Chronicle of the Conspiracy
Saturday, January 08, 2005JOKE OF THE DAY
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:22 PM | link
IS REDEMPTION A CHOICE? Sylvain Galineau, who blogs at ChicagoBoyz, responds to my post about Keith Burgess-Jackson's views on conservative and liberal appraisals of human nature:
I don't really agree with Burgess-Jackson's thesis. Because socialism, communism and much liberal orthodoxy does not acknowledge the existence of human nature in the first place. Stephen Pinker laid it out very well in his most excellent book, The Blank Slate. Overall and in my experience, much leftist ideology follows one of two main, compatible tracks. One, our values and behavior are entirely constructed by society; our vices and limitations therefore reflect the 'bugs' of society, which must be fixed. The second, which connects with the first, is the Rousseauist concept of the noble savage i.e. man is inherently good until society corrupts him; this concept has obviously been recycled - pun intended - most recently in the service of environmentalism.Update [1/9/2005]... Dave Nadig chimes in:
I agree completely with Sylvain's analysis. But there's an interesting subtext. We fall into a pattern, certainly in this country, of associating "conservative" with "religious" and "liberal" with "atheist" -- obviously I'm overstating, but the phrases "religious right" and "godless communists" aren't successful stereotypes for no reason.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:53 AM | link
Friday, January 07, 2005TSUNAMI APOCALYPSO Michael Crichton's latest novel is about the religiosity of environmentalism. Now here's its apocalyptic side, in an AP story about the tsunami:
Many believe the tsunami that devastated this tourist hotspot and killed thousands had one positive side: By washing away rampant development, it returned the beaches to nature.Peter Mork has some trenchant comments about this on his Economics With a Face blog.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:10 PM | link
JOKE OF THE DAY
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:22 PM | link
ANOTHER GREAT KRUGMAN FISKING You gotta love a Krugman takedown that ends by saying "Krugman has become Maureen Dowd without the upper-lip bleach. And with a combover." Read the whole thing on VodkaPundit. Thanks to reader Jason Legel for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:55 PM | link
LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES ARE BOTH PESSIMISTS Interesting posting from the blogging philosopher Keith Burgess-Jackson, asserting that conservatives are pessimisitic about human nature while liberals are optimistic:
Conservatives are pessimists. They believe that human beings are essentially bad (evil, selfish, vain, power-hungry) and that the best we can hope for is that their worst impulses are constrained by religion, the family, community, and the state. Liberals are optimists. They believe that human beings are essentially good but are corrupted by society. If corruption is caused by society, then changing society will free humans to be good. Their innate goodness will shine forth like a diamond. This explains the liberal fervor to change (remake, engineer) society.I agree that today's liberal orthodoxy stems from the Social Gospel movement of a century ago (chronicled in Robert Willam Fogel's excellent book on the religio-economic history of the United States, The Fourth Great Awakening) -- the major tenet of which was that the state was to be made responsible for alleviating the socio-economic conditions that were conducive to sin. Remedies were regulation of big business, redistribution through taxation, anti-vice laws, environmental remediation, and the whole panoply of what became the New Deal and the Great Society. And yes, that does suggest optimism about the innate nature of individual men -- though it suggests pessimism about the nature of men acting collectively: it is society that must be controlled for the sake of the individual. Of course the fatal flaw in this outlook is that society is nothing but the aggregation of individuals, and any attempt to control society, said to be corrupt, ends up being a control on the individuals who were said to be virtuous. But that makes it sound like a paradox, or a situation of unintended consequences. I think it's more than that. I think that the liberal dogma only pretends to be optimistic about individuals, and only pretends to seek to enlarge government for the sake of providing the necessities of a virtous life to basically good individuals. Instead, I think liberalism regards individuals as weak and flawed, and seeks to use the power of government not to empower them to be virtuous, but to force them to be virtuous. If charity is a virtue, and the rich are insufficiently virtuous, then we'll tax the bastards. That reining in of individual vice is the same thing that Keith says conservatives seek. And that explains why, in the end, today's liberals and conservatives end up at pretty much the same place. They both want to control you.
Now libertarians, on the other hand, are the real optimists about individual men. We seek to rein in the coercive power of collectives -- be it church, state, or corporation -- so that the largest possible number of transactions in the society are voluntary and individually determined. That's because we really believe in people -- we want them to make their own voluntary choices, right or wrong, win or lose. The only coercive role of the state is to protect individuals from force and fraud. Beyond that, we're optimists: you're on your own, and you'll do just fine.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:54 PM | link
Ford’s personal ambitions and utter lack of principle have propelled him beyond the boundaries of the Black Consensus and, therefore, outside of the African American conversation. The problem is: Black people don’t control the terms of their own conversations. Corporate dominion over media is just as endemic to the Black airwaves and print outlets as to general media, and these media corporations celebrate crossover dreams even when they are the product of treachery against historical and current Black aspirations. ...Harold Ford styles himself as the candidate of youth. However, we know that greed and ambition are as old as dirt.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:43 PM | link
EXACTLY "Snitzel is a good colt. But he's no Luskin Star."
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:00 AM | link
FUTURE OF THE TIMES? Here's a piece from BusinessWeek called "The Future of The New York Times." A one sentence summary of my view on that would be to quote the Uma Thurman character from "Kill Bill, Volume 2" -- "Bitch, you don't have a future." But BusinessWeek has more detail on that. They say of Times Company president Janet Robinson "'She's never met a number she couldn't spin positively,' one analyst says." Maybe we should get Gretchen Morgenson on the case, because there isn't too much that's positive in the New York Times' numbers:
Here's what BusinessWeek has to say on the matter of the Times' liberal bias:
Dan Okrent has told me many times that, in fact, the Times gets far more complaints from the left (for not being liberal enough) than from the right (for being too liberal). So either Keller or Okrent is lying. And BusinessWeek gets it wrong by quoting Okrent's "Of course it is" diagnosis -- he was specifically not referring to the paper's campaign coverage. BusinessWeek goes on to quote publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. repeating the same sound-bite that that encapsulates what Okrent really meant:
So that's the Times' story, and they are sticking to it -- both its publisher and its "public editor" who is supposed to be watchdogging him. "We're not liberal, we're urban." So -- by definition -- any bias in the Times simply can't be political in nature. Now don't you feel stupid for thinking the Times is politically biased? Next question.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:57 AM | link
FAHRENHEIT TSUNAMI Surely he's joking:
there are many provable irregularities in the official American tsunami story that simply have to be recorded now, or forever be lost in the sands of time. It is beyond any doubt that a giant tidal wave (tsunami) smashed its way through South and South East Asia, and still had enough legs to continue all the way across the Indian Ocean to Africa, where it killed and injured a few hundred more. So the only question we must ask, is whether this tsunami was a natural or man-made catastropheThanks to reader Jill Olson for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:39 AM | link
NICE WORK Jon Henke does an excellent job of fisking Krugman's Tuesday column on his Q&O blog. I'll weigh in on the same topics at length for NRO on Monday.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:34 AM | link
"And reality will continue to be worse than any fiction I could write."Nuff said.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:50 AM | link
Thursday, January 06, 2005A HINT FROM SNOW? Can the Bush administration -- dare we hope! -- be hinting that it might try to reform the excesses of Sarbanes-Oxley, and rein in the inquisitorial zeal of the Eliot Spitzers of the world? From a Business Week interview with Treasury secretary John Snow:
"I get a sense -- and you can't quantify this -- but I get a sense that the system may have become too prosecutorial, and without enough consultation between and among the regulators and the prosecutors. The sense that many businesspeople have is that they're under siege from serial investigations, and serial regulatory prosecutions, and criminal and civil prosecutions.Thanks to reader Tom Demas for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:07 PM | link
THE TIMES PLAYS BEARD FOR SONTAG Why did the New York Times' obit of Susan Sontag not mention her lesbian relationship with Annie Liebovitz . Gay City News has the story:
In a 2000 New Yorker interview, Sontag said, "That I have had girlfriends as well as boyfriends is what? Is something I guess I never thought I was supposed to have to say, since it seems to me the most natural thing in the world."No, that's not journalism. That's the Times covering up for one of its intellectual paragons.
Update [1/7/05]... Reader Matthew Harris says,
Just wondering how sensitive the Times is when the deceased, not quite out of the closet gay is a conservative, say Roy Cohn. And do kids of passed-away conservatives get to decide what the obit can and can't say?
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:55 PM | link
OFFER REFUSED Our antitrust guru Skip Oliva has a harrowing tale of Don Eliot, the boss of all bosses on the Mises blog:
Mario Puzo wrote in his classic Mafia novel, The Godfather, that “a lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.” Spitzer, the consummate lawyer with his briefcase, stole nearly $3 million in broad daylight under the guise of an antitrust lawsuit, but that wasn’t enough. So now a 61-year man faces the loss of all personal liberty for up to seven years—the maximum penalty for perjury in New York—because he didn’t do a sufficient job of groveling when Spitzer and his thugs came to rob his company.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:24 AM | link
KOHN FISKS MOYERS Bob Kohn has a remarkable one-line-at-a-time fisking of Bill Moyers' final PBS show, the one in which his farewell message consisted of warning that "The biggest story of our time is how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee. We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans." This is one to savor. Read the whole thing!
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:40 AM | link
THE TIMES SHOULD BE SO CANDID Here's Wall Street Journal publisher Karen House, in her annual letter to readers, describing the editorial page's point of view:
Respected and successful newspapers, much like respected and successful people, must know who they are and where they stand. Thus, our editorial pages espouse a clear and consistent philosophy that we summarize as "free people, free markets" and that encompasses a passionate belief in the virtue of individual liberties, free markets, free trade and even the free movement of people. We stand by this philosophy not just in the U.S. but around the world. Whether you call our philosophy conservative or classical liberal or libertarian matters little. The point is that we espouse it with clarity and consistency regardless of its popularity in any particular time or place.Well, that's pretty frank. Why can't the New York Times make an equivalent statement about its own liberal slant? Simple -- it's because liberals treat their point of view as fundamentally correct, beyond ideology, not requiring a label, what Shelby Steele describes as "decency itself." The presumption is a rhetorical dirty trick. Conservatives, by and large, don't use it -- much to their credit and, sadly, to their great cost.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:27 AM | link
Wednesday, January 05, 2005BOTHERING WITH OKRENT, ONE MORE TIME It's been months since I've wasted my time being lied to by New York Times "public editor" Dan Okrent. But today there was one I couldn't pass up. Here's my email to him today:
I know we have stopped "corresponding," and that you claim such as a victory for your columnist corrections policy (imagine what a victory you could claim if you just stopped checking email altogether). But this one is so egregious I had to bother, though I'm sure it will go down the hole like all the others.Update [1/6/2005]...The editor of a regional paper writes,
"Thanks for the post on Barry Schwartz's error. Molly Ivins, in the column sent out by Creators Syndicate today, repeats the '10 to 30 times' error (and since she is an unrepentant plagiarist, we know where she got it, don't we? but we won't say so) and because of your warning we took that paragraph out."Update [1/7/05] Reader Michael Dowding notes,
I guess the unasked question is -- why does an editor of a regional paper feel it's OK to regularly run the work of a writer he considers an unrepentant plagiarist?Best regards,
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:54 PM | link
And today there are two more on the op-ed page. One is from Gene Sperling, the Kerry campaign's top economic advisor (that's a helluva credential), arguing that the richest 1% of Americans are just going to have to pay higher taxes to right Social Security's finances (but didn't Krugman say that the system has no problem?). But it's the second one today that is truly remarkable -- by Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore. He spends the first half of his op-ed offering his opinions on the pitfalls of investing in stocks (that makes sense -- don't you seek your investment advice from psychology professors?). But then he gets down to his real business -- the idea that the increased choice and control Social Security participants would have through personal accounts is in and of itself a bad thing:
Schwartz goes on to cite various "scientific" evidence for this view -- without even hinting at any substantiation that it applies in this case -- that offering people a couple of index funds to choose from in a personal account would in fact cause them "to opt out of choosing altogether." And he never explains why such opting out, even if it did occur, would leave anyone worse off than he is now. But that's the way it is with public intellectuals like Schwartz -- the pseudoscientific talk is just a rationale for a political agenda that has nothing to do with any of the cited evidence. If you have any doubt about Schwartz's agenda, check out this column he wrote for The New Republic in August, defending Kerry's plan to increase taxes on the rich. According to Schwartz, it's practically our duty to tax them because it will make them feel better.
Don't you love the way pseudoscientists talk? Consider the presumption and the arrogance when he says, "we now know there is some significant subset of people likely to be made better off through heavier taxation." Who is "we"? Well informed scientists, as opposed to the grubby masses laboring under the delusion they want to keep the money they earned? Why "now"? Because, at last, "we" have finally performed conclusive experiments that absolutely prove it? And what does it mean to "know"? Do experiments in psychology produce definitive knowledge that can be applied to public policy? And what does it mean to "be made better off"? According to whom? "We"? What do the people in question, themselves, have to say about that? Did "we" even ask them? This is precisely why plaintiff's attorneys love pseudoscientists, and pay them vast sums to testify in product liability trials. They articulate fundamentally ungrounded and deeply opinionated views with such conviction, and with such great credentials, that they appear to be facts -- and the attorneys only bring in the pseudoscientists whom they have pre-screened to be sure they will represent the plaintiff's cause. And so it is with the Times, calling this expert witness in this political trial for the future of Social Security.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:15 AM | link
Tuesday, January 04, 2005AT LEAST HE WON'T WORRY Kelly Freas, the painter who immortalized Mad's Alfred E. Neuman, is dead at 82.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 4:22 PM | link
FALLING WITH A BULLET For all the Bush administration's victories, the sad fact is that its blindspot for regulatory burdens has caused America, for the first time, to slip out of the top ten in the annual list of the world's most economically free countries compiled by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. You could argue that the unique circumstances of the post-bubble world have maneuvered Bush into acquiescing to anti-capitalist legislation like Sarbanes Oxley. But would Ronald Reagan have given in? Based on every public statement Bush has made on the subject, he signed Sarbanes Oxley gladly. And how about antitrust regulation under Bush which is just as anti-capitalist as it was under Clinton? Why has nothing been done to rein in Eliot Spitzer? Why has Bush appointed an SEC chairman who follows in Spitzer's footsteps? Maybe this list will be a wake-up call, but I doubt it.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:35 AM | link
Monday, January 03, 2005CHUSID CELEBRATED I normally berate the New York Times, but I'll make an exception for this excellent review of our friend Irwin Chusid's book, The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora. I have to wonder, though, if the Times would have been so flattering if they knew that Irwin contributes to this web site?
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:39 AM | link
STARTING THE NEW YEAR HALF RIGHT An Arthur Laffer op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. It's key message is simple stuff, really, but it bears repeating, and it explains why the handwringing about America's trade deficit is really just another version of "blame America first." Rather than seeing rising overseas purchases as lazy Americans "borrowing" from hard-working foreigners to buy their goods, look at it as foreigners urgently trying to get their money invested in America, and willing to sell us their goods at a discount in order to do it:
The only way the U.S. can have a trade deficit amounting to 5.6% of GDP is if foreigners invest that amount of their capital in the U.S. It's a matter of simple accounting. But once you realize that the trade deficit is, in fact, the capital surplus you would clearly rather have capital lined up on our borders trying to get into our country than trying to get out. Growth countries, like growth companies, borrow money, and the U.S. is the only growth country of all the developed countries. As a result, we're a capital magnet.Laffer has it right on trade -- but sadly, by the time the op-ed ends, he's wandered into the weeds on the trickier subject of domestic inflation. It's one thing to say (correctly) that the falling dollar has nothing to do with the trade deficit (true) -- and quite another to say it has nothig to do with inflation (false). Oh well... nowadays, I'll settle for half right.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:55 AM | link
JOKE OF THE DAY Okay, so it's an old one. It's still a good one.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:47 AM | link
HAPPY NEW YEAR With the negativity and divisiveness of the election behind us, I'm expecting a pretty good year for the markets. Here's my take, as quoted in the local press.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:43 AM | link