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May 27, 2016

"This America's for you"

"If political candidates were beer brands" I wrote when Donald still had primary opponents, Donald Trump would be Budweiser.

Unsurprisingly, I'm not the only one who thinks those two brash personalities are a match made in marketing heaven.

From May 23 through the presidential election, Budweiser beer will bear a different name. Eager to do its bit to make America great again, the brewer will replace the name "Budweiser" with "America" on its twelve-ounce bottles and cans.

George Will is quick to note the irony-

Nothing says "It's morning in an America that is back and standing tall" quite like beer cans festooned with Americana by Anheuser-Busch InBev, a firm based in Leuven, Belgium, and run by a Brazilian. The beer brands most familiar to Americans - Budweiser, Miller, Coors - are foreign-owned.

To which I reply, HUZZAH! From Levi's jeans to Air Jordan shoes, the world's consumers have long flocked to American goods. It's only natural that the world's industrialists also flock to ownership of American corporations. (I wonder if the Belgian Donald Trump lectures that Belgian companies should not have large portions of their workforce in exotic overseas lands like U.S.A.?) And it's also fully American, in the truest free-market capitalist, err, trade tested betterment sense of what Americanism really is, that the Busch family would grow the value of a brand and then sell it for an obscene amount of money to whomever in the world valued it the highest.

Will sneers, "Not cheerful" at Bud's brash marketing image. He misses the point. Being an American is about success. There are many words to describe events like the industrial revolution, D-Day, the moon landing and reconstruction of the World Trade Center. "Cheerful" is way down the list.

budweiser-america-cans.jpg

"America - King of Beers." King of industry. King of you-name-it.


May 26, 2016

All Hail Taranto!

Shirley, you will permit me an All Hail Taranto on my birthday...

taranto160526.gif


Or maybe it's the FDA...

WSJ Ed Page:

Boys with lethal Duchenne muscular dystrophy have waited years for the Food and Drug Administration to approve a safe and innovative treatment, and they'll have to hold out longer. On Wednesday the FDA delayed a decision on eteplirsen by Sarepta Therapeutics, but the agency can still choose the correct scientific and legal outcome.

Sarepta said FDA had notified the company that a decision would not be issued on Thursday as scheduled. The agency offered no clues beyond promising to finish "internal discussions" and the broader review "in as timely a manner as possible." An FDA advisory panel voted against approval in April, though agency bosses can accept or disregard the input.


It ain't Disney World.


Dumberest Damn Thing Ever.

I was wrong giving the title to the Ivanpah Power plant. Though someday some planet-of-the-apes civilization will find it as mumble "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot."

No, the dumberest thing is the Libertarian Party. Don't take my word for it -- how about the esteemed Aaron Ross Powell? Don't dilute Libertarianism Just to Defeat Donald Trump.

That's the risk for libertarians if Republicans turned off by Trump migrate toward the Libertarian Party and change our ideological center of gravity. In March, the Federalist's Ben Domenech sketched out a scenario where, "If the #NeverTrump people want a protest vote, their best path is a Libertarian takeover, with someone who is Libertarianish on some issues -- pot, prostitution, marriage -- and yet pro-life and pro-religion enough to win over the votes of the holdouts to the Trump machine." Last week, former two-term governor William Weld (R-Ma.) announced that he is teaming up with former two-term governor Gary Johnson (R-N.M.) to contend for the Libertarian nomination when the party convenes in Orlando this weekend. Johnson, of course, was the LPís nominee in 2012. And Weld's brand of fiscal conservatism, combined with tolerance on social issues, offers, as my Cato Institute colleague David Boaz writes, "a clear alternative to Trump and Clinton." But Weld's record is really that of a moderate Republican.

'Xactly. There are not enough true believers to elect a dog catcher in an off year. To win, you dilute or you lose -- if you're a party. If you're an advocacy organization along the lines of the NRA however, you can keep your soul and move policy.

And you escape the insuperable fundraising needs. Gov. Johnson says we're going to need more money next time.


Devastating!

I saw several pretty strong headlines yesterday about the IG report for Sec. Clinton's email server. Even CNN used strong words. Reading through them, I was not at all certain that there was anything "devastating."

Then I read the WSJ Ed Page's description. Mercy!

The IG--who had better hire a food-taster--also found that Mrs. Clinton neither sought nor received permission for her private communications. The former Secretary also understood the security risks this posed because she was warned several times.

In March 2011 the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security sent Mrs. Clinton a memorandum that warned of a "dramatic increase" in attempts by "cyber actors to compromise the private home e-mail accounts of senior Department officials," with an eye toward "technical surveillance and possible blackmail."

Following that memo, security staff twice briefed Mrs. Clinton's immediate staff on this threat. A June 2011 cable, sent over Mrs. Clinton's name to all diplomatic and consular posts, warned of this new threat to home accounts, as well as the news that Google had reported cyber attacks on the Gmail accounts of U.S. government employees. Mrs. Clinton and her staff ignored her own warnings.

One official suggested State set up a stand-alone computer for Mrs. Clinton in her office to check the Internet and private email. That never happened. A different official suggested she have two mobile devices--one for personal use and one with a "State Department email account" that would "be subject to [Freedom of Information Act] requests." Her team said no.

As for Mrs. Clinton's claim that her private account was secure, the report cites several instances of techies shutting down her server due to hacking concerns. "Notification is required when a user suspects compromise of, among other things, a personally owned device containing personally identifiable information," says the report. But the IG says it found "no evidence" that Mrs. Clinton or her staff filed such reports.


After that, they stop being so nice.

UPDATE: Right wing nutjobs at the NYTimes pile on: "Voters just donít trust her."

UPDATE II: (QOTD candidate): "It can charitably be termed scathing, and it leaves no doubt that Team Clinton has lied flagrantly to the public about EmailGate for more than a year." -- John R. Schindler @ Observer

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 11:37 AM | What do you think? [0 comments]

May 25, 2016

Nailed it!

This. A Barton Hinkle makes an important point by marrying conservative distrust of disorder with libertarian distrust for the state monopoly on force.

[Sen. Bernie Sanders:] "Our campaign of course believes in nonviolent change and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals."

Which, to be blunt about it, is a crock. Sanders' entire campaign is premised on the idea of violent change--lots of it. His supporters just want someone else to do the dirty work.

Sanders proposes hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is another way of saying he wants to make it illegal for employers to pay workers less than $15 an hour--even when there are workers who are willing to take less. He also proposes to make employers provide 12 weeks paid family and medical leave, two weeks of paid vacation, and seven paid sick days.

How is he going to achieve all that? By changing the law and then enforcing it. Note the root of the word "enforce." If a company chooses not to comply the consequences will, eventually, entail the use of armed officers of the law.



Internet Segue Machine

ONE: Colorado folk should please, please, please watch Poverty, Inc. on Channel 12 tonight at 7PM. Outside folks, buy or rent it on Amazon and I will pay you back.

TWO: I remain suspicious of the medium. It is powerful, but there is a Leni Riefenstahl edge. I growl when I watch Michael Moore, or the bozos on 60 Minutes. Am I certain that the ones I like -- like Poverty, Ivc. and Mine Your Own Business -- are totally above such tricks?

Katoe Couric, you'll be unsurprised to hear is not.

THREE: Post-viewing question. I have become a big fan of Raising Men Lawn Care. A couple of college students in my Daddy's home town of Huntsville, Alabama started mowing lawns of the elderly and disabled at no charge.

They recruited young men to help and pass out T-Shirts modeled on the belt system of martial arts: mow a lawn, get a white T-shirt, ten for a yellow, 25 for a blue, &c. Hence, they are "Raising Men" and helping the community. No government jack, Briggs & Stratton donated several mowers and now they are starting outside chapters and many organizations are donating mowers. It's really taking off and I've watched it grow following them on Facebook.

But. At a certain level, pace Poverty, Inc., are they shutting down the dreams of a young person who might wish to start mowing for money?

But Keith Arnold thinks:

I don't know about young people mowing lawns for hire, but then, I'm in California, and that's simply not done. I think it's been twenty years since the last time I saw a minor with his hands on a mower. I mow my own (but with our drought, it's not like it's a lot of work; what's left of my St. Augustine looks a lot like Bruce Willis' head, and has only needed a date with the mower twice so far this year), and everyone else I know pays Someone Doing The Jobs Americans Won't Do.

I've been following your posts on Raising Men, and I like what they're doing so much that if they were in my neighborhood, I'd contribute money to their cause.

In return for mowing, of course.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at May 25, 2016 6:46 PM
But jk thinks:

Probably living in the past again.

Shovelling. The customer plans for lawn care, but the teenager with a shovel enjoys near-monopsony pricing power. Perhaps Governor Brown will start a pilot government program in LA. Or around Ivanpah.

Posted by: jk at May 25, 2016 6:53 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Perhaps an apprenticeship, shoveling coal on the Train to Nowhere.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at May 25, 2016 7:24 PM
But Jk thinks:

WRONG MOVIE, SORRY!!!

Posted by: Jk at May 25, 2016 9:10 PM
But jk thinks:

That was really funny in a horrible, i hope nothing like that ever happens again sort of way.

I got a few people to tune in between here and Facebook. EVen though I own the movie, I thought I'd experience it simultaneously with my friends -- kind of like "Sharknado."

Sharknado I wish. The film shown was named Poverty, Inc. but it was NOT Poverty, Inc. The film I was expecting (and the one in the link) takes a serious look at unintended consequences of big deal, NGO, and institutionalized charity. Poor farmers and aspiring entrepreneurs are frequently squashed by well meaning AID programs. And the culture of dependence and implied inferiority is underappreciated by the do-gooders. It is really, really good and you should buy or rent it on Amazon. No, it is not free on Netflix. Get over it.

The movie with the same title was so intensely horrid, it will be difficult to describe. "Oh you know how jk exaggerates..." No it was bad. Occasionally, Sec. Robert Reich came on to give his opinion about the conspiracy theory on the minute . . . and those were the sensical moments of the film.

I promised a beer or cappuccino to anyone of my Facebook friends who viewed it on my responsibility. It's not enough, but atonement is a process.

Posted by: jk at May 26, 2016 12:16 PM

Dumbest Damn Thing Ever

Well, there's California's Train to Whenever, and Denver's very important train to the plane which has some issues. But I nominate the Ivanpah Power Plant as Dumbest Damn Thing Ever.

Not just because it is on fire. Not just because it has missed all expectations. Because -- like the gorram trains -- it has no flexibility:

Ivanpah's biggest problem, though, is hard economics. When the plant was just a proposal in 2007, the cost of electricity made using Ivanpah's concentrated solar power was roughly the same as that from photovoltaic solar panels. Since then, the cost of electricity from photovoltaic solar panels has plummeted to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (compared to 15 to 20 cents for concentrated solar power) as materials have gotten cheaper. "You're not going to see the same thing with concentrated solar power plants because it's mostly just a big steel and glass project," says Schultz. It can only get so much cheaper.

Photovoltaic solar systems also have the advantage of scaling up or down easily. You can have one panel on your roof or the airport can have 100, and electricity can be made where it's used. But for concentrated solar power plants, you need a huge tract of empty land. Ivanpah has 173,500 garage door-sized sets of mirrors spread over 3,500 acres. Each mirror has a motor controlled by a computer, which angles the reflective surface to track the location of the sun.


Isn't Ivanpah the name of one of Donald Trump's smoking hot daughters?

But jk thinks:

Hayek vs. Keynes in a nutshell. Do you build the giant, expensive, and immovable object because you know what the world will look like in ten years, or do you put faith in spontaneous order and distributed knowledge organization?

Posted by: jk at May 25, 2016 5:21 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Emphasis on "smoking hot." I've driven past the Ivanpah plant many, many times, and it is a spectacle, a veritable sight to behold. I've never had the privilege of seeing a "streamer" -- a passing bird suddenly erupting into flames on the fly, leaving a smoke trail of burning feathers worthy of Michael Jackson's ill-fated soda commercial or Richard Pryor's infamous 1980 experiment with cognac and freebasing, and serving itself up medium-well on one of the mirrors -- but I'm told from those who have that it's a jaw-dropping sight.

Much more exciting to watch than your average wind-farm bird blender.

And at just $2.2 billion, it's a steal at half the price. I understand it's currently operating at just one-third capacity, due to a combination of the present conflagration, bad planning, and something called "scheduled maintenance."

Posted by: Keith Arnold at May 25, 2016 6:36 PM
But jk thinks:

As the man said: "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius."

Posted by: jk at May 25, 2016 6:42 PM

Quote of the Day

Pick your metaphor: The Iran-Iraq War, the South Park school mascot contest, Hobson's choice, a Cowboys-Patriots game. In a scenario with no good choices, how fair is it to denounce somebody for making a different calculation for what's less bad? -- Jim Geraghty [subscribe]
2016 Posted by John Kranz at 11:31 AM | What do you think? [1 comments]
But Keith Arnold thinks:

"Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius."

At least, that was the reaction I had when I saw the news from Albuquerque, with rioters hurling fire and breaking glass doors at a Trump rally.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at May 25, 2016 12:17 PM

May 24, 2016

NYTimes's Token Conservative

Gotta love David Brooks. The NYTimes's idea of a conservative. One of my favorite memes begins with "Even the NYTimes conservative columnist David Brooks says...

Neither Jonah Goldberg nor James Taranto could lay off his recent column. Gosh, darn it, Mister Conservative just cannot see why people do not like Sec. Hillary Clinton. "She works too hard, perhaps. She doesn't have enough hobbies." Gosh I just can't figure it...

Jonah gets first blood:

With all due respect to Brooks, this is some mighty weak sauce. Frankly, the idea that someone as smart as Brooks could think Clinton's unpopularity is a deep and impenetrable mystery is the real mystery here. And the suggestion that if she had more hobbies, people would like her more is pretty hilarious. Break out the Hummel collection! Brooks even notes that we know Obama's hobbies -- has that helped his popularity? Do his poll numbers go up after every golf outing?

James's publishing schedule postpones his response, but he is on point:
To summarize, she's unpopular because she doesn't have any hobbies. It follows that if she hadn't deleted those yoga emails, she would be all but universally beloved.

That's gotta sting a bit.

But johngalt thinks:

Hillary Clinton is the very embodiment of every man's worst fear for a mother-in-law. Can you imagine that cackle in your castle? There would never be a happy Thanksgiving again!

Posted by: johngalt at May 24, 2016 5:32 PM
But jk thinks:

I'll have to post a Vine or something. Your blog brother does a great imitation of the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua's Mirthless Cackle™

The secret is completely closing the larynx to achieve the percussiveness required: Khngyeh! Khngyeh! Khngyeh!

Posted by: jk at May 25, 2016 12:51 PM

Government denies existence of problems

First, allow me to quote American Thinker's Rick Moran:


"Oh. My. God."

Does Disneyland measure wait times? Does Disneyland measure wait times!! You clueless bureaucrat, Disneyland knows the wait time for every major attraction in every park to the minute - in real-time. And, much more importantly, Disneyland, like every private-sector business, does everything in their power to reduce their wait times. Even going so far as to accept appointments for the highest demand attractions, as is done with great efficiency in industries such as, for instance, with no specific reason for mentioning it, MEDICINE! Unless government is in charge. You clowns can screw up anything. Perhaps because, since your job doesn't depend on it, you really don't care about your "customers."


Market Forces Repair Problem?

My illustrious Senator, Michael Bennet (BackBencher - CO), is on TV every night with a message he has approved about student debt. "Everyone deserves an education, no one should have to have a lifetime of debt, bla bla bla..." Very gauzy lines with no proposals or policy, but I don't think I am wrong to infer a promise to millennials of more subsidies and debt forgiveness. As much as I dislike it, I imagine forgiveness will be a successful Democratic theme this year.

The Wall Street Journal news pages (not those right wing wackos on the Ed Page) dares to mention that maybe things ain't so bad...

Many Americans are struggling under huge monthly student-debt bills. But they are a sizeable minority, not the norm.

That's the conclusion of research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The typical borrower between ages 20 and 30 pays $203 a month toward student debt. Three-quarters of borrowers pay no more than $400 a month, the study shows.


Crisis! Crisis! Chrisis! Needs us some more government right away please! Oh, wait...
Many activists and elected leaders say huge bills are preventing Americans from saving for retirement and buying a home.

Yet for most, monthly bills are still quite manageable, roughly in line with what people pay on a car loan. Several factors are tamping down monthly student-debt bills, not all of them benign.


More borrowers, longer terms (that's the not-benign bit) but I posit a trend of wisening up. I am sorry that so many millennials were sold a predatory package of worthless goods from left-wing academia, but you still read and signed a contract. My youthful fiscal indiscretion was a wholesale buyers' club. I grumbled for two years to pay it off, but was fortunate to escape without an advanced degree.

I'm think some of Glenn Reynolds's wisdom [Review Corner] has filtered down and hope some 17-year olds are looking at five and six digit debt with more skepticism.

But Keith Arnold thinks:

In addition to Glenn Reynolds' take of the education bubble (with which I heartily agree):

I'm not opposed to student loans, per se -- but there are a number of anomalies when compared to the rest of the finance industry that just make me wonder.

First, anywhere other than student loans, the lender examines the prospective borrower's ability to repay. A home-loan broker, for example, looks at the borrower's income, before lending the money to buy the house.

Second, the lender looks at what the loan is going to be used for. That same home-loan broker is going to do an appraisal of the house you're planning to buy, if for no other reason than to make sure that, if they have to foreclose, the resale of the property is likely to recoup the loss they take on the loan.

The student loan business ignores the ideas of creditworthiness and collateral, if you follow my metaphor.

If I were a student-loan broker and a prospect came to me with a 3.92 GPA, and had a raft of honors and advance-placement classes under his belt, asking for a $100,000 loan at 3% for college, that might be a smart investment. If the next student walked in with a 2.41 GPA and barely squeaked by in woodshop and remedial English, I'd probably take a pass. That's sort of an analogue to creditworthiness.

You're planning on getting your degree in Computer Science, or Engineering, or Architecture? That's good collateral, especially if you've got the academic background that points to success. Gender Studies? Maybe not as good in the ol' collateral department.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if government weren't pouring buckets of dollars into every kid that wanted to stay out of the job market for four (or more) years and party at Santa Cruz, and let banks and lenders make lending decisions on good moneylending criteria. Do I foresee a lot of unqualified kids going to Vinnie Down At The Wharf? No; fortunately, borrowing a hundred bucks for a good tip on a horse in the sixth is one thing, but seeing Vinnie collecting the vig for four years and waiting for the long-term payoff is quite another.

Somehow, I don't see a lot of baristas getting their legs broken for welching on their tuition loans anytime soon.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at May 24, 2016 12:42 PM
But jk thinks:

Hear, Hear! And in totally, completely, unrelated news: Oberlin Students Want Below-Average Grades Abolished, Midterms Replaced with Conversations

'I literally am so tired of learning about Marx, when he did not include race in his discussion of the market!'

Posted by: jk at May 24, 2016 2:35 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Government has distorted education.
Government has distorted retail credit.
And in case that wasn't enough, government created targeted distortions of retail credit for education.

In this case, rather than "what could go wrong" the question is - how could anything go right?

Posted by: johngalt at May 24, 2016 2:40 PM

Jonah has a bone to pick with McCloskey

Jonah Goldberg opens his column with high praise, but suggests Professor McCloskey [Review Corner] may have missed one.

She always endeavors to distribute her whacks evenly, like every libertarian should. But Goldberg catches her attributing eugenics to "the right," when two of his books [Review] [Corner] have documented progressives' complicity:

The sainted liberal jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote the infamous Buck v. Bell decision which made forced sterilizations of "imbeciles" constitutional (Buck was not an imbecile for the record). The liberals on the court voted with him, while the sole dissenter was a conservative, Pierce Butler. In Britain, The Catholic conservative G.K. Chesterton fought eugenics with every fiber of his being, while progressives and socialists like H.G. Wells, the Webbs and George Bernard Shaw believed it was the heart of socialist or progressive reform.

I don't think any of this undermines any of McCloskey's larger argument. But it's frustrating to see someone so committed to the cause of liberty repeat a slander popularized by liberty's enemies.


May 23, 2016

Life Imitates ThreeSources

Brother JohnGalt called it right out of the chute: Paris Conference over -- climate change fixed! Next topic?

Seems even the Aussie Labour Party is in.

Aussie academic David Holmes, of the University of Melbourne, suggests that Politicians are using the Paris Agreement to defuse climate concerns, by claiming Paris "solved" the climate crisis -- and he's not happy about it.

Sorry, mate! Obama fixed that already. Now we can focus 100% on who pees where.


Who Says There's No Good News?

AG drops climate change subpoena against libertarian think tank

The Virgin Islands attorney general has withdrawn a controversial subpoena against a prominent libertarian D.C. think tank, after being accused of bullying the group as part of a broader probe into whether ExxonMobil misled the public about global warming.

Attorney General Claude Walker had issued the subpoena, demanding the Competitive Enterprise Institute hand over 10 years' worth of its communications related to climate change, in April.

CEI fired back with a lawsuit of its own, seeking to fine Walker for what the group called a breach of their First Amendment rights.

Walker's office dropped the subpoena Friday, according to court documents. The office did not respond to a request for comment from FoxNews.com.

CEI said it would still seek sanctions against Walker -- noting that while this subpoena has been dropped, a more expansive subpoena against ExxonMobil still stands.


May 22, 2016

Review Corner

In an almost vacant coffee shop in Moscow in 2013 a customer asked politely that the loud rock music, pleasant to the young staff but irritating to old folk, be turned down. The waitress was shocked that a customer would have an opinion. She indignantly refused. Thus was made evident the seventy years of changing the nature of man under socialism.
Ideas and style are highly regarded at Review Corner. Reading Deirdre N. McCloskey's Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World forced me to note that I undervalue scholarship. Professor McCloskey has finished her "Bourgeois" trilogy. (The second book alone scored two [Review] [Corners].)

She had originally planned for more books.

Over twenty years of imagining and ten years of writing, the projected scale of the series has varied from one to six volumes. In a bad moment I thought of calling a six-volume version a "sexology," achieving thereby large sales through fraud and a tasteless mix of Latin and Greek. The thought did not meet the test of bourgeois virtue. I settle here for a trilogy, and modest sales, and say at its end, laus Deo.

To squish it all in, the third book is "robust" to choose an adjective beloved of software developers and coffee drinkers. It is neither univiting nor turgid; McCloskey exhibits great wit and clear prose. But I am a goal-oriented reader. I'll fly by most footnotes with a perfunctory "I'll take your word for it." McCloskey, like Popper, puts important information (and great verve) into them. Beyond the length, you have to stop and read every footnote. I even highlighted a few.
20. David Landes 1969, 1965. This is a good place to acknowledge that I spent the first half of my historical career disagreeing with David on the role of the entrepreneur. I seem to be doomed to spend the second half agreeing with him. En partie seulement.

I have been sharing some of my favorite quotes with the Kindle Twitter feature and hope that some ThreeSourcers may have enjoyed one or two. There is no way to cover this book in a Review Corner. I'll share some personal and philisophical thoughts, and direct people to several better resources for encapsulation:

McCloskey looks to language, literature, art, anthropology, psychology, and economics to trace the change in attitudes toward the bourgeoisie and the idea of birthright equality. In Shakespeare's time and reflected in his work, the words "honor" and "honest" referred to a person of high birth, not his or her character.
In other words, the new liberty and dignity for commoners was a sociological event, not a psychological one, and originated in a changing conversation in the society, not at first in psychological self-monitoring by the individual. People in Holland and then England didn't suddenly start alertly attending to profit. They suddenly started admiring such alertness, and stopped calling it sinful greed. 17

ThreeSourcers know too well my appreciation for McCloskey, and it is only enhanced by this book. One can enjoy it as a cudgel (the 750-page hardcopy better than the Kindle version) for bashing the Left and the Luddite Right: Thomas Piketty is singled out for disapprobation several times. Go Deirdre! But - as mentioned in previous reviews she has opprobrium left over for some of my favorites. Several writers who have been given Five Stars on these pages have their theories questioned.

Niall Ferguson scored 4.75 stars and a direct comparison to McCloskey in a previous [Review Corner]. His "Killer Apps" and attention to institutions are immensely compelling. "Balderdash!" claims McCloskey (well, she doesn't use the B-word...) history is replete with societies with superb institutions, no Industrial Revolution, no Great Enrichment, no 9900% increase in consumption.

She has some kind words for Matt Ridley, but at the end of the day, his "ideas having sex" which won him five stars and the coveted Editor's Choice award in [Review Corner] she finds lacking. Great idea, Lord R, but why not in Song China or Timbuktu? You want property rights, it was said that a young girl could walk the breadth of Genghis Khan's kingdom with a handful of gold and not fear for her safety. Where is the Mongol Enlightenment?

Science? Private Property? Freedom?

The trilogy, in other words, argues against the prudence-only obsessions of the economists and of their enemies. Within economics it argues against the factually dubious assertion from the political right that technological betterment comes automatically from private property. 25 And it argues against the logically dubious assertion from the political left that the betterment comes automatically from artificially high wages. 26 Both are what the economists Friedrich Hayek and Vernon Smith, among others practicing a humanomics, call "constructivist," as against "ecological." 27

She calls herself a libertarian in the interviews linked above, and her ideas are friendly to liberty in many ways. But she has some inconvenient truths. She doesn't see much difference between the US, UK, Norway and Sweden. On her scale there isn't much difference, and the per-capita consumption is close. She recognizes the danger to prosperity in a USSR or Venezuelan attack on liberty, but like Adam Smith, she accepts a differential from "perfect liberty."
New Zealand, for example, is well governed. Italy is not. New Zealand has honest and efficient governmental institutions. Italy, strikingly, does not. In ease of doing business-- which is low when the government vigorously obstructs private dealings or when its officials demand bribes-- New Zealand ranked in 2010 and 2012 (among 183 or 185 countries) third from the top. Italy in 2010 ranked eightieth, slightly below Vietnam, and in 2012 seventy-third, slightly below the Kyrgyz Republic. In 2012, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, New Zealand was tied for first, the most honestly governed among 173 ranked countries. Italy was seventy-second. 8
[...]
Yet in real GDP per person New Zealand and Italy, in 2010, were nearly identical, at $ 88.20 and $ 86.80 a day, a little above Hans Rosling's Washing Line. One could argue that there is anyway an international correlation between income and governance. But the causation is in part the other way around-- rich people demand better governance, which is certainly the story of more honest governance in American cities, 1900 to the present.

Some of your favorite theories will be besmirched in this great book. The data and scholarship which support her premises are so significant, it is difficult to push back.

One thing I do appreciate is her belief in modernity and her fulsome opposition to any who would push us back. That, great scholarship, literary allusions to TS Eliot, Ghostbusters, and Monty Python. I'm in! There is much to appreciate in post-1800 development:

the fine quality of the inexpensive book you now hold, the ease of access to the Kindle edition if you were too cheap to buy the book, the contact lenses that allow you to read it, the computer on which you take admiring notes about it, the college sheepskin on the wall, the acquiring of which allows you to grasp the book's profundity, and even the better aluminum studs behind the wall, preventing the better wallboard painted with better paint and affixed with better cordless screwdrivers from caving in when you punch it out of sadly misled vexation at some of the more irritating factual claims in the book.

Five Stars and an Editor's Choice Award.

But johngalt thinks:

...aluminum studs?

Kidding! That isn't the most important thing I take from this review. The power of ideas, is. They come in good and bad, of course, but the ultimate good idea according to McCloskey seems to be - rather than private property ownership - private self ownership. Free individuals, free to choose as it were, in a free world. That's a great idea.

And yet it is famously understood, that "Freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction." I take comfort in the greater population and faster communication of our time relative to the dark ages, that such extinction might be local and temporary. But fear of tyranny does still exist, even in the good ol' US of A.

To me, that is the real measure of "progress" - not the amount of wealth or the percentage of people enjoying it worldwide, but the amount of confidence in personal liberty and the percentage of people enjoying that worldwide.

Posted by: johngalt at May 23, 2016 3:48 PM
But jk thinks:

On Ideas good and bad: missing from my review is her preference for the term "trade tested betterment" to capitalism. You try to serve your fellow man with an idea or service -- and if that service is found to be of value you prosper, if not you try something else. The opportunity for failure eliminates the sclerosis in communism and answers "why wasn't there a Great Enrichment sooner?" People were smart in 1500 or 5000 BCE but only the chief's or emperor's ideas were good.

She enumerates the threats from the right and left and concedes the power of "the clerisy" to muck things up. On the plus side, she points out that every success creates its own interest group. All the people that make money driving Uber are incentivized to fight the taxi cartels' regulatory attempts.

So she's in optimist, a'la Matt Ridley. She mentions in one of the linked interviews "Of course I'm an optimist. You have to be an optimist to change genders."

Also missing is an idea it came up in a slightly different form on Econtalk today: the benfits of Capit -- I mean "trade tested betterment" have a long latency. We had DIckensian factories and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire before we saw most of the gains. That gave the Dickenses, Shaws, and Roosevelts a great foundation to oppose it.

Posted by: jk at May 23, 2016 4:16 PM

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