A Warm Welcome, and other assorted editorial duties

Hello all. I’m proud to announce and introduce Jesper Ahlin to the blogging team here at NOL:

Jesper Ahlin received his B.A. in philosophy from Linköping University and is now a graduate student in philosophy at Uppsala University. He has conducted Stureakademin, a study program run by the classical liberal think tank Timbro, and is the local coordinator for European Students For Liberty in Sweden. As a right-libertarianish thinker he enjoys reading Mises and Rothbard as well as Hayek and Nozick. He also likes ice hockey, music and traveling.

Jesper’s debut post can be found here. He’s currently hanging out in Washington and New York City, but do look for more of his posts in the near future. I, for one, am very excited to be blogging alongside Jesper.

In other news around the blog, Andrew is shocked – SHOCKED! – to find Senator Elizabeth Warren in the company of other rich, white (class-wise, of course) liberals. What would a “sincere and credible populist” be doing rubbing elbows with rich, white (class-wise, of course) Leftists? After all, Senator Warren, a Native American, was a law professor at Harvard. Think of all the glass ceilings she shattered. Do read the whole thing. As always, it’s very well-written.

‘Populism’ is just a quaint term for ‘fascism’ and ‘fascism’ is just a fancy term for ‘nationalism’. All three terms are useful if you want a society to be culturally, economically and politically stagnant. What, for example, is the criteria for being an ‘American worker’ (one segment of society that Senator Warren holds especially close to her heart)?

The guy who works twelve hours a day at a hospital, four days a week?

The guy who works twenty hours a week at a deli slicing pastrami?

And what, for example, characterizes an ‘American worker’ from, say, a ‘German worker’?

Nobody in Warren’s populist camp ever really defines what it means to be an ‘American worker.’ Policy matters, and policies targeting certain segments of society – whether for good or for ill – will only guarantee stagnation, especially if the certain segment of society is only vaguely defined. Not everybody can drive a BMW to work and, more importantly, not everybody wants to.

Elsewhere, Hank and NEO and Edmund argue about political power. It seems to me that they are simply arguing about how this power should be shared, rather than how it should be shorn. This is a dangerous precedent, in my opinion. Read Edmund’s whole piece, and the exchange that follows.

Personally, I don’t care which party is in office, as long as laws that are anathema to libertarianism can be repealed. Conservatives are often an embarrassment to themselves and to their countrymen. They rarely travel, are often less educated than their Leftist peers and usually possess a deep belief in the power of magic and sorcery to solve the social and personal problems that they inevitably come to face in life.

For all this, at least they aren’t Leftists.

Thanks for reading and, more importantly, for sharing your thoughts in the ‘comments’ section. Together, through arguing, we are doing the fine-stitching of democracy.

3 thoughts on “A Warm Welcome, and other assorted editorial duties

  1. Ha! Actually, I’m not so much shocked as disappointed by Warren’s entanglement in “Lean In.” Based on what I’d heard of her previous career, I regarded the 1/32nd Cherokee affirmative action scandal as something of a distraction, a relatively minor lapse of character in the context of her policy stances. For example, I still have more trust in Warren than in almost anyone else in Congress to hold banks accountable to the rule of law. I’d need to hear specific examples of her being treacherous, beholden to dubious interests, or otherwise compromised to reappraise her. The fact that she’s tenured at Harvard certainly isn’t enough to convince me that she’s compromised. One reason: I hold my Alma Mater, Dickinson College, in very low esteem as an institution (for one thing, its relationship to its alumni and parents is that of a fundraising racket to socially climbing asshats), but I do not hold its institutional dipshittery against members of the faculty who I know to be better than that.

    Am I enthralled with Elizabeth Warren? No. Do I consider her perfect as a member of Congress? Absolutely not. But this is a situation in which I strongly believe that the perfect is the enemy of the good. There are just too many other members of Congress whom I find hugely worse for me to get exercised about Warren at this point.

    And populism=fascism=nationalism is a daft oversimplification. I’ll grant that there’s often overlap between the three, but it’s far from total or inevitable overlap. Populists target their own countries’ elites all the time.

    You’re right that populist definitions of “workers” tend to be nebulous. They’re often contradictory, too. I often wish they were more coherent. Still, I’d rather have people like Warren establish a fuzzy and imperfect starting point for reform than let courtiers to the wealthy and affluent dictate policy because there’s no remotely viable counterpoint to their stances. I have fairly fleshed-out thoughts on where the lines should be drawn in defining “workers” versus parasites, but I don’t have the mental energy to present them right now.

    These doctrinaire free-market orthodoxies are where the libertarian movement loses me. There are just too many untrustworthy characters attached to that ship for me to jump on board.

  2. Brandon, your question about the hospital worker on overtime versus the half-time pastrami-wrangler hits on a concern that I’ve long had about leftist/populist delineations of workers: specifically, that they exclude a lot of people who do a huge amount of honorable and productive work. E.g., it would be very hard to find a surgeon who doesn’t work much harder than the average barista.

    Put another way, a surgeon isn’t a thieving parasite and certainly should not be regarded as one. Soaking surgeons who make $300,000 or $400,000 a year to pay the salaries of rapid transit drivers who make over $100,000 a year with overtime basically to babysit robots and keep an eye out for track obstructions is foolish and inequitable.

    The ethical and pragmatic calculus changes if the same marginal tax rate is used to pay a maintenance-of-way foreman $100,000; maybe the foreman’s overpaid, but his job requires a lot more skill and attention than driving a robotic train with a keyboard. And BART is an egregious case, anyway, on account of its impressively intransigent union, one whose train operator members are much more plushly featherbedded and aggressive towards management than most public employees, and for an unusually easy job.

    The kicker: their pay is drawn in large part from the same common pools that are used to pay the salaries of other public employees who have much more demanding and critical jobs. It can’t very well be separated from the salaries of tree trimmers or social workers or heavy rail engineers, who are in a position to kill dozens in a matter of seconds if they miss a signal or try to Casey Jones their way around a restricted curve. Should BART drivers be paid more than fry cooks at Panda Express? Maybe a bit more. Should Metrolink drivers be paid more than they’d make on the fry line at Panda? Absolutely. That’s one of the most effective ways to maintain a driver pool that’s light on morons like Robert Sanchez. They’ll occasionally get in and cause carnage, but not as often.

    Abolishing all government services or reducing all government employees to menial wages just because certain public agencies have been turned into tax-wasting rackets is scorched-earth folly. The same thing applies to government regulations. Many across-the-board reform proposals from the economic right wing amount to cutting off government’s nose to spite its face. That very mindset is great for allowing weasels, notably tax-dodging billionaires, to insinuate themselves as policy concern trolls. I.e., “That’s wasteful! Give me a tax break!” Or, “Social Security has gone into the red, but instead of increasing the contribution ceiling and thoughtfully trimming benefits, let’s privatize the whole thing and encourage people to invest in my company’s private retirement accounts.”

    This ilk of concern trolls (think Megan McArdle: somewhat different emphasis, same general worldview) is one that I find thoroughly disgusting and untrustworthy and that I want absolutely no part in engaging in civil debate. Their positions are just too corrupt and outlandish to dignify with direct responses; I consider it better to marginalize them and instead engage adversaries who aren’t pushing the Overton Window to extremes that I consider bizarre and self-serving. They’re often operating from premises that a supermajority of Americans would find absurd or unconscionable, so I see no point to inviting shills and nutters into a debate, especially when I don’t have the energy to adequately debate any number of other matters that I find more important and worthwhile.

    One of the huge problems with public-sector excesses like BART’s high pay scales and frequent strikes is that they drive the productive tax donkeys who pay for the deal into the clutches of demagogic, self-dealing shills like McArdle. She’s the scion of an extremely well-connected New York City building contractor, and she peddles up-by-the-bootstraps boilerplate to the proles for a living. Ethically and economically, she has nothing in common with the average trucker, farmer or surgeon; the solidarity that she expresses with them is meretricious and demagogic in the extreme. I sincerely believe that the United States would be better off if she were on public assistance and bugging the other layabouts in a hipster coffeehouse with her political tripe. Tom Friedman and Nick Kristof, too. Michael O. Church is absolutely right that socialism is a useful way to neutralize people of that ilk by isolating them in low positions of negligible influence, so that they don’t seek out positions of “leadership.”

Please keep it civil

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