Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What should a libertarian do?
Mike Rappaport

Tyler Cowan suggests how important real world constraints are.

March 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sorry actually you have been rejected
Tom Smith

Everyone who applied (some 18,000!) to UCSD has accidentally been sent an email implying at least that they were admitted.

March 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Escapist lit bleg
Tom Smith

For entirely mysterious reasons, I find myself in the mood for some truly escapist literature.  Can anyone help me?  I think I have read all the multi-volume epic fantasies worth reading, but go ahead and mention one if you think there's a chance I haven't heard of it.  (Yes this is a bleg.  Though I think most people enjoy sharing what they know.)  I also like historical fiction.  I like science fiction, but for some reason that doesn't seem to be the ticket right now, unless it's the epic Dune variety.  Also, a good end of the world tale is always soothing for some reason.  Popular history is good, but that might get me thinking about current events, so probably not.  Anything adventurous, fiction or non-fiction.  Slow death in the wilderness is always entertaining.  Thanks in advance.

March 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack (0)

Even the Democrats are Noticing
Mike Rappaport

Jonathan Chait, over at the New Republic, a big time liberal notices the similarities between Obama and Carter/Clinton:

The last Democrat who held the White House, Bill Clinton, saw the core of his domestic agenda come to ruin, his political support collapse, and his failure spawn a massive Republican resurgence that made progressive reform impossible for a decade to come. The Democrat who last held the White House before that, Jimmy Carter, saw the exact same thing happen to him.

At this early date, nobody can know whether or not Barack Obama will escape this fate. But the contours of failure are now clearly visible.


March 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

A Look Inside the Housing Bubble
Mike Rappaport

From Roissy

March 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Houses so worthless banks won't foreclose on them
Tom Smith

Now that's a real estate crisis.

March 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Breathtaking power grab
Tom Smith

Pretty appalling stuff.  GM nationalized to turn it into a green non-profit.  Uber-regulators to nationalize at will.  TARP money shoved down banks throats so they will have to accept government control.  This is not looking good.

But maybe American messiness will save us.  I'm still cautiously optimistic that it will.

March 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Kids sports too much
Tom Smith

This looks interesting.  I think there is something to this.  In San Diego anyway, kids sports are such an industry, there's no place for the kid who just wants to have fun.  Little League baseball in SD is serious business.  I read somewhere SD is one of the top producers of pro ball players, inside the US anyway.  And that's how parents treat it, as a possible path to fame and riches, or at least a scholarship.  Football is pretty much the same story.  Soccer has different leagues, but it is all serious stuff here.  Among other things, it means that if your kid is not that talented, you're not very welcome.  Whatever it is about, just having fun is not it.

I think kids can learn a lot from serious sports.  But it's unfortunate how that has crowded out a lot of the fun, or so it seems to me.  Put that together with kids not being allowed to play dodgeball or even tag at school (unbelievable, but true) you have a strange world where kids can either commit to hard core sports or just sit around.  That doesn't make much sense.  So kids turn to martial arts and airsoft wars, which is fine, but there ought to be a way for kids to have fun with traditional sports without it being such a big deal.  

March 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)

Idaho as a separate country
Tom Smith

Tyler Cowan has an interesting post here about Idaho, the state from which I am proud to have come from.  I can't say I have any intuitions about whether it would be more or less populated if it were an independent country, however.  That is a very counter-factual counter-factual.  A commentor says Idaho has almost exactly the same climate as Switzerland.  I wonder if that is really true.  I'm not aware that the CH has any desert in it.

FWIW there are some curious facts about Idaho history.  It was settled mostly West to East rather than from the East to West.  That is, most Idahoans, in pioneer days anyway, came from the Oregon territory, heading East, rather than from say Wyoming or Montana.  On my mother's mother's side, for example, we descend from an Irish member of the US Army, who came West to the Oregon territory in order to liase with the Native American population.

People think of Idaho as a heavily Mormon state, and it is, but that is almost entirely southern Idaho. Idaho also has a substantial Catholic population, consisting of Irish and Germans.  There is also a notable Basque population in Idaho.  The Basques were imported as workers in the big sheep industry, but quickly and successfully moved into other areas.  There are many successful Basques in Idaho in all fields, especially law and politics.  My favorite aunt was married to a big sheep operator, from a Scottish pioneer family.  In fact, her second big sheep operator.  She was a pal of Vardis Fisher, an interesting writer, who wrote the novel Mountain Man, on which the movie Jerimiah Johnson was based.  She died young from the effects of many packs of cigarettes and a bottle of scotch consumed daily.  She used to pick me up from school sometimes, getting me out of detention by telling the nuns outrageous lies.  There has been an influx of Mexican immigrants in recent years, especially to more agricultural towns such as Nampa and Caldwell.

Boise never really suffered in the last recession but is being hit by this one.  I would guess that extractive industries such as mining and logging are in decline in Idaho being replaced by recreation and technology, in fits and starts.  I regard the Idaho recreational fishing industry as a tragedy, the original tragedy of the commons.  If someone has not already done so, somebody should write a book about how private property has preserved trout fishing in Montana and public ownership has destroyed it in Idaho.  That and the hydroelectric dams, which have also killed the salmon.  We should build a few more nuke plants and tear down the dams not needed for irrigation, IMHO.

Idaho is a very beautiful state. (See here, here or here, or herehere or here) It is not quite as rugged as Colorado in the sense of altitude, but has endless heavily timbered mountains in the 5000-9000 foot range or so, some higher, and some large lakes and numerous small alpine lakes.  There is also a lot of starkly beautiful desert country in the southern part of the state.  Although it's about Montana, not Idaho, the movie A River Runs Through It gives you a pretty good idea what the mountain and river country looks like, as do some of the Clint Eastwood Westerns that were filmed there, such as Pale Rider.  I can barely stand to watch those movies, they make me so homesick, not for the people, but for the country.

People say that Idahoans are more friendly than almost anywhere else.  Honestly, I don't think that is especially true.  I don't think they are any friendlier than San Diegans, who granted, are a pretty friendly lot, and in touristy towns, such as McCall, where I usually go in the summer as long as I can manage, I would not say the natives are particularly friendly, but that is because they are understandably sick of Californians such as I am regarded who expect their lattes hot and promptly delivered.  Away from the tourists, the natives are quite friendly. It's a place where you can be an individualist without standing out.

I'm always trying to get my students to check out Idaho as a place to practice law, but only rarely do I get any takers.  The Idaho bar strikes me closely knit, more like practicing law used to be.  It helps a lot to have your JD from the University of Idaho, of course.

March 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

The Theft and Destruction of "Liberal"
Mike Rappaport

When one first starts reading about libertarianism, one of the first things you learn is that libertarian views grew out of classical liberalism.  But then, especially in the United States, liberalism came to be associated with people who embraced the use of state power to promote certain ends.  And thus the term "liberal" was taken from people who were largely libertarians and used by people who were largely statists, like FDR.   As a result, the less attractive term "libertarian" had to be coined.

I have long since given up being upset of the theft of the term "liberal."  But I had chance to reflect on this when listening to a CSPAN show, in which a liberal was attacking the myth of Ronald Reagan.  This liberal did not openly speak to other liberals, no he spoke to his fellow "progressives."  And that is because liberals have made liberalism so unpopular that they had to change their name to "progressive."   So, even in the age of Obama, liberals cannot openly call themselves by their former name, instead they must hide behind another name.

This latest development only makes the story of the term "liberal" more infuriating.  Statists stole the term from libertarians, but then behaved so badly with it, that they themselves had to abandon it.  It is as if someone stole the Mona Lisa from Louvre, and then did not care for it, so that after a generation, it was just garbage that no one wanted.

Update:I had intended to post this as a comment, but for some reason it won't let me post it that way.

In response to Russel L. Carter: I am glad I could amuse you, but sadly it is your post that is historically illiterate.  In fact, in 2002, I attended a conference styled “Progressive and Conservative Approaches to Constitution Law,” and it was admitted by many of the progressives that they needed to use the term progressive because liberal had become a dirty word.” 

In response to Jeremiah J: It may be that modern liberals have arguments that place them closer to classical liberals than libertarians are, but I find them quite unpersuasive.  Classical liberalism embraced markets and was suspicious of the state.  That conservatives are not closer to classical liberals than modern liberals are – whether true or not – is besides the point.

In response to DJF: The term liberal changed its meaning in the late 19th and especially inthe early 20th century.  While John Stuart Mill was one of the thinkers who moved liberalism toward its modern meaning, it was in the works of Hobhouse and T.H. Greene that the change was most effected.

March 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)