Busybodies

Complexity creeps

Here is an article which shows how the busybodies have been taking over. Read the whole thing.

This is what Jonah Goldberg called “Liberal Fascism”, but I’m not sure this isn’t unfair to Fascism. I’ve been talking to some people who are sympathetic to Fascism, and they also praise the notion of technocracy, but they would be horrified by the examples here, NOT because the state is bossing people around, but because it is doing it so STUPIDLY.

The main question as far as I am concerned is whether this kind of stupidity is inevitable when you give the state more power over people’s ordinary lives. I see two factors which aggravate the situation in the USA today:
(1) anti-meritocracy, and
(2) oikophobia.

This puts people in charge, or in the dangerous middle levels of the bureaucracy, who are both
(1) incompetent at understanding the consequences of their interventions, and
(2) contemptuous of the ordinary people who bear the burdens.

Those two factors are not essential to Fascism (because real Fascism is
(1) hierarchical and
(2) nationalistic),
although they pervade modern liberalism.

So it looks like Goldberg is guilty of calling his liberal opponents “Fascists” inappropriately, just as he accuses liberals of calling their conservative opponents “Fascists” inappropriately; the difference is that the liberals’ comparison is unfair to conservatives, while Goldberg’s comparison is unfair to Fascists!

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Accountability

Today’s assigned reading:

http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2013/06/10/the-destroyer-of-words/

I don’t always agree with Richard Fernandez but he is a brilliant essayist and this piece stimulated my thinking very effectively. Among the points he makes which articulate what I had been thinking and feeling:

1) Snowden’s whistleblowing is not reprehensible in the same way that many other leaks are, because he didn’t reveal anything about the US government’s capabilities that wasn’t already known; all that he revealed that wasn’t publicly known was their intentions (in the broadest sense, not in any detailed sense), which is something that (in the broadest sense) ought to be public since they are accountable to us. I also support the revealing of more detailed information precisely when it contradicts previous public statements or previous (not necessarily public) testimony to Congress. The government has the right to keep secrets only about details and not about their overall policy in the broadest sense; and the executive branch does NOT have the right to lie to Congress (especially in official testimony to duly cleared committee members).

2) The biggest reason our system is failing now is that it presumed that the individual human beings who held offices in it would have a level of internal moral restraint that, in general, they no longer have. This is partly because fewer people with the capability for office are virtuous in the right way, and partly because the people in general have lost the ability to select from among themselves those with either virtue or capability for office, as well as the interest and commitment to hold corrupt and disloyal officials accountable.

3) What he said about technology. I had not realized the Nobel prizes came about because of a random error by a newspaper editor; on the whole I think the prizes originally established by Nobel have been a good thing for the world, although the ones in Peace have done little good and occasional harm and have little credibility, and the ones in Literature have had no significant impact or influence. (Many of the ones in Economics have done harm, but Nobel didn’t create those.)

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The Zero Tolerance War on Kindergarteners

Reblogged from Legal Insurrection. 5 and 6 year olds are being suspended for talking about their toy guns that shoot bubbles and their toy Nerf guns. This at first looks simply very very stupid and it is fun to make fun of how stupid the idiots are, but that’s not really what’s going on. One of the commenters got the correct point when he said:

This is a deliberate attempt to brainwash children with the “gun=evil” meme. If we don’t stand up to it and politically clean out some of these school boards, in 20 years it will become conventional wisdom that guns should be banned, period. Instead of being seen as tools and treated with respect, they are being turned into the fears of night terrors for an entire generation.

I hope organizations like the NRA, GOA, and NAGR will map out a long term campaign to rationalize school policy and replace school board members who refuse to do so. We must demand better school leadership or our children will grow up to hate firearms and beg to be disarmed.

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Good blogs I recently found

http://www.overcomingbias.com/

http://lesswrong.com/

These sister sites are going to keep me occupied for a while catching up. I wish I’d discovered them years ago. 5 stars. I’ll write more posts about them soon.

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Legal Tender laws

I’m trying to understand what it means for states to pass a law making gold and silver coins legal tender, as is allowed by the Constitution. Most of the articles I have found on this make no sense. It seems to me that the way it ought to work is that merchants may voluntarily offer goods and services priced in ounces of gold or silver, and people may pay for such goods and services with approved gold and silver coins (such as those coins minted by the U.S. government which have both defined weights of gold or silver and face values denominated in dollars), WITHOUT any requirement to figure out how many “dollars” were involved in the transaction for tax purposes. No one would be forced to use gold or silver because no one would be forced to do business with such a merchant, but the state government would need to accept gold or silver as payment of sales taxes on such transactions, or of state income taxes from the person who received the coins but never converted them to dollars. Furthermore, a fluctuating exchange rate between the bullion and the dollar could not be used to require payment of capital gains taxes.

If a state wants to do this for transactions between people in the state, and is willing to accept taxes in bullion for transactions or income denominated in gold or silver ounces, but anyone who wants to do everything in dollars can still do so, this appears to be permitted by the constitution, because otherwise I cannot imagine what could be meant by the constitutional implication that states may “make … gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts”. (The Constitution actually states this negatively, that “No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts;” but the clear implication is that gold and silver Coin are OK as long as the state didn’t coin the Money itself but used Federally issued or approved coinage.)

But what I don’t understand is how this works for Federal income tax. The Federal government can’t do a sales tax, but the 16th Amendment says “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” and that is not limited to dollar-denominated income.

Before we went off the gold standard this was a non-issue because your receipts in gold and silver coins were always exchangeable into dollars at a fixed rate; afterwards, it was a non-issue because although states could have made gold and silver coins legal tender, they didn’t until Utah passed such a law in 2011.

Now, however, there is a problem because your federal tax rate is progressive, and this nonlinearity means that you can’t simply be taxed at a given rate for both your gold and silver income and your dollar income. There would need to be a formula that figured out the rate based on how much gold, how much silver, and how many dollars you earned, and then told you how many dollars you owed Uncle Sam, or how many Silver Eagles you owed, or whatever.

How the heck is this supposed to work? If I move to Utah and provide a service for someone in return for 20 one-ounce U.S. Silver Eagle bullion coins, which are denominated at one dollar each, and may be used as legal tender anywhere for a dollar (if I was insane enough to pay a tax bill of $1000 with 1000 of those coins I could), and I report that I earned 20 of those coins, does the IRS get to pick whatever exchange rate it wants to for me to convert my income to taxable dollars?

I predict that the U.S. Government will sue the state of Utah and say that the 16th amendment implicitly repealed the gold and silver tender provision of the Constitution, and that people must convert all transactions to dollars for tax purposes in the same way they are already supposed to do for “barter” transactions, using some defensible exchange rate (more easily defensible for gold and silver, which trade publicly, than for true barter).

Any legal experts out there who can clarify this?

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Best quote on the Richwine case

From the great Derb:

I assumed that Harvard professors eminent enough to be sitting on a  dissertation committee would be tenured. To be on the safe side I checked this  point…all three are tenured.

That means they have nothing to lose by taking a clear stand for  disinterested scholarship, for the reputation of their college, and for  their own names. Why didn’t they stand up for Richwine against the mob?

The entire justification for academic tenure is that it allows the best  intellects among us to roam freely in their research without any need to fear  political consequences.

Eminent professors at distinguished universities are the guardians of our  civilization, front-line troops in the never-ending war against barbarism. For  the Richwine Three to desert their posts like this is civilizational high  treason.

The  Chinese scholar Sima Qian spoke up for a friend who had earned the wrath of  the Emperor. Thus further infuriated, the Emperor ordered Sima Qian to suffer  the penalty of castration, and this penalty was carried out.

We live in gentler times, thank goodness. Profs. Borjas, Zeckhauser, and  Jencks are in no peril of castration for their offenses against State Ideology.  But really, in their cases, what difference would it make?

Full article here.

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Professional Liars Working Overtime

Recently, for personal reasons, I have developed an extreme sensitivity for, and intolerance of, being lied to.

This has resulted in my feeling depressed and angry because there are so many things about which we are lied to or misled (by “we” I mean Americans, though I am sure Canadians and Europeans have similar issues and it may be even worse elsewhere).

I could go on forever about this, but I’ll just list a few here for later discussion:

1) Benghazi, and other current government scandals like the IRS snooping on political opponents or the “Fast and Furious” program

2) Congressmen and Senators and reporters and editors lying about what is actually in the legislation they are trying to slip past us

3) Fake official statistics on inflation, unemployment, crime, budgeting, etc.

4) Almost everything we are told about the Middle East (all sides lie)

5) Almost everything we are told about immigration (here it’s not that all sides lie, it’s that only one side gets heard and it lies)

6) Numerous hoaxes and manufactured stories

 

Almost as bad as the lies, and in some ways scarier, are the non-lies, whereby Americans end up with very inaccurate opinions about verifiable factual matters due to agenda-pushing and suppression, and people who try to get the real facts out are shouted down or have their characters assassinated, but that’s a topic for another post.

 

Is it just me, or has the official lying gotten worse recently?

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