02 Sep 2014

Potpourri

Potpourri 5 Comments

==> Fermilab is going to find out if we’re living in a giant hologram. I suspect we are, and that the discussions in the comments of the posts here are some alien’s idea of a sick joke.

==> If you don’t like the USA, then you can just lea–oh.

==> I didn’t even bother reading the “libertarian moment” stuff, spawned by a NYT article, because I knew it would be painful. But I *did* read Lew Rockwell’s take on it, and agreed.

==> The real lesson in this video compilation of old commercials is that the food companies pick our future celebrities. These are the real puppet masters in our society.

==> Every once in a while it’s fun to read Salon and remember how a lot of people really just have no idea how capitalism works. In this case, a hilarious warning about Uber–it must be stopped before it’s too late! (HT2 Tyler Cowen)

==> Bryan Caplan raises an interesting question about weather forecasts, but someone in the comments explains it. Neat stuff. (Hint: Apparently the commercial forecasters provide “percentages” not based on accuracy but on how it will best help viewers. People who like science will probably be horrified at the market, but people who like markets will think it’s awesome.)

==> The best part of this Army Times article is its opening description of the new enemy they face: “When the Army looks to the future, it sees cities. Dense, sprawling, congested cities where criminal and extremist groups flourish almost undetected by authorities, but who can influence the lives of the population while undermining the authority of the state.”

02 Sep 2014

Lonnie’s Medley

karaoke 1 Comment

While you clowns were cooking burgers on Sunday I was working–the stage.

01 Sep 2014

When the State Fixes Your Mind

Big Brother, Conspiracy, Shameless Self-Promotion 89 Comments

Just some history tidbits on the government helping people get better, that’s all. Sure mistakes were made, but they mean well. Gooo ObamaCare!

(Seriously, when you have 15 minutes you need to read about this stuff if you’ve never done so. We get into ice-pick lobotomies and MK-Ultra. Something for everyone. Nudie shots too.)

01 Sep 2014

Scott Sumner Warns Against Heterodox Views, Except His

Scott Sumner, Shameless Self-Promotion 5 Comments

This post at Mises CA actually turned out better than I had first anticipated. As I thought of more pieces of evidence, the case against Sumner became quite powerful–using the very framework he recommended to his readers. (Incidentally, that’s my point here; I’m not attacking heterodoxy. I recognize that Austrian anarcho-capitalist evengelical Christians are not exactly swarming the streets.)

01 Sep 2014

Potpourri

Potpourri, Shameless Self-Promotion 13 Comments

==> My latest Mises CA post uses Jared Bernstein to confirm that Austrians haven’t been paranoid about the USD losing its reserve currency status.

==> The farewell conference for FEE at its Irvington mansion.

==> Jeremy Mack is a libertarian and evangelical pastor who came to the Night of Clarity. He has a blog that covers social issues from this perspective.

==> I am too bogged down with “day job” stuff to do much, but a recent discussion by Nick Rowe, Brad DeLong, and Scott Sumner was very interesting. As you can guess, I didn’t agree with any of them fully, but it was informative to see how each person in turn pointed out problems with the preceding analysis. Don’t bother clicking unless you are really an econ nerd.

==> Attention gold bugs! I think you will like the Fed’s recent interview with Richard Timberlake, some of the highlights of which David R. Henderson discusses.

==> Another example of how the problem with police is NOT “just a few bad apples.” Look at how badly these officers lied about what happened, and how screwed this guy would have been had the video not surfaced. Again, the point here isn’t that once in a while somebody in a job ends up doing something nutty. No, the point is that the higher-ups cover this kind of thing up, and only take action when the evidence is incontrovertible and the public is outraged.

==> I take special pride in relaying this message about the “bail-ins” to your commercial bank account that may be in store, courtesy of Dodd-Frank. The reason is that my business partner and co-author, Carlos Lara, was digging through Dodd-Frank a year ago and stumbled on this stuff himself. We’ve been raising the alarm within our consulting circles all this time, and now it’s enough of a reality that a Vice Chair of the Fed is talking about it. The bottom line? If and when there is another wave of bank failures, it won’t be the taxpayers on the hook, but the creditors, i.e. the depositors.

01 Sep 2014

Of COURSE Paul Krugman Is a Fan of General Sherman

Krugman, Pacifism 95 Comments

And remember, when naming his blog, Krugman chose “Conscience of a Liberal” to stress that his worldview is infused not just with better economics, but with superior morals than his right-wing rivals. Anyway, his latest post says:

One hundred fifty years ago today, William Tecumseh Sherman’s corps, which had pulled back from in front of Atlanta — deceiving the Confederates into believing that they were in retreat — were scything around south of the city, cutting the rail lines. Hood’s army got away, but the victory was nonetheless decisive, for political reasons: the fall of Atlanta convinced voters that the war could and would be won, and Lincoln was reelected.

I’ve written before about my U.S. Grant obsession; Sherman, too. And the friendship between these two men — men who had no illusions about war, who understood the modern world and did what had to be done — is, to my mind, one of the great stories of American history.

Now for innocent readers who might not know, what exactly does this “did what had to be done” entail? Perhaps some of Sherman’s cannon fire on rebel troops went astray, accidentally killing a few dozen civilians? Is this the kind of thing Krugman is willing to excuse in pursuit of social objectives?

Nope, it’s a bit more than that. I’ll quote from Wikipedia’s entry on “Sherman’s March to the Sea”:

Sherman’s March to the Sea is the name commonly given to the military Savannah Campaign in the American Civil War, conducted through Georgia from November 15 to December 21, 1864 by Maj. Gen.William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army. The campaign began with Sherman’s troops leaving the captured city of Atlanta, Georgia, on November 15 and ended with the capture of the port of Savannah on December 21. His forces destroyed military targets as well as industry, infrastructure, and civilian property and disrupted the South’s economy and its transportation networks. Sherman’s bold move of operating deep within enemy territory and without supply lines is considered to be revolutionary in the annals of war.

Sherman gave explicit orders, Sherman’s Special Field Orders, No. 120, regarding the conduct of the campaign. The following is an excerpt from the orders:


… IV. The army will forage liberally on the country during the march…

V. To army corps commanders alone is entrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, &c., and for them this general principle is laid down: In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.

VI. As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly. Foraging parties may also take mules or horses to replace the jaded animals of their trains, or to serve as pack-mules for the regiments or brigades. In all foraging, of whatever kind, the parties engaged will refrain from abusive or threatening language, and may, where the officer in command thinks proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts, and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance.

VII. Negroes who are able-bodied and can be of service to the several columns may be taken along, but each army commander will bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important one and that his first duty is to see to them who bear arms….

— William T. Sherman, Military Division of the Mississippi Special Field Order 120, November 9, 1864.

The Wikipedia article mentions that Sherman’s march was very destructive and controversial, but doesn’t report anything too shocking to one’s sensibilities. A more Southern-oriented (though still not inflammatory in tone) website reports:

Sherman’s march frightened and appalled Southerners. It hurt morale, for civilians had believed the Confederacy could protect the home front. Sherman had terrorized the countryside; his men had destroyed all sources of food and forage and had left behind a hungry and demoralized people. Although he did not level any towns, he did destroy buildings in places where there was resistance. His men had shown little sympathy for Millen, the site of Camp Lawton, where Union prisoners of war were held. Physical attacks on white civilians were few, although it is not known how slave women fared at the hands of the invaders. Often male slaves posted guards outside the cabins of their women.

When I was younger, I had this romantic notion that American “liberals” were very antiwar and lovey-dovey, whereas it was the right-wing realists who knew that sometimes you had to kill people to get things done. Well, now I know better.

31 Aug 2014

Let It Gooooo

Religious 4 Comments

I saw singer/songwriter Jordan Page play at a house concert in Tennessee last night. He told us a story (which I think he’d be fine with me relaying here) of how, earlier in his career, he had been playing at a bar and in between songs was telling the audience how they needed to take control of their fears. Afterward some woman came up to him and told him he was wrong. At first Jordan was angry at her, but she explained that you don’t “take control” or “master” your fears. Instead you surrender and acknowledge that you can’t control the world. Jordan said that at first he resisted this–nobody likes being corrected–but his barriers melted away when he realized she was right.

In a more specifically Christian context, this is quite standard advice. (You can see how many examples there are of Christian websites talking about surrendering to the will of God, and how this ironically gives freedom.) Psalm 37:7 says:

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

However, other spiritual traditions have similar notions, with Buddhism being an obvious example.

I don’t even need to make this spiritual at all; I want to make sure the atheist/agnostic readers don’t get all hung up on the metaphysics for the moment. Whether you’re trying to hit a tee shot, sing a song, or get a date for the prom, if you overanalyze it and “try really hard” to get things to work out right, it blows up in your face. If instead you relax, don’t try to “control” the situation, let things unfold naturally, and don’t micromanage every detail, what happens “naturally” is going to be the best outcome.

30 Aug 2014

Just to Be Clear, No An-Cap Ever DID Claim Utopia

private law 122 Comments

In the comments of my lighthearted post about Gene Callahan’s Poconos gulag, K.P. wrote: “At least maybe claims of libertarian society being utopian will cease now.”

Unfortunately, I don’t know whether K.P. is just being a wiseguy along with me, or he is really putting his foot down and hoping that Rothbardians, going forward, stop pretending that their society will be a utopia. In any event, just to be clear, no scholarly Rothbardian (or Rothbard himself for that matter) ever did claim as such. Regarding private, gated communities, for example, I don’t deny that there will be rules and that some residents occasionally may chafe against them. But I don’t expect there will be squads of private security agents banging down Gene’s door at 2am and shooting him, because they received a tip that he was growing plants that the HOA had forbidden. Yet that sort of thing happens a lot in the United States at the hands of government police. Or, Gene says the head of the private community acts like a politician because he says his door is always open. OK, if the guy is caught lying about half the stuff he says he’s going to do, and he keeps his post even though the residents catch him embezzling their pool fees, then that’s a closer match. But in such a case, I’m guessing the guy would lose his position.

I’m not even making this up for purposes of irony; my favorite, succinct expression of the standard an-cap point was from this clever writer back in 2002:

The free market is not a panacea. It does not eliminate old age, and it won’t guarantee you a date for Saturday night. Private enterprise is fully capable of awful screw-ups. But both theory and practice indicate that its screw-ups are less pervasive and more easily corrected than those of government enterprises, including regulatory ones.