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The Internet: Serious Business

From The Department of Aptly Named Titles

What Would Ayn Rand Have Done?

Can we get some "WWAYD?" bracelets? Please?

Oh, and can we also get a collection plate going around? We have some victims!

Brook doesn't blame speculators, traders or financiers for the market's near-collapse, but instead blames government for having overregulated the markets in the first place. The business leaders bailed out by government this week "are victims," he said, "and the government set it up."

Is Yaron Brook channeling Marion Barry?

via NoodleFood

Ron Paul On The Coming Depression

As much as I may disagree with what Ron Paul stands for culturally and politically, his economics is spot on as always. He speaks more sense on the current economic crisis than pretty much anyone else out there, and has been pounding home this same message for years. His predictions have now come true, much to the detriment of us all.

This lowering of prices brings the economy back into balance, equalizing supply and demand... The government doesn't like this, however, and undertakes measures to keep prices artificially inflated. This was why the Great Depression was as long and drawn out in this country as it was.

I am afraid that policymakers today have not learned the lesson that prices must adjust to economic reality. The bailout of Fannie and Freddie, the purchase of AIG, and the latest multi-hundred billion dollar Treasury scheme all have one thing in common: They seek to prevent the liquidation of bad debt and worthless assets at market prices, and instead try to prop up those markets and keep those assets trading at prices far in excess of what any buyer would be willing to pay. [...]

Using trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to purchase illusory short-term security, the government is actually ensuring even greater instability in the financial system in the long term.

The solution to the problem is to end government meddling in the market. Government intervention leads to distortions in the market, and government reacts to each distortion by enacting new laws and regulations, which create their own distortions, and so on ad infinitum.

Read the whole thing.

Link via The Austrian Economists

Being Honest About Lying

Jonathan Caulkins argues in favor of the government deliberately misleading (and lying to?) the public:

I think it OK (meaning not unconstitutional and not outrageous if the majority want it) for the government to promote health and well being through public health campaigns that seek to change behavior, particularly when the campaigns are directed toward youth. I generally prefer for such campaigns to achieve their ends simply by providing accurate information, but acknowledge that sometimes appealing to emotions or providing only selective information is more effective at changing behavior. So those who design and implement public health campaigns end up trying to strike a balance between two sets of values: promoting health and respecting individual autonomy by merely informing, rather than trying to sway decisionmaking. [...]

For example, the income gap between high school graduates and dropouts is often reported without adjusting for omitted variables such as differences in intelligence; youth are left to infer, incorrectly, that the observed gap is all caused by dropping out of school. Likewise, my elementary school kids were taught that cigarettes contain rat poison. I suspect that is true in some sense. Among the very many chemicals in tobacco and its combustion byproducts, there is probably one that is an active ingredient in rat poison. But I doubt it is one of the top ten by weight, so omitting mention of the others is selective reporting, and describing the chemical as “rat poison” rather than using a more technically precise term is clearly appealing to emotions.

The problem with a policy of deliberately misleading the public is that once the public finds out what you are doing, they aren't going to trust you anymore. This does not help the cause of public health that Caulkins is trying to promote. Whatever benefits might result from the transmission of accurate and helpful information are put in peril if lies and half-truths are thrown into the mix. It's the worst form of short-term thinking; a shortsighted act-utilitarianism as opposed to long-term rule-utilitarianism.

The more I learn about various illegal drugs in my adult life, the more I realize that what I learned in school was a bunch of lies. This is a reason to do more drugs, not less, for I am extra skeptical of any anti-drug propaganda emanating from all but the most trusted sources (such as Erowid).

Drug Dealers Have Rights Too

Mark Kleiman writes:

The mere cultural prejudice of a majority of voters against the cannabis consumption of the minority does not, in my view, constitute sufficient justification for the costs imposed on that minority. The fact that millions of non-addicted pot-smokers keep right on smoking despite not only the laws but the arrests suggests to me, by the canons of revealed preference, that smoking pot is a practice that those people value, and that other people might value were they allowed to pursue it within the law. Their lost consumers’ surplus ought to count as a cost of the law, and I see no countervailing benefit of comparable magnitude. In addition, by banning a practice that poses little social risk, we waste enforcement resources and encourage disrespect for the law.

So I conclude that the ban on cannabis smoking — as opposed to cannabis commerce — cannot be justified, and that the majority in this instance acts wrongfully in restricting the liberty of the minority for no particular public purpose. That does not shake my conviction that allowing commercial marketing of cannabis along the lines currently permitted for alcohol would risk a very substantial increase in the level of abuse, as the legalization of the old “numbers game” led to the substantial prevalence of problem lottery gambling we now observe.

Therefore I favor non-commercial legalization as the ethically and practically appropriate approach to the most widely used illicit drug.

Mark makes a great argument that the ban on pot use is unjustified and should be repealed. But where is the similar justification for keeping peaceful pot commerce banned? Doesn't the fact that millions of pot-dealers keep right on dealing despite not only the laws but the arrests suggest, by the canons of revealed preference, that selling pot is a practice that those people value, and that other people might value were they allowed to pursue it within the law? What makes capitalist acts between consenting adults any more objectionable than personal drug use?

Knit Me A Sweater, Bake Me A Pie, Give Me A Raise

I'm still trying to figure out what to make of this recent study:

Men with egalitarian attitudes about the role of women in society earn significantly less on average than men who hold more traditional views about women's place in the world, according to a study being reported today.

It is the first time social scientists have produced evidence that large numbers of men might be victims of gender-related income disparities. The study raises the provocative possibility that a substantial part of the widely discussed gap in income between men and women who do the same work is really a gap between men with a traditional outlook and everyone else.

The differences found in the study were substantial. Men with traditional attitudes about gender roles earned $11,930 more a year than men with egalitarian views and $14,404 more than women with traditional attitudes. The comparisons were based on men and women working in the same kinds of jobs with the same levels of education and putting in the same number of hours per week.

Although men with a traditional outlook earned the most, women with a traditional outlook earned the least. The wage gap between working men and women with a traditional attitude was more than 10 times as large as the gap between men and women with egalitarian views. [...]

Livingston and Judge, who are organizational psychologists at the University of Florida, compared people's incomes over time to their evolving views on whether a woman's place is in the home and whether it is better for men to be the only breadwinners. People who endorsed distinct roles in society for men and women were considered to have traditional views, while those who advocated equal roles for men and women at home and in the workplace were classified as having egalitarian views.

The study offers an unusual window into the gender disparities in income that have been observed for decades. Critics of the gender-gap theory regularly suggest that the disparity is an artifact of the career choices that men and women make or the different hours that men and women work.

The critics argue that more men choose higher-paying professions such as law and business and more women choose lower-paying professions such as education and social work, and that men tend to work longer hours. Researchers said all the conclusions in the new study were based on comparisons between people in similar jobs, working similar hours, with similar qualifications.

Their explanation?

The empirical evidence in the study showed a connection between people's attitudes about gender roles and their salaries. It was not designed to explain why those disparities come about or how people's attitudes -- supposedly a private matter -- affect how much money they make.

Livingston and Judge said there are two possible explanations: Traditional-minded men might negotiate much harder for better salaries, especially when compared with traditional-minded women. Alternatively, it could also be that employers discriminate against women and men who do not subscribe to traditional gender roles.

"It could be that traditional men are hypercompetitive salary negotiators -- the Donald Trump prototype, perhaps," Judge said. "It could be on the employer side that, subconsciously, the men who are egalitarian are seen as effete."

Livingston, a doctoral candidate in management, added: "People make others uncomfortable when they disconfirm stereotypes -- we don't know how to interpret them."

Increasing numbers of Americans hold egalitarian views about the role of women in the workplace, and the researchers suggested that if attitudes about gender roles are indeed at the core of the long-standing wage gap, disparities in income might recede as egalitarian views become more prevalent.

Parents looking at the study might be tempted to inculcate their sons with traditional gender views with an eye to greater financial success, but the researchers warned that this would come at their daughters' cost -- traditional-minded women suffer the greatest income disadvantage for doing the same work.

I'm thinking this has something to do with how heterosexual couples share the burdens of childcare and other domestic responsibilities like cooking and cleaning. If egalitarian men and women agree that the burdens of childcare and homemaking should fall on both partners equally, then both of their careers may suffer as a result, with proportionally less time, energy and focus to spend on work.

Traditional gender roles obviously involve specialization and a division of labor of sorts, which may make these rigid roles more productive under some circumstances, but their greater efficiency does not necessarily make them just, fair, or wise. Under strict adherence to these roles, women are denied the freedom to pursue careers other than homemaking, and may have much less freedom to escape abusive relationships, and much less freedom within the relationship if they aren't "bringing home the bacon."

And as Steven Horwitz reminds us, traditional gender roles are not so "traditional" after all, but a fairly modern invention:

While in pre-industrial times women and men shared many of the tasks in the familial production unit, industrialization brought a (short-lived as it turned out) gendered division of labor where men occupied the public sphere of work and politics and women the private sphere of the home. A great deal of energy was spent during the Victorian era arguing that this division of labor was really a form of equality as men and women were assigned to their “separate spheres” in which they each excelled. The genders were not unequal, just “different.” By the turn of the twentieth century the male-breadwinner family was becoming the dominant form in the middle class and slowly spreading down the economic ladder.

Whatever the merits of this family form, two things were true: first, the wealth created by the market order had liberated women and children from the necessity of largely unpleasant work in industry; second, the form and functions of the family continued to evolve. This latter point is crucial because many today speak of the “traditional” family as if there had been one particular family form that had existed for centuries until the changes of the last 40 years. But even a cursory study of economic and social history indicates that the family’s form and functions have been undergoing significant changes at least since the earliest days of industrialization if not before. [...]

The women’s movement of the 1960s, then, was hardly the cause of the “decline” of the family, though it did accelerate the longer-term trends. For one thing, there has been no significant change in the growth in female labor-force participation. For another, the continuing changes in the family were much more the result of economic dynamism than anything else. As family historian Stephanie Coontz argues in The Way We Never Were, the women’s movement was much more likely the result of more women having already entered the workforce than the cause of more doing so. With women entering the previously male public sphere of the market, the inequities between men and women became more apparent, thus leading to the bubbling up of a movement for change. Despite the way in which conservatives often portray the women’s movement as rising in opposition to capitalism, it would be just as accurate to say that it arose because of the wealth and opportunities capitalism made possible. In this sense, the dynamism of the market order goes hand in hand with the dynamism of culture, and the women’s movement is yet another example of the ways in which capitalism has both freed individuals from the coercive power of the state and promoted social equality.

Crispin Sartwell on Modern Bigotry

The current political attacks on gay people and immigrants are about nothing but sheer bigotry, and they deploy that combined strategy that you find almost anywhere you find people: to insult or spit on you is simultaneously to improve my self-esteem. Your inferiority and my superiority are, of course, the very same fact.

"Crime," "activist judges," "national security," and so on: these are of course the merest distractions from the heart of the matter: we hate wetbacks and fags, and we don't regard them as fully human, as deserving the same sort of respect that we demand for ourselves.

The idea that the basic problem with illegal immigrants is a matter of national security and border protection is deeply dishonest. The last military or terrorist threat we faced from Mexico was at the Alamo.

And yet here we are, affirming legislatively, for example, that English is our "national language." It is, in precisely the same sense that WASP is our national ethnicity and torture our national interrogation technique.

Let this go a little longer and we will have - even more than we do already - a national system of internment and deportation camps for people whose status is basically detectible by their skin-tone and language.

Gay marriage is as clearly and directly an issue of civil rights as anything could possibly be. All it demands is the extension of equal rights to a group of previously excluded persons.

Furthermore, such an extension does absolutely no damage to anyone in the dominant group. It doesn't require busing, increased taxation, or even a cure for homophobia.

What it does, merely, is damage "the institution of marriage," which means, as far as I can tell, that it throws into slight doubt the God-given superiority of heterosexuals. In other words, it throws into doubt the bigotry of God.

Mary Cheney has famously said that if the Republicans oppose gay marriage, they will find themselves on the wrong side of history. ...

At the moment of a particular prejudice's ascendency, there are a thousand seemingly plausible causes or justifications for the hatred in one's heart, and a thousand ways to convince yourself that your hatred is righteousness, truth, or even love.

That is, segregation, exclusion, exploitation, and denunciation never appear as evil at the moment of their lurid bloom as they do in retrospect. When our grandchildren look back at this era, they will be shocked by our explicit violation of our professed values. They will see our hypocrisy with perfect clarity, as we see clearly the injustice of racial apartheid or laws prohibiting women from voting.

But even as they do, they will be busily rationalizing their hatred of the Norwegians or men who cook or people who speak Pig Latin. It's the only way they'll be able to live with themselves.

The Neverending Slippery Slope

At what point do we get to conclude that Blankenhorn and fellow travelers (such as Maggie Gallagher) are in fact anti-gay and hateful? Or do they get to continue making the same deliberately dishonest and incoherent mechanism-lacking arguments forever, without having their motivations called into question?

One of my fondest memories working as a Cato intern was when I got to heckle Gallagher’s anti-gay claptrap at a lecture she gave to the Heritage interns. Heckling bigots is fun.

Do Something! Anything! But Whatever You Do, Don't Do Nothing!

IOZ is spot on, as usual:

-Oh my god!
-It's an emergency.
-We have to do something!
-We have to do it right now!
-What are we going to do?
-Announce a plan!
-What's the plan?
-To do something about the emergency!
-We have to do it fast, or else the emergency will become a crisis.
-And that would be a real emergency!

In related news, I get mentioned over at AotP for advocating do-nothingism.


From: Minister of the Treasury Paulson


Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship
with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country
has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of
800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it
would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my
replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you
may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation
movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need
the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these
funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly
under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for
a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the
funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund
account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission
for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will
respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used
to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully
Minister of Treasury Paulson

Tip of the hat to Wil Wheaton.

Joe Lieberman is a Big Jewy Jew-Jewbean

The Commitee To Get Matthew Yglesias Inebriated

I’m blogging under the influence, so perhaps things aren’t quite as dramatic as they seem to me right now, but the bailout plan on the table right now seems to me like something of a crisis point for American liberalism. [...] Simply put, if congressional Democrats manage to acquiesce in a plan that spends $700 billion on a bailout while doing nothing for average working people and giving the taxpayer virtually no upside... then everyone’s going to have to give serious consideration to becoming a pretty hard-core libertarian.

More beer/drugs/influence for Yglesias! Small American flags for others.

The False Context Of Bigotry

Apparently, crying out that bigoted statements were "taken out of context" is a pretty typical excuse these days: "Rush Limbaugh Hates Mexicans (But in a Funny Way)!"

Rush is upset that the Obama camp is portraying him as being a bigot.

By quoting a bigoted statement he's made.

The Obama campaign is running new Spanish language ads in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico which quote Limbaugh as using the phrase "stupid and unskilled Mexicans" and telling Mexicans to "shut your mouth, or get out" of America.

In his WSJ piece Limbaugh doesn't deny making the statements. His issue is that the statements are taken out of context.


What is it with bigots that makes them think there is a context for bigotry? When much was made of that paragon of virtue Bill Bennett's assertion "if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country,"

Bill and his supporters claimed that statement was taken out of context.

No one who wasn't wearing a white hood has ever fully explained to me what the context is for positing the extermination of black children to lower the crime rate.

And as with Trent Lott extolling the virtues of Strom Thurmond, or George Allen and his Macaca moment, or Lynn Westmoreland tossing aside euphemisms in favor of simply getting to it and calling Barack Obama "uppity," there is seemingly always some unspoken but acceptable frame of reference for race baiters to bait race.

So when Limbaugh speaks of "stupid and unskilled Mexicans" and tells them to "shut your mouth, or get out" what's missed by the chattering classes is that these are actually -- according to Rush -- "humorous monologue(s)" or "parody."

Yeah. You know, the way Amos and Andy was penetrating social satire.

My problem with Rush is not that he's a bigot. Bigots are actually funny to me in the way that people who still wear parachute pants give me a chuckle. What bothers me about Rush's ilk is that they don't actually have the stones to be real racists or women haters or anti- Semites. Though they irresponsibly fan the flames of hatred, they don't own the strength of their convictions. When they are called on their stuff they run back to their bunker, which is heavily fortified for a reason, crying "but it was only a joke!"

Like when Rush joked that Obama was a "haf-rican," or when he jested that Obama was a "magical negro."

Oh, the hilarity.

Be a man, Rush. Be a hateful man, but be a man instead of a pasty- lookin' crackhead drug addict whose wives keep ditching him 'cause he's impotent.

That last bit was just satire, of course, so please don't take it out of context.

Sound like anyone familiar? The joke's on you, paleo-douchebags. Enjoy your relegation to the dustbin of history.

The Redistribution/Bailout WMD Connection

Over at Patri's blog, an anonymous commenter has some prescient analysis of the current crisis and its apologists:

Just like domestic spying programs are better than a slightly increased risk of a terrorist act? Just like fighting them over there in Iraq is better than fighting them here? Sure, letting these financial behemoths fail would cause some degree of short term pain--quite likely even more pain than the bailouts (or whatever these shady deals are) will yield. But when are we going to dismiss these sorts of arguments for what they are, which is BS? Iraq *might* have WMDs (which *might* be used against us), so we better invade...just in case! FNM, FRE, and AIG's failures *might* cause a depression (which *might* lead to WWIII), so let's reward the unscrupulous, stupid, short sighted employees at these firms by transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. But perhaps you're right: clinging to silly moral principles is nothing but an inconvenience in the real world. [...]

Do you realize how bad those WMDs *could* have been had they existed AND had Hussein decided to use them against us? I fear that almost any policy--no matter how horrible--can be defending by pointing at disturbing hypothetical outcomes that might come about, should we not take aggressive action. Governments tend to exploit crises by 1) exaggerating their severity and 2) using that as an excuse to seize more power; perhaps step one is no longer necessary, since some of us are apparently now programmed into accomplishing this on our own by conflating recessions and depressions with World Wars?

The Idiot Box For Smart People

Mad Men remains the best show on television, checking and raising its quality performance from last summer. I look forward to seeing if Breaking Bad holds its position as a close second.

Sons of Anarchy was a disappointer; I think I deleted my Season Pass after the first episode. I can't even remember what the plot was like, but I do remember that Ron Perlman is one ugly mofo.

IFC has two great new shows: The Whitest Kids U' Know, a sketch comedy troupe as random as Upright Citizens Brigade and as gay as The Kids in the Hall, only gayer. Also, it's a bit more explicit and offensive than UCB, which I didn't think was possible.

IFC's second new show, Z-Rock, has the most original concept this season: a comedy series about three Brooklyn based musicians that are trying to make it as a serious rock band by night, but have to play as a kiddie band for children's birthday parties by day to pay the bills. Their manager, played by Lynne Koplitz, channels the annoyingly nasal yet alluring Cougar persona of Fran Drescher in This Is Spinal Tap. Check out her standup; it's a hoot:

The songs from Z-Rock are catchy and rockable, the premise promising, and the improvised dialogue and frequent celebrity cameos spot on.

Saturday Night Live's second episode this season, which aired last night with host James Franco, was a noticeable improvement from last week's drivel. Pro tip: the fact that Sarah Palin looks like Tina Fey is not all that funny, and Michael Phelps should probably stick with swimming and not acting. Andy Samberg's digital short was quality as always, however - Space Olympics will be stuck in my head for the foreseeable future:

Actually, last night was probably the most solid single episode of SNL I've ever seen; every skit was quality, the sort that is worth rewatching again and again. My only complaint was musical guest Kings of Leon, who sounded like a bad Bruce Springsteen cover band. Here's a collection of some of the better clips in case you missed it.

BET's original series Somebodies looked promising at first, but quickly settled into derivative sitcom pablum. I'll probably give it another episode or two, but I expect it will soon be canceled, if not by the network then at least by my Tivo.