Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Thought Experiment for Open Immigration Opponents

Bryan Caplan posits an interesting thought experiment for immigration opponents. Like any good thought experiment, I think this one is effective because it’s a clear, succinct analogy and any honest disagreement is likely to come from arguing that the analogy itself is flawed.

This is ideal because the flaws one identifies in the analogy are likely to be the critical features that one considers important in the immigration debate, and so can be revealing about what, exactly, one’s motivations are. This is why thought experiments are particularly useful in ethics. Ethical inquiry has never really been about involuntary organ donation or pushing fat guys in front of trains, but rather about figuring out what the necessary elements are for an act to be ethically permissible.

So I encourage you to read Caplan’s argument and, as he says, “show your work”. In what specific ways are wage-based eugenics different from restricting immigration of the impoverished and/or unskilled?

“The reason for which humans have failed to develop a finely built social process assuring continuity and steady quality in leadership is probably that they did not have to. Most human societies are marked by the existence of a surplus above subsistence. The counterpart of this surplus is society’s ability to take considerable deterioration in its stride. A lower level of performance, which would mean disaster for baboons, merely causes discomfort, at least initially, to humans.

The wide latitude human societies have for deterioration is the inevitable counterpart of man’s increasing productivity and control over his environment. Occasional decline as well as prolonged mediocrity–in relation to achievable performance levels–must be counted among the many penalties of progress. A priori it would seem futile, therefore, to look for social arrangements that would wholly eliminate any sort of deterioration of polities and of their various constituent entities. Because of the surplus and the resulting latitude, any homeostatic controls with which human societies might be equipped are bound to be rough.” – Albert O Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty

Thank You, Lord

“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.” – Voltaire

There’s been a couple of recent protests here in Seattle targeting corporate transit buses. First a couple of masked “anarchists” blocked a Microsoft shuttle bus. The next day, the same masked protesters blocked what they apparently thought was an Amazon shuttle, failing to realize that Amazon doesn’t provide shuttles and that they were actually blocking a municipal street car.

In both instances the self-important oiks saw saw fit to distribute pamphlets they’d written for the occasion. Contra Microsoft. Contra Amazon.

Rigorous, logical argumentation, to be sure, with beautiful prosody sure to stir the revolutionary soul. If this is what passes for anti-corporate agitation these days, I reckon the corporations have nothing to worry about.

A word to the earnest young progressive agitators: This is Seattle. When you’ve lost the Stranger, you’ve lost the fight.

Disclosure Notice

William Pitt on Anglosphere Liberty

“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it, the storm may enter, the rain may enter; but the King of England cannot enter; all his force dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.” – William Pitt the Elder, 1763

I ran across this quote while reading Daniel Hannan’s book Inventing Freedom. The book has been extremely interesting, especially for its focus on the Anglosphere as a coherent cultural and political body. He focuses on the factors that make the Anglosphere countries alike, draws out the history of those unique qualities, and offsets them against continental Europe and other cultures to draw a compelling picture of a unified Anglophone history and way of life.

I definitely recommend the book to history and politics buffs alike (Hannan, being a British MEP, has a definite political position, but it’s well supported by the evidence provided and doesn’t come across as polemical). It’s an interesting history and a fair presentation of a perspective that doesn’t get much airing these days.

East Anglia and the Revolution

Those who had settled New England came largely from Eastern counties of England. They built their houses in the East Anglian style, and named their towns after their ancestral homes: Hertford and Cambridge, Boston and Billerica. The English counties that they left behind became the heartland of the Parliamentary cause in the 1640s, Cromwell’s Eastern Association.

When the fighting started in England, the New England Puritans began streaming back across the Atlantic to take up arms alongside their cousins. A majority of Harvard graduates in the year 1642 saw action with the Roundheads.

This quote, from Daniel Hannan’s The New Road to Serfdom makes complete sense to me. I lived in East Anglia for a while in 2005, and one thing that struck me is just how similar the native cultural intuitions seemed. (Even to the point that the stereotypes used to tar the East Anglians were strikingly similar to those employed against Americans at times, but that’s perhaps a separate post.) There is a particular strain of populist, libertarian DNA that ties Robert Kett and his followers to the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. Those of us who fancy ourselves as occupying some Legrangian point between the two modern American extremes might profit from examining the individualistic, voluntary foundation that Hannan identifies in common between parliamentarian Britain and (little-r) republican America.

QotD from Daniel Hannan’s The New Road to Serfdom

A few months ago, I found myself addressing the Republican committee of a rural county in a southern state. Its members looked much as I had expected members of the Republican committee of a rural county in a southern state to look: rugged and sunburned. During the question and answer session, I was asked why the GOP, having dominated late twentieth-century politics, was faring so badly.

I replied that, as far as I could see, one of the party’s most serious mistakes had been its retreat from localism. The Republicans started winning in the 1960s when they embraced states’ rights and the devolution of power. They started losing forty years later when they abandoned these principles. The audience growled its approval and son, perhaps incautiously, I began to list the areas where the Bush administration had wrongly extended ventral power, ranging from the rise in federal spending to the attempt to strike down state laws on same-sex unions. When I mentioned same-sex unions, a rustle went through the room, and I winced inwardly: This, I thought, was perhaps not the wisest example to have offered the Republican committee of a rural county in a southern state.

Sure enough after I had finished, a man with a beard and a red baseball cap sauntered up to me.

“Son,” he said, “Ah ‘preciate you comin’, an’ Ah ‘greed with most of wut you said/ But Ah must disagree with your position on so-called homosexual marriage.”

He paused to hitch his jeans up his great belly, looking into the middle distance.

“Far as Ah kin see, not bein’ under any pressue to git married is one of the main advantages Ah enjoy as a gay man.”

“Thanks, Markets!”

The inimitable Amanda BillyRock gave an excellent speech at Porcfest X this year. Alas, I wasn’t able to go (though I am planning on attending PorcFest in 2014!). Fortunately, we Live In The Future, so you can check out her speech on YouTube. Her talk, entitled “Cab Drivers Say the Darndest Things”, is a warm, human tour through markets and the state as they actually impact our lives. Come for the pro-market parables, stay for the story of Amanda faking her own death:

The PNW and the UN Fallacy

Anyone interested in an object illustration of the UN Fallacy1 could hardly do better than Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA. Seattle and Vancouver are so similar in culture, climate, architecture, arts, and culture that it would take a non-trivial familiarity with both to be able to tell them apart. And yet the two cities are bound up into entirely different political compacts which are, in both cases, populated by cities and peoples significantly different than themselves. Or at least much more different than the cities are to each other. Vancouver has far more in common with Seattle than it does with Montreal; Seattle has far more in common with Vancouver than it does with Savannah.

To the fan of competitive governance2, this is a clear indication that the current political compacts that bind the two cities are deeply flawed. Why should people in Seattle be, in part, controlled by people in Savannah, when a political association with Vancouver makes much more economic, cultural, and political sense? If the people of Vancouver and Seattle have more in common and decide that their futures are more strongly entwined than they are with the rest of their current countries, why shouldn’t they be permitted to form a new political compact between them?

And yet, the idea that the people of Vancouver and Seattle should voluntarily band together and throw off their existing national arrangements is seen as radical, insane, or naive. How could it be any crazier than the idea that Vancouver and Montreal should be legally, politically, and economically bound, due simply to an accident of history?

1 The UN Fallacy is the idea that a geographical area is sensibly considered as a whole, just because it is surrounded by a recognized national border, and that peoples and places so defined can be sensibly and trivially compared to one another.

2 We really ought to come up with a catchy name for ourselves. Sopharchists? Scientarchists? Let’s workshop it a bit.


The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t “recreate.” The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking photos.

“She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.

The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park’s premier lodge located adjacent to the park’s most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site — barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.

Source, via Reason

Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop

As an attentive reader might have inferred from my prior quoting of the book, I rather enjoyed Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. Balko provides a thorough, well-cited history of the increased militarization of America’s law enforcement, including the development of SWAT teams, the funneling of equipment and training from the military to law enforcement agencies, and the erosion of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th amendments to the US constitution.

I was particularly interested in Balko’s history of the erosion of Castle Doctrine in the latter half of the 20th century. As someone who has an interest in the second amendment and firearm rights, I was mostly familiar with Castle Doctrine as a principle of self-defense. Balko does a great job of explaining the history of the Castle Doctrine not as an element of self-defense jurisprudence but as being a core part of the 4th amendment and the right to citizens not to be unduly searched or harassed in their homes by law enforcement officers.

The book also does a great job of showing how a major driver of the erosion of civil liberties in America is the War on Drugs and the perverse incentives it creates for police officers. Much of the funding for local agencies comes from drug war mechanisms that encourage raids on low-level offenders (which are safer and can net asset forfeiture proceeds) rather than extended investigations on high-level manufacturers and distributors.

I highly recommend Balko’s book to anyone interested in law enforcement in America today or who is interested in the drivers of the erosion of American Civil Liberties. The book is well-written, well-researched, and a compelling argument for immediate changes in the way in which American police agencies go about their day-to-day operations.

Return top

Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
4.) A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place.
4a.) Penalty one stroke.
5.) Pilsner should be in Roman type, and begin with a capital.
6.) Keep Calm and Kill It with Fire.
7.) Spammers will be fed to the Crabipede.