Quick Roundup 494

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Small, but Telling Lack of Selfishness

Glenn Reynolds notes, "A small but telling, example of government waste."

At the link, Ilya Somin discusses an Indiana Jones-esque government repository of gifts from foreign governments to U.S. officials, who are not allowed to keep them by law. He quotes a story from the Washington Post that indicates that foreign governments almost certainly know that the nominal recipients are barred from keeping the gifts.

Somin then sensibly recommends auctioning the items off -- but in an update, he caves in when some of his commenters plead that doing so would "offend foreign governments."

Still, it's possible that the gifts should only be auctioned off some years after they are given, by which time foreign officials are less likely to keep track of them. Alternatively, the gifts can be donated to charities that can then use the proceeds to help the poor; it would be difficult for foreign opinion to take offense at that. [bold added]
So we're supposed to treat with kid gloves a foreign government that ignored our laws (and possibly even attempted to bribe an official) and, when we act on knowledge that all parties have (that these expensive items are gathering dust), we are supposed to pretend that having these gifts do as much good as possible for the American people (the real sovereigns in this country, anyway) is somehow an ignoble enterprise.

I would feel safe betting that Somin, as a libertarian, sees no need to consider making a moral case for capitalism, and yet here he is making what he regards as an unassailable moral argument. Is this a cynical exercise in pragmatism or is he a committed altruist? In either case, he plainly sees defending freedom on moral grounds as less "practical," else he would advocate capitalism on moral grounds. Seeing that he posits altruism -- a type of morality -- as incontestable, indicates to me that he knows on some level that the purpose of our government, the protection of individual rights, is in some way incompatible with altruism.

This blindness to or evasion of the importance of grasping the proper moral principles underlying capitalism causes him not only to fold like a cheap lawn chair when his (good) gut reaction to this example of government waste came into question, but it causes him to miss a lesson our leaders have badly needed for some time.

Our leaders should auction off these gifts and, if questioned about it, proudly explain that these gifts properly belong to the American people, that they accepted these symbolic gifts as servants of their people, and that they auctioned them off as the best way to serve their people -- by becoming better able to protect their individual rights through the funds.

American leaders, at least before Barack Obama, did not bow to foreign dignitaries, and we had no trouble explaining (nor foreign governments accepting) that this was because we hold all men as equal. Why not also make the case that we regard all men as morally entitled to the pursuit of their own self-interest -- and our government obligated to protect them from coercion as they do so? Why not say something like, "I thank you for this generous gift on behalf of the American people whom I am sworn to protect," and auction it off for that purpose at some later date? If pressed on the sale later, thank the donor again for generously making more funds available for the protection of the American people.

I am sure that since his gift was really intended as an act of goodwill towards the sovereigns of this country, that the donor will take no offense.


Via Geekpress, I learned of this list of "21 Things that Became Obsolete this Decade."

I mourn the obsolescence of Item 6 (maps) and am holding out against GPS, even in Boston. Also I haven't taken to buying my music off the Internet yet, so Item 15 (CDs) bothers me slightly.

Our Blind Left-Wing Establishment

Commit vandalism as a one-time supporter of an unnamed Democrat and you're an "activist."

Oppose physician slavery as a Senator and not only are you in league with "[t]he birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups," but you're marching "in lockstep." (Never mind that the Democrats there had to march in lockstep to the tune of sixty votes.)

In the meantime, Hugo Chavez has announced that he will implement the supermarket version of Barack Obama's public "option" with nary a peep about how similar this is to what is being considered in the Senate.

The blind cannot hold power forever: Either those who can see take power from them or we all collapse into barbarity. We're living Atlas Shrugged here in the United States, but they're getting ready to pick up We the Living and Anthem in Venezuela.

A Deep Fried List

This Southerner enjoys Item 12 (deep fried pickles) once in a blue moon, but he has his limits, and most of the items on this very amusing list fall beyond them.

Just a few off-the-cuff comments: (1) That pop-tart looks like a beignet. (2) Deep fried bacon? Why tamper with perfection? This strikes me as the culinary equivalent of gilding the lily. (3) Someone seems to have missed the lettuce and buns of the "deep fried" hamburger -- not that also frying those would sweeten the deal for me. (4) How do you deep fry coke?

Obama: Putting off Physician Slavery?

According to Hot Air, Barack Obama has suddenly decided to wait until February to attempt to take over the medical sector. That's the good news, such as it is, if it is. The bad news is that now he's going to focus on job creation, which the government is also inherently incapable of.


Yes, I think that John F. Kerry does "totally look like" the Snow Miser!

-- CAV


Steve D said...

“job creation, which the government is also inherently incapable of”

Actually, the government can create lots of jobs which is part of the problem because they can’t create wealth or progress. Therefore, government job creation projects will either cause a net loss of jobs or a net gain of jobs with lower pay. In other words they are just pushing pieces around (like the way some people play chess) gradually draining resources out of the system. Kind of like saying you won $500 in the lottery and only had to buy $1000 worth of tickets!

Sigh. This is not rocket logic. I wish more people could understand this. I’ve had a seemingly intelligent colleague tell me that NASA shouldn’t fire their engineers because that would hurt the economy.

“doing so would offend foreign governments”

Do you think any foreign governments ever worry about offending the US? Does the US give gifts to officials of foreign governments. Hmm, it really should work both ways.

I like your suggestion though - auction the gifts and apply the funds directly to the debt. Interesting example of how altruism is preventing the ‘pragmatic’ or best solution to the problem.

“Either those who can see take power from them or we all collapse into barbarity.”

I have a theory that one of the reasons this hasn’t happened in Europe yet is that the example of the United States has acted to slow their march to barbarism. With the AmSoc gaining ground in the US, there will no longer be any culture impediment to this in Europe and the last vestiges of freedom there will die. If this is correct we could be looking at a lot more than a temporary loss of freedom - especially given all the new technologies which can easily be used against the people.

Victor Hanson made a comment once that if we lose our freedom in America now it will be gone forever. At the time, I thought it seemed over pessimistic but now I am not so sure. The comparisons I’ve read between the West today and fall of the Roman republic (or the collapse in the 3rd century) are haunting.

Gus Van Horn said...

"Actually, the government can create lots of jobs which is part of the problem because they can’t create wealth or progress."

That is a more correct way of making my point. Thanks.

"Do you think any foreign governments ever worry about offending the US?"

Not often, as we are, by the lights of altruism and collectivism, uncouth barbarians who need to be "educated."

RE: Hanson

I'd have to think about that one more, but regardless of whether I think he's being overly pessimistic, why take chances by not fighting for freedom now, when we can?

Mike said...

The switch from CD to iTunes happened for me a while back when some new albums came out and the weather outside was inclement (a rarity for Arizona), on top of which I had work the next day and was really jonesing to listen Now. At 9:01 pm local time (just after midnight EST), I owned both albums for $19.98 out of my Paypal account. And I was listening to them starting three seconds later.

Combine that with Mozy (or whatever online cloud backup you want to use) and streaming video via Netflix and I think it's clear that music and movie content has gone the way of Star Trek now... "Computer, play artist Iron Maiden." And it just does.

Gus Van Horn said...


I'll make the switch, but I'm definitely a late adopter there.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you ask: "How do you deep fry coke?"

One effective way is to put a half kilo wrapped in a plastic bag in a thick dough seasoned heavily with curry powder and other substances and fry it long enough to form a hard crust, then put it in a hollowed-out cake, top it with icing, and put it in a box with a shipment of specialty cakes. The curry seasoning helps throw off the scent for any dogs.

Gus Van Horn said...

I was asking for it wasn't I? BTW, Merry Christmas!