Friday, March 26, 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The No-David-Bain issue [updated]

Welcome to another ramble round things and places that caught this liberty-lover’s eye this week . . . without any mention of David Bain. Apart from this one.

  • CLICK HERE FOR STORY Never mind bloody Earth Hour this weekend.  Auckland’s Racket Bar is holding a Power Hour tomorrow night, featuring the world's longest multi-box chain, coal-fired air-conditioning and a light show visible from outer space.!  Cool.
    Plus: BRING IN YOUR OWN ELECTRICAL APPLIANCE AND RECEIVE A FREE TIGER BEER!
    Sounds like a place to be.
    --> Power Hour at the Racket Bar  
  • And Libertarianz leader Richard McGrath encourages all New Zealanders to turn on all their lights during Earth Hour this Saturday night.
    “The Dark Ages were a grim chapter in human history. I don’t feel the need to relive those times.”
    --> Light Up The Country This Earth Hour, Say Libz
  • “The symbolic message that Earth Hour sends is deceptive and destructive.”
    --> “Earth Hour” Symbolizes the Renunciation of Industrial Civilization
  • Another carbon tax domino falls—Nicholas Sarkozy has given in to reality and to political pressure, and pulled his country’s much feted carbon tax scheme.
    So if he can see sense . . .
    --> France backs down on plans for carbon tax
  • It’s a bit early to crack down on beneficiaries, says Peter Osborne.  There’s a few things that need to be done first . . .
    --> At Least Do the Job Properly Paula
  • For instance . . .
    --> Why not just scrap WFF Bill?
  • One would hope that those who parade the “neutrality” of Radio NZ journalists might give some thought to John Stossel’s consideration of government-paid journalists.
            “That journalists are supposed to be the watchdogs, not lapdogs of government
        doesn't resonate with many on the Left. …
            “ Journalists shouldn’t get government funds. Using NPR and PBS [and Radio NZ] as
        a defense reminds me of the child who killed his parents then pleaded for mercy because
        he was an orphan. “
    --> Journalism's Parasites [hat tip Thrutch]
  • Yet another economist is getting “sick of reports that talk about these massive benefits of government spending without actually looking at them in context with, you know, opportunity cost.” Matt Nolan lets rip.
    --> I’m sick of this …
  • Speaking of political economy, Labour’s David Cunliffe reckons at the Red Alert blog that "Keynes is alive and well." That Keynes "rescued" 2 Depressions. I comment. Could be the start of a good debate.
    --> The Turning Point (III): The Keynesian Resurgence
  • A “frustrating” Massey University survey on abortion etc. shows far too many busybodies far too interested in what women choose to do with their bodies.
    --> Frustrating abortion survey out
  • No smell-o-vision yet (thank goodness) but 4-dimensional cinema has arrived!  Eat your heart out Avatar.
    --> Too much realism
  • Speaking of Avatar, director James “Dickhead” Cameron politely calls for a debate with climate skeptics.  On the behalf of “boneheads” everywhere, Anne McElhinny accepts. “It appears some negative comments about the nonsensical politics of Avatar by me and others did not go unnoticed by the richest man in Hollywood who described the criticism as ‘ranting.’  So, James Cameron I accept your invitation.”
    I almost feel sorry for the over-precious poseur.
    --> James Cameron – I Accept
  • “The front page story in the Dominion-Post [yesterday] is about disabled woman Margaret Page. She wants to die, and so is refusing food and water, effectively starving herself to death. The hospice she is in, St John of Godhome, is refusing to intervene.
    And so they should be. This is fundamentally a question of autonomy. Our lives belong to us, not to someone's Invisible Sky Fairy, and certainly not to the state.”
    Bravo!  If only Idiot/Savant would follow that principle consistently himself!
    --> The right to die
  • The Family’s Commission CEO offers “a heaven-sent opportunity” to close the bloody place down.
    “Blend the bloody thing in somewhere and give it six months to wither and die as the departmental CEO redirects its funds to something useful,” says Adolf.
    --> Now Get Rid Of It
  • CLICK FOR STORY!“A guy phoned up who worked for NASA who was interested in how we took the pictures,” Mr Harrison told The Times
    “He wanted to know how the hell we did it. He thought we used a rocket. They said it would have cost them millions of dollars.”
    But not when you use a balloon, a camera and a roll of duct tape.
    --> Journey into space with a balloon and duct tape
  • Lisa Van Damme’s Van Damme Academy offers a unique curriculum for students, and “Director’s Teas” where parents themselves get to experience it.
    Check out, for example, this masterful art appreciation class with “Mr Travis.”  It starts unusually, but you’ll be amazed what – in just twenty minutes -- he can show you in what you thought was a simple painting.
    --> The VDA Art Curriculum - Part 3 of 8 [Click through for the full lecture]

 

  • Rodbeater has been trolling again—so excerpts of his trash have been posted to his Redbaiter’s Bile blog.
    Head along and “enjoy” some edited samples of his invective—and get a clue why this idiot is banned.
    --> Redbaiter’s Bile
  • The argument is over, and the liberals have won. But Matthew Yglesias reckons ObamaCare is their high tide.  Sounds like wishful thinking-but a lot are buying that Kool-Aid.
    --> The End of Big Government Liberalism
  •     “You need a way to maintain your morale—to counter the effects of dispiriting circumstances. In short you need a solid basis to expect a better future.  What can provide it when the news headlines fill you with revulsion?
        “The virtue of optimism.  .. But [by this I mean] a very particular type of optimism. It is not wishful thinking..  It is confidence in one's own potency, and it has to be maintained and fought for like any virtue.....”
    --> Tom Minchin - Hope is Dead - Long Live Optimism
  • Who are "the forgotten men and women of American health care”?
    The doctors, of course.  How many have heard from them?
    --> Who cares about the doctors?
  • A quote now for every time someone calls you anti-health care or anti-education…

“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the
distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every
time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists
conclude that we object to its being done at all.”
– Frédéric Bastiat

  • Here’s something to ponder for fans of “efficient markets.” Buyers of bonds now rate Berkshire Hathaway’s bonds safer than those peddled by the US Government. Which means, as Bloomber reports, “The bond market is now saying that it’s safer to lend to Warren Buffett than Barack Obama.”
    --> A Fiscal Train Wreck
  • “A sudden drop-off in investor demand for U.S. Treasury notes is raising questions about whether interest rates will finally begin a march higher—a climb that would jack up the government's borrowing costs and spell trouble for the fragile housing market.” And not just for the housing market.  This is the beginning of the end for that school of economists who maintain that government debt is the basis on which currency is organised.
    --> Hoping for a rich uncle, part two
  • “AsMargaret Thatcher once said, "the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." Michael Barone reports, “in recent weeks U.S. Treasury bonds have lost their status as the world's safest investment…”
    --> Obama, Meet Reality aka The Bond Market
  • Does NZ really need a Productivity Commission anyway?  Paul Walker doesn’t think so.
    --> Productivity commission, Why?
  • On better things . . . Rachel Miner “shares some tools which have added much joy for me by helping me capture the precious moments of parenting. There are so many experiences that are both easy to forget and worthy of remembering."
    --> Tool: Capturing the Precious Times
  • Jo Kellard offers a guide for how to start thinking about potential careers and career choices.
    --> Did Students Heed My Career Advice?
  • The title says it all:
    --> The Nature of Consciousness Vs. Religious concepts
  • "We may have lost the first round in the health care battle,” says Paul Hsieh. “But if we follow these principles,the final victory can still be ours."
    --> "ObamaCare: The Coming Battles"
  • Earth doesn’t care whether our lights are on or not; if we’re producing or not; which Korea is starving, or free, or not.  The night lights of Korea tell the story of man’s emergence from slavery into freedom.
    For in the slave state that is North Korea, “Earth Hour” is for life.
    --> Earth doesn’t care about our lights, our electricity
    earth-hour-carbon-sense-368
  • "Amazing! A company that provides really great food allergy information that is NOT coerced by the government! Why in the world would they do such a crazy thing?"
    --> Now THAT'S What I Call a Food Allergy-Friendly Company
  • A list of psychological disorders.  Some of them are genuine.  All are bogus.
    --> Take the DSM-5 disorder quiz! 
  • Guess who’s against medical marijuana in California?
    That’s right.  The growers.
    --> Baptists, Bootleggers & Vidalia Onions
  • “The new anti-"Zionism" - or anti-Semitism for many - has gone mainstream in a deadly serious way.”
    --> The betrayal of Israel
  • “The great green paradox of the Coromandel is that the place celebrates its mining heyday at every turn.”
    --> Coromandel can bear more mining
  • New book Genetic Roulette purports to take apart genetic engineering, detailing “65 separate claims that the technology causes harm in a variety of ways.”  The Academics Review website dismantles every one of them.
    Science is the winner.
    --> Genetic Roulette

music1 “Music,” by Theo van Oostrom

  • If you’re somebody who only reads Penthouse for the articles, then you’ll have already seen this: Penthouse magazine taking down Al Gore. “Al Gore and his pals in the science establishment want us to totally change our lives because of a theory that might not even be true. Have the sacred cows of global warming been gored beyond repair?”
    --> An Inconvenient Fraud?
  • This is worth digesting: Doug Casey’s Special Report on the state of the world economy.  Twenty pages of charts and stats that tell you the story in pictures that so many wish to deny.
    --> The Good, Bad, and Ugly: “Outlook for the Economy” [pdf]
  • Scott de Salvo suggests Objectivists should get behind Ron Paul.  Hmmm.
    --> Why Ron Paul Is THE Objectivist Moral Imperative
  • CLICK HERE David Harriman’s Logical Leap: Induction in Physics won’t be available for purchase until this summer. But his ‘Periodic Table of the Sciences’ is available now.
            “The Periodic Table of the Sciences is a graphical
         description of  .. science education. Within each
         column, the table shows the stages of development
         (from bottom to top) of the five major theories that
        are essential to a basic education in science. The order
         of the columns (from left to right) reflects the fact that each theory is a prerequisite
        for the next.
            “The concepts of science have a necessary order. Kepler’s laws of planetary motion
        must come before Newton’s law of universal gravitation, electric charge before atomic
        theory, and atomic theory before modern biology. This logical order is shown in the table—
        vertically in the development of each theory and horizontally in the progression from one
        theory to the next. Thus, the Periodic Table of the Sciences captures the integration and the
        hierarchy of scientific knowledge.
            “For students and teachers, the table serves as a reference that demands an answer to two
        crucial questions: what previous knowledge does an idea rest on, and where does the new
        knowledge lead?”
    --> Periodic Table of the Sciences 
    --> For a more in-depth analysis, see Harriman’s articles in The Objective Standard
  • It’s amazing what’s now available on the internet. 
    Philosopher Stephen Hicks has put his entire 15-lecture Philosophy of Education course online, in video.  Normally you’d pay thousands of dollars for this . . . but it’s yours for the price of your internet connection.
    My bet is most of you will head straight to the ‘Big Bang’ and ‘The Creation Story’  in Lecture 2.  Me, I might head straight for what he has to say about Post-Modernism in Lecture 14.
    --> Philosophy of Education: An Introductory Course
  • 752px-Nancy_Pelosi_0009_3-300x239 Nancy Pelosi a constitutionalist?  No, I didn’t think so either.
    --> Nancy Pelosi vs. the Founding Fathers
  • This is “must-see TV” says Tim Blair. “A couple of things about the BBC’s excellent Generation Jihad investigation:
        “One, baby jihadis born and raised in the West are driven entirely by ideology (says one British extremist, previously jailed for terrorism offences: “I’ve never been a victim of poverty or any kind of family break-up or anything like that").
        “And two, these jihadis are a serious menace, despite – paradoxically – being complete losers.”
  • Eric Crampton talks about the hoped-for rise of “The Ninny State.” Apparently you and I are being mocked, and we didn’t even know!
    -->  Ninny state?
  • Life is rough for warmists right now. “In Britain, the 'Climate Change Museum' has been forced to change its name to the 'Climate Science Museum' and in Russia, the country's top climatologist has come out and said that: ‘The winter of 2009-10 was one of the most severe in the European part of Russia for more than 30 years and in Siberia it was perhaps the record-breaking coldest ever.’
        “And, as a result of all this contrary data, the global warming theorists are now threatening violence. “
    --> Ian O'Doherty: Don't tase me, bro
  • Greenpeace isn’t just paid by the government to lobby them—taking money straight out f taxpayers’ pockets--it also steals directly from its members’ bank accounts.
    But it should be no surprise: greenies are less honest than the rest of us.  We knew it just by watching Al Gore’s and Paul Watson’s lips moving, but turns out research shows it too!
    --> Watchdog warns Greenpeace donors
    --> Goodies behaving badly
  • Must be hard hating technology.  It means you’d have to hate people who are so good at celebrating it … like the genius who designs Apple’s retail stores.
    -- > Meet the Genius Behind Apple's Beautiful Retail Stores

   _quote To suppose all consumers to be dupes, and all merchants and
manufacturers to be cheats, has the effect of authorising them
to be so, and of degrading all the working members of the community.”

                               - ARJ Turgot (1727-1781)

  • And finally, something completely different. Specially for Helen Simpson, a Telephone Call From Istanbul . . .

Enjoy your weekend!

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Curno Public Library and Auditorium - Archea Associati

Tyler Cowen calls this new library and auditorium by Florence-based architectural practice Archea Associati “beautiful.”

Archea-Associati-Biblioteca-e-Auditorium-Comune-di-Curno-012

Archea-Associati-Biblioteca-e-Auditorium-Comune-di-Curno-011 Archea-Associati-Biblioteca-e-Auditorium-Comune-di-Curno-08

Beautiful? What say you good folk

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

First they came for the word ‘progress’ …

There’s a word out of history that’s come back to haunt us.  It’s called “Progressive,” and it’s pure poison.

A decade ago if you’d got a dollar for every time you heard the word ‘Progressive,’ you’d still be in the poorhouse. Now? You hear the word on every street corner, and in every internet chat room. If you had only half a dollar for every time you heard it (which is all today’s dollar is worth anyway) you’d still quite easily make Forbes’ list of billionaires.

So what happened, and when. As Google Trends indicates In 2004, something happened to turn it all around and bring back a word from a hundred years ago. Take a look:

Prog-Soc-04to08

Clearly it’s a new thing, and clearly it’s being used to delineate the same, or similar characteristics, as the world socialist . . .

Lib-Prog

. . . and the word “liberal.” (NB: You’ve got to be careful checking Google Trends for “liberal” since you’re liable to wind up measuring Tony Abbott’s mates in Australia.)

So what happened in 2004?  Any theories? To rule out just one theory: it’s not Glenn Beck, if that’s what you’re thinking. He didn’t take off until last year.

BeckTrend

So what’s the explanation?

Here’s one theory.

At the turn of the century, the advocates of big government picked up the word “progress” and started to bandy it around.  “Progressive” they called themselves when they started to implement government daycare, ban alcohol, and set up government control of the banking system and wartime central planning of the commanding heights of the economy—despite none of these representing any kind of progress but the government gaining ground and liberty being forced to yield.

Socialists laid claim to the world “progress,” just as they laid claim to the notion that socialism was “scientific” –- and their Old Right and “liberal” opponents sat back let them do it.

What a victory! 

By masquerading as being in the vanguard of progress, they made their opponents, by implication, appear as the apostles of reaction.  Of the antediluvian.  Of the status quo.  It made their opponents look like dinosaurs, and their opponents stood back and let them do it.

What an underhanded victory!

So why, later on, did they drop the nomenclature? Not because they had no right to it. They dropped it because they saw something better. 

Just as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt and their fellow travellers stole the word “progress” when they had no right to it, Franklin Roosevelt and his fellow-travellers stole the word “liberal” even though they had no right to that. But no matter. They saw it was no longer being used, they picked it up, and they used it for all it was worth even though it was the last way to describe their aims.

Where liberalism used to mean the belief in small governments and the importance of liberty and equality before the law—a belief that had flowered in the sweet, liberal air of the freest time in human history, the nineteenth century--now in the mid-twentieth century it was held to mean being made equal by the law. By law wielded by big government.

Quite some sleight of hand, that one.  Exchanging “negative liberties” for “positive liberties, and making small government = big government, and all by the use of one word.

What could be more ingenious!

But now, after a century-and-counting of never-ending Square Deals and Fair Deals-- of New Deals, Great Societies and Fascist New Frontiers—and ever bigger and ever-more intrusive government to remedy the never-ending failure of every promised Utopia to arrive, it was clear that particular jig was up.  Up for good.  It was clear even to moronic numb-nuts and Democratic Party planners (but I repeat myself) that modern “liberalism” is nothing more than old-style socialism, with all the incumbent failures and bad aroma thereof.

Something had to be done to add perfume to the stink of failure so the Grand Old Project could go on as before.

Enter (stage left) Hope. And Change.  And the return of an old friend: “Progressivism.”

You think it’s a coincidence that Mr “Hope and Change” arrived on your doorstep at the same time as that revivified old word did?

ObamaTrend

This was one dog that learned from all the old tricks in the Alinsky-Gramsci toolbox.  One young dog who knew how his prior masters had tamed the populace with the help of a word, and wanted to work the same magic. He grabbed the mantle of “progress,” and once again his opponents let him get away with it.

And just as it was Religion that gave the first generation of American Progressivism its legs, now–-via the oxymoron of “social justice” and the religiously inspired “duty” to be your brother’s keeper—it’s that old-time religion again that’s being used to bury liberty for good, just as surely as if it were a hatchet being buried in its back

So how does that sound as a theory?

And what are you going to do about it?

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Paula Bennett, Gerry Brownlee & ObamaCare: What’s the connection?

Q: WHAT’S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN these three recent events:

  • the victory this week of ObamaCare
  • National’s “welfare reforms”
  • The Brownlee Plan for mining in parks

On the face of it there’s no direct link—but there is one nonetheless.

Can you spot it?

It’s a moral link.

1. Let’s look at Obamacare. Obama’s health care plan, famously touted as “extending health care to 32 million Americans, was introduced to America on the justification that every American is every other American’s keeper—that they each have a moral “duty” to each other--and the state exists to ensure that relationship is enforced.
And since Republican party apologists agree with that too, it’s no wonder they entered the Obamacare debate morally disarmed, and ended it trounced.  They agreed with that proposition that the state exists to enforce charity, so how could they disagree when a more consistent proponent of that doctrine calls their bluff.  (Watch that happening here to Stephen Moore.)
No wonder they lost.

2. How about Paula Bennett’s so-called  “welfare reform”?  Shuffling around the deck chairs while the Titanic welfare bill sinks us all. 
New Zealand’s now-bloated welfare state is premised on the notion that every new Zealander is every other New Zealander’s keeper—that we each have a moral “duty” to reach other--and the state is there to enforce that.
National’s lukewarm “welfare reforms” don’t challenge that a whit—they accept the notion that the moral cannibalism of the welfare state is a given; that the money extracted from Peter to dole out to Paul represents an “entitlement” to Paul; that while the state may occasionally shuffle around how Paul (or Pauline) is kept, or what his (or her) entitlement is called, or how often Pauline (or Paul) has to front up to re-register for their “entitlement,” that “entitlement” itself—their passport to ravage the pockets of the productive -- must never, ever, be challenged.  
That’s the premise on which Paula Bennett is working, and also the basis on which she’s being attacked.
That’s why these reforms are argued on the improvements they’ll supposedly make to the beneficiaries, instead of how they might benefit those who are forced to pay for them.
No wonder the “reforms” are so tepid, and will arguably just make things worse.

3. So how about that mining, huh?
Time for a reality check, here.
National isn’t “freeing up” government land for mining because it wants the economy to surge ahead.  It simply wants to “let out” that land so they can rope in some help to pay that burgeoning welfare bill.  And it’s a biggy.
To their credit, some members of the National cabinet recognise that with one-in-ten New Zealanders now receiving a benefit (358,000 NZers at the last count), the Titanic welfare bill is slipping out of our grasp and may be the iceberg that finally sinks us. They recognise that if the National-led Government is borrowing $250 million a week to maintain those 358,000 at others’ expense, they will very shortly need some others to help pick up the tab. And since the premise that every new Zealander must be every other New Zealander’s keeper must (apparently) never be challenged, Gerry Brownlee (to his discredit) wants to use mining companies the way Margaret Thatcher used North Sea oil companies--to pay in royalties to keep the welfare state from bankruptcy.
Gerry wants to dig, baby, dig –- not to make the country rich, but to keep the state’s welfare coffers full.
No wonder we’re stuffed.

Can you now see the moral connection with each : Creating new “entitlements,” and refusing to cut back old ones. More specifically, refusing to recognise “entitlements” for what they are: which is alms, extracted at the point of a gun.

It’s a form of moral disarmament—and it’s the reason the welfare rolls are increasing, your tax bills are rising (roll on that GST rise, eh!), and why every single argument against the advance of the welfare state is repelled before its even fully advanced: Because every mainstream proponent on both sides of all three arguments accepts the same fundamental premise that empowers the welfare state:

  • The creation and maintenance of an “entitlement culture”—of a state in which everyone is given the moral imprimatur to live at everyone else’s expense.
  • The idea that one persons means can become another person’s ends—by the power of law.
  • The notion of a “duty” to be our brother’s keeper—at the point of a gun, if necessary.
  • That need itself is the moral claim that trumps all others—with that need made an “entitlement” by the power of government.

And there’s a worse mistake still: The idea that liberty and duty can somehow co-exist.  As Ayn Rand pointed out,

“In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.”

And so they have been.

And so they will be until it’s recognised that we each have the right to live for our own sakeand the notion of duty is expunged from the pages of history for ever.

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Family Tree of Economics [update 5]

I needed a ‘Family Tree of Economics’-–which you might also call a Family Tree of Economists--for a project a few friends are working on (don’t worry, I’ll tell you about it shortly).


Click to enlarge.

I couldn’t find a decent one, so I produced my own.  Here’s a first third fourth fifth draft.  Comments?

UPDATE 1: Thanks for your comments.  A few improvements made.  Any more to make?

UPDATE 2: Thanks again.  A few additions, and few more corrections made.  What do you think?  A little too busy now, perhaps?

UPDATE 3: Okay, this latest version has a lot more changes.  And it’s a lot more busy. I think I need to start cutting . . .

UPDATE 4:  Now we're really  getting there.

I think this is a vast improvement on the last version, which was losing most of the clarity.

You’ll note, among other things, that there are two general streams of thought emerging out of history—one of which, with some exceptions, is largely ignored by the mainstream—and the other of which is largely in praise of big government. 

That the last time there was general agreement was back just after the Marginalist Revolution, around the turn of the last century, out of which ‘progressive’ era all the various fragmented schools of today really emerged.

That many things (both good and bad) began with Knut Wicksell.

That there was economics (both good and bad) before Adam Smith.

You might note too the profound distance between the two Britons Philip Wicksteed and Alfred Marshall over the direction of the Marginalist Revolution—a distance measured both by their separation in the chart and reflected in Wicksteed’s (correct) assertion that Marshall and his followers were insufficiently aware of how radical that revolution was, making them little more than “a school of apologists” for the failures of the classical school to construct a valid theory of value.

That there’s really no such thing as a  “neo-liberal” school—a “school” which exists only the minds of Susan St John, Jane Kelsey and their fellow travellers.

That for some decades after the British Classical School codified the study of economics, Karl Marx’s version of their work virtually had the English-speaking world to itself—which explains a lot--but his influence in economics a century later was less so than it was in other fields.

That until recently mainstream economics took very little from the seminal stream of Austrian thought, except what the “Neo-Classicists” took from Hayek and (the partial-Austrian) Schumpeter.

That there is a direct line forward from Carl Menger (“the true and sole founder of Austrian economics proper”) through Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk and Ludwig Von Mises to Mises's student George Reisman; and from Reisman back to the many valid but now-forgotten ideas of the Classical School—and an indirect line back from John Maynard Keynes back to the the unsound and misbegotten fallacies of Malthus and the mercantilists, and forward to the ‘Neo-Classical Synthesis’ that institutionalised those errors and wrote them into a generation's worth of textbooks. . .

So it’s getting there.  Mind you, it’s still not perfect. I haven’t included all the economists who feature on the various ’ten most influential economists’ lists of all-time, or even of the twentieth-century. And I’m now under heavy pressure from Will Wilkinson and a couple of others to add the New Institutional School . . . even though I have got Ronald Coase in there.  At the moment.

Rest assured that I’ll be speaking to a historian of economic thought on Wednesday—as you do—to get some more perspective, and to get firmly upbraided for my errors.

UPDATE 5:  The new, improved and final version is now posted above {click to enlarge).  There's a link to download a full-size version just to the right of this on the main idebar.  Please feel free to use as you will, just as long as you mention that it originated here.  And feel free to drop me a line telling me where it's ended up.

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Sistine Chapel

sistine chapel

The Sistine Chapel.  Everybody knows it.  Tourists tramp through it. In a queue.

As a room, it’s just a room.

A room several stories high whose walls are decorated with art.

And what art!  Some of the greatest art in the history of the world.

Louis Sullivan, one of my architectural heroes, spent three days in Rome in the late nineteenth century, two of them in the Sistine Chapel.

    “Needless to say [says Sullivan’s biographer Hugh Morrison], it was Michelangelo’s great ceiling paintings which held him. Michelangelo became for him another [hero], and greater than Wagner. “Here Louis communed in silence with a Super-Man. Here he felt and saw and great Free Spirit. Here he was filled with the awe that stills. . . .  Here was power as he had seen it in the mountains…, in the prairies, in the open sky. . . .  Here was the living presence of a man who had done things in the beneficence of power.”

Art full of power, in the service of bad philosophy.

But great art.  And you can see it all, up close, in context--almost as if you were there—at The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel website

It took the great Michelangelo three years to paint the ceiling, and another year to paint The Last Judgement. So why not spend an evening with the great man, and see why he’s so deservedly revered.

The website and its gadget takes a while to load, even at high speed, but once it does, you've got this amazing ability to pan and zoom all over the room. Enjoy! [Hat tip Scott Powell]

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Laughing at the Gloater-in-Chief

ObamaCare The Gloater-in-Chief: “Another stone laid in the foundation of the American dream;” Pelosi jokes: “No money exchanged hands (laughter)…” [Link]

As the ink dries on their plan to denude America, late-night TV hosts are already laughing at the Gloater-in-Chief and his Leading Hyena.

The liberals are asking us to give Obama time. We agree, and think 25 to life would be appropriate.
(Leno)

America needs ObamaCare like Nancy Pelosi needs a Halloween mask.
(Leno)

Q: Have you heard about McDonald's' new Obama Value Meal?
A: Order anything you like and the guy behind you has to pay for it.
(O'Brien)

Q: What does Barack Obama call lunch with a convicted felon?
A: A fund raiser.
(Leno)

Q: What's the difference between Obama's cabinet and a penitentiary?
A: One is filled with tax evaders, blackmailers and threats to society. The other is for housing prisoners.
(Letterman)

Q: If Nancy Pelosi and Obama were on a boat in the middle of the ocean and it started to sink, who would be saved?
A: America ! 
(Fallon)

Q: What was the most positive result of the "Cash for clunkers" program?
A: It took 95% of the Obama bumper stickers off the road.
(Letterman)

But there’s more:

TOP TEN INDICATORS THAT YOUR EMPLOYER HAS CHANGED TO OBAMACARE

10. Your annual breast exam is done at Hooters.9.  Directions to your doctor’s office include “Take a left when you enter the trailer park.”

8.  Your health insurance policy now runs to one-thousand pages, is unreadable, and includes promises to buy back Louisiana.

7.  The only pre-existing condition that isn’t covered is “Republican.”

6.  The only item listed under Preventive Care Coverage is “An apple a day..”

5.  Your primary care physician is wearing the coveralls you gave to Goodwill last month.

4.  Where it says, “The patient is responsible for 200% of out-of-network charges,” it’s not a typographical error.

3.  The only expense that is 100% covered is “embalming.”

2.  Your Prozac comes in different colors with little M’s on them.

AND THE NUMBER ONE SIGN YOU’VE JOINED OBAMACARE:

1.  You ask for Viagra and they give you a Popsicle stick and duct tape.

recession And finally,

    Last Tuesday, as President Obama got off the helicopter in front of the White House, he was carrying a baby piglet under each arm.The squared away Marine guard snaps to attention, Salutes and says:
    “Nice pigs, sir.”
    The President replies “These are not pigs…these are authentic Arkansas Razorback Hogs. I got one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I got one for Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi.”
    The squared away Marine again snaps to attention, Salutes and says,
    “Excellent trade, sir.”

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Rule by bludger, & justice by ouija board

_richardmcgrath Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for stories and headlines on issues affecting our freedom.

This week he takes aim at: Rule by bludger, & justice by ouija board

  1. Double whammy looms for landlords – In a massive tax grab by the National Party, the country’s most notorious bludger -- Bill English -- now wants to close a loophole whereby landlords can use losses on rental property investment to reduce their personal income and at the same time claim the Welfare for Working Families handout.
        I wonder if Bill will also close the loophole that forced the taxpayer to fund his Karori home to the tune of $1,000 a week despite the presence of two rather healthy incomes?
        He’s very concerned about a hypothetical landlord earning $100,000 a year, who uses the existing tax laws to quite legally reduce his income by about $18,000. What about the flesh-and-blood politician who uses parliamentary rules to make others subsidise his million dollar mansion? What about the incentives that encourage tax avoidance?
        If Bludger Bill is serious about stopping unjustified rorts on the taxpayer, here’s what he should do: firstly, as a goodwill gesture, stop all perks to parliamentarians; and secondly, abolish Welfare for Working Families so that well-off people can’t claim it (though I seem to recall the rather comfortable WWF poster family with its cell phones and iPod).
        Will he? Does he have the spine?  No, because National has no intention of rolling back any of the welfarism and the massive public sector built up by Helen Clark and her administration over nine years. They are quite comfortable with half the country receiving handouts from the state, but they want to suck more of your money away in taxes.
        They can’t walk the talk, because they love Nanny.

2. Judges recall jurors sex break, use of ouija board – It’s high time the system that compels people to report for jury duty was reviewed. Such a system is analogous to military conscription, which to a libertarian reads as legalized slavery. This item recalls judges reports of reluctant jury members being dragged screaming back into courtrooms, and a juror who used a ouija board during a trial.
    These sorts of stories do not inspire confidence in the jury system. Perhaps an improvement on the status quo would be the development of agencies with pools of professional jurors who could be utilized for criminal court cases. This would tend to weed out the sort of dross we read about from time to time – those chronic underachievers who lack the concentration and intellect to analyse evidence and testimony, and whose inept behaviour often result in expensive mistrials.
    If the standards of our juries is to be raised, then the manifestly inadequate must no longer be forced into jury membership.
    Like paying for competent justice, the justice system should be able to pay for a jury of high standard.  

“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny - when the
government fear the people, there is liberty.”

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Reality on his side

Edmaruka3_698938a No matter the nonsense or the gibberish you speak, uphold or support, reality eventually has its way.

A is A--no matter how often you pretend to yourself and others that it's non-A.

Latest example comes from India, where the heroic Sanal Edamaruku, president of Rationalist International, challenged tantrik Pandit Surendra Sharma to prove his claim that he could use “magical powers” to kill anyone.  The Times takes up the story:

    _quote When a famous tantric guru boasted on television that he could kill another man using only his mystical powers, most viewers either gasped in awe or merely nodded unquestioningly. Sanal Edamaruku’s response was different. ‘Go on then — kill me,’ he said.

And the barmy swami tried to.  On live TV.

    _quoteMillions tuned in as the channel cancelled scheduled programming to continue broadcasting the showdown, which can still be viewed on YouTube.
    “First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic’s hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man…
    “When the guru’s initial efforts failed, he accused Mr Edamaruku of praying to gods to protect him. ‘No, I’m an atheist,’ came the response. The holy man then said he needed to conduct a ritual that could only be done at night, outdoors, and after he had slept with a woman, drunk alcohol and rubbed himself in ash.
    “The men agreed to go to an outdoor studio that night — all to no avail. At midnight, the anchor declared the contest over. Reason had prevailed…
    “‘He was over, finished, completely destroyed!’ Mr Edamaruku chuckles triumphantly as he concludes the tale in the Rationalist Centre, his second-floor office in the town of Noida, just outside Delhi.

Nonsense is nonsense.  As you can show when you have reality on your side.

Have a good laugh at the voodoo guru. Watch on You Tube:  (Part 2 here; Part 3 here.)

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Cenotaph for Isaac Newton - by Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728 - 1799)

Drawing_by_Étienne-Louis_Boullée_(1728_-_1799)_

A hero of the British Enlightenment celebrated by a man of the French pre-Revolution: “utopian designer and speculative architect” Etienne-Louis Boullée.

A classical form, the sphere, without the usual classical trappings.

An empty interior. Just “a sarcophagus at the bottom for the mortal remains of Newton.”

Ridiculously huge. Its dome is “pierced by small holes to shine as new constellations.”

More versions here. None of which were built.

I did say Boullée was Utopian.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Welfare reforms

Hello children.  Time for your afternoon quiz.

The National-led government is instigating “welfare reform.”

Will the reforms be:

a) The end of the world?

b) The end of your Tuesday?

c) “The return of the nasty party,” forcing sick people to work, parents to ignore their children, and the long-term unemployed to sell their organs for food?

e) “Bash the Bennie Time

d) Another example of “the wonderfulness of John Key”?

or d) Arguably worse than the status quo, doing nothing to destroy the “entitlement culture.”

Answers on a WINZ form, please.

Or maybe on a postcard.  Planted in the middle of Eden Park.

Because the mining Gerry is planning will only pay a pimple of the welfare bills your governments have racked up.

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As the sun sets on America . . .

 

[No comment needed, really. Further episodes here.]

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‘The Agnew Clinic’ – Thomas Eakins

eakins_agnew

Two great artists focus on the essentials of medicine. Eakins’s ‘Agnew Clinic’ (above) is of a piece with his earlier ‘Gross Clinic’ – two portrayals that “clearly take the relation of hand and mind as their subject. Mind is vividly represented in both

    “Eakins chooses to depict Gross and Agnew not in their studies as thinkers, but very much at work as doers. As surgeons and teachers in the midst of an operation, surrounded by hordes of others with various claims on their attention, they are in the middle of the most complex course of actions imaginable. This is a world in which action counts as much as thought–or, to put it more accurately, a world in which action can't be separated from thought..
   “The point of both paintings is precisely the ways that [he surgeons] Gross and Agnew bridge the realms of thinking and doing. Eakins brings the point home to us through a series of contrasts in which the meaningful connection of the two realms–of being with doing, of mental impulses to manual expressions–is flawed or absent in various ways. There are dozens of arms and hands visible (and invisible) in both paintings, and their sheer number and prominence draw our attention to them, but one of the things we slowly realize is that there are only a few in which hand and mind are linked in a disciplined, productive relationship–one in which mind informs hand and hand informs mind…” [Ray Carney, “Forming the hand of the mind”]

And why, to highlight that relationship, would Eakins choose a surgeon as his subject? Let another great artist offer you a very timely answer from her greatest novel.  The novel’s protagonist has just asked the “Dr Agnew’ of his day why he resigned:

    _quote ‘I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago,’ said Dr. Hendricks. ‘Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward.
    “ ‘I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything—except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the 'welfare' of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only 'to serve.'
    “ ‘That a man who's willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards—never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind—yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it—and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't.’ "
             - Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged 

Goodnight America.

NB: Three articles that make the necessary further points:

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Monday, March 22, 2010

90 seconds to ObamaCare [update 8]

If you can’t follow the rules, you just change the rules—at least, that’s the way you do it if you’re a politician.

Want to know the process whereby Obama’s nationalised healthcare is about to become law? The Democrats’ post-modern law-making process explained in ninety seconds [hat tip Vulcan’s Hammer]:

UPDATE 1: Rep. Alcee Hastings speaks:

    “There ain’t no rules here, we’re trying to accomplish something….All this talk about rules…. When the deal goes down… we make ‘em up as we go along.” [Hat tip The New Clarion]

UPDATE 2: “Get Ready for Health Insurance Slumlords,” says Brian Schwartz.

    “ObamaCare would force insurers to behave as slumlords, much like rent control does.” [Hat tip Thrutch]

UPDATE 3: “Mandatory Health Insurance; Wrong for Massachusetts, Wrong for America.”

UPDATE 4: If ObamaCare Passes Later Today..., then Paul Hsieh at the Freedom & Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM) blog has some links for you.

UPDATE 5:

    “The sun has now set and risen again a total of 275 times since it first shone down on the Obama health plan.  Barring some unforeseen snag, the House of Representatives will hold the final vote on that legislation around 6pm Eastern Time today. It will do so without ever laying eyes on a complete cost estimate…”

Continue reading Michael Cannon’s ObamaCare Cost-Estimate Watch, Day #275.  And there’s this, ObamaCare’s Actual Price Tag:

    “To hear Democrats tell it, the Congressional Budget Office projects the legislation would cost a mere $940 billion over the next 10 years….the actual cost of the bill is nearly $3 trillion….
    “Yet this legislation would set in motion political forces that would make additional spending inevitable…”

UPDATE 6:

  • THE TIMES (London), ‘ Barack Obama poised to win healthcare battle’: “The Bill, if passed, will bring near-universal health coverage to the US for the first time in the country’s history by requiring individuals to buy insurance and subsidise cover for those who cannot afford it… The passions fuelled by more than a year of furious argument from town hall meetings in Arizona to the floor of the Senate were on display again in Washington at the weekend.”
  • POWERLINE, ‘Silver Linings’: “With Stupak's collapse [NB: Stupak is “an anti-abortion Democrat”], passage of the Democrats' government medicine bill is assured…”
  • FOX NEWS: ‘House OKs Key Step Toward Health Insurance Overhaul’: “The House voted 224-206 Sunday to approve the rules for debate of a massive health insurance overhaul that evidently satisfies few but is viewed by House Democrats as better than nothing.”
  • NY TIMES, ‘House Clears Path for Final Health Vote’: “By a vote of 224-206, the House of Representatives approved the key procedural measure necessary to pass major health care legislation…”
  • CNN.COM, ‘Here's the latest on what's happening on Capitol Hill...’  “The vote to begin the debate on landmark U.S. health care legislation was 224-206, a good indication that Democrats have enough votes to pass the landmark measure itself…”
  • ABC NEWS: ‘House Passes Health Care Bill, Sweeping Legislation on Its Way to Become Law.’ “Anti-Abortion Democrats' Decision to Vote 'Yes' Puts Bill Over the Top.”

UPDATE 7: Alex Epstein at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights observes “The White House says we ‘just can’t wait’ for its government solution to our health care problems. But today’s health-care problems were created by yesterday’s government ‘solutions.’”

    “Since the 1940s, on the idea that health care is a ‘right’ that others must provide, the government has made a growing number of Americans collectively responsible for each other’s care--through Medicare, Medicaid, and collectivized employer plans. These government programs incentivized people to spend much, much more on health care--since they were spending other people’s money--and warped the market. Without such intervention, we should expect health care to be like laser eye-surgery, which is not covered by Medicare or government insurance laws, but gets better and cheaper all the time.
    “America ‘can’t wait’--for the government to get out of health care. Disentangling government from that field is the task of true reform.”

Which, of course, is precisely the opposite aim to ObamaCare.

UPDATE 8: “Darkness Descends

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