Evidence Of Control

What they said.

Unfortunately the linked article is behind a $30 paywall, so we will merely content ourselves with speculation beyond the excerpt that Caplan provides.

One is tempted to pass the time with a nice game of killswitch.

UPDATE: ungated version here (.doc format)! No need to immerse ones self in a bleak communist expressionist wholly apocryphal game!

In line with Knapp’s post I linked earlier.  When the media say “government shutdown” do not imagine that the government is shutting down.  The parts of the government responsible for killing, maiming, imprisoning, and stealing remain open; it is only the bits meant to help people that stop working.

I am reminded of the "Operation: Hairshirt" of Yes, Minister fame.  The government responds to a budget cut by cutting only those services that serve the people; they will never cut the services that keep them in control.

You won’t find a simpler description of why anarchism is morally mandatory than this.  It’s a somewhat schematic argument, but it neatly frames the question that freedom asks and authority must (and in my view cannot) answer.

"it’s a moral illusion we’re suffering from.”

I continue to think that anarchism has difficult questions of social technology to answer (David Friedman notwithstanding, we are a long way from finishing R&D on the “machinery of freedom”).  But this should be viewed as part of the long quest embarked on by the Enlightenment to bring our social means into alignment with our moral ends — the single most morally urgent task that has ever existed.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (Jackass-SC), seeing his national enemies discomforted, would like to do something about that. If only we had a word for comforting enemies…

And Lysander Spooner’s rejection of the notion of “treason” rather specifically excluded people who really did take oaths to the state…

Similar to what his colleague Tom Knapp said here (i noted it here).

Government is still government when it makes cuts to programs that it currently monopolizes. The system is still directed by politicians and administered by bureaucrats with vested interests in strengthening their positions. A government budget cut often means that they are going to keep forcing people to do things and keep up legislative and bureaucratic obstacles, but give people less in return.

Libertarians are right to focus on reducing the total spending of government, but remember that spending is one of the least evil things that government does: at least someone gets paid when the government spends. The less costly means of enforcing compliance — the laws, the regulations, the arbitrary police actions — can do far more damage without even the fig-leaf of compensation. Cutting government by starting from the checkbook may make good coalition-building sense, but of the places to cut government it is the least liberty-enhancing, the most likely to disproportionally affect the poor and powerless, and the most likely to pull the rug from under the largest number of people knowingly or unknowingly relying on it.

It’s also bad coalition-building. In a corporatist economy, a given government cut will resound throughout the economy, causing displacement and anguish in people previously unaware that they were government clients at all. Until you start cutting laws instead of just spending, you’re building up a large store of fear and resentment for only a small dividend of growth and liberty, spending political capital with no hope of attracting a new constituency.

Malka et al. find that religious people are conservative only when they are politically engaged; among people who don’t follow politics or consume media, religious believers actually tend slightly liberal.

All three possible causation chains here are fascinating:

politically engaged, religious Americans watch the news and listen to political commentaries and this leads them to shift towards more conservative values.


politically engaged, conservative folk watch the news and listen to the commentaries, and this encourages them towards religion


when people’s politics and religion don’t match, they choose to disengage from politics

Knowing the relative weight of these three phenomena, and particularly the extent to which these phenomena appear in other cultures, would be limitlessly fascinating.

Libya, Telescopic Philanthropy, and Justification

Julian Sanchez deploys his cruise-missile analytic skill to impose a no-fly zone on a particularly tedious piece by Jonathan Chait:

Since Chait thinks Americans aren’t sufficiently willing to risk lives and money on behalf of foreigners as a general matter, but will occasionally go along with an insanely expensive intervention in particular stirring cases, he’d rather not have to generalize explicitly, because the ad hoc approach gets us closer to the level of assistance he thinks is morally required than any politically viable neutral rule.

This basically comes down to the old “telescopic philanthropy” problem: "Telescopic Philanthropy", Punch, 1865

There is always a more serious problem abroad, there is always a more headline-grabbing problem at home, and the serious and sober consideration of resource costs and long-term benefits will always seem heartless. Chait is trying unsuccessfully to avoid being drawn into the telescopic philanthropy trap by arguing an unconstrained vision (Libya is about Libya! There is no need to consider alternate uses of resources because we have plenty!); Sanchez is trying to pull him back to a more radical theoretical and more restrained practical position, but unfortunately the alternative to telescopic philanthropy often reads a lot like nihilism so I doubt Sanchez will make many converts.

The reason that ballistically donating high explosive muntions at Libya seems a better way to spend $300M than spending the same amount on antimalarials or deficit reduction or haircuts is that it has a natural political coalition and so is more politically feasible. The real question we should be asking is why it has more of a coalition than, eg, building a library in every rural village in India.

The answer, I think, goes to another discussion that we all should be following: the rather heated consideration of neoconservatism over at Cato Unbound, where C. Bradley Thompson makes the point that conservative nationalism — a tendency that I think motivates all of the political establishment, not just the right — tends to regard nations, not individuals, as the fundamental unit of moral analysis. From this perspective the question we must ask of any act of international philanthropy (to the extend that state action is ever “philanthropy”; let’s ignore that definitional thicket for now) is whether it improves the state of a nation. Insecticidal bed-nets may save lives, but they do not transform nations; bombs may cost lives, but they change the fate of important entities like “Libya” and “Afghanistan” rather than actual messy humans. If you can shift the subject of analysis from individuals to nations, you can see easily why a Libyan intervention looks like an easy choice to the political class.

As a sidenote, I think it is a reasonable claim that nations should concern themselves with nations, leaving thorny questions of individual well-being to individuals. In particular, it would help tremendously with disposing of nations.

If this actually was a conspiracy, then it would be a sublime act of deft psychological manipulation, free from any overt and clumsy brainwashing methods. But then, I think that is the mistake conspiracy theorists often make: they assume that a group of people would actually go to the extraordinary trouble of manipulating events simply so that… they would turn out exactly as they would have anyway. If you have a choice between a sinister cabal or natural processes, the natural processes will almost always be the correct option… And for that matter, why would the lizardmen go to all the trouble of replacing the world’s leaders with evil robot clones, just so they’ll behave the way they have always behaved?

Just so.

The greatest conspiracy is people behaving the way they always do.  If anything enjoys a monopoly over everything, it is human nature’s monopoly over human history; nothing conspires against humanity as effectively or comprehensively as humanity.

A brief remembrance of Eisenhower, one of the great decent-and-dull presidents:

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Give me a dozen presidents who don’t want to make history but want to be forgotten by it.  Give me Clevelands and Hardings and Eisenhowers, a thousand of them, over a single Roosevelt or Wilson or Reagan.