Monday, August 25, 2008

Don't wast time on BS

and, particularly, don't waste police resources on things you'll never get control of. That's a major message of mine and Art Carden reinforces my point in Sex, Violence, and the Culture War:
Stewardship demands that we use our resources wisely. This extends to the moral and political sphere as well as to personal finance. The relationship between pornography and crime illustrates the fact that in an imperfect world with limited resources — and, therefore, tradeoffs — seemingly black-and-white moral issues are more complex than they first appear. These studies suggest that legislative battles against pornography are likely to be counterproductive.

That's the last paragraph. I encourage you to read the rest. The important point is that it looks like the availability of internet porn reduces the number of rapes significantly. Keep the pervs at home, eh?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Is that ad for The Cult of the Presidency

still on my sidebar? That's a book I want to get and read. Not that I don't already have hundreds of books that I bought and really want to read.

Here's the link, in case the ad goes away. Actually, I should give you this link to the Reason review.

Right now, I'm reading Government Failure: a Primer in Public Choice, by Tullock, Seldon and Brady, and The New Nation: A History of the United States During the Confederation 1781-1789, by Merrill Jensen.

I don't know that I'll learn anything new from Government Failure, it's what I've mostly been writing about - at least it's what I've meant to be writing about - for the last five [Five?! Holy Cow!] years. But it's great to see it laid out systematically.

I learn something new on almost every page of The New Nation. But I think I'll try to curb my enthusiasm until I finish it. Maybe I'll actually takes notes and write a real review, rather than just posting a few exerpts that surprised or thrilled me and then losing the book in the pile, like I usually do.

Here, I just got this over at Amazon; I think I'll put it here. I can't think of where else to put it without screwing up my template. Or annoying my family.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hey! Austrian Economics in a nutshell!

From the introduction to Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy: The God That Failed:
Human action is an actor's purposeful pursuit of valued ends with scarce means. No one can purposefully not act. Every action is aimed at improving the actor's subjective well-being above what it otherwise would have been. A larger quantity of a good is valued more highly than a smaller quantity of the same good. Satisfaction earlier is preferred over satisfaction later. Production must proceed consumption. What is consumed now cannot be consumed again in the future. If the price of a good is lowered, either the same quantity or more will be bought than otherwise. Prices fixed below market clearing prices will lead to lasting shortages. Without private property in factors of production there can be no factor prices, and without factor prices cost-accounting is impossible. Taxes are an imposition on producers and/or wealth owners and reduce production and/or wealth below what it otherwise would have been. Interpersonal conflict is possible only if and insofar as things are scarce. No thing or part of a thing can be owned exclusively by more than one person at a time. Democracy (majority rule) is incompatible with private property (individual ownership and rule). No form of taxation can be uniform (equal), but every taxation involves the creation of two distinct and unequal classes of tax-payers vs. tax-receiver-consumers. Property and property titles are distinct entities, and an increase of the latter without a corresponding increase of the former does not raise social wealth but leads to a redistribution of existing wealth.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident," to abuse Mr. Jefferson's phrase.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Well! Someone has expressed an interest in my opinion!

There's something that doesn't happen every day. And it's not even my birthday anymore.

BTW, I resent the crack about the wacko in the basement. Who do you think you're talking to, sir? Of course, I don't claim to be a political party (although I am, apparently, the only bourgeois philistine in Minnesota).

Comments on Modern Whiggism, as I'm reading their website:
The block grant idea would be an improvement over what we're doing now. Of course, it would be better yet if the central government weren't the distributor of our taxes.

The Iraq and Afghanistan points are two steps in the right direction. I wouldn't bitch much if we did just that.

I think you'll discover the true meaning of "Government Failure" if you enact the policies in "Environmental Protection and National Security." Somebody will have to make judgments, and it won't be me or you. If it were me, I suspect you'd be sounding like an AFSCME member during the '80s.

Immigration: ah, it's another step in the right direction. But only assuming you accept the status quo. I like Ron Paul, but I thought his position on this was excessively statist.

China, Foreign Aid and the WTO: Tax breaks and deregulation in this country, re-establishing America as The Land of Opportunity are all we need. I can see tough inspections of foreign goods entering the country as well. Apply that to the people, too.

Israel: Agreed, though I haven't heard much to justify those settlement blocks.

Religion: Christmas and other religious displays on public property should be handled like any other demonstration. I think I'm agreeing with you here.

Gay Rights: damn right.

Health Care: freedom is the answer; not more mandates. But, like you, I question why birth control is excluded from drug coverage. I want to hear that excuse.

Abortion: I'll go for that.

Affirmative Action: yeah, that'd be better than the status quo.

Science and Technology: Damn! Amen, buddy!

On the matters where you advocate Federalism: I don't respect the states that much; St. Paul is every bit as much of a thorn in my side as Washington. Let's talk about bringing the authority down to the county level. Of course, in the end, I want it at the individual level.

OK, now I have to read somebody a story. You probably didn't notice that I had to stop and read to the littler girl once already.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


There is now, therefore, no new thing under the sun.

At least, not me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mr. Richman says...

A couple things, actually, though they're all tending to the same effect (hm, I thought I was quoting The Declaration, but I guess not)... Anyway, he has some gloomy news for us in two articles.

From "Was the Constitution Really Meant to Constrain the Government?"
A shortcut favored by most advocates of limited government is "restoration" of the Constitution. "If only we could get back to the Constitution as it was written," people say. It's a sincere wish, but as a path to a free society, it's riddled with potholes. Not that I don't want the Constitution interpreted in the most restrictive way in order to prevent violations of liberty. Of course I do. The problem is how we can get there from here. Many advocates of liberty have thought they just had to appeal to the “original meaning” of the Constitution and things would more or less take care of themselves. But if that were so, why are we in the mess we're in now? I presume that earlier generations interpreted the Constitution in a way more to the liking of today's constitutionalists. What happened? Since that time, the Constitution has never been suspended; the government wasn't replaced by a non-constitutional regime. The formal Constitution has been in force continuously since 1789. Everything that happened was justified constitutionally.

And from The Constitution or Liberty:
It is important to separate two issues: what the Constitution appears to say and how we evaluate it. We must resist the temptation to let our political-moral views warp our reading of the document. The ultimate political value for libertarians is not the Constitution but liberty-and-justice. If the former fails to support the latter, we must not hesitate to say so. We gain nothing for the cause by supporting it with arguments that are easily knocked down.

If the foundation of our case for liberty is nothing more than the Constitution -- rather than natural-law justice -- we will continue to be trumped by our opponents. After all, the Constitution was in effect all during the time the national government expanded and liberty shrank. As Lysander Spooner wrote, the Constitution "has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it." Liberty's champions have to come to terms with that logic.

But, back to the more recent article:
My message is not one of despair. But we will not cause the freedom philosophy to prevail merely by invoking a political document written by men who thought the main problem with America was too little, not too much, government. Rather, we must cut to the chase and convince people directly that our concepts of freedom and justice best accord with logic -- and their own deepest moral sense.

And don't ignore the
To be continued.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Siegfried is Armenius!

I wrote a paper on the Nibelungenlied in my Middle High German class in college and I new a fair bit about Armenius (Hermann the German). I think it's cool as hell that the philologists have brought these two together.

Oh! The link!

Hey, guys! I bet you can't wait to sink your teeth

into this: the world's oldest edible ham!

I was just browsing around the Roadside America website and ran across that.

Friday, August 08, 2008

© Al Erkkila 2008

I just found out you can type those things just by holding down your Alt key and typing in numbers.

Š ¨

I guess I gotta track down my ANSI character codes.


No, that's not it...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How the pros do it:

One illustration of the difficulty of prediction is to look at the job analysts have done in predicting the earnings of companies they are paid to follow and study. Investment expert David Dreman studied analyst forecasts in collaboration with Michael Berry of James Madison University.3 The study was subsequently updated to include data to 1996. They took analysts’ quarterly forecasts and compared them to the actual quarterly earnings for the period 1973 through 1996. The forecasts included 94,251 consensus forecasts (each consensus forecast included at least four separate analyst predictions resulting in over 500,000 individual predictions).

The analysts were able to speak with management to help guide them in their own forecasts. They were also able to change their forecasts within three months of quarter-end. These analysts are highly compensated and often educated at the nation’s top schools; their compensation is often tied to their ability to predict.

Despite all these advantages, the study found the average error rate was 44 percent. The error rates also seemed to grow larger over time. Thus despite advances in communications and technology, error rates in the last eight years of the study (from 1996) averaged 50 percent, with two of those years having error rates of 57 and 65 percent.

Dreman eliminated all earnings estimates less than ten cents per share to prevent large percentage errors from distorting the study. (The difference between 3 cents and 4 cents is a whopping 33 percent.) Even after this conservative adjustment, the error rates still averaged 23 percent. This means that, on average, if the consensus forecast called for a dollar in quarterly earnings, the analysts were off by an average of 23 cents. Dreman and Berry further broke down the data and found that the error rates were indistinguishable by industry type. Mature or budding industry, analysts were often wrong by wide margins.

It is astounding that they were so wrong so often.

Then they go on to wonder how things are going at the Fed.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Quote of the week (probably)

Economists and Scarcity, by Steven Horwitz
In the short run, exchange—whether a trade between two people or an act of production that trades inputs for outputs—makes people better off. This results not by creating more physical stuff but by rearranging what exists to make it more valuable to human beings. While we each think we’re better off when we make an exchange, mutual benefit does not require a denial of scarcity; rather, exchange is one more way we push back against it.

This mutual benefit reinforces the point that value is a product of human minds, not of the objective physical world. In fact, we cannot even understand the concept “resource” without recognizing this point. For most of human history oil was a nuisance. People didn’t want land with oil on it because it polluted the soil. However, once human minds realized that it could be converted to energy, it became a resource, and as we begin to create substitutes for it, as with copper wire, it will become less of a resource. From an economic perspective, what makes something a resource and what determines its scarcity is the interplay between its physical quantity and the human mind’s perception that it can satisfy human wants.

In the longer run, the benefits of exchange, when combined with the institutions of the market, create the wealth that people can save in order to finance the investments that will lead to better and cheaper products for exchange. Real, tangible economic growth happens—not just for the wealthy, but for all. Again, we stretch the resources we do have even farther.

Theory aside, it would also be hard to deny that several centuries of more or less free markets have produced a tremendous rise in the living standards of the poorest people in the West. The same is beginning to happen elsewhere. To argue that the wealth of the wealthy is the cause of the poverty of the poor (the “some win at the expense of others” argument) flies in the face of historical facts.

Poverty and early death have been the norm throughout history. The power of private property, free exchange, and markets to change that norm has been the single most progressive force in human history. Scarcity is all too real and causes all too much human suffering, which is why we need genuine market institutions to continue to reduce its effects, especially on those who suffer most.

You see, we do care. Our way, the system of natural liberty, works. Those others don't.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I agree with the New Zealanders

about Eve Mendez' ad.

As a marketing student, though, I have to ask, does that ad sell what Calvin Klein want to sell? It just makes me want to buy Eva Mendez.

Think I should write something?

I'm aghast at the Favre situation. Solzhenytzin died yesterday, and we went to the Deer River Rendezvous last weekend. Didn't have enough spare cash to "really" have fun, but we camped, we explored, we shopped, we told stories around the fire.

I borrowed 10 bucks from a guy to buy a throwing knife. ["I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a deadly weapon today."] Just when I was starting to get the hang of it, I bent the blade. I'm going to have to try out my new anvil.

Hey, Robert Ringer says the economy's about to go to s**t, so we should vote in the socialists so they can take the rap. I'll tell ya something, though: they might manage to mitigate the disaster by cutting our military spending. Of course, they'll keep asking the military to save the world, just without using money. And it'll be under the aegis of the UN.

Vote for Barr.