29 Jan 2018


Krugman, Potpourri 1 Comment

==> The latest Contra Krugman, in which Tom complains about a bunch of presidents. Guy is a serious whiner.

==> Jeff Deist takes a swing at the Nobel laureate too.

==> Scott Horton has trained his young apprentice well.

==> I haven’t listened yet, but David Gornoski got Jordan Peterson to sit down for an hour+ interview.

==> NSA oops!

==> My thoughts on the Trump Admin’s solar tariffs.

28 Jan 2018

More on My Proposed Solution to the Mind-Body Problem

Philosophy, Religious 12 Comments

My girlfriend sent me this interesting link that she was assigned in one of her classes. It reminded me of my earlier Free Advice posts in which I propose a solution to the mind-body problem. Here’s the short version (but follow the link to get the fuller context):

==> To (finally) recapitulate my own solution to these vexing problems: Imagine that a filmmaker could perfectly anticipate where everyone in the movie theater would look, for 2 hours straight. He makes a film accordingly. The people then go sit in the theater, and they soon realize as they’re watching the screen, that each person apparently has a little colored dot assigned just to him/her. That is, each person is looking at the screen, and sees a dot (or the person’s name spelled out, if you prefer) and–no matter how the person moves his/her eyes–that dot (or letters spelling the name) moves around perfectly in response. After just a few moments of this, the people in the theater would be certain that there was some kind of advanced technology, whereby sensors in the theater tracked their eye movements, and then in response moved the images on the screen. But nope, there is no such interaction at all; the dots (or letters) on the screen are just light that is being shot out of the projector in the back of the theater, using the same processes as the Disney move in the next theater. The crucial difference is (to repeat), the filmmaker on this particular film somehow knew exactly what everybody would choose to do, beforehand.

==> If you get my analogy, then you can see why I think an intelligent Creator can solve the mind/body problem. You have a soul with free will. You perceive the unfolding universe through the perspective of your physical body, and you appear to have (limited) control over what happens in the physical universe. However, if we focus on any portion of the physical universe, it doesn’t seem to be controlled by your intangible soul at all; that doesn’t even make sense. We can “explain” everything perfectly well without invoking a soul at all, except we’re left with this gaping hole of why the heck are we conscious and does it sure SEEM like we’re controlling things with our minds?!(My answer is that God created our souls and the physical universe such that there was a symmetry between them, where our truly free choices dovetailed perfectly with the mindless operation of the laws of physics in the material universe.) Yet we just ignore that question as “unscientific,” and don’t really worry about it because it’s so commonplace–just like new, human minds coming into existence and being based inside of organic creatures that shoot out of mother’s wombs every day.

So in discussing the above, I came up with two new things, one a plus and the other a minus.

On the plus side, my proposal handles “out of body” experiences quite easily. In contrast, the strict materialists have to just assume that the numerous accounts are all mistaken. (And incidentally, there are documented cases where the guy who dies on the operating table later reports hovering above his body and seeing things that occurred after he was clinically dead. This isn’t just a bunch of people talking about seeing a light and grandma beckoning.)

On the negative side, I need to flesh out a lot more how the soul experiences sensations that seem to be anchored in the material world. After all, it’s not just watching a movie, it’s smelling, feeling pain, etc. I guess I could just extend the analogy to all of the senses. Does the phantom limb phenomenon help my case or hurt it?

24 Jan 2018

ICE Removals Under Trump vs. Obama

Immigration, Trump 8 Comments

[UPDATED with more info about interior removals under Obama.]

I kept hearing conflicting statistics, but thanks to a commenter at Scott Sumner’s blog, I found the relevant reports to sort it all out.

So if you want to make it seem like Trump is deporting way more people than Obama–and both Trump’s fans and critics might want to do so–you can produce a chart like this:

So the above figure is looking at ICE activity from the day Trump was inaugurated, to the end of fiscal year 2017. Then it compares to the same time period, a year earlier. And yep, that’s a big surge. It either proves Trump is a heartless monster (if you’re a critic) or it proves he’s enforcing his campaign promises (if you’re a fan).

However, you may also have heard people throwing around stats suggesting that immigration removals are way down under Trump. If you want to make that case, you can grab Figure 1 from this 2015 report, and compare it to Figure 14 from the 2017 report. And look what you find:


Notice FY 2015 appears in both, and it’s the same exact number, so you know this is apples to apples. As you can see, when we look not just at “interior” ICE removals, but also include border removals, then in the first year of the Trump Administration, total ICE removals were about 45% lower than they were at the peak year under Obama.

I’m not drawing any conclusions from all of this, just trying to clarify what’s going on.

UPDATE: Whoa! I missed this on my first pass. Look at this:

So, under Trump, ICE had 61,094 “interior” removals (that’s taken from the first chart I posted above). But in FY2009, the first fiscal year under Obama, ICE has 237,941 interior removals. And that’s not some holdover from the Bush years. Three years later, the figure was 180,970.

For people freaking out about the number of people inside the US whom ICE has deported under Trump, it looks like the analogous figure for Obama was typically three to four times higher.

24 Jan 2018

Contra Krugman Ep. 122: The Varieties of Keynesianism

Contra Krugman 2 Comments

Our latest is super geeky.

23 Jan 2018


Potpourri 11 Comments

==> The priority deadline is soon approaching if you want to apply for a PhD fellowship to work with us at the Free Market Institute (at Texas Tech). Details here.

==> I offer a useful suggestion to Bryan Caplan and Robin Hanson.

==> I may have already blogged this but: Not all GDP is created equal.

==> Dan Sanchez joins the backlash against the backlash (sic) against Jordan Peterson.

==> Speaking of which, here’s the interview that’s gotten some 3 millions views by this point. I actually don’t think this interviewer was as bad as Peterson’s fans had led me to believe.

22 Jan 2018

Pat and Bob Murphy Perform Krugman Parody on the Contra Cruise

Krugman 1 Comment

In case it’s not clear, there’s a surprise that occurs while my dad is singing…

18 Jan 2018

What the fork?! Bitcoin vs. Bitcoin Cash

Bitcoin 8 Comments

I throw caution to the wind and wade into the debate, with neutrality that would impress the Swiss.

18 Jan 2018

I Push Back Against the Anti-Mercantilists

Don Boudreaux, Economics, Trade 8 Comments

Don’t worry kids, I’m not angling for a spot in the Trump Administration. But lately I’ve been uncomfortable with some of the standard rhetoric “my side” puts out, regarding free trade and in particular in their critiques of mercantilism.

From p. 279 of Larry White’s (excellent) book The Clash of Economic Ideas, we have this quote from Nassau Senior:

“that extraordinary monument of human absurdity, the Mercantile Theory–or, in other words, the opinion that wealth consists of gold and silver, and may be indefinitely increased by forcing their importation, and preventing their exportation: a theory which has occasioned, and still occasions, more vice, misery, and war, than all other errors put together.”

Now to be sure, I am 100% opposed to mercantilist policies. However, I think sometimes free traders take things too far. It’s NOT a fallacy to think that your nation is richer, OTHER THINGS EQUAL, the more gold and silver it has.

Or at least, it’s no more a fallacy to think that of your nation, that it is to think that of a business or household. And surely not even Nassau Senior (or Don Boudreaux in our time) would tell a business owner, “You’re committing a fallacy if you think your checking account balance is a form of wealth.”

So I think the real problem with mercantilism was not that they thought gold and silver were forms of national wealth, but rather that they may have believed they were the only forms of national wealth, and that they consequently used coercion to artificially accumulate gold and silver at the expense of other desirable outcomes, thus making the nation poorer.

If you doubt me, just keep going back to an individual business. It would be stupid for an outsider to say to the owner, “Hey, I’m gonna help you get richer by punching you in the face every time you try to spend money.” But when you try to explain why it’s stupid, it’s not that you would say, “Because if you just have more money, prices go up; you’re not really any richer.”

Remember your Adam Smith: “What is prudence in the conduct of every private family, can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.” And every family would agree that the household is definitely richer, other things equal, if it has more gold coins. There’s no fallacy involved.