25 Jan 2017

Tom and I Assess the Obama Legacy

Contra Krugman 2 Comments

Tom and I break all the rules by deviating from Krugman’s column, and talk about the 8 Obama years. Not pretty.

Special announcement: Defying all the bookmakers’ odds, we are hosting a 2017 Contra Cruise!

22 Jan 2017

Jesus Is Many Things to Many People

Religious 33 Comments

I’m sorry for the slim pickings lately for Sunday posts. I keep thinking I’ll do some great stuff on Sunday afternoons and then I get sidetracked by other things.

I went to church today to an Episcopalian service (long story) and everybody was in mourning about Trump. Several of the people had gone to Austin the day before to participate in the Women’s March. It was fascinating because the stereotype is that Southern Christians would be pro-Trump.

However, the more I listened, the more I understood the distinction. These people were definitely followers of Christ. But they stressed His compassion, mercy, and healing, and wanted to do the same in this broken world.

In contrast, the more well-known variant of Christians who get into US politics are also followers of Christ. But they stress the fact that He is the only door to the Father, and they often remind people that He is returning with a flaming* sword of truth coming from His mouth to judge the world.

What’s interesting is that both groups are right. I read a book Joshua when I was younger, in which Jesus came back (but the people didn’t realize it was Him). In one part he built two statues for two churches. One statue was of a bold powerful Jesus, while the other was meek. The congregations didn’t like the statue Joshua had built for each, and they switched. They wanted to continue in their comfortable focus on just some of Jesus’ qualities.

(Before angry Catholics bite my head off in the comments: Yes the book was apparently written by a heterodox Catholic priest and so you can draw whatever conclusions you wish. I’m not endorsing the book, I just remember that part of it and thought it was neat when I was a kid.)

* I have always pictured the sword flaming that is coming out of Jesus’ mouth. Do I have any reason to think that? It doesn’t say that explicitly in the Revelation passage. Am I just getting confused with the flaming sword guarding the Garden of Eden?

20 Jan 2017


Potpourri 11 Comments

==> The IER team (including me) respond to Obama’s article in Science.

==> A proposed Bill of Children’s Rights in California.

==> Steve Landsburg writes a touching reflection on McCloskey as a teacher at Chicago. I nitpick in the comments.

==> Bryan Caplan makes a great point about the California grocery bag rule: It’s not a tax, it’s a price floor. Textbook economics ensues.

==> Just put this Tucker Carlson interview on in the background. It gets hilarious as it unfolds. (It’s also important because I think some of you in the comments a few days ago were pointing to this group of “Demand Protesters” as evidence of some point you were making, but it turns out to be a hoax.)

19 Jan 2017

It’s Almost Like PolitiFact Is Biased

Conspiracy 20 Comments

Check out these two PolitiFact items and tell me what you guys think about the scoring.

==> This one on Trump on Obama.

==> This one on Rand Paul on ObamaCare.

19 Jan 2017

My Talk at the Heartland Institute

Mises, Shameless Self-Promotion 7 Comments

The sound was messed up (for the streaming, not the audience) in the beginning, so you miss my jokes. This is why you should always come hear me live. Anyway, I summarize some of Mises’ contributions, and then there’s a lengthy Q&A.

17 Jan 2017

How NeverTrumpers Should Respond to Manning Commutation

Humor, Trump 74 Comments

“This is a horrendous violation of the rule of law, that threatens the very foundation of our institutions! There are plenty of whistleblowers who are still suffering injustice. Rather than doling out piecemeal pardons or commutations to those prisoners who (for various reasons) are chic among the smart set, Obama should’ve worked on across-the-board criminal justice reform.

I’ve seen some fools claim that this somehow is a ‘boon for liberty.’ No, because our prisons are at capacity, the total man-hours of prison time will be constant over the next few decades. By commuting Manning’s sentence, Obama simply increased the time served by other prisoners.

And it’s not just a wash, either. Now the families of prisoners will waste resources trying to bring publicity to their particular case, making us all poorer while the total amount of injustice is held constant.

Obama is Literally Hitler, and I can’t believe any libertarian applauds this move.”

P.S. Note that I have tagged this post with “Humor” as well. I am sharing the analogy here on my blog, and not on social media, so as to limit the outrage from those who lack humor.

16 Jan 2017

Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy 33 Comments

Gene Callahan recently wrote on the funny way we use this term in our society, but I want to use Scott Sumner’s recent comments as a springboard. Note, Scott is not unusual in his usage, but I’m using his example because I just saw it today.

In this post, Scott was arguing that he wasn’t a denialist (not sure why he didn’t just use the term “denier”) when it came to monetary policy’s effectiveness. After giving a bunch of arguments and evidence–most or all of which I endorse, by the way–he added at the end: “PPS. I’m not a Holocaust denialist, a global warming denialist, or a monetary policy denialist. But I am a fiscal policy denialist and a conspiracy theory denialist, so I’m not opposed to denialism, per se.”

Now this is surely an odd statement to make, and David R. Henderson questioned Scott in the comments:

@Scott Sumner,
But I am a fiscal policy denialist and a conspiracy theory denialist
Isn’t this too broad? To deny conspiracy theories per se, you would have to deny that there have ever been conspiracies. Do you think, for example, that the 19 9/11 murderers didn’t conspire?

To which Scott responded:

“David, I meant “conspiracy theory” in the common everyday use of the term, as for instance those who claim the CIA produced the 9/11 attacks, or was behind the Kennedy assassination. You are absolutely correct that conspiracies do occur.”

So I agree with Scott that he used the term the way Americans “everyday” use it. But in this post, I want us to try to pin down exactly what types of “conspiracy theories” are classified as such.

One obvious answer is to say, “Oh, the layperson uses ‘conspiracy theory’ to mean a theory that’s palpably absurd, which only a paranoid nutjob could believe.”

But that sort of argues in a circle, doesn’t it? You might as well say, “I don’t believe in false theories,” which is great, but doesn’t tell us too much about you.

You might say, “Oh, if someone holds a theory that sinister government forces are at work behind the scenes, directing world events… That type of thing.”

Well no, because in that case all the elite people in the US would turn their noses up at the theory that Vladimir Putin and a bunch of hackers conspired to install Trump as president. And as we’ve seen, this conspiracy theory is perfectly respectable in US discourse.

You might be tempted to say, “Theories that say US government officials were the bad guys in a sinister plot” is what people mean. But no, plenty of people nowadays believe in the tale of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. That’s pretty bad, but yet if someone says, “The white man deliberately invented AIDS to hurt the black community,” most people would dismiss that as a “conspiracy theory.”

I imagine in 100 years people will openly discuss how the Secret Service aided in the assassination of JFK, and this will be regarded as a normal area of historical inquiry. But right now it’s a “conspiracy theory.”

In sum, I think the best definition of the term is, “Theories that, if widely believed, would limit the power of today’s ruling class.” Why, it’s almost like a small group of people deliberately cooked this term up in order to screw the public. I wonder…

14 Jan 2017

Glenn Greenwald Is So Awesome

Big Brother, Conspiracy, Trump 19 Comments

Just watch him–and I mean literally, watch his facial expressions–during this interview.