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Gus Van Horn blog

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  1. Blog Roundup 1. In an "Open Letter to Tim Cook," Amy Peikoff of Don't Let It Go urges Apple CEO Tim Cook not to support federal privacy legislation: Most people reading this letter -- you included -- will probably now expect me to add Apple's support this week for "comprehensive federal privacy legislation" as another reason to applaud your company's efforts to protect our privacy interests. But the opposite is true. I believe that, in supporting federal privacy regulation, you are undermining the progress you've made putting control over privacy into the hands of us, your customers.If you find yourself wondering why such legislation is a bad idea, I urge you to read the whole thing. 2. Remember when I recently said I was about to eat my hat regarding something I'd said about Donald Trump's deregulation efforts? That was because I had just come across Keith Weiner's blog post regarding some Republican chicanery about deregulation: Anyways, for the purpose of this discussion, let's accept page count as a proxy for regulation. The dirty rotten trick is that the Federal Register is the publication of new regulations. If the 2017 edition had over 30 percent fewer pages, that does not mean that Trump removed 30 percent of existing regulations. It means Trump added over 60,000 pages of new regulations, which is 30 percent less than Obama's over 95,000 pages!It is worth considering why the Republicans would feel the need to resort to this easily-debunked trick. Yes. I have read this, and highly recommend it. (Image via Amazon)3. To call Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism radical is to point to the tip of an iceberg. Rand challenges the dominant philosophy of our culture from root to branch. And, as if that doesn't make it challenging enough to understand for oneself or explain to others, many common terms are badly and widely misunderstood. Understandably, some advocates might ask a question like, "Do we need a new word for selfishness?" Peter Schwartz, author of In Defense of Selfishness, explains why we don't. Here is what would happen were we to abandon selfishness in favor of something without the baggage: The common, package-deal meaning is "concern for one's own interests at the expense of others." If we were to accept and use that term as a reference to predatory behavior, we would be endorsing the underlying falsehood -- the falsehood that harming others is an essential element of selfishness.And there would still be a need to explain why predatory behavior is not part of whatever we called selfishness instead. 4. The blog of the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property briefly reviews a law journal article about how widespread ignorance of technology standards and standards-setting organizations is becoming a threat to innovation -- because it "informs" government policy: The development and implementation of technology standards is a complex process, and it's one often misunderstood by commentators, courts, and government agencies. In an article detailing the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) misguided suit against Qualcomm for alleged unwillingness to license its patents on fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms, CPIP Senior Scholar Kristen Osenga exposes a pervasive ignorance of technology standards and the standard setting organizations (SSOs) that develop them. [links omitted]And, from the abstract: While there is plenty to criticize about the FTC's action, the lawsuit is evidence of a much larger and more fundamental problem. The FTC's allegations are not based on sound economic analysis nor are they supported by evidentiary findings. This is not due to haste or poor practices by the FTC; it is instead indicative of the FTC's ignorance. Put plainly, the FTC does not understand technology standards and the organizations that develop them. And the FTC is not alone in this lack of knowledge. Many courts and commentators have also demonstrated clear misunderstandings of standard setting organizations (SSOs). Unfortunately, this is not harmless error or mere academic diversion. Important legal, business, and policy decisions are being made based on these misunderstandings. These decisions have the potential to negatively impact the future of technology standards and, ultimately, innovation itself.I have sometimes noted that standards-setting bodies could and should be doing some of the (should be done, but not by government) things regulators are doing instead. This looks well worth a read. -- CAV Link to Original
  2. Writing about her decision to test-drive an affirmation-type technique for realizing goals, Jean Moroney of Thinking Directions speaks of a problem we all have from time to time: [H]is argument was not enough for me to try it. I never take advice like this unless I see for myself why I believe it should work. What is the causal factor here? After all, if I'm going to put in say 20 minutes a day doing these, that's over 100 hours a year. That's a serious commitment of time and energy. I need to be convinced it can work. [bold added]I use that filter a lot myself, and for exactly the reason that bad advice can waste lots of time and energy. But sometimes, that advice can, as it does here, come from someone you respect. It might work, but perhaps the reasons for its effectiveness haven't been worked out or communicated clearly. And one's own analysis might uncover good reasons for considering the advice. And so it seems here: No, I haven't read this myself. (Image via Amazon.)My reason for sharing this is not to convince you to try affirmations, but to show you the kind of reasoning process I use to consider advice from other people with whom I respectfully disagree. Though Alan and I share critically important values, we have very different philosophies. He's religious, I'm not. I'm an egoist. I believe he would say he is an altruist. In his book, he makes quite a few statements that I disagree with. But rather than dismissing his comments, or jumping into an argument with him, I take the time to identify the facts he is looking at. What is he seeing? What is a plausible explanation for his conclusion? Is there a context in which it make sense to me? [bold added]Whatever conclusion Moroney reaches about the technique Alan Zimmerman describes in The Payoff Principle, it is worthwhile to consider this example of what to do about advice one feels conflicted about. -- CAV Link to Original
  3. Image via Wikipedia.As yesteryear's Amazon files for bankruptcy, Jason Kottke posts on the ways the Sears catalog helped undermine bigotry and Jim Crow laws. This happened despite the fact that the company was hardly -- as evidenced by some of its catalog offerings -- on the forefront of the fight for racial equality. Kottke quotes from the blog Bitter Southerner regarding a policy that helped many poorly educated blacks improve their standard of living: One of [Sears historian Jerry] Hancock's discoveries was Sears' response to the needs of a rural South in which literacy was rare. For someone who could neither read nor write, placing orders and following written protocols were problematic. Richard Sears responded with a policy that his company would fill any order it received, no matter what the medium or format. So, country folks who were once too daunted to send requests to other purveyors could write in on a scrap of paper, asking humbly for a pair of overalls, size large. And even if it was written in broken English or nearly illegible, the overalls would be shipped.Other parts of this post note how the catalog helped break the power of the shopkeepers in the sharecropping system, and helped along the development of musical styles, such as the blues. The piece reminds me in an important way of the story of the end of commercial segregation in Houston, Texas (aka, The Strange Demise of Jim Crow). The fact is that treating a customer poorly or turning one away on the basis of race is detrimental to one's own best interest. This alone did not end the moral outrage that is racism, or the political scourge of JIm Crow, but it did (a) provide one way around some of the problems for blacks, and (b) demonstrate at least to some whites on some level that this foolishness was also harmful to themselves. It is indeed fortunate that, despite the high degree of repression in the Jim Crow South, there was enough freedom for Sears to send its catalog everywhere and sell its goods to everyone. -- CAV Link to Original
  4. (Or: FEE Offers Spending Advice to Looters) An article hosted at the Foundation for Economic Education illustrates perfectly something Ayn Rand once told its founder, Leonard Read, in a letter: I oppose UBI and welfare because of what happens before the money falls from the helicopters. (Image via Pixabay.)[D]on't think that any kind of law of self-preservation would work here -- that a man would want to produce merely in order to eat. He won't. For self-preservation to assert itself, there must be some reason for the self to wish to be preserved. Whatever a man has accepted, consciously or unconsciously, through routine or through choice as the purpose of his life -- that will determine his economic activity. And the same holds true of society and of men's convictions about the proper economics of society. That which society accepts as its purpose and ideal (or to be exact, that which men think society should accept as its purpose and ideal) determines the kind of economics men will advocate and attempt to practice; since economics are only the means to an end. When the social goal chosen is by its very nature impossible and unworkable (such as collectivism), it is useless to point out to people that the means they've chosen to achieve it are unworkable. Such means go with such a goal; there are no others. You cannot make men abandon the means until you have persuaded them to abandon the goal. [bold added] (Letters of Ayn Rand, pp. 257-258)With this in mind, and consider what a title like, "Universal Basic Income Has Been Tried Before. It Didn't Work." portends. The conclusion isn't pretty for anyone who values individual rights, including that to property: Supporting work through the earned income tax credit is consistent with American values of dignity and self-sufficiency. The Heritage Foundation has proposed ways to reform welfare programs to promote those goals. Evidence from the negative income tax experiment strongly suggests that a comprehensive universal basic income program would significantly reduce work and increase dependency. Perhaps advocates are hoping for a different result this time around. But if history is any indication, they are bound to be disappointed. [bold added]Of course giving money away reduces the desire for people to earn some of their own, but pardon me for disagreeing with the Heritage Foundation on what the proper goal of government is; my answer is that a proper government protects individual rights. Passing out loot for whatever alleged purpose does not alter (or sanctify) the fact that it is loot, and was ultimately stolen from someone who produced it (or received it freely from someone who did). As when conservatives sell the farm when they implicitly praise socialists or plead that they are "impractical" -- yet wonder why that thoroughly deadly and discredited creed remains popular -- so it is that the laudable desire to argue against "Universal Basic Income" (the latest repackaging of handed-out loot) degenerates into squabbling about how to reform welfare (the old name for the same thing). That is not what making a stand for freedom looks like, not at all. -- CAV Link to Original
  5. DC-area attorney Nick James and Brett Stephens of the New York Times write very different columns that each, in their own way, show how badly Americans crave a real alternative to the central planning of the Democratic Party and the central planning lite of the Republicans. First, we have James rightly arguing that it is not Kanye West who is nuts for supporting Donald Trump, but the black Americans who are piling abuse on tip of him for their decades of loyalty to the Democrats: Thanks to those policies, although only 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families in 1960, fifty years later more than 70 percent of black children experienced this sad fate. The truth is anyone who wants to know how well the Democratic Party has rewarded the black community for its loyalty only needs to look at Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, or Milwaukee to find an answer. In these cities, high rates of crime, poverty, academic failure, and racial inequality remain the norm after five or more decades of Democratic control. Indeed, as Jesse Jackson lamented in a 2016 article, "the injustice is worse in modern Milwaukee than it was in segregated Birmingham. Black poverty, unemployment, and impoverished neighborhoods are all worse." [links omitted] But what policies, Van Horn? you might ask. Well, one can support Trump without being nuts, and while I agree that school choice (which James mentions Democrats opposing) would be a very good step in the right direction, Trump's trade policies -- which James seems to support -- will actually have similar job-destroying effects to many Democratic policies, such as the minimum wage, and for the same reasons. But James is right to indicate that West should hardly take flack for seeking an alternative. It's just too bad that Donald Trump is failing to offer a real one, just like Reagan did. The Republicans see themselves as more "practical," but seem oblivious to the need for questioning the moral base they share with the Democrats -- and thus still sets their agenda. Moving on over to Bret Stephens, we see the Democrats failing to take the high ground in the mid-term elections, where, he indicates , they could have brought rational discussion back. He borrows an apt metaphor, of the left "piercing its own tongue," so it can "marginalize itself and then enjoy its own company." Image via Pixabay.And yet it is. Predictably. Once again, American liberalism has pierced its own tongue. It pierced its tongue on CNN this week, when Hillary Clinton told Christiane Amanpour that "you cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about." And when former Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday, "When they go low, we kick 'em." It pierced its tongue last week when New York's Representative Jerrold Nadler pledged to use a Democratic House majority to open an investigation into Kavanaugh's alleged perjury and the "whitewash" investigation by the F.B.I. A party that can't change its mind and won't change the subject meets the classic definition of a fanatic. [links omitted]Unlike the Republicans, who shy away from the collectivist political implications of the altruist morality they share with them, the Democrats embrace its ugliness to the point of alienating many people, and driving them into the arms of the Republicans. Too bad for now that we have a non-capitalist in the White House as the "alternative" to the party that so richly deserves irrelevance, and seems so hell-bent on achieving it. I hope he does not end up in the Hooveresque position of making them look like they deserve another chance in power. -- CAV Link to Original
  6. Notable Commentary I never thought I'd see this guy mentioned in an academic journal of philosophy."Watching a world in which such things are doable and done can energize a person’s own ambition, giving him reason to try and reason to want; it makes dreams sensible and can seed constructive action." -- Tara Smith, in "On a Pedestal -- Sport as an Arena for Admiration" at Sport, Ethics and Philosophy. "Conservatives should know that socialists know of their own destructive intent and should oppose them, instead of implicitly praising them." -- Richard Salsman, in "Socialism Worked in Venezuela" at The American Institute for Economic Research. "Capital churn is when perfectly good capital is rendered unprofitable, not by the innovation that occurs in a free market, but by the new malinvestment which renders the old investment submarginal." -- Keith Weiner, in "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Avocado Toast" at SNB & CHF. "Apple Watch users who may be on the hook for medical bills related to false alarms might wish to keep this in mind." -- Paul Hsieh, in "The Promise and Perils of New Apple Watch Medical Technologies" at Forbes. -- CAV Link to Original
  7. Regarding the latest headlines proclaiming that we have only a few years to "save" the planet from "climate change," fossil fuels advocate Alex Epstein has pointed to a must-see video (viewing time: 15 minutes). To say this video has it all would be a vast understatement. Barely half way through Tony Heller's collection of time-debunked news clips and "experts" clinging to pet theories obviously at odds with reality, you may already be laughing. And then you'll see the same thing occurring with the global cooling scare that came before -- and the global warming scare that came before it. I don't think quoting from the last slide will spoil anything, so here goes: Three consecutive years of drought, while they have stimulated the inventive resources of practical agriculturalists, have had the natural effect of calling forth a plentiful crop of speculation from weather prophets, and projectors, and half-instructed meteorologists, and all the philosophic tribe of Laputa in general, to whom the periodical press now affords such fatal facilities. ...[E]very season is sure to be "extraordinary," almost every month one of the driest or wettest, or windiest, coldest or hottest, ever known. Much observation, which ought to correct a tendency to exaggeration, seems in some minds yo have rather a tendency to increase it... [bold added]The source? An Australian newspaper from 1871. -- CAV Link to Original
  8. George Will nails Donald Trump's self-contradictory economic policies to the wall, shortly after correctly stating that, "The descent of American capitalism into a racket is being greased by professed capitalists in government, in collaboration with professed capitalists in what is called, with decreasing accuracy, the private sector." Soybeans, in case George Will had you wondering. (Image via Pixabay.)Protectionism -- laws and administrative rulings by which government determines the prices and quantities of imported goods and services -- is government regulation. So, it is probable that the current administration, which lists deregulation as among its glistening achievements, is producing a substantial net increase in economic regulation. The American Action Forum, a center-right advocacy group, says the Trump administration's deregulatory efforts have saved Americans $1.3 billion this year. That, however, is only about one-ninth of the sum ($12 billion) of taxpayer dollars flowing to a small portion of taxpayers (those who are engaged in agriculture, less than 2 percent of the population) as recompense for injuries the government has done to them, and to all consumers, by protectionist policies that have provoked retaliatory tariffs against U.S. agricultural products. [bold added]Of course, that's just the measurable amount. We're not factoring in all the ramifications -- à la Frederic Bastiat -- for everyone who had to overpay, or will overpay due to such policies. So much for even that "bigly" 0.07% decrease in regulatory drag I was already getting ready to eat my hat over, tanks to Keith Weiner's analysis. -- CAV Link to Original
  9. Image via Pixabay.The President who wanted to remove two old regulations for every new one recently signed into law the FAA Reauthorization Act, which repeals an old statutory exemption from FAA rules for model aircraft, such as drones. The new law will take some time to take effect, but it raises some interesting questions for those of us who, unlike the President (See: tariffs.), oppose regulation of the economy on principle. The first might even be, where do we stand on this? Other countries already have drones delivering beer to concerts, for example, and the FAA has been a hindrance to commercial drone use here, for example. I haven't delved into this story, but in our crazy-quilt mixed economy, such a move could -- especially to a pragmatist -- look like a good way to free up the economy. It could even fit into a general scheme to de-regulate. I doubt this is the case with Trump or today's GOP, but its an interesting question to consider. Part of the problem is that our regulatory authorities combine several types of activities, ranging from the completely illegitimate; through those that need doing, but not by government; to providing a proper and necessary legal framework for a certain type of activity: (1) completely illegitimate central planning (such as the kind that makes "Uber for flight" illegal); (2) activity that standards bodies, watchdog groups or the like can and should be doing, instead of the government, such as establishing best practices for dealing with volcanic ash; and (3) adapting the law as necessary when new technology raises a question about, say the limits of property rights. Even in the last case, I doubt a full-blown regulatory agency would always (ever?) be necessary. Again, I just learned of the signing of this law and haven't had time to learn about its rationale, but the mixed nature of regulation conceivably means that a nominal increase in regulations can sometimes look in effect like a freeing-up of an economic sector, and could conceivably be a tool for eventually reducing and eliminating regulation while other law is corrected. The last link mentions that flight raised new questions about an old common law assumption about property rights, and reminds me a bit of Ayn Rand's essay on a related problem, "The Property Status of the Airwaves," in which she discussed how the government incorrectly solved the problem posed by radio in its early days. I have heard some cheer this regulatory expansion, citing the common stereotype of the individual as inherently irresponsible and in need of being kept from flying drones without heavy government supervision. But reckless piloting, say near airports, would already be illegal. Torts might, in a freer society, motivate manufacturers and sellers to educate their customers. And then there is the question of whether the limit to how high in the sky private property actually goes was settled correctly in the early days of flight. I don't know the answers to all of these questions, but these are good questions, and those of us who oppose regulation need to appreciate that they are good ones as we prepare to argue against regulation and think about how to get rid of it. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. ... but the More Important Battle Was Won The good news and the bad news is that Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court over the weekend. The very bad news is that the change in the composition of the court puts in danger continued federal protection of women's reproductive rights. The worst news is that the Democrats, who (I thought) favor continuing protecting those rights, abandoned the moral high ground that came with that position. Instead of articulating this concern and making a solid case to their Republican colleagues and the American people in favor of the right to an abortion, they chose the desperate tactics of character assassination and delay. As Robert Tracinski of The Federalist argued, this created a situation in which the hearings became about something even more fundamental than our government's inconsistent protection of all individual rights: Based on reason and evidence alone, you would have to conclude that we have gotten no farther in the case and are not likely to get any farther. What is an FBI investigation supposed to so, other than to serve as a delaying tactic? Federal investigators would simply go out and interview all the same people who have already testified or given sworn statements. Given that the claim against Kavanaugh remains uncorroborated, I think the Senate has no choice but to confirm him. Not to do so would eliminate any standard of evidence and invite politically motivated false accusations against future nominees. [bold added]This reminds me of the remarks Senator Susan Collins of Maine made -- a Republican who might have been persuaded to vote against Kavanaugh -- regarding her decision to cast a vote for confirmation. At least the GOP had enough backbone to not allow that very dangerous precedent to be set. That said, the Democrats not only made a major contribution to the serious recent deterioration of our political discourse, they even further set their own cause back with this display. What went missing when we needed it most. (Image via Pixabay.)When a setback to a just cause appears inevitable -- as when a Republican President gets to replace a more secular judge with a more religious one -- it is time to make a moral case for that cause in as clear a manner as possible. (Within the hearings opportunities to do this might be limited, but they aren't nonexistent.) This makes it clear to voters and any persuadable politicians that what is about to happen is wrong, and could perhaps cause defections. At worst, it makes it easier to appeal to voters, say in future elections, why they should not vote for theocrats. Or it can help build support for what we really need, which is a change in the law to make abortion legal. This was a very serious issue, and what did we get instead? Nonstop dissection of a frat boy's high school antics and a grasping-at-straws that was obvious to anyone on the other side of the nomination debate and, more important, to anyone who was undecided for any reason. I usually find myself appalled by the GOP's cowardice in standing up for those issues they should be proudly supporting, rather than trying to sneak in or even only pretending to support in order to get votes at election time. But this takes the cake. The Democrats' vicious attacks on Kavanaugh were simultaneously dangerous attacks on the very foundation of our republic -- and at a time when they should have been standing up for a woman's ownership of her own body. That the latter is now collateral damage of the first really says something. -- CAV Link to Original
  11. Four Things, Twice As I mentioned recently, the Van Horn Family will be moving to Florida soon. Today, I'll tick off four things I'll miss about Maryland and four things about the Old Line State I'm happy to put in the rear-view mirror. Sad to Leave Behind 1. Our Adult Friends The twin circumstances of moving every couple of years had having very young children meant (a) no established network of old friends once we left Boston, and (b) great difficulty meeting other adults. This got much better in Maryland. With the kids being older, birthday parties, play dates, and the like became fun for the adults, too, and we got to know several couples here we liked. We will miss them. The Charm City Gooners supporters' club even has its own room upstairs. I love the Arsenal cannon inside the Maryland crab.2. Being Close to Three Big Cities It was nice to be able to take the kids to the likes of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in DC, catch an Arsenal game with fellow fans at the Abbey in Federal Hill, Baltimore, or spend the weekend at Sesame Place near Philadelphia, among many other things. 3. Seeing Wildlife Outside at Home All the Time We once counted fourteen deer from inside our house, which is in a wooded area. I spotted foxes now and then. I've seen hawks on our lawn furniture and, once, a beaver in the street. 4. Our Kids' Friends I have enjoyed seeing my kids make friends, and if there is anything I dislike about the move, it is going to be them missing their friends. Honorable Mention: The slick-looking state flag. Happy to Leave Behind 1. Snow, Every Winter My first winter here featured a three foot blizzard. That was the worst experience with winter weather until last winter, when I went a couple of months having my schedule ruined every week because it would snow just enough to cancel school -- but never enough to be worth playing in for the kids. I hate snow, and all the time it has caused me to waste over the years. The last snow where I'm heading was in 2010, and that was flurries. Good riddance! My wife has relatives up North. We can visit them over holidays for an occasional snow fix. Maybe I'll even start enjoying it again. 2. Being Between Two Big Cities The traffic in DC/Baltimore is hellish. I eventually found partial workarounds in the form of Waze and Parking Panda. But that was not before I got the following initiation: There was a networking event I wanted to attend in DC, which is only thirty miles away. I hired a baby sitter to start two hours before the event until two hours after the event, even though my wife would be home well before that. Thanks to an accident on the beltway and another on I-395 heading into DC, I got close to the location of the event with so little time left that just parking would have left me with fifteen minutes. I just turned around and went home, logging four and a half hours of non-stop driving and paying a baby sitter for that time and more. (I told this to a native once and he just laughed and said, "Everybody has a story like that.") 3. Living in the Trash Tree Forest I once missed getting gravely injured or killed by mere seconds on my way home during a storm, watching a branch the size of a young tree fall into my driveway as I approached. (Its diameter was about the length of my foot.) Once, seconds after I decided not to take a walk on the trail next to our house, I heard the now-familiar sound of a tree falling. It landed across the trail I would have walked. A few days later, another fell in almost the same spot. And those are just the highlights. 4. Blue Laws When I grew up in Mississippi, I remembered constantly hearing about how much more sophisticated the North was. I also remember when we did away with our blue laws, at least in Jackson. (There are still dry counties.) I was shocked, as a young man in Connecticut for naval training, to discover the beer section in the grocery store marked as off-limits on Sunday. Either Boston didn't have blue laws or the grocery I lived near was somehow exempt from them, and Missouri may have the least ridiculous restrictions on alcohol in the country. And then we moved to Maryland, where I have to go to a liquor store just to buy a beer. Ridiculous. Honorable Mention: The small, but very real prospect of encountering a freaking black bear in my own yard. -- CAV Link to Original
  12. In case anyone needs reminding that we do not actually have a pro-capitalist political party in the United States, the Washington Times has run an eye-opening editorial which took even me by surprise. The piece, by Gerard Scimeca of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, critiques a Republican-sponsored, economy-wide carbon tax bill with automatic increases above the rate of inflation baked in. Scimeca is absolutely correct to point out that this measure is absolutely not "free market" despite disingenuous efforts by some Republicans to tout it as such: An unidentified Republican friend of the carbon tax (left) is seen sniffing around Lady Liberty. (Image via Wikimedia Commons.)Even Canada, which nobody will confuse with a red state, wants nothing to do with the idea. Canadians are in near revolt over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's carbon tax, slated to take effect next year. Provincial ministers have called it a "job killer" and a "cash grab" by Ottawa they say will drive investment out of their region and depress their economy. Politicians there who have vowed to fight the carbon tax have surged in the polls. When Republican politicians find themselves to the left of foreign environmental ministers, perhaps that is a sign they've taken a detour off the free-market freeway. Still, Mr. Curbelo is not the only Republican promoting a carbon tax. The Climate Leadership Council (CLC) recently released its own plan to push for carbon tax legislation. Backed by big funders and well-known Republicans George Schultz and James Baker, the CLC is doing the heavy lifting in the orchestrated plan to rebrand the tax as "conservative" and "market-based," but a more thorough examination exposes it as the exact opposite. In fact, if you take a closer look, the Climate Leadership Council's proposed plan is just a repurposed version of legislation introduced earlier this year by Democrats, Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Don Beyer, two of the most liberal members of Congress.Please do read the whole thing, and spread the word. -- CAV Link to Original
  13. Image of Charles Babbage via Wikipedia.I have been extremely busy lately. Simultaneously preparing to move the family to Florida and dealing with legal fallout from a past Client From Hell -- those may fall on opposite ends of my good-bad spectrum, but they are gobbling up my time. I have nevertheless managed to squeeze in sporadic reading of Steven Johnson's fascinating book, Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World, which discusses the importance of the delight in novelty in motivating the people (at all levels) who drive historical change. Johnson has interesting and thought-provoking things to say, although I am pretty sure I don't agree with everything he seems to be saying so far. (I am only about a fifth of the way through.) But one passage reminded me a little of the following quote from Ayn Rand: Speak on any scale open to you, large or small -- to your friends, your associates, your professional organizations, or any legitimate public forum. You can never tell when your words will reach the right mind at the right time. You will see no immediate results -- but it is of such activities that public opinion is made. [bold added] ("What Can One Do?", in Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 202)Rand is obviously not discussing the technological or commercial innovation Johnson has focused on so far, but thinking is common to both -- and that is both an individual effort and can sweep the world with change when others see the value of original thinking. So there will be common principles behind innovation (and its adoption) in different fields, and it can be instructive to compare and contrast. With that in mind, consider how a mere amusement sparked a great mind to make connections that have since improved countless lives: Conventional historical accounts are typically oriented around Great Events: battles fought, treaties signed, speeches delivered, elections won, leaders assassinated. Or the textbooks follow the long arc of incremental change: the rise of democracy or industrialization or civil rights. But sometimes history is shaped by chance encounters, far from the corridors of power, moments when an idea takes root in someone's head and lingers there for years until it makes its way onto the main stage of global change. One of those encounters happens in 1801, when a mother brings her precocious eight-year-old son to visit Merlin's museum. His name is Charles Babbage. The old showman senses something promising in the boy and offers to take him up to the attic to spark his curiosity even further. The boy is charmed by the walking lady. "The motions of her limbs were singularly graceful," he would recall many years later. But it is the dancer that seduces him. "This lady attitudinized in a most fascinating manner," he writes. "Her eyes were full of imagination and irresistible."(Wonderland, p. 8)The father of the modern computer would, one day, make his way to an estate sale to purchase the dancer which inspired him, and restore it for display in his home near his Difference Engine. Steven Johnson is, as far as I know, no proponent of Rand, but his book touches on the importance of values in motivating both the thinking that makes great things possible and the adoption of that thinking or its products. Regardless of Johnson's explicit views on those matters, his writing clearly embodies this broad lesson. I eagerly look forward to reading the rest of the book (when I can!) and improving my own thinking as a happy result. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. The USMCA trade deal -- President Trump's replacement for NAFTA -- seems to be on track to regulate international trade in most of North America. The good news, at least according to a couple of headlines I recall, was that it wasn't riddled with tariffs. The bad news is that it doesn't need tariffs to waste our money: Other government meddling will take care of that. For example: Image via Wikipedia.Nafta [sic] required automakers to produce 62.5 percent of a vehicle's content in North America to qualify for zero tariffs. The new agreement raises that threshold, over time, to 75 percent. That's meant to force automakers to source fewer parts for an "Assembled in Mexico" (or Canada) car from Germany, Japan, South Korea or China. For the first time, the new agreement also mandates that an escalating percentage of parts for any tariff-free vehicle -- topping out at 40 percent in 2023 -- must come from a so-called "high wage" factory. The agreement says those factories must pay a minimum of $16 an hour in average salaries for production workers. That's about triple the average wage in a Mexican factory right now, and administration officials hope the provision will force automakers to shift suppliers from Mexico to Canada or the United States.The above comes from the New York Times, which correctly points out in the next paragraph that this is likely to cause cars manufactured in this trade zone to cost more. But Trump did get one thing right: At least we won't be calling this meddlesome treaty a "free trade" agreement. -- CAV Link to Original
  15. A beautiful bundle of joy -- and consequences. (Image via Pixabay.)An editorial in the Wall Street Journal argues that mandatory paternity leave would end "workplace inequality." In other words, forcing men to take large amounts of time off after the birth of their children would reduce such statistical disparities as men and women having different amounts of pay or advancement over careers that span the same nominal amount of time -- but for the choice that many women exercise to have children. Joanne Lipman, author of That's What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together, unwittingly starts off her editorial with the proper approach for anyone seeing this as an issue in need of a solution: Free enterprise. Humanyze is a company whose hierarchy voluntarily decided to offer mandatory paternity leave as a benefit: Mr. Doyle's employer, Boston-based people analytics firm Humanyze, is among the first not only to give men and women equal lengths of paid parental leave but to insist that men take it. The firm instituted the policy in 2016 because most men don't take leave even when it's offered, for fear that it will derail their careers. That message -- that having a baby will kill your career -- isn't lost on women who do take leaves. "Bias plays such a clear role, we decided we are going to say, 'It's not an option. You [men] have to take the time off," Humanyze co-founder Ben Waber told me. After all, if men and women have to take equal leaves, there's no excuse to penalize either one."Whatever one thinks of this policy -- and Lipman indicates this benefit can help a company lure talent -- it is the contractual right of an employer to decide to offer it or not. Sadly, and despite statistical evidence she cites that such a policy is cost neutral, Lipman clearly favors having the government force employers to offer this benefit regardless of whether their own analysis indicates they should: Paternity leave is no cure-all. It doesn't solve the core issue, which is that the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't require paid family leave. Most Americans don't have access to any paid benefits when they have a child; they are protected only by the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid time off.Lipman notes that Humanyze adopted its policy in large part for "moral" reasons, but never contests the idea implicit in the above paragraph that it is moral to force an employer to offer a type of benefit package. But it is wrong, and for the same reason that it would be wrong to force someone to have a child in the first place: Every individual human being should be free to live according to his or her own judgement, so long as doing so does not violate the rights of others to do so. Making someone pay for the consequences of one's decisions is wrong in general. In particular, it is wrong to force an employer to make having a child easy, regardless of the general merit of the means of doing so. -- CAV Link to Original
  16. Four Things 1. Whether you're getting ready to name a baby or find the subject of baby names interesting, you should give, "How to Name a Baby" a read over at Wait, but Why. Among other things is the following sage advice regarding really odd names: Drawbacks: They'll have to spell out their name on phone calls 2 trillion times throughout their life; They'll have to watch people figuring out how to react every time they introduce themselves; They'll get made fun of at school; It might hurt their chances of getting job interviews; If the kid isn't awesome, the whole thing is awkward; If you were just in a phase and made a compulsive decision, that's shitty cause the kid has to live with it forever. [format edits]My wife and I adopted what she calls the "Key Chain Rule" an overall criterion when we named our kids: "A name should be common enough to find in a key chain display, and yet not so common as to be sold out." 2. This South Park-style picture of my wife, my cat, and me brings back old memories. Credit an initial search of "keychain rule" for dredging it up. Perhaps an updated one of the whole family would make a fun rainy-day activity.... 3. Job hunting? A resume hack I've casually heard about several times is quite likely to backfire. Here's part of a Q&A from Ask a Manager (Go to Item 5.): Someone I follow on Twitter posted today saying that he learned of the following resume hack: copy/paste a job description, make it super tiny (2.5 pt) and change the font to white, then post it in the footer of a resume to somehow get past a sorting algorithm. Is this a real tactic, or is embedding keywords from the job description into your resume (if relevant) just as effective? Definitely do not do that. Many/most online application systems will strip out that formatting and render the text into normal-sized black text, and it will look like you inexplicably and sloppily pasted the entire job description at the bottom of your resume. [formatting in original]You'll look dumb as a bag of bricks to any human who looks at this. And you might not want to work somewhere that wouldn't catch something like this. 4. If you really like Joy of Painting re-runs, I have an article for you: It would be 30 years before Richard learned this sensation had a name. He grew up, earned a Ph.D. and became a professor of biopharmaceutical sciences at Shenandoah University in Virginia. Then, around 2013, he was listening to a podcast when the hosts began explaining something called "ASMR." Richard was bewildered. People who experienced it, Richard recalls them explaining, "tended to really like Bob Ross. It caused them to have head tingles. I was like, Oh!"I'm not part of this club, but I'm open to the idea that this might be a real phenomenon. "Yeah, but what does ASMR stand for?" you might ask. Follow the link. -- CAV Link to Original
  17. Image via Pixabay.A column at The Balance Careers attempts to help businessmen navigate the hiring process in certain states and cities with "Ban the Box" laws. These laws interfere with how a businessman screens potential employees by making it illegal to ask about criminal history on a job application. It remains legal to weigh a criminal record when making the actual hiring decision, but it says something that a human resources expert is offering guidance on navigating such a situation. Not only do these laws force employers to consider people they could otherwise reject quickly, they can cause legal difficulties. Furthermore, employers who wish to help ex-criminals are free to consider applicants with criminal records or even seek them out, as does Edwin's, a restaurant in Cleveland. But, as hucksters are fond of saying, that's not all. Get a load of this: [T]he other reason for ban-the-box laws is to stop discrimination against black men. However, research has shown that this may not be working as desired -- since employers can't ask about criminal history, they are less likely to interview black and Hispanic candidates. Researchers looked at low-skilled men between the ages of 25 to 34 and determined that "in ban-the-box areas... employers are less likely to interview young, low-skilled black men because those groups are more likely to include ex-offenders. They instead focus on hiring groups made up of men they believe are less likely to have gone to prison." So, while the laws may help actual convicts, they can adversely affect low-skilled black men who have no criminal history. [bold added, links removed]So, not only are employers in "Ban the Box" locales hamstrung when it comes to screening out potential criminals, good men are being penalized for the crimes of others. Although this law is not a quota law, it is motivated by the same species of injustice, one which Ayn Rand addressed eloquently years ago: The quota doctrine assumes that all members of a given physiological group are identical and interchangeable -- not merely in the eyes of other people, but in their own eyes and minds. Assuming a total merging of the self with the group, the doctrine holds that it makes no difference to a man whether he or his "representative" is admitted to a school, gets a job, or makes a decision. ("Representation Without Authorization," in The Ayn Rand Letter, I, 21, 2)The wrongs of racial bigotry are committed against individual human beings, by denying them justice -- on the basis of physical characteristics beyond their control. Giving a man compensation -- on the basis of the same characteristics -- is merely to commit another injustice, as we see here. Both "Ban the Box" laws and government quota systems are born of this same error, and thus have no more place in a free society than Jim Crow laws. -- CAV Link to Original
  18. President Trump, who should be looking for ways to abolish antitrust law, is instead preparing to use it as a cudgel against Google for allegedly biasing its search results against conservatives. As I noted years ago: Google didn't become big by giving incomplete search results and it won't remain big by earning a reputation for doing so. Aside from the fact that the problem will take care of itself in an unregulated Internet, it is wrong for the government to be regulating (or running) utilities in the first place. Government interference with any business, large or small, violates everyone's right to production and trade, prevailing practices to the contrary.Or, as the Los Angeles Times stated recently: We have full control over which search engine we use. (Image via Pixabay.)Over the years, Google has notoriously tipped the search scales in favor of affiliated products and services, such as YouTube and Google Shopping. But it has an obvious and powerful market incentive not to promote anything so divisive as an ideology: Google's search makes money off advertisements, which means it can't afford to cut the audience that its advertisers could reach in half (or by any meaningful percentage). Republicans would recognize this instantly if they were still believers in the free market. [bold added, links omitted]Fortunately, there are efforts to alert the Oval Office in terms of clearly spelling out the dangers of this anticapitalist and incredibly short-range tactic. I hope the following, from a letter (PDF) sent to the Attorney General, will avert the President from setting this terrible and potentially disastrous precedent: Even if a Fairness Doctrine for the Internet were somehow constitutional, it would undoubtedly backfire against conservatives: What the Reagan FCC said about the original Fairness Doctrine would inevitably be true for an Internet Fairness Doctrine: "controversial viewpoint [would be] screened out in favor of the dreary blandness of a more acceptable opinion." Moreover, the Fairness Doctrine "in operation inextricably involves the [government] in the dangerous task of evaluating the merits of particular viewpoints," and making such determinations after the fact inevitably gives vast leverage over media to whoever controls the government. The last thing conservatives should want is a Democratic administration with such arbitrary power (or a Republican administration, for that matter). A Warren administration, say, could use such powers to coerce existing social media sites and search engines to disadvantage conservatives (in the name of neutrality and fairness, and stopping "fake news," of course) and also to prohibit the "Facebook for conservatives" network recently called for by Donald Trump, Jr. [footnotes omitted] It's a sad day when a left-wing media outlet has to educate a self-proclaimed de-regulator on the nature of the free market, and a worse one when the same figure may blunder into severely curtailing the free exachange of ideas we all enjoy today. -- CAV Link to Original
  19. Katherin Timpf of National Review reports that Donald Trump's first year of "deregulation" saved a total of $1.3 billion economy-wide over the last year. (That's a YUGE four bucks per person!) Her rather generous conclusion follows: Will that extra Big Mac burning a hole in your wallet lead to, say, competing postal carriers? I doubt it. (Image via Wikimedia Commons.)Really, the only bad thing about all of this is that it doesn't go even further. As the Wheaton Business Journal notes, it costs Americans a whopping $1.9 trillion to comply with federal regulations every year. President Trump's administration has already been eliminating those regulations in record numbers, but let's just hope that this trend continues so that we can give businesses -- and the Americans associated with them -- the best shot at financial prosperity. Amen! was my first thought, but then cold logic kicked in. I did the math, and remembered further a couple of problems with both the trimming-around-the-edges amount and the President's "a pen and a phone" method. Not only can this tiny amount of progress be undone by the next abuser of executive orders, both of the shortcomings are symptomatic of his -- and his party's -- unprincipled approach to the whole question of regulation. Consider the fact that nobody in power even questions the propriety of economic regulation. How much regulation is "too much" to such a person? And if such a person does not see that the government ought to be protecting our right to make our own decisions -- the exact opposite of dictating to us what we ought to do? Why would he adopt the agenda we clearly need, which is a systematic phasing out of regulation altogether, with standards bodies and watchdog groups (for example) taking over those legitimate activities that have been subsumed by government regulators -- and which gives the whole idea of regulation a false credibility it doesn't deserve? To be fair, I think both the rollbacks and the perception of a decreasing regulatory burden have helped the economy in other ways. But why stop there? Why not consider the question more deeply and adopt a principled, systematic approach that will truly protect American rights and foster prosperity? Until and unless Trump or a significant political faction adopts a principled, individual rights-based opposition to regulation, we can expect any such effort to bring about small, short-term gains, and ultimately fizzle. -- CAV Link to Original
  20. Over at the blog of statistician John Cook is a thoughtful post about the Pareto Principle (aka, the 80-20 Rule) that explains the rule, counters common objections to it, and discusses some of the difficulties in applying the rule. As an example of the latter, consider Cook's discussion of how simple ignorance can get in the way. He first tackles this in answering a common objection to the rule: Image of Vilfredo Pareto via Wikipedia.A final objection is the ignorance argument: we simply don't what the most effective 20% will be beforehand. This is a serious objection, and it should temper our optimism regarding the Pareto principle. If a salesman knew which 20% of his prospects were going to buy, he should just sell to them. But of course he doesn't know ahead of time who those 20% will be. On the other hand, he has some idea who is likely to buy (and how much they may buy) and doesn't approach prospects randomly. These objections take the Pareto principle to extremes to justify disregarding it. Since you can't repeatedly apply it indefinitely, there must be nothing to it. Or if you can't completely eliminate the least productive work, you should treat everything equally. Or if you don't have absolute certainty regarding what's most important, you shouldn't consider what's likely to be most important. [italics and first bold in original, second bold added, link omitted] Cook continues his line of thought in his section on application: I mentioned ignorance above. "Uncertainty" is a more helpful word than "ignorance" here because we're not often completely ignorant. We usually have some idea which actions are more likely to be effective. Data can help. Start by using whatever information or intuition you have, and update it as you gather data.This is great advice, and Cook is spot-on about being honest with ourselves about how effective we want to be. All I might add is that we might need to remind ourselves and others that appearances can be deceiving at certain stages of a project. Right now for example, I am engaged in a long-term plan to make it easier to keep the house clean. A consequence of this is that, for a time, the house is going to look even messier than it usually has, because repeatedly straightening the kids' messes is less effective than dumping or donating a backlog of old toys and unpacked boxes from our last move. (In my case, tripping over a toy serves as a reminder to myself of this goal, as well as a prompt to remind others of it.) With that done, though, I will be able to move to the next part of my plan, which is to use my newly-available storage space in the basement to store toys I think the kids have outgrown or never really liked. This will give us less to deal with at cleaning time and simplify the task, not to mention make it easier to just get rid of forgotten items after a time. -- CAV Link to Original
  21. Over at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw closes his comments on bipartisan opposition to a plan by President Trump to privatize the Post Office as follows: The USPS has problems. There's no question about that. But they have been making progress in terms of efficiency and covering their own costs. And they still have an important role to play in our society. There's plenty of room for improvement, but there's simply no significant upside to trying to privatize it in my opinion. [bold added] The health of this organization and whether it should be privatized are separate issues. (Image via Pixabay.)This cut-rate selling-of-the-farm culminates a tepid cost-benefit analysis typical of far too many allegedly pro-free market economists and pundits. At times, Shaw sounds like he thinks the Post Office can stand on its own two feet, but he basically agrees with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) that: (1) There would be no way for rural people to receive mail and parcels without the government backing the Post Office; and (2) This somehow entitles rural residents to benefit from whatever arm-twisting or back-door loot the government-created postal monopoly provides the post office. In other words, he wants his government-backed postal monopoly both ways. In his mind, it's cheap, so it's really not a big deal -- and it's important, so it's mandatory. This, incidentally is the same reasoning used to excuse new intrusions of government onto liberty all the time. (Shaw tries to hide behind the Constitution on this, while conveniently forgetting that the document was (also) mistaken on the issue of slavery.) The "significant upside" Jazz Shaw can't see or won't discuss would require dropping the altruist-collectivist premise that one man's need is another man's indenture. Even little concessions -- like a government postal service that doesn't cost all that much -- set moral and political precedents for the government to make more numerous and more meddlesome demands and prescriptions all the time. That's what makes them so dangerous. So, the "significant upside" of privatizing the post office, done properly, is that it would be a small step towards once again securing our liberty as Americans, regardless of what any analysis of the current viability of the postal service might have to say. The postal service can find a way to survive or something(s) better can replace it. (FedEx? The phone? Occasional drives into town? More rural stores? Email? There is no one way to receive packages or information.) What shouldn't happen is for the government to force Jack to pay directly or indirectly to solve Fred's problems. It is past time for those of us who value our individual rights to ask whether to privatize the post office (among many other illegitimate government agencies), and move on to the questions of when and how. Whatever the merits of Trump's plan (including whether it truly is a privitazation), it does at least bring this issue to light. Along with it, we can see that perhaps the biggest obstacle will come from unprincipled or cowardly "allies" on the right -- who can't or won't make a stand against those who would chip away at our freedom. -- CAV Link to Original
  22. Four Things 1. One day, on the way home from school, I was privy to the following exchange: Coming soon, to a piggy bank near you! (Image via Pixabay.)My Son (5): I'm going to put my money in a piggy bank so nobody can find it. My Daughter (7): Bandits can just pop open the top and find it, anyway. As it turns out, Pumpkin had decided that a wiser course was to use her bank for unspecified "school supplies," instead. 2. Also overheard: My daughter apparently thinks that there are "no boyfriends and no freckles in college." No. I haven't the foggiest what that means and I was too busy at the moment to ask. 3. On the way to their annual check-ups, my son, attempted to avert the potential calamity of (shudder) a shot by means of disinformation. "Daddy," he said from the back seat. "I've got to tell you something. The doctor is closed." "Really? Well, I heard they might be open. We'll find out who's right in a couple of minutes," I replied, after -- caught off-guard -- I burst out laughing. 4. About a year ago, I had a near-nightly bedtime ritual: My kids enjoyed me pretending at bedtime that one of them was a pillow and the other a blanket as I pretended to go to sleep. Then they'd start moving around and making noise, causing me to feign surprise at the discovery that they were not, in fact, the bedding items I'd hoped for. My wife has video of it somewhere. -- CAV Link to Original
  23. Image via Wikimedia.And that's not a good thing! In the process of looking at stories of panicky conservatives supporting Trump early in his term, I found quite the disappointing -- but informative -- piece among my bookmarks. Written by Henry Olsen, author of Ronald Reagan: New Deal Republican, it wasn't quite what I was looking for, but it is worth reading for other reasons. Its title? "Trump's Election Is the Last, Best Hope To Re-Reaganize the GOP." Anyone who favors government properly limited to the protection of individual rights should read through this, particularly if they have fond memories or conceptions of Reagan. I would also especially recommend the piece to anyone who imagines that Reagan or his conservative fans favor capitalism. Reagan, and (if Olsen is a gauge) many of his fans, clearly don't. The rest of us could use the clarity. Here's a good sample: This flawed common wisdom flows from a flawed understanding of Reagan's philosophy that accepts the myth that Reagan was an anti-government ideologue. But to paraphrase Reagan himself, it's not that the common wisdom is wrong, it's that so much of what it knows just isn't so. Reagan's conservatism was not a more attractive version of Barry Goldwater's anti-statist ideology. From the moment Reagan started speaking out as a conservative in the late 1950s, he endorsed an active role for government. He believed that government should care for those who could not care for themselves, build public housing for the poor and expand public universities. Where Goldwater attacked Republican President Dwight Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon for supporting Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, Reagan enthusiastically backed both men in their presidential campaigns. Reagan's conservatism even supported the idea of universal health coverage. He opposed Medicare only because he felt it unnecessary in light of another federal bill... [links omitted]To get one thing out of the way first: Not especially to defend Goldwater, but being in favor of properly limited government does not equal being anti-government. That said, I am glad Olsen mentions all these things. Reagan, on top of unleashing the religious right, was no capitalist, but a Democrat Lite. Olsen goes on to salivate at the prospect of Trump hastening the process of the Republican Party basically becoming a "permanent majority" party by essentially becoming a Democratic party that appeals more to lower-income, white, Midwesterners and rust-belters. We need much better than that. Since Trump's election, much has been made about the "civil war" within the Democratic Party. But if there isn't a civil war I don't know about within the Republican Party, the cause of freedom could certainly use one. Both Reagan's and Trump's terms have been short-term respites from the all-out assault against economic freedom by the Democrats, but that is all they are -- or will be if people like Olsen prevail. Neither man is a champion of individual rights, and we should keep that in mind. -- CAV Link to Original
  24. Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute writes in City Journal about two competing proposals whose Democratic sponsors claim will improve the labor market. One proposal, by Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA), is to redistribute $1 trillion over the next decade via the Earned Income Tax Credit to people who earn less than some amount he deems too little. Cass, focusing on the fact that this plan appears to support such workers, labels this measure as the "Support" view of government policy regarding low-paying jobs. The other proposal is deemed the "Penalize" view by Cass for reasons that will soon become obvious. Bernie Sanders wants to "Stop BEZOS", i.e., Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies. Sanders would redistribute money directly looted from corporations for every cent of government benefits any of its employees receive. Khanna supports both plans, but look at what Cass, a conservative, has to say about them: Tails, we lose, tails, we lose. (Image via Pixabay.)Khanna's two proposals -- providing a government benefit to low-wage workers and punishing employers whose workers receive government benefits -- represent contradictory poles in the national debate over how to strengthen a labor market whose lower end has seen stagnating wages for decades. In the first view, employers play a constructive and irreplaceable role by connecting less-skilled workers with productive work. Low-wage jobs are by no means ideal, but the low wage reflects the job's economic value, not a corporate plot to extract outsize profits. The jobs represent for some people their best opportunity to participate in the economy, and for many more the crucial first step onto an economic ladder that can lead higher. Either way, jobs are important to society, and we want them to be available. [bold added]Looting money from some Americans to give to others and ... looting money from some Americans to give to others are the two poles of a debate? If so, there is no real debate and we are merely squabbling over details. Unfortunately, Cass apparently mistakes this for a real debate and even chooses a "side": As the Right joins the Left in recognizing the need to address the labor market's shortcomings [!], the fight will evolve [sic] from whether to do something toward what to do. Expect this "Support vs. Penalize" battle to move from within Ro Khanna's head to the forefront of our national debate -- and pray that the coherent side wins.If you are a fellow student of Ayn Rand, you may find that the above reminds you of any number of the false dichotomies that run through the most of the philosophies that influence our culture -- and that Rand debunked. But here's a passage from Rand that Cass has helped me recall and that I find particularly troubling: For many decades, the leftists have been propagating the false dichotomy that the choice confronting the world is only: communism or fascism -- a dictatorship of the left or of an alleged right -- with the possibility of a free society, of capitalism, dismissed and obliterated, as if it had never existed. (The Objectivist, June 1968)This article has been written by a senior member of a highly respected think tank, and there is no mention of the real alternative, which is: for the government to stop looting the productive, indirectly ("support") or directly ("penalize"), because doing so is wrong, and ultimately harms everyone. The only difference between these varieties of poison is that the first comes sugar-coated. At least the second one, envious motivation fully on display, is the more honest. -- CAV Link to Original
  25. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, has a few choice words about the so-called "digital wellness" movement, which he correctly calls "infantilizing." Instead, Newport thinks lots of us are ready for a challenge: Shouldn't that read, "what else is happening?" (Image via Pixabay.)They don't want to depend on Apple to tweak their OS to be slightly less intrusive, or need to download an app that provides a fun reminder about disconnecting; they want instead to be so wrapped up in doing things that are hard and important and meaningful that they forgot where they left their phone in the first place.I think there's a great general point here that applies to any bad habit, and not just vacantly picking up a smart phone eighty times a day: A positive choice to pursue something that one cares about goes a lot further in changing that habit than just focusing on changing the habit. It does help to think through the problem, as Newport does for digital distractions in Deep Work, but without seeing how the bad habit interferes with achieving major values, such a focus doesn't get anyone anywhere. That last is, I think, a major strength of Deep Work. -- CAV Link to Original