Archive | September, 2009

We Have Always Been At War With Eastasia

In imperial China it was common to describe officials as “Confucians when in office, Taoists when out of office.” Similarly, in modern western democracies whichever party is out of power tends to ramp up the libertarian rhetoric. Hence we hear all this anti-government talk from the Republicans during the Clinton and Obama eras, but (apart from a few honourable exceptions) where was it during the Bush era? And likewise for the Democrats, in the Bush era suspicion of government power was the order of the day, but now (again, apart from a few honourable exceptions) such suspicion is dismissed as evidence of lunacy.

Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann

Olbermann and his ilk are perfect examples. Last year Olbermann used to address President Bush in terms such as these:

If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business, come out and say it! There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend.

You’re a fascist – get them to print you a T-shirt with fascist on it! …

The lot of you are the symbolic descendants of the despotic middle managers of some banana republic to whom “freedom” is an ironic brand name, a word you reach for when you want to get away with its opposite.

Thus, Mr. Bush, your panoramic invasion of privacy is dressed up as “protecting America.”

Thus, Mr. Bush, your indiscriminate domestic spying becomes the focused monitoring only of “terrorist communications.”

And so on, quite enjoyably. But nowadays anyone expressing similar sentiments toward our current President Incarnate would get nothing from Olbermann but ridicule, outrage, and probably some veiled threats of violence.

Which bring me to my point (and I do have one, right on top of my head), which is to recommend Kevin Carson’s critique of Olbermann-style liberalism.

Also check out the latest installment of Kevin’s critique of Sloanism.

And, in mostly unrelated news, check out Stephan Kinsella’s latest piece on IP.

Workers of the World, Don’t Unite!

the birth of business unionism

In honour of Fake Labour Day, Tom DiLorenzo writes:

As every good free market economist knows, the only way unions have ever been able to raise wages above market-clearing wages is by the use of violence.

Okay, but whence this assumption that unions raising wages means raising them above (rather than to) the market-clearing price?

Employers of labour form firms in order to, e.g., reduce transaction costs and take advantage of economies of scale, but (except to the extent that they get government help in doing this, which of course they often do) we don’t describe this as lowering their costs below the market price for their services; instead, we say that that’s part of the process by which the market price is determined.

Why should different rules apply to the sellers of labour? If association enables employers to get a better deal without necessarily relying on government intervention, why should we assume that any benefits that workers derive from like association must somehow involve the state?


disconnected from reality

My DSL connection at home has been on the fritz these last few days (and even dial-up won’t work there anymore – the modem claims it can’t detect the dial tone), so until it gets fixed I can only connect when I’m in the office (where competing demands tend to claim my attention).

(Yes, I’ve checked to make sure everything is plugged in.)

So expect diminished web presence from me for the next few days as I await the arrival of my tech dervish.

Crying in the Bewilderness

Wonka's flying elevator

I just rode the elevator with a confused man.

So we’re on the 3rd floor of Haley Center, in front of the elevators. I push the “up” call button and he pushes the “down.” An elevator arrives; it indicates it’s going up. We both get on. I push the button for the 6th floor; he says, “oh, is this going up? well, then I’ll ride up and then go back and get one that’s going down.”

As I exit at the 6th floor, he pushes a button – for the 3rd floor.

(And he wasn’t even a philosopher!)

They’re Coming To Take Me Away

Are you space-crazy? We've got to do something!

Rate each of the following questions from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree):

  1. For the most part, government serves the interests of a few organized groups, such as business, and isn’t very concerned about the needs of people like myself.
  2. I have trouble doing what I want to do in the world today.
  3. It is difficult for people such as myself to have much influence in public affairs.
  4. We seem to live in a pretty irrational and disordered world.
  5. I don’t trust that my closest friends would not lie to me.

According to this Psychology Today article (CHT LRC), your answers determine your degree of susceptibility to paranoid delusions about nonexistent conspiracies. Scores of 5-11 indicate weak susceptibility, 12-18 moderate, and 19-25 strong.

Apart from (5), I doubt that most people could honesty give a low score to these questions unless they just haven’t been paying attention – though (2) seems hopelessly vague. (What do I want to do in the world today? Have lunch? Fly to Venus?) (4) strikes me as a bit odd, since I thought paranoia was supposed to involve seeing more order in the world than is actually there. (It would be a more cheerful thought if a comma were inserted after “pretty.”)

If I were prone to paranoid delusions, which according to this test I am, I might think its chief purpose was to plant in people’s minds the idea that anyone who thinks that “for the most part, government serves the interests of a few organized groups, such as business, and isn’t very concerned about the needs of people like myself” is delusional.

Captain Planet

Everyone’s pointing out that this ad – created to be pitched to, but never approved by, the World Wildlife Fund – is tasteless and offensive. (Click the pic below to enlarge it, or click here to seriously supersize it.)

Multiple planes converging on Manhattan

Well, duh. But what I’ve yet to see anyone point out is how counterproductive the ad’s caption is:

The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it.

(a.k.a. “Kneel before Zod!”) When you hear that “the planet” has killed 100 times more people than 9/11, is your natural response to respect and preserve it, let alone to donate money to its support? I’d think the natural response would be “I guess the planet is our enemy! We’d better declare war upon it!”

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