Quick Roundup 291

Monday, January 14, 2008

Creeping Paternalism I

California, whose environmental regulations have prevented any new power plants from being built there for about twenty years, has finally learned its lesson!

Add thermostats to the list of private property the government would like to regulate as the state of California looks to require that residents install remotely monitored temperature controls in their homes next year.
Or not.

Economists and libertarians, upon learning such news, will discuss how foolish it is to use even more government interference in the economy to "solve" a problem ultimately caused by government interference in the economy and they would be right -- except that in California, the commonly accepted purpose of the government moved from "protection of individual rights" to "protection of Gaia from man" long ago.

No degree of intelligence can save a polity whose dominant philosophy places other considerations above the protection of individual rights. It is tempting to dismiss Californians as idiots, but their problem is bad philosophy, something economists and libertarians refuse to see. (HT: Michael Gold)

Creeping Paternalism II

Meanwhile, in Great Britain, anyone with his wits about him will wish that the only thing Big Brother had his eye on at the moment was his thermostat:
Gordon Brown has thrown his weight behind a move to allow hospitals to take organs from dead patients without explicit consent.


But patients' groups said that they were "totally opposed" to Mr Brown's plan, saying that it would take away patients' rights over their own bodies. [bold added]
This has been going on in other countries (e.g., Austria, France, and Portugal) for some time, and some have even floated the idea of doing the same thing in the United States. My reaction upon hearing about this for the first time bears repeating:
American defaults could "just" be flipped around? That's my body, asshole, and possibly my life you're talking about like it's a damned toggle switch! Whether I part myself out is up to me. The "difference" between the United States and "parts of Europe" is not so much that "the defaults" are different, but why they are different: In the United States, the government is designed to protect individual rights by default, not infringe upon them. The argument against the government applying "libertarian paternalism" in cases like this, and in getting it away from more benign instances like the one I cited above, is that the government should respect individual rights.
As Mike N put it recently, "[T]o surrender any responsibility for our own survival is actually a surrender of our freedom and those to whom we surrender that freedom will necessarily control that part of our lives."

Anyone who, at the same time he demands cradle-to-grave care from the government and feels violated by having Big Brother operating his thermostat or yanking organs from his lifeless (?) body should check his premises. To such a person, I would offer the following hint: It is correct to feel violated.

Dim Bulbs at the New York Times

In an article with the unintentionally ironic title, "Any Other Bright Ideas?" Julie Scelfo of the New York Times discusses how lousy the light from a selection of Bush Bulbs tested by the Grey Lady's staff turned out to be.

One idea that was never so much as brought up in passing was the most obvious one to me: Calling for a repeal of the law that is going to make Edison Bulbs illegal in a few years.

I guess the freedom to illuminate one's home as one pleases doesn't really mean that much to the staff of the Times.

Good New, Bad News

As a certain self-described "secular conservative" might put it, the "good news" is that Rudy Giuliani was endorsed some time ago by Pat Robertson.
[T]he religious right is preparing itself to settle for a kind of bare minimum from the Republican presidential candidate. It is preparing itself to subordinate its religious agenda to a secular agenda. I don't mean that Republicans in general, or religious voters in particular, will become atheists or drop their religious beliefs, but rather that they will accept that their political preferences are--and should be--driven primarily by the secular concerns of war and taxes.
I have one word to describe this development (at best): hudna.

But setting that aside for the moment, the bad news is that among evangelicals, hypocrites like Robertson are a dying breed.
Even if Huckabee does not win the Presidency in 2008 (and I do not believe he has quite enough support to do so), his candidacy will have seeded the ground for a future Christian president much like Huckabee, but who is even more explicit and consistent in his opposition to capitalism and individual rights due to his Christian philosophy. And that is the real danger that Huck's Army poses today.
Or perhaps, rather than just "bad news", we should color that as a "silver lining". The sooner the opposition to capitalism and individual rights of the religious right becomes apparent, the sooner it can be opposed more easily as inimical to these values by those of us who hold them.

The Story of the iPhone

Reader Dismuke pointed me to an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Steve Jobs made the iPhone happen:
It may appear that the carriers' nightmares have been realized, that the iPhone has given all the power to consumers, developers, and manufacturers, while turning wireless networks into dumb pipes. But by fostering more innovation, carriers' networks could get more valuable, not less. Consumers will spend more time on devices, and thus on networks, racking up bigger bills and generating more revenue for everyone. According to Paul Roth, AT&T's president of marketing, the carrier is exploring new products and services -- like mobile banking -- that take advantage of the iPhone's capabilities. "We're thinking about the market differently," Roth says. In other words, the very development that wireless carriers feared for so long may prove to be exactly what they need. It took Steve Jobs to show them that. [bold added]
I don't own an iPhone, but one of the great things about such innovations is that they end up benefiting even non-customers.

Goin' Back to New Orleans

For Christmas, I got a two-CD set of classics by Dr. John called Dr. John: The Definitive Pop Collection and have really enjoyed it. Here's a YouTube video of one of the songs.

And here is his official web site.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Rob Tracinski's take on the Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani is curious.

Normally, I would look at the Robertson endorsement and think, "Gee, Giuliani is trying to cater to evangelical voters. Why is that so great"?

But Tracinski takes what normally looks like bad news, and spins it to look like good news! When the evangelical endorses the quasi-religionist, this is supposed to represent "a significant political retreat by the religious right." Hmm.

OK, maybe if the undisputed leader of the evangelical movement today endorsed Giuliani instead of Huckabee, that would be something. But by Tracinski's own admission, "Robertson is an aging figure whose heyday was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and he has lost influence in the past decade thanks to a series of public pronouncements that came across as, well, nutty."

So if Robertson isn't representative of evangelicals in America anymore, in what way does his endorsement represent " a significant political retreat by the religious right"??

Or is it perhaps more significant that Jerry Fallwell, Jr., heir to rising Liberty University, has endorsed Huckabee?:


Or is it perhaps more significant that Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses, and polled better in New Hampshire than Giuliani? Or that Giuliani has yet to make a significant showing in any poll? If the religious right has made a significant political retreat, it's been from Giuliani--not from their political ambitions.

I'd say that Tracinski's statement about the "significant retreat" has now been thoroughly refuted by the past few weeks' developments. This would not be the first time his "pajama epistemology" has failed the reality test. It would be useful to go back and see how many of his predictions have stood the test of time.


Richard said...


You seem to have no RSS feed. It would be handy for those of us who use such home pages as iGoogle.

Gus Van Horn said...


Drop me a line, NS, in a couple of years when you're done counting and I'll link to the post!

Gus Van Horn said...


The feed is here:



Anonymous said...

Add another major Evangelical endorsement for Huckabee: