Dr. Carson’s Speech

I went to Grant Davies’ blog, What We Think and Why, and watched all of the nearly 28 minute Dr. Carson speech. I recommend watching it. I just had to re-post it here:

Here are some of his major themes:

1. Political correctness keeps us from saying what we really think and that keeps us from talking about important things.

2. But, we should be respectful with those who we disagree. That’s a major theme of this blog. Hostility just tends to entrench people in their beliefs.

3. Carson’s Mom taught him to use his brain to solve problems, which resulted in him thinking his way out of poverty by not accepting excuses for his poverty status, taking advantage of education, educating himself and thinking himself out of poverty.

4. He and his wife put their money and talents where their mouths are to help others to the same. They started the Carson Scholarship Fund.

5. Why is education so important? He encourages us to learn from ancient Rome, which died from within.

6. He mentions we have a fourth branch of government: Special Interests.

7. Everyone should pay some tax, we shouldn’t punish the guy who puts a billion dollars into the pot and with health care we should empower individuals.

8. He closes with a great story about the origination of our National Anthem and a very nice imagery of the bald eagle as the nation’s symbol.

An enterprising reporter ought to ask President Obama what he thought of Dr. Carson’s speech. However, I think I can predict the answer. My guess is he’d say he liked it and agreed with it, and then say that’s why Federal government needs to help do those things.

The Fatal Conceit

Why are there are more of us humans now than 100, 300 or 10,000 years ago?

Some reasons are external and beyond our control.  For example, we benefited from the Earth not having collisions with large asteroids or comets recently.

Other reasons are in our control.  It’s those reasons that F.A. Hayek writes about in his book, The Fatal Conceit.

In the book, he explores the idea that over time, through many trials and errors, humans discovered ways of interacting with one another that result in more of us.  Those ways of interaction that produce more of us aren’t necessarily right or wrong and were not developed by design.  They just happen to work or not.

We naturally use those ways in our daily interactions.  Why did you give a friendly wave to the driver that let you merge into traffic?  Why did you stop at the stop sign?  Why did you pay for the coffee?  Why did the coffee shop sell it?  Why did you leave a tip for the waitress?  Why did you not take the tip that was still on the table from the previous customers?

We know those interactions as law, tradition, social norms, human rights, beliefs, etiquette, prudence, respect, benevolence, propriety and property rights.  These interactions evolve over time based on what works and what doesn’t.  We each learn these standards from trial and error and socialization with older generations and sometimes we contribute to their evolution when we try something different and it works.

Those ways of interacting have allowed each of us to live a more prosperous life as we benefit every minute of every day from voluntary actions of an extended order — or a large number of people we don’t know, haven’t met and may never in our life time see.

Hayek’s Fatal Conceit is the belief by some that a small group can design and control the evolution of this thick and ancient web of human interactions to achieve intended consequences, without incurring negative unintended consequences.

The fatal conceit is why a politically and economically centralized Rome died out and centralized companies die off.

I recommend reading Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit.


This has all happened before, and it will all happen again

Fellow sci-fi geeks might recognize this as a phrase that was repeated throughout the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica TV series.   It’s popped up elsewhere also.

Those words have crossed my mind repeatedly as I read Matt Ridley’s book The Rational Optimist.  In it, Ridley tells a history of the world made possible by trade.

A common theme is the stages of society.  A society emerges from decentralized trade.  I make fish hooks and give you some in return for a few fish.  We both come out ahead.  That allows enough gain in free time that some folks have time to do things other than hunt and gather food.  Some of those folks form government.  They offer up something of value at first, like protection.  But then tend toward more centralized control, more expansive power and more meddling.  That chokes off the gains from trade and the society dies.

Here’s a passage from page 182:

Empires, indeed governments generally, tend to be good things at first and bad things the longer they last. First they improve society’s ability to flourish by providing central services and removing impediments to trade and specialisation; thus, even Genghis Khan’s Pax Monglica lubricated Asia’s overland trade by exterminating brigands along the Silk Road, thus lowering the cost of oriental goods in European parlours.  But then, as Peter Turchin argues following the lead of the medieval geographer Ibn Khaldun, governments gradually employ more and more ambitious elites who capture a greater and greater share of society’s income by interfering more and more in people’s lives as they give themselves more and more rules to enforce, until they kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.  There is a lesson for today.  Economists are quick to speak of ‘market failure’, and rightly so, but a greater threat comes from ‘government failure’.  Because it is a monopoly, government brings inefficiency and stagnation to most things it runs; government agencies pursue inflation of their budgets rather than the service of their customers; pressure groups form unholy alliance with agencies to extract more money from taxpayers for their members.  Yet despite all this, most clever people still call for government to run more things and assume that if it did so, it would somehow be more perfect, more selfless, next time.

These changes happen over generations.  It’s interesting to look at the societies on Earth now and consider which stage each might be in.

Since the changes happen over generations, it’s hard to tell sometimes.  Sometimes we look at a society and think it’s doing okay and we mistake it for a successful experiment.  In reality, though, it might be just on that cusp between the benefits realized from trades of the past and the decay that will come from a centralized control.

We mistake the cause and effect.  Trade enabled the wealth of the nation and the government, not the other way around.

Some societies that we think of as primitive, may have been more advanced in the past.  China is catching up now, as its government favors decentralization, but it was once well ahead of the rest of the world.  Page 180:

China went from a state of economic and technological exuberance in around A.D. 1000 to one of dense population, agrarian backwardness and desperate poverty in 1950.  According to Angus Maddison’s estimates, it was the only region in the world with a lower GDP per capita in 1950 than in 1000.  The blame for this lies squarely with China’s governments.

What follows in the next few paragraphs in the book is a picture of what China had mastered in the 1000s “silk, tea, porcelain, paper and printing”, “multi-spindle cotton wheels, hydraulic trip hammers, umbrellas, matches, toothbrushes, playing cards and pig iron.”

Then Ridley describes impact the Black Death and natural disasters and centralized government control of the Ming Dynasty that caused China’s GDP per capita to be less than in was nearly 1000 years earlier.

These are the same stories told in Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (though maybe he stopped short), Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, except it’s for real.  It’s happened here on Earth many times before.  It’s happening right now many times and will happen many more times.

I Voted Yes on Prop C

So did many others.    In fact, 71% of those voting agreed with me.  Enough to garner this major headline from the Drudge Report, linking to an article from Stltoday.com:

Blow to O: Mo Says No

This morning, Missouri-based conservative talk show host Chris Stigall has been criticizing media coverage of the Yes vote like this one, that editorializes Prop C “was seen as largely symbolic because federal law generally trumps state law.”

Apparently, the writers of this nonsense at one CBS affiliate didn’t have time to check with what was written by CBSNews.com just yesterday:

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has legal authority to sue the federal government over the sweeping health care reform law. The Justice Department had earlier urged the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

If you still believe the Missouri vote is mostly symbolic, Judge Hudson, the U.S. district court judge in Virginia disagrees with you (from the Wall Street Journal editorial on the Virginia decision):

Judge Hudson notes that ObamaCare “literally forges new ground and extends Commerce Clause powers beyond its current high watermark.” The core question is “whether or not Congress has the power to regulate—and tax—a citizen’s decision not to participate in interstate commerce…

This will be interesting.

Noonan Writes an Excellent Column for Independence Day

Today’s column from Peggy Noonan, A Cold Man’s Warm Words, would be an excellent column for everyone to read on Independence Day.    It’s the story of some of Thomas Jefferson’s words that didn’t make it to the final edit of the Declaration of Independence — the document and event we’ll all be celebrating this weekend with fireworks and flame-kissed brats.

In one of the most touching paragraphs, Noonan writes about “We might have been a free and great people together” being edited out of the Declaration of Independence:

“To write is to think, and to write well is to think well,” David McCullough once said in conversation. Jefferson was thinking of the abrupt end of old ties, of self-defining ties, and, I suspect, that the pain of this had to be acknowledged. It is one thing to declare the case for freedom, and to make a fiery denunciation of abusive, autocratic and high-handed governance. But it is another thing, and an equally important one, to acknowledge the human implications of the break. These were our friends, our old relations; we were leaving them, ending the particular facts of our long relationship forever. We would feel it. Seventeen seventy-six was the beginning of a dream. But it was the end of one too. “We might have been a free and great people together.”

Wow!  That certainly brings a personal element to the story.  That ties a bow on something that very many high school civics students I’m sure wondered silently while learning about the events in the late 1700s leading to the formation of our nation.  “What happened?  Did we hate each other?  Why are we good allies now?” To know that it was a tough break up is humbling.  Almost like a couple that goes through a bitter divorce to come out as reasonable friends on the other side.

Yet another interesting passage:

America and Britain did become great and free peoples together, and apart, bound by a special relationship our political leaders don’t often speak of and should never let fade. You can’t have enough old friends. There was the strange war of 1812, declared by America and waged here by England, which reinvaded, and burned our White House and Capitol. That was rude of them. But they got their heads handed to them in New Orleans and left, never to return as an army.

Even 1812 gave us something beautiful and tender. There was a bombardment at Fort McHenry. A young lawyer and writer was watching, Francis Scott Key. He knew his country was imperiled. He watched the long night in hopes the fort had not fallen. And he saw it—the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

That might help you appreciate those blooms and booms in the sky that much more this weekend.  It will for me.