Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mark Thornton on "Scandalous Regulators"

Scandalous Regulators

Regulation simply does not work. It is designed with hopes of success, but with no mechanism to achieve this success. We hope for efficiency, but what we get is bureaucracy. We hope for effectiveness, but what we get is rules and red tape that serves neither producer nor consumer. We hope for safety, but what we eventually get is chaos. Let us take a look at the prominent cases where regulation was supposedly lacking and examine the real cause of chaos.

The Bernie Madoff scandal involved Madoff’s tightly controlled firm taking client money and supposedly generating spectacular and consistent investment returns. However, Madoff was not really a great investor; he was running a Ponzi scheme where he used investors’ money to pay for redemptions by his clients. Most of the money apparently went into his own pockets.

First, how did he get away with this scheme for so long? It was not because he was unregulated. He was officially under the scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and probably other government regulatory agencies. Despite ever-increasing budgets and staff, and even warnings from outsiders, the SEC failed to act.

Second, how did he finally get caught? He was only caught after the stock market crashed and investors sought to redeem large amounts of their funds. He confessed to his sons that he was operating a Ponzi scheme and his sons turned him into authorities.[1]
I think those links will work.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

I just finished Paul Johnson's Socrates

Full title: Socrates:A Man for Our Time. 

Great book.  Johnson is a conservative, but I don't think that afflicts his writing here much.  He accepts more of the standard understanding (conventional wisdom) of the early Christian era than I do, but I like summary at the end:
Happy among people, Socrates did not seek to turn them into pupils, let alone students.  He was not a teacher, a don, an academic.  There was nothing professorial about him.  He had no oeuvre.  As Cicero said, "He did not write so much as a single letter."  There was no body of Socratic doctrine.  He spurned a classroom.  The streets and marketplace of Athens were his habitat.  Unlike Plato and Aristotle, he founded no Academy or Lyceum.  The University, with its masters and students, its lectures and tutorials, its degrees and libraries and publishing houses, was nothing to do with him.  He was part of the life of the city--a thinking part, to be sure, a talking and debating part, but no more separated from its throbbing, bustling activity than the fishmonger or the money changer or the cobbler, its ranting politician, its indigent poet, or its wily lawyer.  He was at home in the city, a stranger on campus.  He knew that as soon as philosophy separated itself from the life of the people, it began to lose its vitality and was heading in the wrong direction.  An academic philosophy was not an activity to which he had anything of value to contribute or in which he wished to participate.  The notion of philosophy existing only in academic isolation from the rest of the world would have horrified him and probably would have produced ribald laughter, too.  "That," one can hear him saying, "is the death of any philosophy I can recognize."
I could quote some of the last paragraph of the book - it gets better - but I'll leave some pleasures for you to discover on your own.  Read it.  Paul Johnson's a great writer, it's not a long book and the story of the man who brought philosophy down from the stars, and how he did it, is too important to our future to let go.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Libertarian Redistribution?!

I need to come back to this article: http://c4ss.org/content/12961.  I like this bit:
Transactional redistribution is just a description of what happens in a genuinely freed market. Markets undermine privilege. Without the protection afforded by monopoly privileges (including patents and copyrights), subsidies, tariffs, restrictions on union organizing, protections for long-term ownership of uncultivated property, and so forth, members of the power elite, forced to participate along with everyone else in the process of voluntary cooperation that is the freed market, will tend to lose ill-gotten gains. They will retain wealth only if they actually serve the needs of other market participants. And they will be unable to use the legal system to protect their wealth from squatters (by enabling them to maintain uncultivated land indefinitely) or to limit vigorous bargaining by workers (both because workers will be freer to organize without statist restrictions and because the absence of such restrictions will give workers options other than paid employment that will improve their negotiating positions).
While unfettered competition obviously will not create mathematical equality, it will make it much harder for vast disparities of wealth to persist than at present. The state props up the power elite, using the threat of aggression to shift wealth to the politically favored. Removing the privileges of the power elite will lead, through the operation of the market, to the widespread dispersion of wealth members of the power elite are able to retain at present in virtue of the protection they receive from the political order.
The means of transactional redistribution is the market. The direct agents are ordinary market actors, while those responsible for the elimination of statist privileges that distort the market and prop up the wealth of the power elite are the indirect agents. The rationales for transactional redistribution include thevalue of freedom and the injustice of the privileges transactional redistribution corrects.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

600# York Olympic Barbell set for $300 in Brooklyn Center, MN

I selling it.  If you live in the Northwest section of the Twin Cities area, I'll even deliver it.  Say, within 10 miles of Brooklyn Center.  Otherwise, you'll have to make the arrangements to get it.  I'm not going to pack it for shipping.

In fact, if you live in the area, I'd be willing to hire out myself and my pick-up to haul things, as long as they'll fit under my topper or on my trailer.  $50 for the first hour - $20 per half hour after that.  I'll adjust my prices later if that doesn't work out.  I should make a separate entry for that.

I also have a live trap for raccoons.  I've trapped and removed a couple from my place.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Four More Years of the Same Old S***

F*^&in' great.

Of course, I could have said the same thing if Romney had been elected.  At least we've got the "cool black guy" rather than the white-bread Ken Doll - who claims to be all about free trade - in while the economy goes down the s*&%$$# and the Military Industrial Complex marches on.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

RIP Russell Means

We've lost another hero. 

At least I got to meet and speak with Mr. Means at the LPMN Convention in 2000.  I think I bought his book, Where White Men Fear to Tread, directly from him, but I may have got it at Barnes and Noble after meeting him.

A quote from page 486:
 We believe that the U.S. Constitution can and should evolve to keep pace with the times, but what it says at any given time is inviolate.  We believe in self-defense, but we're the most peace-loving people in America.  Our country doesn't need an enormous, costly military establishment, because most of our "foes" would be friends if we stopped treating them like enemies.  The National Guard should return to its original mission-militias assembled in time of need to protect states against incursions by the federal government.  If we honored the Second Amendment, which guarantees us the right to bear arms, we the citizens would be better armed than our government.  It could never force us to do anything.

"Judge not..." is true in another way.

This thought rousted me out of bed.

Ayn Rand pointed out that a corollary of Jesus' saying, "Judge not that ye be not judged," is "Judge and prepare to be judged."  I think of this often and it occurred to me tonight that it's true psychologically as well.  Your criticism of others reveals your own weaknesses to the psychologically astute.

I offer this infinitely copiable arrow to the intellectual quivers of the masses in this election season.  It behooves us all to become psychologically astute - it's our best defense against manipulators...as well as it defends us from falling into the trap of being manipulators (which burns up our stock of good will, if you need to have the selfish, utilitarian argument spelled out).

Sunday, October 07, 2012

MTCM 2012

Well, I finished the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon today. No PR, and no real idea why not: http://www.mtecresults.com/runner/show?rid=4882&race=1146.   I was completely wasted at the end - I almost passed out - so I couldn't have done any better.  Maybe it was the layers.

I wasted some time in a port-a-potty once.  Just in case that discomfort was something serious.  Stopping out of the wind did kind of even out my hot and cold spots, so it wasn't all bad.  That stop does account for the 14+/mile  section, though.

2:12:29 for the half isn't bad.  I'll have to run a half to see how that would go when it's my goal.

I was reminded, today, why I don't wear boxer briefs for running. It was cold out - 29 degrees (F) at the start - so I thought, "Oh, these will be warm." They work like mechanical tweezers. 

That is, however, my worst discomfort.  I've got "water" on both knees, but not a major case.  The duct tape and Body Glide worked like champs.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Excellent article by Arnold Kling

In Libertarians and Group Norms,  Kling pulls out many of the biggest guns of libertarianism  to debate what we should do with/about our inherited social tendencies and institutions.  Adam Smith and F.A. Hayek take the side of dealing gently with them, while J.S. Mill and Ayn Rand argue for overthrowing them if they interfere with personal freedom.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Gaol Time

I just want to know why somebody thought this was a natural way to spell 'jail.'  It completely flies in the face of all the spelling rules.

It's an outrage.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More Spencer

See the link in previous post. This is from p. 53 (Sorry, I've been reading other things for a bit):
...[T]he objection which I have to the current utilitarianism is, that it recognizes no more developed form of morality–does not see that it has reached but the initial stage of moral science.

Doubtless if utilitarians are asked whether it can be by mere chance that this kind of action works evil and that works good, they will answer no; they will admit that such sequences are parts of a necessary order among phenomena. But though this truth is beyond question; and though if there are causal relations between acts and their results, rules of conduct can become scientific only when they are deduced from these causal relations; there continues to be entire satisfaction with that form of utilitarianism in which these causal relations are practically ignored. It is supposed that in future, as now, utility is to be determined only by observation of results; and that there is no possibility of knowing by deduction from fundamental principles, what conduct must be detrimental and what conduct must be beneficial.
Spencer says that morality can be a science if acts and their consequences are studied with regard to their benefit or harm - short-term, long-term, short-range and long-range.  People are studying these things, even now, but they do so haphazardly in narrow fields (e.g. all of the social sciences, business management, finance, environmental sciences), never bringing their findings together in any systematic way.  Particularly with regard to promulgating their findings to the masses.

Monday, September 10, 2012

From Herbert Spencer's Ethics


Similarly of the education given to them, or provided for them. Goodness or badness is affirmed of it (often with little consistency however) according as its methods are so adapted to physical and psychical requirements, as to further the children’s lives for the time being, while preparing them for carrying on complete and prolonged adult life.

These ethical judgments we pass on self-regarding acts are ordinarily little emphasized; partly because the promptings of the self-regarding desires, generally strong enough, do not need moral enforcement, and partly because the promptings of the other-regarding desires, less strong, and often overridden, do need moral enforcement. Hence results a contrast. On turning to that second class of adjustments of acts to ends which subserve the rearing of offspring, we no longer find any obscurity in the application of the words good and bad to them, according as they are efficient or inefficient. The expressions good nursing and bad nursing, whether they refer to the supply of food, the quality and amount of clothing, or the due ministration to infantine wants from hour to hour, tacitly recognize as special ends which ought to be fulfilled, the furthering of the vital functions, with a view to the general end of continued life and growth. A mother is called good who, ministering to all the physical needs of her children, also adjusts her behavior in ways conducive to their mental health; and a bad father is one who either does not provide the necessaries of life for his family or otherwise acts in a manner injurious to their bodies or minds.
Herbert Spencer, Principles of Ethics (1887), Vol. I, p. 33.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Heights Theater

In Columbia Heights, MN.

This here is how you treat an old theater.

Friday, August 31, 2012

An idea does not become an action unless the individual actor believes that the idea is worth acting on.

That's a sentence from this article.  Here's the end of that paragraph:
To subjugate another human being, or to condone or allow the subjugation of one by another, one must first have the idea of subjugation and must believe that acting on it is preferable to ignoring or condemning it. Scarcity and natural death need no such human consent. The old saying about death and taxes turns out to be only half true.
Here's another good quote:
The Chinese army fired on their fellow citizens in Tiananmen Square. This massacre was not caused by political leaders and generals saying, “Shoot”; but by men in the Chinese army deciding to shoot. It was not caused ultimately by bad leadership, but by a belief in the necessity of obeying orders. There will always be people with a will to power; a desire to control. Only when the rest don’t believe that power to be necessary and therefore do not obey does freedom reign.

If Unilateral Disarmament is good for me

then it's good for government.

Oops!  They're coming for me.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Two good books to read in juxtaposition

H.G. Well's A Short History of the World.  A book to which I have misattributed the quote, "Grown men do not need leaders."  I'm pretty sure he's the one who said that, but it wasn't in that book.  Maybe it was the Outline of History.

The other book is The Wizards of Ozymandias, by Butler Shaffer.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

And Mayam Bialik is better

than 99.999% of the rest of us. 

Admit it. 

She and her husband are doing it right; the rest of us did it wrong.  Follow her example.

Link.

Parents need to read this

Ask Dr. Sears.  Here's the blurb on the Discipline and Behavior page.

Discipline is more about building the right relationship with your child than using the right techniques. You want to put into place a guidance system that keeps the child in check at age four and keeps his behavior on track at age forty, and you want this system to be integrated into the child's whole personality, a part of him or her.
Here you can find what he thinks of spanking.  There are two other articles in that section that I think are pretty good, too.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

George H. Smith on "Social Darwinism"


 Summarizing the thought of Spencer and Sumner:
In a free society people are able to pursue their own interests as they see fit, provided they respect the equal rights of others. As cooperation in a regime of contract replaces exploitation in a regime of status, the fittest prosper not by coercing others but by assisting them through voluntary exchanges. (Adam Smith had previously dubbed this process the “invisible hand.”) Here as elsewhere survival of the fittest is an iron law of social existence, but this standard of fitness is far removed from that invoked by the specter of social Darwinism. Voluntary cooperation, not coercive exploitation, is the standard of fitness in a free society.

Spencer and Sumner emphasized that market competition differs dramatically from biological competition. Market competition, unlike biological competition, produces immense wealth, thereby making it possible for many people to survive and prosper who otherwise could not. Moreover, the sophisticated division of labor that develops in a market economy generates specialization, and this specialization generates social interdependence — a condition in which every person must rely on the cooperation and assistance of others for necessary goods and services. The solitary individual cannot produce everything he needs or wants in a market economy, so he must persuade many others to assist him. This condition of survival cultivates the character traits (or virtues) necessary for peaceful interaction – those civilizingmores, as Sumner called them, that make social interaction not only productive and mutually beneficial but pleasant as well.
Smith doesn't defend Darwin against the charge of promoting bloody conflict between the classes (we know who really does that - typical case of psychological projection).  This guy does, at the same time showing how idiotic it is to call someone a "social Darwinist" in the sense its coiner intended.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Word of the Day: Casuistry

I was having a bi*** of a time trying to remember this word.  The desire to have it at hand has been recurring at least once a week for many months.  Google has been no help until today when I finally found it via Thesaurus.com.

They define it as "overgeneral reasoning," by the way.  I swear I looked for it there before under every synonym on that list.  Today I found it under 'equivocation'.  I probably looked for it under 'equivocate'; there may not be a verb form.  I know I looked for it under 'sophistry' and 'sophism'.

I don't like what The Free Dictionary and Thesaurus.com have become.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Russ Roberts


One of the points I make in The Invisible Heart is that those of us who want smaller government because we think it will make the world a better place are the allies, whether we like it or not, of purely selfish people who want smaller government in order to avoid taxes and who have no intention of giving to charity. That should give us pause. At the same time, those who care so much about others that they would run their lives for them are allied with those who would run the lives of others because of less attractive motives–for power and profit.


Link

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Urho's Day isn't quite over yet!

Watch Jade Warrior to celebrate. It'll tell you everything you need to know about St. Urho.

[My wife's Grandfather would have said, in response to my foolishness, "Just watch the movie! Never mind the St. Urho!" That's good advice.]

Ides of March, People!

Got your daggers sharpened?

Friday, March 02, 2012

Bill Buckley never read this:

Liberty is not, as the German precursors of Nazism asserted, a negative ideal. Whether a concept is presented in an affirmative or in a negative form is merely a question of idiom. Freedom from want is tantamount to the expression striving after a state of affairs under which people are better supplied with necessities. Freedom of speech is tantamount to a state of affairs under which everybody can say what he wants to say.

At the bottom of all totalitarian doctrines lies the belief that the rulers are wiser and loftier than their subjects and that they therefore know better what benefits those ruled than they themselves. Werner Sombart, for many years a fanatical champion of Marxism and later a no less fanatical advocate of Nazism, was bold enough to assert frankly that the Führer gets his orders from God, the supreme Führer of the universe, and that Führertum is a permanent revelation.1 Whoever admits this, must, of course, stop questioning the expediency of government omnipotence.

Those disagreeing with this theocratical justification of dictatorship claim for themselves the right to discuss freely the problems involved. They do not write state with a capital S. They do not shrink from analyzing the metaphysical notions of Hegelianism and Marxism. They reduce all this high-sounding oratory to the simple question: are the means suggested suitable to attain the ends sought? In answering this question, they hope to render a service to the great majority of their fellow men.

--Ludwig von Mises, preface to Omnipotent Government, 1944
Actually, that's not the part that made me think of Bill Buckley (see the last third of this article). This is:
The distinctive mark of Nazism is not socialism or totalitarianism or nationalism. In all nations today the “progressives” are eager
to substitute socialism for capitalism. While fighting the German
aggressors Great Britain and the United States are, step by step,
adopting the German paern of socialism. Public opinion in both
countries is fully convinced that government all-round control of
business is inevitable in time of war, and many eminent politicians
and millions of voters are firmly resolved to keep socialism aer the
war as a permanent new social order. Neither are dictatorship and
violent oppression of dissenters peculiar features of Nazism. ey
are the Soviet mode of government, and as such advocated all over
the world by the numerous friends of present-day Russia. Nationalism—
an outcome of government interference with business, as will
be shown in this book—determines in our age the foreign policy of
every nation. What characterizes the Nazis as such is their special
kind of nationalism, the striving for Lebensraum.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another quote from Brother Neil

L. Neil Smith, that is (I've linked the online beta version - this is from the Kindle version):

Anyone-including those who may fraudulently call themselves libertarians-who is aware of the Zero Aggression Principle and refuses to live by it, or promise to, is giving himself away. He is the badguy (sic, though I don't disagree with his usage), at least potentially, reserving to himself a right that he mistakenly believes he has, to beat you up or even kill you, should he deem it necessary or simply convenient sometime in the future. What he's saying is that he cannot be trusted, not as a friend, not as a neighbor, not as a colleague, not as a comrade.

...Unlike other ethical systems...the Zero Aggression Principle does not require us to turn the other cheek pacifically. Once an aggressor has revealed himself-by the initiation of force-he has crossed a morally qualitative boundary.

There can be no argument here about the specious, if ancient, doctrine of "degrees of force." You can be killed or maimed for life just as easily with a fist or a screwdriver as with a knife or a gun. The question isn't how much or what kind of force did your assailant initiate, but simply did your assailant initiate force. If the answer is yes, the degree of force you employ to stop him is up to your discretion.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

An Independent, you say...

Let me count myself into his brand of independence. There've been but few more eloquent defenses of libertarians than this: What Type of Housepet Are You?

By the way, with regard to the cartoon that inspired the article, righties could say that they Left feels the same way about their corporate masters. The author's critique remains as incisive either way.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Accept Good People; Reject Bad People

and be careful about using shibboleths to make your distinctions. We're all ajumble with good and bad ideas.

Friday, January 20, 2012

"Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito"

If you know what I mean.

Fun stuff from the Mises Institute FAQ:
Are you conservative, libertarian, anarchist, socialist, or what?

We are Misesians! The media will typically describe all non-socialists as conservatives, so we are usually lumped in among them, though the actual orientation of the Institute is libertarian. This designation can encompass a wide range of thought from Jeffersonian classical liberalism to the modern anarcho-capitalism of Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995), Mises's American student and the founding vice president of the Mises Institute. (Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is the founding president.) Nor do we insist on the term libertarian, because it can often create more confusions than it clarifies. The core conviction is what matters: peaceful exchange makes everyone better off; private property is the first principle of liberty; intervention destroys wealth; society and economy need no central management to achieve orderliness. Given these views, it would make sense that some of our biggest critics, apart from the predictable ones on the left, are often from varieties of right-wing thought (protectionist, imperialist, Luddite, moralist, etc.) that have their own agenda for what they want the state to do. Though the editorial policy of the Institute is rooted in strict attachment to principle, there is a great deal of diversity among our 200+ adjunct scholars. This diversity is on display at such venues as our Austrian Scholars Conference. It is also correct to distinguish between Austrian economics as a value-free science and libertarian political economy, which is rooted in many different philosophical points of view. [ back to faq]

Are you associated with the Libertarian Party?

No, though we have nothing but good wishes for any voluntary association serving the cause of liberty. Murray N. Rothbard was involved with the Libertarian Party at one point, in the hopes that it would be a useful educational venture, though he was against its founding in 1972. The Mises Institute is satisfied to pursue its educational mission outside political machinery of any sort. [ back to faq]

Is the Mises Institute up to no good?

We've been accused of being (short list) the Queen's agent in the conspiracy to legalize dope, and/or a mouthpiece for the Money Power behind world finance capitalism that exploits the world's poor, and/or a shill for monopolistic big businesses such as Microsoft, and/or an apologist for and lover of the Confederate States of America and thereby slavery, and/or a front for the remnant of Jewish intellectual and financial interests driven out of Austria between the wars, a partner of the Vatican in its plan for a new inquisition, and/or in the pay of the fast-food industry to cover its ongoing animal massacre, and/or a sleek front for a hoary agenda of free love, prostitution, baby selling, and pornography. The kernel of truth in each is that Misesians generally favor drug legalization, capitalism, free trade, the right of secession as part of the freedom of association, property rights, religious freedom, and oppose antitrust regulation and prohibitionism of all sorts. And, yes, Mises and Rothbard were Jewish by heritage. The accusations stem from a failure to understand that the cause of liberalism is not about special interests but about the general interest. Yes, in our day of hyper politicization when everyone seems to be in the service of something or someone, just as in Mises's time, this is very difficult for people to believe. It is nonetheless true.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Listening to political talk on the radio today

I had a thought: if everybody listened to the anarcho-capitalist message, nobody would volunteer to die for powermongers' BS arguments.

That pretty much is the message: don't cooperate in your own (or anyone else's) murder.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

WOD Time: Shibboleth.

I've talked about it before, actually. I'll track that down later.

Here's a definition of shibboleth. I have to say that I don't like definitions 2 and 3; they seem more like ignorant misuses than I care to see. Notice that the examples are all of those 2. There must be better words for what they're trying to say.

Amusingly, I'm using the word in a fashion similar to the Gileadites. (Well...no actual bloodshed... Yet.) For more on that, check this article.

I seem to be fascinated by [or hung-up on] this story and this word. I guess I can see how shibboleths can be useful, when used with care... but they, 'like fire, are dangerous servants and fearful masters.'