Author Archives: Quincy

Two words…

Matthew Yglesias says:

What’s needed is a much more forceful, much more statist approach to forced savings, whether that’s quasi-savings in the form of higher taxes and more Social Security benefits or something like a Singapore-style system where “private” savings are pooled into a state-run investment fund.

It only takes two words to show that this is massively unwise: Chrysler bondholders.

This is…

…why I don’t trust people who want power:

By mid-May Steve [Heymann] was acting weird. None of his raids seemed to have turned up what he wanted. Aaron’s lawyer was talking to JSTOR, which had found him through Steve. We had contacted people to talk to JSTOR, eminent people, many of whom were shocked by what was happening. JSTOR was key to the prosecution, it was the victim, and we were winning them over. Steve had agents drop off a warrant made out to Aaron [Swartz], rather than law enforcement. It demanded the JSTOR documents, with the location for serving the warrant left blank. Aaron showed it to me, and we tried to interpret it in bewilderment. Warrants are executed by officers, not suspects. Aaron then told me Steve had threatened to get him arrested for contempt of court if he didn’t turn over JSTOR files. It was all tricks and lies, but it just seemed crazy at the time. But tricks and lies are part of prosecutions, allowed, and perhaps even encouraged, by prosecutorial immunity.

Read the whole thing.

A Question of Labor Scarcity

Cory Doctorow started the New Year with a very interesting piece on the “roboticization of the workforce”. The whole article is worth a read, but it brings up a disturbing question:

But here’s the thing that neither of these articles — or even Bruce’s acid observations — touches on: once technology creates abundance, what possibilities exist for distributing the fruits of that abundance such that the benefits are more evenly felt?

There are plenty of people who will suggest that collectivist economics and centralized redistribution are the answer. Given the last century of history, that’s not an option I like. Take a look at Doctorow’s nightmare scenario:

We’ve been talking about an increase in productivity producing an increase in leisure for a long time, but instead, the “winner take all” world of Brynjolfsson and McAfee often seems to produce a “winner” class that works itself into an early grave by running 100-hour work weeks at astounding payscales, and a much larger “loser” class that works itself into an early grave by working 100-hour weeks in shitty, marginal, grey-economy jobs, trying to stitch together something like an income.

This is bad. However, the nightmare scenario that evolves under socialism is invariably worse. Instead of a winner class created by skilled, high-value work, a winner class develops from people who successfully gain control of the redistribution machine. Giving power to those who covet it is rarely a good idea, but usually unavoidable. The United States was built with a system of government shaped by this insight. By and large, its citizens have profited from keeping checks and balances on power seekers, even as the power seekers have eroded them.

A class of power seekers in control of an economic redistribution machine that replaces labor markets would not be subject to checks and balances. By controlling what people have, they would have absolute, unchecked power. Worse, power seekers tend to be the least sensitive to the wants and needs of the people they control. Even worse, most power seekers see others as resources to be exploited for their benefit.

Terrifying, isn’t it? Surely, we can avoid this by making sure the right people are in charge. Nope, sorry. Eventually, those who want power will take over the redistribution machine. It’s a certainty. Those who seek power will overcome the will of the rest to keep them out. It’s the consistent thread in human history.

The real problem is that we’re approaching a point where the labor market as it’s structured will collide with the efficiency gains caused by technology. If most labor is not scarce enough to allow workers to earn enough to support themselves and their families, how does society respond? How do supporters of economic liberty respond? What new mechanisms can be devised that allow ordinary people to continue to participate freely in the markets for goods and services without the wealth earned from the labor market?

This is stuff supporters of economic liberty need to start thinking about now. Our opponents have a ready answer that people will be drawn to despite its historic failures. Without an alternative from us, tyranny of the default will result in actual tyranny.

Larry Correia on Gun Control

I just finished reading Larry Correia’s “An opinion on gun control“, a tour de force attacking the logic and arguments of those who want to control guns. His view on those who want to control guns is damning:

In conclusion, basically it doesn’t really matter what something you pick when some politician or pundit starts screaming we’ve got to do something, because in reality, most of them already know a lot of what I listed above. The ones who are walking around with their security details of well-armed men in their well-guarded government buildings really don’t care about actually stopping mass shooters or bad guys, they care about giving themselves more power and increasing their control.

If a bad guy used a gun with a big magazine, ban magazines. If instead he used more guns, ban owning multiple guns. If he used a more powerful gun with less shots, ban powerful guns. If he used hollowpoints, ban hollowpoints. (which I didn’t get into, but once again, there’s a reason everybody who might have to shoot somebody uses them). If he ignored some Gun Free Zone, make more places Gun Free Zones. If he killed a bunch of innocents, make sure you disarm the innocents even harder for next time. Just in case, let’s ban other guns that weren’t even involved in any crimes, just because they’re too big, too small, too ugly, too cute, too long, too short, too fat, too thin, (and if you think I’m joking I can point out a law or proposed law for each of those) but most of all ban anything which makes some politician irrationally afraid, which luckily, is pretty much everything.

They will never be happy. In countries where they have already banned guns, now they are banning knives and putting cameras on every street. They talk about compromise, but it is never a compromise. It is never, wow, you offer a quick, easy, inexpensive, viable solution to ending mass shootings in schools, let’s try that. It is always, what can we take from you this time, or what will enable us to grow some federal apparatus?

I can’t add much to this, other than to relay an experience I once had walking through the Wembley neighborhood of London. I was with some relatives who lived in Birmingham and we were going to visit central London that day. We parked a few blocks from Wembley Station and walked over there. In the day, one could easily sense that the fresh stucco facade of the public housing was hiding a rough neighborhood. It turned out not to matter at that point.

After going into London and having a perfectly pleasant day, we took the tube back to Wembley station. By this time, the sun had gone down. The neighborhood we had to walk through was downright scary at night. My sense was that this was a place where the weak didn’t last long. This was soon confirmed as a band of twenty young men wielding pipes and other weapons ran unchallenged through the streets. No guns, but enough brawn and metal to make this gang very deadly.

I had never felt fear like this in my life. I’ve had to fight off two muggers in my time, both of whom fled quickly when they realized I was going to fight. (Both fights were unarmed, as legally carrying a weapon in California is effectively impossible for those without political connections. But, I digress.) In both those cases, even while being mugged, I didn’t feel or believe that the environment was dominated by lawlessness. If someone had seen the mugging going on, they would have tried to help or at least called a cop.

That night in Wembley, I felt none of that security. These young men acted like they were immune from any harm as they rampaged through the street. There were no police. There were no citizens willing to stand up for the innocent. It was terrifying. I started looking around, what elements in the environment could I use in a fight with these guys. How could I keep them away from my relatives?

In my head, though, it always ended the same. We were dead. Twenty strong, armed young men vs. two guys, a woman, and two kids, all unarmed. No police. No hope of assistance. Any confrontation would end with our deaths, simple as that.

It was a truly savage environment where might ruled without exception. This is the end result of gun control. There were only two types of people in that environment: aggressors and eventual victims. I’m writing this because we weren’t victims that night. But if we repeated that walk enough times, it would have been us.

When I hear politicians talk about gun control, this is the environment I think of. It’s the same kind of environment that our crime statistics say we have in Richmond and Oakland, just an hour’s drive from me. These two cities account for over 150 murders every year. It’s the same kind of environment we have in Detroit, which is now suffering from profound urban decay. It’s the same kind of environment that produced over 600 murders in Chicago last year.

Keep this in mind as you read Larry’s piece. It’s long, but it’s worth it… most of all if you’re a supporter of gun control.

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