05 Aug 2016

Winning Hearts and Minds at Sumner’s Blog

Politics 28 Comments

The only thing worse than me wasting time arguing with people in the comments at Sumner’s blog, is me doing so without you guys knowing about it. On this thread, Scott engaged in his shock, shock routine because Trump is proposing the first-use of nuclear weapons (and Trump also thinks US elections are rigged–can you imagine?!). As usual, I wasn’t defending Trump’s crazy statements, but instead I was pointing out that Scott Sumner’s own candidate–Gary Johnson–was also pandering and incoherent, and pointed to his recent CNN statement about forcing bakers to sell cakes to gay customers, but not forcing them to decorate the cakes. I started arguing with people in the comments, and then fired off these two statements that I am sure will make my critics apologize:

Debate Ender #1:

For the record, I am not defending Trump. I also think E. Harding is half trolling you guys, for what it’s worth.

But some of your guys’ comments about the cake stuff are revealing. For example, Benny Lava wrote:

Interesting how libertarians on an Econ blog can’t see the fundamental difference between the two examples. Apparently there is no difference between a product and a customer. They are exactly the same thing to libertarians.

Guys, think back to the last time you went into a bakery, and just pointed to something ALREADY MADE and sitting in the case. You were like, “Hmm, I’ll take one of those blueberry muffins, and…how about that sticky bun?” And then, did the cashier say, “I bet you want to smear that on your gay lover, huh?!?!”

Of course not, you guys. The issue here is not about Christian bakers refusing to sell standard products to homosexual customers. Indeed, I have even seen news interviews with distraught bakers (a young woman in her mid 20s I’d guess) saying, “We have plenty of gay customers. We have no problem with that. But we don’t want to be forced to participate in a ceremony that violates our deepest religious beliefs.”

Also, when you guys think that it solves the problem to let the gay customers buy a plain cake and decorate it themselves: How many wedding cakes have you decorated in your kitchen? Are you serious? What about saying, “Black people can buy cars from Ford just like anybody else, but they have to assemble the parts in their garage”?

Gary Johnson’s answer, and some of the commentary here, is totally missing the point, and doesn’t even make sense if you think about it for 2 minutes.

Last thing on the alleged singling out of this particular sin (from a Biblical literalist’s POV): I agree that a lot of Bible-believing Christians emphasize homosexuality rather than other sins, and you can draw what you will from that. But do you think if a guy went into a Christian bakery and said, “I want a cake celebrating the one-year anniversary of my affair with my secretary,” that they’d be cool with that? THAT is the analog to a gay wedding cake, not “Selling pastries to an adulterer.”

Debate Ender #2:

Also, some of you (including our host) are really concerned about the evil Trump who is considered the first use of nuclear weapons. Did you guys know that Gary Johnson also approves of the first-use of atomic weapons, even if it means melting thousands of children?

It must be that you didn’t realize that. Now that I have pointed it out, I am sure Scott will stop supporting Johnson, after getting up from his swooning couch.

Ah, my work is done here. Let peace and understanding begin with me.

04 Aug 2016

Gary Johnson: “I’m neither Hillary nor Trump, please vote for me. The fewer questions you ask, the more attractive I am.”

Libertarianism 56 Comments

The more this guy talks, the more convinced I am that I made the right call. (I don’t vote, period–not for Ron Paul, not for anybody. But I mean, I have been trolling GJ on Facebook. And I regret nothing!)

Look kids, Gary Johnson is going to get destroyed in the Electoral College in November. So don’t tell me, “He’s so much better than Trump/Clinton!” That’s not the point. Do you send a job application to the Lakers because being an NBA player is so much better than your current job?

There are various justifications for libertarians concentrating their support on a “focal point,” notwithstanding imperfections. But at some point, surely you have to say, “This guy is way too mushy and incoherent for me to cast my meaningless vote upon.” Where do you draw the line? Suppose Johnson said, “I support the draft, but only for single men between the ages of 18-29”?

Thanks to Tho Bishop for grabbing this short clip (at my request).

01 Aug 2016

Is God a Tyrant?

Religious 36 Comments

That’s the question I will be tackling as a speaker at this weekend’s Libertarian Christians conference. Especially for you agnostic/atheist libertarians, can you give me your best arguments on this? Also, if you could give me quotes/citations to famous critics (like Hitchens) on this topic, that would be great.

28 Jul 2016

Contra Krugman: What Does the Stock Market Mean?

Contra Krugman 1 Comment

Tom and I respond to Krugman’s column on the stock market.

27 Jul 2016

Gene Callahan on Non-Human Actors

Deep Thoughts 81 Comments

In a post criticizing methodological individualism, Gene writes (and then quotes):

A plain fact that methodological individualism will block us from seeing or accepting:

“The facts authorize us — no, they oblige us! — to say that Islam as such, Islam understood as a meaningful whole, is in motion, that it strives and struggles, in a world [where] it is an actor on the stage of history that must be taken very seriously. Thus the world in which we must live and act is a world marked by the effort, the movement, the forward thrust of Islam.”

I think Gene’s position here is interesting to juxtapose with his earlier criticism of the notion of intelligent computers that could play chess better than humans:

They were, of course, built by human beings. When a grandmaster is “shredded” by a computer program, he is really being defeated by a team of programmers and chess experts who have a calculation machine at their disposal. Just because they don’t literally sit inside the machine, as a human being did inside the chess-playing Turk, does not mean that the machine has somehow mysteriously “become intelligent,” any more than a rabbit trap is intelligent because it “knows” how to catch a rabbit. Machines can be “intelligent” only in that they can be “intelligently built.”

I think this raises the obvious question: Can Islam as such play chess better than humans?


25 Jul 2016

Eugen Was Not PC

Humor 9 Comments

For the History of Economic Thought lecture on Bohm-Bawerk, I came across this passage that I remember reading in grad school:

How many an Indian tribe, with careless greed, has sold the land of its fathers, the source of its maintenance, to the pale faces for a couple of casks of “firewater”!

(I have no idea whether this is what it was in the original, or if the translator had some fun with it.)

25 Jul 2016

Do you value justice higher than mercy?

Religious 13 Comments

I took the Briggs-Meyer test (due to peer pressure). (I am not telling you my score because that’s what the narcissists do.)

The question in the subject is one that struck me as very interesting. (I think they should’ve said “more highly” than “higher”?)

I thought for a bit and then decided that no, I don’t value it more. That is not say that I think it’s okay to compromise on justice. But they are certainly different values–justice and mercy–and the question asked is one more important.

As a Christian, I now answer that no, but I bet I would’ve said yes back when I was an atheist. And, now as a Christian and being aware of this difference, I am going to say I was too unmerciful back then. It’s not that I am now in favor of injustice. No, the reason I changed is that I elevated the importance of mercy since becoming a Christian.

As always, Jesus provides the role model. His actions as portrayed in the gospel accounts were a brilliant display of superhuman justice and superhuman mercy. All of the characters in the gospel accounts ring true, except His: Jesus is an unbelievable character, not because of multiplying loaves and fishes, but because, “No man could have that depth of moral strength and compassion.”

22 Jul 2016

Why the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) Is a Dubious Tool for Policymakers

Shameless Self-Promotion 3 Comments

I don’t think I blogged this when it ran… my latest at IER.