I Swore to Preserve, Protect, and Defend What???

Am I the only one who finds it frightening that George W. Bush, John Kerry, and John McCain all oppose the freedom of speech?

It seems to me that if the “freedom of speech” clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution means anything, it means that people should be free to engage in criticism of politicians and policies without being controlled (beyond libel laws) by the government or political parties. Paying for political advertisements with your own money is certainly a means of this type of speech.

No sensible person believed that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill would get rid of negativity from political advertising, or the ability of moneyed interests to have a large influence on politics and politicians.

That Bush and McCain now claim that they did is pathetic!

Jacob Sullum’s summary is a good one.

Property Rights and Movie Seats

I’ve been meaning to mention this weeks ago, but I never got around to it.

First, there was this interesting post by Tom Bell about surfing property rights. Then there was this post by Don Boudreaux about parking lot spaces. They both involve how people spontaneously create and improve rules around allocating scarce resources (like rideable waves, and limited parking spaces) without legislation.

I’m sure you can think of many more examples.

One that I’ve been thinking about is movie theater seats.

I go to a lot of movies with my son, and we get there early to be sure to get seats that we like. Often, the theater gets crowded and sometimes there are some empty seats adjacent to us. Many times, people who show up shortly before (or after!!!) the movie begins ask us to move in order for them to sit together.

My first inclination is to try to be polite and accomodating and to go ahead and move. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal to move over a seat or two.

But, part of me is annoyed. We chose those seats specifically for their location. We got there early so we’d be likely to have that choice.

Why should we suffer for other people who didn’t make the effort we did? Are they taking advantage of our politeness; expecting other people (who paid for their good seats with their forgone time) to give up their seats so that they won’t have to pay for them with their own time? Would the world be better if more people refused to move?

What do you think?

A Grain of Dogmatism

I hope that this pleases those conservatives who warn against the risks of losing great embedded knowledge by questioning the details of religious traditions that may seem cruel or unreasonable to us.

An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder and cannot eat wheat has had her first Holy Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained no wheat, violating Roman Catholic doctrine...


I’m not a real trekkie, but I did immediately understand these references from Lileks today:

Speaking of Star Trek: do you know who Alan Keyes reminds me of? Richard Daystrom. He had that same erudite quaver that suggested madness or brilliance and probably both. Now that Keyes has come out for reparations, I also expect him to announce that M-5 will be his political strategist. Note to Mr. Keyes: regards to Senator Dunsel.

Boy, that red-lined the geekometer.

Should I be worried?

Mandatory Shortages

As Floridians assess the damages caused by Hurricane Charley, Roderick T. Long has written a timely post at Liberty & Power reminding us of the idiocy of anti-gouging laws. These are laws that prohibit charging greater than customary prices for products that are in high demand and short supply during and shortly after a disaster.

Not only is it immoral to prohibit such transactions; it’s counter-productive. It reduces the extent to which these goods that people want and need are available at prices that they are willing to pay. How does that help the situation?

Anybody who wants to provide charity in the form of selling high-demand goods at below market prices would still be free to do so, without these laws. Anybody who is offended by others profiting from other people’s misfortune would be free to get off his ass and provide these goods himself if he thinks it’s a good idea to help people in this way.

What the laws do is to remove the incentive for others (who don’t want to engage in this form of charity, but have skills at bringing these products to market) to make these goods available faster. Interfering with the market pricing mechanism just guarantees a prolonging of the shortage.

This is just another example of politicians hurting people by taking advantage of their ignorance to score political points. All of the guilty politicians either know this, or should know this.


I admit it.

When I heard a report today of the escalating fighting at the cemetary in Najaf my first thought was:

That’s convenient. They won’t have to carry the bodies very far.

The Bomb

Alice commemorated the 59th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by posing the question: “Was it worth the human sacrifice?”.

She then spends the rest of the post evading the question.

She suggests that it might require a parallel universe to find out; reminds us that real wartime decisions are always made with limited information and uncertainty; discusses the total non-sequitur of pacifism (as if that were the only alternative); and finally declares that we shouldn’t ask the question at all but should just feel bad for the victims.

She also states that:

If someone had a better idea to end the war than dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima, I’ve never heard of it.

I suggest that if this is true, she didn’t search very hard (if at all).

David Beito at Liberty & Power links to two these two articles about the decision that do suggest that there were better alternatives.

I certainly understand the desire to justify decisions that our side made, and I don’t really blame Alice for wanting to. Especially when we were on the right side of a good fight with brutal enemies; and also because many today look for every opportunity to blame the west in general, and America in particular, for things that are justified.

But, it seems to me that it’s a mistake to evade passing harsh judgments on our country’s mistakes. It gives ammunition to our enemies that we are hypocritical and lack credibility when passing judgments on others. But, mostly, because recognizing our own mistakes is vital if we are to improve and adopt better and better theories.