Archive for January, 2012

Well, He DID Learn a Lesson…

Dave Killion — January 31, 2012

His fellow teachers found nothing wrong with his conduct.

A student in Oklahoma used a cell-phone to take a photo of a substitute teacher sleeping on the job. Justice was swift –

The student was later suspended…

… officials said, “A student may possess a telecommunication device while on school premises, but the use of a telecommunication device is not permitted during the school day.

Presumably, everything would have been just hunky-dory if the picture had been taken with a camera. So really, the rule is meant to say that a telecommunication device may not be used for telecommunicating during the day. But then, that would make it harder to punish children for collecting evidence of their parents’ tax dollars being slept away. So remember, kids: the next time you gather proof of bad behaviour on the part of one of your public-sector overlords, be sure to leak it anonymously.

Via Reason.Com

 

Down With the Man

Dave Killion — January 30, 2012

From the paper “Men Rule: The Continued Under-Representation of Women in US Politics” –

“Study after study finds that, when women run for office, they perform just as well as their male counterparts. No differences emerge in women and men’s fundraising receipts, vote totals, or electoral success. Yet women remain severely under-represented in U.S. political institutions. We argue that the fundamental reason for women’s under-representation is that they do not run for office. There is a substantial gender gap in political ambition; men tend to have it, and women don’t.”

So, what’s to be done about this? According to Mark Perry (at the so-good-if-you-had-to-choose-between-his-blog-and-mine-I’d-say-choose-his Carpe Diem), nothing –

Like most gender differences in outcomes, there only ever seems to be concern when women are under-represented in fields like politics, and never any concern when men are under-represented for outcomes like bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctor’s degrees, graduate school enrollment, biology degrees, veterinary degrees, optometry degrees, pharmacy degrees, etc.  The only exceptions are when the outcomes are negative like prison populations, learning disabilities, occupational injuries and fatalities, motorcycle injuries and fatalities, suicides and drug addiction and then there is no concern about female under-representation.

Essentially, Perry says the difference is no big deal. But I think it might be a little bit of a big deal, because I expect the response to this data to be a call for more women to seek office. Well, if women don’t feel like bossing the rest of us then good for them! What women should do is ask themselves why so many men want to give orders, and why anyone, women in particular, should put up with it. Come on, ladies, quit letting the patriarchy push you around! It’s time to get libertarian!

Bad All the Time

Dave Killion — January 29, 2012

At the Cato Institute’s new site “Libertarianism.Org“, Aaron Ross Powell points out “The Lesson the Tech Community Should Have Learned from SOPA” –

“Drawing on a recent example, the opponents of SOPA appear to have avoided the skeptical conclusion. Many of them are calling for increased regulation of political speech by way of campaign finance restrictions. How money and speech work within the byzantine rules of political campaigns is a field every bit as complex as name servers and Internet protocols. These same folks who laughed at the late Ted Stevens’ characterization of the Internet as “a series of tubes” have no problem ignoring their own ignorance when it comes to judging regulations outside their expertise…

…One hopes that next time a nice-sounding bill comes along (something like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), those millions of geeks who applied their expert knowledge to SOPA and found it wanting will look past the name, will recognize their own ignorance about the particular policy area, and will instead evince a heavy dose of libertarian skepticism. SOPA was not the exception to the rule. Instead, it was just how things are done in Washington.”

It is my sincere hope that many of the opponents of SOPA actually DID learn this lesson, and will use the awesome power of the internet to fact check proposed legislation in the future. I’ve seen arguments that younger people are increasingly impatient with one-size-fits-all regulation, and with the general unresponsiveness of government. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the case!

Disarmament Increases Dangers

Dave Killion — January 28, 2012

Here’s a letter to The Toronto Sun

After reading your story “Charges laid after man stabbed for picking up garbage” (Jan 25), many of us ask ourselves: who would have thought that asking a fellow Canadian not to litter would result in getting a knife in the chest?
The answer: obviously not the victim, who like too many others believed we live in a civilized society where disagreements with strangers don’t lead to life-threatening assaults.
The perpetrator, of course, knew perfectly well that Canadian regulations have disarmed decent citizens, and that although he might get caught, he would not be shot. Being free from that restraint has opened up a whole world of violent possibilities he would not have entertained before.
The consequences of this incident extend far beyond the damage done to the victim. Canadians who witness crimes must now consider that if a person who confronts a litter bug can end up bleeding to death on a cold sidewalk, what might happen to them should they attempt to intervene in a rape, attempted murder, or other assault? Since the government has deprived us of our right to carry firearms, the conclusion may be that it is best to just walk on.

Innovation Never Rests

Dave Killion — January 27, 2012

Indefatigable entrepreneurs continue to improve our lives by providing us with an ever-increasing variety of solutions and choices. Let me present to you the Cuisipro Ice Cream Scoop and Stack. Red Ferret sez –

“The Cuisipro Scoop and Stack Ice Cream Scoop seems like the perfect remedy for those of us who aren’t so handy with those regular rounded scoops. It provides you with cylinder shaped balls of ice cream that stack rather perfectly on top of one another. The twist and lift action will cut through the coldest ice cream, and releasing the button will give you a consistent size and shape of your favorite frozen treats. This will cost you about $15, but has a super easy clean up, and will give you much less hassle.”

Once again, the market has enabled some creative persons to provide me with something I never even knew I always wanted!

 

 

Lack of incentive

Dave Killion — January 26, 2012

 

Once again the state has shown that it cannot be depended on to steward the environment –

“A Dallas drone hobbyist was flying his rig around one bright Texan afternoon, scouting the skies, when he hovered across something perturbing: an enormous, oozing river of blood behind a meatpacking plant… emptying into the Trinity River.”

This is what you can expect when government is supposed to safeguard something from which it derives no profit – carelessness. If the waterways in question had been in private hands, it is almost certain they would have been monitored much more vigourously. Fortunately, the market has made private ownership of drones possible for the home hobbyist, and as a result a single citizen manages to accomplish by accident what a raft of bureaucrats did not achieve even when they allegedly try.

Let the Good Times Roll

Dave Killion — January 25, 2012

Antony, I understand your frustrations exactly (The Burden of Knowledge). Happily, libertarian scholar Walter Block has some good advice for us

“... the fight is so much FUN! So, forget about whether we win or lose. You’re right, we’ll probably lose, at least in the short run. In the long run, who knows?

I urge you to focus, instead, on the sheer pleasure of undermining the world view of the mainstream media, and all those other blowhards in the pulpit, in academia, etc.

Until I read Block’s article I hadn’t realized how much pleasure and satisfaction I have derived from straightening out loud-mouthed economic ignoramuses and know-it-all political naifs. Not to mention providing answers to questions from the more polite and open-minded. It really has provided a great deal of enjoyment. So go on, have a good time!

BTW, that was an outstanding video from Leonard Read and FEE. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Just Whose Side Are You On?

Dave Killion — January 23, 2012

A libertarian frenemy

 

One of the feeds to which I subscribe is the Cato Recent Op-eds, from the redoubtable Cato Institute. Cato has a senior fellow named Nat Hentoff, who is one of those principled leftists who is consistently calling out US President Obama and the Democrats for their anti-left conduct. Unfortunately, Hentoff also spends time advocating anti-libertarian activities such as state funding of PBS and NPR. On January 11, my Cato feed sent me an article called “Will Romney end PBS, public radio funding?” –

“If Mitt Romney makes these cuts, he will create a dark hole in our lives that will defy James Madison’s warning — which becomes more contemporary every day: “A people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives … a popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both.”

Commercials won’t tell us that our public schools no longer have nurses in our neighborhood.” 

Notice that if you click on the link to the article, you will find that it doesn’t go to Cato, but rather to one of the other sites still posting the op-ed. Hentoff’s piece is no longer to be found at Cato. I haven’t decided whether I think that’s good or not.

Of course Hentoff is entitled to his opinions, but libertarians who donate to Cato probably don’t care to pay him to campaign against us. If he would rather not restrain himself from championing authoritarian positions, that’s fine, but I won’t be sending money to Cato so long as he continues to do so. As valuable an ally he is, his contribution to the cause appears to be a wash. Perhaps it’s time to show him the door.

The Burden of Knowledge

Antony — January 23, 2012

As a lover of liberty, it is often frustrating to live in a world that seems to be slowly slipping toward tyranny. Witnessing the enthusiasm with which the masses embrace each new fetter on their freedom, cheering and welcoming the tools of their subjugation. It is frustrating to understand the problems we face, and to see people pressing for actions that will make these problems worse. The same clueless elites that created the crises are bailed out and remain in power. It feels like trying to maintain sanity in a world going mad.

A recent post, entitled “Is Ignorance Bliss?“, at Bob Wenzel’s excellent Economic Policy Journal, addresses these concerns, and discusses the different approaches one can take. These options range from withdrawing into apathy, trying to change to world, or taking joy in the intellectual battle without worrying about the outcome. It is interesting to consider these approaches, and how they apply to one’s own life. Another inspiring message can be found in Leonard Reid’s speech “How to Advance Liberty”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UE3JeowaaE

Whether these ideas help or not, if you are a lover of liberty and feel frustrated at times, it is at least nice to know that there are others with similar struggles.

Honey and Hobgoblins

Dave Killion — January 22, 2012

 

What up, bee?

H. L. Mencken –

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

Although the Sage of Baltimore was writing about politics, this insight of his applies equally as well to journalism and environmentalism.

For some time we had been subjected to agitated hand-wringing concerning  Colony Collapse Disorder, yet now it is seldom spoken of. Now our friends at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) ask What Ever                                                           Happened With Colony Collapse Disorder? –

“If you were to rely on media reports alone, you might be inclined to believe that honeybees and honey are now in short supply. Based on the recent documentaries about Colony Collapse Disorder, you might believe that crops are at risk of going unpollinated and that we are heading towards a different “silent spring”—one in which the familiar springtime buzzing of the bee is no more.

Yet, somehow, the honey is in the cupboard and farmers across the country are still able to supply food to stock our shelves, all with little or no economic impact from CCD. How can this be?”

The series goes on to reveal to us how the market response to this potential disaster was so swift and adept that not only were early predictions of tremendous crop losses avoided, but consumers were largely unaware of any changes. This incident provides a lesson and a warning. The lesson? A free market response to potential shortages is extremely effective. The warning? That if the media continue to report carelessly on over-stated environmental concerns, both institutions will be ignored on the day they actually have good reason to cry “Wolf!”