PoliticsActual left/right wing discussion

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To: Lane3 who wrote (9890)3/23/2011 6:28:23 PM
From: TimF
   of 10074

You didn't initially say "a right that you can't exercise is a meaningless right", you said it "is no right at all".

Something that isn't a right, isn't a right that can be violated.

Maybe under that definition a right could be violated if it was something you could sometimes exercise and sometimes not, it wasn't clear whether you would consider that to be no right at all. But if you where prevented from exercising the right even once, then it would according to your statement be no right at all, and thus incapable of being violated, since you can't violate what doesn't exist.

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From: TimF3/25/2011 12:07:07 AM
   of 10074
Bloggingheads: Don't Give to Japan?

Annie Lowrey, left, of Slate and Timothy Carney of The Washington Examiner discuss whether Americans should send aid money to Japan.

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From: TimF3/25/2011 1:19:58 AM
   of 10074
The Paul Krugman Award for Forgetting Everything You Knew About Economics In Order to Shill for Your Favorite Political Party Goes To…..
March 16, 2011, 1:54 pm

Obama budget director Jacob Lew, who wrote this lucid statement about the Social Security “Trust Fund” back in 2000

These balances are available to finance future benefit payments and other trust fund expenditures—but only in a bookkeeping sense. These funds are not set up to be pension funds, like the funds of private pension plans. They do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits. Instead, they are claims on the Treasury that, when redeemed, will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures. The existence of large trust fund balances, therefore, does not, by itself, have any impact on the Government’s ability to pay benefits. [bold added]

Needless to say, he has changed his tune now that he is being paid to shout “all is well” as enabler-in-chief of Obama’s spending habit.


Don Lloyd:

Even if actual money were stored away in the SS Trust Fund when payroll tax receipts exceed current payouts this would be a silly thing to do.

It would be equivalent to burning any surplus payroll tax receipts in the present and printing new money to make up for shortfalls in the future.

The only way to ‘prefund’ future payout shortfalls is to maximize the ability of the economy to produce wanted goods and services over time. Everything else represents a transfer of purchasing power in the future to SS recipients from everyone else.

Regards, Don
March 16, 2011, 4:05 pm

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From: TimF3/25/2011 4:57:28 PM
   of 10074
United States federal spending, with healthcare and defense broken out
By TigerHawk at 3/15/2011 06:52:00 PM

Since we are in the middle of what will probably be a generations long "national conversation" about the role of government and the magnitude of federal spending, perhaps the following chart (courtesy of Mindles' Facebook scroll), which is expressed in constant (inflation-adjusted) 2005 dollars, disposes of a few myths. Defense is not the issue; it has barely budged in constant per capita burden. Health care has become and will continue to be a much bigger weight, which is why we needed some massive reform of the system of health care finance (without necessarily conceding that the version we got will cut costs). But take a look at everything else, which includes Social Security and just about every other damned thing you might think of. It would take a roughly 33% reduction in total spending just to get us back to the per capita (not absolute) level of 1995.


By Anonymous Robert Arvanitis, at Tue Mar 15, 11:05:00 PM:

To confirm, the chart is both constant-2005 dollar, so presumably the same purchasing power, and it is per person, so appropriately accounting for population growth?

That means government grows six-fold over the 65 years of the chart.

Are we to conclude that (a) government is taking a metastasizing bite out of people, or (b) we can afford that size government because we are six time wealthier, more productive and better off?

IF the former, then is there no end, will liberals ever be satisfied, and say "enough?"

Or if the latter - we are that much wealthier, then stop the whining about "inequality of incomes" and "Gini indices." Six times better off, for goodness' sake!

more at

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From: TimF3/27/2011 9:52:31 PM
1 Recommendation   of 10074
...I find Bryan Caplan's defense of Libertarians from a charge of callousness related, and also very interesting. His conclusion:

"The reason why people call libertarians "callous," then, is that they're asking awkward questions instead of kowtowing to the people that mainstream intellectuals say they should feel sorry for. What's the solution? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure that we should keep asking our awkward questions until we get some decent answers."

I think much of the reason we are viewed as callous is that disagreements which are about effects and methods are viewed as being about values and goals. Many people think higher minimum wages and higher tariffs and opposition to Walmart is good for the poor. I disagree with them about all these things. One possibility reason I disagree, and the one many of my friends even latch on to, is that I do not care as much as they do about the poor. The other possibility is that I care just as much as they do but disagree about the effects of these policies. I take an opposite position on all these issues specifically because I do have the same concerns for other people that they do. We just disagree about how to get from here to there. It is cognitively easier to assume someone else's morals and goals are lacking than it is to examine whether your own beliefs about causes and effects are the only or best way of achieving your goals...

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From: TimF3/28/2011 11:55:24 AM
   of 10074
"...The basic problem, across the whole range of the human helping relationships (like aid) between what might be called the “helper” and the “doer,” is that success lies in achieving more autonomy on the part of the doers, and autonomy is precisely the sort of thing that cannot be externally supplied or provided by the would-be helpers. This is the fundamental conundrum of all human helping relations, and it is the basic reason, not complexity, why engineering approaches and the like don’t work..."

from a comment to

quoted at

I'm not sure I agree 100%. Autonomy can be fostered. But doing so is hard, and requires the right attitude and actions on the part of "doer", the helper can not simply give it, so in that sense I agree it can't be externally provided, it can't simply be given.

Also I'm not sure that's THE fundamental conundrum. The complexity issue is serious as well. Economic and many other social relationships are in many ways to complex to be finely engineered and often to complex to be effectively engineered at all. The background to that post includes other posts responding (negatively) to the idea of a coup. A coup fits broadly as a form of war. In war we do in a sense engineer solutions, but even the direct military situation is hard to control, "the enemy gets a vote". And the political, economic, and social result of the military action can be even more complex. For all its possible great complexity "killing people and breaking things", even against an active and determined opposition, is simpler (if not always easier *) than trying to engineer what the long term outcome of all the violence will be.

* - Think of lifting 100 tons with one hand as simple (not complex), but hard (not easy, in fact in this case impossible unless your using extreme leverage, or some power beyond your own muscles). Offhand I can't think of a good example of something that's very complex, but still easy, and I think that anything sufficiently complex can't be easy.

Edit - Complexity can make things easier. Having extreme leverage would make the system for lifting those 100 tons more complex, but make it possible. On a larger scale the world economic market makes life much easier for most of the pe3ople in the world, but its almost unimaginably complex. My point about anything sufficiently complex not being easy should refer to engineering anything sufficiently complex. And with an economy engineering it is hard (essentially impossible to do well IMO) not only because of the complexity, but because its constantly changing, and requires information that no one can have.

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To: TimF who wrote (9896)3/28/2011 1:04:22 PM
From: Lane3
   of 10074
I think much of the reason we are viewed as callous is that disagreements which are about effects and methods are viewed as being about values and goals.

Right on.

I have never found a way to convey this to a lefty so that it is understood.

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From: TimF3/30/2011 10:12:23 PM
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Don’t warn nonspecifically!
Posted on March 21, 2011 by Katja Grace| 13 Comments

I hate safety warnings. It’s not that I’m hurt by someone out there’s condescending belief that I can’t work out whether irons are for drying children. And I welcome the endless mental accretion of terrifying facts about obscure ways one can die. What really bothers me is that safety warnings often contain no information except ‘don’t do X’.

In a world covered in advice not to do X, and devoid of information about what will happen if you do X, except it will be negative sometimes, it is hard and irritating to work out when it is appropriate to do X. Most things capable of being costly are a good idea some of the time. And if you were contemplating doing X, you probably have some reason. On top of that, as far as I can tell many of the warnings are about effects so weak that if you wanted to do X for some reason, that would almost certainly overwhelm the reason not to. But since all you are ever told is not to do X, you are never quite sure whether you are being warned off some trivial situation where a company haven’t actually tested whether their claims about their product still apply, or protected from a genuine risk.

My kettle came with a warning that if I ever boil it dry, I should replace it. Is this because it will become liable to explode? Because it might become discoloured? My sandwich meat came with a warning not to eat it after seven days. Presumably this is because they can’t guarantee a certain low level of risk after that, but since I don’t know what that level is, it’s not so useful to me. If I have a lot else to eat I will want a lower level of risk than if I’m facing the alternative of having to go shopping right now or of fainting from hunger. Medical warnings are very similar.

Perhaps it’s sensible to just ignore warnings when they conflict much with your preconceptions or are costly. In that case, how am I worse off than if there just weren’t warnings? How can I complain about people not giving me enough information? What obligation do they have to give me any?

There is the utilitarian argument that telling me would be much more beneficial than it is costly. But besides that, I think I am often worse off than if warning givers just shut up most of the time. Ignoring warnings is distracting and psychologically costly, even if you have decided that that’s the best way to treat them. There is a definite drop in sandwich enjoyableness if it’s status as ‘past its use by date’ lingers in your mind. It’s hard to sleep after being told that you should rush to an emergency room.

I presume there are heaps of pointless warnings because they avoid legal trouble. But this doesn’t explain why they all contain so little information. It is more effort to add information of course. But such a minuscule bit more: if you think people shouldn’t do X, presumably you have a reason already, you just have to write it down. If you can’t write it down, you probably shouldn’t be warning. An addition of a few words to the standard label or sign can’t be noticeably expensive. For more important risks, knowing the reason should encourage people to follow the advice more because they can distinguish them from unimportant risks. For unimportant risks, knowing the reason should encourage people to not follow the advice more, allowing them to enjoy the product or whatever, while leaving the warning writer safe from legal action. Win win! What am I missing?

Selected comments

Chris Chang | March 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Reply

People are more likely to read signs with fewer words than those with more words. Also, as Zac implied, a considerable fraction of the population does not care about the reason for obeying a particular warning. (We’ll leave aside the ethics of deliberately underserving this subpopulation for another day.)

Possible solution: short warnings in large type, followed by short-as-possible justification in (usually) smaller type.

jghaines | March 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Reply

I was assuming it was for legal reasons. If you give a reason, then you open yourself up to more interpretation and counter-argument. If you do feed the seagulls and something else bad happens, then perhaps you can sue.

axa | March 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Reply

have you read marginal revolution lately?

maybe warnings are not about safety, it’s about showing that the warning-giver cares.

Sigivald | March 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Reply

I presume there are heaps of pointless warnings because they avoid legal trouble. But this doesn’t explain why they all contain so little information. It is more effort to add information of course


And, well, think of how much detail you’d have to add – and the jury’s reaction to someone skipping a few paragraphs of detailed risk assessment “because it was fine print” – and then awarding them damages because “the warning was too hard to read”.

What you see is, as you suspected, the result of an attempt to prevent liability, not an attempt to present the most useful and detailed knowledge – and to be fair, most people don’t really want that level of detail, I think.

(In my more curmudgeonly moods, I’d say most people aren’t capable of processing it effectively…)

Doug S. | March 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Reply

Once upon a time, my father, after observing that a container of chlorine bleach had a warning on it not to mix it with ammonia, decided to try it and see what happens…

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To: TimF who wrote (9899)3/31/2011 6:00:13 AM
From: Lane3
   of 10074
One of my pet peeves. Makes me crazy when my new toaster literature announces that it shouldn't be used on Thursdays or on windy days.

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From: TimF3/31/2011 6:39:12 PM
   of 10074
Rand Paul’s Balanced Budget Plan

Posted by Tad DeHaven

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has released a detailed plan that would balance the federal budget in five years. Paul’s plan would achieve balance by halting and reversing the historic rise in federal spending. Taxes would not be increased, but revenues would steadily increase as the economy recovers.

The following charts compare Paul’s plan versus President Obama’s recent budget submission for fiscal 2012:

While Obama intends to continue spending at a historically high level, Paul would reduce spending as a share of the economy. Paul takes the scalpel to all areas of federal spending, including discretionary, defense, and mandatory. However, it is not a radical plan. In fact, it’s a practical, common sense budget that recognizes that the federal government’s growth has become unsustainable, and thus a threat to our economic well-being and future living standards.

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