URLs du Jour


  • At the New York Times, David Brooks confesses and repents: I Was Once a Socialist. Then I Saw How It Worked. Here's his inspiring end:

    Capitalism is not a religion. It won’t save your soul or fulfill the yearnings of your heart. But somehow it will arouse your energies, it will lift your sights, it will put you on a lifelong learning journey to know, to improve, to dare and to dare again.

    Last Sunday I attended a service with a young friend at a church that has quickly become a home for her. There were several hundred congregants. Ninety percent were under 30. Ninety percent were Latino. The service was two hours of joy and exultation — glow sticks and song and balloons.

    They weren’t worshiping capitalism, but something higher. But still their work lives came into view. “Look how far we’ve come! Look how far we’ve come!” different people kept saying. I saw my own family’s Jewish immigration history being re-enacted right in front of me. We, like they, started out as butchers and seamstresses and tailors, self-employed capitalists because it can be hard for immigrants to get corporate jobs. The opportunity explosion my family experienced and your family probably experienced is happening still, made possible by the ever-expanding pie that capitalism provides.

    The theme that day was hope, transcendent hope and more immediate hope. “Move and miracles happen!” a young Latino woman sang. Every year, hundreds of millions of people march with their feet to capitalism.

    Today, the real argument is not between capitalism and socialism. We ran that social experiment for 100 years and capitalism won. It’s between a version of democratic capitalism, found in the U.S., Canada and Denmark, and forms of authoritarian capitalism, found in China and Russia. Our job is to make it the widest and fairest version of capitalism it can possibly be.

    Me mostly likey, but David is too quick to praise Sweden et alia for their massive welfare states that operate in tandem with a mostly-free economy. I think that's a recipe for permanent mediocrity, but… see the next item.

  • Via Philip Greenspun, an article at the Foundation for Economic Education by Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan makes an interesting distinction: Transferism, Not Socialism, Is the Drug Americans Are Hooked On. "Socialism" polls alarmingly well recently in the US, but…

    It appears that what Americans really have in mind when they think about socialism is not an economic system but particular economic outcomes. And their thoughts seem to focus most often on the question of what people should have. The answer they arrive at most often? More than people typically get in a system based on the pursuit of profit. Capitalism, they believe, is immoral because it is a system in which some do without while others have more than they could hope to use in multiple lifetimes.

    These four in ten Americans, and the politicians who speak for them most vocally, are not advocating socialism at all; they are advocating what we should really call “transferism.” Transferism is a system in which one group of people forces a second group to pay for things that the people believe they, or some third group, should have. Transferism isn’t about controlling the means of production. It is about the forced redistribution of what’s produced.

    This seems (to me) is what Sweden et alia have been (at least for now) pursuing: (1) taking huge amounts of taxes; (2) giving it back to the citizenry (after taking their cut) in varied "services" and free stuff, and (3) making people believe they've done them a favor.

    Step (3) is bemusing, and it's hard to see how they get away with it, but lots of cultures can survive on myths, I suppose.

  • Hanoi Jane Fonda recently wrote in the New York Times that "the fossil fuel industry has hijacked our political system" by spending $218 million on lobbying in 2018 and 2019, and donating 27 million to Senate and House candidates and party committees in the 2020 election cycle.

    At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson offers Some Facts about Money and Politics in response.

    About $100 million a year in lobbying is a lot of money, but it hardly puts the oil-and-gas guys at the top. There are other industries that are much bigger spenders — for example, Jane Fonda’s industry, which so far this year has spent about 40 percent more on lobbying than the entire energy sector combined and about 350 percent of what the oil-and-gas industry has spent. Does that mean that “entertainment interests are subverting our democracy?”

    It is, of course, difficult to put a price on the political value of the entertainment industry’s most valuable asset: celebrity itself. Half-literate boobs who are not famous have a considerably harder time getting this kind of undigested piffle into the New York Times. It’s not like she has a Nobel Prize!

    The top spenders on lobbying for 2019 can be found here. You will not see a lot of oil and gas on that list, which begins with: 1. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce; 2. The National Association of Realtors; 3. The Open Society Policy Center (cue spooky Theremin music); 4. The pharmaceuticals lobby; 5. The American Hospital Association; 6. Blue Cross Blue Shield; 7. The American Medical Association; 8. Amazon; 9. Facebook; 10. The Business Roundtable.

    Click through to discover the major campaign contributors. The fossil fuel folks are pretty far down the list there too. Kevin's bottom line (which I will unexpurgate):

    Big money isn’t subverting our democracy. Bullshit is.


  • Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center notes some good local news: USNH schools rank high for free speech.

    For the second year in a row, all undergraduate campuses of the University System of New Hampshire were nationally recognized for their commitment to freedom of speech.

    In its just-released “Speech Codes 2020” report, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gave the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University and Keene state College “green light” ratings. A green light signifies “that the institution does not maintain any written policies that imperil free expression.”

    By contrast, the state’s lone Ivy League institution, Dartmouth College, received a “red light” for having “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”

    We ridicule the University Near Here a lot, because they usually deserve it. But this is good continued news. If you are trying to steer your college-bound kiddos to a First Amendment-respecting institution, the FIRE report is here.

  • And the academics at Language Log have some fun with a recent headline on the website of New Hampshire Commie Public Radio:

    N.H. Defends Laconia Law Barring Female Nudity In U.S. Supreme Court Appeal

    Language Logger Mark Liberman explains the joke:

    Or with lower attachment of the prepositional phrase (yes, that's what it's called), you'd have the vexed constitutional question of whether a municipal ordinance could impose a dress code on the U.S. Supreme Court, even for the representatives of its own state.

    They provide a screenshot, a common practice when a site has made a blunder likely to be corrected. But, as I type, NHPR has not corrected.