Monday, November 30, 2009

Letters I will never send, #2

Dear Homeless Looking People Outside Of The New England Conservatory of Music --

Why were you standing outside of the theater before the opera on Sat. night, holding sign that say, "I need a ticket?"

I mean, are you just really passionate Handel lovers? So that you see your lack of season tickets as the worst aspect of your current economic predicament? I can't say I empathize -- I was born nearly tone deaf, and so my cultural inclinations run literary rather than musical. (Like Florence King, I suspect that I might have been born with
an ear for music gone awry.
But that's another story.) And again fortunately for me, libraries are free.

But I fear that you are not really driven by love of eighteenth-century pastorals -- but rather, class warfare. And in that case, I do not get it. Do you really think that class war mongering will make people relinquish their tickets? Do you not think that they will not instead feel put off by your attempts to stir up ressentiment?

Alternately, are there not cheaper available alternatives for warm indoor places? Libraries -- yes, I know, again with the libraries. Bookstores? Coffee shops? Could you not stand outside of movie theaters, seeing as how movie tickets are cheaper? And some of them feature plotlines more interesting than love triangle among hot chick, hot shepherd, and Cyclops?

I fear I also do not quite see targeting opera as symbol of plutocracy. During my red state childhood, my parents often took me to opera and classical music concerts because they were supposed to be Improving. We used to run into one of my Sunday school teachers sometimes -- a woman whom I remember for her sublime voice and utter lack of imagination. Think Lily Fisher from Willa Cather's Song of the Lark. Teenagers in small towns across America do bad, bad things -- among them fad diets and Objectivism -- not to end up like that woman. I would know. So I associate the genre equally with a kind of middle-middle-class earnestness as much as with caviar-swilling aristocrats. That is okay -- beautiful things need not be defined by the likes of the people I like them.


Saturday, November 28, 2009


1)This post reminded me of Paul Fussell's carping in Class about "legible clothing." (Stolen from one of Alison Lurie's books, I believe. But my copy is back at my parents' house, and I'm still in MA.) Though I agree with Fussell on fashion grounds, the result of the case is absurd on 1A grounds.

2)A well-written post that provides a helpful anti-paternalism data point.

3)I am reluctant to comment on anything history of the civil rights movement related here because it hits too close to home (home = work.) But I thought these posts interesting. Note that interesting /= substantive commentary.

4)I think I was born without some crucial gene that allows people to feel outrage. It reminds me of the time that I told Pnin that I am not actually from Venus, and he is not actually from Mars; rather, I suspect that we are both actually from Vulcan.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Can I call myself a non-mystic nationalist?

I recently finished two of the new biographies of Ayn Rand (both Jennifer Burns's & Anne Heller's. ) One or both recount a story where some annoying know-nothing nativist goes off on a rant against immigration in front of Rand.* And she replies, "I chose to become an American. What did you do?"

This anecdote popped into my head as I've been reading the Jonah Goldberg/Will Wilkinson/PEG exchanges on "mystic nationalism." Unlike Rand, I can't say that I chose to become an American. (Though my maternal grandfather did as recently as the 1960s.) But the Rand quote encapusulates the kind of patriotism I feel and want other Americans to feel. I'm not proud of my country because I feel some kind of sappy atavistic pull toward the flag or apple pie. I'm an American because I'm rationally convinced that I live in a wonderful country.

I'm willing to allow that perhaps it would be good to have a pro-nationalist default rule in place. That is, if you're thought about a particular public policy a lot and are genuinely unconvinced that your country's right, go with being a patriot by default. Again unlike Rand, I'm willing to allow that there's much more room for uncertainty and ambiguity in human affairs. But sorry, I don't get much more mystic nationalist than that.

*I'm at my future in-laws' house in Massachusetts and don't have the books handy. Thus the story might be imprecisely rendered -- sorry! -- but that's the gist.

The ill-fated Battle of the Ilyas

I'd been meaning to link to this for a few days. But those interested can hear my Ilya compete against the other Ilya in a trivia contest to retain the name of Ilya. Definitely some amusing moments.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Despite ladyblogging, feminism is doing just fine

I get weekly(ish) e-mails from the America's Future Foundation, the most recent edition of which contained a link to Helen Rittelmeyer's "Average Janes" and billed it as "provocative." Well, I've read more provocative, but I'm not buying it entirely.

The piece's tag line is "To save feminism, get rid of the lady blogs," which I take is Rittelmeyer's thesis. The piece does offer up some pointed criticisms at Slate's Double X. But it mentions virtually no other ladyblogs -- the ill-fated conservative-leaning Culture 11's Ladyblog, is notably absent, for example.* Does Rittelmeyer think Culture 11's attempt at ladyblogging worked out better? If yes, why?

Also, Rittelmeyer never quite makes her case that ladyblogging is fatal to feminism. Okay, I'm willing to bite that Double X, Jezebel, etc. are kind of like Cosmo for the overeducated urban woman. But even if these sites are dumber than they might be, how does that threaten the most essential gains of the feminist movement? It's not as though fluff floating around the internet prevents women from becoming engineers, scientists or corporate executives. Nor is online dreck leading anyone to call for the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment.

The old saw has it that feminism consists of the radical notion that women are people. And people are flawed creatures who like anti-intellectual pleasures sometimes as well as intellectual ones. So, too, women can have equal rights under law and still enjoy guilty pleasures.

Rittelmeyer notes women who have succeeded in blogging by avoiding traditional ladyblogging, such as Ann Althouse and Megan McArdle. Ann Althouse is a little bit of a weird example to choose here. While she is wildly successful at drawing traffic, her style is chatty, discursive, and distinctly feminine in the way that Rittelmeyer purports to dislike. But their successes only prove my point. Clearly the existence of ladyblogging doesn't hold back women who want to do something more wonkish like write about finance or law. So some women have a comparative advantage at the serious stuff, and others at fluff, and the latter doesn't seem to be holding the former back.

I fear Rittelmeyer's also under-estimating the non-seriousness of even traditionally serious blogs and fails to note that the non-seriousness can also serve an important purpose in bringing a blog's readership together. One of my friends from undergrad observed that reading a really good blog feels like sitting next to a really smart friend on a bus. He's right: it's a feeling akin to that which draws me back to some of my favorite blogs, at least. I also really like blogs that draw a small but intelligent and consistently interesting group of commenters. Yet it's hard to build and nurture that kind of community if you adopt a cold and distant tone, or write only about abstruse subjects on which you're an expert. Thus the mix of high and low on even many of the most traditionally serious political blogs.

*I believe Rittelmeyer herself contributed to Ladyblog, but I might be wrong about that, and it looks their archives have vanished from the Internet. Someone please yell at me if I'm mistaken about that, though.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Miscellany -- of i-phone Kindles and The New York Times

1)Sublime ahead of the curve, not terminally geeky. True, I downloaded the Kindle for I-Phone app, not the I-pod touch. It's nonetheless amazingly nice not to lug a book (or two, if I'm approaching the end of one) on the Metro or bus in anticipation of a long ride. My phone, my music, and my distracting reading material can all be in one convenient place. How marvelous! I suppose I would be tempted to shell out for Kindle proper the next time Pnin and I take a long flight, as Helvidius's* battery life is not that long.

Speaking of the Kindle for i-phone, I recently finished Tyler Cowen's Create Your Own Economy on this device. This review by Matt Yglesias and this one from Crooked Timber are both very good. As Yglesias says, the book's so unorthodox that it's hard to do justice with a short summary. It's an extended riff on autism spectrum disorders, yes, and as someone who tests positive for Asperger's by the admittedly imprecise metrics of Internet quizzes, I find this stuff fascinating. There is also stuff on Sherlock Holmes, why our civilization has never made contact with aliens, Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game, and Facebook and Twitter. For all its extraordinary breadth and range, nothing about the book feels forced.

It's marvelous. One of the best non-fiction books I've read this year. Highly recommended.

2)I have some empathy, but not much, with Susan Goldberg's picky eaters rant (via) On the one hand, I recall trying to plan a dinner party in college with one guest on the Atkins diet and another who was a vegan. I threw up my hands, realizing there was nothing they could both eat, and finally decided to go with having two entrees. The two entree approach, of course, has the added benefit of providing the guests without dietary restrictions with a wider range of choices.

On the other, trying to plan around different people's dietary restrictions is sort of like doing an LSAT logic game. You would think that this would bring back traumatic memories of a life trial now long past, but you would be wrong. I kind of enjoy feeling that my brain is still sharp in this way. Being able to pretend that I am good at logic games also lets me fantasize semi-plausibly about leading another life in which I might have made Chicago or been able to crack legal academia or something.

3)At his new blog at The New York Times, Ross Douthat has a post up about how conservative Christians have slowly come to accept women in the workplace. I'm torn on how to respond. I can't quite decide if I want to pick on it as an easy target for snark, or if I should acknowledge it as a good faith gesture toward arch conservatives recognizing that sometimes evolving with the times is good.

I fear Douthat also fails to note that working class women did commonly work outside the home before 1960 or so. Both my grandmothers did, after all. Staying at home a la Betty Draper was something of a luxury even in the 1960s. So evangelical Protestants who grew up working class, with working mothers, might find women in the workplace less weird than Douthat thinks.

*My i-phone is named Helvidius, in honor of a pseudonym James Madison used while writing the Federalist Papers. Pnin and I discussed this in the AT&T store, I'm sure much to the amusement of the salespeople present. Having an i-phone named Helvidius is terminally geeky rather than sublimely ahead of the curve.

This is approximately the best video I have ever seen

Goldens are just too amazingly wonderful.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stray reflections on exercise, clothing, and economics

While Pnin was asleep this afternoon, I started looking at additional exercise clothes to buy. Specifically, pants to wear to yoga class.

Several observations: vanity sizing is particularly pronounced in exercise clothes. I'm a size smaller than I am relative to most non-exercise related clothing brands, which surprises me. One would think that people who buy lots of athletic clothing are disproportionately skinny? Or maybe the idea is that people who exercise a lot are more sensitive about weight and vain to begin with, so they're more susceptible to vanity sizing that strokes the ego? A third possibility is that, because of my wonderful shortness, I'm mostly patronizing regular clothing retailers whose sizing runs small. I tend to doubt the latter, though; when I experiment with stores that I don't normally shop at, I'm still consistently in the same size range.

Also, nice yoga clothing is extremely expensive, and there doesn't seem to be much in the way of bargain priced stuff to be found. The same trend seems to hold true for most other forms of athletic clothing. I'm wondering if that's because -- as Pnin would say -- Yuppie types see exercise as a consumption rather than an investment good. That is, the point of gym going is not necessarily to invest in one's health, but rather to show one's friends that one is the the right kind of white person. Or maybe the high initial investment in the right kind of clothes convinces people to keep on top of exercise programs? Whereas people who spend only a little money on bargain brands feel like they can walk away from their commitments quickly -- and therefore quickly fall out of the athletic clothing market?

On another note,these are adorable. I remain amused that, while a frighteningly high percentage of what's in my closet is from J. Crew, I can't recall the last time I've ever bought an item there for full price. Sometimes price discrimination is the best thing ever.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


1)How regulation screws up our daily lives: in this case, our consumption of good cheese.

2)Why the left benefits from the rise of Sarah Palin.

3)Tyler Cowen pointed me to a calendar of economists. I expected Playboy-style images of hot young economists, but actually, it appears to contain only pictures of famous dead economists. Although I like dead economists, I was nonetheless disappointed.

Notes on domestic life

1. Thanks, whoever invited me to the Liberty Fund/IHS seminar thing this spring! I totally promise not to make Ann Althouse cry.

2. A loosely rendered version of a dialogue between Pnin and me:

Pnin... duck-billed platypus...

Isabel: You're sort of like a duck-billed platypus.

Pnin: Really? How?

Isabel: Eccentric, but in a charming way. And besides, monotremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Although they are fossil animals, and you are not a social conservative, so perhaps you are not really like a duck-billed platypus.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I am such a sensible shoes libertarian

Both literally and figuratively.

Congressional architecture

I like nice architecture as -- probably much more than -- the next person. But every time I visit the Hill, I'm saddened by how beautiful and stately the buildings there are. Working for Congress ought to be less glorious. As Kerry Howley once said, it would be a better country if the new administrator of our public goods jurisdiction were ushered into office with all the fanfare of a shift change at Target. The same principle also ought to apply to the grandiosity of our legislative branch's working environment. And I am always weirdly torn by how I want to like the Hill's loveliness, even though I cannot.

I feel much the same way when I see tour buses full of middle school kids walking around D.C. Not because there are always about fifty twelve-year-olds at Subway when I'm trying to get a sandwich and then leave -- although there always are -- but because our country would be better if schools took them to, say, the Google headquarters and tried to get them excited about actually productive endeavors instead.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stray reflections on exercise and Sarah Palin

1. I am trying to be better about exercising regularly, but really, it is hard. Largely because I am convinced, deep down, that exercise is not actually good for me. The people who think it is are the victims of a false consciousness narrative inflicted on them in elementary school by adults who wanted to improve the dumb kids' self-esteem. You know the sort: the ones who tell you that you are all talented and special in your own different ways. So Isabel Archer might be a good reader, and that is her special talent! But Celia Brooke, over there, is a good runner, and that's her special talent! Oh, and Isabel, why don't you get out of the house and do something outside, as opposed to reading some more? To which I usually said, bah, let me suffer my early death and pry my Nancy Drew book from my cold hands then. This is not the healthiest attitude to have when I am huffing and puffing on Jacob's Ladder.

Also, I am prone to this day to suffer vestigial fits of self-flagellation due to excessive exhortation to respect the jocks' special talents. As in: okay, I get it. Being a good reader does not make me special or interesting. I concede that Celia is, in fact, interesting because of her special runner talents and deserving of self-esteem. If I am humble enough, will you please let me alone and go back to reading now?

Pnin occasionally chides me for having carried this habit into adulthood. I should get over it, now that I am not actually surrounded by any dumb kids. Okay, I am often surrounded by bureaucrats, but that is different. Well, sort of.

2. An acquaintance of mine from my last job, who sometimes links to her blog on Facebook, put up a rant a few months ago which included a broadside against people who read while working out. I submit that this is an entirely defensible practice, on the grounds that I don't know where else I can read Sarah Palin's book. Note that I do not actually expect Sarah Palin's book to be interesting, insightful, or especially good. But I nonetheless feel compelled to read it because, hey, I might be wrong about any of the above.

And even if I am not, it will be fodder for a good snarky blog post and/or cocktail party conversation. I am always in need of material for snarky blog posts. Also, I'm not good at cocktail party converstion, because it tends to require knowledge of sports, movies, reality TV shows, and the love interests of celebrities. I manage in such settings only because I care about politics, and I am a lawyer in D.C., so being unable to talk about topics other than politics in social settings is not exactly a critical handicap. But that does mean I have to know my lone conversation subject of choice well. I don't know what I'll do if Pnin ever gets a lateral offer anywhere, of course, but that's a whole other matter.

Back to the Palin book: I will not feel guilty about reading it if I am doing something else that I would normally be doing, like working out on elliptical machine. It does seem, however, wrong to just read it in my usual red armchair in the living room before I go to sleep, or on a weekend morning before Pnin wakes up. That would be an undue insult to an armchair that I like and that has stood me well through time. I could read it on the Metro, but then people might want to talk to me about it. And I will not feel like disagreeing with people whom I only have just met on the Metro. If I am engaged in even semi-strenuous physical activity, however, people are less likely to engage me in conversation about it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stray observations on Mad Men

In the interest of having things to talk to other white people about, I've started watching Mad Men. And also plumbing some of the vast blog literature on the topic.

First, I don't get the appeal of Don Draper. At all. I am glad that I reached this conclusion independently before reading a Steve Sailer essay that asserts that "What's sexist in the office is fuel in the bedroom." I went cold somewhere in the first episode in which Draper is talking to the female Eastern European consultant about Dr. Freud, cigarette advertising, and the concept of the death wish, and Draper makes a crack to the effect of "Freud? Was he in advertising?" It's the sort of crack that's as devastating in my eyes to a good looking guy's cause as an e-mail full of misspellings, non-capitalized first letters, and dubious punctuation.* Nor, four DVDs deeper into the first season, has he seemed any more interesting or compelling.

I mean, I guess I acknowledge that the actor playing Don is better looking than, say, most of the typical lawyers clustered in a D.C. bar after work. But... not feeling anything particularly visceral there. Certainly not enough to want me to forget the advances of the last fifty years.

If anything, my views are closer to Micha Ghertner's. The message of the episdoes I've seen so far is, "Look at these silly people, with their racism and their sexism and their cigarettes and salads drowning in mayonnaise! Let us feel superior to them, we with our Civil Rights Act of 1964 and arugula and twice weekly Pilates classes!" I do really like being patted on the back for being a nice socially liberal white girl who shops at Whole Foods and has gay friends and a personal trainer. But the typical Mad Men episode offers too much treacly self-congratulation even for me.

I am also skeptical that the 1950s themselves were quite so ridiculous. Watching the show, one wonders if anyone ever take a break from hostile environment sexual harassment long enough to get any actual work done? If not, how did it possibly take the Jews and white ethnics so long to complete their meritocratic tear through corporate America and the learned professions?

None of my grandparents or great-aunts and uncles were of the Drapers' social class, to be sure. Maybe the men of that generation that I knew growing up were just too wedded to central European old world social mores. So maybe they were more gentlemanly and retiring among women than Americans of the same age. I don't really know. But they just seemed like they'd recoil at the sort of crudeness depicted as routine on the show.

I suspect also that a lot of urban SWPL types find the show attractive largely because it is a lovely fantasy world in which they don't really have to live. Don Draper's world might be alluring because it is familiar yet entirely foreign. Half the fun of fiction is imagining yourself into places that you'd never really want to live. So, contra Sailer, Mad Men's as enjoyable as it is because we get to return to our day to day lives after each episode.

Most importantly, the Drapers' golden retriever Polly is positively adorable! She reminds me of how badly I want a retriever of my own. There should be more of her in each episode.

*Longtime friends and readers will know that one of my most rigidly held standards for lovers is the willingness to use capitalization and punctuation in e-mail. I've never been able to articulate why clearly, but I suppose that people who find it hard to use commas in e-mail because it's "informal" generally fall below some critical threshold of intelligence. Yeah, administering an I.Q. test might be a less fallible screen for the same quality, but it's hardly practical to do so.

Also, no link, but there was a post in the Roissysphere a few months ago counseling guys not to use capitalization in e-mail. I.e. my screening techniques automatically work on his ilk! This is kind of the karmic equivalent of finding $10 in the pocket of a jacket that I haven't worn since last winter.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why do vampires attract so many viewers and readers?

Tyler Cowen has a marvelous post purporting to answer this all-important question.

Look up "late to party" in dictionary, find this post

Pnin, writing under his real name at his own blog, wrote an interesting blog post a few weeks back in response to Kerry Howley's Reason essay on libertarianism and culture. Short summary of Kerry's thesis: that libertarians ought to spend more time focusing on cultural threats to freedom, rather than merely focusing on the evils of government coercion. Kerry Howley's response to that post is here; Ilya/Pnin's response to Kerry's response is here: and, because the blogging world clearly needs more incest and not less, here is Will Wilkinson's response to all of the responses.

Ilya and I hashed this argument out at some length in real life last month, thus my letting this post languish in draft form. But one of the articles I link to in my second point reminded me of it, so I figured I might as well resuscitate it.

1) Regarding Ilya's first pointI see little sense in distinguishing between "libertarianism" and "subjects discussed by individual libertarians." There isn't much consensus over what libertarianism ought to be, and that's as it should be.

There is also a structure of social change issue here. As I understand the liberaltarians' vision of their project, they see themselves at Stage 1 of the pyramid. They envision themselves engaged in conversation with our intellectuals, hashing out ideas at some safe remove from the rough and tumble of day to day politics. They most emphatically are notinterested in marketing their ideas to large audiences, or figuring out whether their ideas are politically saleable.

Or in other words, they really are just a bunch of individual libertarians writing to other libertarians and talking to them about culture. They are not interested in the work of communicating a platform -- call it libertarianism -- to a mass audience just yet. That's okay. There's room in the world for Stage 1 movements. Some of them don't make it to Stage 3. That's fine too.

2)Here is the part which makes writing this post weeks after the initial debate defensible: I admit that I am armchair psychologizing and possibly being completely obnoxious in doing so, in which case I apologize in advance, but I suspect part of what is animating Howley, Wilkinson and the liberaltarian project more generally is visceral disgust at the type of milieux described in this recent Marty Beckerman piece in Salon. Or, at least, I'm detecting echoes of frustration at them in an earlier post in the Howley-Seavey debate, in which Howley groused that "Most libertarian cocktail party critiques of feminism are utterly insipid and incoherent." So the liberaltarians are attempting to articulate a positive vision for a pro-liberty movement that utterly reads Beckerman's old friends out of the pro-freedom camp.

I share the liberaltarians' disgust for spiteful, narrow-minded, fire-breathing lunatics. And I also admire their attempts to stop kvetching about the more hateful elements within our own coalition and build something new instead. But for all the reasons that Ilya, Todd Seavey, etc. bring up, I wonder if it wouldn't be better and more honest to just resign ourselves to being negative for awhile. Put another way, I'm not particularly troubled that libertarian institutions aren't full-throatedly feminist. I am troubled that many of them have formed tactical alliances with more conservative groups that spew the kind of nonsense Beckerman described in that article. If most great popularizers of free market ideas and property rights really just stayed quiet on feminism, as Seavey would have them do, I'd be happy. I fear that in practice, most such popularizers aren't.

I should note that Ilya and I have disagreed in in-person conversations on the extent to which the kind of vile anti-feminists that Beckerman describes hold sway over the libertarian movement. He's claimed that most of these people self-identify as social conservatives or Republicans, not libertarians, and that most real libertarians like us know better than to listen to them anyway. Maybe that's true. All I can say is that I have spent more time in the free market activist movement proper than he has, and that I've encountered plenty of them. And I've felt repelled by them, and I find this repulsion sad. It's possible that he's run in more rarified circles in the movement than I have. He's certainly less scared of cold-approaching VIPs at libertarian social events, so he's probably spent less time talking to not particularly bright twenty-three-year old fusionists. It is also possible, even likely, that far fewer said not particularly bright twenty-three-year old fusionists want to hit on him. He also grew up in a left-liberal area of the country, whereas I did not, and runs in professional circles that are far less left-liberal than I do.

So: yes, liberaltarians, develop your project at the Koch Stage 1 level! But in the meantime, make more modest efforts toward a less stupid, less anti-feminist libertarian movement. That may bear fruit, even if the big project doesn't.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Quotable quotes

"A Veteran's/ Armistice/ Remembrance Day observed on November 11 in particular shouldn't just mean a gauzy and somber honoring of live veterans and fallen soldiers. It should be in part a day of anger and horror about the particular war that ended on this day, the stupid brutality of it, and the evil that followed in its wake."

Anti-statism in America is excellent

Though I count the need for only two shots (#5 and #7) according to the Richard Hofstadter Drinking Game, this John Judis op-ed on is still pretty dreadful.

(Side note: I am occasionally tempted to start some sort of sideline consulting business giving seminars to clueless center-leftists on what libertarians actually think.
See, e.g.)

Anyway, Judis's thesis is that while Americans are okay with specific government programs, they are not with expansions of the size and scope of government generally, and it is this seeming contradiction that prevents useful reforms from getting enacted. I, on the other hand, suspect that the anti-statists who nonetheless approve of specific programs are more genuinely libertarian than Judis thinks they are for several reasons:

1)Political ignorance: I should properly kick this to Pnin to write about at his own blog, as he's forgotten more than I'll ever know about political ignorance. But I do recall a blog post -- which I can't find at the second -- linking to a survey showing that a lot of people tell pollsters that they approve of specific legislation that doesn't actually exist. I wonder if the same effect is going on here? That is, voters who have genuinely libertarian impulses tell pollsters that they approve of specific programs, rather than just admitting "I don't know" or "I haven't had the chance to think this through."

2)Intuitions about slippery slope concerns: Although a specific policy may not expand the size and scope of government dramatically, its enactment may nonetheless lead politicians further and further down a slippery slope toward dramatically expanding the size and scope of government. Many of the most prominent libertarian thinkers have drilled down prominently on this argument: see, e.g., Hayek's Road to Serfdom or Higgs's Crisis and Leviathan. So some of Judis's anti-statists might be okay with Pelosian health "reform" in its current incarnation, but only if it doesn't lead us down any further slippery slopes.

Pennsylvania taxpayers are still paying an "emergency" Johnstown Flood tax enacted in the 1930s. The early federal income tax rates were extremely low compared to today's brackets. It is not bug-eyed insane to have slippery slope concerns about a particular public policy. In light of all of the historical evidence, it may be bug-eyed insane not to.

3)The seen vs. the unseen: I can't say it better than John Hasnas did in this editorial. It's easy to have compassion for the individuals who benefit most from a particular government program. It is harder to have compassion for all the small losses that individual taxpayers incur in taking on their health care costs. That doesn't mean that the small losses don't add up, and that these small losses don't have a real impact on the national economy. Some of Judis's anti-statists may favor expansions of government when they think about all the seen beneficiaries, but balk when asked to consider the more abstract consequences of helping small classes of seen beneficiaries. That doesn't mean that they're necessarily statists at heart.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

advantage: my old neighborhood

Apparently Nidal Malik Hasan, better known as the Fort Hood shooter, attended mosque disturbingly close to where Pnin used to live. On a more positive note, living near a vibrant Muslim community had its real advantages -- notably Bamian, which had fantastic lamb dumplings in some sort of minty yogurt sauce.

No, this is not a real post. Yes, I intend to start putting up real posts sometime in the near future.