Libertarianism and Selfishness

In reality, however, libertarianism often requires unselfish behavior. Libertarians routinely condemn politicians who advocate statist policies in order to expand their power or ensure their reelection, bureaucrats who seek to increase the authority and funding of their agencies, businessmen who lobby for government subsidies and handouts, politically influential developers who use the power of eminent domain to acquire property that they covet, law enforcement officials who support the War on Drugs because it increases their funding, public employees unions who support big government in part because it increases their pay, and much other self-interested behavior. The fact that all of these groups are motivated, at least in part, by self-interest doesn’t prevent libertarians from denouncing them. That’s because libertarianism is a theory of the appropriate role of government in society, not a theory that judges the morality of human behavior based on whether or not people are acting out of self-interest.

via The Volokh Conspiracy » Libertarianism and Selfishness.

Rising food prices are the result of rising oil prices, not a growing market for ethanol

There may well be hunger among the world’s poorest this year, but not because of the U.S. corn ethanol program. Rather, the threat comes from high oil prices, which at $100 per barrel will place a tax on the U.S. economy of $800 billion per year, and $3,200 billion on the world economy as a whole. This will raise the price of all goods and slow down the world economy, thereby throwing millions of people out of work and leaving them without income to buy food. According to a Merrill Lynch analysis, if not for the world’s ethanol programs (of which U.S. production represents about a third), global oil prices would be 15 percent higher than they are, thereby placing an additional $480 billion impost on the world economy.

The problem is not that we are producing too much alcohol to compete against oil, but that we are not producing enough.

via Pajamas Media » Why It’s Wrong to Agree with the Malthusians about Ethanol.

Court: No right to resist illegal cop entry into home

Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer’s entry.

I cannot express my anger strongly enough. Via Court: No right to resist illegal cop entry into home.

Update: further commentary at Volokh.

In Defense of Flogging

The United States now has more prisoners than any other country in the world. Ever. In sheer numbers and as a percentage of the population. Our rate of incarceration is roughly seven times that of Canada or any Western European country. Despite our “land of the free” rhetoric, we deem it necessary (at great expense) to incarcerate more of our people, 2.3 million, than the world’s most draconian regimes. We have more prisoners than China, and they have a billion more people than we do. We have more prisoners than soldiers; prison guards outnumber Marines.

via In Defense of Flogging | The Agitator. Paging Mr Heinlein; Mr Heinlein, please pick up your copy of Starship Troopers at the Rodger Young.

Markets Make Us More Rational

People, including economists, are imperfect decision makers because of their mental limitations. But this fact does not mean that markets fail. Indeed, markets do far more than induce improved allocation of resources, given wants and resources. Markets induce market participants to be more rational than they otherwise would be because they must pay a price for being irrational. Thus, markets allow—no, require—economists to assume that people are more rational than they are likely to be found to be in laboratory settings, absent meaningful information and incentives and absent market pressures.

via The Volokh Conspiracy » How Markets Make Us More Rational.

Grocery School

Suppose that we were supplied with groceries in same way that we are supplied with K-12 education.

Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties.  A huge chunk of these tax receipts would then be spent by government officials on building and operating supermarkets.  County residents, depending upon their specific residential addresses, would be assigned to a particular supermarket.  Each family could then get its weekly allotment of groceries for “free.”  (Department of Supermarket officials would no doubt be charged with the responsibility for determining the amounts and kinds of groceries that families of different types and sizes are entitled to receive.)

Except in rare circumstances, no family would be allowed to patronize a “public” supermarket outside of its district.

Does anyone believe that such a system for supplying groceries would work well, or even one-tenth as well as the current private, competitive system that we currently rely upon for supplying grocery-retailing services?

via Grocery School.

Bad Man Down

Bin Laden’s death is not, as Peter Beinart suggests in the Daily Beast, the end of the war on terror.  Unfortunately a shadowy underworld of “Islamic” terror groups continue to pose an unprecedented threat around the world.  Unlike anarchist and communist terror groups in the past, they can kill hundreds and even thousands of people at a time, and they have the ability to disrupt commerce and the free flow of people around the world.  The threat that these groups could acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction is still very much alive; we live in an era in which non-state actors can wield levels of violence on a scale once restricted to states.

This underground, with links to organized crime, is opportunistic and evolving.  New leaders will emerge, new tactics will develop, and new attacks will come.  This remains a strategic threat, and whether we admit it or not, the state of war continues. We are winning that war by degrading the capacity and depressing the elan of these groups.  They are losing their popular support in most places; a decade of growing international cooperation has made the world’s counter terror measures significantly more effective.

So to amend Beinart, we are winning this war, but it isn’t over yet.

via Bad Man Down | Via Meadia.

Al-Qaida head bin Laden dead

Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States, is dead, and the U.S. is in possession of his body, a person familiar with the situation said late Sunday.President Barack Obama was expected to address the nation on the developments Sunday night.Two senior counterterrorism officials confirmed that bin Laden was killed in Pakistan last week. One said bin Laden was killed in a ground operation, not by a Predator drone. Both said the operation was based on U.S. intelligence, and both said the U.S. is in possession of bin Ladens body.

via Sources: Al-Qaida head bin Laden dead – Yahoo! News.

The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction

For the Empire to actually exist as an institution, it needs to have the mechanisms in place to exist – namely, donks like Queen Amidala and Senator Jar Jar Binks who basically just sit around and handle boring government work. And you also need people everywhere. Like, if the Emperor controls everything, he needs to make sure every Speeder Registry office in every settlement on Tattooine has somebody working the counter except during major Imperial holidays. And he needs to pay them something (they can’t all just be clone slaves – that’s clearly not how the Empire works). If you don’t pay your people, they tend to first, be lazy, second, take bribes and be likely to betray you, and third, leave their posts or actively conspire against you.

To maintain order, the Emperor would generally need a MASSIVE, MASSIVE bureaucracy. The Old Republic built up a serviceable one over thousands of years, but that took a lot of time, money and effort, and in the end it was bloated, ineffective, and ultimately subverted against the Old Republic.

The more you spend on bureaucracy, the less control you have directly over your Empire. The less you spend on bureaucracy, the more you have to tighten your grip, and the more star systems slip through your fingers.

So, the Emperor and Tarkin focus on making one really huge, high-impact investment: The Death Star.

via Think Tank: The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction » Print | Overthinking It.

Victims of Communism Day

May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their regimes. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes’ millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century’s other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so. I suggest that May Day be turned into Victims of Communism Day….

The main alternative to May 1 is November 7, the anniversary of the communist coup in Russia. However, choosing that date might be interpreted as focusing exclusively on the Soviet Union, while ignoring the equally horrendous communist mass murders in China, Camobodia, and elsewhere. So May 1 is the best choice.

via The Volokh Conspiracy » Victims of Communism Day.