Metaphysical Rights

from Kevin Williamson at National Review, The ‘Right’ to Health Care,

Declaring a right in a scarce good is meaningless. It is a rhetorical gesture without any application to the events and conundrums of the real world. If the Dalai Lama were to lead 10,000 bodhisattvas in meditation, and the subject of that meditation was the human right to health care, it would do less good for the cause of actually providing people with health care than the lowliest temp at Merck does before his second cup of coffee on any given Tuesday morning.

Health care is physical, not metaphysical. It consists of goods, such as penicillin and heart stents, and services, such as oncological attention and radiological expertise. Even if we entirely eliminated money from the equation, conscripting doctors into service and nationalizing the pharmaceutical factories, the basic economic question would remain.

We tend to retreat into cheap moralizing when the economic realities become uncomfortable for us. No matter the health-care model you choose — British-style public monopoly, Swiss-style subsidized insurance, pure market capitalism — you end up with rationing: Markets ration through prices, bureaucracies ration through politics. Price rationing is pretty straightforward: Think of Jesse James and his “Pay Up, Sucker!” tattoo on his palm. Political rationing is a little different: Sometimes it happens through waiting lists and the like, and sometimes it is just a question of money and clout. American progressives love the Western European medical model, but when Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi needed a pacemaker, he came to the United States to have it implanted.

There is no substitute for abundance. And the great enemy of abundance is the bias against profit. There is something deeply rooted in us that instinctively thinks we are being abused if someone else makes a profit on a deal. That is a dumb and primitive way of thinking — our world is full of wonders because it is profitable to invent them, build them, and sell them — but the angel is forever handcuffed to the ape.

Effective Gun Regulation


Kevin Williamson gives HRC some advise on effectively addressing gun violence in Some Advice for President Clinton:

Let us begin with the basics: The United States of America may be a beacon of liberty and prosperity to the world, but it is also a horrifyingly violent society. Firearms are not the live variable in this: We are off the charts when it comes to stabbings, beating people to death, strangulations, homicidal drownings, any kind of murder you can think of. We also have very high rates of deaths from drugs and alcohol, motor-vehicle mishaps, accidents, and the like. The question of why, exactly, that is the case is a matter of intense scholarly interest, and there is, so far, no conclusive answer. But any discussion of homicide in the United States, whether it is of the Chicago street-corner-gangster variety or the lonely-misfit-shoots-up-the-school variety, must begin with the knowledge that we are an unusually violent and unruly people, and have been for a long time. The Swiss keep the prime criminal demographic, young men, armed to the teeth, not with what your friends like to call “military-style” weapons but with actual military weapons, and they have fewer murders in a year than Chicago has on a bad Saturday night. The issue is the character of the people, not the state of gun laws.

But that is not to say that there is not room for improvement when it comes to the intersection of guns, crime, and violence. And that’s where you could, if you were so inclined, proceed in a way that not only wouldn’t antagonize Second Amendment partisans such as myself but would in fact invite our cooperation.

The first thing you should do is have a conference call with your U.S. attorneys and insist that they either start prosecuting straw-buyer cases or start putting their personal possessions into shoeboxes and scooting their lazy asses out the door. We have, at the federal level, robust laws for the prosecution of “straw buyers,” people who have clean criminal records and act as proxies for felons and others unable to legally purchase guns. Straw purchases are not the only or even the main way by which firearms find their way into the hands of those forbidden to possess them, but they aren’t a negligible one, either. Unfortunately, many federal prosecutors (including the one responsible for Chicago) as a matter of openly stated policy refuse to prosecute these cases unless there is a sexier angle to the case, such as a shot at a major trafficking ring or an opportunity for a headline-grabbing organized-crime prosecution.

There is more – read the whole thing.

Strange Bedfellows

The Philando Castile shooting involves an interesting twist in the gun debate.  If he was advising the police of his concealed carry permit, then we have this very curious confluence of the Black Lives Matter movement with the Second Amendment advocates. Strange bedfellows.  It remains a tragedy and I reserve any judgment until after a thorough investigation. I wish others would do the same.

Best Rebel Yid 2016 – First Six Months


These are some of the best articles that stood out to me so far this year- and a few of mine .

America Doesn’t Have a Gun Problem; It Has a Democrat Problem from Sultan Knish

Chicago’s murder rate of 15.09 per 100,000 people looks nothing like the American 4.2 rate, but it does look like the murder rates in failed countries like Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. To achieve Chicago’s murder rate, African countries usually have to experience a bloody genocidal civil war.

But Chicago isn’t even all that unique. Or the worst case scenario. That would be St. Louis with 50 murders for 100,000 people. If St Louis were a country, it would have the 4th highest murder rate in the world, beating out Jamaica, El Salvador and Rwanda.

Obama won St. Louis 82 to 16 percent.

 People Aren’t Widgets by Kevin Williamson

 But every expensively miseducated jackass who thinks he should be president of these United States has an opinion about what a bottle of grape soda ought to cost in Des Moines or Dixville Notch. The assumptions in Washington are the same as those in Beijing: that everything is subject to political power, that it all comes down to having the right sort of enlightened rulers with the right sort of enlightened ideas, that everything else — the real world — is detail. But human beings, and their relationships, are not electrical circuits. They are not governed by circuit breakers. Not in reality.

 You Know Less Than You Think About Guns from Brian Doherty at Reason

 More guns do not necessarily mean more homicides. More gun laws do not necessarily mean less gun crime. Finding good science is hard enough; finding good social science on a topic so fraught with politics is nigh impossible. The facts then become even more muddled as the conclusions of those less-than-ironclad academic studies cycle through the press and social media in a massive game of telephone. Despite the confident assertions of the gun controllers and decades of research, we still know astonishingly little about how guns actually function in society and almost nothing at all about whether gun control policies actually work as promised.

 What Trump Doesn’t Understand — It’s a Lot — about Our Trade Deficit with China by Kevin Williamson at National Review

Our trade deficit with China isn’t a product of the Chinese getting rich — it’s a product of their being poor. We will not have more-balanced trade with China until Chinese people have a standard of living that is more like that of Americans. Putting a 45 percent tax on American shoppers and people who build computers in the United States (you know who does that? Lenovo, a Chinese company) or build robotics systems using some imported components isn’t going to change any of that. What’s worse, it will exacerbate one of the real problems that U.S-based firms do face: relatively high business taxes. Remember, much of that Chinese trade deficit comes from electronic equipment and industrial machines used by American companies rather than from cheap plastic waterguns, and Trump wants to put a 45 percent materials-and-equipment tax on top of the 40 percent they pay in corporate income taxes.

 Political Trade Schools

 There is no reason that intellectual values cannot be appreciated by a larger segment of our population.  There is no reason that intellectual values should be limited to a small segment of the academic elite. But to have a true development of academic virtues, higher education should be independent of both commercial and political interests.  The only thing worse than the expense of higher education in its pursuit of intellectual independence would be to make it free.

  The Traditionalist Rebel

 Leftist movements begin with rebellion and end with conformity. No Utopian movement can tolerate rebels for long because there is no room for dissent in paradise. An ideal society, the goal of leftist political movements, not only has no room for war, racism, greed and all the other evils the conformist paradises of the left hope to eliminate, it also has no room for disagreement.

The Progressive Itch to Regulate Free Speech

 Sanders and Clinton detest the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which they say their court nominees will promise to reverse. It held that unions and corporations — especially incorporated advocacy groups, from the National Rifle Association to the Sierra Club — can engage in unregulated spending on political advocacy that is not coordinated with candidates or campaigns. The decision simply recognized that Americans do not forfeit their First Amendment rights when they come together in incorporated entities to magnify their voices by speaking collectively.

If corporations had no rights of personhood, they would have no constitutional protections against, for example, the arbitrary search and seizure by government of their property without just compensation. And there would be no principled reason for denying the right of free speech (the First Amendment does not use the word “person” in guaranteeing it) to for-profit (e.g., the New York Times) or nonprofit (e.g., the NAACP) corporations.

 Please Lie to Us by Mona Charen

 Truth serum: Our problems arise from demanding too much of government. We, the middle class, have asked government to make sure everyone (no matter how credit unworthy) can buy a house. We’ve demanded that government bring down the prices of health care and education — with the result that those two sectors have seen the steepest price increases of any in the American economy. We’ve demanded that corporations pay the highest tax rates in the developed world in the mistaken belief that someone else pays those taxes (when in fact we all pay through higher prices or in the loss of jobs as companies relocate to business-friendlier countries). We’ve demanded that disability payments become the new welfare, and that political connections substitute for merit among businesses. Every time we vote for a candidate who promises to go to Washington to “fight for you” rather than to shrink government, we’re voting for the kind of corruption that we claim to despise. We’re empowering those who excel at manipulating political power for private gain.

 Engineering Better Voters by Kevin Williamson at National Review

 Progressives are a funny bunch in that they do sincerely believe that government should be empowered, almost without limitation, to do the will of the People, who are sovereign, but they imagine that the People speak with one voice, or at least that they should speak with one voice. When the People get froggy and refuse to fall in line behind, say, the Affordable Care Act, which the best experts drew up on behalf of the People, who (so the story goes) gave Barack Obama a mandate to reform health care, then something must be wrong. And we all know what that is: Too much debate and too much political discourse including too many voices, some of which — those of Charles and David Koch, for instance — must be silenced in order for the People to be heard as one voice, the way it was intended. (No, we are not allowed to ask: Intended by Whom?) So we arrive at the strange situation in which the Left desires maximal formal participation in democratic processes but heavy restriction of everything ancillary to those processes, most especially political speech.

  Don Boudreaux comments on Matt Ridley’s The Evolution of Everything In his Quotation of the Day on 7/1/16

 And then in the 18th century a few pioneering scholars (featuring prominently Adam Smith) – and of course building on insights from earlier scholars – stumbled upon (!) what is surely the single most important insight in all of the social sciences, and what is surely among the most important in all of the sciences – namely, that complex, productive, beautiful, and sustainable orders emerge undesigned and unplanned and undirected.  A corollary of this insight is that these orders are practically impossible to improve with conscious intervention.

Our minds do not naturally grasp this reality.  In fact, our minds rebel against this reality.  But that this reality is our world I am completely convinced.  (Do you doubt it about the economy?  Then tell me who designed and directs the order that will feed today the millions of people who live in, work in, and visit New York City.  Tell me who designed and directs the order that produced the shirt you now wear.  We can debate the necessity or not of state-funded research, state-built infrastructure, and state-created and enforced law.  Yet even on the most generous estimation of the importance of such collectively arranged inputs, the complexity of the order that feeds New York City and that clothes you daily is inconceivably greater than anything that the most magnificent and munificent state can have planned or even foreseen.)

The orders that emerge unplanned in society are no more perfect than are the orders that emerge unplanned in non-sentient nature.  Change is therefore incessant and necessary.  Life and existence is a process.  And while appreciation of the creative power of bottom-up, decentralized ordering methods isn’t natural to us, we humans perhaps never display as much genius and intellectual humility as we do when we grasp the reality and logic of spontaneous orders.


Knee Jerk Gun Control- Part II


America has a gun problem. We can argue if the guns are a symptom of a crime problem, a cultural problem or a terrorist problem; or if they are a cause.  But we can certainly agree that we would like to reduce violent gun deaths. We can likely agree that we would like to avoid the availability of weapons of any kind to get in the hands of terrorists or the psychotically deranged.

But as a matter of policy it is more productive to properly analyze a problem than to respond emotionally or haphazardly to a tragedy such as Orlando.

Gun critics compare the gun deaths in America to other countries such as in Europe where there is no second amendment and most weapons are unavailable to the public.  But we should understand that such a comparison between a large land mass with 50 states with widely diverse cultures and population to a small homogenous population is of limited use.  There is a diverse range of gun control statutes that vary not only among the states but also differ among communities within the states.  Chicago and Washington, DC have locally restrictive gun laws.

It is far more useful to compare statistics of gun violence among the states.  Police use crime stats to target assets to the location of the problem.  We find that gun violence is concentrated in relatively few areas, mostly large urban areas. When these areas are removed the rate of gun violence for the rest of the country drops considerably, even in areas where the incidence of gun ownership is very high.

Gun rights supporters like to point out that Chicago with strict gun control measures has much higher gun violence that other cities with much less regulation. This is largely irrelevant. What we should ask is if the regulations in Chicago has reduced gun crime from the period before the regulations were instituted. If these regulations have failed to reduce gun violence, then perhaps other solutions in law enforcement should be considered. Blaming the access of guns from neighboring states may explain a few instances but it also points to the futility of only relying on the access to weapons in controlling the problem.

We should also distinguish between the classification of gun crimes. The common gun crime perpetuated by a single criminal is the larger source of deaths, and this can be addressed with restricted access and better background checks, since so many in this category have criminal backgrounds.  There are many laws on the books already to enforce this that are unfortunately poorly enforced.

But the psycho shooters and terrorists pose different threats and requires different solutions.   This may entail profiling in ways that challenge civil libertarians, but such a laws could be tried for a limited period like The Patriot Act, requiring reauthorization by Congress.  This will discourage the abuse of the law by the enforcement agencies.

Stronger straw man laws severely penalizing those who buy for others with known risks can decrease access to dangerous felons, but this can be tricky.  Could you buy a gun for someone as a gift who then shoots someone 5 years later and then be held liable?

Expanded background checks, and licensing gun buyers would also help.

But there are two tactics that will not help.  Relying on the second amendment to avert any restriction is not productive. Nor is the demonization of the second amendment as a 250-year-old relic of the constitution.  Beyond the practical aspects of gun ownership there is something profound about a government that can trust its citizens to be armed.  The government has nothing to fear from its armed citizens, because they rise and fall not from armed insurgency but from the sacredness of the ballot box.

While restricting the sale or availability of certain weapons or high capacity clips may seem productive, the existence of so many of these weapons renders this approach ineffective unless you intend to engage in a massive confiscation of these weapons in all 50 states that are overwhelmingly in the hands of law abiding citizens.  I can not picture agencies that are unable to enforce the existing laws being able to carry out such a task, and I can not imagine the population complying.

Those who call for such confiscation only embolden the opposition who sense that every effort to reduce gun access to anybody is only a step on the slippery slope to confiscation.

Pistols are far more common than assault weapons in gun violence and almost equally deadly. Identifying an assault weapon as such is not as obvious as you may think.  Such weapons are used in a very small per cent of gun deaths; banning then and even confiscating them (if you could) would have minimal effect on gun deaths.

We are emotional creatures and responding emotionally to such tragedies is expected, but it is not the way to enact effective solutions.