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March 28, 2017

Trump Revolution, Indeed

Yes, I have endured occasional "Agonistes" since President Trump was inaugurated. Some promises I wish were not kept, some I wish were. Bla, bla, bla.

One place he is 100%, all the way live is on energy policy. Last night Amy Oliver-Cooke spoke at Liberty on the Rocks - Flatirons. She was on his transition team for energy and the EPA and regaled us with stories. She never actually met then-candidate Trump, but was pulled in by a mutual friend.

Shortly after she agreed, the Billy Bush tape came out and her expectation of actually serving went from slim to none. Good stuff. She is funny and has encyclopedic knowledge of Colorado's legislative process, the players, and energy issues.

I post to ensure that you all regret not being there: neener-neener. More importantly, this Egg McMuffin voter must admit that we dodged a bullet last November. The EPA is a serious threat to all our liberty. A President Hillary Clinton would have allowed their usurpations to continue unchecked. The State of Colorado is a complicit partner through the CDPHE (Cooke notes that other states seem to do fine with three-letter environmental agencies...)

Remember when Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) chief Dr. Larry Wolk told the Denver Post‘s Vincent Carroll that his agency was "the conduit for the EPA?"
But that was President Obama's EPA. In 2017 the EPA will be very different under a President Trump administration. During the campaign, Mr. Trump said the Clean Power Plan is DOA.

March 26, 2017

Quote of the Day

My only comment on the Republican health care reform debacle comes from British writer G.K. Chesterton, (1874-1936): "When a politician is in opposition he is an expert on the means to some end; and when he is in office he is an expert on the obstacles to it."

Remarkably prescient don't you think, coming as it did 99 years before Republicans' effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.-- LOTR-F friend Dave.

Headline of the Day

TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 1417: Satan, Tea Parties, and the IRS.

March 24, 2017

Would YOU choose to live forever?


The headline's not mine, by the way, it's UK Daily Mail's.

'The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice after just one week of treatment,' said lead author Professor David Sinclair.

Human trials of the pill will begin within six months.

'This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that's perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market if the trials go well,' said Professor Sinclair.

Call me Pollyanna but this doesn't sound like cold-fusion style clap trap.

Quote of the Day

To be clear, your humble correspondent would be happy if the House Freedom Caucus were in charge of writing the repeal-and-replace bill. But its members have now been handed a final offer from a president who can believably present himself as uninterested in the details of health care policy. Even his most angry critics in the media would likely concede that he has credibility when he says he doesn't feel like spending any more time discussing mandated health benefits. -- James Freeman

March 23, 2017

Tour de Force!

I have been too silent (but that is so like me...)

Judge Gorsuch is a HOSS of the highest degree. Thanks to Facebook Live®, I have had the CSPAN hearings on quite a bit this week. And he has performed admirably -- no, this calls for additional adverbs -- astonishingly admirably.

He handles the hostile and stupid questions from the Democrats with cheer and seriousness. He handles the fawning GOP attempts with equanimity. I love his jurisprudence. I love his style.

And I love that Colorado's Democratic back-bencher, Senator Michael Bennet, will face the excruciating choice to either buck his party or oppose an überqualified native son of the Centennial State.

The WSJ Ed Page is pretty pleased as well:

Mr. Whitehouse complained that Judge Gorsuch wouldn't recognize his "simple" point that money in politics is corruption. "I don't think this is simple stuff at all. I think this is hard stuff," the judge replied. Justice Thomas may soon have a new ally on the bench.

Trump Revolution, Indeed

One of my favorite governmental hobby-horses is included in the President's budget: private air-traffic control. WSJ Ed Page (headline of the day nominee): Major Trump to Ground Control

Mr. Trump's budget proposes converting the FAA's air-traffic outfit into "an independent, non-governmental organization," as Canada has done, and dozens of other countries have similar models. House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster last year introduced a bill to turn air-traffic control over to a nonprofit corporation run by a board with seats for airlines, the pilot’s union, hobbyist aviators and more, but it stalled without presidential support.

Pilots currently bounce from one radio point to the next, which can result in roundabout routes and wasted fuel. The Transportation Department’s Inspector General airdrops the occasional damning report on FAA's NextGen modernization program, whose “total costs and timelines remain unclear,” according to the November installment. FAA may finish the project a decade after the 2025 deadline--or 20 years after its technology is obsolete.

Speaker Newt Gingrich used to wave a vacuum tube on TV saying that the government was the largest purchaser, using them in the air-traffic control system in the late 90's.

Now, there ain't nobody loves vacuum tubes like a guitar player. But that spoke to governments acumen in rolling out new tech.

March 22, 2017

Otequay of the Ayday

The Free Speech Movement, led by a fiery Italian-American, Mario Savio, erupted at the University of California at Berkeley in 1964, the year I entered college. It was a cardinal moment for my generation. The anti-establishment stance of the Free Speech Movement represented the authentic populist revolution of the 1960s, which resisted encroachments of authority by a repressive elite. How is it possible that today's academic Left has supported rather than protested campus speech codes as well as the grotesque surveillance and over-regulation of student life? American colleges have abandoned their educational mission and become government colonies, ruled by officious bureaucrats enforcing federal dictates. This despotic imperialism has no place in a modern democracy. An enlightened feminism, animated by a courageous code of personal responsibility, can only be built upon a wary alliance of strong women and strong men.

-Camile Paglia in 'Women Aren't Free Until Speech Is'

But johngalt thinks:

A memorable bumper sticker slogan from the era of which Paglia speaks was "Subvert the Dominant Paradigm."

Well, that paradigm has been subverted, and in its place the revolutionaries have installed an even more authoritarian paradigm in its place, albeit with wildly different standards of "acceptability." But wasn't it the authoritarianism they really objected to, more than the particular rules that were established? That's how I remember it being positioned, but that all seems so naïve and idealistic, today.

Posted by: johngalt at March 22, 2017 3:02 PM
But jk thinks:

Loves me some Camille Paglia

Posted by: jk at March 22, 2017 3:43 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Me too. I'll check out the Tyler Cowen interview soon. Meanwhile, if you click through my link and read her short piece on free speech you'll find this other notable quote:

"We are plunged once again into an ethical chaos where intolerance masquerades as tolerance and where individual liberty is crushed by the tyranny of the group.

The premier principles of my new book, Free Women, Free Men, are free thought and free speech—open, mobile, and unconstrained by either liberal or conservative ideology."

My mental working title for the post was "Camile Paglia - Objectivist." An obvious overgeneralization, but the parallel to Rand's two "mystics" are inescapable: Conservative ideology being the Mystics of Spirit and liberal ideology being the Mystics of Muscle.

Posted by: johngalt at March 22, 2017 4:55 PM
But jk thinks:

An Objectivist Theology Professor. I can sell that.

Posted by: jk at March 22, 2017 6:51 PM
But jk thinks:

Heh™: Insty links to the same piece with the comment "I mean, if women were free, who would listen to feminists?"

Posted by: jk at March 23, 2017 10:31 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Theology professor? Paglia? non! Art and literature.

Posted by: johngalt at March 24, 2017 4:32 PM
But jk thinks:

Corrected I stand. I misremembered that false factoid from her dust-up with the Dawkins-Hitchens wing.

Posted by: jk at March 27, 2017 9:54 AM

March 21, 2017

Dad Says

Sorry to double dip -- I posted this on Facebook as well.

Julian Simon called people the "ultimate resource." Julian Simon put up $10,000 of his own money against that stupid, Malthusian git Paul Erlich -- and won. David Simon thinks he knows what Julian Simon would say today, were he alive.

I miss Julian Simon more than most. He was my father. I often think about what he would say about the economic issues we face today. On the subject of immigration, I know what he would say: The economic evidence is clear that America needs more immigrants.

Great article.

But johngalt thinks:

You convinced me long ago, brother. But there are some rules. (Surely you're not an anarchist, right? Even if I keep calling you Shirley?)

Rule 1 - You will be assimilated. Not completely, mind you, just to the degree that you understand YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO HARM OTHERS, EXCEPT IN SELF-DEFENSE. And no, your holy book and your non-GMO croplands are not part of anyone's "self."

Rule 2 - You will enter our lands through a designated point of entry, get your personal government ID number, and follow our laws to the T. All of them, even the stupid ones, until they are changed.

Rule 3 - The U.S. Constitution applies to you, everyone like you, everyone who forms a special interest group like you or different from you or any other person, individually or as a group. You may not promulgate laws to serve your interests that contradict anything in the old fashioned out-of-date never changing document we lovingly call our Constitution.

Rule 4 - Voting is for the little things. Anything that's important is in the Constitution and cannot be changed by voting. If something harms one or more other person, physically or financially, you can't vote on it. You can pretend, but that's just a nostalgic exercise to remind yourself of the impoverished s*$&-hole you immigrated here from. If you want to vote, go back.

Yeah, that oughtta do it.

Posted by: johngalt at March 21, 2017 7:43 PM
But johngalt thinks:

One more topical point, although not a rule. More of a suggestion. A bit of fatherly advice-

To a large extent, Representative Steve King was right: "You cannot rebuild a civilization with other people's babies."

What that means is, the best western citizens are the sons and daughters of existing western citizens. Bear babies, don't abort them. Where in the hell did western couples form the tradition to have such small families? We're not even replacing ourselves, much less growing our civilization. To a large extent I blame Paul Erlich and his ilk. Having any kids, not to mention more than two, has come to be considered "selfish" and "wasteful." Bullcrap.

"The economic evidence is clear that America needs more native born sons and daughters."

Posted by: johngalt at March 21, 2017 7:50 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

Good stuff, brother JG, mostly agreed with one nit:

Having any kids, not to mention more than two, has come to be considered "selfish" and "wasteful."
Another breeder says "not quite." Only the hardcore Progs are trying to throw babies out with the recycled bath water, and even they are non-foolish enough to keep it covert. (Read a Sierra Club brochure to familiarize y'sef with da' code...)
Generally, now that offspring are (much)less needed to work the farm, churn the butter, chew the fat and all that, and (somewhat) less needed to care for the elderly - as in "me" - the drive to have multiple children has lessened significantly. Having fewer children also leaves more time and money for "Me." Now that last sentence sounds selfish (as it is), so the enlightened, would-be elists crowd has learned to finesse it into altruistic gaia-servitude.
All in all, agreed. As far as us multiple-generation American borns keeping the breed going, review "The Roe Effect"!

Posted by: nanobrewer at March 21, 2017 11:32 PM
But jk thinks:

RE: the Four Rules: I appreciate that you're trying to craft the Constitution while I got the cushy job of writing the Declaration of Independence. Yes, to reify lofty, ambitious goals will require some compromises.

If I've truly convinced you and you just need a practical framework, my work here is done. However...

My objection to your eminently reasonable "designated point of entry" is that today's Paul Erlichs, like one Rep. Steve King (White Guy - IA), have placed insuperable barriers on legal entry. I wish to get rid of illegal immigration by making legal immigration easy. That should satisfy both of us but I can't see its happening.

I think all Americans should oughtta follow your other rules. Your specifying immigrants makes me think my work is not done. We don't put conditions on the new births at St. Joseph's today; some will disregard the constitution. Our new arrivals, like native born, are a resource.

Posted by: jk at March 22, 2017 10:53 AM
But jk thinks:

RE: Congressman King: I could not disagree more fulsomely.

What fundamentally separates America from other nations is that we are bound by ideas and not race and not tenure. That place is called France. It's lovely. They have stunning vistas and delicious cheeses. But their nation is built on a geographical and racial identity.

You can't become French but you can become American, like my lovely immigrant bride has. I'm the ThreeSources slacker in the reproduction department, but her sisters' kids are very very very very much American.

Rep. King's contradict that which truly makes America exceptional.

Posted by: jk at March 22, 2017 11:03 AM
But jk thinks:

RE: Reproduction rate: not only are five kids not needed to work the farm (JG makes do with f-o-u-r), but thankfully, half are not going to die before they're five. Looking at Steven Pinker's "Better Angels" as a society gets wealthy, the fertility rate goes down.

(To bring the discussion home, it's a huge reason Erlich was wrong.)

I'm deeply concerned about America's. The green guilt crowd is one reason. I also see sense in Glenn Reynolds's concern that we've made it less fun. There is always some scold checking your car seat, lecturing about nutrition, or ensuring that your ten year old was not home alone in a locked house for two hours. While the marginal benefit of "fun" has decreased, the marginal cost of dollars has gone up.

Whatever -- and I suspect it's an amalgam -- it's worrying.

Posted by: jk at March 22, 2017 11:14 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm worried too, brothers. But the antidote to my fears resides in a dogged defense of the Constitution and its essential limits upon government. Hence, my "rules" above.

Yes, I wrote them for immigrants, as that was the topic du jour, but they are equally applicable to citizens. Agreed.

As for the controversial Congressman King, some are inclined to assume he is a racist and wishes only the worst for muslims, blacks and Catholics. Not me. Personally, I think he is, simply, "deeply concerned about America's" future. And what better way to extend the exceptional history of America and Americans, than for Americans to procreate greater numbers of offspring? There is no racial test here. The only qualifier I used was "western" citizens. By which, I mean, fully committed to the primacy of individual rights.

And I'll push back on nb's claim that "only the hardcore Progs" are anti-baby. They are certainly the number one cheerleader for choosing abortion over parenthood, but the message has been well received by far too many of our ideologically-neutral brothers and sisters (mostly sisters.) President Obama (bad example, I know, since he's a hardcore Prog) famously said he didn't want one of his daughters to be "punished" with a baby. In the best possible light he meant legally prohibited from self-determination, but the idea that nature's greatest miracle is some sort of criminal sentence is off-putting, to say the least. And then there is the birthrate. I'm fine with it being lower than it was a century ago, but for our economy to grow in real terms our population must grow as well. Replacement rate of human capital plus a moderate safety margin is a concept I'm sure my Bernankean blog brother can appreciate and support. (Unless we're all resigned to a Bill Gates future where we're all replaced by well-taxed robots.) And in that case, screw it all because, really, what's the point?

Posted by: johngalt at March 22, 2017 3:20 PM
But jk thinks:

Yeah, more people, yay! More 'Muricans, more immigrants! I think Rep. King agrees with half of that.

Posted by: jk at March 22, 2017 3:49 PM

Making Health Care Great Again

Count me as a supporter of the ACHA Bill scheduled for a vote on Thursday. Not because it's a good bill, but because I'm an optimist and because I trust Speaker Ryan when he insists that he and President Trump will achieve a healthcare free-market in a three-step process. If they really do pull that off, we can have something like this:

So what explains the vastly different trends in prices over the past two decades?

As Perry notes, the chief difference between the two is who pays.

Cosmetic surgery is, for the most part, paid out of pocket. But only about 11% of hospital, doctor and pharmaceutical bills are paid out of pocket. The rest is picked up by insurance companies or the government. Back in 1960, almost half of the nation's health care bill was paid out of pocket, according to the Centers for Medicaid Services.

What happened in between was the steady growth in the scope and generosity of health benefits at work, and the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in the public sector. These developments are always treated as big victories for consumers, but as Perry notes, there's a huge price to be paid.

"Consumers of health care," Perry writes, "have significantly reduced incentives to monitor prices and be cost-conscious buyers of medial and hospital services when they pay only about 10% themselves."

What's more, "the incentives of medical care providers to hold down costs are greatly reduced knowing that their customers aren't paying out of pocket and aren't price sensitive."

So, voilá, you get the high costs and the bizarrely complicated bills that everyone gripes about.

But the first step along the road to price competition, according to Ryan, is to pass the inadequate house bill first. Okay, I'm game. What's the alternative, an "empathy-ectomy" for Senate Democrats that allows them to support a comprehensive bill that, while lowering costs for everyone, gives away centralized power and lets Republicans have a victory the Dems dreamed was theirs and theirs alone? Ain't. Gonna. Happen.

But jk thinks:

Hear, hear.

You know I'd put Sen. Rand Paul (Hoss - KY) in charge of the government, the FDA, and Major League Baseball if I could. But his opposition to the legislative process comes off as grandstanding and frequently plays into the plans of liberty's enemies. Yes, Senator, we get it.

Posted by: jk at March 21, 2017 7:16 PM
But johngalt thinks:

OTOH, senate Hoss Mike Lee makes a compelling case that "the President's agenda is being highjacked by this bill" and legislators should join him in holding out for a bill that "repeals Obamacare, root and branch" as they promised the American voters.

Closer to home, I can't justify a call to my own congressman urging him to either hold to his no position or switch to a yes. Ultimately, it seems, Congress never achieved better outcomes in a hurry than by extended deliberation.

Posted by: johngalt at March 21, 2017 10:45 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Fortunately, it turns out that I won't need to call my Freedom Caucus congressman to lobby for his vote. The President of the United States has done so.

Posted by: johngalt at March 23, 2017 12:05 AM

March 20, 2017



You Never Can Tell
Requiescat in pace, Chuck!

Chuck Berry ©1964

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com


March 19, 2017

Review Corner

I used to believe this as well. But now I don't. Empathy has its merits. It can be a great source of pleasure, involved in art and fiction and sports, and it can be a valuable aspect of intimate relationships. And it can sometimes spark us to do good. But on the whole, it's a poor moral guide. It grounds foolish judgments and often motivates indifference and cruelty. It can lead to irrational and unfair political decisions, it can corrode certain important relationships, such as between a doctor and a patient, and make us worse at being friends , parents, husbands, and wives. I am against empathy, and one of the goals of this book is to persuade you to be against empathy too.
Paul Bloom is not a fan of empathy. I hear ThreeSourcers across this great nation asking "What kind of right-wing, fascist, wing-nut claptrap is this?" Hahahaha, just kidding. The sound I hear is a thousand mouseclicks ordering Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion. You will not be disappointed; it's a great book. But those expecting a hard edged, libertarian or Randian polemic will be surprised.

Before we get there, though, let's bask in the thesis. Empathy has her charms, but she's a poor guide to action.

Some scholars will go on to reassure us that the emotional nature of morality is a good thing. Morality is the sort of thing that one shouldn't think through. Many of our moral heroes, real and fictional, are not rational maximizers or ethical eggheads; they are people of heart. From Huckleberry Finn to Pip to Jack Bauer, from Jesus to Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr., they are individuals of great feeling. Rationality gets you Hannibal Lecter and Lex Luther .
But I wrote the book you are holding because I believe our emotional nature has been oversold. We have gut feelings, but we also have the capacity to override them, to think through issues, including moral issues, and to come to conclusions that can surprise us. I think this is where the real action is. It's what makes us distinctively human, and it gives us the potential to be better to one another, to create a world with less suffering and more flourishing and happiness.

I think every conservative, every libertarian, and every objectivist will set the book down on occasion to burst into load cheering. Reason's ascendancy makes us -- not only pareto-equivalent wealthier but also better friends, parents, and philanthropists.
I've been focusing here on empathy in the Adam Smith sense, of feeling what others feel and, in particular, feeling their pain. I’ve argued -- and I'll expand on this throughout the rest of the book with more examples and a lot more data -- that this sort of empathy is biased and parochial; it focuses you on certain people at the expense of others; and it is innumerate, so it distorts our moral and policy decisions in ways that cause suffering instead of relieving it.

He gets ten points from both me and Russ Roberts (I heard about the book on an EconTalk podcast) for serial allusion to Adam Smith. Smith remarked 250 years ago that a close friend's difficulties or a minor medical procedure on ourselves outweigh major catastrophes across the world. Sorry, hippies, that's empathy at work. Because it is harder to "feel the pain" of a Chinese earthquake victim than a co-worker's sick child, is that a good vector to direct our compassion?
These are all serious cases. But why these and not others? It's surely not their significance in any objective sense. Paul Slovic discusses the immense focus on Natalee Holloway, an eighteen-year-old American student who went missing on vacation in Aruba and was believed to have been abducted and murdered. He points out that when Holloway went missing, the story of her plight took up far more television time than the concurrent genocide in Darfur.

One of the antecedents of "these cases" is the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. How many bad gun laws were passed in that tragedy's wake because moms and dads could "feel" the horror of that at their child's school. Reason did not get a seat in the boat.

I left breadcrumbs of doubt along this review. He does not take the road of reason to the same destinations some of us would. I can't let my Randian friends down easily. He is hostile to one whom I'd see as a philosophical ally.

For every Uncle Tom's Cabin there is a Birth of a Nation. For every Bleak House there is an Atlas Shrugged. For every Color Purple there is a Turner Diaries, that white supremacist novel Timothy McVeigh left in his truck on the way to bombing the Oklahoma building. Every single one of these fictions plays on its readers' empathy: not just high- minded writers like Dickens, who invite us to sympathize with Little Dorrit, but also writers of Westerns, who present poor helpless colonizers attacked by awful violent Native Americans ; Ayn Rand, whose resplendent "job-creators" are constantly being bothered by the pesky spongers who merely do the real work; and so on and so on.

If it's any consolation to the Randians 'round these parts, I don't think he gets Bleak House either. Little Dorrit, perhaps, but his earlier reference to Bleak House truly puzzled me.

Still, these are nits. He missed the point of Atlas Shrugged but managed to work it out on his own. It is an important work and its lack of right-wing-ism (a pointy-headed Yale Psychology Professor fer cryin' out loud!) might attract others. I sense that the Angus Deaton [Review Corner], James Tooley [Review Corner], William Easterly [Review Corner],and Poverty Inc. [Official Site] rethinking of the efficacy of charity is in the works. This could supplement it substantively.

Five Stars.

But johngalt thinks:

How different really is "rational compassion" from "compassionate conservatism?" I don't have an answer to that, I'm hoping the Review Corner author does.

The idea that empathy or compassion could ever leave our legislation or jurisprudence is impossible to envision. Given that, I'll take compassion over empathy any day.

Posted by: johngalt at March 21, 2017 2:53 PM
But jk thinks:

Well, I'll defend "rational compassion." So that's a start.

Pointy-headed Yale man (with all due respect to Thurston J. Howell, III) does an important job here. "Empathy" has pretty well morphed into a synonym for "good" these days. He both corrals it into its specific meaning of experiencing another's feelings -- and documents why this may not really be good.

I ran out of space / reader attention for more examples, but one I should not have omitted was the psychopath. If you're really good at getting into others' heads, you might be a sweet angel, but you are just as likely to be a manipulator or con man.

Another great example is the doctor delivering a bad diagnosis or friend comforting one in a state of panic. In both cases, one of the participants should be calm and measured to provide stability.

He is writing to an audience for whom this is a brand new idea: "Huh? Empathy can be bad?" Reason, he is saying, provides ultimately greater compassion than empathy. I think that's defensible. "Compassionate Conservatism," sigh, is difficult to defend. I'm sure some high-powered focus group rated it highly once, but it never calmed anybody biased against conservatism nor failed to offend one biased towards it.

Posted by: jk at March 21, 2017 3:37 PM

March 18, 2017

A better match to the Friedman paraphrase

This video is even better: tracking private success in parallel with gov't failure!

March 16, 2017

Trump Revolution, Indeed

Wow. Chris Edwards at CATO -- not exactly Trump-sycophant-headquarters enumerates "a thoughtful array of cuts" in the proposed new budget.

I won't excerpt -- the whole list is saliva inducing.

All Hail Freeman

No question mark? No question mark. I'm on record having posted to the FOBOTW Facebook group to give props to James Freeman for filling some big shoes. He has a bit of wit about him:

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