Quick Roundup 515

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Big Government vs. Big Cities

In the process of considering some of the ways that government interference in the economy has been (and is) slowly destroying some of the country's older big cities, John Stossel provides the following comparison.

... Houston has almost no zoning. This permits a mix of uses and styles that gives the city vitality. And the paperwork in Houston is so light that a business can get going in a single afternoon. In Cleveland, one politician bragged that he helped a business get though the red tape in "just 18 months."
One day to start a business versus "only" about five hundred and forty -- if you have political pull.

Stossel earlier mentions that over the past sixty years, Cleveland has lost half its population. During that same interval, Houston -- the city proper -- has approximately tripled its population.

"Nightmare" is Exactly the Right Term

In an article titled, "My Inflation Nightmare," Michael Kinsley names the elephant in everyone's living rooms.
Compared with raising taxes or cutting spending, just letting inflation do the dirty work sounds easy. It will be a terrible temptation, and Obama's historic reputation (not to mention the welfare of the nation) will depend on whether he succumbs.
Kinsley doesn't seem to fully grasp or admit just how intimate the bedfellows of central "planning" and inflation are. But insofar as he sees that Barack Obama is likely to fan the flames of inflation, he hits the nail on the head.

The Republicans will not be blameless, though. They have been failing for decades to call for the repeal of expensive government programs or even to vigorously call for spending cuts.
It's been said that if the Democrats voted tomorrow to blow up the Capitol ..., the Republicans would vehemently disagree and instead would vote for dismantling the Capitol over a five year period. [minor edits]
Replace "capitol" with "capital" and this is exactly right, economically speaking.

Discarding the "Outlier"

Texas, which would deserve its reputation as a hotbed for capitalism a lot more if it would abolish state-run education, has instead opted to demonstrate two things very well: (1) A state-run education system necessarily results in the state promoting opinions one may or may not agree with. (2) Conservatives may claim to like free markets, but they'll happily attempt to avail themselves of such state apparatus if they think nobody's looking.
[Texas State] Board [of Education] member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with "the writings of") and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson's ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards. We don't buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson. Could Dunbar's problem be that Jefferson was a Deist? The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history standards.
Christian conservatives, who assert, incorrectly, that America was founded on Christian principles, regard her greatest revolutionary as an "outlier." (HT: Objectivism Online)

That Figures

I am not overweight, even by the government's standards. (Perhaps I should be worried...)

Nevertheless, I have long found the dull roar of the government and its media lapdogs attempting to put the entire nation on a diet extremely annoying, and have occasionally wondered how the government reached its conclusion that there is an "obesity" "epidemic." Adam Reed seems to have found the answer: By adopting an irrational standard for obesity from Prussian military requirements for mounted soldiers.
The continuing use of the Prussian "acceptable weight" ranges, objectively known to be sub-optimal for human life and health, should be an epistemic scandal. It is a public folly with political uses. It permits "public health" authoritarians to claim that individual choice must be restricted to save us from the supposed epidemic of fat. Because if one accepts the Prussian pseudo-standard, 68% of Americans are overweight or obese. And this Prussian pseudo-standard is seldom challenged, because Americans "educated" in Prussian-standard public schools are so concept-deprived that they will believe anything, as long as it comes with a number and a percent sign somewhere - and will submit to the authority of the hoax.
This would appear to be in line with a fairly long series of articles over at Junkfood Science by Sandy Szwarc on what she calls the "Obesity Paradox."

One final note: The problems with using BMI as an indicator of obesity, let alone health, go well beyond which range would generally be optimal for most people.

Whigging Out

I enjoyed this Mental Floss quiz on the party affiliations of past American Presidents. I missed only one.

Trivia note: I have been told, but have never sought definitive proof one way or the other, that I am related to one of the Whigs.

-- CAV


Neil Parille said...

I'm not sure why conservatives should run away from Jefferson. If he was an Enlightenment thinker he was a rather conservative one. He had reactionary views (by our standards) on race and gender. He opposed industrialization. He advocated local rule. He praised altruism and the ethics of Jesus.

To Jefferson the "separation of church and state" applied only to the federal government. As governor of Virginia he supported some state involvement in religion. Even as president he supported a little.

-Neil Parille

Gus Van Horn said...


If Jefferson, as you say (and have said at least twice here before), supported "some state involvement in religion," what little of that he did was far less than today's religious right would like. His Statute of Religious Freedom "prohibited any coercion to support any religious body." Any state involvement in religion would contradict that principle.

His views on race were both mistaken and not essential to his political philosophy.

That part of the political right -- which is no friend of freedom -- seems to get this pretty well.

Thomas Jefferson may have made mistakes and had a few inconsistent views, but those do not make him the kind of bigotted Luddite the religious right would like to embrace.