Rush Limbaugh

I may be defective because I appreciate the merits of an argument more than the style in which presented.  But style is in.  Big time.

Consider Rush Limbaugh.  Over the last few years, liberals successfully marginalized Rush by changing the subject from what he says to how he says it.  Defend Rush in the slightest and you’re called  a simple-minded, dittohead moron.  Conservative friends of mine are trained well.  They reflexively bash Rush and never try to discuss the merits of a position Rush has on an issue for fear of  being shunned. The social costs are too great.  When I ask them to explain which of Rush’s points they disagree with, they either say they don’t know or that they agree on  many points, but they just don’t like his style.

When I hear a Rush-bashing caller on radio programs I hope they present an argument with some rational, logical refutation of a position Rush has put forth.  Then, shortly thereafter, I’m disappointed again.  Just another name caller.

It’s time to move the conversation back to the merits.   I’m tired of being bullied away from discussing the meat and potatoes of an issue.

Thomas Sowell read my mind.

Thomas Jefferson Says…

Thomas Jefferson speaks to us from across the centuries:

“Experience [has] shown that, even under the best forms [of government], those entrusted with power have, in time and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”

A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

Why?

Please read this Walter Williams column.

Few debates about what the Federal government should and should not do consider what the government is actually empowered to do by the Constitution. Why?

Open Source

In Russell Robert’s (of CafeHayek.com) January 19th EconTalk podcast with Eric Raymond, author of the The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Raymond discusses five special circumstances where open source tends to be more successful:

1. Cheap capital goods.

2. Human creativity and attention is the limiting factor.

3. The work is intrinsically rewarding.

4. There’s an objective metric for success.

5. Low communication costs.

I think this is interesting, but I’m not convinced about number 4. Open source can be successful whether the metric for success is objective or not. It can work even better than “closed source” when the metric is not so objective.

Raymond explains open source works well with software development because the metric is clear, “it either runs or it crashes.” He says it doesn’t work so well with something like Wikipedia because there’s “no metric for truth” of an entry “except the judgment of other human beings who may be as eccentric and crazed as you are.”

In his Wikipedia example, Raymond stumbled into the reason why closed source isn’t very good. In closed source it’s too easy to pick the wrong metric for success. Wikipedia’s metric for success isn’t the truth of an entry. The right metric is whether people use it. They do. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, reported that 280 million people per month use it on the latest EconTalk podcast. That says that given all the trade-offs, Wikipedia entries provide good enough value for people to use it. Of course, the truth of entries plays a part. Few would use Wikipedia if it were very unreliable. But, it’s reliable enough for many needs.

I suggest reversing Raymond’s fourth special circumstance to say that closed systems work pretty well when the best metric for success is objective and known. I’ve been asked why I think our military, a government ran, closed source organization, is so effective. It’s because the objective is usually clear: to win. Failure is clear as well. The reason why education isn’t a very good when run by the government is that the metric for success isn’t clear.

Even with software the metric for success isn’t as clear as we might believe. In hindsight it may seem so, but it’s not as clear as we think ahead of time. A base metric for success, such as whether it crashes, may be objective. But one solution may meet not crash in 300 lines of code while another does it in 10,000. I’ll take the “300” if it does the same thing.

It was a great podcast. Highly recommended, as are all EconTalk podcasts.

"Pelosi open to second stimulus"

Click here for full article.   Hat tip to a friend for the link.

This baffles me for many reasons.  But no need to go into those reasons here. I’m curious what Democrats think of this.

OctaMom and Federal Budget

The OctaMom elicited a visceral response from people who normally show compassion to those who don’t make the best choices.  Apparently, she pushed past the boundary.  She overreached.

The Federal government is overreaching too.  I find it strange that there’s a much more subdued response to a $1.7 TRILLION deficit than a mom with with 14 kids.  I’m talking to you Joel McHale and The Soup!

Obama on Being a Socialist

Click here to read the full article.  Obama called the New York Times to give a better answer about whether he’s a socialist.

His answer:

I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn’t under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. It wasn’t on my watch. And it wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement -– the prescription drug plan — without a source of funding. And so I think it’s important just to note when you start hearing folks throw these words around that we’ve actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word ‘socialist’ around can’t say the same.

This is not relevant.  The previous administration did wrong.  That’s not a valid excuse to continue doing wrong.  Here’s more:

Well, I just think it’s clear by the time we got here, there already had been an enormous infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system. And the thing I constantly try to emphasize to people if that coming in, the market was doing fine, nobody would be happier than me to stay out of it. I have more than enough to do without having to worry the financial system. The fact that we’ve had to take these extraordinary measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preference, but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant risk taking has precipitated a crisis.

At best, the answer I get from this paragraph is that he’s a conditional socialist.  I would be interested to know when he previously emphasized he’d stay out if the markets were doing fine.  We’ll never know if he would have, will we?  The fact that he believes, as did Bush, that he needs to intervene for whatever reason certainly makes any answer other than “yes, I am a socialist” not believable.

Common Ground: Honesty about the Other Side's Position

It’s hard to find common ground when your opponent doesn’t care to be honest about your position. When this happens, discussions become derailed as you try to correct their incorrect perceptions.

Ronald Reagan agreed with me. This is from a 1964 stump speech for Barry Goldwater:

Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, “What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power.” But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we’re always “against,” never “for” anything.

Click here for more of his speech.

Many on both sides of a debate find it expedient to misrepresent the other’s position. It’s expedient because we accept it. Rather than allowing both sides to state their positions and evaluate the merits of those positions, we believe the misrepresentation and close ourselves to further consideration. Why should we consider the opinion of someone “against” something good?

The question I would have loved Reagan to answer in this speech is why the private sector is better than government outside its legitimate function. Rather than make this case, Reagan spends the rest of his speech trying to fix the incorrect perception that free market supporters are against good things.

Great Perspective

Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy!

I lifted this link from Cafe Hayek.  This video of comedian Louis CK on the Conan O’Brien show is funny and true.  He reminds us of how great we have it, yet it’s never good enough for this generation of “spoiled idiots.”

He marvels at flight: “You’re sitting in a chair in the sky!”  But this generation whines because the chair doesn’t tilt back enough. 

Watch it.  Then watch it again.  He nails it.  We take so much for granted.  I didn’t realize how much we took for granted until I started traveling to Mexico and saw that poverty means something completely different than what it means in the U.S. and just how far we’ve come in the last 100 – 200 years.