Let me be nice and clear

This is an article published today in Duke’s student newspaper.

The article advocates for the silencing of ideas we disagree with as long as our actions aren’t completely unconstitutional. Therefore, here is a list of responses to this article the author would approve of:

  1. Getting a counter protest together to scream about what a horrible person the author is.
  2. Targeting her with horrible facebook and twitter smear campaigns, declaring what a bad* person she is
  3. Stage a protest and circulate a petition to get the Chronicle and Duke to take down this column and stop the author from writing any more
  4. Create a committee to approve of all future columns before publication to make sure they do not contain any intolerant opinions.
  5. Circulate this column with future prospective employers of the author, threaten to make a big protest if the author is hired at a firm. Ruin the author’s chance of employment because we disagree with her opinion.

*insert your own creative adjectives here

If an angry mob did this to the author, it’s hard to see how she could say it was unfair. Nevertheless, I don’t believe we should be as mean and intolerant as the Constitution allows us to be. There is a great benefit to tolerance beyond the tolerance of law.  Therefore, if you do what the author has suggested, you will not be elevating the level of intellectual discourse; you will be shutting out part of it. Intolerance, like speech, is a tool. And there is no reason a tool can be used by only your side.  We should not be making it easier to stop speakers from having an open dialogue, to stop interactions with ideas we dislike, or to get people fired for unpopular opinions.  Groups of people who have not heard all sides of an argument are by definition uninformed, and uninformed mobs are not good arbiters of the merits of arguments.

Credit Michael Tipton, Used and Licensed under CC-BY-SA

The NBA Should Shorten Their Season

I.

Did you know that the NBA has the best YouTube channel of any major North American sport? This is remarkable considering it is a distant third in terms of revenue.  It’s also a fascinating exercise in fan outreach, as the NBA actively encourages fan-made videos and other content while other sports use restrictive copyrights to make themselves the sole distributor of content. In addition to these policies (and the fact that I like basketball), it’s worth noting that while football is clearly the king of team sports in the US (especially if you include college football), there’s a risk that increased awareness of concussions and other injuries could cause football to lose out on revenue in the future. This could happen through changes in demand, with fewer people wanting to watch football, or changes in supply, as fewer athletes want to play. If you think it can’t happen, don’t forget that boxing used to be one of America’s most dominant sports.

Will this same fate happen to football? It’s impossible to know, but as a basketball fan, I hope the NBA is be prepared to try and take over that market space.  Before they are under the spotlight and the opportunity passes, they should implement some reforms. An important one would be the shortening of the season. Continue reading

Latin American Economies and Free Markets

Macroeconomics is a tricky beast. It’s easy to take data out of context to fit your narrative, but it’s always important to look at the data and consider what it means, whether it supports you point or not.

This first section is in response to a post on the internet about Chile and Pinochet. Continue reading

White Oak, Maryland
Seeding LEED, Public Domain image

David Friedman, Generic Drugs, Papal travels, and other links

I’ve got a couple interesting things in development, but in the meantime here are some links I’ve come across recently with some short analysis tacked on.

I don’t consider myself an anarcho-capitalist, although I agree with some of the arguments ancaps make.  I don’t find them too crazy if, for example, you accept the premise that even a well constrained government slowly escapes its constitutional shackles (debatable).  The result of this premise that the only option that would keep a government from expanding and infringing on freedom is to never have one at all. But I find it mostly uninteresting since I’m into politics and the political reality is that we have a government, we’ve had one for a long time, and we’re going to have one for quite some time into the future. Moreover, because I’m a consequentialist and most ancaps are deontological, some of the outrage at the government’s existence is also dulled. But despite all of that, this video by consequentialist anarcho-capitalist David Friedman summarizing his argument in The Machinery of Freedom (reviewed by Slate Star Codex here and more here) is excellent and well worth the 20 minute watch. Continue reading

Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, Gage Skidmore

Why We Should Stop Talking About Trump

I made a pledge not to talk about Donald Trump about a month ago. I felt that he was getting too much media coverage, and since I believed he had no chance to win the nomination, I felt that every person discussing him was to his benefit…and to the detriment of everyone else on Earth. I made that prediction based on a few factors (Nate Silver does a good job talking about them here), mostly that Trump has no campaign infrastructure, no party support, terrible favorability ratings, and early polling is essentially meaningless. Of course, he also doesn’t have any cohesive platform and the ideas he does have are atrocious, but because the conversation about Trump never died down, his terrible ideas have stuck around despite his inevitable campaign collapse. Continue reading

Movies! Summer 2015

This is a break from the more issue-focused last couple of posts to talk about one of the more fun things I was able to get done this summer, see some great movies!

In total I was able to see 7 movies during the summer movie season: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tomorrowland, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Ant-Man, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  It’s also worth noting that I tend to look at movies as a science fiction fan, and last year’s best summer sci-fi movie was far and away Edge of Tomorrow. How do this summer’s movies compare? Continue reading

Public Domain Image - White House Photograph Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library.

The Limitations of the Left-Right Spectrum

I.

I came across an article whose thesis is that people with my worldview are gravely mistaken about everything they believe.

How many liberals and progressives have heard this? It’s ridiculously common. Hell, even David Koch of the Koch brothers has said, “I’m a conservative on economic matters and I’m a social liberal.”

And it’s wrong. W-R-O-N-G Wrong.

You can’t separate fiscal issues from social issues. They’re deeply intertwined. They affect each other. Economic issues often are social issues. And conservative fiscal policies do enormous social harm.

Despite the age of the article (it was published in May), I’m interested in this for a couple reasons. One is that if we take “economically conservative” to be in favor of free markets (not always clear), then “economically conservative and socially liberal” is a good working definition for moderate libertarianism or classical liberalism. Believing libertarianism is just “wrong” is something that needs to be addressed given the large amount of people who identify as such, including myself. I was hoping for a strong critique of libertarianism, but it seems that the author mischaracterizes some libertarian positions. What’s more, if the author’s argument is correct, there are no real political positions outside the Left-Right political spectrum and perhaps none outside the Left at all! This would severely limit political discourse and our creativity in forming policy solutions to society’s challenges. Continue reading

The Idealized Presidential Platform

If you were running for president, what would you run on?

These days there are more presidential candidates than ever, and those candidates like to come up with idealized policy proposals that have no chance of passing to post on their websites and shore up their ideological credentials. I’ve decided to join the ruckus with my own mix of libertarian proposals from fairly obvious to extremely radical. I’m going to be treating these pieces as a first draft of my hypothetical presidential platform with room for growth and change, and I won’t be delving too deeply into any single topic.

The Republican National Convention, held in Philadelphia, June, 1900 – Public Domain Image

Continue reading

New Horizons, Prediction Markets, and other Links

This morning, the New Horizons probe had its closest approach to Pluto.  It’s pretty cool that human ingenuity has gotten to the point where it’s possible to launch a rocket, and then 10 years later get it within a couple thousand miles of a (dwarf) planet orbiting ~6 billion kilometers away from us. But keeping with this blog’s theme, this doesn’t seem very libertarian! Isn’t this a big waste of money and resources for the government to be sending probes to Pluto?  Well, yes, obviously.

 - Public Domain Photo from NASA

This picture of Pluto cost $650M

Continue reading

Inequality and Consequentialism

This post is a response to two related posts on Bleeding Heart Libertarians, one by Duke Professor Jonathan Anomaly and one by Richmond Professor Jessica Flanigan.

Professor Anomaly’s post asks the question: “Is global wealth Inequality unjust?”. He cites Dan Moller in an article about economic growth divergence which is pretty convincing.  Moller points out that most of the disparities in wealth can be attributed to exponential economic growth that certain nations seemed to stumble upon. The causes for these are not known, but they seem to be long-term over the course of hundreds of years. Likely candidates include scientific advancement and technology, political and economic institutions, bourgeois social norms, etc.  Since growth was similar across countries that participated in colonialism and ones that did not, over the course of hundreds of years and many different policies, it seems clear that colonial exploitation, while awful and unjust, isn’t a good explanation for differences in wealth.  The resources exploited were trivial in terms of how vastly the differences in economic development are. I would highly recommend reading the whole article. Continue reading