Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Bottle Opener

This was an interesting piece, about how racism and xenophobia have been more openly expressed since Trump’s presidential campaign came to occupy the headlines.   It is mostly based on personal anecdotes, but I suspect it is pretty accurate.  I think it is not the full story though.

Trump is just the bottle opener that has released pressure that has been building for the last 7 years.  President Obama has been elected twice, and I think has the support of the majority  of Americans.  Like most presidents though, he is less esteemed by a minority of the country.

Unlike past Presidents, though I think he is viewed by a significant minority as an actual material  threat to their well being, their freedom, if not their lives.  Being the first African president has to be a big part of this.  Especially, in many red states, you can live your life and generally not have to interact with anyone who isn’t white for  long.  You certainly don’t often have an African, or other non-white in authority over you.

When someone is first under the authority of a person not of their race, any latent racism tend to rise, even if only in the back of one’s mind.  Most of us have racist tendencies to  one degree or another.  Usually, these kind of feelings don’t last, as one becomes more comfortable with a new situation.  This adjustment is taken a while in most of Red America.  At the same time this  angst has been bottle up to a degree.  While most of us are racists, we know  you can’t generally express that feeling.  For many, this angst has been bottled up.

Mr. Trump in seeming to make it OK to  express these feelings has just popped the top of the bottle and released the pressure that has been building.

The Controversial Clerk

I disagree with this:


Jail for someone, failing to do their job seems in appropriate in a free society to me.  Jail is, or should be reserved for a small set of grievous acts against others.  Not doing your job generally doesn’t reach this level.

Make no mistake, she’s not doing her job.  The best parallel I can think of is a tank driver, or bomber pilot refusing to fire on the enemy, perhaps at a crucial time because they are opposed to violence because of their religious beliefs.  You can support, or at least respect their dedication.  You can’t leave them in the tanks and planes.  You take them out  of  battle as a conscientious objector.

Normally, if you can’t or won’t do a job, you should quite.  Its wrong to take the position if you won’t do the work, and that’s what going on here.  In short, I think she should quite, not stay in here position but refuse  to do the job.  Failing that she should be  removed from office however necessary.

Those who oppose her views should also be aware that putting her  in jail, will almost certainly make here a marauder.  Is that what they want?

The Lump of Jobs

I  saw this on Facebook:


It’s from Reason magazine, and I was thinking about the “lump of Jobs fallacy”.    Here’s a reference.

It seems to me that this kind of thinking is really either a lack of creativity, or a lack of faith in human creativity.

The lump of Jobs fallacy assumes that there are only a fixed number of jobs that can be done.  Jobs are scare, and workers are allocated to those jobs.  If new laborers appear in the form of immigrants, than incumbent workers will be displaced from their jobs.  If jobs are automated then some workers again will pushed out of their scarce jobs.  In both cases the take home pay in total is reduced, and society is worse off.  Here’s bit from Reason on the scale of destruction of current jobs:

In 2013, the Oxford University futurists Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne warned that 47 percent of all jobs in the U.S. are at risk of being automated over the next 20 years. Sounds frightening—until you consider what percentage of jobs has been automated away in the recent past. Jobs in manufacturing and agriculture, which accounted for 33 percent of American employment in 1950, are now down to 12 percent. The number of U.S. manufacturing jobs peaked at just below 20 million in 1979 and has fallen to under 12 million today. Many went offshore, but many more were automated away.

This flies in the face of an economists perspective.  Here, jobs aren’t scarce, labor is.  In fact there are a boundless stock of tasks that need to be done.  New workers or machines to do work expand the range of output that society can produce and consume.  Both immigration and automation make society better off.


I find it interesting that both the right and left tend to fall into the lump of labor fallacy, but emphasize different aspects of it.   Right wingers seem, at least lately, to fear influxes of new workers, and oppose immigration.   The left seems to fear anything that increases productivity, including trade and automation.

But both think that the jobs to do are limited mostly to those available today.  If new workers come they’ll force some current workers into unemployment.  Making workers less productive will create jobs to produce the same outputs.  The same output!

There’s the problem.  In fact, we all live with scarcity, scarcity of:

  • time
  • medical care
  • education
  • and more

If people pushed out of existing jobs don’t find something else to do that says, we’re uncreative and can’t allocate the displaced workers to new tasks, or the new tasks while making society as whole better off reward those workers less and they choose unemployment over a pay cut. 

After all as more current mundane jobs are displaced, then shouldn’t we be able to allocate people to what they are passionate about, not just what needs to be done to keep body and soul together?  The main reason we don’t spend most of our time acquiring food by hunting or farming, is that productivity has freed up most people to first make manufactured goods, and now more so services.  If we can’t find new jobs making new things we’re uncreative. 

As more mundane jobs are automated, then perhaps more  young people may go into something they are passionate about.  Think how many people once aspire to some artistic or creative profession, and automation over time will perhaps direct more to follow their passion – the star below.


Reason said it pretty well:

Perhaps more chefs will prepare fine meals in the homes of clients, dramatists devise elaborate virtual environments as entertainment, tailors create one-of-kind bespoke garments. Who the hell knows?

It seems that for many thought their alternative  employment may pay less., though society  as whole will have their new services and whatever they were making before.

I suspect we do have both problems.  How else to explain the persistence of the lump of labor fallacy?  Of the two the problem of new jobs but less well paying is more serious.  It means that while society benefits from automation and immigration, some workers are worse off.

A Little Perspective


As recently as a few months ago, doctors were held in high esteem and educated people believed that medicine could be useful. All that changed, of course, with the medical profession’s stunning failure to prevent or even predict the breakout of ebola in West Africa. Worse yet, many doctors to this very day cling to their old ways of thinking, writing prescriptions, setting broken bones, and performing surgery in bull-headed defiance of the urgent need to jettison everything we know about medical practice and start over from scratch.

Nobody, of course, writes such nonsense about medicine. Why, then, do so many write equivalent nonsense about economics?

Most economists failed to predict the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession for pretty much the same reason most doctors failed to predict the 2014 ebola epidemic — their attention was, quite reasonably, directed elsewhere. It’s easy to say in hindsight that if economists had paid more attention to the shadow banking system, they’d have seen what was coming. But attention is finite, and if economists had paid more attention to the shadow banking system, they’d have paid less attention to something else.

For a little perspective, have a look at this chart showing U.S.~per capita income in fixed (2005) dollars:

That little downward blip you see near the top is the recent crisis. The somewhat bigger downward blip in the 1930s is the Great Depression. The moral is that in the overall scheme of things, recessions don’t matter very much. At the trough of the Great Depression, people lived at a level of material comfort that would have seemed unimaginably luxurious to their grandparents. Today, while Paul Krugman continues to lament “the mess we’re in”, Americans at every income level live far better than Americans of, say, 1980. If you doubt that, you surely don’t remember what life was like in 1980. Here’s how to fix that: Pick a movie from 1980 — pretty much any movie will do — and count the “insurmountable” problems that the protagonist could have solved in an instant with the technology of 2014. Or reread any of the old posts on this page.

If you care about human well-being, recession-fighting is small potatoes. It’s that long-term upward trend that matters. And economists, fortunately, understand a lot about what it takes to nourish that trend — things like well-enforced property rights, the rule of law, free trade, sound money, limited regulation and low marginal tax rates. Even more fortunately, economists have managed, however imperfectly and with fits and starts, to impress that understanding on the minds of policymakers. As a result (and going back, at least, to the repeal of the Corn Laws), we’ve had better policies and greater prosperity.

To throw out all that hard-won knowledge because we failed to prevent a financial crisis would be like closing all the hospitals because doctors failed to prevent an epidemic.

Moreover, it’s entirely possible that some of the best policies for fighting recessions are inimical to long-term growth. It could easily follow that even if you knew exactly how to fight recessions, you might prefer not to.

It’s a very good thing that some economists are trying to understand recessions, and a very good thing that they’re accounting for the lessons of the past few years. It’s also a very good thing that most economists are working in the myriad of other areas where we’re capable of doing good. Another very good thing is historical perspective. The current so-called “mess” that economists have (partly) gotten us into is not just the most prosperous era in human history; it is prosperous beyond the wildest imaginings of your parents’ generation. And yes, economists helped get us here.


A Little Perspective
Steve Landsburg
Mon, 06 Oct 2014 06:01:23 GMT

Utah Trip 2014 # 1

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This is at Zion National Park on July 26, 2014.

Canada pulls the plug on the U.S. Keystone Pipeline – will send oil to Asia

I like President Obama, but I have never been able to understand why his administration is so lukewarm on increased supplies of North American energy, including that from Canada. It is one of the bright spots in this mediocre economic climate that we all have suffered from.

Watts Up With That?

Approves Asia Supply Route, Ignores US Route

H/T Eric Worrall and Breitbart – Obama’s inability to make a decision on Keystone has finally yielded a result – Canada has made the decision for him.

Breitbart reports Canada has just approved the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project – a major pipeline to ship Canadian oil to Asia.

The Canadian oil will still be burnt – in Asia, instead of America.

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Jesus and Ayn Rand

I can’t add much, other than it has always amazed me that Christian conservative like Ayn Rand, when she was such a militant atheist.

Prometheus Unbound

What sort of conservatism blends Jesus with Ayn Rand? Oh, that would be contemporary Tea Party conservatism.

But why isn’t it more widely noticed that “Christian libertarian” is an oxymoron? I would argue that this has to do with the human mind’s capacity for compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance, for Jesus and Rand simply do not go together coherently. Buckley, before he died, was less illusioned: he saw that his Catholicism and Randianism are not a match. Rand herself recognized this as well. She was an atheist.

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What the State Produces


In anarchist literature, one often finds the contention that the State produces nothing, and is entirely parasitic on the rest of society.
This claim is false. Of course, it is true for some things that modern states do, such as the provision of welfare. But it is false applied to the state as a whole, because there is one service that is highly productive, and that only the state can provide: the service of being the final arbiter for all disputes between its members. This service must, logically, come from a monopoly provider: if there are multiple providers of arbitration at the same level, then none of them are final. (And that is why, if a network of ancap defense agencies can provide this service, they will, in fact, compose a state. And if they can’t provide it, then we will have “anarchy” in the bad sense of social chaos.)
Once one focuses on this service, one can easily understand why German barbarians would fight to get inside the Roman Empire: both productivity and security go up in the presence of such a final arbiter. And that is why we have never seen any wealthy, stateless societies.

What the State Produces
Gene Callahan
Wed, 14 May 2014 23:10:00 GMT

Unique Date


If our current civilization lasts another 8,000 years, it's probably fair to assume the Long Now Foundation got things right, and at some point we started listening to them and switched to five-digit years.

Unique Date
Mon, 10 Mar 2014 00:00:00 GMT