28 Feb 2017

Abbandonato’s Murphy Smackdown

Environment 4 Comments

I can’t remember if I already posted this? But the writer put so much work into it, I want to make sure I don’t neglect it.

In response to my IER post on the Clean Air Act, Aisling Abbandonato wrote a very lengthy critique. And here are the references to the article.

Unfortunately I’m swamped with “day job” stuff so all I can do is link…

28 Feb 2017

Contra Krugman Ep. 75: Economic Growth

Contra Krugman No Comments

I don’t have time right now to outline this episode, so let me just post the link.

One thing I’ll say: The episode revolves around Krugman saying that the Trump team’s forecast of 3 percent real GDP growth is absurd. I bring up the fact that Krugman confidently defended the Obama Administration’s economic growth forecasts back in 2009, literally “*sigh*ing” with Brad DeLong when Greg Mankiw challenged the rosy scenario. Needless to say, Mankiw was right.

27 Feb 2017

If Trump Is Half As Bad As His Critics Say…

Trump 73 Comments

…then how has he been cutting business deals for decades?

A progressive opponent of Trump, like Bernie Sanders, is being consistent. He thinks the market economy is a vulnerable thing that needs all sorts of government oversight to achieve even a basic level of functionality.

Also, fans of the market who strongly disagree with Trump’s policies (such as protectionism or immigration restrictions), but who think he is a sharp, misguided person, are also being consistent.

But what is weird to me are the (many?) thousands of libertarians / conservatives who revere a free market economy, and yet also think that Trump is a stumbling buffoon who is a pathological liar and surrounds himself with ignorant yes-men.

If that is the case, how is it possible that word on the street hasn’t alerted investors to this fact? Why was Trump still signing new deals before his political run?

I BESEECH YOU, in the comments please don’t say, “Bob, you can be good at business but awful with economic theory. Look at George Soros.” Yeah I get that. I specifically showed above that that’s not what I’m talking about here.

27 Feb 2017

Two Oopsies in Scott Adams’ Posts

Deep Thoughts, Scott Adams 16 Comments

I still enjoy checking in on Scott Adams (the Dilbert creator) to see his rival narrative concerning Trump. (Here’s a good example.)

However, I often find Adams carelessly pontificating on things when I suspect he isn’t nearly committed to the principle as his writing suggests.

The best recent example is his post, “How to Evaluate a President.” Adams opens like this:

Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Richard Branson. What do they all have in common, aside from wealth?

They all succeeded without the right kind of prior experience. Apparently they knew how to figure out what they needed once they started. I’ll bet they are all systems-thinkers, not goal-thinkers.

Adams then goes on to argue that Trump is a systems-thinker, and that’s the way to interpret the rocky start to his Administration.

To then give a more concrete example of what a systems-thinker does, Adams writes:

But in any case, as I often say, goals are for losers. Systems are better. As I describe in my book, a good system is something you do every day that leads you to better outcomes, not specific objectives. For example, going to college is a good system even if you don’t know what job you might later want. Any time you learn something valuable, that’s a system. Networking with important people is a system. And so on.

Does everyone see the problem? The four people Adams chose–namely Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, and Branson–did not finish college; Branson apparently didn’t even finish high school. (See here and here.) And this isn’t just ironic; Adams’ example of “going to college to help you get a job later on” is exactly wrong for his broader point.

For a different example of Adams not taking his own pontification seriously, in this post he writes: “On the conservative side, morality is usually seen as coming from God. I’m not a believer, so I see morality as a set of rationalizations for our biological impulses. Luckily, we evolved with some instincts for taking care of each other. “

So my question: If Adams doesn’t believe in an objective moral code, then why does he think it’s lucky that we have instincts to take care of each other? Would it make sense to write, “Luckily, our taste buds evolved to let us know how delicious ice cream is”?

24 Feb 2017

“If Ignorance Is Strength, How Strong Is Krugman?”

Contra Krugman 2 Comments

I picked the title this time for Contra Krugman (ep. 74), and I feel like Ralphie re-reading his essay on the Red Rider bb gun.

In this episode we have some fun, remembering all the diplomatic gaffes and serious policy blunders (such as the rollout of ObamaCare) under the previous Administration. The point isn’t to gloat or to say “But what about…” but rather it is to rebut Krugman’s refrain that right-wing Republicans have a monopoly on dumb moves.

22 Feb 2017

Documentary on Biblical Literalism

Religious 28 Comments

I am relaying a comment from my last Sunday post:

Bob – I sent you an email about this, but it didn’t occur to me until now to mention it on your site. There is a special showing tomorrow only (Thursday, 23rd) of Is Genesis History? at theaters around the country. It’s a documentary arguing for the six literal 24 hour days of creation in the Genesis account.

Website here in case anyone can still get tickets (some theaters added a second showing) http://isgenesishistory.com/

21 Feb 2017

Understanding the Economic Commentary on the Border Tax/Subsidy

Lara-Murphy Show, Scott Sumner, Trade 5 Comments

I was so happy with Scott Sumner’s post that tried to explain the border tax/subsidy issue, that I spent 45 minutes on an episode of the Lara-Murphy Show walking through its logic.

Scott’s post made it click for me, and I did my best to convey that extra comprehension to all of you folks too. So, if you’re ready to super geek out, then (a) read Scott’s post and (b) listen to my podcast.

19 Feb 2017

Moses Talks God Out of His Plan?

Religious 6 Comments

Of course that’s not what happened. But it’s interesting the way the Bible is written:

Exodus 32: 11-14:

Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'”

So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

So the above is nonsensical if God is omniscient. How would He ever change His mind? He already knew before Moses was born, what he would plead at this moment.

Here is how Guzik explains it:

ii. Numbers 23:19 says, God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Some say that these two passages contradict each other, and that Exodus 32 shows God repenting and changing while Numbers 23 says God never changes or repents. We can understand these passages by understanding that Moses wrote with what we call anthropomorphic, or “man-centered” language. He described the actions of God as they appeared to him. Moses’ prayer did not change God, but it did change the standing of the people in God’s sight – the people were now in a place of mercy, when before they were in a place of judgment.

My own thought on this particular episode is that God wanted Moses to soften his heart. After this pleading, Moses walks down the mountain and absolutely flips out when he sees the golden calf that the people–under Aaron’s leadership–have created. Since Moses’ character flaw was his temper, I think one of the elements in this story is that God actually conditioned Moses to have mercy before he saw just how wretched the human condition is.