URLs du Jour


  • Argh. I really liked Caltech physicist Sean Carroll's recent pop-science books. Which makes me only the more saddened when he meanders away from his expertise, for example this tweet, in response to criticism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's appearance at the recent "Met Gala"

    As a matter of fact, AOC has actually said (along with Bernie, Robert Reich, et. al.) that billionaires shouldn't exist ("as long as Americans live in abject poverty", which means, pretty much, ever.)

    Whether that eliminationist rhetoric adds up to "hating the rich" is something between AOC and her shrink. I don't care much about her mental state, or lack thereof.

    But I'm really irked by the old cliché Carroll deploys: "asking people to pay their fair share." (How old? We're talking at least FDR old.)

    Problem one is the word "asking". That's a dishonest euphemism. AOC and her ilk aren't in favor of "asking". "Asking" should be read as "demanding, under legal threat".

    But even worse than that is the concept of "fair share" of taxes. I always want to collar the people who utter that term and ask them to fill in the blanks:

    The top       percent of American taxpayers earn       percent of all adjusted gross income (AGI) which would make their fair share of taxes       percent.

    I've never seen anyone talking about "fair share" answer such a question. It's safe to assume that "fair share" is another dishonest euphemism for "more".

    If you'd like to know what the current numbers look like, try here:

    [T]he top 1 percent of taxpayers account for 20 percent of all income (AGI). So, their 40 percent share of income taxes is twice their share of the nation’s income.

    Is that "fair"? How would you change the numbers in order to make them "fair"?

  • Health advice: Don't get sick, or old. Kevin D. Williamson looks at U.K.'s National Health Service: Free Health Care's High Price.

    There are two kinds of people who support single-payer health care in the United States: Those who point to the British system as a successful example, and those who know something about the British system.

    Under the Conservative government of Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom will see taxes raised to their highest-ever peacetime level with a new surcharge going to support the financially wobbly National Health Service and “social care,” meaning nursing-home care or at-home care for the elderly. The taxes will fall disproportionately on the wages of young people, who don’t vote Conservative, to the benefit of wealthier retirees, who do.

    One of the proverbs you hear when it comes to comparisons between the United States and the United Kingdom goes roughly: “Sure, they pay higher taxes, but at least they get something for it, including free health care.”

    Neither one of those is exactly true.

    Click through for the deets.

  • Meanwhile on this side of the pond… Ira Stoll describes the same old same old (albeit with a higher price tag): Democrats Try To Hide a $3 Trillion Tax Increase From Voters.

    Explaining a newly leaked House Ways and Means Committee plan to raise taxes by $3,000,000,000,000, a Wall Street Journal news article reports, "Rep. Richard Neal (D., Mass.), the committee chairman, has said that detailing tax-increase plans too soon can give too much time for opposition to build."

    Neal had explained his reticence to The New York Times in an interview by comparing his behavior to a man trying to seduce a woman into marriage, postponing full disclosure until the wedding guests are seated and the bride has been walked down the aisle. "I'm likely to hold off on the pay-fors until we are at the altar," Neal said.

    Legislators with more respect for the deliberative process than Neal has may want to dash for the chapel exit before it's too late. What does it tell you about the Democratic leadership's view of the American public that they need to keep their plans secret until the last minute, for fear that the public might figure out what they are doing? Imagine how it would feel to be engaged to Neal, without knowing precisely what bad news he's planning to dump on you once the wedding ceremony is underway.

    I've been seeing pro-spending ads that make me want to revert to my "old man yelling at clouds" persona.

  • And he ain't talking about the game show. Dennis Prager explains, at PJMedia, Why Freedom Is in Serious Jeopardy. And this is pretty accurate, right up until it isn't:

    There are many ways in which to divide humanity — the decent and the indecent, the happy and the unhappy, the cowardly and the courageous, those who lead and those who follow, etc.

    Two major divisions that are less often noted but highly consequential are between those who want to control others and those who have little interest in controlling others, and between the related categories of those who are comfortable with being controlled by others and those who detest being controlled by others.

    Those who seek to control others and those who seek to be controlled by others would seem to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum. But they are not. Both groups are overwhelmingly populated by individuals on the Left.

    Ah, would that were true. I (again) recommend Katherine Mangu-Ward's take: Let’s Play Horseshoe Theory.

  • So long Turd Ferguson. There are a lot of reminisces about Norm Macdonald out there today. One of the best from Theodore Kupfer at City Journal Norm Macdonald, Comedy Legend.

    Born and raised in Canada, Macdonald began his comedy career in the late 1980s. He was a frequent guest of late-night shows throughout the 1990s, with his appearances on Conan O’Brien in particular being the stuff of legend. His apogee of fame probably came between 1994 and 1998, when he hosted Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment—typically a stepping stone to a late-night show of one’s own—only to be fired by NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer for joking too much about O. J. Simpson, Ohlmeyer’s personal friend. Immediately afterward, Macdonald went on David Letterman, who asked how he had reacted to getting canned. “I said, ‘Oh, that’s not good,’” said Macdonald. “And I said, ‘Why is that, now? And [Ohlmeyer] goes, ‘Well, you’re not funny.’ And I said, ‘Holy Lord, that’s even worse news!’”

    Professor Alan Jacobs quotes a brief (apparently recent) joke from Norm:

    You know, I think about my deathbed a lot.

    What do you think about it?

    I think I should never have purchased a deathbed in the first place.

    You can find a lot of video out there. Although Norm was pretty good in his own voice, his impressions were, I think, underappreciated: Bob Dole, Burt Reynolds, and … see if you can find his impression of Charles Kuralt giving his resignation on "CBS Sunday Morning".

    (Of course if you never saw Charles Kuralt on "CBS Sunday Morning", some of the humor might be lost on you.)


A Biography of Thomas Sowell

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I have … let me count here … fourteen books by Thomas Sowell on my shelves. I've been a fanboy for many years, going back to my first read of Knowledge and Decisions, sometime in the early 1980s. You can read my more recent book reports here, here, here, and here.

This relatively short book by WSJ writer Jason L. Riley is billed as a "biography" in the subtitle, but it would be more accurate to call it an intellectual biography: an examination of Sowell's work over decades. (Sowell published his own memoir, A Personal Odyssey, back in 2000.) Like me, Riley is a Sowell fan; if you're looking for criticism, you won't find it here. Fine by me; Riley's pushing on an unlocked door in my case.

It's maybe not widely known that Sowell kicked off his academic career as a Marxist. That could have been his ticket to becoming widely embraced in Academe, but (fortunately for us) he had an unswerving devotion to facts and data, following them wherever they led. It didn't hurt that he took up with Milton Friedman and George Stigler as a grad student at the University of Chicago. And he was heavily influenced by Hayek's essay "The Use of Knowledge in Society" (assigned by Friedman in his price theory class).

Riley follows a number of threads in Sowell's oeuvre: his epistemology, largely influenced by Hayek, led him to his analyses of the origins of intellectual debate, where in many cases involve two sides shouting loudly past each other; see A Conflict of Visions, The Vision of the Anointed, and The Quest for Cosmic Justice. There's also his three-volume examination of worldwide history: Race and Culture, Migrations And Cultures, and Conquests and Cultures.

And then there is Sowell's take on current events, expressed over decades, where he brought to bear his views on economics, history, race, and culture in both books and his long-running syndicated column. He saw much foolishness, and took it to task in blunt "undiplomatic" language. He was in profound disagreement with many other black intellectuals on racial policies, properly scornful of paternalistic "preferential policies". He's been retired from active commentary for a few years, but my guess he'd be even harder on Critical Race theorists. While not denying the stubborn persistence of racism in whites, he thought it largely futile to point fingers at it. Blacks could be more productively engaged in fixing up their own culture, moving out from dependence on white largesse.

One surprising thing I learned about in Riley's book was Sowell's personal friendship with Steven Pinker. (I'm also a Pinker fanboy myself.) While Pinker is politically more liberal than Sowell, that didn't prevent them from renting a helicopter to take pictures over San Francisco. (They're both "camera bugs".)

I enjoyed the book quite a bit. It would also be a good read for someone looking for an overview of Sowell's work, maybe with an eye toward a deeper dive into his scholarship and thoughts.

Last Modified 2021-09-15 6:41 AM EDT