Category Archives: Politics

Primaries and Democratic Reform

The 2016 Presidential Campaign has gotten underway with Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Hillary Clinton, and Marco Rubio announcing their campaigns to win their respective party nomination.  The Republican field looks to be the more interesting primary until there is an actual challenger to the Hillary Clinton juggernaut, which may never materialize. In addition to the announced Republican candidates, it is likely that at the very least Jeb Bush and Scott Walker will join the race sometime soon (Ohio governor John Kasich is also looking more likely).

Changing the Republican Party...maybe

Credit: Gage Skidmore, Licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0

As a moderate libertarian/neoclassical liberal, I’ve been looking forward to a Rand Paul campaign for some time. Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns were a much needed challenge to the stale rhetoric seen in campaigns for the past 20 years. Finally hearing a Republican who opposed continuous foreign wars and pulverizing civil liberties was refreshing. Of course, Ron Paul’s challenging of traditional Republican ideas did not mean he was a moderate. Uncompromising might be a good euphemism. Exceedingly reactionary might be more appropriate. His ideological purity on most issues meant his campaign could never move very far beyond its own base. Not that I minded! But it would be interesting to see what a more moderate candidate could do. Continue reading

Updated Links

I’ve updated the links to add a new section for reference websites that aren’t updated in the same way blogs are.  All of the new sites listed under “Reference” I would highly recommend, but for different reasons.

Basketball-reference.com is the best way to get basketball stats hands-down. If you are at all into sports data, this site has data on games, teams, players, and coaches for college and professional levels going back decades. It even has more advanced stats, pace-adjusted, whatever you could want for free.

Learn Liberty, Libertarianism.org, and the Library of Economics and Liberty are awesome libertarian/economic websites. Libertarianism.org (run by the Cato Institute) is the best site for introductory essays discussing libertarianism and classical liberalism, and Learn Liberty (run by IHS) is similar but with an emphasis on videos.  The Library of Economics and Liberty has tons of publications from classical liberal thinkers going back centuries.

Steve Gibson’s Sci-Fi Book Guide is a list of science fiction novels compiled by computer security expert Steve Gibson (whose Podcast is in my blog list).  It’s different from your normal sci-fi book list and I’ve enjoyed his recommendations so far. I plan on having a more in depth blog on sci-fi novels soon.

Things Every CS Major Should Know is a way too long of a list of things that I don’t know, but an excellent guide for self education for anyone interested in computers and coding.  Professor Might’s blog is awesome but is often more technical than I need, so I don’t have it in my blog list.

I’d also like to highlight one relatively new addition to my blog links: Slate Star Codex. Scott Alexander, the author of this blog, is the most impressive writer I’ve seen in a blogger.  He writes volumes, and has an emphasis on rationality and rhetoric.  He’s also libertarian leaning, but I would describe his position as rational, libertarian-leaning political skeptic. I would highly recommend his blog.

Libertarian Police Skepticism Goes Mainstream

In 2014, critiquing the police went mainstream. “Police militarization” stopped being a term heard exclusively on libertarian internet radio shows or reddit forums, and instead became a normal talking point mentioned by politicians and news stations.  I believe I have maintained a healthy skepticism of all government, even local police forces, but it felt weird when reality pushed past the limits of fiction and kept going. Back in 2012, many libertarians were wary of the capabilities of the US intelligence community. But then Edward Snowden happened, and suddenly anyone not communicating exclusively in ephemeral Diffie-Hellman key exchanges using Perfect Forward Secrecy while wearing a tinfoil hat looked like a moron.

That same phenomenon has repeated itself in the past year; in the summer of 2014, any civil libertarian worth his or her salt probably believed the War on Drugs had given too much power to police forces at the expense of privacy and individual rights.  But would they have predicted police forces using military grade equipment on city streets, pointing semi-automatic rifles at unarmed civilians, arresting journalists, killing civilians with chokeholds, and then going on semi-strike by not “making arrests unless when necessary”? No one could be paranoid enough to believe that and be taken seriously.  But once again, the crazies were proven right: Continue reading

Corporate Tax Avoidance and Inversions

After a discussion about corporate tax avoidance, I made an interesting discovery that equating corporate inversions with moving profits overseas to avoid tax burdens is a common misconception.  In case anyone was wondering, that’s clearly untrue. Inversions are a uniquely American phenomenon since the US is the only developed country to force its home-based corporations to pay not only taxes in a foreign country, but also American taxes on profits earned abroad.  This is one of the more bizarre elements of the tax code and also results in Americans living overseas being forced to renounce their citizenship to avoid back taxes. Moreover, the State Department has tried to make it far more difficult to renounce your citizenship in order to keep people paying taxes.  Yes really. Continue reading

Analyzing the Minimum Wage: The Data

Today, we will look at the vast amount of data and see what conclusions we can draw from them, first looking at more seemingly partisan data on the Right and Left and working up from there (see my previous posts on Rights-based arguments and the importance of empiricism in economics).

The Right

This is one of the meta-analyses of Neumark and Wascher (the economists most cited in opposition to the minimum wage increases).  On page 115 we find the great line: “What is likely most striking to the reader who has managed to wade through our lengthy review is the wide range of estimates of the effects of the minimum wage on employment, especially when compared to the review by Brown et al. in 1982.”  That’s for sure. Continue reading

Analyzing the Minimum Wage: Economics and Empericism

Yesterday, I posted my first piece on this series exploring the minimum wage and demonstrating why utilitarian arguments are so powerful. Today, I will delve into the utilitarian idea surrounding the minimum wage, and consequently an economic analysis of this policy.  Economic theory is an excellent way to understand the consequentialist impacts of a policy in marketplace, but this post will also cover the limitations of theory vs data (for the data analysis, see my subsequent post).

The Economics of the Minimum Wage

Economics allows us to understand how market actors and institutions impact the distribution and exchange of resources.  Continue reading

Analyzing the minimum wage: Rights based arguments are meh

The minimum wage debate has reentered the political stage with special promotion by President Obama, starting with his State of the Union Address this past January.  The political huffing and moral rhetoric surrounding the topic may give the impression that it is a straightforward issue; on one side are the corporate employers who are watching out only for their bottom lines and their profit margins, while on the other stand the working poor who could use a  helping hand from legislators.

As is often the case in politics, the actual issues at hand are far more complex and interesting than the rhetoric would have you believe, and I think debate about the minimum wage misses not only a great deal of understanding of the other side, but also a great deal of research done on this topic.  This series of posts (next and final posts) will construct a thorough picture of the motivations behind the minimum wage through an analysis of both the politics surrounding the minimum wage as well as the extensive economic research done in the past 20 years. Continue reading

A Libertarian Foreign Policy

An important criticism of both libertarian political ideology and practical policy is the lack of positive goals in international relations.  Libertarians are often derided as isolationists, and even Ron Paul’s self-classification as a “non-interventionist” perpetuates the perception that libertarians can only talk about foreign policy in terms of “doing less”. But this criticism can be broadly rebutted on two fronts.  The first is that the libertarian opposition to military engagement and advocacy for military reduction is not only a healthy and needed reality check, but ultimately better for our national security.  The second is that there are other paths besides military power which should be emphasized, notably free trade, which policy in the past decade has largely ignored.  I should note that my goals in this post are pretty modest.  It is my belief that any foreign policy position labelled as libertarian would have difficulty finding mainstream acceptance, yet given these two moderate positions, I believe I can construct a foreign policy platform most ideological libertarians (and actually most Americans) would agree with. Continue reading

Supreme Court confirms states can ban racial factors in school admissions, hiring

This is from a Politico story covering the topic and there are too many good quotes to pass up.

The outcome of the case was not a shock, but the lopsided, 6-2 vote signaled the court’s continuing rightward shift on issues of race.

Over the past week, I’ve tried to expose myself to more areas of the leftist blogosphere, and it is fascinating how often blogs like to accuse the right of racism, rather than talk about actual policy ideas. Continue reading

Let’s get rid of the Selective Service System

It has been 40 years since the United States has used a draft.  In fact, did you know that in 1975, registration for the draft was ended through executive order by President Ford?  No males had to register for the draft until July 1980 when the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan forced President Carter to re-institute the registration of all men aged 18-25.  We never used it in the 80s, and eventually the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.  Yet here we are almost 34 years later, and we still force virtually all males to register for a draft that will never happen.  It’s not just politically unlikely–it would require a good deal of investment and restructuring for the current all-professional US military to be able to handle an influx of draftees.  We are essentially throwing away the $24 million a year it takes to run the Selective Service System to maintain a database of names we cannot use.

Furthermore, there is no political interest group that wants a draft, and registration can be ended through executive order without any negotiating in Congress. This needs to happen now so we can focus on more pressing issues, but we might as well start with the easy stuff.  Sign the petition I made here.

If you’d like to read more about the Selective Service, read this.