August 19th, 2008

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How To Tell the Smart Libertarian From the Ideological Ignorant Idjit

Did a somewhat longer version of this on my professional blog. But here it goes.

Was reading the latest Darwin Awards collection and found the story of a die-hard against the government fella who refused to wear a seat belt because he opposed mandatory seat belt laws. He died when the car he was in hit a patch of ice and rolled over. The driver and the other passenger, who both wore seat belts, survived with minimal injuries.

It struck me that this was a splendid example of the need to differentiate between the process and the outcome and where too many folks (Libertarian or not) fall down. A smart Libertarian in our story may think the government has no business mandating seat belts, but will make an independent assessment of risk and may (I would say should) wear a seat belt voluntarily because it can be statistically shown to save lives for fairly minimal effort and discomfort. It is the ideological idjit like our Darwin Award winner who refuses to wear seat belts simply because the government (appropriately or inappropriately) says you must.

It is tempting to have the government pass laws that say "you must breath, eat food, and drink fluids" or -- perhaps better -- "you must urinate and defecate at some point in your life" just to further clear the pool of potential voters who find conditioned reflex a preferable substitute for reason. But in fairness, it's not only Libertarians who indulge in such vices. Search any ideological field and you will invariably find a subset of folks who will jump in front of speeding trains if they think liberals or conservatives are telling you not to jump in front of speeding trains. Indeed, in the modern world, given the complexity of information and the sheer number of critical places where voters need to make decisions, I must to some degree rely on trust of individuals and trust of principles or I become paralyzed. But as the Darwin Award winner in question demonstrated, you can take the matter too far.
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Dork Tower Achieves Political Relevance

For those who do not usually read Dork Tower, I note that the McCain campaign appears to regard this May 12 cartoon as worthy of comment.

When you are reduced to arguing that a cartoon about role playing games is unfair, you have really, really lost it.

BTW, Aaron learned Munchkin Bites at Pennsic and totally loves it, even if he doesn't get the jokes.
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Link Harvest: GAO Report on Corporate Tax Collection

This ties in with one of my chief criticism's of the McCain tech policy. It relies on tax credit inducements to achieve policy goals. But if corporations are not paying taxes for a variety of reasons (most likely the way in which the tax code operates), then tax credits do not create any incentive.

Yes, companies still lobby for them, because hey never hurt and they make a nice substitute for actual policy. But the rational person should not expect companies to change their behavior for a credit that will make no difference in their bottom line.
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What's Your Favorite Obama Conspiracy Theory?

Presidential candidates are always the subjects of conspiracy theories, I suppose. But what delights me about Obama is he has become the object of so many different conspiracy theories from all over the spectrum. I don't mean "Obama is a secret Muslim" sort of stuff. I mean people who tell me in all seriousness why Obama was allowed to win the primary and why he may or may not be allowed to win the general election. Here are a few of my favorites. I have heard each of these proposed in all seriousness.

1) From white people: Obama was the choice of the RNC because they could not beat Clinton or Edwards. They knew that liberals and progressives could be guilted into voting for a black man, but that real America is not "ready" for a black candidate.

2) From non-white people: White people set Obama up to win because the economy is going down the tubes. He will win the election and get blamed for all the bad stuff. After him, it will be impossible to get a non-white person nominated for a generation.

3) Hilary Clinton wanted to lose because she realized the economy would tank. This way she can run in 2012 after McCain beats Obama.

4) Obama was the choice of the DLC when it became clear Clinton could not beat Edwards. He is a tool of the Democratic leadership to keep out real progressives.

What's your favorite conspiracy theory? And who "allows" Obama to win anyway for these conspiracy theories to work?