BC’s weekend reads

  1. […] many Chinese people believe it should be the United States, European states, or at least Arab states that resettle Middle Eastern refugees, based on the logic of ‘punishing’ those who caused the problem in the first place.
  2. ‘It was the biggest explosion I have ever experienced.’
  3. Why Saudi Arabia hates Al-Jazeera
  4. The money spent on Aboriginal language television programming could have been spent on something else, and that something else would also have created jobs. What is special about Aboriginal language television programming?
  5. Cool map, bro

BC’s weekend reads

Pittsburgh, not Paris: What’s a libertarian response?

A lot has been said about Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Accords. Leftists have been apoplectic, foaming at the mouth even. Conservatives are baffled, if they have anything to say at all. What should libertarians think?

Libertarians in the United Kingdom, States, and Provinces are generally unilateralists (not isolationists), whereas libertarians in Europe, South Africa, and Latin America are generally multilateralists. I’m of the opinion that American libertarians are wholly wrong to claim that their foreign policy is libertarian. It’s not libertarian at all. Unilateralism is combative rather than cooperative and relies on nationalism rather than internationalism to make its arguments.

Multilateralism forces factions to come to a consensus, thus slowing down government action at the international level, while also forcing factions to interact with each other in a diplomatic manner at that same international level. Unilateralism allows states to do whatever they want, regardless of what others may think. Now let me remind you of what libertarianism stands for: peace, prosperity, and freedom through mutually beneficial exchange and agreed-upon rules that can be changed provided they go through the proper channels (legislation, judiciary, executive). (Am I wrong here?)

Which sounds more libertarian to you?

Now that we have issues of doctrine out of the way, what’s really interesting to note is the Left’s inability to see what Trump is actually doing: wagging the dog. Trump’s term as executive is not going well (surprise, surprise). And so, he does a mean-spirited thing that he hopes will distract.

Here’s how I see the Paris Accords (chime in if you disagree):

  • They (it?) have not, and will not – ever – accomplish anything in regard to climate change, but
  • because of this it is also an organization that is wholly non-threatening. It’s just a bunch of countries getting together, in good faith, to solve a problem (real or imagined)

Some hardline factions on the conservative wing in the US didn’t like that the Paris Accords are essentially glorified intern conventions, and some Leftist factions on the American Left absolutely revere green initiatives (even if they’re no good at greening anything other than lobbyist’s pocketbooks), so Trump pulled the plug.


BC’s weekend reads

  1. the Economist endorses the Liberal Democrats in UK election (in Europe, a liberal democrat is roughly the same thing as a libertarian in the US)
  2. One of the most important lessons of Trump’s success is that classically liberal rhetoric and positions were not very important to voters.
  3. It turns out that Westerners are rational, virtuous, and liberty-loving, while Orientals are irrational, vicious, and slavish.
  4. The West is indifferent to Afghanistan and Iraq’s world of terror
  5. Roman slavery, revolution, and magic mushrooms
  6. What the fuck?

A short note on God

I’ve been re-reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, thanks in large part to the new TV series on Starz based on the novel. Gaiman’s works always disappoint me in the end. Not because they’re bad, (I can never put them down), but because I prefer two types of endings: fell-good cheesy ones and depressing I-hope-you-learned-your-lesson ones. Gaiman’s endings always make me think, and I don’t necessarily like that in my fiction.

Behavioral economists will tell me that I’m not actually disappointed in Gaiman’s work because I always come back for more, but I insist they’re wrong.

At any rate, American Gods got me thinking about, well, God. The God I grew up with was the Mormon God (I’m a reluctant atheist now). The Mormon God is a loving god. It’s a man, with a wife, who views human beings as his children. Jesus Christ is his oldest son, and Lucifer is the 2nd oldest.Prior to human life on earth, a war erupted in Heaven between two factions, one led by Jesus and the other by Lucifer. (I highlight the word “war” because this is how Mormons describe what is essentially a philosophical argument. No blood was shed. It is a culture war. Mormons view themselves as God’s warriors. Because they view their God as a loving one, they smile and are nice to everybody, but they do so because they are at war.)

Jesus argued that everybody should have free choice in what they do on earth. All of his brothers and sisters (i.e. God’s children) should be free to make mistakes and sin. Jesus offered himself up as a sacrificial lamb for everybody. He would die on earth so that his brothers and sisters would get a chance to repent for their mistakes and sins.

Lucifer argued that everybody should have an outline of what to do in order to get back to Heaven. His brothers and sisters would already have their lives planned out for them when they were born, and there would be no room to make mistakes. Thus nobody would have to worry about making mistakes, so nobody would not make it back to Heaven.

At the end of their great debate, the people of Heaven, God’s children, the future inhabitants of earth, held a vote and decided to go with Jesus’ plan. Lucifer was butthurt, and left Heaven to found his own society, based on his plan, in Hell. According to the founders of the Mormon Church, about 1/3 of Heaven went with Lucifer. They didn’t have the courage to be tested through free agency. They wanted every aspect of their lives to be planned for them.

This portrait gives you a view, I hope, of a distinctly American God, born as he was in the early 19th century: democratic, freedom-loving, and generous. There is a lot to chew on here, I know. There’s lots of questions, too, such as “why did we have to leave Heaven in the first place?” The answer I received to most of my questions was “faith.”

The Mormon God, though, was also a mass murderer. He killed lots of people (or had people killed) to make his point, more than once. How can a loving God commit (or support) such atrocities? Nothing adds up. It didn’t add up when I was 10, or 16, or 25.

I think the bad math explains polytheistic logic pretty well. Instead of an omnipotent god who loves you immensely and also slaughters human life in anger or jealousy, there is a god responsible for love, and one for war, one for greed, etc. You can simply worship as you please. This polytheistic framework leads directly to questions about self-discipline, though: If you have many gods for many motives, wouldn’t this make it easier to murder people without feeling guilty about it? To swindle people? Just ignore the gods of love or forgiveness or justice and pray to the gods of anger or expedience.

Reality doesn’t conform to this rough logic, though. India’s Hindu population is no less violent than, say, Muslim Albania or Christian Serbia (or secular Los Angeles). India’s merchant class is no less devout than the West’s or Islam’s. Religion can shape a person’s life, indeed a whole culture, but it has less of an effect on good and bad than we like to think.

From the Comments: Naval Power and Trade

This is an extremely interesting point, the worth of fighting pirates and guerre de course seems difficult but is completely worth the effort. Strangely, just before reading this post, I finished the book To Rule The Waves by Arthur Herman, which asserts that the rise of large-scale trade went hand in hand with the growth of British naval strength, and points very specifically to the 18th and 19th centuries. On page 402, he asserts that it was only naval protection that enabled British trade to grow considerably during the Napoleonic wars (over 11,000 British merchants were captured by the French from 1793-1815 and far more would have been but for the British blockades and convoy protection). How much can one measure the cost-to-yield of maintaining peaceful trade against such depredation?

Herman also argues that Naval research and technology drove the development of far better seagoing technologies without which large-scale merchant ventures would have had far lower yield (perhaps the most famous example is the Longitude Prize) and the demand for iron and ship production was a major driver of the early Industrial Revolution. While I think that both of these arguments are very vulnerable to crowding out arguments, it seems to me that there were nuanced interconnections between technology, trade, and naval power that each had positive feedback into the others. It seems to me that by examining the very large investment made by the British East India Company in their merchant marine in this very period gives a parallel in which private interests made similar investments in protection of sea trade routes, showing its probable positive return on investment.

I am glad to see that you have recognized that naval production was almost always based on relative strengths of navies. The huge decomissioning trends of the mid-19th century in Britain was exceeded by that of their enemies/rivals (the Dutch had been weak since the late 1600s, the French were exhausted completely, and the Spanish and Portuguese were on a long decline worsened by French occupation). However, there is one major aspect to consider in examining naval strength longitudinally: complete revolution in ship technology. Steam, iron plating, and amazing advances in artillery picked up hugely after 1815, and the British navy in the Crimean War would have been unrecognizable to Nelson. I am not sure how this would affect your analysis, because navies became simultaneously more expensive and more effective, and GDP was exploding fast enough to support such high-tech advances without bankrupting the Brits. I am sure this is not an original problem, but I am interested in seeing how historical economists can control for such changes.

Good luck on this paper, it seems like an extremely useful examination with a lot of interesting complications and a fundamentally important commentary on the balance between maintaining law and allowing market determination of resource distribution.

This is from my fellow Notewriter Kevin on another fellow Notewriter’s (Vincentrecent post about shipping and imperial navies.

A short note on the Trump-Russia scandal

This whole thing is much ado about nothing.

Intelligence sharing in regards to the global war on Islamic peoples terrorism has been an ongoing affair for numerous states since the collapse of socialism in 1989. Russia, the US, Europe, Israel, states in the Near East, and China have all shared intelligence in this regard.

Here’s what’s happening in the US: the American Left needs a foreign boogeyman to harp on the Right. The Right uses Muslims, immigrants, and China to harp on the Left, but the Left counters with charges of racism and xenophobia. The Left still needs a foreign boogeyman (voters love foreign scapegoats) and Russia’s political class is white, conservative, and Christian. Traditionally (at least in my time) the Left’s foreign boogeyman has been Israel and its political class (white and conservative but not Christian), but populism in Russia has produced a product that the American left just couldn’t resist.

This is a boring scandal.

(Reminder: I’m not a Trump supporter.)