Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hayek the sociologist

Timothy Lee responds to John Derbyshire on culture. It's a masterful takedown:
The real danger is that if we slam the door shut on new immigrants, our culture will gradually become stagnant and parochial like the countries most of our ancestors fled. In those countries, the defining cultural attributes center around things like what kind of clothes you wear, what kind of food you eat, and what sports you play. We’ll know that American culture has truly ceased to be distinctive when we start to define ourselves primarily by our shared love of American football.

Read the whole thing for context. However, Derbyshire has an important point in his original post, though it wasn't what he intended:
You may think it would be good for them to have their nation so transformed, but they don't believe you. They like their culture. They're attached to it. They don't want to see it transformed in ways they do not approve, and have never voted for. This is called "conservatism."

A Hayekian view of markets and an authoritarian view of culture is indeed what makes conservatives thus. It's time to drop the collectivist schtick and pick up methodological individualism to analyze culture. Top-down imposition of culture is historically about as successful as top-down imposition of market structure: not at all. If our culture was largely determined by votes rather than free interaction among individuals, we would have just as much trouble as, well, the French do now with their economy. Read more.

Friday, May 25, 2007

How much of a jerk do you have to be to oppose immigration?

Analysis here, do your best to follow the math.

Via just about everybody, because it's hilarious and makes an excellent point. Read more.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The dog episode of Futurama was just on

Do not express emotion on the internet. It is against the rules.

Start here. Keep clicking through the next few entries until you get to here. Then go here and tell this guy he is a terrible person, or at least comes off as one.

(Quick rundown for the disinterested or busy: Megan McArdle's (aka Jane Galt) dog died. She posted an excellent poem in commemoration, was briskly insulted by some commentors for feeling a human emotion for a mere animal, and wrote up a couple excellent rants in response. The final link is someone who accuses her of being a childish fag hag who needs children. He is a terrible person, or at least comes off as one. (Ahem.))

Finally, read this article by Joseph Epstein and remember it every time you engage someone in debate.
Other people's opinions, on popular culture, and much else, help us feel them out. Most of us search for people whose opinions are roughly congruent with our own, believing, I suppose, that anyone who doesn't share our distastes is himself distasteful. Yet congruence of opinion isn't a good test for judging character. A better test is if you think well of someone despite his opinions. More disturbing still is to encounter someone whose opinions on a great many subjects are very close to your own whom you recognize as unmistakably a creep.

Relatedly, I had a chance to meet Jane Galt the other night. She was one of the friendliest people I have met in a long time. Read more.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

For the billionth time, there are no "just" prices.

Nick Gillespie's take on Robert Kuttner's insane column about how much airline deregulation sucks is a must-read. Excerpt:
I'm curious if Kuttner charges a fixed rate for all of his writing? If the Globe offers him, I don't know, $200 for an op-ed and someone else offers $500, does he turn down the offer that bears less relationship to his "costs"? After all, why should he charge different prices for the same op-ed (and let's be clear: he's not coming up with any original thoughts; indeed, he can't even be bothered to pull a George Jetson and hit a couple of buttons to research airfares)? Does he get more (or give more, as an editor at The American Prospect) for someone who turns in a piece overnight on a very time-sensitive subject? Yet it costs a newspaper or magazine the same to run each letter of print, doesn't it?
Read more.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I remember a high school teacher asking if I thought GW Bush looked presidential. I didn't think so, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Which is why we have such clever writers as Julian Sanchez to help us:
Maybe this kind of thing seems more important after six and a half years of a president. . . whose face seems perpetually frozen in the expression of a sniggering teenager waiting for you to realize he's Saran-Wrapped your toilet bowl.

That's it! Read more.