Rebel Yid on Twitter Rebel Yid on Facebook
Print This Post Print This Post

When Words Lose Their Meaning

The working of the U.S. constitution, for example, has always rested on such ethical grounding. Its crises have arisen from deep disputes about ethics, such as that between the ethics of the dignity of all people regardless of condition of servitude and the ethics of honoring private property in slaves, or that between the ethics of the right of a woman to control her body and the ethics of the right of a fetus to be born. In January 2001, following the long-contested vote for the presidency, the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, who had won the popular vote in November but not the electoral college, hung by chad in Florida, conceded defeat, when the conservative majority on the Supreme Court spoke. So far the institutions reached. A rule of the game is that a majority of the Court gets the last word. But suppose Gore had not conceded. It was not automatic that he would do so, or written down somewhere in a self-interpreting text. Nor was his decision to concede the election wholly explicable in terms of the incentives facing him, at any rate not the sort of incentives that a Samuelsonian or Marxian economist would admire. Gore’s wanting the good of his country came out of his personal and social ethics, learned at his mother’s knee. So did the acceptance by other Democrats of his defeat, with more or less good grace. The rest of us heartily commend them, and congratulate the mothers who taught them so well. That too was a social part of the ethical dance. We do not view good people like Gore as mere suckers, missing a chance. We honor them, sociologically. The Roman Republic fell because ethics no longer supported its constitution, and a Cicero who did not make the first move in a game of prudence-only was accounted a fool and was put to the sword. Athenian democracy was doomed when early in its long war with Sparta, as Thucydides put it, “words [such as ‘justice’] lost their meaning.” 24


McCloskey, Deirdre N. (2016-04-21). Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (Kindle Locations 422-436). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.

Print This Post Print This Post

The Hombre Syndrome


from the Wall Street Journal Look Who’s Getting That Bank Settlement Cash -Tens of millions of dollars disguised as ‘consumer relief’ are going to liberal political groups.  by Andy Koenig

The most recent came in April when the Justice Department announced a $5.1 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs. In February Morgan Stanley agreed to a $3.2 billion settlement. Previous targets were Citigroup ($7 billion), J.P. Morgan Chase ($13 billion), and Bank of America, which in 2014 reached the largest civil settlement in American history at $16.65 billion. Smaller deals with other banks have also been announced.

Combined, the banks must divert well over $11 billion into “consumer relief,” which is supposed to benefit homeowners harmed during the Great Recession. Yet it is unknown how much, if any, of the banks’ settlement money will find its way to individual homeowners. Instead, a substantial portion is allocated to private, nonprofit organizations drawn from a federally approved list. Some groups on the list—Catholic Charities, for instance—are relatively nonpolitical. Others—La Raza, the National Urban League, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and more—are anything but.

This is a handout to the administration’s allies. Many of these groups engage in voter registration, community organizing and lobbying on liberal policy priorities at every level of government. They also provide grants to other liberal groups not eligible for payouts under the settlements. Thanks to the Obama administration, and the fungibility of money, the settlements’ beneficiaries can now devote hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to these activities.


Big banking forced to support these organizations leaves fascinating conflicts.  Regulations stifle startup competition that would not have to pay such nonsense. There must be a name for the dependence on those you hate. I call it the Hombre Syndrome from the movie starring Paul Newman.

In such a deal both parties sell their soul. And ultimately both parties lose.

Print This Post Print This Post

Capitalism Updated

George Gilder after signing my copy of Wealth and Poverty

George Gilder after signing my copy of Wealth and Poverty

Progressivism can be viewed as socialism lite, paying homage to the great progress of capitalism while acknowledging some of the limitations of a free market. Social and economic theories develop, mature and evolve as they face the hard tests of history and events.  In the competitive continuum between capitalism and socialism or progressivism we tend to compare our preferred idea and the other ideas from different points on the evolutionary scale.

Modern progressives certainly do not advocate the eugenics, prohibition and imperialism characteristic of the early days of the first era of Progressivism under Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, but they do still frame modern capitalism in in the social Darwinism of the Gilded Age.

The philosophy of capitalism has been advanced considerably beyond mere laissez faire and the invisible hand of Adam Smith.  George Gilder wrote in the noted Wealth and Poverty from the 1980’s, updated 20 years later with an additional 40,000 words, that capitalism is the competition of ideas. He expanded on the concept in Knowledge and Power, that capitalism works best when knowledge and power converge.  Government regulatory agencies have considerable power but lack sufficient knowledge to effectively regulate most of the time, and certainly lacks the knowledge to allocate capital as well as a ruthless but accountable market place.

Human foibles and failures which tarnish market choices do not disappear in the government sector and difficult decisions do not disappear when they are abdicated or delegated to the elected serving a limited term or to the bureaucracies which have escaped both control and accountability.

Gilder’s most recent book, The Scandal of Money, focuses on how our management of money is at the root of many of our social ills from inequality to economic stagnation.  He explains how our centralization and instability has led to the financialization and the hypertrophy of finance, pushing far too high a percent of our economic transactions into the financial sphere which is both unproductive and exacerbates inequality.

Deidre McCloskey in Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World caps off a trilogy (Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern WorldThe Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce) bringing a rich and thorough look from history and economics, examining the various developments that explain the rapid growth in human development in the last few hundred years.  Reading McCloskey takes a commitment, this work consumed ten years of her professional life.  It is a worthy, but not a light read.

Both of these gifted authors bring tremendous insight and development into modern economic thinking that goes far beyond the dated concepts of capitalism so commonly used by the left, but both of these authors challenge much of the thinking from the right as well.  Gilder is quite critical of some Milton Friedman’s monetarist thoughts, particularly on monetary velocity, and finds it similar in a few critical ways to Keynesianism.

Matt Ridley adds to this collection with his excellent The Evolution of Everything,  a lively view that spontaneous order applies to many facets of our lives other than evolution.

Perhaps these high minded views of our political economy are mere escapes from a political season mired in deceit and ignorance, but they still provide a much needed view of what actually works and what doesn’t before we continue to double down on failed policies. The challenge to our political class is to translate these ideas into policies that have meaning to modern voters. Toward that end I remain very skeptical but optimistic. History seems to be a march of human improvement, but not without some serious setbacks.

Print This Post Print This Post

Bastiat and Sowell


Mark Perry posts at Carpe Diem at AEI a wonderful collection of quotes from Thomas Sowell and Frederic Bastiat, who share the same birthday and economic insights.

Happy 86th birthday to economist Thomas Sowell, one of the greatest living economists

Happy 215th Birthday (June 30) to economist Frederic Bastiat!

consider them the antidote to Krugman.

a few selected favorites:


Economics vs. Politics II. The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

Politics deals with the same problem by making promises that cannot be kept, or which can be kept only by creating other problems that cannot be acknowledged when the promises are made.

Greed. Someone pointed out that blaming economic crises on “greed” is like blaming plane crashes on gravity. Certainly planes wouldn’t crash if it wasn’t for gravity. But when thousands of planes fly millions of miles every day without crashing, explaining why a particular plane crashed because of gravity gets you nowhere. Neither does talking about “greed,” which is constant like gravity.


Legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole—with their common aim of legal plunder—constitute socialism.

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong.See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

“The State [government] is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

~The State in Journal des Débats (1848).

8. “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

~Economic Sophisms, 2nd series (1848)

9. “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State. They forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone.”

~Source unknown


Print This Post Print This Post

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.