Ayn Rand Was Right About …

Well, Not Everything, But She Was Right About This

[also, ouch] Alex Tabarrok quotes Ayn Rand on the Antitrust Laws. (And I am quoting his entire short post.)

Here is Ayn Rand on the antitrust laws:

Under the Antitrust laws, a man becomes a criminal from the moment he goes into business, no matter what he does. For instance, if he charges prices which some bureaucrats judge as too high, he can be prosecuted for monopoly or for a successful “intent to monopolize”; if he charges prices lower than those of his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “unfair competition” or “restraint of trade”; and if he charges the same prices as his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “collusion” or “conspiracy.” There is only one difference in the legal treatment accorded to a criminal or to a businessman: the criminal’s rights are protected much more securely and objectively than the businessman’s.

Exaggeration? Here is the FTC case against Amazon which has switched almost overnight from one theory to the diametrically opposite theory:

“It’s really hard to square the circle of the earlier theory of harm that Lina Khan enunciated with the current complaint,” said John Mayo, an economist who leads Georgetown University’s Center for Business and Public Policy. “The earlier complaint was that prices were going to be too low and therefore anticompetitive. And now the theory is they are too high and they are anticompetitive.”

More generally, the FTC under Khan seems to be a lost opportunity. There are abusive practices such as hidden pricing by hospitals that could be improved but the FTC is throwing it away on pursuing the greatest store the world has ever known. Why? I have liberal friends who quit the FTC because they wanted to work on real cases not political grandstanding.

The National Review editors also look at Lina Khan’s Anti-Amazon Crusade. Their take is both perceptive and unpaywalled, so check it out too. Their bottom line:

The message from the FTC to businesses right now: Don’t get too big, or too successful, or too beneficial to consumers, because if you do, we’re coming for you. That’s the wrong message for the federal government to send, and it’s contrary to the agency’s mission to promote competition and protect consumers.

And that's the disgusting message coming from the New Hampshire Attorney General's office as well.

(Our Eye Candy du Jour has nothing to do with antitrust. I just saw a version on Power Line's Week in Pictures and thought it was pretty funny.)

Also of note:

  • Reality bytes. A bold Cato claim from Thomas A. Firey: Reinstating 'Net Neutrality' Is to Ignore Reality.

    Usually, when some government proposal is floated in D.C., it should be evaluated with careful, sober policy analysis. But in the case of the Federal Communications Commission’s new “net neutrality” push to more‐​or‐​less reinstate regulations that were repealed a half‐​decade ago, an old internet meme suffices:

    [Day 4]

    If you don’t remember net neutrality, it prohibited internet service providers (ISPs) from treating some data streams differently than others, typically by either charging more or limiting the delivery speeds for, say, high‐​definition movies from outside the ISP. Regulation supporters claimed that all data streams should be treated the same. ISPs and other internet infrastructure providers responded that if they were to provide more and better services for heavy users, they should be able to charge those users higher prices or moderate their use.

    I've recently had problems with Netflix on my Roku: tried watching the first Star Trek movie with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto and it was unwatchable as if I were using a 2400 baud modem. Switched over to Paramount+, and… as smooth as silk. Problem with Netflix? Or Comcast treating it "neutrally"?

  • But no doubt also favor maintaining their revenue streams. I'm out of National Review gifted links this month, but maybe this will get you to cough up for a subscription yourself, cheapskate: Climate Scientists Increasingly Favor Destroying the Economy.

    Almost three-quarters of self-identified “climate policy researchers” want to stop economic growth in the name of battling global warming or feel neutral about that proposition, according to a recent survey by the scientific journal Nature Sustainability.

    The survey asked 764 “climate policy researchers” if they preferred “green growth,” meaning they believe the economy can continue to grow while greenhouse-gas emissions are reduced, “agrowth,” meaning the researcher is essentially agnostic on economic growth, or “degrowth,” meaning they want economic growth in high-income countries to end.

    A mere 27 percent of respondents stated that “green growth” is preferable, with 73 percent of respondents stating that economic growth is neutral or bad. The latter two positions represent “scepticism toward the predominant ‘green growth’ paradigm with degrowth representing a more critical view,” according to the researchers conducting the study.

    Something to keep in mind when those "experts" are quoted in the future: they are not looking out for your interests.

  • RIP, but… Jacob Sullum reminds us that On Guns, Drugs, and National Security, Dianne Feinstein Was Consistently Authoritarian.

    During Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's 2018 confirmation hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) asked him to "reconcile" his conclusion that "assault weapon" bans are unconstitutional with "the hundreds of school shootings using assault weapons that have taken place in recent history." It was a classic Feinstein moment, combining her steadfast support for arbitrary gun laws with blatant misinformation and a logical non sequitur.

    Feinstein, who died Thursday night at age 90, wrote the 1994 federal "assault weapon" ban, which prohibited the importation, manufacture, distribution, and possession of semi-automatic guns that she falsely claimed were uniquely suitable for mass murder. Although the distinctions drawn by that law never made much sense, Feinstein was determined to reinstate the ban after it expired in 2004, proposing a series of new, supposedly improved versions. Her dedication to a logically, practically, and constitutionally dubious gun control policy was of a piece with her diehard support for the war on drugs, her embrace of mass surveillance in the name of national security, and her willingness to restrict speech protected by the First Amendment, all of which reflected her consistently authoritarian instincts.

    For most of that time, she didn't even have the dementia excuse.

  • I've been known to use grep on /usr/share/dict/words maybe twice a month. But that's not what they're talking about here. Via GeekPress: Many Wordle users cheat to win, says mathematics expert. That math expert is James P. Dilger "who by day is professor emeritus at Stony Brook University". And (ackshually) you don't need to be a math expert, or even a whiz, to find something fishy going on:

    The game has a data bank containing 2,315 words, good for five years of play. (There actually are more than 12,000 five-letter words in the English language, but The Times weeded out the most obscure ones.)

    Dilger calculated that the odds of randomly guessing the day's word at 0.043%, totaling 860 players. Yet, Times statistics show that the number of players making correct first guesses in each game never dipped below 4,000.

    Yes, the math "expert" successfully converted the reciprocal of 2315 into a percentage.

    For the record, my stats as of today:

    [stats]

    Yes, I got it in one guess once out of 557 tries. My (slightly more advanced) calculation says I had about a 21.4% chance of doing that. So: lucky, but far from impossibly unlikely.

Recently on the book blog:


Last Modified 2024-01-28 3:10 PM EST

The Second Murderer

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

I seem to be a sucker for "Philip Marlowe" novels authorized by the Raymond Chandler estate. This started a long time ago with Poodle Springs and Perchance to Dream from Robert B. Parker. (The first being a sorta-collaboration between Chandler and Parker, the second being entirely Parker.) Since then, I've bought and read The Black-Eyed Blonde by John Banville; Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne; The Goodbye Coast by Joe Ide. And now this.

I'd read a couple books by Denise Mina in past years, and I thought they were OK. But a Marlowe novel written by a Scottish lady? Would that work, or would that be like (I dunno…) Mickey Spillane writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice?

Reader, I thought it worked great. Ms. Mina has a feel for Chandler's prose, her take on Marlowe's character is spot on, her descriptions of late-1930s Los Angeles are evocative. If anything, she turns the Chandlerisms up to 11, starting on page one, where Marlowe is mulling the too-tidy solution to the last case he worked: "There was something wrong, something bad in it, like a mouthful of soup with a stray hair that brushes your lip on the way in and then disappears."

But soon enough Marlowe gets a new job, via a mysterious phone call from a husky-voiced woman summoning him to the Montgomery Mansion. ("She left a small pause that might have meant yes, or no, or come over here and kiss me right now.") Chrissie Montgomery, the only heir to the vast Montgomery fortune, has gone missing, walking voluntarily into the mean streets of LA. Could Marlowe track her down?

Well, of course he can. But nothing is ever simple. Along the way, everyone consumes copious amounts of alcohol and nicotine. Some sexual practices ranging from the unconventional to the perverse. There are, of course, murders that need to be solved, cops to be avoided, dames to be rescued.

Fun stuff: Marlowe visits the famed Bradbury Building and the Angels Flight funicular. And a character from Farewell, My Lovely, Ann Riordan, re-enters Marlowe's life and plays an important role here.


Last Modified 2024-01-11 4:51 AM EST