Category Archives: Political Thought

is it rational to be informed?

“it is irrational to be politically well-informed because the low returns from data simply do not justify their cost in time and other resources.”

Anthony Downs

In which I am distracted, and libertarians infiltrate polite society

I’m a bit preoccupied. My Better Half reached her due date yesterday, and we are anxiously awaiting whatever comes next.

So, in the meantime, while I’m trying to get my “head in the game,” here’s some stuff to expand your knowledge and entertain your senses. Or maybe vice-versa. Also, libertarian views on the rise:

  • Said Judge Posner, of an alleged serial spammer’s courtroom presentation. “It’s not only incompetent, it’s grotesque. You’ve got damages jumping around from $11 million to $130 million to $122 million to $33 million. In fact, the damages are probably zero.” Timothy B. Lee at Ars Technica.
  • “Montgomery County officials have allowed the children to reopen their lemonade stand, by relocating it about 100-feet away from the intersection where it was set up Thursday.” This after they fine the tots $500 for their enterprising ways.
  • Wanna go to Harvard? Apparently the White House is a good stepping stone. “About a half-dozen staffers will begin at the premier law school this fall, bringing a rare skill set, a golden Rolodex and tales of the corridors of power to Harvard Yard. The exodus of the younger White House staffers marks the first major departure of junior aides in the Obama administration.” Politico.
  • This is for you Alex (as you consider forcibly moving your fellow Americans to Somalia): Ilya Somin wonders if the public is becoming more libertarian. “Obviously, the vast majority of the public is not nearly as libertarian as most libertarian activists and intellectuals are. But it does seem to be more libertarian than the median voter of the recent past.” The Volokh Conspiracy.
  • If Ilya ain’t enough for you, the NYT column FiveThirtyEight (Nate Silver) is getting in on the action, too, citing a CNN poll that seems to show a shift.

Whether people are as libertarian-minded in practice as they might believe themselves to be when they answer survey questions is another matter. Still, there have been visible shifts in public opinion on a number of issues, ranging from increasing tolerance for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalizationon the one hand, to the skepticism over stimulus packages and the health-care overhaul on the other hand, that can be interpreted as a move toward more libertarian views.

And, just for kicks, here’s a graph:

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Deliberative Democracy: A Way to Increase Civic Participation

The Problem: Dropping Civic Participation

We live in a democracy that faces decreasing participation on a dramatic scale.   In many respects, because of our republican form of government, the only real opportunity we have to engage in public decision-making is during periodic elections.

With so little control and distanced from the decision-making process, from the momentous decisions that have lingering effects on their lives, citizens are disempowered, and, as a result, they lose interest.

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Atlas Shrugged: Come see it.

Protester seen at Chicago Tax Day Tea Party pr...

Image via Wikipedia

Just a couple weeks ago, I noted here that Atlas Shrugged was coming to theaters. It’ll be split into three movies. The first comes out tomorrow.

Low budget (only about $10 million), there have been those who have wondered if it’ll be worth watching. Others have opined that after all the credit it gets in book form, many will be disappointed to see it on screen.

Still others think that “its just fiction,” so why do conservatives like it so much? Well, yeah: it is just fiction. But does that change the relevancy of its lessons or warnings?

I guess there’s only one way to find out. You’re going to have to watch it.

If you’re in Salt Lake, join myself and 225 of my closest friends for a private showing. With the Young Republicans, I’ve reserved a theater on Saturday night.

Interested? For more details, go here.

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Rules for Economic Growth: Finding a “golden mean” for laws affecting innovation & entrepeneurship

“There has never been a prosperous society without some form of government,” said Richard Vedder, Distinguished Professor of Economics, Ohio University; Adjunct Scholar, American Enterprise Institute. On the other hand, “a society that has been controlled by government has never had extended prosperity.”

So what is the golden mean?

Whether we agree on the level that government should be involved in the economy or not, I think it’s a truism that some level of governmental involvement is necessary, if just to provide for stability to allow markets to exist.

Don’t agree? For an example of what stability and security can do for a free market, look to, at one extreme, Somalia (as one reader of this blog observed): it is total chaos, administered at the hands of war lords and rampant famine.

On the other hand, and at the other extreme, look at the United States (a gratuitous comparison, I know). Much of the economic growth has been permissible due to our geographic buffer from the wars of Europe in the first half of the last century and the lack of conflict here. There are many other factors, of course, but one cannot look at the history of Europe, as well as Asia, and not see the disastrous effect that war, especially the world wars, has on economic growth and prosperity.

So, assuming some level of government: what should laws are important to the promotion of economic growth? This discussion is especially important in the present context of budget debates and a looming government shutdown. Rep. Ryan’s budget, while it works to decrease the budget deficit, does little to promote growth. What should the federal government do (other than get out-of-the-way) do to help innovation, entrepreneurs, and employers, short of actually picking winners and subsidization policies?


Read the Rules for Growth PDF here.

The Kauffman Foundation has recently put out a book that makes a few recommendations for laws that would promote economic growth. A few of them:


  • Open our borders to skilled labor: Reform U.S. immigration laws so that more high-skilled immigrants can launch businesses in the United States.
  • Licensing practices: Improving university technology licensing practices so university-generated innovation is more quickly and efficiently commercialized.
  • Fewer income taxes, more consumer taxes:Moving away from taxes on income that penalize risk-taking, innovation, and employment while shifting toward a more consumption-based tax system that encourages saving that funds investment. In addition, the research tax credit should be redesigned and made permanent.
  • Rapid patent review: Reforming the intellectual property system to allow for a post-grant opposition process and address the large patent application backlog by allowing applicants to pay for more rapid patent reviews.
  • Ease corporate paperwork: Authorizing corporate entities to form digitally and use software as a means for setting out agreements and bylaws governing corporate activities.

And there are others. What other rules might open up the market, support innovation and entrepreneurship, and grow our economy?