Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Wisdom of Milton Friedman

Here, he is commenting on JFK's famous statement: "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."
"It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic "what your government can do for you" implies that the government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your country" implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshiped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive."
Hat tip to David Henderson.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Scots Favour Free Trade: Adam Smith would be Proud

YouGov's Antony Wells of UK Polling Report links to a new Scottish poll conducted by Panelbase for the Sunday Times.

Asking about free trade and immigration in the context of the UK having left the EU, by 65% to 11% (20% were neutral and 4% didn't know) Scots were overwhelmingly in favour of companies in other EU countries remaining free to sell goods as easily in Scotland as in their own countries.

The view isn't quite as rosy for immigration, with people favouring free immigration from other EU countries by just 40% to 36% against (19% were neutral and 4% didn't know).  Still, that's a net +4% approval rating for a free movement policy.

I hope Holyrood are paying attention.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Wisdom of Bryan Caplan

"Since I think that most news is overblown fluff, I have little sympathy for the endless pieces about "What we've learned about the world in 2016."  Against the background of all of human history, 2016 taught us next to nothing.  If you just discovered that horrible people often gain vast political power with widespread popular support, you're in dire need of remedial history.  If you've just discovered that politicians' personalities matter at least as much as their policy views, you're in dire need of remedial political science.  If you've just discovered that demagogic appeals to national identity work, you're in dire need of remedial psychology."

Saturday, 14 January 2017

2017 Predictions

Following the same vein as Scott Alexander, here are my predictions for 2017:

1. Theresa May remains Prime Minister at the end of 2017: 95%
2. Jeremy Corbyn remains leader of the Labour Party at the end of 2017: 90%
3. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act is not repealed: 95%
4. An early General Election is not called: 95%
5. Scotland remains part of the UK, with no formal plan to secede: 99%
6. Nicola Sturgeon remains First Minister of Scotland at the end of 2017: 99%
7. UK GDP growth lower than in 2016: 50%
8. UK unemployment to be higher at end of year than beginning: 60%


9. Donald Trump remains President at the end of 2017: 90%
10. No serious impeachment proceedings are active against Trump: 80%
11. Construction on Mexican border wall (beyond existing barriers) begins: 80%

12. The UK triggers article 50, beginning the process of withdrawing from the EU: 80%
13. Germany does not declare plan to leave EU: 99%
14. France does not declare plan to leave EU: 95%
15. No country currently in Euro or EU announces new plan to leave: 80%
16. Marine Le Pen is not elected President of France: 50%
17. Angela Merkel is re-elected Chancellor of Germany: 70%
18. Fewer refugees admitted 2017 than 2016: 95%

World Events:
19. US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 100 US soldiers: 60%
20. North Korea’s government will survive the year without large civil war/revolt: 95%
21. No terrorist attack in the USA will kill > 100 people: 90%
22. any First World country: 80%
23. Assad will remain President of Syria: 80%
24. Israel will not get in a large-scale war (i.e. >100 Israeli deaths) with any Arab state: 90%
25. No major intifada in Israel this year (i.e. > 250 Israeli deaths, but not in Cast Lead style war): 80%
26. No interesting progress with Gaza or peace negotiations in general this year: 95%
27. No Cast Lead style bombing/invasion of Gaza this year: 90%
28. Situation in Israel looks more worse than better: 70%
29. Syria’s civil war will not end this year: 60%
30. ISIS will control less territory than it does right now: 80%
31. No major civil war in Middle Eastern country not currently experiencing a major civil war: 90%
32. Ukraine will neither break into all-out war or get neatly resolved: 80%
33. No major revolt (greater than or equal to Tiananmen Square) against Chinese Communist Party: 95%
34. No major war in Asia (with >100 Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, and American deaths combined) over tiny stupid islands: 99%
35. No exchange of fire over tiny stupid islands: 90%


36. Oil (Brent Crude) will end the year higher than $50 a barrel: 70%
37. …higher than $60 a barrel: 50%
38. FTSE 350 will not fall > 10% this year: 60%

39. I will not change careers this year: 99%
40. I will not change employers: 95%
41. I will not change jobs: 90%
42. I will not relocate to a different locale: 99%
43. I will not move house: 95%
44. I will redecorate at least 1 room in my current house: 90%
45. Still driving my current car at end of 2017: 95%
46. I will travel to at least 2 foreign countries: 99%
47. ...but no more than 3: 95%
48. My marital status will not change: 99%
49. I will not acquire any additional pets: 90%
50. I attend at least 2 weddings this year: 90%
51. I weigh >140 pounds at the end of 2017: 95%
52. I weigh < 150 pounds at the end of 2017: 80%

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Quotation of the Day

Is from NASA:
"As long as you stay away from the South Pole and don't fall into a volcano, Earth is a pretty comfortable world."

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Quotation of the Day

Is from Thomas Sowell, via Tyler O'Neil:
"Despite a voluminous and often fervent literature on 'income distribution,' the cold fact is that most income is not distributed: It is earned."

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Quotation of the Day

Is from Bertrand Russell in his 1932 essay 'In Praise of Idleness':
"The conception of duty, speaking historically, has been a means used by the holders of power to induce others to live for the interests of their masters rather than for their own."
Hat tip to Chris Dillow for today's quote.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Great Sentences

"In most cases, when a boring, bureaucratic job turns interesting, there’s trouble."
That's from this Vanity Fair article by Rich Cohen, describing the maple syrup industry in Quebec and the theft of some 540,000 gallons (13.4 million dollars worth) of syrup from the FPAQ (Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers) reserve in 2012.

Maple syrup trades at roughly $1300 a barrel, more than 20 times the current price of crude oil.

Hat tip to Tyler Cowen for the link.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Quotation of the Day

Is from Chapter 9 of Robert M. Pirsig's novel 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance':
"The real purpose of scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn't misled you into thinking you know something you don't actually know."