Saturday, July 31, 2004

All Jews Think Alike

Matt Yglesias makes a point remarkably similar to one I made while referring to the Kleiman post on Libertarian foreign policy. Matt:

Unless you're in the grips of an extraordinarily rigid ideology (like this hyper-dogmatic view Mark Kleiman attributes to all libertarians) then there's not going to be any especially clear connection between your domestic policy views and your foreign policy views.


I assert that [conservatives and liberals] all follow basically the same foreign policy, with differing degrees of skill depending on the individual (the war in Iraq was not conservative, it was stupid).

And speaking of all Jews thinking alike, I first noticed Max Sawicky was a Jew when this post caused me to search for a bio button on the top of the blog. When I saw his News Jews Can Use link, I knew my suspicions were correct, however I continued to look until I saw the Jewish Bloggers link. Jews appreciate our time off, we invented the weekend. As I say, Jews believe in deliberation and consideration. This takes time. That's why we invented The Sabbath.

One thing Max neglects to mention is that the corporate machine only began sucking up American "leisure" (although I prefer the term non- monetarily structured) time after progressives removed the systematic sexism that forced many people out of monetarily structured employment.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Cleveland voter registration numbers

I don't know what to make of these registration numbers in Cleveland. I do know that there was a gap of 177,000 between Gore and Bush totals in 2000, and that Cleveland has at least 244,000 people over eighteen who did not vote for president in the last election. Assuming those voters vote in the same proportions as other Clevelanders, we would need to get all of them to the polls in order to tip the balance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

How far away must a robbery occur so that a Libertarian doesn't care about it?

Kleiman points to an interesting question posed by Randy Barnett, a Volokh conspirator, concerning the position of Libertarianism on foreign policy. TheJew is a reformed Libertarian, and thought I was qualified to come up with an answer.

But before I get to that, I want to address what Kleiman wrote. Through a short (but correct) line of reasoning he concludes that war is impermissible in strict Libertarianism due to the collateral damage that is wrought. He comes to this conclusion:

There are two possible conclusions here: either (1) war is always wrong, or (2) Libertarianism as a moral philosophy (as opposed to the libertarian tendency in politics) is not merely false but transparently silly, since no actual group of people could live under Libertarian principles unless some other group of people did the dirty work of collective self-defense for them.

I think Kleiman would be hard pressed to find any one person, let alone an entire school of philosophy that would endorse the death of innocents in isolation. By Kleiman's style of ignoring-the-context-of-battle reasoning, all philosophies (save maybe that of Hannibal Lector) are insanely pacifistic.

In addition, Kleiman misinterprets Barnett's version of Libertarianism, confusing Barnett's version with the anarchic fringe of the Libertarian movement. In the abstract of his recent paper, Barnett says the Libertarian minimalist approach is "enforcing only the natural rights that define justice," and that Libertarianism is a "A compromise, as it were, that makes civil society possible." Barnett says in his paper (pg. 15) that certain "perfect" rights "create an enforceable duty in others, as in 'I have a perfect right to this land.'" (an imperfect right is something like "I have the right to like chocolate ice cream better than strawberry."), so some coercion may be justly employed to force people to perform their Libertarian civic duties in Barnett's interpretation.

With regards to Barnett's question, I have concluded that there would be no significant difference in Libertarian approaches to foreign policy from that of either conservatives of liberals. I assert that they all follow basically the same foreign policy, with differing degrees of skill depending on the individual (the war in Iraq was not conservative, it was stupid). The foreign policy of any systematic political philosophy is this:

1: While out of power, use the populist appeal of isolationist non-intervention to undermine your domestic enemies.

2:When in power, use your power (while skillfully balancing between realpolitik and idealism for maximum effectiveness) to aid intellectual fellow travelers across the globe.

Given that American political ideologies are very similar compared to the extreme ideologies that flourish in the areas of the world that are most volatile, there is rarely large dispute over which side to support in a given foreign policy issue, only dispute as to whether intervention is merited (see #1). It is very rare indeed that the ideological separation of American liberals and conservatives have impacted on our foreign policy; some examples of this are the Mexico City policy and possibly support to Aristide's government in Haiti (though I know that's debatable and I am not educated well enough on that issue to form an opinion).

The reason a true Libertarian must be internationalist in his outlook is the same as the reason he must concede duty to enforce Libertarian ideals in his own country. I'll describe a hypothetical case. Suppose we have three countries arraigned in a one dimensional geography where A is to the west of B which is to the west of C. A and B are good Libertarian countries, while C is an expansionist Communist dictatorship. If B's shared border with C forces them into many costly wars to contain the expansionism of C's dictator, A would be getting a free ride off of B's military, effectively transferring B's wealth to A. Clearly Libertarian society would not work if every individual could opt out of their duty to enforce the "perfect" rights of others while they are so fortunate that their own rights were not presently being violated. Similarly, in a Libertarian international order, each (Libertarian) country must protect the rights of others in that an aggressive country of non-Libertarians is a threat to all Libertarian societies.

This line of reasoning can be extended to Libertarian rebel groups inside of a non-Libertarian regime in that all individuals benefit from their activities that undermine the aggressive power of the coercive regime. A violator of natural rights is a violator of natural rights even if he is far away. A rights violator is a potential danger to everyone, not simply his current victims.

The nature of geo-politics used to be that there were a very small number of actors that can effect any given individual actor directly at all (his neighbors and possibly one or two naval superpowers). This is in fact the only conceivable reason for there to be a difference in the rules governing conduct of nations and conduct of individuals. "Defensism" seems to be an application of this idea. By "Defensism", exactly how long would Britain have stayed out of WWII? Though my knowledge of this subject is less thorough, would Wellington have been at Waterloo under "Defensism"? The events of September 11th demonstrate that volatile aggressors can have world wide reach.

I should just mention that Barnett seems to advocate granting fifth-amendment-suspending arrest powers to every foreign government on the planet in his discussion of NGOs (terrorists).

Saturday, July 24, 2004

SASC hearings on prisoner abuse: partial transcript

TheJew thought these excerpts from the testimony of Secretary Brownlee, General Schoomaker, and General Mikolashek to the Senate Armed Services Committee deserved to be preserved in the blogosphere. These excerpts were aired on The NewsHour on Thursday July 22, 2004 during the news summary. Unfortunately The NewsHour has no transcripts of news summaries available online, only audio recordings (that doesn’t seem to be available any longer). I would like to add that this story was effectively buried by the September 11 commission report release.

This first exchange is between Senator Reed of Rhode Island and General Mikolashek and concerns ghost detainees.

Reed: There seems to be a pattern um , Did you examine this issue?

Mikolashek: During the conduct of our inspection we found no evidence of the so called ghost detainees that, that were in existence...

Reed: So let me understand your response, General, there's no, today, ghost detainees that you've found...

Mikolashek: That we have found, during our inspection? No sir,

Reed: But, Are you disputing General Taguba and the secretary of def...

Mikolashek: No sir I am not. We did not look at that, that detail, into that specific line on that par-ti-cu-lar eh, issue.

Reed: Well yeah

Mikolashek: We looked at, again, how we accounted for and -uh-uh- took care of the, of the detainees. And we...

Reed: Well General, I just think the premise of your report that there's been no systematic problems is under cut by the fact that you didn't look at some systematic problems. That was one.

Mikolashek: Well, we, we view the system as the accountability of uh, of detainees, sir, and that's, that was our, that was our approach...

This second exchange is between Senator McCain of Arizona and General Mikolashek. 

McCain: Unmuzzled dogs? Is that in keeping with, uh, those policies or violations of those policies?

Mikolashek: Sir, an un-muzzled-dog to be used in interrogation is in violation.

McCain: And yet those were approved by General Sanchez?

Mikolashek: Sir, we found no evidence of a un-muzzled-dog to be approved by General Sanchez. That may... Based on our, our work.

McCain: Ah, we did!

Obviously we cannot trust a military investigation to prove anything the military doesn’t want it to prove.


Friday, July 23, 2004

Baumol's unbalanced

The good news for liberals if Mark and Matt's analysis is correct is that all service industries are equally likely to experience a reduction in resources (or rise in relative cost). Namely, traditionally conservative industries and professions like banking, management consulting, and possibly clergy* would all rise in relative cost, and thus will be as obsolete as the government bureaucrats Mark and Matt hang out with.

Fortunately or unfortunately, my fellow tribesmen Mark and Matt are completely wrong. First of all, Mark's suggestion that pupils could learn from recorded lessons is, frankly, goyesha. The questioning and discussion inherent in a teacher-pupil relationship is an important tool in the evolution of knowledge. To further remove instructor from interaction with students isolates the instructor and creates inefficiencies in the learning process.

Second, and more generally, Baumol's example of entertainers (as opposed to artists) are almost unique in the application of his ideas. Basically, his assertion is that keeping the same proportion of labor in a slow productivity growth area while the rest of the economy is experiencing rapid growth will create a drag on the economy, entertainment being an example of a segment perpetually slow in growth of productivity (an entertainer cannot produce more than one hour of entertainment per hour).

However, almost all other areas of the service economy, including government functions like policing, education, and health are intermediate goods, the workers providing services are assisting the production of others. To say that education is doomed because a teacher will never churn out students like a machinist turns out widgets is like saying that factory production is dead because no factory worker will ever produce more than eight hours of work per (hopefully eight hour) work day. With increasing productivity due to advancing technology, and thus in likelihood, increasing amounts of complexity, teaching will become more instrumental in producing high productivity workers. The production of laborers is due in part to the production of their trainers, and the production of skilled health workers that keep them on the widget line. The costs of cutting government programs in these areas would become higher, not lower. In addition, bankers and dry-cleaners and other service personnel all save time for people whom are working instead of minding their finances or doing laundry, etc.

So while it may be true that the price of a teacher will skyrocket compared to the price of a refrigerator, that is simply a result of cheaper refrigerators. It would be like saying that the price of a teacher has skyrocketed in terms of the cost of sending a message to the opposite side of the globe. Refrigerator factory workers and telecommunications personnel have not nor will they experience any institution crushing swings in resource allocation.

*TheJew would not like to assert that clergy lean to the right, but some Marxists out there may think they do.