Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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What he asked

October 14, 2017

Ben Sasse asks Trump’s supporters a good question, following the President’s tweet about licensing TV news networks. (Something that doesn’t even exist, of course.)

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But the larger point about Trump & his tweeting is how he manages to keep everyone reacting to him. I have to wonder whether he’d shut up if everyone just ignored him. So I liked Charles Cooke’s article asking Trump to keep quiet (even though I think it’s a futile request).

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“Just shut up and president,” as I’ve said before.


The day Trump kicked over the tweet-hive again, I happened to get email from the Cato Institute about Gene Healy, who wrote The Cult of the Presidency. And the attitude toward the presidency that Healy describes is the root of the matter, IMO. This situation’s been a long time coming.

The Imperial Presidency in the Age of Trump

“I alone can fix it,” Donald J. Trump proclaimed during his unlikely rise to the White House: “all of the bad things happening in the U.S. will be rapidly reversed!” It’s proven to be a bit more complicated than that.

More than eight months into the Trump presidency, the office that’s supposed to be “a symbol of our national unity” is the source of bitter division, as the president vents his frustration with Twitter attacks on Saturday Night Live skits, “so-called judges,” and the United States’ nuclear-armed rivals. Abroad, where the president’s authority is alarmingly unchecked, Trump has already launched some 20,000 airstrikes, threatened North Korea with nuclear annihilation, and refused to rule out a “military option” in Venezuela.

And yet, Donald Trump didn’t invent the Imperial Presidency: he inherited it. As Gene Healy warned in his widely acclaimed book, The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, the “most powerful office in the world” has become far too powerful to entrust to any one fallible human being. Moreover, “We, the people” bear an enormous share of the blame for the presidency’s transformation into a constitutional monstrosity. As Healy argues, it is the public’s demand for presidential salvation from all problems great and small that drove that transformation: “the Imperial Presidency is the price of making the office the focus of our national hopes and dreams.”

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Constitution Day

September 17, 2017

Here’s John Stossel (again).

Raise a glass to its authors.

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Athens on the Potomac

September 12, 2017

Hey, we’ve done it! $20,000,000,000,000! To quote Feynman again:

"There are 1011 stars in the galaxy," [Richard] Feynman once said. "That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers."

Take it, John.

And Andrew does a parody of Cosmos.

Jon Gabriel joins in:

But John Stossel gets the last quote.

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I second that emotion

January 6, 2017

Nick Gillespie writes a retrospective of last year’s Libertarian presidential campaign.

It reflects my views pretty well, including the part about Bill Weld. But RTWT.

Thank You, Gary Johnson, for Being the Best Thing in 2016!

Before we completely flush 2016 down the memory hole, let us pause to remember Gary Johnson, the former two-term governor of New Mexico who generated a record number of votes as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president. If there was anything good that happened in 2016 — a year filled so much awfulness that even the Chicago Cubs could win the World Series after a thousand-year drought — it was @govgaryjohnson‘s ramshackle campaign to bring a very different way of thinking and talking about national politics to America.

In the end, of course, there was a lot of disappointment. He didn’t crack 15 percent in polls to route around the bullshit criteria created by the two major parties to keep people like him off the stage; he supported the inalienable rights of gay Nazis to force homophobic Jewish bakers to make German chocolate cakes in the shapes of swastikas; he spaced out while talking to recidivist plagiarist Mike Barnicle on Morning Joe and asked, What is Aleppo?; and so much more. Yeah, yeah, I get it. […]

To all of it, I say, politely: Go screw yourselves, all of you.

Gary wasn’t perfect and I still don’t really comprehend anything about that tongue-thing while talking to NBC reporter Kasie Hunt, who was understandably all like, Get me the hell out of here. But in the end, Johnson pulled almost 4.5 million votes (3.3 percent of the total), compared to 1.3 million votes (1 percent) four years ago. Of course, all of us who voted for Gary Johnson wanted him to do better still, but the world exists to disappoint us believers in small government. […]

During the race I noticed that people had begun to figure out there was such a word as ‘libertarian’ in the language. (I wonder how many points that would get you in Scrabble.)

When I slapped a Johnson-Weld sticker on my ride and got a couple of high signs and honks from passing vehicles, I figured the word was trickling out. One couple saw the sticker in a parking lot and came over to talk about the Governor. In short, the sticker worked better than my Bernie is My Comrade shirt, which only seemed to confuse most people.

But turning the political outlook is hard work and slow as well. Think about the last time a new major political party emerged quickly in the U.S. It was when the Republican party was organized at the start of the Civil War.

Nobody’s written "The Battle Hymn of Free Trade" – or seems likely to. So the LP‘s got a long row to hoe.

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Trade, automation, and employment

December 17, 2016

This is sort of a rambling post about items I’ve come across recently that are loosely related.

ReasonTV released this clip this week.

This pretty much confirms what I’ve read about NAFTA. And that’s one reason I’ve never been happy about Trump’s bashing free trade agreements, NAFTA in particular.

Trade’s not a case of one-side-wins-while-the-other-side-loses. Trade works to mutual advantage: that’s why people engage in it, after all.

The only point I can take from Trump’s comments is that the U.S. is big enough to gain concessions by threatening to stop trading so freely. (He may be correct about that but I think it would be a bad idea.)


Being a free trade kind of guy, I was more than a little surprised to read about Stephen Moore’s turn to "the Dark Side."

If you know anything about Moore’s background, his new position is a fundamental shift for him. (For example, the Wikipedia article about him says, "Moore is known for advocating free-market policies…")

But read this whole thing to find out why Moore now backs Trump’s approach to trade and the economy.

Welcome to the Party of Trump

I stirred up some controversy last week when I told a conference of several dozen House Republicans that the GOP is now officially a Trump working-class party. For better or worse, I said at the gathering inside the Capitol dome, the baton has now officially been passed from the Reagan era to the new Trump era. The members didn’t quite faint over my apostasy, but the shock was palpable.

I emphasized that Republicans must prioritize delivering jobs and economic development to the regions of the country in the industrial Midwest — states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri. These are places that, for the most part, never felt the meager Obama recovery and where blue-collar Reagan Democrats took a leap of faith this election and came back to the Republican party for the first time since 1984. The GOP will be judged in 2018 and in 2020 on whether they deliver results for this part of the country and for the forgotten middle-class men and women (“the deplorables”) whom Democrats abandoned economically and culturally. This is all simply a political truism.

What roused the ire of some of my conservative friends was my statement that “just as Reagan converted the GOP into a conservative party, with his victory this year, Trump has converted the GOP into a populist, America First party.”‎

One friend lamented that I must have been drunk when I said this.

No. I meant exactly what I said, but I will clarify. […]


And here’s an interesting TED Talk by David Autor, professor of Economics and Associate Head of the MIT Department of Economics. It was published at the end of last month.

Prof. Autor has some explanations for the fact that the more we automate, the more people we have working. There are more jobs, not fewer.

Near the end of the clip, he makes a good point about the influence of culture on the employment picture.

Update 12/19/16:

I ran across an interesting post at pseudoerasmus that goes into detail on Prof. Autor’s topic. Despite its mocking tone and focus on conspicuous consumption, I think it’s a pretty fair explanation of how employment can increase despite increasing automation. (It doesn’t have a lot to say about people working in fields that weren’t even possible before automation enabled them, unfortunately.)

The emptiness of life will save us from mass unemployment

I don’t I have much to add to the debate about the dystopian robot future scenario envisioned by many people. But I do think the nightmare scenario is less mass unemployment than a kind of revamped neo-mediaevalism. I’m not predicting that, so much as saying that’s the worst-case scenario. {Edit 28/12/2016: This was written more than 2 years ago as a half-joke to mock trends in luxury consumption more than anything else.}

In the past 250 years, technological progress has not caused unemployment because human wants have been infinite. Every time productivity (output per unit of input) rises, the implied extra income in the economy still gets spent on something (at least when there isn’t a recession), and extra work gets created to produce that something. In other words, fewer inputs may be used to make one unit of output, but more output always gets desired / created. (OK, that sounds Say’s Law-ish, but please be patient.)

Environmentalists understand keenly that when energy prices fall, people frequently just drive more or fly more, or the savings get spent, ultimately, on something else that uses energy. Productivity growth produces the same effect. Which is why, as of now, we’ve never had permanent mass unemployment from technological displacement.

After the basic needs of food and shelter are satisfied, people go in search of other fulfillments — more caloric, varied, and exotic diets; more living space to fill with ever more stuff; 58 changes of clothes instead of 2 per year; more leisure in the form of vacations and entertainment; and ever more marginal extensions of life expectancy. That’s all very obvious.

But as people get wealthier, they demand not only more quantity of stuff, but also ever more trivial and even imaginary increments to the quality of goods and services. How else to explain the market for, say, honey in a jar that’s ‘raw’, unfiltered, unpasteurised, ‘fair-trade’, non-GMO, single-country-origin, single-bee-colony, and single-flower-species? […]


Finally, I learned yesterday that the Cato Institute has a session scheduled next month with the author of Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis. From the descriptive blurb at Amazon:

Today, nearly one in six prime working age men has no paid work at all—and nearly one in eight is out of the labor force entirely, neither working nor even looking for work. This new normal of “men without work,” argues Eberstadt, is “America’s invisible crisis.”

I have to wonder if all these people are really unemployed or whether some of them are simply working off the books in the underground economy.

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#ExxonKnew in a Texas court

November 24, 2016

Here’s an update from Watts Up With That about the group of attorneys general who have issued subpoenas to ExxonMobil (and others). I first wrote about this last April in Sounds like a conspiracy to me.

Don’t mess with Texas – #ExxonKnew AG’s to be hauled into court

Judge to haul state AGs to Texas for deposition

A federal judge in Texas has ordered the attorney general of Massachusetts to appear for deposition next month in a lawsuit Exxon Mobil Corp. filed as part of an attempt to block investigations into what the company knew about climate change.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade ruled yesterday that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) should appear in Dallas on Dec. 13. The judge will enter a second order regarding Schneiderman’s deposition after he files an answer in the case.

Kinkeade issued the order one day after a telephone status conference with the parties.

It marks the latest victory for the oil giant in an escalating legal and political battle that has come under scrutiny by Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, fossil fuel industry advocates and environmental groups. […]

The company alleged in a filing last week that the two attorneys general were “conducting improper and politically motivated investigations of Exxon Mobil in a coordinated effort to silence and intimidate one side of the public policy debate on how to address climate change” (ClimateWire, Nov. 14).

Both attorneys general participated in a news conference this spring, along with former Vice President Al Gore, in which they accused fossil fuel companies of committing fraud by lying about climate change science and announced a multistate effort to hold them accountable (Greenwire, March 29).

Kinkeade issued an order in mid-October suggesting that Healey may have acted in “bad faith” against the company. He pointed to comments made during the spring news conference as cause for “concern.” […]

If you’re not familiar with all this, check ExxonMobil’s statement about this case and the site exxonknew.org.

The parallel I drew in my last post about this – between ‘Big Tobacco’ and ‘Big Oil’ – is explicitly mentioned at ExxonKnew.org.

This case seems to target a single business with deep pockets that’s unpopular with many people. Why aren’t coal companies or electric utilities or commercial airlines or automobile makers included? So ExxonMobil’s claim of "politically motivated investigations" seems like a fair question at this point.

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The cost of political correctness?

November 11, 2016

These are a few interesting items I came across in the last two days about how the current atmosphere of political correctness may have affected Tuesday’s election.

What occasionally strikes me is that many organizations, including our government, are so invested in regulating diversity of race, sex, and gender that they’re doing so at the expense of diversity of opinion. The antidote to free speech you don’t like is more free speech, not less. Let speakers open their mouths and show themselves to be fools*.

Likewise, the antidote to those who break laws to harm people (or to damage property) is to prosecute them for those crimes. Allowing your government to increase penalties for hate crimes is just giving it power that it might someday use it against you — when a later set or governors decides to redefine "hate".

Robby Soave writes at Reason (my emphasis):

Trump Won Because Leftist Political Correctness Inspired a Terrifying Backlash
What every liberal who didn’t see this coming needs to understand

Many will say Trump won because he successfully capitalized on blue collar workers’ anxieties about immigration and globalization. Others will say he won because America rejected a deeply unpopular alternative. Still others will say the country is simply racist to its core.

But there’s another major piece of the puzzle, and it would be a profound mistake to overlook it. Overlooking it was largely the problem, in the first place.

Trump won because of a cultural issue that flies under the radar and remains stubbornly difficult to define, but is nevertheless hugely important to a great number of Americans: political correctness.

More specifically, Trump won because he convinced a great number of Americans that he would destroy political correctness. […]


Katherine Timpf at National Review had this to say:

Classes Being Canceled Because Trump Won Is Why Trump Won

So, Donald Trump won the presidential election, and colleges and universities around the country are predictably canceling classes and exams because students are predictably too devastated to be able to do their schoolwork.

It’s everywhere. […]

Reading all of these stories, I really have to wonder: Do any of these people realize that this kind of behavior is exactly why Donald Trump won? The initial appeal of Donald Trump was that he served as a long-awaited contrast to the infantilization and absurd demands for political correctness and "safe spaces" sweeping our society, and the way these people are responding is only reminding Trump voters why they did what they did. […]

The headline of Ms. Timpf’s article reminds me of the headline of Matt Taibbi’s article in Rolling Stone about Brexit: The Reaction to Brexit Is the Reason Brexit Happened.


Here’s Jonathon Pie (British comedian Tom Walker) with a hilarious rant about why he thinks Trump got elected – and why Brexit happened and why the Tories rule England. Mind the volume: the language gets a little salty.

The only comment I’ll add to this monologue is that in addition to being shamed by the dominant media stories of their opponents, potential Trump voters may also have been shamed by things Trump himself said or did. I’m guessing it got a little complicated for some of them.


Jonah Goldberg (also at NR) writes about priorities in the Democrat party:

The party of obsession with diversity forgot about bread-and-butter issues

[…] Liberals want to claim that racism explains it all. That’s a hard claim to square with the fact that a great many of the blue-collar counties that favored Barack Obama — the first black president, in case you hadn’t heard — by double digits also favored Trump by double digits.

The fact that so many liberals went straight to this explanation gives you a sense of why the Democrats lost the white working class in the first place. The Democratic party went crazy for issues that appeal to the new Democratic base: campus leftists, affluent cosmopolitan whites, and racial minorities.

One obvious example is diversity. There’s nothing wrong with placing a high value on racial, sexual, and gender inclusion. But Democrats have earned the reputation of being obsessed with it to the exclusion of bread-and-butter issues.

Moreover, by constantly invoking the primacy of identity politics for minorities and immigrants, they encouraged many whites to see themselves as an aggrieved racial or religious constituency. That genie will be hard to get back into the bottle. […]


*IMO, we’re all ‘Children of Eve’ and I don’t care whether you take that to mean the Evolutionary Eve, the Biblical Eve, or a figurative Eve of Enlightened Self-Interest on a global scale. Treat your cousins well.

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Word (2)

November 11, 2016

govt-power-someone-unliked

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And speaking of entertainment…

November 4, 2016

This is about a month old now but it is the best political ad I’ve seen this year (and maybe the best I’ve ever seen).

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Who’s against electricity?

October 22, 2016

In this snippet, Jay Nordlinger is talking with Ojars Kalnins, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Latvian parliament. This exchange appeared in an article Nordlinger wrote for National Review. (‘I’ refers to Nordlinger and ‘he’ to Kalnins.)

He and I talk about America’s connectedness to the rest of the world. “Globalization is here to stay,” he says. “Being anti-globalist is sort of like being anti-electricity. The question is not globalization but how we use it. What we do with it. We can’t get rid of the Internet,” etc.

I loved the comparison of globalization to electricity. Well said, Mr. Kalnins.

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What she said (2)

May 12, 2016

This comes from Daniel Hannan’s Twitter feed.

Thatcher-on-freedom-via-Hannan

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Cognitive dissonance strikes again

April 9, 2016

I’ve had my share of minimum-wage or low wage jobs; I’ve even held more than one at a time, years ago. I’ve been nickle & dimed, as Barbara Ehrenreich would call it.

So I’m all for people who work low-skill jobs getting all the pay they can. (For that matter, I’m all for people working any type of job to get all the pay they can.)

But letting the government set minimum wages is effectively saying that those people have no flexibility – they can’t bargain about wages because it becomes unlawful. That’s a nasty handicap if you’re new to the job market, or you’re new to a line of business, or you’re new to a particular area (see below).

I’ve mentioned before that Mark Twain claimed the best way to get the job you want is to go to work for free. When your value becomes apparent, the pay will follow. If it doesn’t become apparent, you’ve learned a lesson. That’s not possible when the law makes such a bargain illegal.

When did the U.S. repeal the law of supply and demand?

Back in October, The New York Times reported that the law of supply and demand still works. “Yes, Soda Taxes Seem to Cut Soda Drinking,” the newspaper told its readers, relating the results of Mexico’s new tax on sugary beverages. Mexico’s measure imposed a 10 percent tax on soft drinks, and so far has cut consumption from 6 percent to as much as 17 percent among the poorest Mexicans.

The efficacy of the soda tax comes as no great surprise. After all, as the news story noted, “the idea for the soda tax is in some ways modeled on . . . tobacco taxes. . . . A robust literature now exists showing that the resulting higher prices really did push down cigarette sales, particularly among young people.”

The paper’s editorial page soon came out in full cry demanding higher soda taxes for Americans, too. Noting that “a big tax on sugary drinks in Mexico appears to be driving down sales of soda,” the editors urged “lawmakers in the United States to consider comparably stiff taxes.”

Some already have. Soda taxes have become a chic cause in progressive enclaves, from Berkeley and San Francisco to Philadelphia and New York.

But if you want to make liberal heads in those same enclaves explode, dare to suggest that raising the minimum wage might reduce employment.

Thanks to legislation their governors signed Monday, California and New York are hiking their minimums to $15, the target hourly rate of a national campaign by labor activists. Earlier this year The Times encouraged Hillary Clinton to join Bernie Sanders in demanding a $15 minimum for the entire country. “Mrs. Clinton has argued that $15 might be too high for employers in low-wage states, causing them to lay off workers or make fewer hires,” the paper noted, but then argued: “There is no proof for or against that position.”

Sure there isn’t — not if you don’t remember the argument for soda taxes, anyway. […]

In San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., employment growth has been cut in half. In Seattle, job growth has plunged from 4.6 percent to 1.8 percent — even while restaurant hiring rose more than 6 percent for the rest of Washington State.
Sure, you can find studies that purport to show small hikes in the minimum wage don’t hurt jobs. You can find a lot more that say they do. But the more honest advocates for a higher minimum wage acknowledge that it will cost some people their jobs. But some argue that’s no big deal and might even be a feature, not a bug: “What’s so bad about getting rid of crappy jobs?” asks public-policy professor David Howell.

Which is easy to say if the job being gotten rid of isn’t yours.


Now here’s the interesting part. Gov. Jerry Brown says (my emphasis):

Brown, traveling to the state’s largest media market to sign the landmark bill, remained hesitant about the economic effect of raising the minimum wage, saying, “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense.”

But he said work is “not just an economic equation,” calling labor “part of living in a moral community.”

“Morally and socially and politically, they (minimum wages) make every sense because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way,” Brown said.


In this same vein, here’s an account by Mitch Hall about his job search in Seattle (which I assume happened late last year).

70 Tries After Seattle Raised Its Minimum Wage, I Still Can’t Find A Job
States nationwide are beginning to join the ‘Fight for $15.’ My job experience in Seattle, Washington helps illustrate why that’s a bad idea.

Over the weekend, lawmakers and labor unions in California, the nation’s most populous state, reached a tentative agreement to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the course of the next several years. […]

Twenty-nine states have minimum wages that exceed the federally mandated $7.25 per hour. Heading into the 2016 election, the issue remains hotly contested and politically potent, with Republican presidential candidates in fierce opposition to, and Democratic candidates in strong support of, a dramatic increase in the federal minimum wage. […]

My opposition to minimum wage increases comes as a direct result of my own experience searching for jobs as a new resident of Seattle, Washington, a city that currently has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation. In June 2014, the Seattle City Council, composed of just nine members, unanimously voted to increase the city’s base pay to a whopping $15 an hour, to be gradually implemented over the course of several years.

I’ve spent the majority of the last two months stalking online job sites and entire days traversing the various neighborhoods of Seattle.

On January 1, 2016, the newly mandated minimum wage rose to $13 for larger companies (those that have more than 500 employees in the United States), and $10.50 for smaller employers (those with fewer than 500 employees in the United States). On top of this, Washington state law now requires businesses to adhere to this minimum even for tipped workers, a rule that only six other states have on the books.

In December, I found myself needing a break from college, for a variety of reasons. So at the close of last semester, I decided (rather impulsively, as young people are wont to do) to take my spring semester off from the College of William and Mary and move out west to try my luck in Seattle, a place I had only visited once before. […]

Having a combined two years of serving experience and close to five years of total experience in the customer and food services industries (which is literally as much as you can ask for from a 20-year-old college student), I assumed I’d be able to find a restaurant gig in no time. So, after reassuring my parents all would be well in the financial department, I boarded a plane in Philly a few weeks later and made the move.

Yet seven weeks and more than 70 job applications later, I still have yet to land a part-time, minimum wage job. I’ve spent the majority of the last two months stalking online job sites and entire days traversing the various neighborhoods of Seattle, filling out applications and inquiring about job opportunities at any restaurant, coffee shop, retail store, or other service-oriented establishment I can find. […]

At first, I was utterly dumbfounded by my lack of success, and figured only bad luck was to blame. After all, I had been hired at every single one of my past serving jobs within only a day or two of searching and applying. I’d have to find something in Seattle eventually, I thought; I’m young, competent, and college-educated, and serving is by no means a highly skilled occupation that requires degrees or extensive training. I know how to make a good impression with prospective employers, and I already have years of experience in the food services industry. What more could these people want?

Employers, especially in the restaurant and food services industries, are far less willing to take chances on who they hire with so much money on the line.

But soon enough it became clear, through talking with potential employers and local college students also trying to find work, that my failure to land a job was likely due, at least in large part, to Seattle’s absurdly high minimum wage. […]


I think the real problem here is what to do about those who are seemingly stuck in low-skill jobs. I don’t think they’re the majority of people in those jobs, but they’re the chronic cases that seem to motivate the urge to raise minimum wages.

Here’s a graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Dept. of Labor). It’s titled: Minimum wage workers account for 4.7 percent of hourly paid workers in 2012.

bls-minimum-wage-by-age

This report (at the Heritage Foundation) says the same thing: Who Earns the Minimum Wage? Suburban Teenagers, Not Single Parents.

Just eyeballing that graph above, my guess is that maybe a third of the people making minimum wage are heads of households. If I’m right, that’s 33% of 4.7% or 1.6% of the total labor force.

A better approach would be to address directly the needs of the adults stuck in those jobs rather than raising the bar for everyone, children included. Don Boudreaux and Nick Gillespie touch on these points in this interview.

Taking a cue from Governor Brown, is it "moral" to inflict hardships on a large class in order to relieve a small number of those people from other hardships? I’d disagree. I’d say that’s an immoral action by a government based on purely utilitarian grounds (greatest good for the greatest number).

Bear in mind that it’s a different case if particular individuals step up and volunteer for hardships in order to spare their peers or fellow citizens – in that case, the action may be admirable and moral. But when it’s legally compulsory, it’s just so much bullying by legislators.


Update: Now this I can believe. Based on what I read, I think that unions are trying to regain the political power they once exercised; so this explanation seems possible. But dang… it’s gotta sting to be a union member who’s making less than the minimum wage championed by your union. Where’s the brotherhood?

The Minimum Wage Con

If you thought that the union-backed #FightFor15 movement was really about making sure that all workers earned a living wage—rather than about using the government to enrich progressive interest groups—think again. The Guardian:

Los Angeles city council will hear a proposal on Tuesday to exempt union members from a $15 an hour minimum wage that the unions themselves have spent years fighting for.

The proposal for the exemption was first introduced last year, after the Los Angeles city council passed a bill that would see the city’s minimum wage increase to $15 by 2020. After drawing criticism last year, the proposed amendment was put on hold but is now up for consideration once again.

As it turns out, this practice is not uncommon. The WSJ reported last year that at least six municipalities have created special minimum wage carveouts for unions. The logic is straightforward: Kill non-unionized jobs, add more workers to the union rolls, and extract higher fees for union bosses. It’s not a minimum wage hike the labor movement is after, exactly: It’s a penalty on non-union employers, and a payout for modern-day Jimmy Hoffas. Expect unions in California and New York, which recently enacted statewide $15 minimums, to start lobbying legislators for their own sweetheart deals in the near future. […]


Update 2:
Here’s an interesting graph from Business Insider. It explains to some extent how California can get away with its hike in the minimum wage: it’s easy when you have one of the lowest minimum-wage work forces in the country.

heres-how-many-people-in-each-state-make-the-federal-minimum-wage-or-less

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What he said (7)

December 24, 2015

Here’s a good article by John Stossel. RTWT.

Politicians Without Borders
Today’s politicians seem to have few limits.

When driving on treacherous roads, guardrails are useful. If you fall asleep or maybe you’re just a bad driver, guardrails may prevent you from going off a cliff.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel used the phrase “no political guardrails” to point out how many of today’s politicians seem to lack any constraints, any safeguards against their use of power. She’s onto something.

“Mr. Obama wants what he wants. If ObamaCare is problematic, he unilaterally alters the law,” Strassel writes. “If the nation won’t support laws to fight climate change, he creates one with regulation. If the Senate won’t confirm his nominees, he declares it in recess and installs them anyway.”

Hillary Clinton does it too. In fact, she promises that once she becomes president, that is how she will govern. If Congress won’t give her gun control laws she wants, she says she’ll unilaterally impose them. Likewise, if Congress rejects her proposed new tax on corporations , “then I will ask the Treasury Department, when I’m there, to use its regulatory authority, if that’s what it takes.”

Whatever it takes. So far, the public doesn’t seem to mind.

Donald Trump’s poll numbers go up after he promises “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” says that “there’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am,” says that he’ll make Mexico “pay for that wall” and so on.

Apparently lots of people like the idea of a big, strong mommy or daddy who will take control of life and make everything better. Constitutional restraints? They’re for sissies. We want “leadership”—someone “strong” to run America.

I don’t. I’m an adult. I don’t want to be “led.” I will run my own life. Also, a president doesn’t “run America.” The president presides over just one of three branches of government, and there are strict limits on what he can and should do.

The Constitution was written to limit political authority. Those limits left individual Americans mostly to our own devices, which helped create the freest and most prosperous country in the history of the world.

Now, advocates for both parties are off the rails. Some Republicans demand that the IRS audit the Clinton Foundation. Part of me wishes that it would. I suspect their foundation is largely a scam, a pretend charity that props up the Clintons’ egos and pays Hillary’s political flunkies. Heck, in 2013, it raised $144 million but spent only $8.8 million on charity!

Shut it down! But where are the guardrails here? As Strassel put it, “When did conservatives go from wanting to abolish the IRS to wanting to use it against rivals?”

Today, politicians act as if guardrails are just an annoyance. And they get rewarded for that. […]

I think Mr. Stossel nails it with the last two sentences above. Constitutional limits? Who needs ’em?

This article reminds me of Gene Healy’s Cult of the Presidency.


Update:
Here’s something John tweeted today. “What he said” for Mr. Read too.
stossel-quotes-read

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Equality for obsolescence

December 22, 2015

A very amusing video by the Australian Taxpayers Alliance.

The Coalition of Obsolete Industries is taking a stand against progress to save our jobs!

Since the NSW Government is considering a multi-million dollar bailout to the Taxi industry for being unable to compete with modern alternatives like Uber, we believe the government should also be compensating and subsidising ALL obsolete industries!

Via Carpe Diem

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Repeal the First?

December 20, 2015

Here’s a clip making the rounds this week.

I usually take this kind of thing with many grains of salt. After all, you can talk strangers into signing almost any petition in the right circumstances. They’ll even sign a petition to ban water.

But the reasons this one struck me were, first, that I’d hoped that Yale students would know what rights the First Amendment protects — one of those being the right to petition government for redress of grievances. (Pretty heavy irony, idn’t it?)

And second, what leads to this nonsense? People with the I’m-not-responsible-if-you-offend-me attitude and their demands for trivial trigger warnings and for safe spaces.

Since we’re talking about being offended, what offends me is the attitude that I should give a damn about your opinion of what I say. Samuel Johnson said it better: Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it.

So I’ll do another thing I don’t usually do. Here’s a little visual snark about this topic that I also came across this week.

18-year-olds

</rant>

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Dear John

November 28, 2015

As I’ve mentioned earlier it’s not privacy that the government should respect: it’s anonymity. Your public actions & speech can’t be private, of course, but the government should treat them anonymously (unless you’re committing a crime).

Here’s some nasty news about Los Angeles and its license plate database which is a wonderful illustration of why anonymity’s important.

Because who knows what the next politician or bureaucrat will come up with?

Los Angeles Just Proposed the Worst Use of License Plate Reader Data in History.

Last month, when I spoke on a panel called “Spying in Public: Policy and Practice” at the 25th Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference in Washington, DC, we were embroiled in a discussion of license plate readers. As a law enforcement technologist, and a working police detective, I generally support the use of license plate readers. I discussed at the conference a child pornography case in which the suspect (now indicted) had fled the city and the police located him using the technology.

From the back of the room came the comment, “The issue is the potentially chilling effect that this technology has on freedom of association and freedom of transportation.”

That’s literally the phrase that leapt into my mind when I read the monumentally over-reaching idea posed by Nury Martinez, a 6th district Los Angeles city councilwoman, to access a database of license plates captured in certain places around the city, translate these license plates to obtain the name and address of each owner, and send to that owner a letter explaining that the vehicle was seen in, “an area known for prostitution.” […]

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to ask the office of the District Attorney for their help implementing the plan.

Have Ms. Martinez and the Los Angeles City Council taken leave of their senses? This scheme makes, literally, a state issue out of legal travel to arbitrary places deemed by some — but not by a court, and without due process — to be “related” to crime in general, not to any specific crime.

There isn’t “potential” for abuse here, this is a legislated abuse of technology that is already controversial when it’s used by police for the purpose of seeking stolen vehicles, tracking down fugitives and solving specific crimes. […]

All your license plate numbers are belong to them.

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Expensive insurance

November 21, 2015

Here’s an interesting post at Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution:

Can this be true?

Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate during that time averaged +19.4% annually. In 2010 alone, the value of assets seized grew by +52.8% from 2009 and was six times greater than the total for 1989. Then by 2014, that number had ballooned to roughly $4.5 billion for the year, making this 35% of the entire number of assets collected from 1989 to 2010 in a single year. According to the FBI, the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals [emphasis added].

That is from Martin Armstrong, via Noah Smith and Michael Hendrix. While private sector robberies are underreported by a considerable amount, this is nonetheless a startling contrast.

This seems to be the source for Cowen’s post.

I have no idea whether this is true. But if it is then police protection is turning into pretty expensive insurance, eh?

Via CoyoteBlog

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Another spoiler

September 16, 2015

I’ve dropped most of this op-ed in the quote below but if you want to know why Donald Trump is a blight on the political scene (for any party) read the whole thing. It’s brief and you don’t need to be a Republican to appreciate his points.

I think Mr. Gabriel puts his finger on the issue in his final line.

The Debate We Were Supposed to Have

The 2016 election was the grand battle conservatives had been hoping for since Ronald Reagan left the Oval Office. The roster of candidates was to be a who’s-who of smart, proven, center-right leadership. […]

It would be obvious to the electorate that Republicans were the only party with the vision, with the heart, and with the intelligence to lead the nation. […]

We aren’t discussing America’s $18.4 trillion national debt and our insolvent social programs. The stagnant economy and an expansionist China, Russia, and Islamic State. Burning cities at home and burning countries abroad.

Instead we’re trading GIFs of a reality show star on “The Tonight Show,” giggling about menstruation, and wondering if the most impressive GOP field in a generation are a bunch of “dummies” or if they’re a bunch of “losers.”

These are serious times. We are not a serious people.

It continues to amaze me how people continue to talk about Trump as though he were worthy of their time and consideration. Pfft!

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What he said (6)

September 1, 2015

I recently finished Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear. It’s a little dated now, since it came out in late 2004, but I still found it an entertaining read. And that’s despite the fact that it’s not one of his better novels; it ain’t a patch on The Andromeda Strain, for example.

I won’t give anything away but it’s a story about how people perceive climate change and anthropogenic global warming.

At the end, Crichton wrote some end notes to explain his personal take on AGW. Among those were these comments that I liked.

I believe people are well intentioned. But I have great respect for the corrosive influence of bias, systematic distortions of thought, the power of rationalization, the guises of self-interest, and the inevitability of unintended consequences.

I am certain there is too much certainty in the world.

Before making expensive policy decisions on the basis of climate models, I think it is reasonable to require that those models predict future temperatures accurately for a period of ten years. Twenty would be better.

The hard-headed common sense of these remarks reminds me of things that Thomas Sowell has said.

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We can do without the knee-jerk outrage

July 24, 2015

From all the politicians reacting to Donald Trump’s idiotic remarks about immigrants. (May Trump emigrate to some place looking for a Fearless Leader. Please.)

Here’s an interesting article at FEE about a study of crime rates among immigrants by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

By the Numbers: Does Immigration Cause Crime?
The preponderance of research shows no effect

The alleged murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has reignited the debate over the link between immigration and crime. Such debates often call for change in policy regarding the deportation or apprehension of illegal immigrants.

However, if policies should change, it should not be in reaction to a single tragic murder. It should be in response to careful research on whether immigrants actually boost the US crime rates.

With few exceptions, immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates. As described below, the research is fairly one-sided.

(Via Coyoteblog)

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial in a similar vein. I don’t know whether it cites the same study as the FEE article snce I’m not a subscriber.

Regular readers will recall that I think our immigration laws are too restrictive, not too lax. And in that vein, here’s a little visual snark:

Ancestors-n-immigrants

I can just imagine some 19th century Donald-Trump-like-idiot going on about my Irish great-great-grandfather.

(And for that matter, where the hell did Trump’s forebears immigrate from?)

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