11 Apr 2017


Potpourri 36 Comments

==> Larry Reed reviews the (awesome) movie, “Hacksaw Ridge.”

==> Since United is in the news, check out this 1994 piece from Julian Simon explaining the rise of voluntary compensation for bumped passengers. (And note his initial example of how bad it used to be in the 1970s, concerns a practice from United!)

==> George Washington’s Farewell Address is worth (re)reading. Look at this:

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it – It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

==> CNN now mocks Sean Spicer for making a Hitler comparison in politics. Naturally, it took me a good 18 seconds to find an example of CNN anchors comparing Trump to Hitler.

36 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. Harold says:

    On Spicer, whilst comparisons to Hitler are fraught with danger, Spicer made the even greater error of forgetting the holocaust. Saying Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people when he gassed millions of Germans (and others) with chemicals is insensitive, to say the least. Trying to finesses this away by saying he meant bombs dropped on villages, not gas chambers is not really helping. Stop digging.

    A colorful character in the UK has been in trouble recently for Hitler comments. Ken Livingstone (Red Ken), our former London Mayor, leader of the GLC, opponent of Margaret Thatcher and well known socialist said Hitler supported Zionism because he had policies that helped Jews leave Germany and go to Palestine. In a technical sense Hitlers policies did support the objectives of the Zionists, but in no sense did Hitler support the objectives of the Zionists. The different interpretations of “support” open up ambiguities. Livingstone thinks that because his interpretation is technically correct, that gets him off the hook. It turns out that it does not.

    If introducing Hitler you must be very, very careful

    • Stephen Dedalus says:

      “Trying to finesses this away by saying he meant bombs dropped on villages, not gas chambers is not really helping.”

      It helps with non-imbeciles, Harold, because he is *obviously correct*: the gas chambers did not involve “chemical weapons.”

      • Harold says:

        He is not obviously correct.

        From the UN convention 1997:
        1. “Chemical Weapons” means the following, together or separately:

        (a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes;

        (b) Munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals specified in subparagraph (a), which would be released as a result of the employment of such munitions and devices;

        (c) Any equipment specifically designed for use directly in connection with the employment of munitions and devices specified in subparagraph (b).

        The Nazis’ hydrogen cyanide meets the first condition and the gas chambers would qualify as a “device” in the second.

        Stop digging.

  2. Daniel Kuehn says:

    That second CNN link is Dana Bash saying it, not Chris Cilliizza

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Daniel, I don’t even know who Chris Cilliizza is. This is the transcript from the link:

      Wolf Blitzer: “One candidate says not only is he going to put forward a special prosecutor to investigate his rival, but – and this is very significant – he’s going to put her in jail if he’s elected president of the United States. That’s pretty extraordinary.”

      Dana Bash: “Okay, not to sound too corny, but what makes this country different from countries with dictators in Africa or Stalin or Hitler or any of those countries with dictators and totalitarian leaders, is that when they took over, they put their opponents in jail. To hear one presidential candidate, say – even if it was a flip comment, which it was – ‘you’re going to be in jail’ to another presidential candidate on the debate stage in the United States of America, stunning, just stunning.”

      Dana Bash’s Wikipedia page calls her an anchorwoman for CNN.

      So what’s your problem?

      • Craw says:

        And CNN distorted the quote. Clinton said she was glad someone like Trump was not enforcing the laws, and he replied that’ because she’d be in jail. That’s subjunctive not, as presented, the future tense. The CNN quote is a form of lying.

        • Harold says:

          I am in favor of this as long as we are consistent. If Trump says Obama tapped Trump Tower then to re-interpret it to mean some vague comment about surveilance is a form of lying If Spicer says Hitler did not use chemical weapons then to say he meant on the battlefield is a form of lying. If trump say “you would be in jail” to re-interpret that as “youre going to be in jail” is a form of lying. Let us be consistent and dispense wiith charitable interpretations of what someone might have meant and hold them to account over what they actually said.

          • Craw says:

            Why don’t we just be accurate? The rest of us I mean.

          • Tel says:

            Rice admitted to actual surveillance not some vague comment. Real collection of private communication.

            That seems pretty simple, direct and accurate as far as I can see.

            • Tel says:


              Admittedly right wing site, but the “Progressives” are working their usual trick of putting waggons in a circle, refusing the slightest criticism of our great lord Obama or his buddies.

            • Craw says:

              Oh I know YOU try to be accurate. We’re talkin’ Harold here.

            • Harold says:

              Tel, what you are describing is not Obama tapping Trump’s phone. This is the new era of accuracy. If CNN are to be accused of lying for using the future tense rather than the subjunctive, then Trump must be held to the same standards. He called Obama bad and sick for tapping his phone, which never happened.

              It is not about refusing to accept any criticism of Obama, it is about correcting a blatant lie by the current president. Obama did not tap Trump’s phone, it was a lie. The article you point to confirms this:
              “The communications of these individuals were apparently collected incidentally during the course of electronic monitoring of communications involving foreign officials of interest.”

              There you have it – it was not tapping of Trumps phone.

              • Craw says:

                The patented Harold two-step. Claims about surveillance broadly or wiretapping Trump Tower become claims about Trump’s phone.

                I hope you can provide the correct IMEI, Tel, or Harold has a foolproof fall-back.

              • Harold says:

                Craw, are you for real? Trump made specific claims, and that is what I am talking about.

                Tel seems to be talking about something else, which is some sort of general surveilance that Trump workers got caught up in, a separate issue from what Trump said.

                Who knows what the f*** you are talking about.

                You made a case for accuracy and using exact quotes. I am sticking by that. If CNN using the wrong tense is a form of lying then so is pretending Trump said something general about surveilance when he made specific claims about phone tapping.

                Are you following this at all?

              • Craw says:

                Harold, you prevaricate endlessly; I merely cite your latest (on this blog). And CNN did not just get the tense wrong. The subjunctive is not a tense, and it is clear you do not get, or pretend not to get so you can misrepresent, the point. If I say “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride” and CNN reports I said beggars will ride that would be a comparable case.

              • Harold says:

                Craw, Perhaps I have not been clear, or perhaps you detected sarcasm where there was none. I am agreeing with your point that CNN should be accurate. Whether the subjunctive is a mood or a tense does not matter so much here as I agree with your point that an inaccurate rendering changes the meaning. so there is no need for you and I to split hairs. The CNN quote was wrong and you are correct to point that out.

                All I am asking for is the same consideration for other statements, such as Trump’s over phone tapping. I fail to see why you think this is prevaricating. It is inconsistent to criticize CNN for slight mis-representations and then justify other statements by assuming the speaker or writer actually meant something other than what they said.

                Let us be consistent and stick to what they actually said.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      Cillizza wrote the analysis in your first link and Dana Bash was the offender in the second link. Surely there’s departmental disagreement at FMI on different claims, right?

    • Stephen Dedalus says:

      @Harold: “Spicer made the even greater error of forgetting the holocaust”

      Harold, Spicer did not “forget the Holocaust.” Hitler gassed millions, but what he was using does not fall under any ordinary definition of “chemical weapons”:

      “A chemical weapon (CW) is a specialized munition that uses chemicals formulated to inflict death or harm on humans.” (Wikipedia)

      Hitler used chemicals, but no *munitions* were involved. If Major Freedom one day kills Bob by putting arsenic in his beer, that’s murder, and done with a chemical, but no *chemical weapons* were involved.

      • Harold says:

        See above. it does come under he definition of chemical weapons. munitions and devices.

        • Craw says:

          Had he said “on the battlefield”, which is what the he meant, there would be no discussion or hyper ventilation. Harold implies Spicer is despicable for failing to clarify adequately the thought in his head. This is a game of gotcha to him.

          • Harold says:

            Craw, we do not know what was in Spicer’s head. What he said was factually wrong, but that is not really the main point. Had he said “Hitler did not use chemical weapons on the battlefield” there would still have been a massive reaction. Whenever Hitler is used as a comparitor there is dicsussion.

            By using Hitler he was implying that Assad is worse than Hitler. Given that Hitler caused the mass murder of millions using chemicals this conclusion does not stand scrutiny. So even if he had been correct technically and the gas chambers were not chemical weapons, his argument fails on the “worse than” comparison. it would be a stupid comparison to make. As it is we do not even have to go there because he was wrong technically as well.

            As I said, if you are going to raise a direct comparison to Hitler you must be very careful and at the very least get you facts right. Spicer was not and did not. I did not mean to imply that Spicer was dispicable, and I don’t think anything I said implied that. I think he was foolish to raise the point in the frst place and doubly so to try to defend it.

            This is not a game of Gotcha. Even if Spicer had been technically correct he would still be stupid to make this comparison. The Gotcha comes from his defenders, who try to justify his remarks with technical correctness. When even that fails they resort to attacking reaonable people as worrying about technicalities.

            No, it is Spicers defenders who are trying to play “gotcha” and failing evem on those terms.

  3. Harold says:

    The airline story is interesting. It demonstrates among other things, that economically inefficient practices can persist for long periods even in the presence of competition.

    • guest says:

      “It demonstrates among other things, that economically inefficient practices can persist for long periods even in the presence of competition.”

      That makes no logical sense.

      The point of all actions is profit. Therefore, people will not voluntarily choose to continue to take losses.

      What you’re looking for, then, is protective coercion for the benefit of the airlines, such as government-protected airline unions which limit the extent to which airlines can compete based on prices, and regulations that restrict the supply of airlines/airline services.

      • guest says:

        The Specter of Airline Re-Regulation by Murray Rothbard
        in Making Economic Sense

        “… there are no privately-owned and operated commercial airports in this country; all such airports are owned by municipal governments [except the worst run, Dulles and National, owned and run by the federal government]. Government runs airports in the same way it runs everything else—badly. Specifically, there is no incentive for government to price its services rationally. In consequence, government airports price their major service, runways for landing and takeoff, way below the market price. The result is overcrowding, shortages of runway space at prime time, and a rationing policy by the airports to provide a first-come first-served policy which virtually insures circling and aggravating delays.

        The Mises Library says this about Making Economic Sense:

        “It is in this book that you find his running commentary on all the economic issues that vexed the world between 1982 and 1995.”

      • guest says:

        The Rothbard Reader
        Chapter 1: Murray Rothbard

        “Rothbard: For example, the Civil Aeronautics Board, which regulates the airline industry, was created because of lobbying pressure from the big airlines: Pan Am, United, and others. It was created in order to raise the rates, not to benefit the consumer. And that is how the CAB has functioned. It creates monopolies, restricts airline service on various key routes, and keeps rates up. The result has been the inefficiency and the high costs that the consumer has had to live with. The CAB put out of business quite a few small airlines that were operating very efficiently and very safely but that were undercutting the rates of the big airlines. The CAB just stopped issuing them “certificates of convenience and necessity,” I think they’re called. That’s just one example of the sort of thing the government does on the federal, state, and local levels.”

      • Harold says:

        Guest – fair point, it does not demonstrate the persistence in an unregulated environment. However, no airline even attempted to adopt it, when to do so would have increased efficiency. It took the regulator to push them into it when Khan became head of the CAB.

        It may be that without the CAB limiting access to the licenses the idea would have been adopted earlier. However, there was still competition, although more limited that would be the case in the absence of the regulation, and uneconomic practices still persisted.

        • guest says:

          “However, no airline even attempted to adopt it, when to do so would have increased efficiency.”

          That depends on what you mean by economic efficiency.

          Economic efficiency is not, primarily, or even, necessarily, egalitarian in nature, but rather self-interest seeking.

          All economic decisions are made this way, and there’s nothing sinister about it.

          So, if the government is protecting you, you may not need to concern yourself with how efficient you run your company in the eyes of your customers, so long as they are willing to pay – which reveals that your customers at least consider paying for “subpar” service more valuable than not paying.

          Valuations being subjective, the fact that people voluntarily choose to risk paying for crappy service is really all a business need concern itself with.

          Also, it could well be that, given prior egalitarian government policies that coercively prohibit some of a company’s attempts at profit, it becomes economically advantageous to attempt to capture and then write the rules for their own benefit – just so they can stay in business rather than be, themselves, regulated out of business.

          • Harold says:

            If the regulation resulted in pure monopolies, then the airlines would charge the maximum they could out of self interest. If this monopoly reduced its costs it would make more profit, since it would have no need to reduce price. The airlines were offered a simple way to reduce costs and increase profits, yet they did not take it. Why was this?

            If the regulation did not result in monopolies, we get competition, and still no airline took the opportunity to reduce its costs and so lower price and increase profits.

            Whichever way you look at it, there was no good reason to ignore this opportunity if everyone is a profit maximiser. That is what I mean by inefficient.

            The point about the regulation and monopoly to me seems to be that monopolies will not be very good profit maximisers, since they do not have to be. They make more than normal profits whilst remaining inefficient – that is they make less profit than they could.

            As I see it, in the presence of perfect competition, these inefficiencies would be removed as some new upstart company would try out the new ideas.

        • guest says:

          This may also be helpful:

          The Political Economy of Moral Hazard

          “Thus the essential feature of moral hazard is that it incites some people A to expropriate other people B. The B-people in turn, if they realize the presence of such a moral hazard, have an incentive to react against this possible expropriation. They make other choices than those that they would consider to be best if there were no moral hazard.

          Many economists have therefore concluded that moral hazard entails market failures; it brings about a different allocation of resources than the one that would exist in the absence of moral hazard. Conventional economic theory explains moral hazard as a consequence of the fact that market participants are unequally well informed about economic reality. In other words, moral hazard results from “asymmetries of information” and the theory of moral hazard is therefore considered to be a part of the economics of information.

          “In the present paper we will criticize this conventional approach and propose an alternative. We will argue that information asymmetries are just one among several causes of moral hazard. Most importantly, they entail disequilibria and the expropriation of third parties only accidentally and ephemerally, because these third parties can avoid them by better judgment (by anticipation). By contrast, moral hazard also results from government interventionism; and in this case it creates disequilibria and expropriation of a sort that cannot be avoided, not even in the absence of informational asymmetries.

      • Stephen Dedalus says:

        guest, if everyone in an industry is economically inefficient, being so entails no losses.

        “Therefore, people will not voluntarily choose to continue to take losses.”

        Wow, so loss is actually IMPOSSIBLE, because it’s illogical! All those businesses who went bust over the centuries were tricking us!

        • Harold says:

          Stephen. I agree with your point here. People will volantarily choose to take losses, or less than maximum profit, as long as they are making at least normal profit. There is no need for them to do otherwise. We can not assume that everyone is pefectly wise and that they know the way to maximum profit.

          If we have perfect competiton, then there will be someone who will spot the failings in the existing players, and exploit the opportunity. Thus with perfect competiton, profits will be maximised, but in the absence of perfect competition, they will not, even if everyone s a self interested profit maximiser.

          Perfect competition can not exist in the world.

  4. Kevin says:

    Did anyone else notice that the linked article by Julian Simon was not all there?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I had someone on Twitter say that too, but it’s all there for me?

      • Craw says:

        That paper has been re-accommodated.

  5. Silas Barta says:

    That Simon story kinda irritates me. In the reddit discussions, tons and tons of people kept suggesting that very solution (raise the offer until you find a voluntary taker), despite never having taken economics, and yet the airlines didn’t even think of it, let alone implement it, for years after someone pointed it out?

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