Thursday assorted links


#3 I'd be interested in seeing the stats for Proust

Will Wilkinson makes the liberaltarian case for Bernie Sanders.

Libertarian opinion journalism frequently degenerates into a series of guises and poses. Not news. Screw him.


Sanders =/= Clinton

Why I have no respect for Libertarians.

Wilkinson is a liberaltarian, a degenerate form which mimics some libertarian verbiage while abandoning the policies.

Surely libertarians must have liberty as their main value, not particular policies.

Surely. In the case of liberaltarians, however, they propose to expand "liberty" by increasing the power and size of the State. Sophistry or plain stupidity? It can be a tough one to call.

"It has been intensely heartening to see even many of those who found my libertarian case for Sanders absolutely ridiculous nevertheless concede, more and less explicitly, that the pro-liberty case for Bernie Sanders would be strong if only he actually did want to adopt the broad contours of Denmark’s free-market economic policy in addition to it’s heavily redistributive egalitarian social policy. That’s a really important development and I’m pleased to have played a part in bringing it about."

So if Sanders actually supported the policies I wanted him to support, which I concede he doesn't, he'd be a great candidate. And if a frog had wings....

On the other hand, I think this is a really good paragraph:

"I have a strong but unconfirmed hunch that economic liberty in the U.S. has declined because there’s a rising sense of economic insecurity in much of the population. (If you don’t think this helps explain the very real possibility a we’ll have a presidential election between a mercantilist crony-capitalist and an old-timey socialist, you’re nuts). Conversely, economic liberty has increased in places like Denmark and Canada in part because a strong safety net, including universal healthcare, reduces the sense of material insecurity that creates resistance to liberalizing economic reforms."

Assuming you buy that theory, I still don't think Bernie Sanders is the guy to pull that off, and I don't think Sanders' preferred policies are likely to produce the kind of material security WW seems to think, but nonetheless, it's worth thinking about.

I don't want to click the link because it will give traffic, but can I ask how he goes from Bernie Sanders to Denmark?

Sanders has spent his whole life in the Hard Left end of the American Jewish political spectrum. Among the Trots mostly. When he went to Israel, he went to a kibbutz run by Hashomer Hatzair - the Zionist Marxists. The same one that Noam Chomsky went to. When he went on honeymoon, he went to the Soviet Union. He is a fan of Cuba.

If he had taken a honeymoon in Sweden that would be one thing. But he didn't. He has had every chance to show what he is politically sympathetic with and Denmark ain't it.

Sanders has never trafficked in Chomskyite malice. While we're at it, which honeymoon? I think the guy's been married 3x.

I should correct that and say he has not trafficked in Chomskyite discourse since 1981. Very few working politicians do.

But he did invite Chomsky to speak:

In 1985, Burlington City Hall hosted a foreign policy speech by Noam Chomsky. In his introduction, Sanders praised Chomsky as "a very vocal and important voice in the wilderness of intellectual life in America" and said he was "delighted to welcome a person who I think we're all very proud of."

Which wife? Well he went to the Marxist Kibbutz with the first wife. So I am guessing the Liberation Theologist. But I would have to check.

Sanders is not a Scandi-socialist. Never has been.

Does Will Wilkinson actually think that deficiencies in health care finance is a cause of all the special favors incorporated into the tax code? Of rents incorporated into regulatory regimes? His understanding would make sense were he talking about features of labor law, but collective bargaining is now so atypical in the private sector that that's just rot. It's also passing strange to attribute the tangle of employment discrimination law to economic anxiety in general.


Yes, Wilkinson's grand theory is pure sophistry. As he hints at in his own post, you could make exactly the same "liberaltarian" case on exactly the same grounds in favor of Pol Pot or Stalin.

The Wilkinson theory fundamentally depends on the Republicans (the vermin he otherwise despises) to protect him from the economic consequences of a Sanders presidency. Evidently, however, the Republicans will appear and disappear from Congress at exactly the correct moments for the theory to work. Thus, the vermin protect him from Sanders' Venezuelan economics but disappear when he wants President Sanders to empty the Federal prison system.

Of course, the Constitution requires that the President "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed" and if Republican scum continue their control of Congress (a necessary, but oddly unexplained, pre-condition for Wilkinson's theory for avoiding President Sanders' economic plans) it is hard to see why those scum would agree with Wilkinson's understanding of Sanders' criminal justice proposals. Presumably, he believes that President Sanders will operate as President Obama has, issuing executive orders whenever Congress fails to fall in line. But if so, it is hard to understand why President Sanders wouldn't follow the same path toward "economic justice" which Wilkinson hopes Sanders follows toward drug decriminalization. Any incidental damage to the constitutional system goes unmentioned. I am very much afraid it goes unconsidered.

Wilkinson also fails to consider the thornier aspects of Sanders' other ideas. Wilkinson claims to support Sanders on grounds of "liberty" but the consequences as to freedom of expression are not discussed. As I understand it, Sanders and Clinton have both campaigned on a proposal for outright repeal/replacement of portions of the First Amendment. I assume Sanders proposes to replace the existing First Amendment with some other language protecting the rights of some people to some speech (but less protective of "corporations" and/or "the 1%"). I don't know exactly what the proposed replacement amendment would contain but I would have thought there were some "liberty" implications. Evidently, they don't bother Wilkinson enough to mention them. Sanders also has a long history of supporting broad restrictions on "hate speech" (not only the namby-pamby laws which merely enhance sentencing for crimes motivated by "hate" types of motivations but direct restrictions on actual speech itself).

Also, in point of fact, I don't think Sanders actually has the ideas concerning criminal justice reform and immigration that Wilkinson seems to assume he has. To be sure, Sanders does seem to support the idea of releasing African Americans from prison in large numbers (or preventing their incarceration in the first place). I don't think, however, that he has actually advocated a general release of criminals or even drug criminals across the board. Oddly, Wilkinson seems to allow his own school-girl admiration for socialists of the 1930s to 1950s to do the work of proving that Sanders actually supports the outcomes that Wilkinson also favors. The "integrity" of those socialists is mentioned in his essay, none of Sanders' proposals, much less Sanders' own integrity, are mentioned. If Debs had integrity, Sanders must also have it, they are both socialists.

In the end, Wilkinson's support for Sanders today and Obama yesterday is based on nothing but his contempt for polyester-wearing Republicans with bad Republican-style haircuts. Wilkinson wants to go to the good cocktail parties in downtown Manhattan lofts and be well thought of by the kind of people who throw good cocktail parties in downtown Manhattan lofts. He wants to sit at the lunch table with the cool kids and sneer at the geeks.

"He wants to sit at the lunch table with the cool kids and sneer at the geeks."

The culture being what it is in 2016, Wilkinson probably fancies he and his preferred company the geeks and Republicans the big mean jocks.

If all his hundreds of thousands of words of writing can be explained by his wanting to go to "good cocktail parties in downtown Manhattan lofts," then why does he live in Houston?

The Wilkinson tragedy in a nutshell. He sits in Huston, dreaming of Manhattan. Thinking "if only the cool kids notice how much I despise my friends."

I am from Houston, I can see it. It is the perfect place, for what distinction is there in having all the right opinions if everyone else does?

In Houston there are just enough people of the right sort to never have to get out of your bubble, but not so many that having the right opinion doesn't make you automatically included.

Or to put it another way, a very dear friend of mine has a lipstivk lesbian daughter, born and raised in Houston, who thinks Wyoming is too dangerous to visit because they are murderous homophobes. She is white, in her thirties, and dresses like she is in a mid range clothing catalog.

His wife and child live in Iowa City. What's he doing in Houston?

6. Wilkinson: "the empirically proven compatibility of freedom and a robust safety net". Desperate people are far more likely to support a despot than a libertarian. Duh. I'm pleased that Wilkinson can be so logical, even if he is taking lots of heat for it from people nominally on his team. As Wilkinson points out, the critics of his suggestion that Sanders is the libertarian candidate didn't bother to consider the other candidates likely effect on freedom, candidates like Senator Rubio who wants to attack Iran or Senator Cruz who wants to make this a Christian nation.

#6. When an American politician proposes mirroring Denmark's less progressive taxation regime here in the US, I'll start paying attention.

When the US has the same pre-tax distribution of income as Denmark then we can talk about a less progressive taxation regime.

There isn't any one single, objective measure of how "progressive" a tax system is. Denmark's income tax can be as high as 59% on high-income earners in addition to a 25% VAT and a separate property tax. Rates are still high on lower-income earners but then there is a robust system of public services, government-provided health care and a safety net so the fiscal system is overall highly progressive.

People seem to be stark raving mad everywhere these days.

Yes! Time for war! It'll be fun!

#1, #3 To me, the problem with these cases for Bernie Sanders are that their most persuasive points seem to be that he is not one of the Republicans' motley crew. I don't need to hear that Trump/Cruz/Rubio probably support decreased personal freedoms compared to Bernie/Hillary - I already know this!

"I don’t need to hear that Trump/Cruz/Rubio probably support decreased personal freedoms compared to Bernie/Hillary – I already know this!"

You do? Sanders favored a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United granting the government control over release of films (or even, as the government's lawyers conceded, publication of books) that advocate for or against a candidate near elections. As president, he's promised to appoint judges that would overturn the ruling. I personally cannot think of any speech that requires higher protection from government interference than criticizing candidates near elections! So Bernie get's an 'F' grade on civil liberties from me even before we start looking at economic issues (where there would be several similar scores -- $15 minimum wage? 'F'. Free university tuition? 'F' Single payer? 'F' Too many kinds of sneakers and deodorant? 'F'. With Bernie, I feel like Dean Wormer reading a Delta House report card).

"granting the government control over release of films"

No, that's not at all what it means. It means making it impossible to buy both sides of the election without anyone ever knowing who did it.

You may believe that's what it *means*, but the fact is that the case was about whether or not the government should have been able to prevent a non-profit group named 'Citizens United' from distributing and promoting a film called 'Hillary: The Movie':

"At issue was whether the 90-minute "Hillary: The Movie" and television ads to promote it should have been subject to strict campaign finance laws on political advocacy or should have been seen as a constitutionally protected form of commercial speech."

And during oral arguments, the government counsel had to concede that yes, if the government had the power to do this for a film, it could do the same for a book. Should I google that for you as well?

Just to follow up this point, British universities have adopted a No Platform policy which was intended to keep Fascists out of British universities. Not Stalinists and Maoists of course. Anyway this week it has been used to prevent a long-time Gay activist Peter Tatchell from speaking and more interestingly it is being used to prevent Adam Perkins from speaking:

He has just published a book about the interaction of the welfare system and some personality traits.

So good intentions with extreme cases pretty soon become routine Orwellian nightmare. Assuming there were good intentions to begin with.

"Should I google that for you as well?"

There's no point. Nathan W habitually ignores data that contradicts his beliefs.

congrats to all on successful trolling of each other and epic drift. But even with this in mind, totally missing the point that these are less endorsements of Bernie per Se and more criticisms of the republican field. I guess they are trying to get linked to by gawker or something.

1. "we invented democracy because human beings have a tendency to confuse their own interests with the public’s."

Individual human beings have difficulty and are not always successful at determining their own interests, much less those of the public at large. Ordinarily, those public interests are described to them by people that are confusing their own personal interests with those of the public.

6) " If Sanders’ economic platform were implemented, it would definitely move America’s economic freedom score in the wrong direction."

There is a certain risk in being obsessed with indicators, when we can alternatively look at the situation holistically and decide for ourselves which candidates are more consistent with broader freedom in the long run. I think the author is rather attuned to this.

"Liberaltarianism" is an absurdity of socially-motivated cognition, native to only a tiny subset of the American population - those who have rationally comprehended the nature of the decentralized market, yet still wish to fit in with the culture of educated upper-middle-class urbanites.

Thus the convoluted and tortuous attempts to mash together a personal conviction of individualist, anti-authoritarian, rational libertarianism with a desire to fit in with the upper-class mores of communalist, authoritarian, and empathetic liberalism.

Well put.

I know of one libertarian on FB utterly consumed by their obsession with free market economics come out in support of Bernie Sanders, the person on the Democratic who makes econ his bread and butter. Suddenly their one obsession is jettisoned in favor of picking the person who makes their friends giddy.

As a soi-disant liberaltarian ("Left-libertarian," as they say on Popehat), I disagree. Liberaltarianism is founded on 3 principles:

1) In almost all, but not all, cases, regulatory capture or moral hazard makes the situation worse than whatever the problem regulations or entitlements were introduced to solve was (This is the primary difference between liberaltarians and liberals).

2) Institutions are key, and even if you could achieve a better immediate result by destroying an institution, you shouldn't (This is the primary difference between liberaltarians and political partisans/technocratic statists. We decry, on the left, the willingness of the Supreme Court starting with the Warren Court's willingness to read rights and freedoms into legal wording that in no way ever contained said rights and freedoms, rather than forcing the people to elect politicians who would provide said rights and freedoms via duly enacted legislation; and on the Right, the current Republican Party's endeavor to trash all public entities in the service of naked partisan advantage).

3) The level of taxation is fundamentally unimportant relative to the question of what fraction of governmental activity passes a cost-benefit test--i.e. the freedom to keep a larger percentage of the money you make pales in comparison to other freedoms that governmental action may support or imperil (This is the primary difference between liberaltarians and libertarians. We think the answer is "Less than currently occurs," but are comfortable with higher taxation if we were to be proven to be wrong).

Which libertarianism? A number of years ago, Ann Coulter thought of running for Congress, challenging the vaguely liberal Republican who represented her district. She approached the local LIbertarian Party about running as their candidate. Her meetings with them didn't go well: "I discovered the only thing they cared about were the drug laws". Or OPEN BORDERS. Or social signalling among the intellectualoids. Or re-instituting some variant of the gold standard. Or trading in isolationist fantasies. Flat all of them bar a few oddballs like Thomas Woods fancy homosexual pseudogamy, which has nothing to do with liberty and a great deal to do with comparative degrees of recognition accorded different subcultures. Almost no soi-disant libertarians you see in print manifest a visceral distaste for identity politics, in spite of the abusive public policies advocated by purveyors of same (and their abusive behavior generally in public life). And hatred for law enforcement is bog standard, as if property could be enjoyed absent public order. Twee poseurs, men without chests, the vocationally childless, for the most part.

I don't understand most of your comment, and your dig at marriage equality speaks to a sufficiently underdeveloped understanding of liberty that I can probably safely ignore the rest of your comment as the rantings of a dim-bulb worshipper of tough affect.

From my experience, the majority of libertarians are anti-tax absolutists who are honest about the level to which governmental activities would have to be slashed to accommodate their preferred tax levels, and through a combination of motivated and logical reasoning have concluded that said reduction is a good idea.

This differs from your bog-standard Republican, who pretend that drastically lowering taxes and retaining government services at levels acceptable to the statist majority are compatible.

"the convoluted and tortuous attempts to mash together a personal conviction of individualist, anti-authoritarian, rational libertarianism with a desire to fit in with the upper-class mores of communalist, authoritarian, and empathetic liberalism."

Wilkinson eschews the libertarian and liberaltarian labels and identifies as "liberal" (see: ). His case for Sanders boils down to mere bigotry: "Republicans = bad." Nevertheless, Uruguay provides a fine example of how a sane socialist government can embody libertarian virtues. The Economist named Uruguay "country of the year" in 2013 citing its policies legalizing the production, sale and consumption of cannabis and same-sex marriage while maintaining a strong economy and performing well globally on personal rights, tolerance and inclusion. ( ). Bolivia, too, seems to be drifting away from the Venezuela model and towards Uruguay's and has seen quite a bit of meaningful development. Does Sanders have what it takes to make such a course work in the US? Doubtful. He is as economically challenged as Trump and possibly even more hateful. And his legislative career certainly demonstrates a lack of the courage and integrity that would be needed to make necessary hard trade-offs or unpopular decisions. And he was all for war on Serbia and Afghanistan. Although I don't vote and do not plan on starting I'd have to guess Rubio would outperform Sanders both domestically and abroad despite his Christianity.

I literally just got back from Uruguay.

It's amazing what a small homogenous population can do for reasonable social policies. The Uruguay model would not work for a sprawling, racially-divided, enormous nation like us that is and (rightly) intends to remain a military superpower.

However, were Oregon and Washington, Minnesota, or Maine-New Hampshire-Vermont, for instance, to secede from the US and form their own countries, they could do far worse than Uruguay as an example to follow.

I am beginning to appreciate Bridge more. NO TRUMP is always superior to TRUMP there.

Of course, Trump has no interest in playing Bridge. He's more about Wall.

Wow some commenter sure took their adderall today.

Tyler should get one of his lawyer buddies to file a John Doe lawsuit, unmask the nutty spammer and file a cease and desist.

Will Wilkerson has never had a paycheck outside of academia

No. He was more than happy to take Cato's money before going apostate.

Despite his open borders fundamentalism, Wilkinson often has some really worthwhile and interesting things to say. But that piece on Bernie Sanders was just about the most convoluted thing I've ever read. Why not just say that advancing the cause of liberty (should that be your primary goal) is complicated, and its hard to say which of the present candidates would best achieve that goal?

3. Punctuation in novels, some data from your favorites.

I can see it now:

Dashiell Hammett: "The Full Stop. It was like a slap in the face. A punch in the gut. He needed a drink bad."

Jane Austin: "The colon is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to punctuation marks who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your manuscript and enjoy her similes, for you are wasting your time with me."

Raymond Chandler: "No more type setting for him. He put on his hat, walked into the bright California sun and looked at the shapely blonde one last time. None of them ever saw each other again. Except for the semi-colon. No one can avoid seeing the semi-colon"

J. R. R. Tolkein: "Looking out over the blighted wasteland, Frodo said "No Samwise, this is my burden. I must carry this by myself. Only once I have throw it down the mouth of a volcano will we ever be free of the Oxford comma."

Ayn Rand: "Real men, free men, don't pay attention to the petty conformist rules of others. They punctuate where and when they please. If lesser men wish to understand them, they need rise to that level which does not need explanation. A women can only admire their manliness in helpless wonder."

If this is your own work, I am impressed.

#2. So students are too lazy (or too stupid) to figure out their grades and like having an electronic helicopter parent to nag them, which helps keep them in perpetual adolescence. What's worse is that the twits who authored the study think that instructors should adopt the practice.

CEOs who use digital assistants to remind themselves of stuff are also obviously lazy and stupid too, no? Does that keep them in perpetual adolescence?

The guys taking the Sports Econ class are indeed probably mostly dumb jocks.

The "stuff" in question is that failing to do the homework will result in a lower grade. Elementary school students need to learn that lesson. If they haven't learned that basic lesson by college, then drown the bunnies. The same goes for a CEO who needs constant reminders that neglecting to do routine tasks will harm the bottom line.

A lot of brilliant people can barely get their shoes on the right feet, metaphorically. We should not seek to exclude those whose strengths are not inclusive of some specific area, in my opinion. Just think of how many brilliant but scatterbrained physicists we might get into the pipeline for helping them to keep on top of the mundane stuff.

Performance would improve if students were reminded of any number of general lessons (which are not the same as ephemeral details like precise dates of particular deadlines). Exactly how much remedial teaching should instructors be expected to perform? And truly brilliant people will usually find a way to rise to the top.

"And truly brilliant people will usually find a way to rise to the top."

Einstein is the obvious example. But for your average prospective professional physicists, if they don't get into the right undergrad program, they don't get into the right grad schools where they work with leaders of the field, and end up doing something vaguely mathy in whatever work they can find.

Yes, Einstein is the obvious example. And this story refutes some of the common myths about Einstein. Despite disliking doing routine tasks, he in fact did enough of them to earn good grades in school:

"He started school at 6½ and, according to an Albert Einstein Archives biography, his early teachers did not find him especially talented even though he got high marks. He hated the strict protocols followed by teachers and rote learning demanded of students, which explains his disdain for school, which he carried with him when, at age 9½, he entered the Luitpold Gymnasium, a competitive school.

Did he flunk math? He did fine in math, but he did flunk the entrance exam to the Zurich Polytechnic when he first took it — when he was about 1 1/2 years away from graduating high school, at age 16, and hadn’t had a lot of French, the language in which the exam was given."

If even Einstein put his nose to the grind, I see no compelling reason for lesser mortals to be coddled.

Long ugly threads above, but if anyone does get down here ..

It is really about smart and dumb, it is more about thinking about thinking fast and slow. All of us think fast most of the time, not doing the real math. Maybe skating on this homework won't hurt our grade too much, or this beer our gut. A number in front of you does the slow, serious thinking. Puts it out there. A quiz below 7/10 will reduce your grade.

"Not" about smart and dumb, more about fast and slow

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