2-19-11 Hodgepodge

Saturday, February 19, 2011

365 Ways to Declare Intellectual Bankruptcy

Over the past week, I've slowly whipped the filters of a Yahoo! email account into shape, finally making my Inbox useful again. One of the fruits of my efforts is that when I clean my new "Junk" folder of mailings from conservative publications, items of actual interest stand out more easily. One of these is Item 49 of a serial called, "365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy." The suggestion is as follows, and makes this advocate of freedom cringe.

49. Praise Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

Sure, like his Commie predecessor Salvador Allende, he had his faults, but his economic legacy has made Chile the richest per-capita, healthiest, least corrupt country in South America. Liberals hate being told this. Their hero is the "martyred" Allende. But under Allende, inflation was running at 1,000 percent, whereas thanks to free market reforms introduced by Pinochet-taking advice from Milton Friedman's "Chicago Boys"-the Chilean economy thrived. We saw the results of this from two earthquakes-the one in Haiti in January 2010 that claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives; and the one in Chile a month later which, though 500 times more powerful, claimed just over 700 lives. Why? Because rich economies can afford to build earthquake-proof buildings. But impoverished ones dependent for their survival on international aid can't.

Postcript: When Milton Friedman collected his Nobel Prize, he was heckled by leftists for having advised so repugnant a regime. He wryly noted that he had Given Communist dictatorships the same advice-but strangely no one attacked him for that.
While I can definitely understand the temptation to annoy leftists -- and have to admit that I have succumbed to the urge myself in the past -- lending credibility to the leftist practice of package dealing capitalism with fascism (which is actually a close cousin to socialism and communism) is too steep a price to pay, especially if anyone actually open to reason gets wind. Bye-bye, chance to make a solid argument!

Chile is as well off as it is despite the state controls (including continuing to use fiat money) it still had in place when Pinochet partially freed its economy and has in place now. Just because Pinochet was not as bad as Allende in some respects is no reason to praise him. Making such a case would do far more to advance an understanding of how to win and keep freedom than playing into a leftist's hands for the sake of a cheap laugh. (For what little it's worth, I am sure that this, too, would enrage many leftists, anyway.)

It says something when a publication puts out a series about annoying -- rather than defeating -- leftists.

Weekend Reading

"The more you evangelize a position, the more you invest into talking about it, the more likely you are to become attached to it." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "With Stock Picking, Mind Your Own Business" at SmartMoney

"In a marriage or family relationship, money often becomes the means through which conflicts are played out." -- Michael Hurd, in "Love, Marriage and Money" at DrHurd.com

My Two Cents

We have today two pieces that appear to be about money, but which are each much more broadly applicable.

Jonathan Hoenig makes a great point about finance that applies to many other areas as well, when he argues that the quest for validation can easily backfire. A good way to hold his lesson is this: The cash value of confirmation bias is less than zero. (Even if you come out even, financially (for example), you have wasted time trying to fool yourself, and lost out on any productive activity you could have pursued during that time, too.)

Michael Hurd's piece about disagreements over finance is also generally applicable to other situations: He advises us to step back and figure out what's really being disputed. It's very easy to see how a dispute that seems to be about money is really about other things since money is itself only a means of storing effort for later use in acquiring things of value. But money is certainly not always the merely apparent cause of a dispute. It is worthwhile to step back from any dispute in order to better understand what it is that one is upset about.

Gunning for Four

Last week, I had what turned out to be Arsenal's 2-1 defeat of Barcelona in UEFA Champions League competition on the tube as background for some mindless chores. I must say that the result was a nice change of pace from last year. Apparently, the team's skipper has much more in mind for this year:
Arsène Wenger has said Arsenal can make history this season by completing a clean sweep of major trophies, lifting the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the Carling Cup.


Wenger's confidence is fuelled by the fact that several of the obstacles that have undermined previous campaigns appear to have been overcome this season. First, with the Belgian centre-back Thomas Vermaelen the only major enforced absence, Arsenal are approaching the business end of the season with almost all of their key players available. Second, Wenger believes his team have matured and shed the mental frailties that cost them in the past – he identified the midweek win over Barcelona and December's 3-1 Premier League home victory over Chelsea as crucial milestones in his team's development.

Third, the manager's own strategy has changed. Wenger has tended to neglect the domestic cup competitions in order to concentrate on the Premier League and the Champions League but this season he has fielded strong teams both in the Carling Cup and in the FA Cup, seemingly reckoning that progressing in those tournaments would boost morale and momentum.
I hope Wenger is right about that last, and not flirting with exhausting his team. Highlights are below.

I love that first Arsenal goal (starting about 1:05), and it reminds me of my only collegiate goal, which came from the right hand side. (Alas, my similarities to van Persie end right there.) "I have no angle, therefore I'll shoot!" was how a teammate re-told it later.

-- CAV


kelleyn said...

I think there's a reason why so many varied issues seem to be about money. Given its function as a barometer of productive activity, any lapse of rationality on the part of its keepers will weaken them and eventually show up in that area. Anti-capitalists like to cash in (pun intended) on this phenomenon, blaming money for irrationality--irrationality that would, if it was possible that there was no such thing as money, still come to the fore in other ways.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write, "While I can definitely understand the temptation to annoy leftists ... lending credibility to the leftist practice of package dealing capitalism with fascism ... is too steep a price to pay ..."

Indeed. Lefties go out of their way, it seems, to annoy people they disagree with (and in the process they often annoy people who agree with them on a particular issue)--why would you want to pose as their mirror image? If they're not open to reasoned discussion, so be it; make any necessary points or corrections for interested onlookers and ignore them otherwise. Arguing with pikers determined to reduce debate to name-calling and mindless sloganeering is like wrestling with a pig--it makes you dirty and the pig likes it.

Gus Van Horn said...


Interesting point about irrationality surfacing in multiple areas. It's something I've noticed from time to time, and it makes sense for the same reason that controls breed controls in economics, or lies beget ("cover-up") lies.


That image likening engaging the irrational on their own terms with pig wrestling is on the money.


Mike said...

to paraphrase Gandalf: why bandy words with witless worms

Gus Van Horn said...

Your wizard reference makes me wish to use the words of another in answer: "Obviously."