Assorted links

by on January 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 Eric Rasmusen January 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm

The Indian states idea is a good one for a paper. Authors: add a map, and add your email addresses so comments like this can go straight to you.

2 eric January 15, 2013 at 1:13 pm

“Humility” as a course title ranks with the “Decadence” course my roommate took at Yale in the 1970s.

Excerpts from the Bible really have to be added, though. And, I think, some excerpts from Nietzsche attacking the Bible on this topic. Also: be careful about the distinction between Modesty, which is a noble virtue, and Humility, which is a Christian virtue.

3 Saturos January 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm

What does offering to teach this course say about David Brooks’ level of humility? How on earth does a political *pundit* profess humility anyways? Have the students signing up for this read his columns?

In any case, this seems to be an idea which germinated here:

4 Greg Ransom January 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Anticipated this course would be a seminar on the stupidity of picking Presidential candidates based on pant creases.

Guess not.

5 Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm

5. Please.

6 prior_approval January 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Well, let’s at least read the factual information as presented –

‘[T]he country ranked last on the [Small Arms Survey] — with only 0.1 guns per 100 people — is Tunisia, which as you’ll recall was still able to overthrow a longtime dictator in 2011. With only 3.5 guns per 100 people, the Egyptian population that overthrew Hosni Mubarak was hardly well armed either. On the other hand, Bahrain, where a popular revolution failed to unseat the country’s monarchy, has 24.8 guns per 100 people, putting it in the top 20 worldwide. A relatively high rate of 10.7 guns per 100 people in Venezuela hasn’t stopped the deterioration of democracy under Hugo Chávez.’

Of course, the Bahrainis actually did face tanks (fine examples of the sort of armor to be found in Western government inventories, it must be noted), and they were crushed. But then, that is what all that money spent on security forces can buy a government – especially when that government can count on its regional allies if its security forces are not up to the job of slaughtering opponents.–present)

7 Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Did he determine who had all the guns?

8 Cliff January 15, 2013 at 2:11 pm

The Egyptian military overthrew Mubarak. Chavez has widespread popular support (unfortunately)

9 Ape Man January 15, 2013 at 2:23 pm

In Venezuela, Chavez has been distributing arms to militias that support him. That probably raises the figure of arms per 100 people in Venezuela. In the case of Bahrain I strongly suspect that the figures are derived from on the basis of citizens only. Most of the people in Bahrain are not citizens. As for Tunisia, given its known smuggling issues and general neighborhood, I strongly suspect that there are reporting issues with the data.

But the dangers of using data without figuring out what the data is talking about aside, I don’t dispute that the revolution in Tunisia was accomplished largely with out resort to arms and the and Bahrain crushed their revolution with government owned arms. Nor do I dispute that having arms is a far cry from having liberty.

Yet to suggest that guns don’t complicate a government’s attempts to impose its power is as silly as saying guns=freedom. Afghanistan is not considered ungovernable because everyone is armed with pea shooters.

10 Unouomedude January 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm


Well put.

11 DocMerlin January 16, 2013 at 9:49 am


12 John Schilling January 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm

If you have to resort to an actual civil war, you’ve been doing it wrong all along. The first and best use of privately-held arms as a defense against tyranny, is to provide an alternative to the tyrant’s standard appeal of “Only the State can protect you against your feared enemies! Now in order to provide that protection, we’ll need to raise taxes thusly, hire this many stormtroopers, suspend these civil liberties…”

In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States government suspended more than a few civil liberties. And as I recall, American citizens bought conspicuously more guns than usual. Regardless of whether or not private armaments are in fact an effective defense against terrorism, it is likely that there were registered voters at the margin trading “buy a gun” against “support the Patriot act” as sufficient to provide for their family’s safety. If buying a gun had not been an option, support for the Patriot act would have been stronger and the act itself likely harsher. By how much, is an interesting question that neither Keating nor anyone else I know of has addressed.

The same logic applies whenever the government tries to monopolize defense against, say, disease or economic hardship. But defense against violence is a core function of government that is particularly easy to use as the basis for oppression.

13 Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm

“Assume a long-time dictator…”

14 John Schilling January 15, 2013 at 4:47 pm

If you have to assume a long-time dictator, your strategies for preserving human liberty also leave a bit to be desired.

15 Peter Schaeffer January 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Ghandi certainly believed that widespread firearms ownership would help end British rule in India. You can find a Snopes discussion thread over at The Snopes discussion thread suggests that the Ghandi quote is taken out of context. In the interest of accuracy I checked the source. Mahadev Desai translated Ghandi’s autobiography from Gujarati to English (attached and available at The full quote is

“I used to issue leaflets asking people to enlist as recruits. One of the arguments I had used was distasteful to the Commissioner: ‘Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want the Arms Act to be repealed, if we want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the middle classes render voluntary help to Government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear, and the ban on possessing arms will be withdrawn.’ The Commissioner referred to this and said that he appreciated my presence in the conference in spite of the differences between us. And I had to justify my standpoint as courteously as I could.”

Ghandi was both denouncing the Arms Act of 1878 (which essentially limited gun ownership to whites) and calling upon Indians to serve to both gain military expertise and to obtain political influence that could be used to promote India’s independence. For a pro-gun Indian perspective on this issue, see Ghandi’s idea had some historical basis. Some Irish-Americans (Fenians) served in the American Civil War with the specific intent of gaining military experience that could be used to liberate Ireland from British rule.

16 Saturos January 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm

It’s Gandhi, btw.

17 Peter Schaeffer January 15, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Thank you

18 ad*m January 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm

5. The Nazis were definitely concerned about Jews having guns, so there were a series of laws starting in 1928 to limit Jews from having guns. Jews in Nazi Germany had 0 guns per 100 people, as on November 11, 1938, Verordnung gegen der Waffenbesitz der Juden, went into effect.

Obviously we will never know whether they were too strict in following the precautionary principle.

19 byomtov January 15, 2013 at 9:24 pm

1928? Really? Who knew?

20 Vanya January 17, 2013 at 5:12 am

The Nazis were hardly “concerned” about Jews having guns. There was little danger of 500,000 people spread through a country of 65 million being anything more than a nuisance even if they had been armed to teeth. The Nazis took the Jews’ guns for the same reason they took away the Jews’ bank accounts, jobs, and voting rights. They wanted to strip the Jews of any dignity they had left.

21 mrwiizrd January 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm

5. Not an apples to apples comparison, but the Viet Cong and the Taliban seemed to do ok against the most powerful army in the world using primarily small arms and guerrilla tactics.

22 albert magnus January 15, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Yes, only if you have another country (Pakistan for the Taliban and North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for the Viet Cong) to run off to. Both had more success with explosives rather than small arms (and that’s typical).

23 ad nauseum January 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm

On 5:
The existence of a dictator is already present. Are there numbers on how many dictators rose to power and held it in a heavily armed society vs. a lightly armed society?

Also, his link to Moynihan’s article raises more questions. For one, I don’t recall pro-gun activists saying that, “Hitler’s rise was AIDED by gun control laws.” But rather that gun control laws helped Hitler repress the Jews, which Moynihan’s article doesn’t really refute.

I expected better from Andrew Sullivan.

24 Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 2:41 pm

They are in a hurry.

25 Vanya January 17, 2013 at 5:23 am

The Bolshevik revolution and Lenin’s rise to power is a perfect example of a very repressive dictator taking power and holding in a heavily armed society. Heavily armed opponents of the Bolsheviks even fought them for over four years until Soviet power was finally consolidated. Armed Ukrainian partisans fought the Soviets well into the 1950s after WWII as well. Organization and man power will always trump weapons. Being “armed” is no guarantee of anything.

“gun control laws helped Hitler repress the Jews,” It is such a ridiculous statement it doesn’t need to be refuted. The Nazis repressed the German Jews politically, rarely with actual force. If you were a German citizen in 1934 who has just lost his University teaching position because you were Jewish, and no one will hire you for a new job because you are Jewish – how exactly does owning a gun help you? When angry mobs are smashing your store front windows and painting yellow stars on your door, are you planning to drive them off with a gun, knowing that the police would have then used that as an excuse to send you to Dachau? Or, more likely, the mob would have just lynched you? Pro-gun activists don’t seem to understand that there is a world of difference between what the Nazis did to their own Jews between 1933 and 1939 and what they did to Jews in the territories they conquered, where German gun control laws were obviously irrelevant.

26 ladderff January 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

The analysis in #6 is nonsense.

27 Carola Conces Binder January 15, 2013 at 4:58 pm

At a minimum the analysis needs to include the price of the drug, which would presumably be extremely high given the utility per dose.

28 doctorpat January 15, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Utility does not correlate with price.
How useful is air?

29 Saturos January 16, 2013 at 7:36 am

Oh dear. It’s called marginal utility, and you really need to take an economics course. (I’m sure Tyler and Alex will have the right one up shortly.)

30 Peter Schaeffer January 15, 2013 at 2:51 pm

A few points. The fall of the regime in Tunisia actually tells us little about guns and tyranny. Tunisia’s government wasn’t willing to use massive armed force to maintain power. Total fatalities were 338. By contrast, the British killed 379 at Amritsar alone and the Brits were never the most ruthless colonial ruler (that would probably be Belgium).

Conversely, Iraq apparently had widespread private ownership of firearms under Saddam. It didn’t help the Shias or Kurds a bit (the no-fly zone in the north was very helpful). Saddam’s tyranny was so deep and effective that privately held guns were never going to make a difference.

At the extremes (Ben Ali as a weak tyrant and Saddam as a vicious one) firearms aren’t all that relevant. However, there is plenty of middle ground to consider. That fact that tyrannical regimes have sought to disarm the populace for a long time is a point worth considering. Clearly tyranny has a revealed preference for an unarmed population.

31 Ape Man January 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Your facts are alright as far as the Shia go, but I think they are little off in regards to the Kurds. It did not take a no fly zone for the Kurds to have a very effective rebellion. A lot of the north was under Kurd control long before the no fly (not that the no fly did not make life easier for them).

32 Peter Schaeffer January 15, 2013 at 3:34 pm


One source ( suggests that the northern no-fly zone started almost immediately after Gulf War I ended.

33 Wonks Anonymous January 15, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Belgium as the colonial ruler of the Congo was much different from King Leopold of Belgium as ruler of the Congo, even if he remained King of Belgium when the “Free State” passed from his hand’s to Belgium’s. I don’t know of any evidence that the state of Belgium was much worse than others.

34 ezra abrams January 15, 2013 at 2:58 pm

when i was a kid in the 60s, I used to listen to my dad’s records (LP vinyl) many of which were folk music from around the world.
and i remember reading one day, I forget where, that when people like folkways started going around the world with tape (or maybe wax or wire) recorders, in the 1920s, *already* all the authentic folk music had all but vanished, under the homogenizing influence of railways and things like that….
perspective is an odd thing

35 JasonL January 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm

5. Is just terrible. So, basically, if you are completely unarmed and you decide to have a revolution, you are pretty sure you are going to be backed by the people with guns. If you are not completely sure you are going to have that support, you sit there and accept life under the boot and therefore don’t make it into that awesome study.

36 Steven Kopits January 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm

This is a really good selection of links.

On art: You didn’t mention video games. I recommend you take a look at any of the Assassin’s Creed games. They are visually stunning. And the canvas is huge. They recreate 16th century Constantinople or Boston during the Revolutionary War period. And not just a couple of blocks, but the whole city. It’s truly a remarkable artistic achievement, on a very large scale.

37 IVV January 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Heck, if you’re willing to go into history before we had the processing power to recreate Constantinople, there are a few video games I rank up there with quality art: Silent Hill 2, Star Control II, Obsidian. More for exploration of themes than for graphic accomplishment.

38 john c January 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Re Mr Brooks’ Yale course on Humility–my first reaction was that this was an Onion spoof. WHen I realized it was not , my next reaction was ROTF LMAO …..

39 zbicyclist January 15, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Gawker agrees with your point of view

But I note that humility is an aspiration. One aspires to be humble, but it’s not the type of thing you can say you’ve achieved, or that itself undercuts it.

A certain amount of pride, ego and pushiness is required to get to where Brooks is, but it’s also good to be able not to take yourself too seriously and to seek a sense of perspective.

I don’t know Brooks, so I don’t know whether humility is something he has, something he aspires to, or something he realizes he is a failure at.

It’s pretty clear that Brooks would expect a certain number of jokes at his attempt to talk about a virtue that is not a virtue of our PR-drenched era, so perhaps taking these jokes is one way of keeping his own sense of perspective about himself.

40 Eric Rasmusen January 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm

What’s really hard about humility is retaining the balance between acknowledgement of one’s true self-worth and recognition of how unimportant you are nonetheless. It’s relatively easy to slip into self-loathing, but that’s not humility, and often serves as an excuse for inaction.

Anyone teaching a course is saying he knows more than his students. So there’s nothing immodest about Brooks assigning his own columns, once he admits he’s qualified to teach the course. All it’s declaring is that he thinks he’s wiser than a Yale undergraduate.

41 Mitchell Harwitz January 16, 2013 at 9:31 am

It’s difficult to display much respect for a teacher (?) who thinks Frances Perkins’ given name was Florence.

42 Nigel January 15, 2013 at 5:23 pm

4. Matt Taibbi had the right question – “Is David Brooks Teaching Humility at Yale the Most Pretentious Moment In History?”

(After seeking feedback from readers, he decided Brooks only made it to No.3.)

43 anon January 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Methinks Matt Taibbi doth protest too much.

44 Abelard Lindsey January 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm

The need for significant amounts of sleep will not go away for a very long time.

Sleeping is a process common to all vertebrates. This fact, along with the fact that sleep can be considered a serious evolutionary downside (it makes you vulnerable to prey because you are not awake) suggests that sleep is of such a fundamental importance.

It is known that long-term potentiation (one of the processes of memory and learning) occurs during sleep, particular during REM (this is when you dream). This is the process by which neurons delete old, seldom used dendrite connections and grow new ones. This is a fundamental process of neuro-biology. What is less known, but will be understood in the near future, is that actual neuro-genesis, replacement of defective neurons through apoptosis and regeneration of new neurons, also occurs during sleep, probably during REM sleep as well.

Sleep is essential to both of these processes.

I seriously doubt that Modafinil can compress these processes into a 2-3 hour period. Modafinil may work over the short or even medium term. However, I seriously doubt that it will work long-term and I highly suspect that long-term use will cause SERIOUS brain damage.

45 George January 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm

4. Interesting syllabus. Another relevant essay might be Hayek’s “Individualism: True and False” — recently mentioned on Russ Robert’s Econtalk.

46 Chris MacDonald January 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm

5. Before answering whether guns can protect from tyranny, you had best define what kind of tyranny you’re talking about, and what methods IT uses. Guns might defend well against guns, but if guns aren’t that particular tyranny’s favourite weapon, guns may not be the best protection.

47 Vanya January 17, 2013 at 5:30 am

Exactly. The Nazis took power through a political process, had widespread popular support, and (until the war started) used mostly political and economic repression rather than outright force. It’s hard to see how guns would have helped in that situation unless you are talking about assassinating the top leadership. A number of groups tried armed resistance against the Soviets – the Benderovtsi in the 1950s, Lithuanians in the 1950s, Basmachi groups in Central Asia in the 20s and 30s, etc. but were all crushed eventually. (Not to forget the Hungarians in 1956).

48 anon January 15, 2013 at 8:42 pm

More regimes have been brought, piecemeal, to their knees by what was once called “Irish Democracy,” the silent, dogged resistance, withdrawal, and truculence of millions of ordinary people, than by revolutionary vanguards or rioting mobs.

Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play, by James Scott (page 14)

Love this:
“silent, dogged resistance, withdrawal, and truculence of millions of ordinary people”

49 Minority Bolshevism January 15, 2013 at 9:23 pm

To #5
After crushing the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 the USSR set out to consolidate its control. Martial law was instituted (1957. IV. Tvr). Possession of an unauthorized firearm carried a Mandatory Death Sentence, no appeal allowed, execution to be carried out in 2 (two) hours after sentencing. Juveniles were not excluded. Hundreds were executed under this law.
Gun Control + Socialism = ?

50 freethinker January 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm

I am not familiar with what goes on in American campuses so can anyone clarify why a student would spend money ( I am told the fees in the U.S can be quite high) for courses like the one on humility at Yale which have no value in the job market? In India , where I live, most universities will not permit a professor to offer a course like this and even if someone offers it I bet enrollments will be either zero or those who enroll will use that session for relaxation.

51 JWatts January 16, 2013 at 10:49 am

“I am not familiar with what goes on in American campuses so can anyone clarify why a student would spend money ( I am told the fees in the U.S can be quite high) for courses like the one on humility at Yale which have no value in the job market? ”

Two reasons,

1) the class may count either directly for their major or as a required elective. Students are generally required to take a certain amount of classes outside of their primary area of study and they are allowed to choose the particular class they take from a broad list.

2) This may not apply at Yale, but at most public schools students maximum tuition fee is set at some number of classes (often around 12 hours worth) and classes beyond that amount don’t increase their fees. So to some extent a class like this has no additional monetary costs, ignoring costs of books and material directly for the class.

52 ds January 16, 2013 at 6:27 am

#6 is the 2nd link in 2 days that speculates wildly on the (unlikely) sustainability of output gains from a stimulus (modafinil) that has been shown to have short-term benefits with rapidly diminishing (and subsequent negative) returns following repeated attempts (to limit sleep to 2-3 hours/night). We should instead be focusing on the Austrian approach (Red Bull).

53 handworn January 16, 2013 at 11:10 am

I find evidence from Tunisia, Egypt and the like to be of dubious value in estimating the effect of widespread gun ownership, because of the key position that the U.S. occupies. For example, the Tunisian “rebels” did nothing but engage in civil protests. Without world (read: rich Western democracies’) opinion hanging over their heads like a Sword of Damocles, the Tunisian government could have crushed the protests violently. And why are countries like that in such a position? In my opinion, it rests on American membership in NATO and acceptance of the role of world policeman. If I’m right, then other countries are not a very good model for gauging the impact of tyranny in America. I frankly doubt American tyranny is likely, not least because power in all forms, not just guns, is widespread. But that doesn’t mean American tyranny would have the same significance.

54 Kyle Hale January 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Obviously the Tunisians are looking at Syria now and thinking to themselves, “Why the heck didn’t we just do that?”

55 rufusTfirefly January 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Most of the point, lost on the liberal “genius” followers of “science” is guns should dynamically affects the government’s actions.

By the time you have tyranny you normally don’t have a lot of guns in free hands.

But, it’s a logical (I’d love to see a clean test but my prior is strong and doubt there’s easy differentiation in the data) break on GETTING TO TYRANNY to have an armed populace.

Those arguing with this are not thinking dynamically, or not thinking, or thinking really hard about how to impose tyranny under the cover of dead children.

56 RR January 16, 2013 at 11:10 pm

1. Everywhere one reads of significant changes and improvements in Bihar; surprised its still at the bottom in this ranking.

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