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Monday, September 11, 2017

The News Business

Hurricane Harvey, and now Irma, remind us that the news media is not a public service: it is a for-profit business. The Business sells ratings to advertisers, not actually useful information or analysis. Thus, the hurricane is the story, not the fact that cities like New Orleans and Houston are sitting at sea level with nowhere for the water to go or that the building codes of the Florida coast bear no relation to its geography. Cities are also behavioral and economic sinks, filled with people with no means to weather a natural disaster--which, of course, is the only reason a natural phenomenon becomes a "disaster." Cities are, in a word, fragile.

The Business is also an oligopoly, thanks to IP laws and founder effects, in the economic and cultural sense. Like all oligopolies, the Business is concerned primarily with maintenance of its oligopoly status.

The State, special interests, and others use this oligopoly to great effect. The interests of the State and its patrons coincide very nicely with the interests of the Business. They create Panic where there is no need for panic and Complacency where there is need for Urgency. Thus, in Atlanta today, hysterical people shut down a city over wind and rain; meanwhile, population density increases and giant poplars and oaks tower over power lines.

Apply this analysis to any crisis out there: hunger in Africa, not explosive r-selected reproductive practices; HIV/AIDS, not self-destructive behavior; poverty, not poor life-choices.

None of this is to deny the tragic and often capricious nature of human suffering nor to suggest that we should not seek to alleviate suffering. Poverty can result from illness or economic displacement. Unforeseen natural disasters and social catastrophes do occur. But there is a stubborn resistance to thinking critically about root causes and perverse incentives. And the Business, of all the institutions, is fundamentally and structurally not motivated even to ask the right questions.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Passings


Chaos Manor's Jerry Pournelle has passed away. This is his Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

Such clear thinking is now rare.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

You must see this


Wealthy, influential Anglo-Europeans develop plan to rule foreign countries. From Marginal Revolution.

Comments are just getting cranked up as of 8:30 a.m. Hilarity ensuing.

The Anti-Gnostic August 13, 2017 at 8:16 am
“The first thing that you are missing (probably because you never lived in poor and dangerous countries) is that walls matter, this is why rich people tend to live in closed communities. Crime hits the poor much more than the rich. I move around with an armoured car and two bodyguards: not being a narco, I am afraid only of police, not assault by usual criminals.” [Emphasis added].
_______________________________________

Wait, what?! I am repeatedly assured by many wealthy, intelligent people that walls don’t work!

I can see where this whole “wall” thing might catch on. Like-minded people, many of whom aren’t individually wealthy enough to afford a gated community, two bodyguards, and an armored car, could pool their resources and pay some agency to build a wall, say, a “Border” and hire some guys, say, a “Border Patrol” to keep out all the people who can out-thug, out-breed and out-vote them and take their stuff.

It’s like, you either have a single public wall for your community of culturally-similar people who trust each other, or you have hundreds of private walls reserved for those wealthy enough to afford them. Intriguing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"When was the Golden Age of conservative intellectualism?"

Tyler Cowen asks:
Paul Krugman says a mix of “never” and “certainly not now” (my paraphrases, not actual quotations from him). Here is one bit:

On environment, a similar turn took place a bit later. The use of markets and price incentives to fight pollution was, initially, a conservative idea condemned by some on the left. But liberals eventually took it on board — while cap-and-trade became a dirty word on the right. Crude slogans — government bad! — plus subservience to corporate interests trump analysis.
I believe this is pretty far from the reality, here are a few points:
Tyler proceeds to mount a vigorous defense of conservative thinking on the environment but he needn't have bothered. Environmental stewardship is already reviled as a racist, i.e., conservative, i.e., old-white-guy cause.

Anyway, it's a worthwhile question but not one that I think can be answered at this point because the consensus on what constitutes conservatism has broken down. Who are conservatives--Hillaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton or Bill Kristol and David Frum? The former would probably be denounced as, what else, fascists by the latter. Not True Conservatives.

“Conservatives” are irrevocably split between the Clash-Of-Civilizations camp and the End-Of-History camp. The former argues for conserving a civilization and the latter argues for conserving universalist ideals. My previous entry sets out the two worldviews. I regard the End-Of-History camp as naive and impotent, operationally resulting in conservatives forever apologizing Left and punching Right, thereby consolidating progressivist gains. Whig “conservatism” which conserves nothing. So that’s my Not True Conservative two cents.

I’d say the Golden Age of conservative intellectuals would be the late Victorian period of Belloc and Chesterton, and the astounding Rudyard Kipling. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Enoch Powell were the last heirs to that intellectual tradition. I’m biased toward England (which is where Belloc ended up), so there are doubtless some Continental thinkers I’m overlooking.

I agree with Krugman: conservatism in its ideological, universalist iteration has never had an intellectual Golden Age.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The dismal health care debate


I don't have a head for numeric concepts and I bore easily, so the details of the health care legislation making its way through the sausage factory elude me. I'm also blessed with good health and income, so I tend not to think about this that much, other than to marvel at how much I pay for coverage which I have never tapped into. Apparently 48.6 million Americans lacked coverage and, since Obamacare, only 27 million do. Obamacare, I am told, is intended to address that gap of people with no available employer-sponsored plan who are too young for Medicare and too affluent for Medicaid.

Individuals who lack employer-sponsored coverage tend not to make a lot of money and will forego insurance, particularly if they are young. They also tend to be less healthy and make poor life choices. So not enough premiums coming in, too many claims paying out, which is the insurance death spiral. Therefore, Obamacare subsidized this scheme with all sorts of taxes including one on "Cadillac" plans offered by large public companies with expensive workforces. Of course, this resulted in regularizing coverage across the board. Health insurance is perforce expensive and not really economical unless you are badly injured or get diagnosed with a chronic illness, and the disincentives and inefficiencies just pile up from there.

This is actually well-trod ground in these parts. I'll summarize by pointing out that there's really no such thing as "health insurance." There are a lot of genetic diseases and pre-dispositions that can't be incentivized away, and everyone is also 100% destined to get older, sicker and more expensive. There's also no such thing as "preventive medicine." Access to medicine does not actually make people healthier.

All that being said, with over $3 trillion in federal tax revenue and 320 million people to spread the costs among, we seemingly should be able to find enough change in the sofa cushions to fund comprehensive medical insurance coverage, which is the norm in the civilized world. The purported horrors of national medical coverage don't seem to be showing up where you'd expect in the metrics. The US actually has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality for higher cost.

With the election of Trump, largely thanks to the efforts of working class whites who don't seem nearly so squeamish over the prospect of national medical insurance, one would expect some soul-searching and political calculation among Republicans. I personally would be licking my chops over my time at the podium:

"My fellow Americans, today I am proud to announce that from this day forward, no American will ever go bankrupt from a horrible accident or a cancer diagnosis ever again!" [Cue release of a dozen bald eagles, 21-gun salute, and the Sunshine Gospel Mass Choir].



I'll reign for 40 years, and my marble tomb will be ensconced in the Lincoln Memorial.

And after that a lot of things start falling into place: sensible immigration policy--we can't afford net consumers; labor mobility, as people are no longer shackled to a job by medical coverage; moms can choose to stay home or work part-time, lowering the costs of family formation, which is how you grow conservatives; a sense of priorities, and national cohesion finally returning to budgets--war in Bumfuckistan, or medical coverage for US citizens?

Doubtless such Machiavellian calculation is beneath the quiet dignity and rock-ribbed principle of the Republican leadership, but this message is beginning to resonate with some pretty prominent Megaphone Holders:


The difference in the competing visions could not be more stark:



[MR. TRUMP, YOU'VE HEARD THE ARGUMENT THAT YOU ARE NOT A TRUE CONSERVATIVE. TELL THE VOTERS WATCHING TONIGHT WHY YOU ARE. WELL, I THINK I AM. AND I VIEW THE WORD CONSERVATIVE AS A DERIVATIVE OF THE WORD CONSERVE. WE WANT TO CONSERVE OUR MONEY. WE WANT TO CONSERVE OUR WEALTH. WE WANT TO CONSERVE, WE WANT TO BE SMART. WE WANT TO BE SMART, WHERE WE GO, WHERE WE SPEND, HOW WE SPEND. WE WANT TO CONSERVE OUR COUNTRY. WE WANT TO SAVE OUR COUNTRY. AND WE HAVE PEOPLE THAT HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO DO THAT AND THEY ARE NOT DOING IT. IT'S SOMETHING I BELIEVE IN VERY, VERY STRONGLY.

MR. TRUMP, THANK YOU. SENATOR RUBIO, YOU HAVE SAID YOURSELF THAT YOU DON'T THINK DONALD TRUMP IS RUNNING AS A CONSERVATIVE. DID HE CONVINCE YOU? WELL, I THINK CONSERVATISM IS ABOUT THREE THINGS. THE FIRST IS CONSERVATISM IS ABOUT LIMITED GOVERNMENT. ESPECIALLY AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS LIMITED BY THE CONSTITUTION, WHICH DELINEATES ITS POWERS. IF IT IS NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION, IT DOES NOT BELONG TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. IT BELONGS TO STATES, COMMUNITIES. IT IS ABOUT FREE ENTERPRISE. IT ALLOWS EVERYONE TO SURVIVE WITHOUT PULLING ANYONE DOWN. THE REASON WHY FREE ENTERPRISE IS THE GREATEST ECONOMIC MODEL IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD IS BECAUSE IT IS THE ONLY ECONOMIC MODEL WHERE YOU CAN MAKE POOR PEOPLE RICHER WITHOUT MAKING RICH PEOPLE POOR. IT'S ABOUT A STRONG NATIONAL DEFENSE. IT'S BELIEVING THAT THE WORLD IS A SAFER AND BETTER PLACE WHEN AMERICA IS THE STRONGEST.]
I'll leave the details to the experts. If the Republican Party can pass comprehensive medical insurance coverage, they will hold the levers of power for the next two generations. Then they will have all the political capital they need to close the border, de-fund the colleges and propaganda organs, ignore and ridicule the national media, and trample all over toxic political correctness. The conservative long march through the institutions can begin. This is using the Left's tactics against them to advance conservative goals, as opposed to current conservative ideology which adopts the rhetoric and moral framework of the Left ("Dems r the real racists!"), resulting in tactical impotence.

Remember: the end to be kept in mind is not how to spread conservative ideas, but how to grow conservatives.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Housekeeping, and sad news about Bob Wallace


A few changes to the blogroll:

Happy Acres' Tumblr account got yanked for hate. Apparently the musings of a married, retired software engineer with two kids living near Lake Tahoe are dangerous! Follow this despicable thoughtcriminal on Twitter.

The Anarcho-Monarchist has been silent for a long time and locked up his content.

Radish has not posted in a while. I hope he's okay and I'm leaving him up for now. He last posted on Twitter on March 1 of this year.

Per the comments, Bob Wallace at Uncle Bob's Treehouse passed away unexpectedly this Spring. He used to post articles at lewrockwell.com before getting banned for hatespeech. He seemed to have lived a pretty hardscrabble life in the Midwest, driving a taxi and working for a newspaper. Judging from his commentary, he despised newspaper work and the broken people doing it. It's a zombie-industry at this point, which is probably why he left it and started posting on the internet. He was apparently just doing menial work in warehouses toward the end. That sort of life-arc is hard on reflective people and I hope he was at peace. God rest his soul. No spouse, no children. He was 60 years old.

Finally, a voice from the past has resurfaced. Please visit Generic Views. He needs to retire from the Department of Defense so he can really let loose. I've referred to him before as one of the few people who grasps that international law is the law of sovereigns, not citizens.

I'd like to have a news site in the blogroll but I'm not sure actual news reporting exists any more. The sites are full of misleading headlines, content by incurious people who don't know how to ask a question, and irritating click-bait.