17 Apr 2016

A Stickler for the Rules Because We’re All Failures

Religious 15 Comments

Believe me, I understand the popular frustration with many Christians who are judgmental in a self-righteous manner.

Having said that, the Biblically correct position is to be (1) a stickler for God’s rules and (2) acknowledge that oneself can’t meet that impossibly high standard, either.

In other words, when a Christian warns the world, “Hey guys! These practices are all sinful! God is not happy about this!” the purpose should be to say, “That’s why we all need a Savior.” It’s not to say, “Man, I’m so glad I’m better than you heathens.”

In contrast, by watering down the rules to make them “reasonable”–things like, “Just don’t murder people or rob banks, and call your parents once a month”–then that’s actually attainable. So most people walk around thinking they’re basically OK, and it offends them to hear someone suggest God had to send His Son to die for their sins.

So to repeat: Correct Christian doctrine does indeed condemn the natural world as man has fashioned it, but that doesn’t mean Christians should feel smug. On the contrary, the sins they see surrounded them are just mirrors of how they were/(are?) without unmerited grace from God.

This also ties in to another of the huge problems people have with Christianity: “Wait, you mean some serial killer nutjob can just accept Jesus and then poof it’s all good? That’s crazy!”

16 Apr 2016

Why I Can’t Take Jonah Goldberg’s Anti-Trumpism Seriously

Trump 48 Comments

Scott Sumner linked with approval to this Jonah Goldberg article lamenting how ever more people are having their bodies snatched and now support Trump.

Anyway, I was OK with Jonah’s piece for a while, until he had to write this:

I concede that for conservatives living in swing states, this is a legitimately painful decision. Clinton and Sanders alike would be horror shows. But my answer is simple: I will never vote for Trump and I will never vote for Hillary or Bernie. Period.

It’s easy for me to say that because I live in Washington, D.C. Indeed, I’ve never lived anywhere where my vote hasn’t been canceled out at least seven to one. The important question for me is, how will I write and speak about this stuff professionally? Counting this “news”letter, I write about 14 columns a month. Throw in blog posts, magazine articles, spoken-word poetry, Fox News hits, and all of my mime work and suffice it to say, I can’t exactly hide from my opinions. I’ve never been in a situation where I couldn’t defend, broadly speaking, the Republican nominee or president. I’ve criticized them all, but in the fundamental arguments of the day, I’ve always sided with the more conservative party, which has been the GOP. There’s nothing Trump can do that would make me vote for Hillary Clinton. But if Trump is the nominee or the president, I will for the first time be working outside the familiar binaries of the two-party system. I guess I should ask the guys at Reason magazine or Cato how they cope.

One option is to just go full Mencken and just own the fact I am a man without a party.

Let’s review. George W. Bush:

1) Expanded prescription drug coverage for seniors, which cost an estimated $318 billion over its first ten years, and has been described as the biggest expansion of the welfare state (at that time, of course) since LBJ.

2) Nationalized banks.

3) Oversaw a worldwide network of CIA secret prisons.

4) Led the United States to invade another country either through incompetence or lying.

But Trump is somehow qualitatively worse than this, such that Jonah Goldberg is now thinking maybe he should consider more than two candidates in this election?

How can a smart guy like Sumner, who calls himself a libertarian, link to this in good conscience?

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT LIKE DONALD TRUMP.

16 Apr 2016

Sumner, Like All of Us, Wants a KISS

Scott Sumner 3 Comments

I refer to types of Fed policy, of course.

In a recent post criticizing the mental gymnastics Bernanke engages in regarding helicopter money, Scott writes:

Or we could just raise the inflation target to 3%.

Or even keep it at 2% and do level targeting. Or NGDPLT. All these epicycles to make helicopter drops work make me dizzy. The simple truth is that monetary policy is all we need if used intelligently, and if not used intelligently (as in Japan pre-2013), even helicopter drops won’t get the job done. So let’s K.I.S.S., and work out fallbacks that don’t require wildly unrealistic assumptions about cooperation between the Fed and a GOP-controlled Congress. Instead let’s simply shift the target slightly (4% NGDPLT anyone?), and perhaps add to the securities that the Fed is eligible to buy.

Yes, by all means, let’s switch from the Fed focusing on (price) inflation and unemployment, and instead have the Fed target the growth in the total amount spent on value-added in each stage of production (to avoid double counting), with a provision of catching up to the constantly rising level, where the Fed turns over day to day operations to a futures market in contracts that can only exist through subsidies from itself, and where the Fed is allowed to buy other types of assets from what is currently legal. Like the man said, simple. None of this newfangled stuff like “printing money and spending it.” (What?!)

16 Apr 2016

Murphy Twin Spin

Shameless Self-Promotion 15 Comments

==> Carlos was traveling so I republished the audio of my recent talk at the International Students for Liberty Conference on Mises’ contributions. So if you wanted to listen to that but at the gym or something, this is for you…

==> In the most recent Contra Krugman, Tom and I take on the MetLife ruling and “too big to fail.”

16 Apr 2016

Step Aside, Affleck

Humor 6 Comments

…there’s only one Batman.

I looked up this scene for an email joke the other day, and just had to share. Everything about this is hilarious–make sure you see what the writers told kids Batman drinks at the bar. No martinis for Adam West.

12 Apr 2016

Explanations for Behavior

Election 37 Comments

Consider the following three statements:

(1) “I’m arranging the magnets on my fridge to say ‘Cruz’ because he can beat Hillary in the general election.”

(2) “Instead of picking a listed candidate, I’m writing in the phrase ‘the choice of the majority’ for the primary, because it would be hilarious if 51% of the other voters did that too.”

(3) “I’m voting for Cruz in the primary because he can beat Hillary.”

I have never heard anyone say (1) or (2), but there are people saying (3). I submit that if you think through why (1) and (2) are nonsensical, you will see why (3) is also.

12 Apr 2016

Rod Dreher Smells a Rat at Disney

SSM 13 Comments

Gene Callahan sent me this interesting article on Disney and the NFL threatening to boycott Georgia if its legislature passes a religious liberty bill that opponents say discriminates against gay people. The key takeaway:

When you’ve lost Disney and the NFL — that is, when even Disney and the NFL consider “religious liberty” to be a code word for “hate” — you’ve lost, period. Get it straight in your head now, orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims: Big Business is the enemy.

There is precious little we can do about it now, but we can at least stop fooling ourselves that the free market is a friend to orthodox religion. It never was, but now, it’s positively hostile.

At the state and local level, there are Republican politicians who are willing to try to protect religious liberty, but they’re getting smashed on the economic front by nationals and multinationals. As angry as I get when GOP pols put economics over moral principle, I can understand it. Don’t agree with it, but understand it. Traditional Christians and other social conservatives face a terrible choice: vote for Democrats, who will gleefully stomp on religious liberty, or vote for Republicans, who will feebly oppose it, then cave, because the business of America is and always will be Business.

If this doesn’t compel conservative Christians to radically rethink their politics, they are so far in the GOP tank that they can’t tell up from down. Reagan is dead, and so is his coalition.

12 Apr 2016

A Reader Note About Pacifist Strategy

Pacifism 2 Comments

He gave me permission to post here:

I recently viewed a discussion you had about pacifism, and the topic came up: how do we make progress?

I’m an Air Force officer who is currently undergoing a conscientious objector’s application. I’ve thought A LOT about non-violence lately, and have A LOT of opinions about it. One thing I am convinced of is the need for non-violence as a principle of a free society. Violence is used because it’s effective. It’s effective because death settles arguments with utter finality. If we can just remove this finality, we’d have the “wiggle room” to imperfectly stumble through competing standards of law in a polycentric legal marketplace. I’m convinced that we have to treat non-violence as a principle higher even than maybe property rights in many cases. (in that property is useful as a standard when people comprehend and assent to its utility). Okay, this is a longer discussion (how can something be a right, they say, “if you can’t defend it unto death”?)

In any event, I highly recommend the following book: Johnathan Schell’s “The Unconquerable World”. He was a big lefty, but his analysis of power and violence is the best I’ve ever read. If you know military science, you’d understand what I mean when I say that this book is “the sequel to Clausewitz”. Schell discusses the futility of violence in exercising power in a modern context, and a certain almost metaphysical power of non-violence in changing things (no actual metaphysics though, pure political science). There’s a catch though: non-violence is only effective in a certain way. You have to have a certain kind of political organization and active effort for non-violence to exercise power.

What’s most interesting to me about this book is the critical response. Lefties sympathetic to Schell admire his vision but are skeptical of its efficacy. This leads into my diggressant theory that lefties actually love violence if it’s for their team, anyway! I think Shell can be interpreted through a Rothbardian lens, and his principles come alive accordingly.

So, if you haven’t read this book I highly recommend it. Not only for its interesting conclusions about warfare and power, but also its inspiring vision concerning a sort of praxeological method which might be politically useful to our cause. I think the agorists are hitting close to this vision, as is Tom Woods with all his emphasis on marketing skills. The real truth lies, I believe, in finding small pragmatic ways for us to achieve little political victories – something accessible to common man – which serve to fundamentally undermine the state, in aggregate.

I’ll let you read the book, and I think you’ll see what I mean. I think libertarians have been real close to the mark, but we could benefit from a systematized political method here, just to amplify our efforts. A more concrete theory of libertarian political action if you will, so we can get better “synergy”. But also counter the state’s efforts to undermine what we’ve done.