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   PoliticsThe Castle

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To: TimF who wrote (7576)8/12/2019 12:05:09 PM
From: i-node
   of 7703
Yeah, I thought it was an interesting sort of distinction between the two periods. Sowell is great with the real-world examples of societal change.

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From: TimF8/21/2019 11:42:37 AM
   of 7703
Rep. Joaquin Castro's Doxxing of Trump Donors in His District Has Flipped the Campaign Finance Discourse on Its Head
Political donations are made public so that citizens can hold politicians accountable, not the other way around.
Christian Britschgi | 8.7.2019

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From: TimF8/24/2019 2:12:26 PM
   of 7703
6 Key Takeaways Every Student Should Receive from Econ 101
A more widespread understanding of Econ 101 would reduce the likelihood of destructive government policies winning public support.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Donald J. Boudreaux

In a 2015 podcast conversation with American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, Vox’s Ezra Klein declared that “there’s nothing more dangerous than somebody who’s just taken their first economics class.” Often expressing a similar contempt for Econ 101 is University of Connecticut law professor James Kwak. This expressed skepticism of Econ 101 comes across as wise and sophisticated—even hip—to many people who don’t grasp Econ 101. And it gives the mistaken impression that those who warn of the alleged folly of taking Econ 101 too seriously are experts not only in elementary economics but also in advanced economics.

Yet this contemptuous dismissal of the relevance of Econ 101 is foolish. Those who express it either really don’t know any economics whatsoever or mistakenly presume that the theoretical curiosities explored in Econ 999 are more relevant than is the reality revealed by Econ 101. But the truth is that Econ 101 taught well supplies ample, important, and timeless insights into the way the world works.

These insights, sadly, are far too rare among those who are unexposed to elementary economics.

Kernel of Truth No one denies that a deeper understanding of economic reality is supplied by training in sound, advanced economics. If, for example, we’re interested in understanding and predicting many of the details of how people react to changes in particular government policies—and in tracing out some specific consequences of these likely reactions—knowledge of economics beyond that which is conveyed in an intro-econ course is useful.

Similarly, if we want to better understand many observed commercial practices—practices such as corporate stock buybacks or automobile dealerships’ penchant for clustering near each other—then knowledge beyond principles of economics is often necessary. No one can doubt the usefulness of more advanced economic training.

But it doesn’t follow from these observations that knowledge merely of economic principles is “dangerous.” The young person who absorbs Econ 101 but who takes no further courses in economics will nevertheless, and for the rest of his or her life, possess a genuine understanding of reality that is distressingly rare among politicians, pundits, preachers, and the general public. Far from being a danger to society, this person—inoculated against the worst and most virulent strands of economic ignorance—will serve as a beneficial check on the spread of ideas that are dodgy and sometimes perilous.

The true danger is not knowledge of “only” Econ 101. The true danger is ignorance even of Econ 101.

The typical protectionist opposes free trade not because he aced an advanced econ course and learned that, under just the right circumstances, optimally imposed tariffs can be justified on economic grounds. No. The typical protectionist opposes free trade because he doesn’t understand the first thing about economics. He doesn’t understand that the purpose of trade is to enrich people as consumers and not to guarantee the incomes of existing producers. The typical protectionist doesn’t understand that exports are costs and that imports are benefits. (He thinks it’s the other way ’round.) Failing to understand that the act of importing not only destroys but also creates particular jobs in the domestic economy, the protectionist mistakenly concludes that the more we import the fewer are the number of jobs in our economy.

The typical protectionist, in short, doesn’t understand the first thing about economics. Yet had he taken a well-taught Econ 101 course, he’d not swallow and repeat these and other myths about trade.

Likewise, the typical politician doesn’t support minimum wages because she has concluded after careful study that employers of low-skilled workers possess a sufficient quantum of monopsony power in the labor market, in addition to monopoly power in the output market, to nullify the prediction of basic supply-and-demand analysis that minimum wages shrink low-skilled workers’ employment options. No She supports minimum wages because she naively supposes that wages are set arbitrarily by employers and that higher wages come out of either employers’ profits or consumers’ wallets without prompting any changes in employers’ or consumers’ behavior.

And most of this politician’s constituents share her economic ignorance. They miss the reality revealed by Econ 101—namely, that wages are not set arbitrarily by employers and, therefore, that when the cost of employing workers is raised by minimum wages, employers respond in part by employing fewer workers.

In both of the above examples (and these are only two examples of many), more widespread understanding of Econ 101 would reduce the likelihood of these destructive policies winning public support.

Principles Are Foundational They’re called economic principles for a good reason: What is taught in a solid economic-principles course are the principles of the operation of a competitive economy guided by market prices. They describe the logic of markets and, accordingly, in most cases offer a trustworthy guide for understanding the economy—and an understanding of the consequences of government interventions into the economy.

It’s true that reality sometimes serves up circumstances that render knowledge only of economic principles inadequate. But if economic principles did not on most occasions give reliable and useful insights into how real-world economies actually operate, they would be anti-principles. They ought not be taught, and students should demand tuition refunds along with compensation for being defrauded by their colleges.

But in fact, again, enormously important insights are conveyed in a good Econ 101 course. Here’s just a partial list of what an attentive Econ 101 student learns:
    Our world is one of unavoidable scarcity, and so to use more resources to produce guns is to have fewer resources available to produce butter. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, a free gun, or a free anything else.Wealth is goods and services; wealth is not money. And so to create more money without creating more goods and services is to create not more wealth but only more inflation—along with the distortions and uncertainties that inflation unleashes.When the cost that a person incurs to take some action rises, the attractiveness to that person of taking that action falls. This fact is why higher taxes on carbon emissions reduce carbon emissions and why higher taxes on income-earning activities reduce income-earning activities.Profits are entrepreneurs’ reward for successfully satisfying consumers’ wants; profits are neither stolen from consumers nor extracted from workers. Therefore, the greater the good performed in the market by entrepreneurs, the higher the entrepreneurs’ profits.Prices and wages aren’t arbitrary. They’re set in markets by consumers competing against each other to purchase goods and services and by sellers competing against each other to sell goods and services. Sellers in competitive markets no more control prices than do buyers.Because of the principle of comparative advantage, it’s literally impossible for one country to monopolize the production of all goods and services.
I submit that these and other lessons taught in Econ 101 are vitally significant and need not await being polished and conditioned by the lessons of higher-level economics courses before becoming immensely useful. Far from being dangerous, these and other Econ 101 lessons are beautiful and essential.

This article was reprinted from the American Institute for Economic Research.

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From: TimF9/4/2019 10:40:20 PM
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Why California Forcing Uber Drivers to Become Employees May Hurt Many Drivers
September 4, 2019

Apparently California is close to a new law mandating that Uber drivers (and other "gig" economy workers) be treated as employees rather than independent contractors. Progressives are cheering this as a victory for the drivers:

Billionaires who say they can’t pay minimum wages to their workers say they will spend tens of millions to avoid labor laws. Just pay your damn workers!
— Lorena (@LorenaSGonzalez) August 29, 2019

I have explained before why this will likely kill Uber (e.g. here) but let me summarize quickly the argument of why this is bad for most drivers (self-plagiarized from a Twitter thread). The key issues are driver productivity and driver agency.

Let's define worker productivity as far as Uber is concerned as the amount of customer revenue a driver brings in per paid hour. In the current model, this is not a real concern for Uber as they are only paying Uber drivers when they are actually driving customers. Essentially, Uber drivers and Uber have a revenue share agreement to split customer revenue. Uber has set the share low enough to maximize its revenue (of course) but high enough to still attract drivers. It tweaks this formula fairly frequently. Uber driver productivity as we have defined it is essentially locked in by the formulas in this revenue share agreement.

Given this arrangement, note what Uber does NOT have to worry about. It does not have to worry that drivers are working hard enough or are positioning themselves in productive locations and productive times of day. Uber drivers can drive anywhere they want at any time they want. An Uber driver currently can turn on the app at 4am in the suburbs of Peoria and Uber does not care, even if this positioning is unlikely to get many rides. Why? Because Uber only pays if there is a ride. It doesn't care if the driver is sitting around unproductively, because it is not paying the driver for that time.

So today, it is left up to the driver to make trade-offs between the most productive time & positioning and the demands of their own personal schedule & life choices. This sort of flexibility has real value to many drivers. It is agency that many hourly workers don't have, and that has attracted many people to become Uber drivers. My neighbor, for example, sits in his living room all day with the app on and runs out to the car whenever he accepts a ride (and then turns the app off so he can come back home). He gets few rides in our area but he is happy with the lifestyle and the little bit of extra money he makes from Uber.

But this all changes if drivers must be Uber employees and subject to wage and hour laws. The key difference under such wage and hour laws is that Uber would have to pay drivers whether they have a passenger or not, as long as the app is turned on. Suddenly, forced to pay for labor whether the labor is working or not, Uber is going to get real interested in driver productivity.

If Uber pays by the hour, my neighbor's preferred way to drive is a dead loser for the company. In fact, if I am a driver and paid by the hour, I could go find a library in an out of the way place at an odd time of day and sit and read and collect hourly paychecks -- All without having to drive much. Now, instead of productivity choices being in the driver's hands because it's the driver that makes more or less money with greater or lesser productivity, these choices now land in Uber's lap. Uber can no longer allow so much driver agency.

If making Uber drivers hourly workers does not kill Uber altogether, then Uber is going to be forced to monitor driver productivity and do one or both of two things:
  1. Establish productivity rules, such as driving time windows and allowed geographic ranges and/or
  2. Set a minimum productivity threshold below which Uber will have to let those drivers go
Interestingly, like a lot of labor regulation, this one will benefit the middle while hurting the lower-paid drivers.
  1. Top drivers will be unaffected, because they already make the minimum
  2. Middle drivers may get a small boost
  3. Lower-earning drivers will lose their driving jobs entirely
A better way to characterize this law is that it will greatly reduce the flexibility many Uber drivers love, while causing the lowest paid drivers not to make more, but to lose their driving gig altogether.

I wrote a great deal more about how much of labor regulation actually hurts the lowest rungs of unskilled workers in an article here for Regulation Magazine.

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To: TimF who wrote (7580)9/5/2019 12:53:02 PM
From: Joe Btfsplk
1 Recommendation   of 7703
Grandson is a fourth generation player in the dirt business. Eight yard dump, several hoes, and he won't hire help because of the imposed extra overhead on wages. The world gets less productivity out of his investment and people that might have a job with him don't.

It seems so obvious that government is an overhead expenses that needs minimized. Too many if not most have been sold on the idea it's a source of prosperity, rather than a drag.

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From: TimF9/5/2019 3:07:01 PM
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Don’t Hate the Players, Hate the Game: Why a Properly Enforced Constitutional Order is Preferable to “Moderation”
Trevor Burrus • May 15, 2019

Darrell M. West makes a straightforward and familiar call for more political moderation in his lead essay, “ Why We Need Political Moderation and How to Encourage It.” On its face it is a sensible argument, one that I have sympathy for. I am also disturbed by the level of vitriol in our politics, and I’m not sanguine that it will get better before it gets worse. Moreover, as a libertarian, especially in the age of Trump, I increasingly try to act as a bridge between my friends on the left and my friends on the right, mollifying the tension and trying to find common ground, but that is steadily becoming more difficult to do.

While “moderation” can work as a valuable philosophy in a variety of areas, it will not solve our political woes. Nor will expanding the franchise, increasing the diversity of our communities and our newsfeeds, or adopting a more respectful attitude toward our ideological opponents—as laudable as those things are. Our political woes are more endogenous to the system in which they’ve arisen than most people realize. Or, in layman’s terms, don’t hate the player, hate the game.

That schoolyard phrase encapsulates the three primary missteps in West’s essay. First, the increasing centralization of government over an increasingly decentralized and diverse people will inevitably create conflict. Second, as long as centralizing politics continues to push diverse people into unstable collectives, it will be fruitless to bemoan the negative and hateful attitudes that people develop as a consequence of that centralization. And third, the increasing diversity of political opinions, social values, ideological niches, and community structures is not something we should lament but celebrate. We instead need to find a political structure better attuned to it.

The old model of centralized government simply doesn’t work for this new level of diversity, and that’s okay. All political theories are contingent upon human behavior and underlying social realities. The small Athenian polis was contingent upon the small, relatively homogeneous population of Athens as well as existing community and family structures. Similarly, Spartan authoritarianism was contingent upon the militarized orientation of Spartan society. The American governing project is orders of magnitude larger and more complex than those, but it still suffers from the same underlying contingencies. When the government’s aims and form no longer match the people’s, cracks develop.

Often, the first sign of those cracks are laments about the quality of the people, and questions about whether they are still worthy of their government. Currently, that comes in the form of complaints about political animosity, voter ignorance, and low voter turnout. Next might come attempts by the government to fix the “underlying problem” of the people, perhaps through mandatory voting or educational programs. When those fail—and they will—then perhaps we can get to addressing the true problem: a federal government that is simply too big and centralized to effectively rule over 330 million wildly diverse people.

The Framers of our Constitution understood that centralization was a dangerous tendency in political systems and that it wouldn’t work in America. In learning how the American colonies united against the British, we tend to gloss over the diversity that existed underneath that unity. The colonies were a patchwork of different ethnicities, cultures, religions, and languages. By the time of the Revolution they had come to understand that it was important to unite against a common foe, but they had no illusions that unifying could do much more than provide for the common defense of the colonies.

Consequently, the first American constitution, the Articles of Confederation, represents that thinking: a “firm league of friendship” was needed between the colonies, but not much more. Such a friendship doesn’t imply a high level of control. Friends don’t tell each other how to run their households, how to raise their children, or what value system they should live under. Friends are there to help out when needed, but not to run each other’s lives.

In time, of course, some came to see the Articles of Confederation as lacking, and they proposed a convention to “ render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.” The resulting four-month-long Constitutional Convention primarily dealt with the question of how to safely increase the power of the federal government without it becoming a danger to the rights and liberties of the people. The proposed Constitution offered a delicate balance, but one that the Federalists believed could be maintained.

The “Anti-Federalists,” however—the Pharisees of our political religion—believed that the proposed Constitution vested an uncontrollable amount of power in the federal government. That power would eventually rear its head and create problems. In a remarkably prescient essay, published only a month after the Constitution was signed, the Anti-Federalist “Brutus” warned that “[t]he powers of the general legislature [Congress] extend to every case that is of the least importance—there is nothing valuable to human nature, nothing dear to freemen, but what is within its power.” Consequently, Congress “has authority to make laws which will affect the lives, the liberty, and property of every man in the United States; nor can the constitution or laws of any state, in any way prevent or impede the full and complete execution of every power given.”

Yet Brutus’s true prescience was shown in his understanding of what this would do to a diverse country. After all, the “territory of the United States is of vast extent; it now contains near three millions of souls, and is capable of containing much more than ten times that number.” Should we reasonably expect “a country, so large and so numerous as they will soon become, to elect a representation, that will speak their sentiments, without their becoming so numerous as to be incapable of transacting public business?”

Brutus is thought to have been Robert Yates, a prominent New York judge and politician who attended the first part of the Constitutional Convention as a New York delegate and left when he became convinced that the convention was proposing a government that was both illegal and unwise. He was a “small republic” man, a follower of Montesquieu’s conviction that an effective republic had to be small to prevent “men of large fortunes” from “oppressing [their] fellow citizens.” This is especially true when the citizenship is diverse. Yates’s most prescient passage is worth quoting at length:

In a republic, the manners, sentiments, and interests of the people should be similar. If this be not the case, there will be a constant clashing of opinions; and the representatives of one part will be continually striving against those of the other. This will retard the operations of government, and prevent such conclusions as will promote the public good. If we apply this remark to the condition of the United States, we shall be convinced that it forbids that we should be one government. The United States includes a variety of climates. The productions of the different parts of the union are very variant, and their interests, of consequence, diverse. Their manners and habits differ as much as their climates and productions; and their sentiments are by no means coincident. The laws and customs of the several states are, in many respects, very diverse, and in some opposite; each would be in favor of its own interests and customs, and, of consequence, a legislature, formed of representatives from the respective parts, would not only be too numerous to act with any care or decision, but would be composed of such heterogeneous and discordant principles, as would constantly be contending with each other.

Sound familiar?

While the Anti-Federalists partially lost the fight over the Constitution—but importantly secured the adoption of a bill of rights—we should not remember them only as benighted fools standing athwart the obvious progress of our sacred founding document. The question at the heart of the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debate was not whether having a large central government with power over everything was a good idea. It was whether the Constitution in fact created such a government. Essentially every Framer and member of the founding generation, from Washington to Adams to Madison to Yates, would have agreed that it would be a mistake to create a constitution that “vested great and uncontrollable powers” in the federal government, in Brutus’s words. The Federalists believed their document didn’t do that.

Now, unquestionably, we have such a government. To highlight the absurdity: we have a governing system where it is simultaneously legal and illegal to smoke marijuana in Colorado. That means someone screwed up somewhere, and it wasn’t the states, which certainly always had the power to regulate drugs within their borders. Rather, it was a federal government and cooperating judges that “found that the power retained by individual states, small as it is, [was] a clog upon the wheels of the government of the United States,” again in the words of Brutus.

Consequently, the diverse virtues, vices, pleasures, and passions of 330 million people are funneled into Washington, D.C. to fight over how “we” want to live as a country. Yet that truly royal “we”—or perhaps it should be called the “democratic we”—is the animating fiction of our centralizing politics. Our “we” is now produced by the razor-thin margins by which our national elections are decided. “The people have spoken,” the winners claim, “and now we’re going to ram it down the losers’ throats.”

That, of course, is an essential characteristic of democracy, that the losers must suffer through the results. But an essential characteristic of a properly constructed republic is that there are limits to what can be inflicted on the losers. Those limits, at least as originally contemplated in our constitutional order, ensure that losing a national election only affects truly national issues. It won’t greatly affect whether citizens can live their lives in accordance with their deepest values: how to raise and educate children, how to manage health care and the choices that affect it, how to thrive as a family and as a community.

No wonder we hate each other. We’re living out an ongoing season of “wife swap,” in which two groups with wildly different values are forced to live together. “Let’s see what happens when a vegan is forced to live with a big-game hunters” may be good for television, but it’s bad for a nation.

The behaviors lamented by West —the death of moderation, the segregation of news sources, the geographical divides, the cross-party hatred—are more a product of this system than some exogenous source. High-stakes, winner-take-all elections produce high-stakes, winner-take-all behavior. Politics makes us worse, especially the more that politics matters. Add to this the centrifugal forces of diversifying information sources, cultural influencers, entertainment affinities, and much more, and you’ve got an unstable situation. And asking people to be better won’t help.

But diversity of opinion, information, and values is only a political liability if those on the “other side” have undue control over your life and your values. A creationist family and an evolutionist family can be next-door neighbors and great friends. Force them to fight over which theory will be imposed on the other’s children, however, and that friendship is likely to fray. Do that on a national level, where representation is more attenuated, and you’re likely to see entire swaths of the country hating each other.

Moderation, therefore, is a red herring. Moderation exists within a framework of shared values, and it hashes out the differences through concession and mediation. But in a world where politics has become war due to centralizing forces, a world where, as Hillary Clinton put it, “you cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for,” moderation is akin to hoping for spontaneous mutual disarmament. But that’s not how wars end. Wars end when combatants agree to establish borders, set up jurisdictions, and stay on their side. Our political war began when the borders and jurisdictions set up by the Constitution were broken down or entirely removed, and it will only end when they’re re-established.

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To: Joe Btfsplk who wrote (7581)9/5/2019 3:09:42 PM
From: TimF
   of 7703
Too many if not most have been sold on the idea it's a source of prosperity, rather than a drag.

They think corporations, billionaires, and even just the top 1 percent, are an almost inexhaustable source of funds for new government programs, or to pay the costs associated with new rules and regulations, that not only can they easily cover the cost, but that they will, without any significant pull back on investment, hiring, etc.

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To: Joe Btfsplk who wrote (7581)9/5/2019 3:19:22 PM
From: TimF
   of 7703
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to accommodate disabled workers and outlaws discrimination against the disabled in hiring, firing, and pay. Although the ADA was meant to increase the employment of the disabled, the net theoretical effects are ambiguous. For men of all working ages and women under 40, Current Population Survey data show a sharp drop in the employment of disabled workers after the ADA went into effect. Although the number of disabled individuals receiving disability transfers increased at the same time, the decline in employment of the disabled does not appear to be explained by increasing transfers alone, leaving the ADA as a likely cause. Consistent with this view, the effects of the ADA appear larger in medium-size firms, possibly because small firms were exempt from the ADA. The effects are also larger in states with more ADA-related discrimination charges.

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To: TimF who wrote (7583)9/5/2019 3:20:01 PM
From: Joe Btfsplk
   of 7703
I know or am related to people at the top end of cognitive abilities who don't know why their morally intuited desires can not be achieved through political ends; instead the opposite.

Trends over the past couple of centuries have been excellent, but something in my nature makes me fear for the callow.

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From: TimF9/5/2019 3:33:53 PM
1 Recommendation   of 7703
"The chief difference between free capitalism and State socialism seems to be this: that under the former a man pursues his own advantage openly, frankly and honestly, whereas under the latter he does so hypocritically and under false pretenses."

- HL Mencken

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