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Rent-A-Judge

No, we're not talking about public choice economics. Or corruption of any sort. We're talking dispute resolution. Outside the formal legal system. Now available online. The (admittedly cheesily-named) RentAJudge.com is now offering fixed-cost arbitration.

Of course, everyone knows that private legal systems are crazy talk best left to SF or possibly fringy AnCap blogs.

(HT: Katherine Mangu-Ward)


Treading water with Instapunk

A good entry over at Instapunk. Some highlights.

... we elected a president ... The show is over, and everyone is dully channel-surfing, looking for something, anything, else that might be on. ...

The post-election Obama seems a mere shadow of the presence he was under the klieg lights. Now he seems withdrawn, leaden, almost inert, like a show prop being stored in a closet. ...

Meanwhile, every other industry in the nation seems to have its hand out. Suddenly no business enterprise can hope to succeed unless it secures a place on the giant new government tit that's been pulled out of the federal corset. ...

It's all just killing time. Treading water. Waiting for the next shoe to drop. A shoe that belongs to Barack Obama, whoever he is ...

So far he hasn't even roused himself enough to sound hopeful about the state of the economy or the prospects for its recovery. Instead, he murmurs bleakly about trillion dollar deficits for years. ...

we're all treading water and the news business has apparently gone out of business, just like the banks, the car companies, the Republican Party, and the U.S. Congress.

When you tread water long enough, fatigue begins to steal over you. As you lose energy, you begin to lose hope. At some point you surrender and drown.


A Taxing Observation

It strikes me that taxes are lower now than they are likely to be for some time. Between social welfare policies and the entitlement shortfall, average rates aren't heading down for at least the next two decades.


Holiday Greetings

Merry Christmas, all. I wish you a prosperous and happy New Year.


Bankrupt City

From Detroit Blog, hat tip Moldbug:

Whole neighorhood blocks cleared of houses by arson and bulldozers have reverted to urban prairies, visible in satellite photos as unusually large green patches in the middle of the inner city. Sidewalks vanish beneath creeping grasses, while aluminum fences between homes become entwined with the branches of dozens of saplings growing as high as the droopy utility wires.

Alleys in parts of the city start resembling hiking trails as growth from the yards on both sides narrows their width. All around town, even smaller empty lots become thick, grassy fields, because the City doesn’t often mow in easements and right-of-way areas, allowing weeds to grow 3 feet high.

Throughout Detroit, as half the population fled in the last half-century outward towards the suburbs and later towards more rural areas, the city itself has, ironically, become more rural, with wild animals and lush green plants coexisting with an industrial, modern metropolis. Nature, driven back by progress during the city’s 300 years, has aggressively reasserted itself in recent decades, reclaiming land from which man has turned away.


Transporter 3's Libertarian Villain

I watched the third installment of the Transporter franchise last night. A pretty mediocre action movie compared to the first one, and even less entertaining than the sequel.

Still, I found this part interesting:

Is it just me or is this the most sensible movie villain ever? I would personally like to see more libertarian bad guys in Hollywood movies.


Rampant Moldbuggery

I discovered the blog of Mencius Moldbug when Patri linked to this post a few months ago. You should follow that link and also this one, Mencius is well worth your time. He is one of the freshest and most interesting writers on the web, though eccentric even by libertarian standards. His ideas are promising and deserve to be presented without the less palatable garnish of his acerbic writing style.

The most compelling idea in the sprawling Moldbuggian corpus is "neocameralism". Neocameralism is a close relative to Patri's theory of Dynamic Geography in that both are forms of practical market anarchism. Its reasoning is straightforward: If you believe that government should be given incentive to govern well, then modern democracy must be thrown out. Simply trying harder to elect better candidates will not fix the familiar structural problems of democracy, such as plundering special interest groups, ever-expanding bureaucracy, and election contests with the intellectual content of an American Idol finale. However, if you think that security service providers (AKA "governments") form geographic monopolies (500,000 years of human history provides good evidence for this), then the Rothbard/Hoppe/Friedman vision of anarcho-capitalism with a competitive market in security must also be set aside as a pipe dream.

Neocameralism, then, is statist anarchism. It envisions a world filled with small monopoly states run by for-profit corporations. Neocameralism addresses many of the shortcomings of democracy and anarchy. Moldbug defends it well:

To a neocameralist, a state is a business which owns a country. A state should be managed, like any other large business, by dividing logical ownership into negotiable shares, each of which yields a precise fraction of the state's profit. (A well-run state is very profitable.) Each share has one vote, and the shareholders elect a board, which hires and fires managers.

This business's customers are its residents. A profitably-managed neocameralist state will, like any business, serve its customers efficiently and effectively. Misgovernment equals mismanagement.

For example, a neocameralist state will work hard to keep any promise it makes to its residents. Not because some even more powerful authority forces it to, but because it is very pleasant and reassuring to live in a country where the government can be trusted, and it is scary and awful to live in a country where it can't. Since trust once broken takes a long time to rebuild, a state that breaks its own laws has just given its capital a substantial haircut. Its stock is almost certain to go down.

I am provisionally convinced that a neocameralist world is likely to be more libertarian and better-governed than a world run by universal suffrage democracy. For-profit states are likely to follow libertarian economic policies, since those policies tend to create prosperous and interesting places to live. Conversely, socialism is an expensive program that attracts the indigent, not exactly prime clientèle if you are trying to turn a buck. Culturally, I expect a neocameralist world to be a patchwork of diverse burbclaves ranging from a straitlaced, caffeine-free Mormonville to a hedonistic New San Francisco. While not every state will be cosmotarian friendly, each person will have the freedom to choose where to live, presuming they meet the residence requirements of their preferred state. That sounds fair enough to me.

More importantly, my initial impression is that the logic is tight. Neocameralism seems stable and practical, or at least more so than Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism.

There are certainly difficulties with neocameralism. Transitioning to a neocameralist world is the first hurdle that springs to mind. Moldbug never clearly spells out a plausible strategy for getting from here to there. Then there is the minor matter of how shareholders in the government will keep the management under control when management presumably has all the guns. After all, in a democracy corporate shareholders can ask the government to enforce contractual obligations when management shirks its duties. Hopefully you see the problem that occurs with this model when management runs the government. Moldbug offers some technological solutions to this problem that are interesting but unsatisfying.

Still, Moldbug gives me hope that a libertarian future might be practical, which is valuable as the libertarian movement doesn't exactly have a surplus of hope. In a world that has gone through the FDR presidency, I don't see how anyone can cling to the hope that libertarianism might be achieved through a constitutional democracy. I came back from Mises University an anarchist convert, but I have since strayed from the faith due to doubts about its practicality. The arguments for dynamic geography are well-considered, but it abandons the 25% of the world's surface that humanity has historically lived on to sclerotic statism. Also, it is going to entail significant startup costs.

IANAM, (I am not a Moldbuggite), but Mencius, consider me intrigued.


TASERs

I joined the Seattle Police Department in 1965. At 5-10 I was one of the smallest people in Academy Class 49. It was a new experience for me, being the short guy. We had a couple of females in the class but they were to become Police Women, a different civil service designation whose job description was to deal with children, females, and generally assist Police Officers when requested.

Police officers had minimum physical size requirements because we were expected to intimidate suspects and win fights. In the bad old days when the First Avenue beat had a dozen and a half bars and taverns, half "Indian" taverns, the old beat cops expected a least a couple of fights every night and, far as I know, won them all. Being "pre-grand jury" days and the statute of limitations has long run, I can say that beat cops were expected were expected to down two shots in every bar on every shift. Some old timers, I think I never saw sober. Rumor was that some sobered up after they retired, when they had to pay for their drinks. The point is that they won their fights, didn't have to shoot suspects, and TASERs had not been invented.

I was a terrible fighter, hated getting physical, and never lost a fight that I could recall, though over 30 years several suspects escaped. How come? Because I hardly ever got into a fight. I was big enough and ugly enough to look like a "real" cop . . . and Chinatown was a peaceful place one you got to know the people. Back in the bad old pre-grand jury days it was safe to walk downtown at midnight but now it is questionable at noon. What happened?

Four things happened: The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the grand jury investigation, the invention of electronic camaras, and Watts. In the bad old days your sergeant would say, "You have a problem on your beat. You handle it and I'll handle the heat." Bet you that no sergeant has said THAT in 20 years. Some people only understand pain. Back then, you could drag someone into an alley and convince them in a non-lethal way to leave your district. Now days, touch any person for any reason and it could be on the news in full color.

Then there is "equal opportunity." A five foot, 100 pound lady cop could be a black belt karate champ but a 6 foot, 250 pound drunk will have to see for himself. And if she isn't a black belt champ? She gets creamed. Read your local newspaper. Note the gender of injured police officers.

And law suits. Our new national sport is suing your local police department. In the bad old days the police officer's goal was to go home at least as healthy as when he started the shift. We now add, "and don't get sued." The best way to NOT get sued is to NOT do anything, specifically, NOT get physical. Better to spend two hours writing a report that explains why fighting wasn't appropriate than to spend two minutes fighting. And one can't drink coffee while fighting. And now that the officer PAYS for his coffee . . .

So as long as the courts hold that TASERs are non-lethal and a situation looks like it is getting physical . . . . I have read that the Washington State Patrol now instructs its people to TASER before laying a hand on anyone.


singing and microphoning

Compare the recent replays of Roy Orbison and Pavarotti on public tv. Orbison has a nice voice and nice tunes but would be dead in the water without a microphone. He doesn't know how to sing. Pavarotti has a nice voice, nice tunes, and knows how to sing. Yes, I'm a music snob.


Gained in the Translation

Have you ever listened to the words of recorded music and you could not believe what you though they said? So much the more entertaining when the music is sung in a foreign language, particularly Hindi. Yet it seems that the music is in fractured English except that it full of all sorts of humorous non sequiturs. For instance try this gem from India along with the pseudo-translations. See this link

The part I especially like went

“ Dish herpes on the head
Pull slinky and make me fart.
Do me hard, yes in the ear
Yes in the ear
Your brains will die.”

And especially dedicated on this Sunday morning to Brian Macker , this English hymn, with accompanying translation. I don’t know how these will sound to the grave and earnest men at DR( Dour Republic) but at least I get to try to link some clips. See this U-Tube Link
I didn't figure out how to put in those direct links to U-tube.


Bad Egg

I was surprised to learn that OJ had committed another major crime. It confirms the bad egg theory of crime, a theory which I now believe in more strongly than before: the commission of a serious crime either makes you into a bad egg, or else proves that you were a bad egg all along. Criminality is not just a kind of behavior, it's also a character trait.

If you commit a serious crime, you are a bad egg, or are made into a bad egg. If you are a bad egg, you will commit a crime again. If you commit a crime and get away with it, worry not. You will continue to commit crimes and will eventually be caught. Case in point.


A flimsy pretext for naked aggression

Bryan Caplan throws down the gauntlet on immigration.

It's reasonable to insist that people get your permission to come to your home. It's absurd to insist that people get your permission to live in your neighbor's house* - much less than people get your permission to live in a hundred-mile radius of you. That's on par with the schoolyard bully's grievance that "You're breathing my air." We should see it for what it is - a flimsy pretext for naked aggression.

The idea is not especially new - standard libertarian position on immigration - but the expression is stark and concise, and I like the phrase, "a flimsy pretext for naked aggression," which begs to be recycled, possibly as a heading.

Arthur B.! You're breathing my air!


Without a compass, we walk in circles

Responding to Climate and Bias.

The world continually gives us information that we can use to compensate for our various biases - so that we can go through life without those biases ever manifesting themselves visibly. One reads about the tendency of people to walk in circles (consistently veering off course to the left, or consistently to the right) if they don't have any clues to tell them which way they're going. This tendency does not manifest itself in daily life on familiar ground and might never manifest itself, since few people walk deep into forests without preparation.

And I think that a similar situation exists with claims about the weather and the economy. The difficulty of really testing certain ideas about the weather and the economy is analogous to being lost in a forest without any directional cues. In that situation our biases shape our view much as a left/right bias shapes our walk. And it's not as though we could decide, "okay, now I will be unbiased." We need cues not only in order to correct for our biases, but even in order to tell whether and how much and in what way we are biased. If we're in a forest and we find ourselves walking in circles, we can at least calculate roughly how large the circle is if we happen to recognize a spot that we passed before. But in the case of many ideas about the economy and the weather we may not even have that much to go on.

The "global warming debate" is in any case less about competing specific claims than about the level of certainty that we can rightly claim to have about the world's climate.

Consider two kinds of disagreement. One disagreement is between specific predictions:

a) X will happen.

b) X will not happen.

Another kind of disagreement is about the level of certainty:

c) We can be pretty sure that X will happen.

d) We really don't know whether X will happen (a skeptical position, e.g. global warming skepticism).

When the subject is something like economics or the weather, my view is that the best answer between (c) and (d) is usually (d), with few exceptions. But the answer that is usually given, or at least implied, is (c).

And since (I think) (d) is the correct answer, then the disagreement between (a) and (b) cannot really be resolved. Both (a) and (b) are tenable - but they are not tenable with any certainty.

However, we can step back one level and consider the following two competing claims:

e) We can be pretty sure whether (c) or (d) is correct.

f) We really don't know whether (c) or (d) is correct.

That is, it may (e.g. to the satisfaction of all reasonable onlookers) be hard to decide whether it is hard to decide whether (a) or (b) is correct. The global warming debate is between statements like (c) and (d); the various parties are in agreement about (e), though they disagree about whether it is (c) or (d) which is clearly correct. Someone observing the global warming debate can step back and observe that, evidently, people are disagreeing about (c) and (d), which suggests that (f) may be true.


Libertarian pessimism

Responding to Libertarianism and Positive Psychology

What if it is objectively true (as I think it is) that it is safer for the meek individual to live in a free society than under a socialist state? In that case the individual who feels pessimistic might reasonably and rightly grab onto the market as onto a life vest.

In neither a market nor a socialist economy does the individual truly stand alone. In both cases the typical individual is entirely dependent on the system, without which he would die. The difference is that the support provided by the market is the unintentional byproduct of millions of people who are not, even in the abstract, trying to keep a particular person alive. But in the case of the socialist state, the state can be said to be trying to keep everyone, and therefore (in the abstract) each particular person, alive. For example, when I buy gasoline, I am not trying to feed the gasoline attendant. I am there for my car and for myself, not for the attendant. But I am, nevertheless, indirectly feeding the attendant - without intending to. In contrast, in a fully socialist economy people are not going to survive unless the state tries to keep them alive.

In case that last point is not clear, I'll explain. In a fully socialist economy, wheat is grown because the state directs it. Bread is baked because the state commands it. Everything that happens, happens at the command (the direction) of the state. So if the commands are not given, then the stuff will not be made. So, whatever the state commands, will be made, and what it does not, will not. If the higher-up does not direct his underlings to feed the people, then they in turn will not command that the wheat be grown, the flour be made, the bread be baked. In order for people to survive, then, the state must try to keep them alive. Socialism is precarious in part because it depends on the conscious intention of people at high levels, since they may, after all, forget, or change their minds. This is ironic, because it is this dependence of socialism on conscious intention that makes people think that it is especially safe and secure.

People tend to believe that things will not happen that are not willed. This has different facets. If something happens, people tend to think it was willed to happen (possibly by a witch). And on the other side, in order for something to happen, people think it needs to be willed to happen. And in a market, there is no such will, while in a socialist state there is. So people tend erroneously to think that in markets, things that they are worried about will not happen while in socialist economies they will. And so, erroneously, they favor socialism thinking that it will keep them safe, even though the truth is that socialism endangers them.


Max Boot Loves Obama's Picks

Boot says:

As someone who was skeptical of Obama's moderate posturing during the campaign, I have to admit that I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain. (Jim Jones is an old friend of McCain’s, and McCain almost certainly would have asked Gates to stay on as well.) This all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq...