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Obama and Ferguson

I don’t agree with Ezra Klein’s take on the President’s lack of action (public) on the ongoings in Ferguson.

It’s not surprising that I disagree of course, but here is the main reason why. He assumes that only the “left” wants a rousing speech and show of leadership. Man if that sentiment is not representative of the toxicity of popular media today then I don’t know what is. I sure as heck am not a modern liberal and I am EAGERLY hoping for the President to seize this moment and get us moving in the right direction. I am sure millions of non-leftists agree with me here. But EVERYTHING has to be a political calculation. Really?

Furthermore, if you take the typical media impression of the President and his polarizing nature seriously, then I find it extremely difficult to accept Klein’s argument that the President is being timid because he doesn’t want to create even more polarization. Seriously? Since when does it seem like that has been a motivating factor? And since when is that the interpretation for the President’s actions?

I’ve said it before here at TUW that while I may not be a fan of the President’s politics and economic imagination, I had extremely optimistic expectations for his potential to improve race relations and especially to do great things particularly for the black community and inner city America.

As far as what happened and is happening in Ferguson? It’s sad on so many levels but again I really am not competent to say much about it.

Lest one wonder if Wintercow has truly disconnected I’ll just remind folks that I’m not permitted to comment on the goings on in Ferguson or Iraq or Palestine or just about anywhere for that matter. I’m a resident member and practicing oppressor, paid by corporations and clandestine organizations to subtly promote and continue this oppression and am so wholly disconnected from the ongoings in such places as to not have a right to speak about it. The same is true for economics where I just make stuff up to suit my prejudices.

So, we’re either going dark here at TUW or just plain vanilla – which means it won’t be worth reading much anyway. I’ve been posting elsewhere and under a different name in the hope that readers who are not already attracted to the ideas might find something useful, where the tone is calm, where the view of all opponents is taken more charitably and where hopefully it is easier to take on some more controversial topics than over here – and here being a physical place as well.

For now, all I’ve got to say is that the world would be a heck of a lot better if … well, maybe you can fill in the blank. I prefer, “everyone ate more Poutine.” YMMV.

On My Summer Travels

This is not a travel blog, but sometimes when traveling something comes up which is TUW-worthy. I’ve been out a bit this summer away from Rochester, and as expected I ran into quite a few “Buy Local” signs on stores, cars and road signs as I moved about. How am I supposed to take these? Are these explicitly telling me that, since I am not local, that I ought not shop there? If I adhere to Buying Local, I would have to keep my purchases confined to Perinton, right?

I also can’t tell you how many people I see walking their dogs both with no leash and with no plastic bags. I’ve seen dozens of people just let their dogs run wild and poop without the slightest bit of embarrassment or intention of doing anything about it. What is an appropriate response? If I approach folks who do this, no matter how I do it, I become the a-hole. Isn’t that right? But I gotta tell you, until I see people regularly taking care of little things like this, I am not under any delusion that more difficult challenges are going to get solved. And don’t think this is isolated to just the poor parts of Appalachia I visited, or the inner city – I see MORE of this behavior in the ritzy-ditzy places I’ve found myself in, in particular in the public parks over in Pittsford.

Have a lovely evening.

Should you find yourself needing some entertaining night-time reading, I highly recommend poring through some old Presidential Addresses to the American Economic Association or perhaps even the Southern Economic Association. Here is a particularly striking one, delivered by Frank Knight in 1950 to the AEA. A particularly striking piece:

The serious fact is that the bulk of the really important things that economics has to teach are things that people would see for themselves if they were willing to see.  And it is hard to believe in the utility of trying to teach what men refuse to learn or even seriously listen to.  What point is there in propagating sound economic principles if the electorate is set to have the country run on the principle that the objective in trade is to get rid of as much as possible and get as little as possible in return, if they will not see that imports are either paid for by exports, as a method of purchasing the imported goods more efficiently, or else are received for nothing, or if they hold that economy consists in having as many workers as possible assigned to a given task instead of the fewest who are able to perform it?  Of late I have a new and depressing example of popular economic thinking, in the policy of arbitrary price-fixing.  Can there be any use in explaining, if it is needful to explain, that fixing a price below the free-market level will create a shortage and one above it a surplus?  But the public oh’s and ah’s and yips and yaps at the shortage of residential housing and surpluses of eggs and potatoes as if these things presented problems any more than getting one’s footgear soiled by deliberately walking in the mud.  And let me observe that rent freezing, for example, occurs not at all merely because tenants have more votes than landlords.  It reflects a state of mind, a mode of reasoning, even more discouraging than blindness through self-interest.

It’s not just economics, it’s most things. I’m not sure it was ever better in some glorious golden age of the past, I certainly don’t recall it being much better when I was in college. It’s just depressing, not much more to say now.

… fill in the blank with just about whatever you want, and you, too, can claim the status of really serious wonk.

This time on Ebola.

So we can’t be surprised about the current Ebola outbreak. We can’t lament the fact that there’s no cure or that it’s an unstoppable and violent virus when remedies could be expedited; we just don’t prioritize them over other, more potentially profitable health problems.

As long as we perpetuate this global system of R&D funding, outbreaks of neglected diseases like Ebola will keep happening. Sadly, it’s a cause shared by many more diseases of the poor, some of which affect multiple times more people than the one that’s currently making headlines.

OK intro Econ students, please comment. UPDATE: here are the beginnings of a serious response. My expectations for a typical response to that? “Medicine … is … just … different.”

On to the Great Range …

From Coyote today, which in my experience not only applies to blog posts, but to more formal settings like particular lectures or even entire courses. But I don’t want to be removed from polite company, so I’ll say only a little here. Here is the title:

Your Arguments Are Totally Idiotic, Which I Know Even Though I Didn’t Read Your Article

He’s 100% spot on. We can write it something like, in the University setting, “Your arguments are totally idiotic, even though I never did the readings, or never attended the lecture, or did not pay attention to that particular part of the lecture, or even though I’ve never once spoken to you or e-mailed you and even though what I know of you is third-hand from …” OK, back to the (rainy) woods.

Who knew it? It looks like the Progressives are picking up a Simonian theme:

For decades now, the ______ have published predictions on when _____ would run out _______ if nothing else in the world changed. And in every case, lots of things in the world changed — and ______ never found itself short _____

Of course, “they’re” talking about Medicare. But it is incredibly striking that: part of the “not running out of money” is that it is because taxes can (and have) increased to prevent it. And of course, the entire point of this post is that the same kind of thinking is rarely demonstrated not only on the hallowed pages of Vox but almost everywhere when it comes to talking about the problem of global warming, running out of resources, “over”population, immigration and so on.

Hmmm.

What is Sustainable?

Living the solution, not the problem. All life presents us with problems. It is not possible to continue living as we have in the past. As new problems emerge, solutions are required. And this process means that we are constantly living solutions, and preparing for dealing with the new set of problems that this itself creates. The process, properly thought out, is actually quite unsustainable, and if we hope to live in peace with each other and with the planet that God has bestowed upon us, a fundamental requirement is not that we live sustainably, but actually quite the opposite. If our human condition requires us to live sustainably, to maintain a way of life that we have lived for generation after generation, then we are required to continue to have bombs destroy humans, to have poisoned water kill children, to have food shortages and water shortages cause starvation and thirst. What I believe is that we want the opposite of such things, and every time we invent a medicine, improve a technology, and so on, it is not possible to live as we did before – this is the hallmark of human flourishing and progress, and is definitionally unsustainable.  Just as the word “liberal” has been hijacked to imply precisely the opposite of its true meaning, so too has the word unsustainable. I propose “we” take it back.

One of the strawiest straw-men ignited by those with a collective bent is that the support for classical liberal ideas is akin to atomistic antihumanity. No need to delve deeper into that point here aside from pointing out that this is not at all an uncommon charge. Of course, the entire point of classical liberalism is to celebrate and inculcate the emergence of voluntary social arrangements – that forcing such collective arrangements is inferior on many moral and consequential criteria.

Which brings me to a very short conversation I had with a stranger today. I was looking at a solar display at the local zoo when I mumbled that I’d love to sever the chord from my electric supplier if solar and battery technology improved enough to allow me to do it. After all, we’ve already done such severing with our television provider and are quite happy. The stranger heartily agreed that “going off grid” was not just convenient but moral and would save the planet (not in those words of course). Now, since I am such an intrepid jackass, I then asked the guy a rhetorical question, “so, it’s morally appropriate and great for the planet to be a crass energy individualist, an energy atomist?” I then reasked the question by dropping the adjective.

Of course, I asked no such question, but I sure was thinking it.

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