Showing posts from May, 2011

Worst "Accomplished" Actor?

Donald Sutherland? What does he ever do but semi-mumble in that exact same Donald Sutherland voice? That's acting?! To appear as the exact same person every time you get on screen?

Did England Conquer Scotland?

Someone once criticized Thomas Sowell  (at this blog) as follows: "I am sorry, but after I read in one of Sowell's books that England conquered Scotland (and here he is referring to the period AFTER Robert the Bruce) I just cannot take any of his historical accounts seriously." Now, at the time I pointed out that getting a fact wrong does not make you a bad historian . But now, after just having finished Murray Pittock's A New History of Scotland , I'd like to go further: Sowell got this particular fact right, and my supercilious commenter does not know whereof he speaks. Now, it is true that there was an Act of Union in 1707, which was devised by both Englishmen and Scots. But consider the following: The Scots signing the act were under both economic and military pressure from England. The signatories were an elite who wanted desperately to participate in England's overseas trade, which, before Union, they could not. It is estimated that three-quarters

Robert Burns and Adam Smith

Did you know that Robert Burns famous poem, " To a Mouse ," was inspired by Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments ? (Source: Murray Pittock, A New History of Scotland )



What a Difference a Two-Hour Drive Makes

The nearest wifi hotspot I can find to my house in Milford, PA, is a twenty-minute drive away. This is only about 75 miles from Manhattan!

The End Times Are Nigh!

It was confirmed when I saw this headline .

How to Relax on Memorial Day Weekend


Want to Watch a Great Movie?

Rent First Snow , starring Guy Pearce. Beautiful theme, acting and cinematography.

You Know What I Don't Get?

Diet iced tea. You want diet tea? Don't put sugar in it! It tastes really good. In fact, much better than full of artificial sweeteners.

Did You Know?

Scotland possesses the islands of Orkney and Shetland because the king of Denmark failed to pay his daughter's dowry in 1468?

Fraudulent Markets in Everything

Up to half the seafood sold in the United States is fraudulently labeled .

Hayek on the Two Orders

"If we were to apply the unmodified, uncurbed, rules of the micro-cosmos (i.e., of the small band or troop, or of, say, our families) to the macro-cosmos (our wider civilization), as our instincts and sentimental yearnings often make us wish to do, we would destroy it. Yet if we were always to apply the rules of the extended order to our more intimate groupings, we would crush them. So we must learn to live in two sorts of worlds at once." -- The Fatal Conceit I think this achieves just the right understanding of the balance we ought to seek between market and non-market orders. The market is a wonderful institution, which can achieve marvelous economic efficiency. Economic rationality, on the large scale, is impossible without markets, as Mises and Hayek so wonderfully demonstrated. And yet, markets can easily crush the "more intimate groupings." Markets, especially at the local level, must be subject to social control, lest that crushing proceeds unchec

Ah, Progressives!

Here is the great progressive thinker H.G. Wells on the future of humanity: And for the rest, those swarms of black and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency? Well, the world is a world, not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go... It is their portion to die out and disappear.

La Spuma

Come se Nettuno abbia rubato il martello di Vulcano Le onde mi hanno polverizzato ripetutamente Finché cedo ed prego in sottomissione delirante

John Gray on Biblical Literalism

"Until a few centuries ago the Genesis story was known to be a myth – a poetic way of rendering truths that would otherwise be inaccessible. At the beginning of the Christian religion, Augustine warned against the dangers of literalism. The Jewish scholars who preceded him always viewed the Genesis story as a metaphor for truths that could not be accessed in any other way." -- The Immortalization Commission


I gots an award named after me !

Who Wrote It?

Some sick rapper? Lick my ass nicely, lick it nice and clean, nice and clean, lick my ass. That's a greasy desire, nicely buttered, like the licking of roast meat, my daily activity. Three will lick more than two, come on, just try it, and lick, lick, lick. Everybody lick his own ass himself.

Are People Aware That Facts Can Be Checked?

Phil Jennerjahn says Ron Paul was a fool to agree to an interview with Sasha Baron Cohen. Savvy politicians would never do such a thing: "Would Newt Gingrich agree to an interview with Cohen? No." Does he mean would Newt Gingrich agree to another interview with Cohen ?

Why the US Can't Switch to the Metric System

I was in the hot tub this morning and it was very nice... around 100 degrees... Farenheit. But can you imagine if it was 100 degrees Celsius?! I would have boiled to death!

The World IS Coming to an End!

Oprah's last show is Wednesday!

Sorry, My Libertarian Friends!

I'm off to Myrtle Beach for four days. You're going to have to find someone else to piss you off while I'm gone. Try here .

A War Supposedly Undertaken to Avert a Humanitarian Disaster...

is creating a humanitarian disaster .

Anyone in America Who Is an Actual Conservative Today...

risks being taken for a "lefty." (Hat tip to Thoreau.)

Global Warming Versus a Few Drops of Water on the Floor?

For Jeff Tucker, it's no contest : "It is a pain in the neck to carry a full tray across the room, spill a bit here and there, and then balance it carefully in the freezer. And then when you take it out, your fingers stick to the trays and you have to break the tray and dump the cubes into something and refreeze what you do not use, and then the cubes stick together and so on. That's why we use ice makers." Can you imagine? Fingers sticking to trays ?! Cubes stuck together ! (I never have either of these problems, but maybe I'm just handy with an ice tray.) What is some family drowning in a tsunami in Sri Lanka compared to our fingers sticking to an ice tray ?! Then we get treated to some a priori energy consumption analysis: "This whole model forgets a perfectly obvious point: having an ice maker often means that you have an ice dispenser on the outside of the fridge, meaning that you do not have to open the door to get your ice. This is sur

Mises Was Correct

when he noted that Christianity and laissez faire liberalism are incompatible in their social teaching.

The Desperate A Priori, Part Two

Another popular instance: It is commonplace for libertarians to claim that it is a "problem" if "a non-violent, non-fraudulent act is defined as a crime," that such laws are invalid and needn't be obeyed, etc. As "libertarians" are more properly called "propertarians," however, they certainly want laws protecting private property rights enforced! So what do they do when confronted with a case like, "Well, let's say a group of people sit down and have a picnic on your lawn: is it OK for that to be a crime, since it is neither violent nor fraudulent?" You might think this would force the person positing the above principle to say, "Hey, my principle must be wrong." But no, the actual response I've encountered is to re-define violence so that quietly picnicking on some grass is actually a violent activity! And that's an illustration of why ideologies are impenetrable to reason.

A New Logical Category

We all know about the synthetic a priori and the analytic a priori. Let me introduce a new logical category: the desperate a priori. The desperate a priori arises when one wants to imagine that all moral rules and all law can be spun out from some logical axiom, such as "self-ownership." Inevitably, one will hit cases where one's chain of logical deductions doesn't get one where one wants to be. At that point, the "desperate a priori" enters the scene: it consists in the frantic effort to show that the result one wants, which is seemingly denied by the plain meaning of one's axioms, is actually necessitated by those very axioms! Rothbard, for instance, wants to derive all law from the principle of self-ownership*. But when he comes to voluntary slavery, he is forced to pause. The principle of self-ownership would seem to require that we permit voluntary slavery: after all, an important component of ownership is alienability. If I really do own myself,

Is Insider Trading "Really" a Crime?

In a piece on, Bob Murphy muddles the issue of whether or not something should be a crime with whether or not it would be wrong to do if there were no law against it. There are different answers to the questions: “ Should holding the ball for over 24 seconds be against the rules in pro basketball?” and “ Is holding the ball for over 24 seconds against the rules in pro basketball?” One might answer “no” to the first, but answering “no” to the second indicates that the person answering is confused. And so with the stock market and insider trading: For better or worse, the governing authority for the securities market has declared insider trading against the rules. One may sensibly work to change that rule, but it nonsense to declare that right now it is not “really” a crime. Since insider traders work hard to hide what they are doing (Rajaratnam went to great lengths to hide his activities), it is cheating. It is gaining an advantage not open to those who play by the

A Break from Live-Blogging the Middle Ages

A while back, Brian Doherty, after first attacking me without bothering to actually cite me, then took the time to respond to my comeback. I thought Doherty’s response was so obviously a concession that I didn’t even bother answering it. So I was shocked to have a reader tell me recently that Doherty had “embarrassed” me and that I had been “unable” to respond to him. Well, then let’s settle this matter once-and-for-all. Doherty wrote: “However, it strikes me, and I think would strike most readers, that (even though it would be very difficult to pick out a killer quote or two that proves this point with crushing finality) that Chp. 4 of GREAT TRANSFORMATION contains a lot that certainly implies an elevation of primitive living and economic systems over modern market economies…” Now, it is certainly true that Polanyi does not endorse laissez faire. And it is certainly true that he notes some things to admire in earlier economic systems. But, noting that, say, in feudalism people di

I Know It's Not Tyler Cowen's Fault, But...

The use the press makes of their experts is sometimes absurd : '“The big dividend mostly hasn’t arrived yet,” said Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University.' If the NY Times calls me up, I'd be willing to say, "The big dividend mostly has arrived already." Do you think I can get quoted then, too?

There's Just No Pleasing Some People

On July 30, 1540, King Henry VIII hanged both three Catholic priests for treason (for their loyalty to the Pope) and three Lutherans for heresy.

The Earl of Kildare

Was asked why he had burned down the cathedral at Cashel. "Yes, sorry about the cathedral and all," he replied, "but I only burned it because I thought the archbishop was inside it at the time."

Need a Brain Injury?

Then these are your folks:

Hayek on Theory and Practice

"Today it is almost heresy to suggest that scientific knowledge is not the sum of all knowledge. But a little reflection will show that there is beyond question a body of very important but unorganized knowledge which cannot possibly be called scientific in the sense of knowledge of general rules: the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place. It is with respect to this that practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information of which beneficial use might be made, but of which use can be made only if the decisions depending on it are left to him or are made with his active coöperation." -- "The Use of Knowledge in Society" Hayek is here pointing to a distinction made very clear in Aristotle between theoria and phronesis. (Was he aware he was following Aristotle here? I don't know. Does a reader?) Phronesis is practical wisdom, and it applies to particulars, not universals. The mistake of soc

Another Thing My Students Can't Grasp...

is that Marx and Engels were, in some ways, great admirers of capitalism. No matter how many times I say that they thought capitalism was a necessary historical phase, and how many quotes I show them praising the tremendous growth capitalism had produced, when I give them a multiple choice question, they keep choosing "Marx thought capitalism should never have happened."


I hear continually from sceptics on blogs and so forth that "Faith is irrational: it means believing in something with no good reason to do so." Well, no it doesn't. You are talking historical nonsense. In the Gospels and the Pauline tradition, faith "does not mean intellectual acceptance of a creed or proposition, but loyalty, love, and devotion, something like what in Indian religion is known as bhakti ." -- B.H. Streeter, The Rise of Christianity Faith is necessary to arrive at religious understanding in the same way it is necessary to accomplish anything difficult, including making a scientific breakthrough, as noted by Michael Polanyi. One must be devoted to succeed. Faith is not the opposite of reason, but the only means by which reason can advance.

What Passes for Conservatism Today

Some clown at a "conservative" web site posted an attack on Professor Stephen Hicks accusing him of being a Marxist who was "training cadres of revolutionaries" because he had seen videos of Hicks discussing Marx and education . Now, that sure is an odd accusation to hurl at a follower of Ayn Rand . And all because the accuser is apparently unaware that we teachers sometimes present the ideas of thinkers with whom we disagree. One shocked commenter said of this practice that: "this guy is 'presenting' Marxist philosophy from a Marxist's point of view.. however, this would be like me saying I am teaching about Hitler to young minds by pretending I sanctioned him." Well, if I were teaching Mein Kampf , my job would be to explain what Hitler thought. Then I would explain the problems with his views. This would not mean I was "pretending I sanctioned him," it would mean I was explaining his writing. I have taught Marx three semester

Anti-Tobacco Insanity

I just heard an ad warning that "If you or someone you know is pregnant, DON'T SMOKE!" Someone you know ?! Look, I agree that smoking is not healthy, and it's good for your health to quit. But really, is the fact that your cousin who lives in Seattle or someone you chat with on Facebook is pregnant a good reason to quit?


When the Duke of Buckingham was murdered, his command in the Royal Navy was taken over by... the Earl of Lindsey ! And, of course, Lindsey wound up fighting against Fleetwood in the Civil War, which was precipitated by a bunch of guys named MacThis and MacThat invading England.

The LA Babies

Not only did the Lakers again quit once they got seriously down in a series, like in Game 6 in 2008, but they also started trying to injure Mavericks to take out their frustrations. What an embarrassing way for Phil Jackson to end his career! UPDATE: Correct "game 7" to "game 6" after being corrected by antihospitals.

Who Did This?

This is a 100-foot-tall tree by my porch, entirely stripped of bark on one side. So what critter is responsible? My guess is a porcupine.

Take That, You NAPsters!

"Assault should be legal if the person assaulted is a jerk." -- Leslie, from Parks and Rec


"All atheists being that blind Goddess Nature's fanatics... are possessed with a certain kind of madness, that may be called Pneumatophobia, that makes them have an irrational but desperate Abhorrence from Spirits or Incorporeal Substances, they being acted also, at the same time, with an Hylomania, whereby they madly dote upon Matter, and devoutly worship it, as the only Numen." -- Roger Cudworth

I Did Not Know That!

In 2000, the third largest celebrity beneficiary of farm subsidies was... Scottie Pippen !


If you want to believe, a la the Francis Fukuyama of 1992 , that we are reaching "the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government," it helps not to read too much history. Otherwise you might run across a quote like: In all Christian kingdoms you know that parliaments were in use anciently until the monarchs begin to know their own strength: and seeing the turbulent spirit of their parliaments at length they, by little and little, began to stand upon their perogatives, and at last overthrew the parliaments throughout Christendom except here only with us. -- Dudley Carleton, addressing Commons for Charles I (quoted in Charles I , Charles Carlton, 1983, London and New York: Routledge) In other words, in 1626 it was representative government that appeared antiquated and on the way out, and absolute monarchy that was the modern thing to adopt. Charles I, Charles II, and James II all

Two Things My Students Can't Grasp

1) That households might be net savers. Today they had to graph the simple model of the classical loanable funds market for the fourth time on a test, and they still can't believe that changes in households' preferences change the supply curve. I decided that is because it is inconceivable to them that households are ever anything other than massively in debt. 2) How to use a desktop stapler. Ninety percent of my students hold the durned thing up in the air and then fight for about ten seconds to get the staple through eight pages. I showed one of them how easy it was when you left the desktop stapler on the desk and his eyes popped wide open.

How Politics Really Goes...

and a totally bogus way to describe your own political program. Here's what happens in real politics: a bunch of people have different views as to how society should be governed. They hash these views out: preferably, by reason and persuasion, next best, by propaganda and voting, and worst of all, by civil war. Ultimately, one group comes out on top, and thus has the ability to enforce its view on others. The people who lost either grumble and go along, are dead or in prison, or move away. That is the way politics has always proceeded. There really isn't any other possible scenario. Except in the fantasies of some people who believe imposing their vision is actually not an imposition on anyone at all! Consider anarcho-capitalist Geoffrey Allan Plauché, who asserts of he and his cohorts that :

The Two Distinct Philosophies

"Nor were there, indeed, any more than two real distinct philosophies, the one derived from Socrates, and passing into the old Academic, the Peripatetic, and Stoic; the other derived from Democritus, and passing into the Cyrenaic and Epicurean... The first, therefore, of these two philosophies recommended action, concernment in civil affairs, religion. The second derided all, and advised inaction and retreat, and with good reason. For the first maintained that society, right and wrong was founded in Nature, and that Nature had a meaning, and was herself, that is to say in her wits, well governed and administered by one simple and perfect intelligence. The second again derided this, and made Providence and Dame Nature not so sensible as a doting old woman." -- Third Earl of Shaftesbury Of course, Shaftesbury did not live to see the day when the adherents of the second philosophy, such as Marx, would launch massive assaults on the civic and religious realm of the first!

Schumpeter: Theory and Practice

"Both economists and popular writers have once more run away with some fragments of reality they happened to grasp.These fragments themselves were mostly seen correctly. Their formal properties were mostly developed correctly. But no conclusions about capitalist reality as a whole follow from such fragmentary analyses." -- Can Capitalism Survive?

Missing Mail

I'm using Macintosh Mail, and all of my mail and folders have begun to disappear every few hours. To retrieve them, I have to delete my mail account and recreate it. Then it works again for several hours, before everything vanishes once more. Any ideas?

Denying God

"Marx, like Comte, does not permit a rational discussion of his principles -- you have to be a Marxist or shut up. We see again the correlation between spiritual impotence and antirationalism; one cannot deny God and retain reason." -- Eric Voegelin

If Tom DiLorenzo Types That the Sun Rises in the East...

you'd better check the west to see it coming up. I stopped by to see the reaction from a few wacky conspiracy theorists to bin Laden's death, and was not disappointed. While I was there I ran across a column of Tom DiLorenzo's attacking Paul Krugman's Civil War writing. Now, I have no idea if Krugman knows his stuff on the Civil War, but I do know DiLorenzo is a horrific smear artist, so I thought I'd check this out. And I found just what I thought I would. For instance, DiLorenzo scoffs at the idea that Lee was a patrician, writing: "Krugman is apparently unaware that by the late 1850s, on the eve of the war, Robert E. Lee was in his thirtieth year as an officer in the United States Army, performing mostly as a military engineer. He was hardly a 'patrician' or member of a ruling class." This is stunning in its mendacity. Serving as an Army officer is one of the very favorite patrician occupations, and DiLorenzo knows this.

Why Won't They Come Out and Condemn Terror?

Is something you hear from Muslim-haters again and again. Here's the Muslim Council of Britain today: "Few will mourn the reported death of Osama bin Laden, least of all Muslims. Many Muslims will reflect on the 10 years that have passed in which our faith and our community have been seen through the prism of terrorism and security. The Muslim Council of Britain has consistently stood firm against terrorism and violence, and will continue to do so." Of course, it won't matter how many times more Muslim groups say this, just like it won't matter how many times more Obama proves he was born in the US. Facts cannot penetrate some beliefs.

What Is Going On?

The captions are mildly amusing, but what is going on? My guess is that this is an imitation of some style of conversation they see in their environment, e.g., perhaps the way their parents argue, and that what amuses them is when the other really gets some gesture correct. But then the leg lifting is left unexplained, because who lifts their leg like that when they argue?

The Course of Civilizational Destruction

I saw Steve Horwitz citing this today: "The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson in humility which should guard against him becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society [and destroying] a civilization which no brain designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals." -- F. A. Hayek This is a very good point. Libertarians might consider that it applies every bit as much on the attempt to force free trade or unregulated labor markets on society as it does to force collectivized agriculture on society. Traditional institutions such as guilds, poor laws, and limits on trade also grew from the free efforts of millions of individuals. And the destructive impulse present in classical liberalism has the same historical roots as that present in socialism. As Hayek's friend, Eric Voegelin wrote: "The momentum of contemporary political movements is