Don Boudreaux offers these sagacious words on power:
People such as Thomas Piketty and Paul Krugman worry about accumulations of material wealth. I worry about accumulations of power. Bill Gates’s ability to force me to buy his company’s software does not increase with the number of dollars in his financial portfolio. Government’s ability to force me to do its bidding does indeed increase with the amount of power in its possession.
Mind you, dear audience, this would not be a post by your humble fiddler of ideas, if it did not envisage complications behind this basically correct proposition.
Modern government is incomparably more powerful than governments in earlier times. Yet people are a lot more free; their ability to do as they decide has expanded vastly. This freedom to act in a self-determined manner is the basis of what we call civil society, the greatest and most effective counter-weight to arbitrary, ruthlessly self-regarding power.
In that sense, big government is not the problem; it is not the size of the state that matters first and foremost. In fact, it may be true that up to a point bigger government is better government.
What matters is the quality of government, more specifically: the division and micro-structure of power in a society and its state.
The summary critic of government assumes that the modern state is a monolith, when in fact it is a complex composite of diverging interests and functions. It is a huge complicated knot tied into a huge complicated knot called society.
For government to be of a tolerable quality, you need to help tie these knots sensibly, and for that you need people to participate in the competition for defining (1) the functions of the state and (2) the concerns that government may legitimately support.
Vigilance in the face of the state's ever present disposition to overreach is an important part of political participation. The other equally important part of political participation is the willingness, guts, and acumen to accept responsibility for the positive functions of government.
Yes, there are good politicians - they are the ones who defend liberty by being vigililant vis-à-vis the state, but also know how to actively use the avenues of politics and the means of the chief enforcer of politics, the state, to help their communities and the citizens of the nation to achieve their legitimate goals.
... 20% of millennials said they trust the federal government to do the right thing; 32% said they trust the president; and 14% trust Congress. State and local governments (and, appallingly, the United Nations) fared a little better, but distrust of government is clearly the order of the day....
Which raises, not for the first time, a question I can’t answer: why do people who don’t trust government keep voting for more of it? For a long time, young people have voted mostly Democrat. Which means they are voting to give more of their money, and more control over their lives, to government–especially the federal government. Why would they do that, if only 20% of them trust the federal government to do the right thing?
I love this video. In it, Rep. Amash talks about working with the Democrats on social issues, tells us some dirty little secrets about how legislation usually gets passed, and sings the conservative praises of Tom McMillin who is running for the U.S. seat that MIke Rogers is vacating.
More of my rambling after the video:
This video really got me feelin' the love, to wit:
Don't you just love how Amash is just chock full of hope? I love the fact that McMillin is a CPA and not a lawyer, but that's probably not unrelated to the fact that I am also an accountant. I'm pretty sure that the country would be prosperous beyond our wildest imaginations if we let money experts do things like, you know, manage the money. (Right now, most of what they do seems to be tax planning. A noble and necessary cause, but there are certainly better ways to harness those talents.)
I love the story that Amash told about legislation that he started and left behind. He did not get it through when he was in the Michigan house, but it did not die when he moved up to D.C. The liberals have been very tenacious in that respect - they have been working on socialized medicine since the 1920's, and they never gave up. The GOP rarely pushes an agenda that hard or that long, and the steady growth of the welfare state clearly reflects that. Seeing a Republican that left a legacy bill that eventually passed and was signed by a Republican governor truly inspires me as to what we can accomplish if we stay the course and make allies along the way.
But above it all, I really love these lines from Amash: ""We want this to be the new Republican party. A party we can be proud of." Because indeed, isn't that exactly what we all want?
... Political Correctness is really just a special form of conspicuous consumption, leading to a zero-sum status race. The fact that PC fans are still constantly outraged, despite the fact that PC has never been so pervasive, would then just be a special form of the [tenuous to dubious, G.T.] Easterlin Paradox [which asserts: the more income, the less happiness; and analogously, the more PC-dominance, the greater the craving for desiderata consonant with PC, G.T.]
When Political Correctness is
really all about expressing one’s own moral superiority, PC credentials would be akin to what economists call a ‘positional good’.
A positional good is a good that people acquire to signalise where they stand in a social hierarchy; it is acquired in order to set oneself apart from others.
Make sure to read the entire article at the source.
In my view, this insight strengthens the case for time-tested classical liberalism (whose ideas are uncorrupted by political fads) and calls into question libertarian Political Correctness in as much as the latter cultivates a select minority position instrumental in making its adepts stand out as being morally superior to others.
Over the years, I have increasingly come to suspect that large numbers of libertarians are strongly tempted by the psychological effects of owning the positional good "liberty".
Among the strongest indicators that seem to support my suspicion is the remarkable disinclination of libertarians to take a self-critical look at their creed. Personally, the moment I begin to develop my position vis-à-vis liberty in a new direction, adding new aspects and questioning superficial but standard views, many of my fellow libertarians first frown, and quickly lose interest, preferring a once-and-for-all-belief to changes in the well-trodden paths.
Their tendency is clearly to relate to liberty as rigid orthodoxy, as a canonical unchanging set of beliefs, rather than as method - i.e. as a principled guide to learning and doing new things, not least in the political arena.
This also explains abstention from politics which is the more pronounced the "purer" libertarianism is. Participation in politics is a very tough test to put one's creed to. It is not possible to succeed politically without learning and changing some of the views one used to have. Not an inviting prospect for the politically correct libertarian perched high up on a position of immutable moral superiority.
Of course, classical liberalism does comprise a number of fairly immutable principles, but they are meant to keep us flexible and on our toes with regard to our thinking and our politics, and the principles of liberty are certainly not meant to be exempt from critical discussion and revision if needed (see for instance The Harm Principle and the Benefit Principle).
The whole spying issue is a lot more complicated than many people seem to accept.
Yesterday, I participated in a debate featuring as the central speaker the new boss of the German Liberal Party (FDP - Freie Demokratische Partei), Christian Lindner. (European sense of liberal, as opposed to American sense of "liberal = social democratic).
Interestingly, it turns out that the German secret service is heavily dependent on the NSA to do its job - not least because German law makes it difficult or impossible for German information agencies to gather information thankfully available from the NSA.
Spying is one of these issues that are fundamentally problematic, and can never be resolved to the fullest satisfaction. Which is why it is important that we keep an eye on it, and argue - to the best of our abilities - from a position of competence and discernment, rather than emoting and jumping to conclusions that rational reflection and research within our means would prove inappropriate.
The main point I had to make vis-à-vis the results of the discussion: I am far more concerned about, indeed afraid of the arbitrary acts perpetrated by the European Commission against Germans (and other Europeans) than by the potential of arbitrary acts that may be committed by the NSA against my fellow citizens and myself.
That is not to trivialise the spying issue; however as long as an attack on and a perversion of freedom and democracy as large-scale and powerful as the European Union is not even identified as a threat to Europeans, I have a hard time accepting that people are getting their priorities right at all.
Secret services will always give rise to problems of civic adequateness, but they become epidemically dangerous only when people lose interest in the non-totalitarian quality of the political order in which they live.
Try telling someone from the US why we Germans have no problem sitting in a sauna full of naked people but get nervous when the Google camera-car rolls by and takes digital images of our houses. I gave it my best shot, but let's just say this: Our concept of the private sphere is not immediately clear to people abroad.
I've also learned that it is no easy task to clarify to Americans why Germans are more than happy to consign their children to state care when they are just one year old but would go through hell and high water to keep their personal information out of state hands. In most cases, Americans don't like the state nosing into their personal affairs. But, when it comes to internal and external security, they have resigned themselves to the necessity of government meddling.
For some reason, we Germans have taken the exact opposite approach: We delegate things to the state that we could take care of ourselves. But when it comes to issues we can't do alone, we don't trust the state to do them either.
Make sure to read the entire essay, whose author prominently figured in yesterday's debate.
The race in Nebraska for the seat of retiring Sen. Mike Johanns (R) has divided tea party groups. Sasse has the support of the Club For Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund. Former treasurer Shane Osborn is backed by Freedomworks. Regardless of who wins the primary, the seat is expected to remain in GOP hands.
"I asked Governor Palin to join our campaign, and I am grateful for her support today," Sasse said in a statement.
Taking the Constitution seriously is not a trivial exercise. Randy Barnett is one of the best sources for insight and orientation concerning fundamental issues of US law and the constitution.
Apart from the constitutionality of Obamacare, Randy Barnett covers a whole range of interesting issues in the below interview. Of particular note I find his contention toward the end of the video that the abolitionists were the precursors of modern libertarians.
Depending on the subject matter, benefit-cost analysis (bca) may come more or less close to the precision insinuated by its numeric results - like the benefit-cost ratio of 50 : 1 (or even higher) estimated in the below bca concerning CO2 emissions.
Irrespective of its numerical precision, the one great virtue of bca is that it forces you to look at the vital issues of a project and attempt to determine to what degree of precision and confidence benefits and costs are ascertainable. It requires one to make his assumptions explicit and gives others a chance to acquaint themselves with these assumptions and probe into them.
In a word, if properly done, bca is a commendable auxiliary for a realistic, comprehensive and fair look at a project. It can be the basis for a critical discourse. For that reason, I tend to think, it is an important means to ensure transparent government decisions. We should ask of government agencies to disclose the bca underlying their proposals or decisions.
Bezden and Driessen demonstrate what a critical look at government bca can bring to light.
The IWG process hypothesizes almost every conceivable carbon “cost” – including costs to agriculture, forestry, water resources, forced migration, human health and disease, coastal cities, ecosystems and wetlands. Yet it fails to estimate any carbon benefits. Even more incredibly, the agencies have done this in complete disregard of EO 12866 and a recent OMB declaration that careful consideration of both costs and benefits is important in determining whether a regulation is worth implementing at all.
Bezden and Driessen conclude:
Prodigious amounts of fossil fuels will be required to sustain future economic growth, especially in the non-OECD nations. If the world is serious about lessening the need for human, animal, wood and dung energy, maintaining and increasing economic growth, reducing energy deprivation and human poverty, improving human and civil rights, and increasing standards of living, health and longevity in the non-OECD nations – then massive fossil fuel utilization will be required, for decades to come.
Achieving these benefits for billions of poor people worldwide – while also maintaining them for American, European and other developed nation families – translates into a simple fact: the benefits of fossil fuels far outweigh any conceivable costs, and will continue to do so for decades to come.
Similarly, the benefits of carbon dioxide emitted in the process of producing this energy also overwhelmingly outweigh the claimed and estimated costs associated with that CO2 – no matter which SCC estimates or assumptions are used. In fact, compared to the benefits of carbon dioxide for forest, grassland and food crop growth, the SCC cost estimates are relatively so small as to be in the statistical noise of the estimated CO2 benefits.
In this context, there is also a critical need far more a balanced, broad-based and honest assessment of “dangerous manmade climate change” claims. Literally thousands of scientists do not agree that human carbon dioxide emissions are a primary cause of climate change, or that any changes in our weather or climate are bound to be harmful, dangerous or even catastrophic. However, their views have been deliberately and systematically ignored and taken out of the policy-making process, because the process has unfortunately become political and ideological, rather than science-based and analytical.
These facts must be used to inform energy, environmental, and regulatory policies. Otherwise, the regulations will continue to be far worse than the harms they supposedly redress. For the Interagency Working Group, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior and other Federal agencies to continue ignoring the true costs and benefits, the requirements of law under EO 12866, and sixty years of informed benefit-cost protocols and practices, is illegal, unethical and contrary to the best interests of our nation, its citizens and all humans.
Beforehand, a brief and rather entertaining introduction to the broader issue:
Climate scientist Dr. Murry Salby [not the gentleman in the above video], Professor and Climate Chair at Macquarie University, Australia explains in a recent, highly-recommended lecture presented at Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg, Germany, why man-made CO2 is not the driver of atmospheric CO2 or climate change. Dr. Salby demonstrates:
CO2 lags temperature on both short [~1-2 year] and long [~1000 year] time scales
The IPCC claim that "All of the increases [in CO2 concentrations since pre-industrial times] are caused by human activity" is impossible
"Man-made emissions of CO2 are clearly not the source of atmospheric CO2 levels"
Satellite observations show the highest levels of CO2 are present over non-industrialized regions, e.g. the Amazon, not over industrialized regions
96% of CO2 emissions are from natural sources, only 4% is man-made
Net global emissions from all sources correlate almost perfectly with short-term temperature changes [R2=.93] rather than man-made emissions
Methane levels are also controlled by temperature, not man-made emissions
Climate model predictions track only a single independent variable - CO2 - and disregard all the other, much more important independent variables including clouds and water vapor.
The 1% of the global energy budget controlled by CO2 cannot wag the other 99%
Climate models have been falsified by observations over the past 15+ years
Climate models have no predictive value
Feynman's quote "It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with the data, it’s wrong" applies to the theory of man-made global warming.