The Justified Punch in the Nose: A Libertarian Conundrum?

A principal tenet of libertarianism---perhaps even the first principle of libertarianism---is an injunction against initiating violence. Whatever else you do, you may not harm unwilling others. John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Robert Nozick, and many others---I as well---have all subscribed to some version of this principle as a starting point.  Yet Adam Smith … Continue reading The Justified Punch in the Nose: A Libertarian Conundrum?

“Operation Drain the Swamp,” update

In the past, I have been quite interested in “Operation Drain the Swamp.” A piece by Brody Mullins and John McKinnon in  today’s WSJ suggest that Speaker Pelosi has some additional work to do in the final months of her reign if she is going to bring the operation to a successful conclusion. According to the … Continue reading “Operation Drain the Swamp,” update

Happy Neocon Day

Given the great success of recent American foreign policy initiatives driven largely by the neoconservatives, the New York Times apparently decided it is "Neocon Day" today.  To celebrate, the Gray Lady published two op-eds on Iraq that sing the praises of our efforts there.  In the first, David Brooks highlights how successful our nation-building project … Continue reading Happy Neocon Day

Immanentize the Eschaton with Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck is an interesting and frustrating character for many libertarians. So often, his arguments appear to unfold in a reasonable fashion and then they turn into a flurry of chalk dust, conspiracy theories, religious imagery and tears. Many commentators waited breathlessly for Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial this past weekend. While … Continue reading Immanentize the Eschaton with Glenn Beck

The Great Recession in the Sunday Paper

There is a fine piece in this morning's NYT by Peter Goodman (“What Can be Done to Cure the Ailing Economy"). Let me entice you with three money quotes: It increasingly seems as if the policy makers attending like physicians to the American economy are peering into their medical kits and coming up empty, their … Continue reading The Great Recession in the Sunday Paper

What Caused the State Budget Gaps? UPDATED

Clearly, the recession caused state revenues to fall short of projections, opening up budget deficits. However, some states dealt with more serious fiscal problems than others. California's, New York's, and Illinois' woes have been in the news quite a bit lately. A new paper by Matt Mitchell at the Mercatus Center finds that states with … Continue reading What Caused the State Budget Gaps? UPDATED

Hail the lone juror!

Ever since the jury in former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich’s recent trial failed to reach a unanimous verdict in all but one count, I’ve been pondering whether our jury trial system in the U.S. makes sense.  There are different ways of looking at this. 1. My first response as a former resident of Chicago was … Continue reading Hail the lone juror!

Are Liberals Statists?

Conor Friedersdorf says no, but at Mother Jones Kevin Drum totes up the scorecard and says, pretty much, yes: If you can find liberals who favor charter schools, less regulation of small businesses, and an end to Fannie Mae, that's well and good. But that's 10% or less of my worldview. I also favor high … Continue reading Are Liberals Statists?

Robots, Bureaucrats, and New Jersey’s Race to the Top

New Jersey was just denied its bid for some $400 million from the federal government's "Race to the Top" initiative. The reason, apparently, is because of a "clerical error" in one paragraph on one page of the 1,000-page application. (Apparently the state was required to provide budget figures for one set of years, and it … Continue reading Robots, Bureaucrats, and New Jersey’s Race to the Top

Punishing faculty for high textbook prices

Those of us in academia have a new pain in the neck to deal with: the "Textbook Affordability" provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act.  If you haven't heard of it yet, you will.  It is the law that will require you to submit your textbook lists to prospective students within 6 weeks of their … Continue reading Punishing faculty for high textbook prices

You Can Beat Something with Nothing

There is little good news regarding Recovery Summer. Vice President Biden sought to put the best face on things at the roll out for the new administration report, The Recovery Act: Transforming the Economy through Innovation, few seem convinced. The lead paragraph of the report notes: With over $787 billion in funding, the American Recovery … Continue reading You Can Beat Something with Nothing

Ron Paul v. the “Sunshine Patriots”

Ron Paul has stepped into the continuing saga of the “ground zero mosque” with what seems to me to be a reasonable statement, albeit one that will not earn him too many friends on the Right. Congressman Paul reduces things to their essentials: The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a … Continue reading Ron Paul v. the “Sunshine Patriots”

Yemen’s Vanishing Jews and the Totalizing Effects of the Modern State on Human Identity

Nationalism generally predicates itself on cultural attributes, but it often destroys the rich diversity of culture that was the legacy of premodern societies. The descendants of Arabic-speaking Jews who leave for Israel or the United States will speak Hebrew or English, and the identity will eventually disappear, amalgamated into broad, generic identities politically supported by the states that now depend on nationalist sentiment to help field armies and keep the taxes paid.

(Stolen) quote of the day

This is from "Political Diary" at today: Quote of the Day "[P]rogressively over these three decades the Republican party has exempted every material component of the budget from cuts, including middle-class entitlements, defense, veterans, education, housing, farm subsidies, and even Amtrak! Like Casey, the GOP has been in the anti-spending batter's box for 30 … Continue reading (Stolen) quote of the day

Uncertainty, the Small Investor, and Recovery

By now, we have all heard the basic argument that a core problem impeding recovery during the 1930s was the uncertainty created by public policy. In Robert Higgs’ words: “the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression by creating an extraordinarily high degree of regime uncertainty in he minds of investor.” New or anticipated taxes and … Continue reading Uncertainty, the Small Investor, and Recovery

It’s Official: Government Employees Are Paid More

Controlling for everything else, a government employee can expect to make 12% more than a private employee. This shouldn't be a surprise, since private firms face a profit constraint: if they pay more than employees are worth, they go out of business. Government can always foist extra costs on the taxpayer, who doesn't have much … Continue reading It’s Official: Government Employees Are Paid More

Goldberg on the mosque mess

I want to avoid wading into the mosque mess (I'm not very good at avoiding things I should), but Jonah Golderg's newsletter today had a couple of points I thought were insightful: Stop calling it a mosque. Defenders of Cordoba House sometimes say, "It's not a mosque, it's a cultural-affairs center with a prayer room," … Continue reading Goldberg on the mosque mess

Of All the Idiotic…

That was my immediate reaction on seeing this story. The government of Southern Sudan, one of the poorest places in the world, wants to blow $10,000,000,000 on re-engineering the layouts of their major cities in the shapes of animals and fruits. I have to say: I support their right to independence but have no great … Continue reading Of All the Idiotic…

Happy Cost of Government Day!

Let me add to Marc's laughter something everyone should celebrate: Government Freedom Day. According to Americans for Tax Reform, "This is the day on which the average American has earned enough gross income to pay off his or her share of the spending and regulatory burdens imposed by government on the federal, state, and local levels. In … Continue reading Happy Cost of Government Day!

Some Laughter for Recovery Summer

Yes, I know, the new jobless claims have hit a nine month high to 500,000 (see WSJ). And the CBO has done nothing to cheer us up. As CBO director Douglas Elmendorf tells us on his blog: CBO projects that the economy will grow by only 2.0 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010 to … Continue reading Some Laughter for Recovery Summer

Zoning Shuts Down Liberty Summer Seminar

I've attended Pete Jaworski's excellent Liberty Summer Seminar in Oshawa, Ontario once in the past. Now it seems the municipal government is levying a C$50,000 fine against his parents, the owners of the property, for running a "commercial conference centre" (?!). First of all, it's not a commercial conference, in that it is not-for-profit, and … Continue reading Zoning Shuts Down Liberty Summer Seminar

Frank words by Frank

Our readers will not find Rep. Barney Frank praised often on Pileus, but I did like this quote: There were people in this society who for economic and, frankly, social reasons can't and shouldn't be homeowners...I think we should, particularly, stop this assumption that you put everybody into home ownership.  Public policy has been too … Continue reading Frank words by Frank

Most Underrated Works of Political Philosophy?

This semester I will be teaching a political philosophy course for the first time since graduate school, and have just finalized my syllabus. For all the ethicists and political philosophers out there - what do you consider to be the most underrated works of political philosophy for each period (ancient, modern, contemporary)? To elaborate, I'm … Continue reading Most Underrated Works of Political Philosophy?

When Reform Isn’t Reform

In the months leading up to the passage of the financial reform legislation, Congress decided to segregate the issues of financial regulation and the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that were central to the collapse. Now that Dodd-Frank is in the bank, Congress and the White House are turning to Freddie and Fannie, the two GSEs that … Continue reading When Reform Isn’t Reform

A Cincinnatus for our times?

Since leaving office some 20 months ago, George W. Bush has been mentioned in the press countless times, usually by some whining Democrat, with President Obama the whiner-in-chief.  Apparently, the Democrats only hope this Fall is to keep bashing W. But has anyone actually seen or heard from W himself?  I don't think I've heard … Continue reading A Cincinnatus for our times?

Rating Educational Institutions

It is approaching the time of year when high school students will be applying to college and university. That means that rating metrics will again be getting press. Of course there is the standard U. S. News and World Report ratings, which are the biggest, most influential, and among the least dispositive ratings available. (I … Continue reading Rating Educational Institutions

Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m…84 (and tenured)?

The poor performance in the market and the dramatic loss of retirement savings and home values has raised some interesting questions about what the future holds for the boomers. A piece by Mark Whitehouse in today’s WSJ focuses on the plight of baby boomers who have lost so much of their retirement savings.  Will their efforts … Continue reading Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m…84 (and tenured)?

Right wing discipline

It came out this morning that the Supreme Court refused to block the $20,000 fine of  "birther" Orly Taitz for filing a frivolous lawsuit challenging President Obama's citizenship. This time it was  Samuel Alito who rejected the request.  Before it was Clarence Thomas. So the two most conservative Justices reject this silliness out of hand, … Continue reading Right wing discipline

Half-truth of the day, Krugman style

I could write a post like this after every Krugman column, which would get tedious.  But I can't help it this time.  In the same breath as he is accusing others of "bad faith accounting,"  Krugman offers this whopper. Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special … Continue reading Half-truth of the day, Krugman style

Does Disgust Have Moral Force?

An interesting but occasionally infuriating article by Drake Bennett in the Boston Globe argues that research into the psychology of disgust undermines systems of morality. Here are some claims that I find particularly poorly justified: The agnosticism central to scientific inquiry is part of what feels so dangerous to philosophers and theologians. By telling a … Continue reading Does Disgust Have Moral Force?

Do Conservatives Now Believe in Political Correctness?

Just a quick question here from one who is confused. Conservative reaction to President Obama's statement on the Cordoba House mosque has faced uniformly hostile reaction from the right. They wanted him to take a strong stand against the mosque on the grounds that it is insufficiently sensitive to non-Muslim Americans, who cannot stand the … Continue reading Do Conservatives Now Believe in Political Correctness?

The people win one

Target just recently opened its first store in Manhattan (more specifically, Harlem).  The NY Times has a piece today on the wooing and cajoling that Target had to do over 10 years to be able to build this store. This Target is an exception, though.  Few urban neighborhoods have Big Box retailers, though Target, Wal-Mart … Continue reading The people win one

Recovery Summer Update: Wie geht’s?

With but a few weeks left in “Recovery Summer,” this past week was not what many would have hoped. On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve’s FOMC announced that “the pace of recovery in output and employment has slowed in recent months” and “the pace of economic recovery is likely to be more modest in the near term … Continue reading Recovery Summer Update: Wie geht’s?

So what’s wrong with trashy?

I’m not a regular reader of Macleans, but this headline linked by Real Clear Politics caught my attention: “Outraged Moms, Trashy Daughters.”  I’ve seen different versions of the same idea before, so I wouldn’t flout it as original (if you must read it, see here). The basic argument in these stories is that middle-aged feminists … Continue reading So what’s wrong with trashy?

Dan Rostenkowski, R.I.P.

Former Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) died Wednesday at the age of 82.  Rosty had a reputation as a consummate dealmaker, working adeptly to create coalitions often with Republicans (yes, there was a time when people built coalitions to support important pieces of legislation). The Tax Reform Act of 1986 would not have … Continue reading Dan Rostenkowski, R.I.P.

Tim and Nancy go to market

A fable for our times... Tim and Nancy have a fairly typical marriage.  Tim keeps the books, and Nancy decides how much to spend.   Nancy really, really likes to spend.  So much so that in almost every year, she spends more than the couple takes in.  Tim gets the job of borrowing money to make … Continue reading Tim and Nancy go to market

Primary Diagnosis: Connecticut

The media is seeking to draw lessons from the primaries that were held yesterday in a number of states, including Connecticut. As a resident of the Nutmeg State, the victory of Linda McMahon of World Wide Wrestling fame was entertaining.  But the most interesting and potentially revealing event was the Democratic primary for governor where … Continue reading Primary Diagnosis: Connecticut

Al goes live

Some have been criticizing Senator Al Franken for has lack of decorum by pulling faces while presiding over the Senate during a speech by GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  McConnell responded by uttering the line every Republican has been itching to say since Franken joined the Senate: "This is not 'Saturday Night Live, Al.' "  … Continue reading Al goes live

From Political Exchange to State Vampirism: The GSEs

Freddie and Fannie are in the news again. Freddie is currently seeking an additional $1.8 billion in funding (to be added to the $160 billion that has already been spent on the two government sponsored enterprises or GSEs). This recent news has led me to pose an account of how a standard political choice story … Continue reading From Political Exchange to State Vampirism: The GSEs