School Lessons

But why don’t supermarkets, restaurants, churches, apartment complexes, clothing stores, dog groomers, and other service providers in Fairfax County encounter the same problems that plague the school system? After all, the county is growing just as fast and just as unevenly for these merchants as it is for Fairfax County Public Schools. Yet we never hear that some coffee shops or department stores continue to be overcrowded while others are well under capacity. Why might this be?

via School Lessons.

Pictures of the Socialistic Future

The most amazing thing about the Berlin Wall is that the world didn’t see it coming.

It’s easy to dismiss this as hindsight bias. But at least one man – the brilliant German classical liberal Eugen Richter – saw the Wall coming over sixty years before it went up. In 1891, decades and revolutions before Orwell’s Animal Farm, Richter published Pictures of the Socialist Future. It’s a dystopian novel about what happens to Germany after a socialist takeover.

I just finished reading the aforementioned book; it’s available as a free PDF here; it really is astounding that Richter, in 1891, was able to foresee so accurately and well. Via The Writing on the Wall, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty.

A Vegan No More

My first bite of meat after 3.5 years of veganism was both the hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever done. Tears ran down my face as saliva pooled in my mouth. The world receded to a blank nothingness and I just ate, and ate, and ate. I cried in grief and anger, while moaning with pleasure and joy. When I took the last bite I set back and waited to feel sick. I had just devoured a hunk of dead animal, the most evil thing I could conceive of, surely my body would reject this debasement and I would feel vindicated that I truly was meant to be a vegan.

Instead, my face felt warm, my mind peaceful, and my stomach full but….I searched for a word to describe how it felt….comfortable. I realized that for the first time in months I felt satiated without the accompaniment of stomach pain. I had only eaten a small piece of cow flesh, and yet I felt totally full, but light and refreshed all at once. I reveled in that new and unexpected combination of sensations. How amazing it was not to need to eat for an hour solid till my stomach stretched and distended over my pants just to buy an hour or two of satiety. How beautiful it felt to be able to eat the exact thing that for so long my body had been begging for. I felt profoundly joyful in finally listening to the wisdom of my body. What a revelation.

via A Vegan No More | Voracious.

Two Strains of Conservatism

… there is a longstanding tension between conservatives who are focused on limiting government power and conservatives who are focused on wielding government power. I would put it this way: some of us are focused on keeping government small, and we are not particularly concerned with who has power. Other conservatives are focused on having conservatives in power, and they are not particularly concerned with whether government is small.

To those of us in the libertarian camp, the "neocons" come across as corrupted by liberal statism. To those in the conservative camp, the "libertarians" come across as corrupted by liberal nihilism.

via Two Strains of Conservatism, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty.

Of Course The Fed’s Plan Won’t Work — We’re Deleveraging!

The theory behind most of what the Federal Reserve does to stimulate the economy is this: If we make money cheaper, people will borrow more of it–and then they’ll start spending again.

That theory works in most recessions. When the economy begins to weaken, the Fed cuts interest rates. Banks, companies, and consumers see that it now costs less to borrow money to buy the things they want to buy. So they borrow money and buy them. And the economy strengthens again.

But we aren’t in a normal weak economy, says economist Gary Shilling of A. Gary Shilling & Co. We’re in a "deleveraging" economy. And that means that we will keep reducing our debts and borrowing, no matter how cheap money gets.

via GARY SHILLING: Of Course The Fed’s Plan Won’t Work — We’re Deleveraging!.

Full Frontal Nudity Doesn’t Make Us Safer: Abolish the TSA – Art Carden – The Economic Imagination – Forbes

The Republicans control the House of Representatives and are bracing for a long battle over the President’s health care proposal. In the spirit of bipartisanship and sanity, I propose that the first thing on the chopping block should be an ineffective organization that wastes money, violates our rights, and encourages us to make decisions that imperil our safety. I’m talking about the Transportation Security Administration.

via Full Frontal Nudity Doesn’t Make Us Safer: Abolish the TSA – Art Carden – The Economic Imagination – Forbes.

A Self-Styled Jihadi … from Memphis

From a black Ford Explorer Sport Trac, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a Memphis native, watched two soldiers in fatigues smoking outside a military recruiting center in Little Rock. He aimed an assault rifle out the window and fired.

Muhammad sped away, hoping to flee 150 miles to Memphis where he would switch cars. But a wrong turn in a construction zone led him to police.

He stepped out of the SUV wearing a green ammo belt around his waist.

"It’s a war going on against Muslims, and that is why I did it," an officer heard him say.

via Muslim who shot soldier in Arkansas says he wanted to cause more death » Knoxville News Sentinel.

A Change Of Motto; or, Against The Fetish For “Smart”

When I started this blog six years ago, I began with a tagline motto of “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth over-doing.” Its origin was a comment about me from one of the graduate students at the College of Business at the University of Memphis.

I had just finished doing some tech-support work to a ridiculous extreme. The PhD candidate, knowing about my Air Force background, remarked, “All you military guys are the same: if it’s worth doing, it’s worth over-doing.” I recognized it certainly was true for me, and adopted the phrase almost immediately.

While I love the phrase and will continue to use it, I think it’s time for a change.

Over the past couple of years, I have begun to notice what I call a “fetish for ‘smart'” among my peers. It is as if being smart is somehow a good thing all by itself, and that merely being smart is enough to ascertain good will, good intentions, and/or good results. This bothers me.

Merely that you are smart does not mean you know enough to be useful. A lot of the time, smart people think they can solve human problems by reason, formal logic, or rationality alone, without relevant knowledge of historical experience, localized information, dynamic feedback, emergent behaviors, emotional reactions, bad actors, black swans and a host of other similar real-world factors.

There is no amount of “smart” that can replace that kind of knowledge. Without it, the true usefulness of being smart is strictly limited. Often, it is not possible for any one person or group of persons to have enough of that knowledge to use “smart” effectively. (This is the fundamental idea behind Hayek’s “Use of Knowledge In Society.”)

A lack of these kinds of knowledge does not stop smart people from trying use “smart” outside its effective bounds. They are confident being smart is enough, that logic and reason are sufficient tools to solve human problems. Then, when a smart person’s rational and logical plans fail from a lack of relevant knowledge, the refrain from other smart people is “But he’s so smart! It must be the rest of the world that is wrong” — or variations on that theme.

I am very much opposed to that attitude in all its forms. My shorthand for this opposition is taken from a Megan McArdle essay to which I no longer have the link: “It’s not enough to be smart. You have to actually know things.”