February 2007

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Paul for President? 

Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), is considering running for President (as a Republican). Paul was the Libertarian presidential candidate in 1988 and has been elected to Congress consistently since 1996 (he had also been elected in '78, '80, and '82), defying the conventional wisdom that one has to vote to bring home the bacon in order to be re-elected. Paul has been an incredibly principled congressman; he's usually the "1" in the n-1 votes. He takes the "limited" part of limited-government seriously.

I don't know if he'll actually make a serious run, or what kind of chances he'll have, but I think it would be a healthy thing to have him out there expressing libertarian positions in primary debates.

The Republicans have to choose between the big-government conservativism that failed to win for them last year, and their more libertarian wing. Paul will help bring that controversy out into the open.

Even if this isn't the year for Republicans to choose to be more like Reagan than like Bush, maybe a Paul campaign will bring that year a bit closer.


Tom G. Palmer: Mythbuster 

Tom G. Palmer has written a great, fairly short, paper for this year's Mont Pelerin Society Meeting entitled "Twenty Myths About Markets."

I think Palmer does a very good job of addressing, and often re-framing, many popular misconceptions about markets that most people just assume are true because they're repeated so often.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Should We Endorse the Intelligent Design of Publicly Financed Science Education? 

Andrew Coulson has been taking a lot of heat for his recent posts (see here, here, and here) at Cato@Liberty opposing the ideas promoted by many that there should be a science curriculum imposed by the federal government on all public schools that teaches evolution as the only scientific theory of human origins.

Coulson agrees (as do I) that evolution is the best explanation available for human origins. Where he differs from his critics is that he also recognizes political problems with the central imposition of controversial curriculum on all public schools. As he argues, it's "Illiberal, undemocratic, divisive, ineffective, and counter-productive."

I'm very sympathetic to complaints of those who argue that public money shouldn't be spent teaching anything but the best science in science classes. If they'd like, I can give them a really long list of other things I'm pained to see public money spent on.

But, the question, for me, is not: "What's the best science?" The question, for me, is: "What's the best mechanism for people to learn things?" Is it likely to be the result of a centrally-planned political process, or a free, distributed, process that allows for competition and, yes, evolution? As my post-title suggests, it's ironic that those who want to promote evolution seem to underestimate the power of diverse and competing processes to produce results better than anyone could have planned; and they seem to think the only way to get the right result is to make sure it's designed by experts.

Another irony is that these people seem to have a religious faith in the virtue of government officials to always use their power to do what's best, rather than what is politically expedient. If they think that the scientific evidence supports this position, then their epistemology is no better than that of the people they ridicule.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Priorities 

I just came across this video of Bjørn Lomborg in 2005 talking about the results of his Copenhagen Consensus project prioritzing what to do about the world's large problems.

Lomborg is always a breath of fresh air.

It's tiresome to keep hearing people talking about problems and never about the costs and benefits of proposed solutions.

I found it interesting that acting along Kyoto Protocol lines to prevent climate change problems came out at the bottom of the list.

Even if we stipulate that global warming is a serious problem, and that it's largely human caused (two stipulations that I'm still skeptical about), it doesn't go anywhere towards anwering the question about what we should do about it, if anything.

I do like the idea of fairly small prizes to help motivate clever people to discover successful solutions to big problems, though. So, I've got no problem with Richard Branson offering this prize.