April 2006

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

United 93 

I went to see United 93 today with my son.

I thought that it was very well done. It avoided sensationalizing the events and characters, and presented a realistic account of ordinary people dealing with extraordinary events.

The film didn't resort to cheap tricks to appeal to the emotions of the audience. If you were moved, as I was, it's because of the personality and ideas you brought with you to the theater.

I'm a bit surprised by how much fuss is being made over the film by those strongly for or against the Iraq war. I wouldn't expect watching this film to change the mind, with respect to Iraq, of anybody who is aware of the uncontroversial facts of that day.

Perhaps the fact that some anti-war people think that reminding people of the events of that day will hurt support for their position says something about the quality of that position rather than anything about the movie.

I wouldn't say anything like "All Americans Must See United 93," but I do think it's good and important work; and it wouldn't be a waste of an interested person's time.

UPDATE: One more good reason to go see the movie is to express your profound disagreement with this guy.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Free Speech at School 

I think that Eugene Volokh is correct (as usual) when he criticizes the Ninth Circuit Court's recent Harper v. Poway Unified School Dist. decision permitting a high-school to prohibit a student from wearing a T-shirt that read: "HOMOSEXUALITY IS SHAMEFUL." Public schools should respect students' free speech rights as much as possible; and when they are restricted, it should be in a viewpoint-neutral way.

Children aren't sub-humans who need to be protected from some ideas in order to function. All of the reasons for why it's important to have speech rights for adults apply to children at school. Schools should provide an environment where ideas (even unpopular ones) can be confronted and considered and criticized; not banned.

I don't like schools.

While I agree that they provide valuable opportunities for some children, I'm confident that they do a great deal of harm, and should certainly not be compulsory. I hope that we'll get better institutions for kids that will provide more of the benefits and fewer of the costs that traditional schools currently provide.

But, if there are going to be schools, I think that we need to move away from government-run schools and toward privately-run schools. I'm under no illusion that all private schools are better than all public schools (with respect to speech rights, or anything else), but I think we're more likely to have an evolution toward more useful schools when they compete for the business of their customers: students and their parents.

This particular case is just reason #42893743 why the government is incompetent to manage the education of citizens.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

How NOT to Deal with Global Warming 

I'm still a skeptic about Global Warming and its human-caused components.

But even those who aren't should consider Don Boudreaux's point:

I'm not an atmospheric scientist, a climatologist, a meteorologist, or any other kind of hard scientist you care to name. (By the way, I'll bet that the vast majority of people who opine on global warming are just like me.) But I do know a thing or two about economics and the economics of politics. Regardless of the scientific merits of claims of global warming and claims of humankinds' role (or not) in promoting global warming, it is unscientific in the extreme to assume that government can or will handle whatever problem there is wisely. Simply to assume that, if problem X exists, giving power to government to solve problem X will actually solve problem X, or will do so without creating even worse problems Y and Z, is to ignore history and our scientific knowledge of politics.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Describing Libertarians 

I'm used to people giving unfair descriptions of libertarianism. Many people don't know what it means, or have only heard about it from somebody else who didn't know what it means. I usually adopt the motto of "Never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity."

But, sometimes that's not possible. Recently James Taranto wrote (in response to a post by David Bernstein [who understands libertarianism quite well]):

It seems to us Bernstein has an incomplete picture of libertarians. He probably thinks of them as cute little nerds who have basically sound (if somewhat extreme) ideas about economics along with various eccentric enthusiasms: private toll roads, pornography, drugs, head-freezing. This is the libertarian world of Reason magazine. (Disclosure: This columnist was an intern for Reason nearly two decades ago.)

If Taranto interned at Reason, he knows better.

He goes on to say:

But libertarianism is an ideology. Ideology can lead to fanaticism, and fanaticism to hatred [Gil: and hatred to suffering?]. Check out the Independent Institute's Web site (please note: not to be confused with the Independence Institute) or, even worse, Antiwar.com (sorry, we're not linking), and you'll find far libertarianism to be pretty much indistinguishable from the far left and the far right.

Taranto is often interesting and amusing, but this is just a cheap shot. I'm sure he wouldn't want to be characterized by extreme examples of "conservatism".

Taranto reminds me of a kid in Junior High School who rejects his nerdy friends in order to join the more popular crowd. He seems to have a need to put down (often unfairly) his old group in order to cement his credentials with the idiots in his new crowd.

Pitiful.


Still Here 

Sorry for not posting for such a long time.

I've been a bit busy, and have been dealing with complications arising from switching hosts and blogging software. Perhaps I'll post a bit tomorrow. Then, I'll be out of town for a few days without the opportunity to blog.

But, I expect to be able to be able to blog much more frequently after that, so please don't stop checking in!