George Mason: Get a grip

In today’s Washington Post, regarding my school and implicit prejudice:

To project onto a person a preconceived opinion that is not based on actual experience or personal knowledge is manifestly wrong — so wrong, in fact, that it has a special name: prejudice. Yes, that’s right: To know only that a person is conservative, white, straight, Christian, cisgender and male but nonetheless draw a broad conclusion regarding that person’s overall position in life is to harbor a prejudice. There are millions of ways a person may be disadvantaged, many of which are immeasurable and difficult to detect but still tragic. The proverbial (or contemptuous, depending on whom you ask) white male may also be blind, illiterate, intellectually disabled, autistic, chronically depressed, mentally ill, physically disabled, suicidal, non-English speaking, prone to addiction, socioeconomically disadvantaged and so on.

To say that one demographic based on one personal trait has a greater moral claim over another demographic to favorable treatment by a state actor is nothing more than advocating the execution of a prejudice through government compulsion. That, too, has a name: fascism. And by selectively providing “resources” for one group over another, George Mason is flirting with it.

Daily Show: It’s too easy to be a (pretend) bigot

Scott Shackford at Reason on a horribly ironic, self-defeating Daily Show segment:

If there were a serious, widespread problem with discrimination against gay people, they wouldn’t have had to set up a fake food truck, would they? They’d be able to just go down to North Carolina and go to one of the existing businesses who were discriminating against gay people and do one of those interviews where they get people to say stupid things so the viewers can feel superior.

But they didn’t. They had to fabricate a Seinfeldian Soup Nazi-style environment to try to present an exaggerated possibility. It’s an attempt at satire. It’s an attempt to comically present a potential logical conclusion. But the flaw is that it actually highlights how little interest there is in widespread discrimination against gay people. There are no scenes of Jim Crow-style behavior targeting LGBT folks. Yes, discrimination exists, but there is no widespread conspiracy to exclude gay and transgender people, and there is so much more cultural pressure that can resolve it positively without getting the state involved.

The irony here is that they’re exaggerating the potential threat of a problem to justify legal intervention controlling individual behavior, which is … exactly what Gov. Pat McCrory and supporters of monitoring public bathroom use are doing. There is little actual justification for the state telling transgender people which facilities to use because the potential threats to others are significantly exaggerated. This is what happens when you try to use laws to fight cultural issues. Every problem must be overblown in order to justify using legislation and courts to punish your cultural opposition.

Signs of the times

From the erudite Theodore Dalrymple at Taki’s Magazine:

Since perfect peace cannot hold our attention for long, accustomed as we are to a life of constant stimulation, we tend, or feel the need, to focus our minds on the dramatic. Without violent manifestations of discontent and criminality somewhere in the world, we should soon grow bored. Universal contentment is our worst enemy and greatest fear.

So we are predisposed to see in infrequent and dramatic events not merely the events themselves, but signs of the times, a glimpse of the future, a future that makes us shudder in the same way as a horror film makes us shudder. Infrequent and dramatic events have transcendent meaning for us, so to speak, in a way that reigning peace, however preponderant, does not and cannot have.

Can climate change be good?

Dr. Ivar Giaever has the same thought I’ve had for years.

What is the optimum temperature for the earth? Is that the temperature we have right now? That would be a miracle! Maybe it’s two degrees warmer. Two degrees colder. But no one has told me what the optimum temperature is for the whole earth.

Climate change poses a threat to some of our present-day lifestyle. But is it altogether bad, on net? Is it not even possible that climate change could make life easier for many humans?

As far as I understand, some climate change models have cities like New York and Miami underwater if warming continues its course for the next 100 years. That doesn’t sound good. But what happens to the rest of the earth? Do we gain billions of acres of arable land, once too cold to support life? Will droughts become less frequent and less severe?

I have no idea how to answer my question. But if we could derive an optimum temperature for the earth, based on maximizing the amount of arable land, minimizing drought and extreme weather activity in populated areas, etc., might that temperature be outside the range climate change alarmists believe we must maintain, even at the cost of expensive carbon taxes and slowed industrial development?

I’m not convinced. Any serious discussion of climate change ought to talk about why global warming is bad—not take that idea for granted. Maybe such talk is about there, but I don’t see it from popular commentators except insofar as they paint scary pictures of flooding coastal cities and stronger hurricanes. That doesn’t sound good, but what happens to the world on net? What happens, if you will, to the human race’s prospects for long-term survival (if you like thinking in such terms…I don’t)? Is it possible that things will improve in this regard?

Let’s first establish exactly why climate change is bad, then talk about whether it’s worth fighting. Because neither of those goes without saying.

NYT discovers that people respond to incentives!

Here’s a hilariously pathetic choice of words in the blurb of a New York Times piece published today.

It turns out that generous maternity leave and flexible rules on part-time work can make it harder for women to be promoted — or even hired at all.

“It turns out….” Please.

It’s as if this author has no idea this concept is frustratingly obvious to people who know how to think. Require companies to pay certain people for months on end who aren’t actually working for them, and those companies will avoid associating with people who qualify for such an entitlement.

Businesses and people respond to incentives, and thank God they do. In fact, things couldn’t conceivably be otherwise. This fundamental truth is key to underdstanding so much, yet so many refuse to believe it and instead hate those who do.

But I am glad this article was published. Please share it with those you know who are wrong about state-mandated paid maternity/paternity leave.

Brian Williams’ shame

Christian Christensen with a superb, critical analysis of just what we get wrong by lending Brian Williams’ apology any ear—namely, that we make a bigger deal of his fake story and half-hearted apology than the true tragedy of a war that Williams and his colleagues cheer led from the beginning.

Given that Williams works for NBC, his participation in the construction of a piece of fiction during the US invasion and occupation of Iraq is apt. US network news, together with outlets such as CNN, aggressively cheer-led an invasion predicated on a massive falsehood: the Iraqi possession of WMD. What is jarring, however, is the fact that Williams’ sad attempt to inject himself into the fabric of the violence is getting more ink and airplay than the non-existence of WMD did back in the early-to-mid 2000s: a lie that provided the justification for a military action that has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

From embedded journalists to ultra-militaristic news logos and music, US television news media were more than willing to throw gas on the invasion fire. “Experts” in the studio were invariably ex-generals looking to pad their pensions, while anti-war activists (who spoke for sizable portions of the US and UK populations back in 2003) were avoided like the plague. After all, what news organization wants to be tarred with the “peace” brush when flag-waiving jingoism sells so incredibly well? The one-sidedness of coverage, particularly in the US, bordered on the morally criminal.

A note on “net neutrality”

I don’t know much about the ongoing net neutrality debate (which I gather is to end when the FCC passes new rules this month), but it appears to me that a major reason behind the FCC’s push for “net neutrality” is a general complaint that internet service providers (ISPs), which often face little competition in the regions where they operate, treat customers poorly and charge too much. That ISPs have “natural monopolies” that allow them to rake in profits without improving service to customers.

(For those who don’t know, “net neutrality” basically turns the internet into a public utility by regulating ISPs like providers of other utilities (like electricity, water, etc.)

But by what standard are we judging the way ISPs treat customers? Who is to say that they are making too much or offering too little? If we’re paying too much for internet service now, then what should we be paying? How are we to know a fair price for internet service without a market for internet service?

I understand that ISPs may have gained certain privileges in the past from the government that may have given them unfair advantages. But is the solution to end the market for internet service altogether?

This reminds me of one aspect of the socialist calculation debate, whereby Austrian economists (among others) revealed the self-destructive nature of socialism. One pillar of their argument (and I’m simplifying here) is that without a market to study and observe, central planners will not know what prices to mandate for what goods. The result will be the production of too much or too little of regulated goods–distortive resource misallocations that result in excess supply and/or demand.

Again, I don’t know much about net neutrality. Read my comments in light of better analyses, like this one featuring Tech Freedom president Berin Szoka.

God Blessed Texas

Here’s an interesting chart from AEI‘s Mark Perry.

Texas is solely responsible for the 1.169 million net increase in total U.S. employment in the seven year period between December 2007 and December 2014.

Another highlight from the piece:

The other 49 states and the District of Columbia together employ about 275,000 fewer Americans than at the start of the recession seven years ago, while the Lone Star State has added more than 1.25 million payroll jobs and more than 190,000 non-payroll jobs (primarily self-employed and farm workers).

Perry (Mark, not Rick) goes on to explain that while the oil and gas boom has certainly boosted job growth in Texas, job gains has been strong across several sectors of the state’s economy—especially construction (more permits for single-family homes were issued last year in the city of Houston alone than in the entire state of California).

God blessed Texas.

Specifics on Cuba

From earlier today, some specifics on changes to U.S. law regarding Cuba.

Here’s one notable highlight for those interested in traveling to Cuba, or investing in what’s sure to be one of the world’s most up-and-coming real estate markets over the next decade or so:

In all 12 existing categories of authorized travel, travel previously authorized by specific license will be authorized by general license, subject to appropriate conditions.  This means that individuals who meet the conditions laid out in the regulations will not need to apply for a license to travel to Cuba.

These categories are: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.

Here’s the New York Times’ two cents, and a notable highlight below:

United Airlines quickly announced on Thursday that it planned to begin regular service to Cuba from Newark and Houston. American Airlines, which operates charter flights to Cuba from Miami and Tampa, said it was reviewing the changes.

Draghi makes his case

Mario Draghi making the case for more stimulus to combat disinflation in Europe:

The risk cannot be ruled out completely, but it is limited. The important thing is what inflation rate people expect over the medium term. Since June, we have seen that these expectations have declined. If inflation remains low for a long time, people might expect prices to fall even further and postpone their spending. We are not there yet. But we need to tackle this risk.

History shows that falling prices can be as damaging to the prosperity and stability of our countries as high inflation. That is why our mandate is symmetric. And that is why we are now ensuring that the risk of deflation you just asked me about does not materialise. You, as a journalist, also have a duty to explain. Public opinion in Germany is very important for us.

Note that this interview was given to a German financial newspaper. German officials are perhaps Draghi’s biggest opponent in the fight for more stimulus.