Complete Whimsy, Individual v. Collective, Liberty, Live and Learn, Uncategorized

Liberalism is Kinda Boring

Bored Cat

Liberalism has been called a lot of things. Some seem to think that the term is synonymous with good, others think it’s naive, Michael Savage called it a mental disorder, etc.

But the one thing I don’t hear it called very often is boring. And it many ways, it is just kinda boring.

There seems to be a formula with modern liberalism and whatever event comes up, just plug in the formula and, wala, you have the ‘correct’ way to think about it hand delivered with the utmost convenience, like they use to do with milk. And it seems that whoever is in the bigger victim category becomes the one who’s in the right. So for example, an employee sues the company, and the company might as well be named Enron.

Let’s take the George Zimmerman case. George was white and Trayvon was black, so obviously George was at fault. OK, George was actually Hispanic, but that isn’t as high as black on the victim list, which I think goes something like this:

1. Black

2. Jew

3. Middle Eastern

4. Hispanic

5. Asian

6. Pupppies

7. White

And so the headlines go, “White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman” and “Open Season on Unarmed Black Kids” and so on. Since when are ‘unarmed’ and ‘harmless’ synonyms for each other? And since when is a 17 year old teenager with a  history of fighting considered a ‘kid’?

It is certainly difficult to make out exactly what happened, and George Zimmerman is obviously not completely innocent. But it’s also quite apparent that Trayvon Martin assaulted Zimmerman. After all, Zimmerman had two black eyes, a broken nose and two lacerations on the back of his head. Other than the bullet wound the only injury Trayvon Martin had was to his knuckles.

The whole Zimmerman thing is a distraction of course. After all, there were 532 people murdered in Chicago alone in 2012! And some 93% of black murder victims are killed by other blacks. Yet, one Hispanic who killed one black teenager who was assaulting him after said Hispanic followed him represents white supremacy because it was ruled self-defense?

I’m not even saying that everyone on the left thinks the same or even that George Zimmerman wasn’t guilty of something (although it certainly wasn’t first degree murder). But the left appears to be like a line. You may be liberal, or you may be really liberal, but with a few exceptions such as Glenn Greenwald and Thaddeus Russell, you’re pretty much just some shade of liberal. Something like this:

So a liberal will be against the war. A hardcore liberal will want to dismantle most of the American military and send reparations to Iraq and Afghanistan. A liberal will be for regulation, a hardcore liberal will be for nationalization, etc. Even leftwing communists and anarchists tend to blur.

Yes, the right can be similarly annoying. I’m a libertarian, more or less, and even roll my eyes a bit when everyone and everything is called a statist. But on the right, not only do you have different variations from moderate to extreme, but you have libertarians and neoconservatives and the religious right and white nationalists and survivalists and paleoconservatives and on and on and on. And from what I gather, the religious right has no problem throwing corporations under the bus, and neither do libertarians for that matter, as long as the corporation is somehow tied to the federal government. To paleoconservatives, free trade is bad, to libertarians it’s good. Drug legalization is good for libertarians, but bad for the religious right. White nationalists obviously oppose to civil rights legislation, neoconservatives (“liberals who were mugged by reality”) usually support at least most of what is currently on the books and libertarians split it on the private vs public grounds. All of these groups are on the ‘right.’ I see almost nothing like this kind of disagreement on the left.* So it looks something like this:

Left - Right Political Scale

This is likely why according to at least one study (and my experience), liberals don’t understand conservative beliefs as well as conservatives understand liberal beliefs. And that leads to such inane name calling as Matt Yglesias, who opened his recent column on Detroit as follows:

Detroit is everything that conservatives hate—labor unions, black people, pensions—so in some quarters there’s almost a kind of glee around this idea that Detroit is a preview of the American future.

Well, it came off to me as an olive branch of sorts.

Anyways, perhaps the ‘right’ became every political philosophy opposed to liberalism. And perhaps that’s to liberals benefit as they can accuse the right of being racist because of the white nationalists and theocratic because of the religious right and anti-labor because of libertarian views on unions. And perhaps that drives everyone but the white men (and the white women those white men enslave) into the Democratic party.

But that does come with some contradictions. After all, when it comes to gender, the victim chart looks like this I think:

1. Transsexuals

2. Hermaphrodites

3. Women

4. Kittens

5. Men

But the liberal reports on Trayvon Martin talked about how black males are stereotyped as being dangerous and thereby could be shot for “the crime of being black.” As President Obama said:

There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

But don’t black women come with the “double oppression” of being black and female?

How can men’s disproportionate crime rates be blamed on male power (even while often overstated) and African American’s disproportionate crime rates be blamed on white power (when not being distracted by things like the Martin/Zimmerman affair)? Then add in that male violence usually comes from the least powerful men and is usually directed at other men of their own race and the simple liberal dichotomy falls apart.

The one obvious exception to this is the government, which the left appears to view ambivalently. Namely, while the left pushes for the government to grow, the government can certainly be wrong if say, they launch a war on Iraq (but maybe not if they launch a war on Libya… it depends how far left on the line you are).  But if someone in one wing of the ‘right’ says maybe those high black crime rates have something to do with the welfare state and the incentives it creates, meh, they’re just racist or something.

While I’d like this to be taken as a warning for everyone (including libertarians and their rush to call people statists), the left is by far the worst offender here. The world is far too complicated to be boiled down to such simplicity. People, especially liberal people, please do not use a formula to figure out which side to be on on whatever issue! Otherwise, it’s just so… boring.

____________________________________________________________________

*I should note the one odd exception, which is prostitution. This is one where some hardcore liberals of the feminist variety tend to oppose it (and ironically lock hands with the religious right) and some of the more libertine liberals support its legalization.

Photo Credit: www.lifequestinc.net 

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

 

Standard
Liberty, Live and Learn, Trust, Uncategorized

Swift Reviews: The Power of Habit

 

The Power of Habit cover

4 StarsCharles Duhigg certainly bit off a large bite for himself, and did a mostly very good job of chewing it.

The Power of Habit is a fascinating book that looks into how we develop habits and how those habits affect us at individual, organizational and societal level. The most interesting part is the beginning where he tells the story of Eugene Paulie, a man whose brain had been severely damaged by encephalitis and had lost all of his memories, including his ability to remember anything after more than a few minutes.

Yet the man could still speak and do all the tasks he had learned throughout his life. In fact, he could even walk around the block and find his way back home. Cues would tell him it was time to eat and if it weren’t for the intervention of his wife he would eat five or six meals a day.

What this helped lead scientists to was that habits are not memories. They are more similar to instincts, but instincts we learn or adopt. Basically, they are automatic processes that takeover when we receive whatever cue, and it culminates in some reward that solidifies the habit. While the processes are complicated, they mostly reside in the basal ganglia, the very center and most primitive part of the brain (the brain effectively evolved on top of itself with the most advanced parts on the outside, such as the prefrontal cortex).

This has all sorts of important implications especially with regards to addiction and how we judge individuals behaviors. How much of what people do is under their control? Unfortunately, Duhigg’s dicsussion of this is the weakest part of the book. He compares the case of a woman named Angie Bachmann who won the lottery and then became a gambling addict and gambled away her entire fortune, and then proceeded to gamble away her entire inheritance., with a man named Brian Thomas who accidentally murdered his wife while having a sleep terror.

Sleep terrors are quite different from sleep walking as sleep walking is usually just going through random habits, while sleep terrors involve going into a highly anxious, primitive neurological state. The night he killed his wife, they had seen some hoodlums causing trouble, so they moved their RV. That night he had a sleep terror and while dreaming that those hoodlums were attacking him, he strangled his wife to death while unconscious.

The woman was held responsible for her debts while the man was acquitted of murder. Duhigg sums up our society’s motives as follows:

… there is one critical distinction between the cases of Thomas and Bachmann: Thomas murdered an innocent person. He committed what has always been the gravest of crimes. Angie Bachmann lost money. The only victims were herself, her family and a $27 billion company [the casino she gambled at] that loaned her $125,000. 

Thomas was set free by society. Bachmann was held accountable for her deeds. (pg. 268-269)

There are a lot of interesting questions with regards to the legal and moral ramifications of neurological science, but this is a horrible comparison. Right off the bat, the difference between criminally punishing someone and civilly holding someone accountable for a debt they incurred is enormous.

Thomas was literally unconscious when he attacked his wife. And while he had had night terrors before, he had never done anything even remotely violent and there was no real reason to think that he would. The question with regards to Thomas is should someone be held liable for what they do while unconscious. Bachmann was conscious while she gambled. So the question for her is should someone be held liable for something they do while habitually addicted.

They’re two very different questions, and if we do drop Bachmann’s culpability because she was a gambling addict, do we thus drop the liability of someone who drives drunk and kills someone in a car crash because they were an alcoholic?

This is especially true since one of the important lessons of this bookwhich is touched on throughout and elaborated upon in a very good appendixis that habits can be changed.  Yes, we do things by habit without thinking about them in what is effectively an instinctual sort of way. And yes, changing them is difficult. But yes, they can be changed. Each habit is three steps: 1) Cue, 2) Routine and 3) Reward. The key is to isolate them. He describes the steps experts agree on taking:

– Isolate the routine

-Experiment with rewards

– Isolate the cue

– Have a plan (pg. 276)

What’s important is to change the reward to something positive (i.e. eating an apple) instead of something negative (i.e. eating a cookie). But of course, one has to figure out exactly what the reward really is. It may be the longing to have a break rather than eat something and the cookie is incidental. Thus, the experimentation.

In the book, Duhigg also goes into the habits of organizations and societies, particularly societal movements. This part is good too, but is more anecdotal than empirical. Still, the story of Starbucks and Alcoa almost obsessively emphasizing respectfulness and safety respectively, and the discipline and success that came from that, is quite compelling.

Despite some minor flaws, The Power of Habit is still a fascinating and well written book on an extremely important topic. Much of what we do is through habit, not conscious thought. The better we understand and thereby learn to control our habits, the better we will all be for it.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Photo Credit: blog.hpb.com

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

 

 

 

 

Standard
Liberty, Live and Learn, Obama Says, Trust

Obama vs Obama on Wiretapping

While it’s nothing new that politicians over promise and lie their way into office only to do a 180 (we all remember George Bush’s “humble foreign policy” right). But it’s always helpful to have it illustrated after the fact. Here’s candidate Barack Obama debating president Barack Obama on all the NSA wiretapping revelations that have come out:

And while these revelations should surprise no one, it does surprise me, at least a little that Democrats still defend this guy. Hey I guess, Republicans defended Bush up until the end. This Pew poll comparison from 2006 and 2013 should say it all.

Pew Survey Wiretapping

 

Sigh…

_______________________________________

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed

Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

 

Standard
Complete Whimsy, Individual v. Collective, Liberty

Are Liberals Really Pro-Choice?

So this is a slightly older piece from ReasonTV that took place during the Democratic National Convention, but it is absolutely hilarious. It seems that liberals have a bit of a bad habit of saying they support things they actually don’t… like you know, science and peace (at least when a Democrat is president). Here Reason tests the theory that liberals are “pro choice.”

Transfat Ban – For – Anti-Choice

Four Loko Ban – For – Anti-Choice

Light bulb Choice – Against – Anti-Choice

Right-to-Work – Against – Anti-Choice

School Choice – Against – Anti-Choice

Abortion – For – PRO-CHOICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I guess 1 out 6 equals pro-choice. However, if abortion is all about choice, should men get to choose whether to financially support a child they don’t want for 18 years? I suspect there would be little enthusiasm for such choice. Things that make you say ‘hmmm.’

I should note I could extend this list quite a long ways and will probably do so in the near future.

________________________________________________

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

Standard
Dubiously Free Trade, Game Theory, Liberty

It Turns Out that Government Has Been Fixing Health Care For a Long Time

I came across a fantastic article a while back by Roderick T. Long titled “How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis: Medical Insurance that Worked – Until Government “Fixed” It.”

As it begins:

Today, we are constantly being told, the United States faces a health care crisis. Medical costs are too high, and health insurance is out of reach of the poor. The cause of this crisis is never made very clear, but the cure is obvious to nearly everybody: government must step in to solve the problem.
 
Eighty years ago, Americans were also told that their nation was facing a health care crisis. Then, however, the complaint was that medical costs were too low, and that health insurance was too accessible. But in that era, too, government stepped forward to solve the problem. And boy, did it solve it!

Basically, there used to be these things called mutual aid or fraternal societies. These groups were made up of people, usually based on a common profession, that negotiated for cheaper services for their members and helped each other out when someone fell on hard times among other things. And they worked really well, at least they did until they were replaced by the dependency-inducing welfare state.

The article is definitely worth the read, and you can find it here.

Or for those who don’t like reading, you can also hear Stefan Molyneux read it aloud:

 ____________________________________________________________________ 

Photo Credit: Daily Capitalist 

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

Standard
Game Theory, Individual v. Collective, Liberty, Trust

Paul Ryan is Fiscally Conservative?

So Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney’s choice for the “Guy Who Won’t Actually Do Anything but Will Hopefully Win Me Some Swing Voters In A Close State” known formally as the vice president. This has upset many liberals who believe his budget cut proposals (which mostly just cut previously planned budget increases) were too extreme. Obama’s senior campaign advisor, David Axelrod, went so far as to call him a “right wing idealogue.”

And some free-marketers are at least caustiously optimistic about him. Cato had mostly good things to say and he’s even gotten some very tepid praise on this blog.

But the truth is, Paul Ryan’s record leaves a lot to be desired on a fiscally conservative front. Marcus Tully from the Republican Liberty Caucus combed through his voting record and needless to say, it’s not very fiscally conservative:

Paul Ryan on Bailouts and Government Stimuli
-Voted YES on TARP (2008)
-Voted YES on Economic Stimulus HR 5140 (2008)
-Voted YES on $15B bailout for GM and Chrysler. (Dec 2008)
-Voted YES on $192B additional anti-recession stimulus spending. (Jul 2009)

Paul Ryan on Entitlement Programs
-Voted YES on limited prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. (Nov 2003)
-Voted YES on providing $70 million for Section 8 Housing vouchers. (Jun 2006)
-Voted YES on extending unemployment benefits from 39 weeks to 59 weeks. (Oct 2008)
-Voted YES on Head Start Act (2007)

Paul Ryan on Education

 -Voted YES on No Child Left Behind Act (2001)

And remember, more than two-thirds of Republicans voted against TARP, so it’s not like he can say he was just going along with the crowd. Furthermore, for those who are libertarian minded like myself, he not surprisingly doesn’t do to well on civil liberties and peace either:

Paul Ryan on Civil Liberties
-Voted YES on federalizing rules for driver licenses to hinder terrorists. (Feb 2005)
-Voted YES on making the PATRIOT Act permanent. (Dec 2005)
-Voted YES on allowing electronic surveillance without a warrant. (Sep 2006)

Paul Ryan on War and Intervention Abroad
-Voted YES on authorizing military force in Iraq. (Oct 2002)
-Voted YES on emergency $78B for war in Iraq & Afghanistan. (Apr 2003)
-Voted YES on declaring Iraq part of War on Terror with no exit date. (Jun 2006)
-Voted NO on redeploying US troops out of Iraq starting in 90 days. (May 2007)

So no, the Paul Ryan pick doesn’t change anything. Mitt Romney still represents the status quo, just like Barack Obama.

Photo Credit: www.swampland.time.com

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

Standard
Individual v. Collective, Liberty, Live and Learn, Obama Says, Trust

Yes, Once Again, Obama Does Not (And Did Not) Represent Change

 

Obamney 2012

It’s almost getting boring, as we’ve pointed this out a lot (see here, here, here and here), but Barack Obama did not represent some magical, semi-omnipotent change. Maybe he diverts a little more tax dollars to feminist or civil rights groups than religious organizations (although even there the differences are pretty negligible), but overall, his policies have been about the same as Bush’s and are about the same as what Romney is proposing.

Still, it’s always nice when someone compiles a giant list of things that make you wonder why people thought this guy was so “progressive” or into peace or whatever. This time it’s StPeteForPeace.org. Here are Obama’s highlights:

– Signed the NDAA into law — assassinating US citizens w/o trial now legal
– Personally oversaw a ‘Secret Kill List’
– Waged war on Libya without congressional approval
– Started a covert, drone war in Yemen
– Escalated the proxy war in Somalia
– Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan
– Will maintain a presence in Iraq even after “ending” war
– Sharply escalated the war in Afghanistan
– Secretly deployed US special forces to 75 countries
– Sold $30 billion of weapons to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia
– Signed an agreement for 7 military bases in Colombia
– Opened a military base in Chile
– Touted nuclear power, even after the disaster in Japan
– Opened up deepwater oil drilling, even after the BP disaster
– Did a TV commercial promoting “clean coal”
– Defended body scans and pat-downs at airports
– Signed the Patriot Act extension into law
– Deported a modern-record 1.5 million immigrants
– Continued Bush’s rendition program

And the list goes on and on, it’s worth a look over (and a facepalm for that matter).

Photo Credit: http://www.drawingmuhammad.com
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

Standard