Friday, June 27, 2008



I'd keep it.

From the Patriot 2nd Amendment Petition

Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Supreme Court by our Constitution's principal author, James Madison, wrote in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833), "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of the republic; since it offers a strong moral check against usurpation and arbitrary power of the rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."

You can sign that petition yourself via this page.

That Steve Burri guy had some time on his hands

last Saturday and wrote something funny.

Just thought you should know. He'll be "movin' on up" now that he's hit the big-time.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

" is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct."

US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: DC v Heller, 2008.

The dissent was ludicrous.

If I were a single-issue voter this is the issue I'd single out. And it'd make me vote for McCain.

Update: Taranto, linked above (now) on the word ludicrous, gives the link to the court's decision.

They've proven again that sex sells.

To men, anyway. I don't want to rehash everything I've just read, but Kevin Hogan just told me about a new study to that effect. Here's a pretty in depth recap. They've got a link to the study there.

Kevin talks more about the selling side but, if you don't get there real quick, that article will be gone.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

For anybody moronic enough to agree with Michael Savage

His argument (actually, he said more on his radio show) was blown out of the water eighteen years ago in this FEE reprise of a defense of futures markets:
Ask most Americans what futures traders do, and they’ll tell you that futures traders are adult men and women who make vast fortunes by standing in a circle, gesticulating wildly, and shouting at each other. In the minds of many Americans, futures traders resemble frenzied gamblers on a casino floor or participants in a contact sport whose rules are particularly demented. Should such people, many Americans wonder, be allowed to play a role in the shaping of the American economy? Indeed, should such people be allowed to roam the streets freely?

Even among those who are not swayed by this image of futures traders, there has been considerable antipathy towards futures markets. This antipathy is founded on the belief, common among many intellectuals, that futures markets play no significant economic role and have no socially redeeming value; instead, they exist simply so that greedy people can make fortunes at the expense of farmers, small investors, consumers, and other “little people.”
Should we, then, “do something” about American futures markets? Would greater government regulation be advisable? Indeed, should futures trading be banned altogether? In what follows, I would like to defend futures markets as an economic institution and inquire into the proper role that the government should play with respect to these markets. There is, I think, a role for the government in futures markets, but I think this role stops far short of the kind of heavy-handed regulation that many have called for.
To begin with, a futures contract, as its name implies, is a contract between individuals. Whereas many contracts (e.g., a bill of sale for a car) specify an immediate exchange of goods, a futures contract specifies an exchange of goods at some future date.

Although individuals can draw up “custom made” futures contracts between themselves, there are advantages to using the standardized contracts traded on futures exchanges like the Chicago Board of Trade or the Comex in New York. For one thing, at organized exchanges it is much easier to find someone with whom to enter into a contract; and if one later decides to “back out of’ the contract, it is much easier to find someone willing to assume the contract in question.

By buying a futures contract, one becomes obligated to take delivery of a certain amount of a certain commodity for a certain price on a certain date. The commodity in question can be something mundane like orange juice or pork bellies (from which bacon is made), or it can be something exotic like palladium, or something intangible like a “basket” of common stocks. In parallel fashion, by selling a futures contract, one becomes obligated to deliver a certain amount of a Certain commodity for a certain price on a certain date.
Futures contracts, then, can be seen as a form of insurance, but instead of insuring people against loss of or damage to a physical asset like a house or a car or a crop of wheat, futures contracts “insure” producers and consumers of a certain commodity against price changes in the commodity in question. In other words, futures contracts function to shift the risk of price changes from the producers and consumers of a commodity to speculators, who are willing to assume the risk in question in return for the chance to profit from doing so.

[I fixed a couple odd typos in the last paragraph - hope nobody minds. If anybody can figure out how the meaning might have changed... well, let me know.]
You'll have to go to his article to read about the types of "sober people" who buy futures contracts - it's important evidence for the defense of futures in general, but I want to get to the hard cases.
It is true that the parties to a contract may be mistaken about what is in their best interests. However, a case can be made that people generally have a far better idea of what is in their own interests than politicians do. Indeed, someone sophisticated and affluent enough to trade futures is generally someone who has demonstrated his competence in handling practical affairs; not every politician or government regulator can say as much. This suggests that we should leave it:to people to decide what contracts they should enter into—and this in turn means leaving it to the futures exchanges to set the rules for trading contracts and to determine the standardized form contracts should take.

What if people don’t like the contracts or trading rules offered by a futures exchange? What if they think the rules or contracts are unfair? Then they won’t trade on the exchange in question; they will instead trade on other exchanges (whose rules or contracts they like better) or they won’t trade at all. Notice, however, that it is in the interests of futures exchanges to offer the public the contracts and trading rules that they desire; for the only way that members of an exchange can make a living is if people are willing to do business at their exchange. When thinking about this issue, we should also keep in mind that in America there exist several different futures exchanges competing for the business of futures traders.
Most people agree that one proper role of government is to act as the enforcer of contracts into which individuals have entered. If you make a contract with someone and he fails to live up to his end of the deal, you can seek compensation in a court of law. Thus, if a futures exchange does not live up to its own rules—and fails to compensate those who are thereby harmed—the courts should enter the picture.
Some will complain that in making the above remarks I ignore the fact that events on futures exchanges can harm the economy in general (say, by causing stock-market crashes) and thus can affect Americans everywhere. Since the events that take place on exchanges can harm “innocent bystanders,” they will maintain that the government is playing an appropriate role when it tells exchanges how to conduct their business.

In reply to this criticism, two comments are in order. First, it is far from clear that events on futures exchanges can cause stock market crashes. This, at any rate, is an issue on which economists are divided. Second, even if events on futures exchanges could cause stock market crashes, it is far from obvious that stock market crashes harm the economy in general.

Along these lines, Nobel laureate Milton Friedman has argued that stock market crashes need not destabilize the economy. Those who are skeptical of this claim should recall the events of 1987: America witnessed a particularly severe stock market crash, but it had little effect on the economy. Not only didn’t we have a depression, we didn’t even have a recession.

Other economists have argued that financial crashes, although painful in the short term, can be beneficial to an economy in the long term. After all, these crashes, by wiping out marginal (and presumably inefficient) enterprises, keep the economy in fighting trim. By way of analogy, a herd of reindeer will, in the long run, be far healthier if there exist packs of wolves who pick off diseased and deformed reindeer, whose presence would otherwise jeopardize the overall health of the herd. It is true that stock market crashes have their victims, but a case can be made that society as a whole (and in the long run) is better off with these victims than it would be if it tried to create an economy in which marginal businesses were protected from destructive economic forces.

So it's not dog-eat-dog at all, but wolf-eat-sick-caribou. "Reindeer," excuse me. Not an unnatural, but rather a natural situation.

Ah, crud! He doesn't tackle the hard question. Well, that's what I get for trusting a philosopher to deal with economics.

Come on, man! The question is, don't speculators artificially bid up prices - gas prices, in particular these days - to slake their own greed?

Looks like I'm going to have to turn to my buddy Walter Block. [All right, I never met the guy.] After eat my lunch.

OK, I'm back. Block actually talks, in his chapter on speculators, about food hoarders, but they're closely parallel. His last two paragraphs:
The effect of the speculator on food prices is to level them off. In times of plenty, when food prices are low, the speculator by buying up and storing food causes them to rise. In times of famine, when food prices are high, the speculator sells off and causes prices to fall. The effect on him is to earn profits. This is not villainous; on the contrary, the speculator performs a valuable service.

Yet instead of honoring the speculator, demagogues and their followers revile him. But prohibiting speculation has the same effect on society as preventing squirrels from storing up nuts for winter--it leads to starvation.

OK, you have to admit that no futures speculator actually wants to take delivery of the product. He hopes to sell at a profit before the trucks arrive at his door. Unless he's actually a gas station owner, in the case of fuel, it can be rather costly for him to move the stuff from his place to the place where it will be used. Of course, what would really happen is that, if he couldn't find a buyer at a profitable price, he'd have to sell at a loss. Either the contract, or the actual product. At which point, he'd be looking for a new line of work.

What happens if we ban speculators? Prices are lower now because there's less competition, more gas is wasted and the crunch hits more suddenly and more severely.

What's the denouement?

Wait, I should put a link to Savages article up there. Have another. A guy (one guy) there makes the same points I'm making.

Actually, this artical in Der Spiegel (don't worry, it's in English) addresses my point more directly, from the opposite viewpoint.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I just got back from Oklahoma

Watched my niece get married. She was beautiful, as usual. Nice dress. Her husband's one of those huge kinda guys. He obviously didn't go in for the tux fitting: it looked like a tent on him.

Saw my brother and his wife. Saw most of my aunts and uncles...not sure why I didn't see them all.

Ron's fine. Not sure what he's doing for a living. I got the impression he'd retired. He's living a Ma's house. It's a big house, so...

Dang it! I forgot the brand name of that fifth wheel trailer we stayed in. Those were the most luxurious accommodations we've stayed in down there. The wife bitches about her inability to sleep; seems to me that's all she did. I didn't get to do anything I wanted because I stupidly kept waiting for her and the kids to come with me.

They've got The Five Civilized Tribes Museum there in Muskogee, and I just enjoy the heck out of it. They exhibit all these paintings and scuptures by Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles. It's right up there on the edge of the park where my niece's wedding was. Didn't see it.

I'm an enrolled member of the Creek Tribe. Kinda like to see what they're up to. (I just found out that most of my siblings aren't enrolled. Odd.) The Creeks' name for themselves is the Muscogees, so I feel pretty at home in that town.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Here's one of those cool things

I mentioned a couple posts back... Evil Twin Comics puts out more than just that Lovecraftian parody of a Jack T. Chick pamphlet; my favorite thing they produce, so far, is the Action Philosophers series.

Probligo and LibertyBob will especially appreciate the John Stuart Mill biography.

Monday, June 09, 2008

ADHD headcase that I am,

I'm reading three things at once right now:

1. and article, Vote For What You Want, which advises me not to worry about costing the "lesser of two evils" the election, because, odds are, the greater of the evils will more likely be reigned in by public opinion and/or Congress than the lesser, judging by Clinton and Bush. To wit: Clinton was the greater evil on domestic economics, and look how that turned out; Bush was the lesser evil on foreign interventionism....

So, I can go ahead and vote for Barr.

2. The discussion of The Irrelevance of the Status of Oughts, an article denying the usefulness of arguing about the ontological status of morality (what's important is which morality works best, not whether they are objective or subjective), dropped me in the middle of

3. Max Stirner's The Ego and His Own, from which I'll now proceed to do the unthinkable and quote Stirner at length:
How now, has anybody or anything, whom and which I do not love, a right to be loved by me? Is my love first, or is his right first? Parents, kinsfolk, fatherland, nation, native town, etc., finally fellowmen in general ("brothers, fraternity"), assert that they have a right to my love, and lay claim to it without further ceremony. They look upon it as their property, and upon me, if I do not respect this, as a robber who takes from them what pertains to them and is theirs. I should love. If love is a commandment and law, then I must be educated into it, cultivated up to it, and, if I trespass against it, punished. Hence people will exercise as strong a "moral influence" as possible on me to bring me to love. And there is no doubt that one can work up and seduce men to love as one can to other passions -- if you like, to hate. Hate runs through whole races merely because the ancestors of the one belonged to the Guelphs, those of the other to the Ghibellines.

But love is not a commandment, but, like each of my feelings, my property. Acquire, i.e. purchase, my property, and then I will make it over to you. A church, a nation, a fatherland, a family, etc., that does not know how to acquire my love, I need not love; and I fix the purchase price of my love quite at my pleasure.

Hard to believe I'd ever think a "young Hegelian" would express my thoughts on something better than I can, but he certainly nailed it there. But, then, Stirner has always read more like poetry than philosophy to me. And I find him easier to read than most poets, like, say, Whitman.

All right, Bob, I'll be checking that out.

This, I mean. Those are things worthy of meditation.

I was looking into Jesus Christ and Cthulhu et al today.

I really need to learn to focus.

My wife didn't find the latter funny at all and forbade me to allow my daughter to read it. I found it via this interesting character.

The Jesus guy I found quite inspirational when I heard Ian Punnett on Coast to Coast AM interviewing him [very] early this morning. [Ew! Ugly sentence alert!] I think he's got it. I "sacrificed" a lot of sleep to listen to the whole three hours, and I'll be downloading those mp3s.

No focus at all.

OTOH, here's some cool stuff. And more cool stuff.

And it looks like Hello Cthulhu has been discontinued.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Moses of the Libertarian Movement

is Henry Hazlitt. Mary Ruwart is our Apostle Paul, but she stands on Hazlitt's shoulders.

Read these articles for suggestions on how to compile our Bible. I'd especially like to draw your attention to his bio of Bastiat.

Changing the subject, Bob Barr is the LP's presidential candidate, with Wayne Allen Root as his VP. I'm ready to go balls out for them (even though Mary Ruwart is my goddess). The question is (actually, are), should I resign my post with the Republican Party? Would they notice? Would I be betraying my favorite active politician, Ron Paul?

Oh, crap. I've gotta give you a couple 'graphs of Hazlitt:
Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. The inherent difficulties of the subject would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousandfold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics, or medicine — the special pleading of selfish interests.

While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

I thought McCain-Feingold solved the problem of special interests.

Think McCain has read Bastiat?

Here's more of Hazlitt on Bastiat:
His chief method of argument was the method of exaggeration. He was the master of the reductio ad absurdum. Someone suggests that the proposed new railroad from Paris to Madrid should have a break at Bordeaux. The argument is that if goods and passengers are forced to stop at that city, it will be profitable for boatmen, porters, hotelkeepers and others there. Good, says Bastiat. But then why not break it also at AngoulĂ©me, Poitiers, Tours, Orleans, and, in fact, at all intermediate points? The more breaks there are, the greater the amount paid for storage, porters, extra cartage. We could have a railroad consisting of nothing but such gaps — a negative railroad!

Are there various other proposals to discourage efficiency, in order to create more jobs? Good, says Bastiat. Let's petition the king to forbid people from using their right hands, or maybe even have them chopped off. Then it will require more than twice as many people, and twice as many jobs, to get the same work done (assuming consumption is the same).

Mutatis mutandi, as it were.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter"

I've been a bit bugged by that saying recently, and it doesn't seem like I've seen it dealt with adequately. I can't promise I'll do it here now.

I was just imagining a bunch of people living in a tyrannical state, going on a quest to change things - maybe revolt in some way, peacefully or otherwise - they're not sure yet. They go to consult some wise, old coot who's known for living free (I imagine Sam Elliot playing the part). Anyway, somehow that saying gets tossed into the conversation. Elliot responds, thoughtfully,
"Well, now, the trouble with that saying is that you're ignoring that fact that there are two groups of people involved. And each of them is maybe made up of two groups. Let's talk about the Freedom Fighter/Terrorists first. They're the ones the sentence talks about.

"Are they fighting for a just cause? And are they using the best means at their disposal? If you really want to get deep into it, and you should if you're talking about changing your country, you need to think about what is a just cause and what are the best means? More important, you need to know what you mean by "just." I've heard some humdinger definitions of that word in my day, and the trouble with the world... the biggest troubles, not all the troubles... are the direct results of two bad ones carrying the day.

"But I don't want to forget what I started to say, and you all didn't climb up some mountain to hear some sage with his head in the clouds. So let me talk about the group that kinda goes unmentioned in that saying. They're the people doing the name-calling.

"Who are they?

"Say it's the government: is it a just government? Are they doing everything the best way? I think those questions are important. To my way of thinking, that question of justice keeps coming up.

"I keep coming up with "no, no no and no" to all the groups I've ever heard of. So I just try to be as just to everybody as I can. I try to be kind, helpful...and stay out of the way of people who don't warrant kindness and help. Defend myself if I have to.

"Out here the question doesn't come up much. I've done some fighting, but look where I am: my enemies are a long way away. And I didn't chase them off. Looks like they chase me off. But, then, most folks I deal with out here warrant kindness and help.

"So I found my place. I reckon I'd fight again if somebody tried to kick me out of here."

I don't reckon Sam got to all the answers there. Raised a few more questions, in fact. I can think of five or six more just based on what he said here. Besides "what is justice?" "what is a just cause?" you can ask "what is freedom?" "what is terrorism?" "what is tyranny?" "is there a degree of tyranny I can live with?" "who gets to decide?"...

I've seen, and believed, some pretty good answers to most of those questions. I've seen some I didn't believe. But I do believe everybody should think about them, and I don't think many people are. They're thinking about "whose fault is it that I'm in this crappy situation."

But that leads to a whole nuther train of thought.