reading in the UK:A-level students in the UK will now be called upon to know and understand the core tenets of Rand's philosophy, along with those of other conservative thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and Edmund Burke. (The A-Level politics course also includes the study of liberalists like John Locke and John Stuart Mill, socialists like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, feminists like Simone de Beauvoir, and more.) "Students will get to grapple with a diverse worldview and build up their own respective intellectual muscles through this new curriculum," says Yaron Brook, chairman of the nonprofit group The Ayn Rand Institute...The government shouldn't interfere with education at all, much less run it, but given that it currently does, it is good to see an improvement like this. Weekend Reading "Unless someone is holding a gun to your head or is outright lying to you, you are never really a victim." -- Michael Hurd, in "Victimhood: Mostly a State of Mind" at The Delaware Wave "By piously preaching to others, the hypocrite is trying to wish away his or her problems." -- Michael Hurd, in "Hypocrisy is a Full-Time Job" at The Delaware Coast Press "[W]e face not some nebulous threat from 'terrorists' or 'violent extremists,' but a distinct enemy: the Islamic totalitarian movement." -- Elan Journo, in "The Jihadist Attack in London" at The Times of Israel Baffled by Nonconformity Framing a bizarre question for Allison Green of Ask a Manager, a boss sounds completely flabbergasted by the habits of an employee:She is different, she is under 25 and does not have social media or any internet presence and when her name is searched for nothing comes up. She has a landline and no mobile phone and she doesn't own a TV or any kind of streaming service, and when she isn't job searching she only checks her email once or twice a week. But she doesn't see why using cash [for] a business meal or event is a faux pas or misstep. As her supervisor, am I able to mandate her to use an electronic payment? She has refused all attempts so far and says she won't change.Except for the television and possibly the credit cards, everything about this person would have been almost unremarkable as little as twenty years ago. In fact, when I was about that age, I went for a few years without owning a television, come to think of it. -- CAV Link to Original
  11. Over at MarketWatch is an articlethat considers a proposal made by Donald Trump during his campaign to sell off federal assets in order to reduce the deficit. Paul Brandus describes the proposal as follows: Candidate Trump sold this in his usual simplistic terms: I'm a real estate guy, I know how to make the deals. We pay down the debt while putting Americans back to work in the oil and gas industry. We become energy independent and screw the Middle East. What's not to like?But then Brandus goes into details, such as the small matter of finding a buyer:It's important to remember that in absolute terms, oil companies make tons of money. But it's also a capital intensive business, meaning that profit margins are much narrower than people think. For example, Apple's net profit margin over the last nine years, according to S&P Capital IQ, was 21.5% -- but Exxon Mobil's was 8.29%. Translation: energy companies often spend more to make less. They always want access and drilling rights, but given the margins involved, and the volatile nature of the market, there always has to be a margin of safety. Interior has yet to place a value on what it might sell, or develop a process to do so. So we're a long way off from any of this coming to fruition, if indeed it does at all. So if Trump -- who is to be applauded for at least thinking out of the box on issues like this -- thinks he'll be able to slash the debt this way, he may want to think again. [bold added]I agree that we need out-of-the-box thinking, but I give only one cheer. Why? Any fool can spend money like a drunken sailor, and end up in debt. So, even if this proposal were the easily-executed slam dunk Trump seemed to think it is, it wouldn't make a difference in the long run without the government alsospending less money, which Trump's proposed budget doesn't do at all. And no Trump budget will, because Trump is far from being a principled advocate of laissez-faire. For the same reason, this idea is not part of the kind of broader plan necessary to rein government in to its proper purpose. (And this is the real issue -- of which entitlement spending and resulting debt are just a symptom. Very few people are talking about this, and Trump isn't one of them.) That said, Trump's proposal has provoked an interesting thought experiment about the nuts-and-bolts of what transitioning from a mixed economy to capitalism might entail even on something less controversial than phasing out entitlements. -- CAV Link to Original
  12. No. That's not a typo, but my title is inspired by the rhetorical tactic called the Gish Gallop, for which I'll prevail uponWikipedia to summarize below: His debating opponents said that [creationist Duane] Gish used a rapid-fire approach during a debate, presenting arguments and changing topics quickly. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, dubbed this approach the Gish Gallop, describing it as "where the creationist is allowed to run on for 45 minutes or an hour, spewing forth torrents of error that the evolutionist hasn't a prayer of refuting in the format of a debate." She also criticized Gish for failing to answer objections raised by his opponents. The phrase has also come to be used as a pejorative to describe similar debate styles employed by proponents of other, usually fringe beliefs, such as homeopathy or the moon landing hoax. [links and notes omitted]I'd go so far as to add to the above definition by including even factual information that is being misapplied to marshal an argument. The intent of a Gish Gallop is to give the impression that one has an unassailable case for one's position. What I would call a "gush gallop" is a little bit different. The speaker and his audience both seem willing to check reason at the door in the hopes that some unrealistic goal is within grasp. There may even be a paucity of points proposed by this kind of galloper. But that doesn't stop him from promising the moon, and that he (or people he knows) can deliver it through some kind of underpants gnome logic. I got the idea for this term when I read a skeptical account, by an expert on pharmacological research, about an effort to cure Alzheimer's on an impossible schedule:... If Bill Gates is thinking about a cure for neurodegenerative disease in ten years, he'd better have a bottle of a great drug candidate in his pocket right now, because time's-a-wasting. In fact, that timeline is absurd. It's going to take ten years in the clinic just to see if anything works against Alzheimer's. And that's not because we don't have "innovative leadership"; that's the pace at which Alzheimer's disease develops in human tissue. Giving speeches will not help. A human brain can make of Gates' editorial what it will, but the neurons themselves are immune to calls to dream big and seize the future. [emphasis in original]Both tactics can seem plausible due to intellectual division of labor: We can't all be experts on everthing. That said, laymen aren't off the hook, either. We must be careful about whom we take as experts and why, and seek out dissenting opinions, both as part of the process of integrating what we hear with our other knowledge. On top of this, phony experts will be loathe to make your job any easier, while real experts will often have better things to do than refute every hack they know about. -- CAV Link to Original
  13. One of my favorite business writers brings the voice of sanity to an internet brouhaha I was blissfully unaware of until this morning. Writing at Inc., Suzanne Lucas cautions those who want "justice" for a woman fired by Cracker Barrel to be careful of what they wish for. This she does by means of the following hypothetical press release: After 12 years with us, John's work began to slack off. We coached him, but he didn't respond. He was late 12 times since January. We encouraged him to take advantage of our Employee Assistance Program. Still, he missed his deadlines, was rude to other staff, and couldn't manage to do quality work, so we kicked him to the curb. We won't fight unemployment, but we won't give him a positive reference either. [links omitted]Lucas is not accusing "Brad's Wife" of any of John's deficiencies, but brings up this situation (and other possibilities, including options for this employee) as things to consider about this cause célèbre, which is really between two parties to a private contract. Perhaps the greatest irony of this story is that we have a mob demanding "answers", while seemingly being unable to step back for a moment, as Lucas has, to consider what reasonable possibilities exist, be they in terms of the justice of the firing, the terms of employment, or the most effective options available to either party. On the last score, Lucas covers a good one for the former employee. But also, consider what can of worms caving in to this petition would mean for Cracker Barrel and any future hires. Cracker Barrel would open the door to anyone who was fired to raise a stink in order to be reinstated. Plainly, the company would be faced with a choice between being saddled with bad employees or having to change its hiring practices (or employment agreements) to prevent this from happening. But back to the irony: What good, given the evident lack of thought here, would such "transparency" really do? The implicit premise is that Cracker Barrel is in the wrong. The mob has made up its "mind." Any answer offered to it will be unjust or a lie, as far as they are concerned -- unless it's to give in to what they want. And then the same mob will be happy to go on making other demands. Whose business is this, anyway? More important, if this company is really such a horrible octopus, why would anyone want to go back to its embrace? Those are questions for the rest of us. I will close by noting that mobs are composed of individuals -- individuals who have allowed themselves to be worked up into a state of anger, and so perhaps are not thinking clearly. Perhaps the best thing one can do, when something that sounds like it could be a gross miscarriage of justice comes up, is to remind oneself that righting any injustice takes time. Part of this time includes the time to carefully weigh evidence, including opposing points of view. Don't let a mob or some agitator stir yourself up enough to "do something" (even if it's only to click a button under some petition) without taking a day or so to calm down and think about it, first. If righting injustice deserves action, it deserves deliberateaction, starting with a just assessment of any evidence on one's own part. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. From the California Political Review comes an analysisof what that state could be doing with the now $64 billion estimated cost of its project to build a bullet train between Los Angles and San Francisco. One item in particular caught my eye because it matched the original estimated cost of this fiasco: (3) Build plants to reclaim and reuse 2.0 million acre feet of sewage per year, supplying 2/3 of ALL California's residential (indoor and outdoor) water requirements for $10 billion. Californians produce about 3.0 million acre feet of sewage per year, and today only a small fraction of that sewage is treated to "potable" (drinkable) standards. In California's huge coastal urban centers this sewage is treated sufficiently to be released into the environment where it wasted as outfall into the ocean. A recent installation in Orange County, the "Ground Water Replenishment System" (GWRS) plant, reclaims as indirect potable water 70,000 acre feet of sewage per year, at a capital cost of only $350 million (not much when compared to the bullet train budget). This equates to a capital cost of $5,000 per acre foot of annual output, which is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase the supply of fresh water for Californians. Sewage reuse combined with desalination not only have the potential to fulfill 100 percent of California's residential water requirements for a combined price of $25 billion, but the treated water can be injected into coastal aquifers, combating saltwater intrusion. Currently these aquifers are often replenished with water transported from rivers hundreds of miles to the north, at equal or greater cost. [links and emphasis in original]This train is Jerry Brown's pet project -- the governor whose "solution" to the drought was rationing, even in unaffected areas. The list as a whole is similarly striking because it shows that this latest estimate is enough to fund solutions to California's three biggest infrastructure problems: water, electricity, and transportation. Even more striking to me, as an opponent of central planning, is that the article probably grossly underestimates what this amount of loot could do if allowed to remain in private hands. (See previous link regarding water, for example.) The figures Ed Ring of the California Policy Center cites admittedly assume the current centrally-planned means of addressing these problems, which he admits are (also) plagued with cronyism. So if the article as a whole reminds one (as it should) of the parable of the broken window, one should further imagine each of the businesses affected being inefficiently run by the government. There is more than one problem here, to say the least. Finally, the article concedes from the start that, "California's High-Speed Rail project fails to justify itself according to any set of rational criteria." That stands to reason. As Ayn Rand once put it:Since there is no such entity as "the public," since the public is merely a number of individuals, any claimed or implied conflict of "the public interest" with private interests means that the interests of some men are to be sacrificed to the interests and wishes of others. Since the concept is so conveniently undefinable, its use rests only on any given gang's ability to proclaim that "The public, c'est moi" -- and to maintain the claim at the point of a gun.When voters willingly allow government to meddle in areas well outside its proper scope, they really have no room to be surprised when they find themselves on the hook for ridiculous things they'd never purchase on their own, and at the expense of what they know they need. Nor should they be baffled when such obvious lists like this one fail to change the government's course. That can only happen when enough people become morally outraged at the whole idea of central planning. Central planning is wrong and it fails to bring prosperity. This is inherent in its improper, forcible removal of man's mind from the problem of his survival at at least two points: the individual's autonomy to make his own financial decisions, and the attempt to replace the plans of millions with those of a relative handful of government officials. -- CAV Link to Original
  15. Three Things 1. To drink or not to drink? That is the question Stone's Full Circle Ale presents to me:Stone Brewing is breaking new ground by becoming the first to try making beer using water that "comes from the toilet."In lieu (hah!) of my occasional beer recommendation, I ask because all water is recycled, and this wouldn't be newsworthy but for two possibilities: (1) environmentalists are enamored of recycling regardless of whether it is actually wasteful (i.e., more expensive than other alternatives); or (2) the brewery, based in San Diego, which did not suffer from California's drought, could be celebrating the innovation accountable for this fact. Regardless, the new beer will afford a chance for some interesting conversations once it hits the fan -- I mean, the market. So my question comes not from a place of squeamishness, but from moral opposition to environmentalism, which is not the same thing as the wise use of resources. 2. What am I doing right now? Well, my daughter has yet another ear infection. Her waking up caused my son to wake early, so guess where he is. Here's a hint: "HOw To Workk From Home Wth Yor Chil,d SittiNG ON Yoour/ Lappppppp." Luckily, about half of this was already done. And yes, I'm quite "focsed." Thanks for asking. 3. The other day, I raised my voice at my daughter, whom I was having to correct for at least the third time. My son, who is three, but very protective of his older sister, darted into the kitchen almost instantly and told me to "Calm down." Weekend Reading "When you focus on the things you feel you did wrong, you begin to overlook the things you did right." -- Michael Hurd, in "Leave those Regrets at Home" at The Delaware Wave "Alcoholism, while not a disease, is not a choice in the normal sense of the term." -- Michael Hurd, in "Addiction: How Much is Too Much?" at The Delaware Coast Press "If his presidency accomplishes nothing more than exposing the media as the dishonest, immoral and largely unaccountable bunch of sycophants for the leftist-socialist cause that they are, Donald Trump will have done America a heroic service." -- Michael Hurd, in "Left's Efforts to Censor 'Fake News' Real Threat to Free Speech" at Newsmax -- CAV Link to Original