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Spookily Accurate Prediction Generator

I predict that after Seasteading explodes (in a good way), Patri will retire and become a productivity guru modeled after a cross between Tom-Cruise-in-Magnolia and Tom-Cruise-in-Tropic-Thunder.

A Big Fat Raise:

Someone in FIRE's Public Relations Department deserves one. This is damn smart marketing. Like Mad Men quality brilliance.

Speaking of which, how many explicitly free market organizations advertise in High Times? Not enough, I bet.


I will never look at Christmas carols the same way again.

And yes, every xkcd strip in the form of "Google Results For [blank]" is an inherently non-fulfilling prophecy. Behold, the self-referentiality of witty marketing.

"When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like idiots"

In the last few years, however, one traffic engineer did achieve a measure of global celebrity, known, if not exactly by name, then by his ideas. His name was Hans Monderman. The idea that made Monderman, who died of cancer in January at the age of 62, most famous is that traditional traffic safety ­infra­structure—­warning signs, traffic lights, metal railings, curbs, painted lines, speed bumps, and so ­on—­is not only often unnecessary, but can endanger those it is meant to protect.

As I drove with Monderman through the northern Dutch province of Friesland several years ago, he repeatedly pointed out offending traffic signs. “Do you really think that no one would perceive there is a bridge over there?” he might ask, about a sign warning that a bridge was ahead. “Why explain it?” He would follow with a characteristic maxim: “When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like idiots.” Eventually he drove me to Makkinga, a small village at whose entrance stood a single sign. It welcomed visitors, noted a 30 kilometer-per-hour speed limit, then added: “Free of Traffic Signs.” This was Monderman humor at its finest: a traffic sign announcing the absence of traffic ­signs.

via boingboing

And The Award For Least Libertarian Reason Article Goes To...

Steve Chapman, arguing against lowering the drinking age to 18.

There are other arguments for lowering the age. Maybe the most popular is that if you're old enough to join the Army and die for your country, you're old enough to buy a beer. But there is a good reason to avoid such blind consistency. Among the qualities that make 18-year-olds such good soldiers are their fearlessness and sense of immortality—traits that do not mix well with alcohol.

Maybe, if we assume as Chapman does, that all or most 18-year-olds are fearless and do not yet have a rational sense of their own mortality, then this is a good reason to prohibit 18-year-olds from making life-or-death decisions such as... joining the military?

Has Chapman been cribbing off of MADD talking points?

"These kids are malleable. They will follow the leader, they don’t think for themselves, and they are the last ones I want to say, ‘Here’s a gun, and here’s a beer.’ They are not adult; that’s why they’re in the military. They are not adults."

—Candy Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, on lowering the drinking age for military personnel, Fox News, April 7

Or enjoy this gem of collectivist thinking:

Why permit 18-year-olds to vote but not drink? Because they have not shown a disproportionate tendency to abuse the franchise, to the peril of innocent bystanders.

Try this one on for size, Steve. Suppose I collect some statistics showing that people of Irish heritage have a disproportionate tendency (relative to non-Irish) to abuse alcohol, to the peril of innocent bystanders. Is that a reason to deny alcohol to the Irish?

Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community, I've been drinking alcohol (semi-responsibly) since as long as I can remember. Four cups of wine on Passover; Manischewitz (blechh), Crown Royal, and Chivas for Saturday afternoon kiddish; and the annual binge drink-fest that is Purim.

By the time I turned 21, alcohol just didn't hold much appeal to me anymore. I long ago learned my limits, and as enjoyable as that drunk buzz can be, it just isn't worth the embarrassment, hassle, and expense - not to mention the hangover. Sure, I still drink at social gatherings, but if I want to get totally smashed, I roll up a fat blunt - which is enormously safer health-wise (and cheaper) than binge drinking.


Todd Seavey writes:

I can’t help noticing an odd irony in the stated political affiliation of the woman wearing a Catwoman costume (at a comics convention) in this great video noted by The faux-Catwoman in the video proclaims herself a libertarian — and thus presumably a strict adherent of property rights (as we all should be), yet Catwoman is the DC Universe’s most notorious thief (as I was reminded Friday when I paid a brief visit to the Paley Center for Media, formerly known as the Museum of Television and Radio, with Jamie Foehl and her boyfriend, and stayed to watch the Adam West Batman two-parter in which Catwoman would rather fall to her doom than relinquish stolen pirate treasure).

This reminds me of my idea for a tension-filled psycho-political thriller: a libertarian wracked by kleptomania. It’d be sort of like the libertarian version of a religious conservative crazed by lust or, more commonly, a socialist shopaholic.

He sure can talk the talk...

On cosmic justice and unintended consequences:

And one of the things that I strongly believe is that we are not going to – as individuals – be able to erase evil from the world. That is God’s task. But we can be soldiers in that process. And we can confront it when we see it.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil. Because a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil, in the name of good. And I think one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think our intentions are good doesn’t mean we are going to be doing good.

On Hayekian spontaneous order:

But you know, the truth is that my education was a pretty standard, liberal arts education. So I was exposed to thinkers on the left. At the same time, I was reading Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, and I was growing up when Ronald Reagan was ascendant. So the political culture of my formative years was much more conservative.

It partly explains why, if you look at not just my politics, but also I think who I am as a person—in some ways, I'm pretty culturally conservative. I was always suspicious of dogma, and the excesses of the left and the right. One of my greatest criticisms of the Republican Party over the last 20 years is that it's not particularly conservative. I can read conservatives from an earlier era—a George Will or a Peggy Noonan—and recognize wisdom, because it has much more to do with respect for tradition and the past and I think skepticism about being able to just take apart a society and put it back together. Because I do think that communities and nations and families aren't subject to that kind of mechanical approach to change. But when I look at Tom DeLay or some of the commentators on Fox these days, there's nothing particularly conservative about them.

Whether he will walk the walk remains to be seen. But this stuff sure beats "I want to inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest."

Is Michael Phelps a Closet Rawlsian?

"I am lucky to have everything I have," Phelps said. "I'm lucky to have the talent I have, the drive I have, the excitement I have about the sport. I'm fortunate to have every quality I have."

Granted, Phelps is genetically gifted. But anyone who can put up with this regimen could stand to cut back some on the humility.

Batman Begins: Market-Oriented Superhero Movie?

So argues BK Marcus:

"Where does he get those wonderful toys?"

— Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Batman (1989)

When I was a smart-alec kid, watching James Bond marathons, my smart-alec friends and I would question the logistics of the bad guys' lairs. How did Dr. No arrange for the construction of a secret volcano fortress? Fine, the bad guys had plenty of money from past bad-guy activities, but how did they turn it into so much advanced infrastructure and technology.

What we never questioned was how MI6 managed to do the same. We grew up in an era when most people took for granted that governments had technology more advanced than we had on the private market — and feared that the Soviets' infrastructure and technology were just that much better than MI6 and the CIA's. That was the Cold War mentality, and even those of us who opposed the Cold War often failed to question its most basic assumptions — like the idea that command economies could out-compete free economies.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the discovery that we'd been lied to for decades by both Left and Right (each for their own reasons) about the strength of the Soviet economy and military, and after finally learning some of the economics behind the reality behind the lies, I now find every adventure movie to come out of the 1960s, 1970s, and even 1980s to be based in the economic misunderstandings of Cold-War thinking. (Even the supposedly somewhat libertarian The Incredibles suffers from this ignorance — though I suppose we can forgive a movie that is consciously playing with an already established superhero tradition. PoMo, donchaknow.)

But how can Batman have such an elaborately constructed Batcave? Well, in this movie, he doesn't. The cave looks like a cave, not like an underground military installation. There are no hydraulic lifts, no supercomputer, absolutely nothing it would take negotiations with teamsters to construct. We even see Bruce Wayne himself rappelling down from the cave ceiling where he's been putting in the lighting. Faithful butler Alfred stands by the small gas-powered generator that provides the electricity.

And how can Batman have such high-tech crime-fighting gadgetry unavailable on the market?

The old answer was the Bruce Wayne is a billionaire — same answer for James Bond's supervillains.

But Batman Begins offers no such pretense. We see Alfred and Bruce Wayne planning how to buy which parts of the costume from which foreign manufacturers, without attracting attention. We learn that the department of the Wayne Corporation originally funded to develop defense technology has been all but shut down, as the new WayneCorp management focuses on government weapons contracts.

Of course Bruce Wayne didn't build the Batmobile! What were you thinking?

Batman's high-tech costume, vehicles, gadgetry — they are products of the market, abandoned with changes in demand. (Though the demand comes from government, not consumers.)

Batman's gadgets are what economists call "sunk costs". They already exist and have already been paid for, whether or not anyone wants or can afford to buy them. They're too expensive to mass-produce, given the lack of demand, but they've already been produced as prototypes.

Jeffrey Tucker also had an interesting take on the economics and ethics of the recent sequel:

The Joker, however, is not manageable. He is the killer virus unwittingly unleashed by the cure. People like him will always be with us, but they can usually be contained — unless the state is involved to make such people more powerful than they would otherwise be. The implied lesson becomes clear. The Joker is the product of mistaken public policy, the end result of the prohibition of peaceful trade.

The contrast between the peaceful cooperation that people are capable of when they are on their own, even under extreme circumstances, and the evil unleashed by misguided state management of society could not be more palpable.

Which kind of libertarian movement would you rather be a part of?

Rad Geek asks, regarding Kerry Howley's and Megan McArdle's bloggingheads discussion about libertarianism and feminism, and the subsequent responses to it in the Hit and Run comment thread:

When you try to have an intellectual discussion about the finer points of libertarianism on your blog, how often do you have a crowd of commenters come by to run off at the mouth and make little funnies about your dick, or about your dress and appearance, or to publicly fantasize about your sexual proclivities? With no mention whatsoever of anything that you had to say in your post? And this constituting easily the majority of the comments on your discussion?

Ever tried to give a serious public speech at a movement rally where someone interrupted to shout at you to "Take it off!"? Had a contentious conversation on the Internet result in your head photoshopped onto hardcore pornography as a little funny?

You may not realize how disruptive this can be, or how insulting, if it has not happened to you much. But this is something that happens all the time to young women who try to speak about intellectual topics in mostly-male spaces, and it’s especially consistent for young women who try to say something about feminism in particular. I have no idea, and don’t much care, what the personal motivations behind this style of response may be for the individual posters on this thread, or on any of scores of other threads in "reply" to Kerry Howley’s posts (as one commenter says, "Seems that any thread featuring Kerry’s picture/byline/hint that she may have been in the area while it was being posted results in this sort of thread"), or on posts by any number of other women throughout the Internet. But I do know what function it serves, and I prefer movements where people are capable of discussing things intelligently to movements in which a group of self-intoxicated blowhards are constantly evading discussion, in favor of trying to one-up each other in how obnoxious, crude, and irrelevant they can be.

My concern actually has very little to do with the content of the jokes, except insofar as they completely fail to be funny. My concern is with the consistent pattern in the people targeted to be the butt of the joke.

Given my recent spirited defenses of trolling and 4chan /b/ - self-intoxicated blowhards constantly evading discussion is an accurate description of the activity and the forum - it might seem inconsistent for me to see value in both Rad Geek's criticism and my apologia. But forums like /b/ are not intended to be places of serious discussion; by design, anonymity and lack of concrete institutional memory foster a trolling environment.

Relegating trolls to their own Internet cesspool makes it less likely that they will hang out and pollute more pristine waters, and helps avoid the unwanted exposure criticism of trolling. But I do sometimes worry that by fostering such a community, the habits and personality types will tend to leak out over time.

NOT Hans Hermann Hoppe's Ringtone

Contrary to all expectations, Hans Hermann Hoppe's cell-phone ringtone is not this.

Background here.

Collective Soul, Live, and Blues Traveler

Will any DR readers be attending the Collective Soul/Live/Blues Traveler concert August 17th at Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta, Georgia? If so, leave a post in the comments; maybe we can meet up there.

P.S. Rush isn't the only Objectivist influenced band. Collective Soul took their name from The Fountainhead.

A More Distributed Form of Government

From Alexx Kay:

I begin to think that the framers didn't go nearly far enough in their design. A three-branch system is not sufficiently redundant. If one branch goes power-mad, the other two will reign it in. But a two-point failure leaves the third branch little ability to resist sweeping change and growth in government power. Worse, such a failure allows fundamental changes to the structure of government, which weaken that structure against further attacks.

So I don't want to see a smaller government -- I want a *bigger* one. But not bigger in the current manner. All the recent governmental growth has been in terms of pyramidal hierarchy, concentrating more power in the hands of fewer people. I want to see a more distributed form of government. Perhaps as many as ten branches, with a complex web of dependencies and oversight, so that even a multi-point failure (or deliberate structural attack) can be effectively resisted.

A Distributed Republic, indeed.

In Defense Of Trolling

Yet another /b/-related post.

Mike Riggs of Reason reads the NYT coverage of /b/ culture with extreme earnestness. Which is surprising, given Hit&Run's usual dose of cynicism and humor. I have a feeling Nick Gillespie would have given /b/ a different verdict.

In the comments, Jennifer asks, "Why do you find trolling more enjoyable than honest debate?" Her earnest question deserves an earnest response.


Because "honest debate" is inappropriate in certain situations. Sometimes humor is called for. Sometimes "honesty" is not the best policy.

This NYT article is unfortunate because it focuses on personalities at the expense of community. The beauty and genius of 4chan is what it produces, as a community of anonymous pranksters and misanthropes, and not the particular characteristics of the individuals who constitute it.

Yes, /b/ is a moral cesspool. But it is an equal opportunity cesspool. It's the difference between a stand up comic like Sarah Silverman who distributes her offensiveness widely, and one like Michael Richards, whose focus became personal and earnest, and ends up getting himself trolled by a heckler.

Sometimes pranks go too far. I certainly won't defend everything this community has done. But part of being a community made up of the anonymous is that you have to accept both the good and the bad produced by many disparate anonymous individuals. It's like the difference between being an apologist for capitalism and being an apologist for individual capitalists. One can recognize the value in the system itself while not necessarily approving of its most vocal representatives.

Like alcohol in meatspace, anonymity on the Internet lowers inhibitions for both good and ill. It leads to vicious, unconscionable pranks, but also very funny, very necessary ones.

I think there is much value to putting a name (and reputation) behind an argument, but there is also a place for anonymity. Explore 4chan and /b/ and see for yourself.

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

Large Hadron Collider nearly ready

Awesome pictures. The comment thread is pretty funny too. We are living in the future!