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Prison Fact of the Day

Most of this NYTimes article on incarceration rates is old news to everyone here I'm sure. But this part was new to me at least:

It is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes American prison policy. Indeed, the mere number of sentences imposed here would not place the United States at the top of the incarceration lists. If lists were compiled based on annual admissions to prison per capita, several European countries would outpace the United States. But American prison stays are much longer, so the total incarceration rate is higher.

I had always assumed that we convicted and sentenced more individuals, but apparently not, it's "just" that our sentences are longer.

The one example they give of an average sentence is this:

Burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison, according to Mr. Mauer, compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.

In the last twelve months, I've twice been the victim of property crime (a burglary and an attempted car theft), so I'm pretty unsympathetic to the complaints of thieves. And I'd like to see more sentencing statistics, which are pretty hard to find across states. But I thought I'd throw the question out there: With the obvious, and gigantic, exception of drug offenses, are longer sentences for "ordinary" and indisputable criminals like burglars and arsonists a black mark on the American justice system?

Routine Libertarian Question Begging

Micha reposts this libertarian parable. In the comments, Scott links us too a response . Read them both if you haven't already for a bit of context.

The parable is a sort of standard story that libertarians tell to illustrate how the state is coercive. In Richard's response (he's actually responding to a similar story from Kling), he concludes:

There are good pragmatic reasons to favour some libertarian policies. But the moral ideology ("taxation is theft") is obtuse.

I completely agree, but for different reasons. Why does he think "taxation is theft" is obtuse? He quotes himself:

A well-ordered society is governed by the rule of law. This means that there are institutional processes to govern certain classes of action. The outcome of a just
institutional process -- whether it be a guilty verdict, or minimum wage legislation -- has a different normative status than the corresponding action of a neighbour who takes it upon himself to unilaterally impose his will on others.

I don't think any libertarian would disagree with that statement. Richard just misses the point - the libertarian theory of justice. Libertarians, at least of the sort we are talking about here, would simply claim that our current institutional processes are unjust and thus dodge Richard's criticism. The libertarian theory of justice is usually claimed to flow completely from the non-aggression principle (NAP). This is highly misleading, however, as Richard inadvertantly makes clear in the post he quotes himself from:

To claim ownership of a resource is to prevent others from making free use of it. If another attempts to use the resource in the same way as you do, you can call it "theft" and initiate force against them (or have the police do so on your behalf).

Thus it seems the NAP alone forces us to conclude that property is theft. And we thought Proudhon was a socialist. But this isn't the full libertarian story. A complete statement of the NAP, at least as I understand it, looks something like this:

It is always and everywhere immoral to initiate force against a person or his or her property.

Notice that the NAP presupposes property. There is another principle at work here which has to do with acquiring property coming straight down the pipe from Locke: the homestead principle (HP). For this reason I call this sort of libertarianism Lockean libertarianism or neoLockeanism. It rests on these two principles, as far as I can tell. Some versions try to derive the NAP from the HP, but that is unimportant fo For completeness, here is the HP as I understand it:

The only just way to acquire unowned property is by mixing one's labor with it.

These two principles together seem to be the foundation of neoLockeanism, though to digress, one important libertarian conclusion doesn't seem derivable from them: that voluntary exchange is always moral, or at least always just even if it is immoral. The NAP gives us that force or coercion is bad, but it doesn't give us that voluntary is good or even just. Perhaps I have screwed something up here (let me know if I have), but this isn't the point of this post anyway, so I'll let it go.

So Lockean libertarianism rests on these two principles, but do they hold water? The NAP is intuitively appealing and not all that controversial among ethicists. All deontologists (Kant) and virtue theorists (Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume) would accept it in some form while most utilitarians would reject it. Two out of the big three ain't bad. I say "in some form" above because the theory of property you accept may affect the NAP in some way, but the general idea runs across both classes of theories. I suspect even Richard accepts it in some form, with caveats for the formation of property.

The HP, on the other hand, has it's problems. For one, I still don't know what "mixing my labor" with something means. Labor isn't literally a substance that is mixed with other substances. Metaphors may be useful in communicating a complicated concept, but in this case we have all metaphor and no concept. Intuitively we have an idea of what it means, but without an actual definition, we'll argue endlessly about what actions count as labor mixture and how much property can be acquired by them - even with the "Lockean proviso," which is just as vague.

The problems with the HP don't end there, however. It is often asserted among libertarians but rarely defended. Locke himself tried to ground it in the existence of God. Ultimately, he assumes it anyway because God owns us by "maker's right" which allows him to argue that we have to take care of ourselves by acquiring property through the HP. I don't know what "maker's right" is outside of the HP. Rothbard is content to assert the self-evidence of his foundations without an account of what self-evidence means. Ultimately, he's waving his hands. Hoppe's argument is an attempt, but it doesn't work for a variety of reasons, on of which is that it isn't incoherent to argue with your slave (for fun, of course). Nozick also assumes the HP, but - and correct me if I'm wrong because I'm going off memory here (this applies for everyone else's views above as well) - he acknowledges this and points out that a rigorous account of property might substantively alter his conclusions, but he ignores the issue to get to other things.

As far as I know, no one has actually given a solid defense of the HP, let alone a clear exposition of what it actually is. I haven't read every libertarian theorist, so I might have merely missed it, but I have my doubts (but by all means, correct me if I am wrong).

In the mean time, let's forget about the HP principle and see what happens to the libertarian's favorite conclusion. The striking thing is that we know longer know if taxation is theft because we don't have an account of property. It seems the neoLockeans were begging the question all along.

So in the end, I agree with Richard's conclusion wholeheartedly - not, like him, because I think the neoLockeans misunderstand institutions, but because I think neoLockeans assume their pet theory of justice.

If one holds a markedly different theory of justice, say something like Hume's, governments seem almost by definition to have a legitimate property right. This doesn't automatically give us the social contract theory as the justification for government, but it does imply that governments are voluntary. Time permitting, I'll have more on this relatively soon.

Now, if this doesn't start a shitstorm, I'll be very disappointed in you guys. Or is my assumption that most of you are neoLockeans is wrong?

edit: Micha agrees that Richard misses the point.

edit: After reading Micha's post again, I think I need to make myself a bit more clear. I agree with just about everything he says. In particular, social contract theorist beg the question too; and Nozick, given his assumptions, doesn't really justify the state. At this point in my argument, it would just as question begging to say that taxation is theft as to say that it isn't. What social contract theorists and neoLockeans alike need to avoid the fallacy is a theory of justice/property. Until an adequate one is presented, we just don't know whether taxation is theft or not under any (or all)
circumstances. Time permitting, I plan on presenting a Humean take on this, but it may have to wait until the final weeks of the semester have passed.

More on FLDS

I don't know if everyone is getting an earful of the FLDS situations outside of the national news segments, but being in texas it is covered everyday in nearly every newspaper, every local news broadcast, and then it's on the national news, 20/20, CNN etc. The story is everywhere, and in spite of many news anchors trying hard to spin it as a crazy polygamist cult snubbing the texas legal system. I have trouble seeing those women as anything but a religious and cultural minority group having their kids taken away because the state doesn't approve of their lifestyle.

 I certainly do not care for the brand of polygamy practiced by this group nor for underage marriage, but my understanding was that in most states teenagers could get married underage with parental consent. I do not know if sexual abuse has happened in this community however I can tell you that the state's excessive response will only decrease the likelihood of abuse being reported in the future.

 I grew up in a physically abusive home (not the living with a drunk kind more of the christ gets beaten into you kind which is one of the reasons I am now atheist), and I can tell you from experience that the fear of being put into foster care and therefore separated from our siblings is one of the things that kept us quiet.

I think it is very likely that there are men, women, and children being mistreated in this community from the sheer fact that the people in this community have very powerful incentives not to come forward to anyone outside of their community when such events happen. The risk is being persecuted for your religion, being separated from your family, losing your kids, being ostracized by the FLDS community, and being an outsider everywhere else (of course there are religious issues too like eternal damnation via excommunication).

I would compare it to the likelihood of a prostitute or illegal immigrant being abused; since the law is already not on their side, abuse happens often because the victims are not likely to report it.

A woman being abused by her husband within the FLDS has everything to lose by coming forward, and given Texas's most recent response, it seems she has everything to lose for her entire community. Imagine that. If you come forward you could lose not only your own kids but everyone in your family and community's kids.

Regardless I have always resented the idea that the state could just swoop in and take your kids on such flimsy evidence. I have seen reports on a number of cases through the years in which children were taken away on hearsay, flimsy eyewitness reports like neighbors thinking they witnessed inappropriate contact when a father was hugging his child, and rumors like they saw too many beer cans in the garbage.

Now over 400 kids are being put into foster homes with foster parents that cannot possibly practice the same religion as them, who will not likely understand nor approve of their religion. I can tell you from experience in that regard as well that that can really muck with a kid's psyche. Wondering if you are sinning or forsaking the religion you were raised with because of the new rules you are being forced to follow... (eat your ham Muhammed it's good for you).

Doesn't it make more sense to remove the abuser, not the alegedly abused, especially in a group of this size with such specific religious views?

Mike Bloomberg: Supply-Sider?

Via the New York Sun comes this, regarding a proposal to make hedge funds and private equity firms pay local business income taxes on profits generated by investments in these firms. To quote the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, "We'll see in terms of less taxes that the companies pay and less income taxes from people who work in those companies." New York City gets an unbelivable windfall from the presence of financial firms in the city, and Mayor Bloomberg is not stupid enough to jeopardize it, especially heading into a possible recession, when firms might be more willing to ditch the high rent city for greener financial pastures. Good for him.

Even more interesting to me was this, a defense of tax avoidance:

Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday that people have a right to structure their affairs to minimize their tax bills, so long as they follow the law. "In fact, the law wants you to do that. That's how we use tax law to incentivize people," he said.

Of course, one would expect Nurse Bloomberg to defend using taxes to "incentivize", being so fond of meddling. Still, it's a bit heartening to see someone actually say that you don't have a moral obligation to fork over as much money as you have in your bank account.

I actually don't think that there would be a supply-side boost to cutting income taxes in the United States, at least in the short term. But for a locality, there might very well be. Participation constraints bind much more strongly on smaller government units like cities than they do on the nation.

But what do I know? I'm actually continually amazed at the resiliance of New York City's dominance in the financial sector. If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have said that internet communications would have meant a decrease in the importance of physical location in the service economy by now, but that hasn't been the case so far.

Why I may be an Austro-Keynsian

Arnold Kling describes it here. Read the whole thing, it's short. Then we have my comment, reproduced just for you:

It's interesting that Horowitz departs from the standard Austrian
model. Traditionally, it's the increase in the money supply that is the
culprit for Austrians. For Horowitz, it's inflation, whether or not it
was caused by an increase in the money supply. I think this allows him
to avoid Caplan's substantial theoretical critiques of the Austrian
theory of the business cycle. But your right about it needing to be
integrated into a general theory of fluctuations, which takes into
account both Keynes and Schumpeter.

And the question, does Horowitz's version of the ABCT hold water? In particular, does it escape Caplan's criticisms of the traditional ABCT, available here?

I've long had the inuition that the Austrians were on to something even if the formal statement of their theory of fluctuations didn't quite work (Caplan's criticisms are pretty good). Perhaps this is it. By the way, I hesistate to call Horowitz's version "Austrian" because of the difference, but the emphasis on coordination perhaps merits the label, lets just be careful to keep the two versions straight. Perhaps big-A Austrian for the Mises-Hayek theory and little-a austrian for Horowitz's version?. One unAustrian implication which Kling mentions: deflation screws with the coordination process just as much as (according to Kling, more than) inflation.

Revolutionary Fractal Constitution and Political Theory - What?

An ad that google keeps on putting on my gmail page is for a M C Williams' book on "Revolutionary Fractal Constitution and Political Theory."  I'm extremely skeptical, but my curiosity has been piqued.  Anyone know anything about it? Or care to speculate?  link

The ebook is only $3.50 for anyone who is bit more curious than I.

The Next Boom Industry

Ever since seeing his comment here, I've been listening to a lot of Stefan Molyneux recently, including podcast "292: Freedom Through Debt".

It has me tinkering with a new meme: The federal government is balanced on the edge of collapse because of debt and a dollar rout. When it falls, what will go with it? How many State governments? Any foreign governments holding US debt? Will it be a relatively peaceful collapse as in South Africa and the former Soviet Union?

Which leads me to the title of this post. If the US federal government collapses, what consensual institutions will fill the vacuum? Is the fed's monopoly so tightly held that these institutions cannot begin to form today? Or are there some, like private schools, which can begin to operate in the current environment and be ready for growth once their government subsidized competitors fail?

Can Obama Lead us out of the Racial Wilderness?

In the wake of Obama’s speech concerning progress in racial conciliation, one pundit, noted that Obama was talking to Americans about the issue as though we were adults.This brought to mind an incident from the past when I was living in an extravagantly racist world. Ask me about it some time. 1967

In my world the only way whites like me got to know blacks was as workers in the same place. In the late Sixties this guy I worked with, Eddie, told me about the Christmas party the white boss put on and Eddie was invited too. Yes, he could be the bartender. I think most blacks have experienced this type of blatant racism, so I can see why they were pissed off. The only trouble was that Eddie sometimes acted childishly. Perhaps it was effects of racism.

For example one time I came in and saw him and his co-worker pretending to sodomize another black employee, an older, introverted Uncle Tom type with a broomstick. These guys were thirty five years old and still acting like high school kids. How do kids act? They are narcissistic and have demands combined with a lack of a sense of reciprocal responsibility. The more you become an adult, the more you move away from this. When two equal adults relate there is ideally equal reciprocity. Betweens equals, non- reciprocity soon leads to tensions. In the case of an infant, there is little expectation for reciprocity. The price the infant pays is that of inequality and submission, because giving non-reciprocal benefits makes the adult more powerful. The infant only gets what he is given and the only way he can get more is to cry more loudly.

What if an adult acts in same way as a child? The same rules apply. If you help someone temporarily there is the joy of altruism in the giver and the relief of suffering in the recipient. But the self respecting person will avoid becoming a sponge. I don’t think I need to go into more detail here, nor do I think it is the whole story. Racism is surely debilitating both to the victim and the perpetrator, as is slavery. The question is does this have any bearing on racism. Is a one way or two way street?

The Old Program

There is a massive ideological program in our society that justifies permanent dependency on the part of some persons. Adults are too old to cry but they can think up slogans or adopt them from some ideology of entitlement. Old former Marxists know what I am talking about. Stalin is dead but the propaganda slogans manufactured in that era live on. Here is a quote from Doris Leesing, Nobel Prize winner in literature for 2007. The subject is not race consciousness but its derivative radical feminism.

Doris Lessing on dogma

Referring one of her books "The Golden Notebook" The book's exploration of a woman's inner life, feelings of hostility and resentment, and unhappy experiences with men came off as inflammatory and "man-hating." Critics initially savaged the book. Feminists, however, embraced it, much to Ms. Lessing's annoyance. "I hated the 1960s feminists," she says. "They were dogmatists, you see. In comes ideology, and out goes common sense. This is my experience of life."

Ms. Lessing points to a current dogma: political correctness. "It's a continuation of the old Communist Party. It is! The same words, the same attitudes. ‘The Communist Party has made a decision and this is the line.'" At first, she says, political correctness had a good beginning; she remembers saying that the language that we use is sexist, racist and so on. But then, "that became a dogma. Because we love a dogma, you know, we really do. We can never just let things develop easily from an idea, it seems to me there's always a group of fanatics who grasp it and make it a dogma."

This is why political discourse has become so negative. Radical leaders maintain power by stoking divisiveness. Ideology justifies the attitude of adults who still act like children. Permanently low expectations inevitably keep the balance of power and status on the side of the dominant culture. This in turn provokes even more anger and a staunch denial of the fact that many grievances are being addressed and that reciprocal activity, not more ranting is apt to be productive.

Does Obama Have a New Program?

How does this apply to Obama’s speech? Is he is calling for an end to this situation, at least for race? Is old fashioned identity politics obsolete? All the working class blacks I know act as though they are ready to move on. Blacks I know and meet don’t fit the stereotypes perpetuated by the media and academia. Real job holding black people seem to want reciprocity, respect and to be treated as adults. Or maybe I am being naive.

I will not quote any of the childish ranting of Obama’s minister saying how he hates America and his Uncle Sam who makes sure that American blacks are the richest black people on earth except to note that he has never threatened to run away from home. Besides, according to many apologists, many black preachers make comments like this in the privacy of their own church as a way to entertain the congregation by poking Whitey in the eye or like my friend Eddie, figuratively using a broomstick on him. Instead I will bring to the attention of the reader the philosophy one of Reverend Wright’s own mentors, James Cone a professor at Union Theological Seminary.

Racial Catch 22 and Black Liberation Theology

Most information from this section was obtained by me reading: Theological Studies December 1, 2000 by MASSINGALE, BRYAN N.
AT A CATHOLIC SPONSORED justice conference, Professor James Cone gave what he called "a theological challenge to the American Catholic Church." What is "Racism"? Where are Catholics wrong?

Fighting racism the wrong way.

The Louisiana Catholic bishops in 1997 wrote: "The teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on racism is clear. Racism is morally wrong.” "Racism is the theory or practice which assumes that one race or ethnic stock is superior to another." "Racism perpetuates a basic untruth that purports an innate superiority of one group over another because of skin color."

No, no, this is all wrong.

OK how about this: “What is racism? Racism is a personal sin and social disorder rooted in the belief that one race is superior to another. It involves not only prejudice but also the use of religious, social, political, economic or historical power to keep one race privileged.... Racism is personal, institutional, cultural, and internal."

And how do the Bishops propose to correct the sin of racism?

They employ a strategy of moral suasion in their ethical argumentation. That is, they assume their audience's goodwill and moral acceptance of the basic faith tenets that they delineate. Therefore, the bishops presume that if the incompatibility of racist behaviors is pointed out to them, this will lead to personal conversion that will result in social transformation.
The faithful are to avoid using racial slurs and telling racial jokes. They are also to challenge such behaviors among their family members, friends and co-workers. Parents are asked to instill in their children the values of racial tolerance and an appreciation for ethnic diversity. Individuals are asked to cultivate interracial and cross-cultural friendships.
Unacceptable! Unacceptable!-- according to Black Liberation Theology.

Fighting racism the “right way.”

All this well meaning stuff is hopelessly out of date. To advocates such as Cone and the multiculturalism the remedy is as frightening as it is vague. The problem is presented in the most puffed up and horrendously exaggerated verbiage. It isn’t just that blacks tend to get a raw deal sometimes both individually and collectively like everyone else.
Cone says "We live in a nation committed to the perpetuation of white supremacy," that is, a nation committed to maintaining relationships of White cultural, political, and social dominance.

“The response of black theologians to white racism (in the past) was based too much upon moral suasion and too little upon the tools of social analysis.-- Although the un-Christian behavior of whites caused us to question their Christian identity, we still assumed that if the contradiction between racism and Christianity was clearly pointed out to them, they would change and act in a Christian manner. We were naive, because our analysis of the problem was too superficial and did not take into consideration the links between racism, capitalism, and imperialism, on the one hand, and theology and the church on the other. --- If we had used the tools of the social sciences and had given due recognition to the Christian doctrine of sin, then it is unlikely that we would have placed such inordinate dependence on the methodology of moral suasion.”
Even when it is manifest institutionally is cannot be reduced to demonstrable manifestations of personal prejudice or the racially pejorative beliefs of individuals that are expressed in interpersonal actions and omissions. Instead racism is a systemic and structural characteristic of the culture which seems float invisibly in the air. Even if a white person tries his best to not do or think racist things it is hopeless. Whitey is still a racist because of cultural determinism and must live in a state of perpetual guilt until the offending culture is reformed or replaced. Whites are automatically the beneficiary of unjust power and privilege whether they know it or not and thus are guilty whether they know it or not.

Correlates of Black Liberation ideology:

1.)Only whites can commit racist acts.
2.)Only blacks are qualified to tell you whether a racist act has not been committed or when racism is cured.
3.)Since white people lack the ability to judge racial matters, the government must be given the power to do what ever it takes to being justice to black people. According to Cone "How, indeed, is a mind to become conscious of its own bias when that bias springs from a communal flight from understanding and is supported by the whole texture of a civilization? Given the racial ethos of American society, there may be only so much that (White) people can "see." An alternate strategy of fostering liberating awareness and "consciousness raising," through moments of interruption needs to be seriously explored and developed.”

Cone’s program has long been in effect.

One irony is that much legislation directed at curing racism was passed almost 40 years ago was explicitly justified as a cure for institutional racism which was blamed for the massive rioting in towns throughout the nation in 1968. These writing by Cone were from at least 15 years after the Voting Rights Act the EEOC, huge affirmative action programs, the War on Poverty and other government programs were established that were explicitly designed to counter America’s racist society. One might ask if they have been effective. If, as I explained in the first part of my post, these programs foster permanent dependency they will never create equality. Politicians need to issue some sort of report card on these activities and accesses their negative effects.

At least Obama declared that there had been some progress and also acknowledged that white people were hurt by these programs which have rolled on relentlessly under every administration since Johnson’s presidency ended in 1969.

My reading of hard leftist and even moderate Democrat literature indicates they believe that American society is still basically racist and requires much more social engineering. I look for Obama to behave as any activist Democrat and try to saddle us with more of these programs, which I repeat, have been enforced and even strengthened even during Republican administrations including the Nixon and Reagan administration. Since many Americans still disagree with the underlying thesis of America’s inherent racism, they will have to decide just what Obama’s national dialogue on race will really mean. Please pardon a little skepticism.

The Exodus Continues

Today, the Census Bureau released its estimates of how metropolitan area populations have changed in the last year. Here's a pretty nice summary from MSNBC. Basically, it's exactly what you would expect if you've been following these trends. Of the 50 fastest growing areas, 27 were in the South, 20 in the West. Eight of the 10 fastest growing areas were in the South, which is growing a lot: "Four of these fast-growing Southern metro areas were not only among the top 10 in percent growth from 2006 to 2007 but also among the 20 largest numeric gainers during the same period."

Unfortunately, there isn't a breakdown here of suburban versus urban growth. The Census did release the top 100 fastest growing counties, but those are almost certainly biased towards suburban counties. Nevertheless, I'd bet (and when I have more time, I'll dig into the data sets and check) that despite the much vaunted renewal of urban cores, they account for a small fraction of population growth.

People come up with all number of reasons for these trends, both good and bad. But I think it's pretty undeniable that affordable housing is near the top, if not the most important reason. Urbanists and smart growth advocates like to crow about the liveability of older communities, but until they find a way to allow actual working families to afford them, the future of growth is in the suburban South. Only when we are free to build will the migration to more affordable places cease.


Fundamentals will win out

Ryan Avent seems to think that basic economics went out the window in the housing bubble (link via Megan McArdle). I find his criticism of Fed economist Fiona Sigalla completely baffling. Here's what she said:

In addition, house prices [in Dallas] have been stable compared with other areas, Ms. Sigalla said, adding, “We have lots of available land and fewer regulations, so we have a homebuilding boom sufficient to keep home prices at bay.”

Supply expanding to meet increasing demand? Happens in almost every industry. Texas has more land than other coastal areas? That doesn't seem too controversial. Regulations raise the price of housing? Ed Glaeser doesn't think that's laughable, and he's the indisputable king of urban economics. And it's completely true that housing prices in Dallas were relatively stable (increasing only 26% from 2000 to the peak).

It's true that some areas that meet the criteria of open land and relatively lower regulation have seen a bubble (Phoenix and Las Vegas come to mind). But the fact that markets sometimes make mistakes and overshoot when groping for an equilibrium doesn't mean that fundamental economic forces are irrelevant or, as Avent thinks, completely laughable. I don't know of any economist who would even disagree with what Fiona Sigalla said, let alone find it mockable. 


Terrible tragedy -> bigger government

The young 6-year-old girl
who was badly injured in a pool accident last June has died. [...]

Minnesota lawmakers are also looking into new pool safety regulations on the state level.

It is a shame that something terrible has to happen before action is taken and safety regulations are put in place.


Private Benefits, Socialized Costs

Honestly, I'm having trouble caring about the latest meme on the recent Fed actions, namely that they are socializing the costs (i.e., having the taxpayers bear them) of risky actions but allowing the private benefits to accrue to financiers. True, it may be bad (macroeconomics is not my forte, but I am not in the least impressed by neo-Austrian or folk economic explanations of how the Fed steals money from us ordinary peons). Nevertheless, suppose it's completely true that the Fed is handing over benefits left and right to people in finance.

Does anyone seriously doubt that high finance is a net positive contributer to the national government? Between the taxes on corporate earnings (the max rate is what, 35%?) and 35% top rates on income (federal alone), the government siphons off enormous sums during boom times. So during normal times the government takes a large percentage of the proceeds of finance, and every now and again the flow goes the other way. But surely in net, financiers help pay for government and not the other way around.

Now, there's certainly a moral hazard argument against Fed 'bailouts', and I'm sympathetic to them. But forgive me if I refuse to be OUTRAGED!!!! if the house throws a chip or two back at the bankers every couple of years.

ADDENDUM: To clarify a bit, it's not that I don't think bailouts and the like (if that's what this is) are wrong. I do. It's more along the lines of this argument here, regarding how the rich really do subsidize the government. There's a current of populist belief out there that somehow the federal government just lines the pockets of financiers, but I just don't think that's the case on net, and until I'm persuaded otherwise on that fact, emotionally, I just can't get up in arms about these things, even if I think they are wrong.

[Some of the above text was also edited for clarity.] 

Would Increasing Immigration Help the Housing Crisis?

According to a news story I read today (but, convinently, cannot find right now), there are 600,000 houses sitting empty now, owned by investors but sitting unwanted. One would think this is a pretty major reason for falling home prices, which is part of the reason credit markets are so gummed up now. Also, it's certainly probably that both the supply and demand for housing is fairly inelastic (right?), so a small increase in demand could lead to surprisingly large price increases.

So how about this for an 'emergency' measure to help the economy: Issue 1 million extra visas this year. I'm partial to Arnold Kling's visa auction proposal, but it could be done other ways. But if the U.S. could sell 1 million visas for $20,000 each (has anyone ever tried to estimate the market value of a U.S. work visa before?), we have a lot more play money for emergency 'bailouts' and the like, not to mention the housing effects.

Now, I should say as a renter, I'm pretty annoyed that everyone assumes that high housing prices are great, though this is partially counterbalanced by my amusement in seeing self-styled liberals and "affordable housing" advocates screaming about how bad falling housing prices are. Nevertheless, I'd certainly trade slightly higher home prices for avoiding a major recession. And if doing so, we can attract more of the best and brightest, that's a double gain.

To BO from BM. Not Good Enough.

Barack Obama has posted an article at Huffington Post in defense of his involvement with the anti-white ranter, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Here’s my response.

" I knew Rev. Wright as someone who served this nation with honor as a United States Marine, as a respected biblical scholar, …"

Respected biblical scholar? Respected by whom? Leonard Jefferies, and the "Reverend" Al Sharpton? How can one be a respected scholar of any kind and believe that Jesus was a black man? That doesn’t sound like scholarship.

"He also led a diverse congregation"

The congregation didn't look all that diverse in the videos I've seen. Why should that matter anyway? There's plenty of white people who hate America, and have an unhistorical view that denigrates whites. You'd have to be one to sit through that clownery week after week.

"It's a congregation that does not merely preach social justice ..."

Social justice is a Marxist term for injustice. I was a member of a committee on "social justice" and “racial justice” at my local Unitarian church at Shelter Rock for a while. They taught about "institutional racism" and how every white person was a "hidden racist". Hell they even had this nice little old lady who had worked on behalf of the NAACP for 35 or more years believing she was a "hidden racist". This was, as I pointed out to them, ridiculous. Meanwhile the blacks on the committee were full of the most racially bigoted views. One of those racist beliefs being precisely the idea that every white was a racist.

"Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn."

In case you didn't notice he was not preaching for us to love one another. He was preaching for blacks to see themselves as victims and whites as their oppressors. He was teaching them that they were not being treated justly by whites. This is the exact opposite of teaching love for another. Instead it is teaching resentment for the other, teaching envy of the other, and teaching that the other is the enemy. It's teaching blacks to view themselves not as humans but as perpetual victims and whites as their persecutors, something that would tend to increase racial tensions and racism on the part of both blacks and whites. Blacks seeing moral inferiority in every white and whites fearing that all blacks hate whites.

You, Obama, have realized this because you have denounced it, yet you wish to have it both ways. How can he both be a spreader of hateful statements as you have admitted and a spreader of love? Preaching love for one another isn't a one way street, and is wiped out when it's only for some, or contradicted.

"The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation."

Ron Paul claimed not to have seen the racially controversial stuff printed in his newsletter for about eleven months while he wasn't personally running it and he told us afterward that he didn't believe in that stuff. It's not proof positive he's a racist but it sure isn't a sign the other direction. It certainlyshows that he is not paying attention to something he should be. The fact you picked this Pastor and listend to him for twenty years tends to show the same thing about you. You may well not be a racist but it shows that you were not paying attention for twenty years to what is racist belief about whites.

"Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country."

Exactly what Ron Paul told us and that's not enough. This is more than about whether you are a racist or not. I don't think there is sufficient evidence to make that conclusion in either case. It's about whether you are willing to let racists run things for you. In this case your personal life.

"With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good."

Well I've seen the Rev. Otis Moss III blaming rich white corporations on the issue of rap music and distribution of crack. He claims that rap was fine until the corporations got hold of it and forced the addition of "n word", "h word", and the "b word". He tells us it is not a coincidence that gangster rap and crack hit the streets at the same time in the black community. Let me tell you that I found rap morally reprehensible the first time I heard it in 1977. That was long before it hit the charts and came under corporate influence, and yes they used the n-word, the h-word, and the b-word.

Yeah, and Johnny Mathas used to complain that the executives at these corporations would make him sing sappy songs. So why didn't they force him to use the "n-word" in his music?

If I was one of the executives at Time Warner, AOL, Sony and MCA I'd sue this guy for slander.

The fact that you, Barack Obama, think this guy is any better than Wright tells alot about you.

"And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States."

I have no idea who you are, what you believe in, or your values and judgment. You are a politician and as such you speak in generalities. Messages like "I am for hope." or "I am for change" tell me nothing. As you say I won't judge you on the basis of what someone else said. I don't know if you believe these things. I will judge you however on the fact that you do not distance yourself from a church that preaches such a false and warped view of America and of white people.

I’m not voting for a president who seeks the advice of people who hate America and the people who live in it.

Why Even Have Juries?

Via Instapundit, I'm reading this argument against jury nullification, arguing that they should be fact finders and nothing more.

My question is this: If that's true, why even have citizen juries at all? Surely you could take people well trained in the law and have more accurate fact finders. And it can't be that anti-nullification, pro-jury people think the "facts" themselves would be different if found by different types of juries.

So can anyone think of any purpose for juries beyond their role as a check on government authority? I'm trying, and I honestly can't.