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.

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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.

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

Top Ten Adam Carolla Rants

Adam Carolla is a hyper-vigilant professional ranter. And he is damn good at it. The following top ten Carolla rants are sure to excite all the senses. You may want to set aside a good hour for this.


10. Adam rants about an airplane turbulence PSA.

9. Adam goes off on ESPN executives for banning Bill Simmons and Dave Dameshek from his podcast.

8. Adam rants about how religion ruins society.

7. Adam shares his dislike for meter maids.

6. Adam rants about the existence of Hell.

5. Adam rants on the morning after pill not being sold over the counter.

4. Adam on bikers.

3. Adam tells female caller why “men are superior.”

2. Adam lets his fury loose on building codes to Joel McHale.

1. Adam rants about the Occupy Wall Street mentality.

Honorable Mention

Adam discusses economics, the financial crisis and public schools.

Adam on the misery of intelligence.

Adam goes off on “slippery slope guy” and the classic fallacy of logic.

Adam rants about grafitti, second hand smoke, and traffic: Part I & II.

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Complete Whimsy

Star Wars Libertarianism

Apparently, unbeknownst to the seven-year-old fanboy that used to be me, the Galactic Empire was socialist. Basically, Darth Vader = Stalin. In a deleted scene from the original Star Wars, Biggs (Luke Skywalker’s best friend) gives Luke this warning:

Biggs: “What good is all your uncle’s work if the Empire takes it over? Did you know they’ve already started to nationalize commerce in the central systems? It won’t be long until your uncle is just a tenant, slaving for the greater glory of the Empire.”

Luke Skywalker: “Oh that’s not going to happen here, you said yourself the Empire won’t even mess with this old rock.”

Biggs: “Things can change.”

The bad acting is not one of those things that “can change” apparently. But it’s too bad George Lucas cut that little shout out to the free market from the most popular science fiction movie of all time:


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Dubiously Free Trade, Game Theory, Individual v. Collective, Live and Learn

Things We Should Be Allowed To Do – Part 1: Sell Our Own Organs

We live in a country where we can lawfully slander a celebrity, but may not sell a kidney to save someone’s life.

By precedents set in the court system, we may defame and defile a celebrity because they have achieved “public figure” status, but may not sell a kidney for some hybrid incentive of monetary gain and altruism; one that, oh by the way, will save a person’s life.

For a public figure to win a libel suit, they must prove that a statement was “absent of malice”. In other words, that the statement was published with “knowledge that the information was false” or “with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” Funny, though, reckless disregard does not encompass mere neglect in following professional standards of fact checking. The precedent was initially set in the newspaper world of 1964. With the digital economy, information is published continuously all over the interwebs, in multiple mediums. Rumors are passed on as reporting, if you’re lucky. Sometimes today’s journalism is just downright lies. You can see how this muddies the libel waters even more. Public figures, because of the string of libel suits that have failed, have largely given up on protecting their name in the courts. Particularly as it relates to defamation in the blogosphere.

So lawfully feel free to spew out any hatred toward Jon & Kate or the personal sh*t storm of Mel Gibson & Oksana Grigorieva. But forget about saving someone’s life with your kidney for monetary gain.

Libertarians in particular always wonder how much control we have over our own bodies. Rarely, though, is the question extended to post-death. If your body is donated to science after you pass, you have no control over what happens to you. And some extreme things happen. Mary Roach chronicles the rigors the human cadaver is put through in Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. And it’s not curious in an Altoid sort of way. Roach (appropriate last name for the author of such a subject) describes all the ways in which cadavers are used for experimentation and testing. Some such ways include leg and foot segments used to test footwear for the effects of exploding land mines, and plastic surgery seminars with doctors practicing face-lifts on decapitated human heads. Ever wondered how fast the human body decays underwater? Forensic scientists can tell you. One University professor recommends in Stiff that the most ecological way to dispose of corpses would be to drop them in dungeness crab tide pools. Check out the book, which is wonderfully witty and ironic in the face of a macabre topic.

However, if you want to donate your body to science and humanity while still alive, you’re not allowed to do so for profit. That dirty word…profit. The same profit (much more actually) that is already made on the black market for organs, with procedures often occurring in much more dangerous settings. If a person donates a kidney for motive of pure profit or pure altruism, does it really matter? Someone’s life is going to be saved. If you brought the underground organ market above ground, and put in some common sense regulations for safety, more people might live to tell the tale.

In 2005, 85,790 patients died as a result of kidney disease in the United States, also called end stage renal disease, or ESRD. The current annual cost of ESRD in the U.S. is approximately $23 billion. More than 485,000 Americans are being treated for ESRD. Of these, more than 341,000 are dialysis patients and more than 140,000 have a functioning kidney transplant. When it comes to kidneys, each hour they are outside the body reduces the transplant’s success due to deterioration of the organ. It also increases the patient’s recovery time.

Dorry Segev, MD, Johns Hopkins associate professor of surgery, had this to say about poor distribution of kidneys for transplantation:

Every year, 5,000 patients die waiting for a transplant and another 2,000 become too sick to transplant. Of the 10,400 kidneys [held outside the body for more than 36 hours], it’s likely that 1,200 we would have been able to have transplanted faster and thus, 1,200 people would have had better outcomes. Somewhere between another 500 to 1,000 would have been distributed in a more efficient way that they would have been used instead of discarded.

Uh oh, was the word efficiency in there. Now what makes the distribution of scarce resources (I don’t know, like a kidney!) as efficient as possible? Oh yeah, free markets and profit incentives.

Dr. Segev’s research stems from the 39,035 adult kidneys recovered from donors between 2005 and 2008.

The libertarian approach would be to legalize the organ commodities market. They would postulate the following: “this is my body, and if I can’t decide what to do with it as long as I don’t harm others, is it really my body anymore?” The same rationale is commonly applied to legalizing drugs. But with selling an extra kidney you don’t need to function, you’re not risking becoming an addict or otherwise dead weight on society. You’re simply taking some of your own resources that you don’t need, and selling them to someone who absolutely needs them to live. You make some money, and they get to live on in as productive a life as possible.

Another increasingly common live donor transplant is for the liver. Living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) takes advantage of the regenerative capacities of the human liver. The option is once again a necessary one as there is a great shortage of cadaver livers for patients on waiting lists. End stage liver disease, like cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma, can be remedied by taking a piece of the donor’s healthy liver and transplanting it into the recipient. This is one of the most expensive treatments in medicine. Even Apple CEO Steve Jobs had to leave his home-state of California for Tennessee where the wait for liver transplants is considerably shorter. As transplant surgeon Dr. James Pomposelli points out: “There’s no question there are patients chasing organs rather than the organs coming to the patients.”

Iran is the global leader in organ transplants, believe it or not. The leader of medical advance in the Middle East, Iran performs the greatest number of kidney transplants every year, which should alleviate any concerns that a legalized organ commodities market would result in a drastic decrease of altruistic donations, or more importantly, net donors. In Iran, the donor receives $1,200 from the Iranian government, payment for medical expenses, as well as remuneration from the patient, generally negotiated in a government-brokered meeting between the patient and donor. For poor patients, a charitable organization provides payment.

Finally, let’s remember the debt-ridden society we live in. All levels of society need to pay down their debt burdens. If someone wants to swap a kidney for some extra income, the same way people do every day at blood and sperm banks, why should the government stop them? Likewise, live donors should be remunerated for liver donations. As with many prohibitions, we should be allowed to sell our own organs. Outlawing an organ commodities market results in deaths every day. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 16 people die each day because of a shortage of organs. Whether it is the lack of efficiency in distributing organs once they’re outside the body, the dangerous black market this prohibition creates, or the vast shortage of organs for those in need, it only makes sense to legalize this marketplace. Eventually we will genetically harvest new organs for transplants, and far less people will die of organ failure. Waiting lists will hopefully become a thing of the past. Until then, selling organs in a legal commodities market is an economic activity we should be allowed to do.


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Dubiously Free Trade, Live and Learn, Trust

Why Paul Krugman Doesn’t Work: Part N+1

Somehow I missed Paul Krugman’s epic sequel to why libertarianism doesn’t work. The first time around he explained that a non-libertarian politician putting a non-libertarian cap on tort liability for oil spills proves libertarianism is infeasible in the real world. Well shockingly, he received a fair bit of criticism because, in his words  “some readers responded by saying that no true libertarian would support such liability limits, which, um, missed the point.”

Aside by the fact that the criticism doesn’t miss the point and the cap on tort liability is something he either doesn’t understand or simply mischaracterizes,* his argument is really worse than I initially stated. I said that Krugman’s own argument could be turned around on liberalism since liberal politicians have been known to subsidize the rich, too. But given that the policies of affordable housing caused housing prices to skyrocket, just as the policies of affordable healthcare and college tuition have made healthcare and college tuition unaffordable, perhaps liberalism doesn’t work because liberals can be trusted to do what they believe in. When they move away from their beliefs and engage in pure cronynism, that just makes things all the worse.

But I digress. This time Krugman takes aim at a “true libertarian.” He quotes libertarian-Republican Rand Paul saying that he thinks the BP oil spill was an “accident” and he “has heard nothing from BP about not paying” and “doesn’t like “the blame game” or talk of “[putting a] heel on the throat of BP.” Dr. Paul did say that he thought such blaming was “un-American,” which is ridiculous, but he agrees that BP should pay for the damages and even agrees we need regulation of the ocean.

Now BP was negligent as Krugman points out, but he concludes that Paul’s stance on personal responsibility is only applied to the “poor and powerless.” Disregarding that BP will be required to pay for this mess, perhaps, just perhaps, whatever cronyism is involved is because those who are powerful often have closer access to government, thereby the bigger the government, the more money, power and influence they can extort.

In fact, this is the very point that underlies the libertarian fear of government power. As Milton Friedman said, “…one of the reasons why I am in favor of less government is because when you have more government industrialists take it over, and the two together form a coalition against the ordinary worker and the ordinary consumer.”

But no, I’m not done. I want to beat Paul Krugman’s corpse of a worthless argument into the ground a little more. So here are a few parting thoughts. 1) The federal government has also been extremely negligent in the BP oil spill, having caused enormous delays in granting permits to state governments to erect sand barriers. 2) BP has donated a grand total of zero dollars and zero cents to Rand Paul, (his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, received $9,600). 3) BP has contributed more money to Barack Obama than any other candidate 4) Paul Krugman supported Barack Obama. 5) Paul Krugman should give back his Nobel Prize.


*The cap on liability doesn’t count the reimbursement for cleanup costs nor does it override state law and liability, it merely supplements it on the federal level. See here for more details.


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Complete Whimsy, Dubiously Free Trade, Trust, Uncategorized

Why Paul Krugman Doesn’t Work: Part N

Paul Krugman has put together what is perhaps the worst argument against libertarianism I have ever seen. In his blog for the New York Times, he quotes Milton Friedman who stated that tort law could be used to protect the environment and consumers against unsafe products. Namely, if people are hurt by a product or their property is damaged by, say an oil spill, they can sue said company. Property rights will act as a disincentive to reckless corporate behavior and be more effective than government regulation.

Krugman then brings up an article that discusses how Senator Lisa Murkowski blocked a bill that would have raised the maximum liability for oil companies after a spill from $75 million to $10 billion. What does Krugman conclude from this?

“…don’t say that we just need better politicians. If libertarianism requires incorruptible politicians to work, it’s not serious.”

You can’t make up this kind of stupid. You could just as easily say the exact same thing about a welfare state supporting liberal. Hey, our government transfers a lot of money from the lower class and middle class to the rich in the form of subsidies, bailouts, inflation, no-bid contracts, monopoly privileges, industry specific tariffs, overbearing intellectual property laws, burdensome regulations that limit competition, etc. And don’t say a big government welfare state could work, but “we just need better politicians.” If liberalism requires incorruptible politicians to work, it’s not serious.

It’s certainly quite strange that Krugman would pick the extremely un-libertarian policy of a government cap on tort liability (a regulation) to take a shot at libertarianism. After all, it’s the exact opposite of what Milton Friedman would have supported. And Senator Murkowski isn’t even a libertarian, she’s a Republican who voted for farm subsidies, increasing the minimum wage and SCHIP. She also supports the Patriot Act and the Iraq War. What exactly about her is libertarian?

And Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize in Economics? Good lord, I wouldn’t even give him a gold star for attendance.