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anil dash’s strawmen

Blogger/Entrepreneur Anil Dash sets up a conservative strawman to debate with in a seemingly eloquent piece on his site, and takes him down to the applause of many otherwise very intelligent people. None of them will ever read this reply, but I wanted to type it out before I forgot how much Dash’s appallingly poor logic and flippant stereotypes infuriated me.

Dash first explains that Jobs is:

…the anchor baby of an activist Arab muslim who came to the U.S. on a student visa and had a child out of wedlock. He’s a non-Christian, arugula-eating, drug-using follower of unabashedly old-fashioned liberal teachings from the hippies and folk music stars of the 60s. And he believes in science, in things that science can demonstrate like climate change and Pi having a value more specific than “3”, and in extending responsible benefits to his employees while encouraging his company to lead by being environmentally responsible.

And then Dash says that because Jobs has been successful, anyone who disagrees with any aspect of Jobs’s beliefs is inept at business and has no business voicing an opinion:

Every single person who’d attack Steve Jobs on any of these grounds is, demonstrably, worse at business than Jobs. They’re unqualified to assert that liberal values are bad for business, when the demonstrable, factual, obvious evidence contradicts those assertions.

In other words: Successful man A believes B—as do I—ergo, you’re either with us or you’re dead wrong. (Sounds a lot like a particular reviled Texan, but I digress.)

No, That’s Not Me

This strawman—Dash’s “they” who disagree with “liberal” values as espoused by Jobs—is an intellectual minstrel show. I do believe in the scientific viability of the theory of evolution. I believe in significantly more open borders. I believe we get a negative ROI on the Drug War.1 I believe that America’s strength lies in the Rule of Law, and not in any single faith. I think that Victorian-era social mores have a destructive effect on society. I’m not a white, evangelical (or otherwise) Christian conservative who can be shoehorned into a Knuckle-Dragging Conservative ReThuglican™ stereotype, and to imply that disagreeing with modern liberalism means I am is disgraceful.

The worst part of this all-or-nothing approach is that in focusing on social values, it ignores the economic values that are the cornerstone of innovation and prosperity. Any student of post-colonial India who isn’t waist deep in Marxist fables could see that India tried ruthless egalitarianism, trading away economic growth and individual profit to ensure that the nation remained equal according to Gandhian notions of fairness. They made it hard for small-business owners at every step of their companies’ development: financing projects was a sin, hiring and firing workers were determined by almost anything but the content of one’s character, buying equipment required running to government officials like a twelve-year-old asking for his allowance, and any profits that were made after all of these hurdles were stripped from the entrepreneurs’ hands. Indians had a vibrant democracy with some of the greatest freedoms of any Asiatic people. But it meant nothing because individuals couldn’t thrive without worrying that they were going to be shaken down by a government who thought they were getting too big for their britches.

This system that assumes the worst of the most successful almost destroyed the Indian economy for three generations. It led to thousands fleeing India (like my own parents, and presumably some of Dash’s family), while those who couldn’t make it out were trapped in a vicious cycle of corruption and despair.

tl;dr

The myopic liberal economic values that pave this road to Hell with good intentions are what “they” are protecting us from. A pretty good chunk of conservatives like yours truly don’t give a damn if Jobs eats arugula. We don’t even care that he’s Arab-American. But we do care if the next Steve Jobs is thwarted from his dreams at every turn because Washington (or Albany or Sacramento) has decided that stopping his future greed through taxation and regulation is more important than allowing his current innovation through freedom from either. Social freedom is as important as Dash says it is. But without economic freedom, innovation will never leave the cocktail napkin.

1 Incidentally, these last two are explicitly supported by those evil, conservative-backing Koch brothers everyone’s getting so many emotional hemorrhoids about.

updated 9/9 Added the link to the original post, because I’m not a jerk. This is why late night posts are terrible. Also, Anil himself commented below, so…that’s pretty awesome.

krugman jumps the shark (UPDATED)

So the Krugman post was a hoax, albeit a funny one. So while Krugman didn’t say that Tuesday’s East Coast quake could’ve been an economic stimulant, this Nobel laureate did, in fact, say this about the Japanese earthquake in March:

And yes, this does mean that the nuclear catastrophe could end up being expansionary, if not for Japan then at least for the world as a whole. If this sounds crazy, well, liquidity-trap economics is like that — remember, World War II ended the Great Depression.

And this, about 9/11:

Nonetheless, we must ask about the economic aftershocks from Tuesday’s horror.These aftershocks need not be major. Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack — like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression — could even do some economic good.

So yeah, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he’d say something like that. As a commenter on the hoax-exposing post says:

The dude 0wns [sic] the Broken Window Fallacy. We should rename it in his honor to the Broken Krugman Fallacy.

Original post after the jump.
(more…)

tom friedman’s wet dream ends

A bullet train crash in China killed 39 people last weekend, and the Chinese government handled the disaster pretty much as one might expect:

Officials were slow to explain how one train crashed into the rear of the other. On July 28th they finally blamed signal failure. Most astonishingly, the ministry appeared in unseemly haste to remove the wreckage and, mystifyingly, even bury some of it.

In defiance of an order from rail staff, police reportedly persisted with their search through one badly damaged carriage and found a two-year-old survivor hours after the ministry had said there were no more signs of life. A video clip widely circulated online shows what some viewers say were two bodies falling out of carriages as they were being moved away from the line. Officials have also been criticised for allegedly offering victims’ families extra money if they agree to quick compensation deals.

Somewhere, Thomas Friedman has had to stop pleasuring himself to high-res pictures of Chinese transportation projects, and he is very angry about this. I don’t know why, though—this seems like exactly the model of opaque, unrealistic infrastructure development we need.

about those evil tax cuts

One chart, courtesy the Tax Foundation:

source of swing from surplus to deficit

So let’s stop pretending to raise taxes for the deficit, and go back to talking about Jacobin schemes to eat the rich.

how's that "ignoring the root causes" thing working out for you?

Via a friend on Facebook:

it's the economic stupidity

Well, it would work out pretty well if the government weren’t easing the money supply and encouraging fiscally unsound lending to cause (1), Sen. Dodd wasn’t destroying the capital that startups need to experiment with alternatives to (2), and if the existing government regulations actually prevented (3). Yeah, looks like that hands-onny thing isn’t working so well, either.

crushing entrepreneurs' capital

Or, “toldyousotoldyousotoldyouso.”

For years, James Taranto quoted novelist and journalist Mark Helprin in a running gag called “Homeless Rediscovery Watch”. In that quote, the latter (correctly) predicted the media would suddenly, magically, rediscover social problems that mysteriously disappeared from 1993 to 2001. Similarly, I’d like to introduce a new segment on this blog which will highlight things I predicted on Election Night to someone very close to me, when she asked why I wasn’t happy about something so “historic” happening. She can corroborate my story, though I no doubt bored her to tears with my sermon.

Today’s thing I predicted: the Obama administration and its Democratic Congress, despite being backed by tech pundits and the venture capitalists whose investments keep the employed, will destroy the capital necessary to keep the tech revolution going. The new bill proposed by retiring Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) will tightly regulate the financial instruments of any company it deems risky to the financial system. As the WSJ notes, that fly-by-night venture Apple Computers was once deemed too risky by state regulators:

[B]efore 1996, certain initial public offerings of stocks were subject to merit review in certain states, where the state decided if a security is a “bad” investment and thus not appropriate to be offered to its citizens. In fact, this is exactly what happened to Apple Computer when it first went public in 1980. Massachusetts prohibited the offering of Apple shares because they were “too risky,” and Apple did not even bother to offer its shares in Illinois due to strict state laws on new issues. What if federal bureaucrats had had the power to impose their judgment on a “risky” financial product (such as an IPO) on a nationwide scale, or every state followed Massachusetts’ lead? Would Apple have become the successful company that it is today?

So now we’re going to put this power in the hands of the Feds. Yeah, this is going to end well.

misunderestimating obama

From tonight’s address to Congress:

But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

The first internal combustion engine was designed in Switzerland; the modern automobile—powered by either a gasoline or diesel internal combustion engine—was invented in Germany. What, now we have to bail out their auto industries, too?

But, hey, I won’t begrudge his economically vacuous rhetoric. It’s really just an excuse to spread other people’s wealth across our fifty-seven states anyway.

rick santelli's capitalist rant

He’s no Jim Mora (he actually makes sense), but CNBC’s longtime man in Chicago works up the crowd at the CBOT:

(via Jeremy H)

biting the hand that feeds you

From the Economist this week:

New York state’s comptroller said that BONUSES paid by Wall Street firms to their New York City employees (residents and commuters) fell by 44% in 2008, costing the state $1 billion in lost tax revenues and the city $275m.

Finally, an end to the bonuses! The rich no longer getting richer at the expense of the proleteriat! Oh wait, that’s what New York’s morbidly obese state government has been feeding on. I hate Atlas Shrugged parallels, but the resemblance is rather uncanny.

pessimism we can believe in

Yeswecanhopechange, it seems, stops at science’s edge: the New York Times‘s John Tierney notes that his august holiness President-Elect Barack Obama (peace be upon him) has selected Dr. John Holdren as White House science advisor. Dr. Holdren was a key ally of pessimistic entymologist and alarmist Paul Ehrlich during the latter’s famous bet with Julian Simon, and would a decade later be a part of Scientific American‘s scathing rebuke of Bjorn Lomborg’s blasphemous scientific critique of Global Warmism.

I would think that bowing to the Malthusian OMGWTFBBQ!!!!11one lobby, the Wahhabists of science, is the opposite of, y’know, hope and hope-related change. But maybe it’s just because I’m a heathen who hasn’t yet accepted Barack in my heart.

[via Marginal Revolution and Gautam’s shared links]

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