Thursday, March 31, 2022

Well At Least We Can Agree On This, Right?...

Here is a partial list of some things people commonly get wrong (by my judgment at least) yet believe in them with strong conviction and desire. Therefore, these are just a few examples of times when I disagree with conventional wisdom. 
  • Veterans are always human, sometimes (but rarely) heroes. I wonder how much mental anguish in veterans is caused by either an imposter syndrome (these people think I did something I did not do) or a guilt complex (these people don't know what ugly things I endured and perhaps contributed to). Veterans deserve reverence and sympathy, but we do a grave disservice to them when we dismissively and robotically admire them.
  • Localized industrial policy is very bad. This includes tax-increment financing (TIF), direct subsidy, government/private partnerships, and other favored-interest actions. The local darling in my neck of the woods is M.A.P.S. Like so many cases of local industrial policy, it suffers from a server case of Bastiat's "what is seen and what is unseen--just look at all the shiny things! There are two crucial and high hurdles for these public (i.e., taxpayer-funded) endeavors to overcome before we can believe in them: 1) there must be a clear market failure preventing entrepreneurs from seeing and acting to realize the positive gains to be had, and 2) the government must be able to identify and execute on these supposed investment opportunities.
  • There should be no government licensure for employment (especially law and medicine--those in particular are too important and nuanced to leave up to central planning). I've got strong economic and principle-based arguments against licensure while those supporting it typically rely on that it feels good and that an idealized government can correct a hypothesized problem (not even a market failure mind you). Yet my view is political poison because it takes the unpopular tactic of addressing people's fear through passive action rather than blatant pandering.
  • Edward Snowden is an American patriot and hero.
  • Almost all acts of state-level aggression (AKA, war) should be met with minimal retaliation if not appeasement and forbearance. This certainly cuts against human nature, but most secondary reactions in response to violent hostility are counterproductive. They make the world a worse place--overall, on net, all things considered. My follow up right there is not my attempt to qualify my view. Rather I am saying I am considering all the supposed benefits people offer as to why vengeance shall be mine! . . . we must stand up to belligerent aggressors. Too often the cost is not worth the cure, and the actions taken in response are just closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. The most I can say in defense of the typical defender of retaliation (too much play on words?) is that if one wants to maintain the world closer to how it is at the cost of how much better it could be, then fight every fire with fire. It is very hard to truly hold territory and control a people. And this difficulty grows more and more as human society advances. Initial victories for would-be rulers become short lived if not pyrrhic. The constant eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth state of the world keeps us in a local maximum, struggling to escape to higher peaks. I think Bryan Caplan says it well.
  • The following should all be legal with minimal to no interference from government: prostitution, recreational drugs, performance enhancing drugs, selling/buying organs, prediction markets, actual gambling (games of chance rather than skill), and basically everything else under the sun of If you can do it for free…. The list is what makes this item fully counter-conventional--very few will defend all of these items.
  • The motto “Safety First!” is basically nonsense. It amounts to trite virtue signaling. If it is your “highest priority”, then you are incompetent. It is simply not possible for this to be a goal. It is a constraint. Fortunately most of the time when used it is just there to help the na├»ve and fearful to be a bit braver. In this sense it is innocuous as far as a noble lie can be. But for God’s sake can we grow up and stop saying it or accepting it as a substitute for meaningful signal?

Things the major tribes actually do unfortunately agree upon: 

  • There is lots of speech that needs to be censored (e.g., hateful speech, disruptive speech, unpleasant speech).
  • We need to fund the police such that we have a strong and powerful police state
  • Government can and should solve the "problem" of big tech.
  • A safe world and a safe America requires a overwhelmingly strong, uber-engaged, and extensively involved U.S. military.
  • American farmers are a sacred group who need constant support especially to maintain the status quo. They should enjoy private profits and be afforded extensive social insurance against losses. 
  • The welfare and education and indoctrination of the young is a state concern and needs strong state intervention. Parents should only be left up to their own desires when those desires fully correspond to the state's interests (defined separately by the two biggest tribes, of course). 
  • Incumbent firms and industries need and deserve deference if not extra support. It is wrong that they might be challenged by newcomers and new approaches. 


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