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Wednesday Golf Outing

Some more in the style of Hal Gurnee’s Network Time Killers

– A woman gave birth to twins… six months apart. Doctor blames it on an “incompetent cervix.”

That’s the best turn of phrase I’ve heard all day. All week, even. It definitely deserves to attain idiom status somehow. I’m thinking – to take the easy route – that it would be a great name for a  progressive-acoustic feminist wannabe-ironic hipster band.

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A raging AngerSad has erupted over the Hobby Lobby court decision on the Byrne Robotics board. I have a couple question about the decision myself. First, how much does birth control cost out-of-pocket? Is it really that expensive? Considering how prevalent birth control seems to be, it would seem to be rather affordable, given how many women use it, and that mass production lowers costs . But I’ve never bought it, so I can’t say for sure. Second, I’ve seen comments claiming women often need birth control for medical reasons other than actual contraception (which HL still provides). Hobby Lobby only refuses to provide 4 out of 20 birth control methods. The 4 types they won’t cover are abortifacients. Do abortifacients provide any kind of medical benefit the way, say, birth control pills do?

I’m not even going to get into all the issues about the government telling a privately-owned company what it can and can’t pay for, or how HL employees are free to work where the employers will pay for all forms of birth control, etc.

Getting back to the B.R. thread…. a commenter wrote “A single-payer system would have many problems, but it seems to work pretty well for Congress and our veterans.” Hasn’t said system and said veterans been much in the news of late? The commenter does link to a poll claiming most veterans are satisfied with the care they get, but I’m not inclined to trust the Veterans Affairs site’s reporting. As for Congress… drawing on the combined taxes of the entire country to support the health care of 535 people should work spectacularly well. It’s scaling it up to paying for 318 million people that’s the problem.

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Digging down into the internet vaults…. The Comics Curmudgeon examines(!) Rex Morgan M.D. (guest-starring LBJ. Or a lookalike from the same place Hal Gurnee found the Kenny Rogers clone) –

02_flirttown

02_twosome

 

FORE!

I don’t know if they went golfing, but it sounds like someone scored a hole-in-one…

02_whacking

I don’t want to know if there were penalty strokes.

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Somehow I’ve ended up featuring Kenny Rogers twice in relatively rapid succession. I’ve got nothing against Kenny – “Coward of the County” and “The Gambler” are good tunes – but let’s spin another track from that same era and see how many people run screaming.

The guys look like they’re going to, uh, play golf when the ladies suddenly show up.

 

Do Not Aim At Face

It’s been 22 years since the last amendment to the Constitution took effect, but Senate Democrats are hoping to alter the nation’s founding document once again… Despite that seemingly insurmountable hurdle, Senate Democrats are forging ahead with a plan to bring S J Res 19 to the floor.

This resolution would add a 28th Amendment, stating that Congress can regulate contributions and spending in federal elections. It would also give state governments the same authority in statewide contests.

Yet another example of the short-sightedness of liberals/leftists/progressives, or whatever they’re calling themselves this week. Democrats may succeed in regulating money in elections for now, but they can’t stay in power forever. Eventually – or sooner, the way this administration is running things (into the ground) – the Republicans will be in charge again.*

It’s the same lack of foresight that animates all their “living Constitution” moments. Do they really want to build a weapon and then have it turned back against them later on? By the unenlightened minions of Satan, no less?

Perhaps they thought a shift in American demographics will favor the Democrats for a few decades before they needed to worry about it. For a while there, I may have grudgingly agreed with them, but the last year or two seem to indicate that they’re slipping down to the end of their rope.

* I know, I know, it depends on the Republicans somehow overriding their hardwired instinct for running an easy touchdown through the wrong goalposts.

Social Fairness

Brent Parrish on The Inequality of Equality, and questioning the concept of “social justice.” It’s not too long, check it out.

Where most Social Justice types get hung up is confusing fairness for justice. What’s fair is not always necessarily just.

The hot trend among social justice crusaders nowadays is “income inequality.” This parallels another problem, which I believe is just as serious – Traffic Inequality. It’s not fair that Sunshine Mary and Donal Graeme, among others,¹ get more readers than I do.

Clearly, the answer is to redistribute readers. Enacting a Minimum Traffic law would transfer excess readers from high-traffic sites to writers like myself who fall under the Readership Poverty Line. Seriously, does Mary really need all of her (as of this writing) 1,378,008 hits, compared to my 9,923? That’s over one million more hits, and she only started writing about 3 weeks before I did (and if we consider that those numbers only track her current site, I’m actually about 8 months ahead). If she cared, she would distribute some of those hits to the rest of us.

Under the labor theory of value which many SJ crusaders seem to subscribe to, I should get the same amount of traffic as SSM, and more than Donal. So why should they get more traffic?

Readers – like most incomes – aren’t distributed, they are earned. Value isn’t determined by labor, but by the benefit one gains from the product. Other writers post material that readers place a higher value on, and so those readers are more likely to return.  More people want to read about traditional sex roles or the definition of Game than about 3D printing firearms or Batman vs. Donkey Kong. One might even argue that they are better writers than I am.²

Those others also post on a more consistent schedule than I do, which attracts and keeps readers. They also promote their work more than I do. They’re the 8 PM show five nights a week and get paid accordingly, whereas I show up Saturday night and hang around the parking lot after hours entertaining a few friends and passersby with off-the-wall stories for tips and free sodas.

No one held a gun to anyone’s head and forced them to read SSM or Donal or whoever over me.³ Unfair as it might be, it’s not unjust. Trying to get readers from them by any means other than writing to suit the existing market – or finding a new one – would be coercion, which is both unfair and unjust.

¹ Waaayyy too many others. A pimp can’t catch a break these days.

² Stop smoking crack. Your mom would be so ashamed.

³ Okay, Donal might have. He’s tricky like that.

The Art Of Capitalism

Jesse Myerson posts at Salon Why You’re Wrong About Communism: 7 Huge Misconceptions About It (And Capitalism).

My favorite part is when he ends the piece with this claim –

…most of the greatest art under capitalism has always come from people who are oppressed and alienated (see: the blues, jazz, rock & roll, and hip-hop). Then, thanks to capitalism, it is homogenized, marketed, and milked for all its value by the “entrepreneurs” sitting at the top of the heap, stroking their satiated flanks in admiration of themselves for getting everyone beneath them to believe that we are free.

Cafe Hayek (where I found out about this) quickly and efficiently dismantles this claim –

Overlook the questionable claim that most great artists under capitalism were oppressed and alienated.  (Were Lennon and McCartney, Berry Gordy, Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein, and Andy Warhol truly “oppressed and alienated”?  How about Jackson Pollock?  Thomas Hardy?  Ernest Hemingway?  Lawrence Olivier?  Raymond Loewy?)  Focus instead on the critical reality that, in fact, there are countless great artists, and Niagaras of profound art, produced under capitalism.  The same cannot be said for communism.

The reason is simple.  Capitalism supplies artists not only with abundant materials and media for producing and sharing their works, but also with the freedom and personal space for them to create.  In stark contrast, communism necessarily prohibits would-be artists from pursuing their muses.  All means of production under communism are owned by the state, and, hence, remain off-limits to artists whose individual plans do not mesh with the central plan.

I hadn’t seen Myerson’s piece when I did this post of my own earlier, but mine suggests a basic flaw in his claim – would a communist society permit a publishing house to print sympathetic stories about a character who fought for the enemy side in the biggest war it had ever seen?

He’s half right about great artists often being alienated and oppressed. But this isn’t political, it’s social alienation… sometimes actively rejected by peers, other times because of their own issues which have nothing to do with anyone else’s reaction to them. Artists are usually different from most people. If anything, capitalism helps them reach out and speak to other rare people like them.

There’s another way that capitalism has helped artists. In the 1950s, profits from their high-selling horror magazines allowed E.C. Comics  to subsidize the science fiction books they wanted to do. Until Congress threatened to censor them, that is (shades of communism).

Tweets For The Rest Of Us

Sen. Rand Paul begins Festivus with The Airing Of Grievances

No comments about the lack of a Festivus pole in Congress

No comments about the lack of a Festivus pole in Congress

I for one would welcome such a Feats Of Strength event.

I, Smartphone

Via Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek – An update to Leonard Read’s legendary 1958 essay I, Pencil –

I wish more people understood the marvel of emergent order that makes the world around us not just orderly, but when the feedback loops are healthy ones, a source of delight and comfort. This video (HT: Caleb Cangelosi) says it very well. Much of what makes life pleasant is undesigned. This does not mean that all undesigned phenomena are good. It does not mean that the islands of design within the undesigned sea are unimportant; they are very important. But appreciate how we human beings are able to cooperate without explicit top-down coordination. – Russ Roberts

Dollars And Centenarys

Today is the 100th anniversary of the day President Woodrow Wilson signed the income tax into law.

I knew I felt kinda down for some reason.

Donald J. Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek asks “Did The Income Tax Lead To Prohibition?”

 Prior to the creation in 1913 of the national income tax, about a third of Uncle Sam’s annual revenue came from liquor taxes. (The bulk of Uncle Sam’s revenues came from customs duties.) Not so after 1913. Especially after the income tax surprised politicians during World War I with its incredible ability to rake in tax revenue, the importance of liquor taxation fell precipitously.

By 1920, the income tax supplied two-thirds of Uncle Sam’s revenues and nine times more revenue than was then supplied by liquor taxes and customs duties combined. In research that I did with University of Michigan law professor Adam Pritchard, we found that bulging income-tax revenues made it possible for Congress finally to give in to the decades-old movement for alcohol prohibition.

Before the income tax, Congress effectively ignored such calls because to prohibit alcohol sales then would have hit Congress hard in the place it guards most zealously: its purse. But once a new and much more intoxicating source of revenue was discovered, the cost to politicians of pandering to the puritans and other anti-liquor lobbies dramatically fell.

Prohibition was launched.

Despite pleas throughout the 1920s by journalist H.L. Mencken and a tiny handful of other sensible people to end Prohibition, Congress gave no hint that it would repeal this folly. Prohibition appeared to be here to stay — until income-tax revenues nose-dived in the early 1930s.

From 1930 to 1931, income-tax revenues fell by 15 percent.

In 1932 they fell another 37 percent; 1932 income-tax revenues were 46 percent lower than just two years earlier. And by 1933 they were fully 60 percent lower than in 1930.

With no end of the Depression in sight, Washington got anxious for a substitute source of revenue.

That source was liquor sales.

No surprise. I wonder if there are any studies on whether alcohol sales spike every year around April 15th.
Dan Mitchell considers this the worst day in American history

We now have a top tax rate of 39.6 percent, and it’s actually much higher than that when you include the impact of other taxes, as well as the pervasive double taxation of saving and investment.

And the relatively simply tax law of 1913 has metastasized into 74,000 pages of Byzantine complexity.

Not to mention that the tax code has become one of the main sources of political corruption in Washington, impoverishing us while enriching the politicians, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and interest groups. Or the oppressive and dishonest IRS.

However, even though I take second place to nobody in my disdain for the income tax, the worst thing about that law is not the tax rates, the double taxation, or the complexity. The worst thing is that the income tax enabled the modern welfare state.

Before the income tax, politicians had no way to finance big government. Their only significant pre-1913 sources of revenue were tariffs and excise taxes, and they couldn’t raise those tax rates too high because of Laffer Curve effects (something that modern-day politicians sometimes still discover).

Once the income tax was adopted, though, it became a lot easier to finance subsidies, handouts, and redistribution.

Yeah, I’m cheering the anniversary over here. Without so much as a taxable and formerly illegal beverage, even.

Pure Progressivism

From Cafe Hayek comes Rents And Race: Legacies of Progressive Policies” (PDF). The abstract reads –

Could it be that the institutional racism of Jim Crow occurred not despite the Progressive era but because of it? Not only did the Progressive reforms create new economic rents that could be exploited by whites and by the politicians who enacted those reforms, but many leading Progressives espoused views on racial purity and segregation that put them in the vanguard of the American apartheid system.

The authors continue –

Robert Higgs ([1977] 2008) writes that despite racist views by whites and despite the residual interracial violence and discrimination that existed after the Civil War, black Americans made significant economic and social gains. Many of those gains, however, occurred before the onslaught of Progressive economic regulation and the imposition of Jim Crow.
Thus, one cannot claim that the institutionalized racism that came with progressivism simply was based on residual racism that existed after the war, as though the racial attitudes of that time inevitably would end in Jim Crow.  [1977] 2008. Competition and Coercion: Blacks in the American Economy, 1865–1914. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.]
Links between Progressivism and racism have been explored elsewhere.  Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism contains a chapter titled “Liberal Racism: The Eugenic Ghost in the Fascist Machine” which details how progressives of the day allied themselves with eugenics. Thomas Sowell wrote that ordinary citizens were insufficiently racist for Jim Crow laws to be effective. Walter Williams outlines the explicit racism behind the minimum wage law
The Davis-Bacon Act is a pro-union law that discriminates against non-unionized black construction contractors and black workers. In fact, that was the original intent of the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931. During its 1931 legislative debate, quite a few congressmen expressed their racist intentions, such as Rep. Clayton Allgood, D-Ala., who said, “Reference has been made to a contractor from Alabama who went to New York with bootleg labor. This is a fact. That contractor has cheap colored labor that he transports, and he puts them in cabins, and it is labor of that sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country.”
Davis-Bacon was enacted in 1931, at the tail end of the Progressive Era, and long after the end of the Civil War. So much for the “legacy of slavery.”

Property Rights Vs. Abortion

The libertarian case against abortion –

…My journey and reasoning on abortion begins and ends with the view that it is the taking of an innocent life. Whatever the cause of the pregnancy – chosen or not – the unborn child was innocent of causing the pregnancy and therefore not justifiably subject to aggression in the so-called self-defense of the mother.
However, for my purpose here, I will approach this issue via the positions of two of the staunchest libertarians of recent times – Murray Rothbard and Walter Block, and primarily Block.  Although I believe it to be a moral issue, I will approach it here on their terms. Both have written in favor of abortion (although Block uses the term “evictionism”), and both have defended their respective positions from what they consider to be a libertarian viewpoint: a trespass by the unborn child and the property rights of the mother.
With this in mind, I will present the case that it is the unborn child, and not the mother, that has the right of use of the womb for the term of the pregnancy.  I base this on causation, reasonable reliance, unilateral contract, and, as Block has introduced the language of landlord and tenant, a lease and the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
Many abortion proponents (including some libertarians) present it as an issue of individual sovereignty, the usual refrain being “my body, my choice” or something similar. The fallacy is that the fetus is assumed to be an extension of the mother’s body – or sometimes even a parasite invading the woman’s body, therefore trespassing on her property – instead of a separate, sovereign being of its own.

Hat tip to The Observer.

Government Shadow

From here

As the nation’s chief executive, President Obama is accountable for the IRS, State Department and Justice Department. His longtime adviser David Axelrod last week blamed a too-big government for the scandals: “Part of being president is that there’s so much beneath you that you can’t know because the government is so vast.”

No conservative or libertarian could ever have made such a concise, elegant, and bulletproof condemnation of Big Government than this. It’s an unintentional flat-out admission that government has grown so large that light can only be shone on some small part of it at a time, not only making it easy for corruption and abuse to occur in its enormous shadow, but practically providing incentives to do so. Who will know? How many abuses slip by for every one that is caught? And even when someone is busted, they get a slap on the wrist and scurry off to some other area in the darkness and start all over.