Penn Jillette Is Cool

People who know me will find it funny that I’m announcing that Penn Jillette is cool.

Not only because I’m not personally cool, but because I’m often disdainful of “cool” celebrities and their fans.

These things are true.

But, I think Penn has qualities that rise above all of that and lead me to admire him and want others to share the pleasure he brings me.

Today I spent a while watching his video blog entries in the Penn Says series. Check them out!

It’s hard to describe why I find them so compelling. I think it’s because I share the values that Penn expresses: his intellectual curiosity, his skepticism of religious impulses in all their forms, his passion for science, liberty, and human flourishing…

And, beyond all of that, I admire his easy eloquence at expressing himself.

Also, magic is cool.

Rated F for Fail

This Financial Times article by Sam Jones seems to tell an important part of the financial crisis story (HT webgrrl). As I wrote in a comment at the previous link:

It seems like a major problem was that too many were reliant on the software of an agency to rate securities that were too complex for the rating to be verified independently. That, coupled with corporate
political fear of delivering massive bad news as soon as it was discovered led to catastrophe. It was a giant system with a single point of failure that failed.

It doesn’t seem like a failure of regulation or of deregulation. Just human error, bad judgment, and people who didn’t know how to directly value what they were trading.

I don’t think more upfront regulation would have avoided much of this, though.

Regulators and rigid rules wouldn’t have been any smarter than the interested parties.

It’s always tempting to point fingers of blame. We’re all biased towards finding vindication for our prior convictions in complex crises.

But, it would be pretty amazing if this whole problem could have been averted by better software testing.

A Sad Day

While I’m not at all surprised, I’m still pretty upset by the passage of the bailout bill today.

I’m with Arnold Kling on this (please follow the link and read his thoughts and two recent articles about it).

I’m also with Steve Horwitz that this was a problem of bad regulation rather than under-regulation.

I’m trying to find a silver lining, though.

Perhaps we can finally put to rest Naomi Klein’s idiotic Shock Doctrine theory that crises are exploited to foist free-markets on people. The truth is that they’re almost always used to further attack free markets.

I hope this attack isn’t fatal.