Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Bad news, I've moved.

You can now read me here.
Or type in

I hope you'll add me to your list server there.

Jeff and I have started a radio show called "Failure to Refrain," as in President George Bush has failed to refrain from comparing Iraq to Vietnam.

Anyway, I continue to do battle at God's Politics as jurisnaturalist. We're still on immigration...

And school has started again. This semester I'm reading... a lot... no, really, a LOT.

So, come on over and read what's new.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Assymetric Voting

Megan has a post explaining why NYC will always get Republican mayors.

The gist is that the Democrats, having such a majority in NYC, will always nominate a candidate too liberal to win the general election. Instead a liberal Republican will get the job. This would be interesting to test. If it is true, then Democracy is an effective check on extremist groups, but not against moderate statists.

Maybe this book will have something to say about it.

Add this to my list

Patronization Kills

Monday, August 20, 2007

'Nuff Said

go duke!

Hat tip,
Struttin' Wolf

Obfuscation is the Mother of Invention

As a member of the next generation of economists, I was glad to receive a short education in econometrics earlier today, which previous generations will certainly be familiar with, to the point of it being a cliche.

Now the problem reveals itself to be related directly to the quantity of upper extreme appendages normally attached to upright biped inspectors of dismal occurances.

Gavel bang to Mankiw.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


This article at Christianity Today gives some of the history of the principle of sanctuary, and perhaps hints at a legitimate role for the church against statism. But it falls short of understanding fundamental subtleties on law.

"As a product of a time when justice was rough and crude," law professor Wayne Logan summarized in a 2003 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review article, "sanctuary served the vital purpose of staving off immediate blood revenge." If the church could be convinced that the sanctuary seeker's life was not in danger, it would turn him over. "The church, in short, played a foremost role as intercessor," Logan writes. Fugitives in medieval English sanctuaries, about 1,000 a year, were able to negotiate financial compensation or a punishment like scourging or exile.

So the church plays the role of the judiciary by providing a recourse to violence. Justice would be served through a trial process instead of through violence. This is only possible through the Church.

Well, today many churches are choosing to play a similar role in providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants. Christianity Today denounces this action, claiming that the immigrant's life is not in jeopardy, so the church should not intervene. And the Acton Institute seems to agree.

I say nonsense.

It is imperative that we recognize the difference between natural law and legislated arbitrary law.

The natural law protects life liberty and property and enforces contracts.
Arbitrary law is primarily a vehicle for privilege. Laws restricting immigration are no different from laws restricting trade in that they are anti-competitive protectionist measures which award a privilege to incumbant citizens. Such laws are unjust due to their arbitrary and pre-judicial nature. They are pagan, and there exists no justification, moral or consequentialist for such evils.

Therefore, these churches are exercising precisely the correct action in accord with the Christian Ethic. They are protecting the innocent from violence and loss of liberty and property.

The New Sanctuary Movement is one group mobilizing to protect and encourage this action by churches. I am all for it so long as the pendulum doesn't swing so far as to advocate state support for impoverished immigrants.

Opportunity Cost and Immigration

I have little or no pity for the roofers, drywallers, textile workers, etc., who have lost their jobs to immigrants.
Why should they be protected from competition? According to what principle?
Let's say two individuals make widgets. Joe and Larry. Who should you buy a widget from? Let's assume they are of equal quality. Then you buy from whomever sells for less, let's say Joe.

Why? Because it shows that Joe's next best alternative is worse than Larry's next best alternative. He has a lower opportunity cost.

If Larry can make widgets at a cost of $4 or whatsits at a cost of $5, these are his two options.
If Joe can make widgets for $4 or whatsits at a cost of $6, these are his two options.

Who should do what? Let's say we want ten of each. If Larry makes whatsits and Joe makes widgets our economy uses $90.
If they switch roles the economy uses $100.

Everyone is better off if they allocate their energies according to what their next best alternative would be. This would be revealed in the price that each would be willing to sell their widgets for. Joe would be to sell for less because his next best alternative has a higher cost than Larry's next best alternative.

What this shows us is that competition forces people to use their resources in such a way that the entire economy benefits, instead of just concentrated groups.

We might like to protect our buddy's job, because he's our buddy. But we are hurting ourself, and others in the long run, by choosing a less efficient allocation than would have resulted through competition.

No one should ever feel like their job is secure, or that they have an entitlement to anything. Competition forces everyone to always work to improve themselves, to innovate better processes, to invent better machines, to work better, smarter, faster, more efficiently. It is through this competitive process that America has risen to a position of affluence such that it can afford to be concerned about environmental issues and such other luxuries.

Those who fall behind in the competition won't be excluded from participation, they just won't be paid as much. Their services have fallen in relative value.

Immigration is ultimately either about protection of privileged status under the law - classism, or about abuse of public programs - statism.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Africa IS Growing!

and fast in some places.

This table shows growth rates which are very positive. Why the benefits now? What has changed?

No Seatbelts for Student Drivers

This story got me thinking.

If taxi drivers in Russia and the Ukraine don't wear seatbelts as way of signaling (a la Cowen) to passengers that they are safe drivers, perhaps we ought to make teenagers drive without seatbelts for a while. Or maybe all drivers should go without seatbelts.

I've got it! Give them each a dune buggy, minus seat belts, and let 'em loose!

Or maybe this only applies in places where you have to be somewhat insane to be driving at all.

Hat tip: Casnocha

Anarcho-Capitalism and Christianity

What is central to the question of Anarcho-Capitalism and Christianity is the role, source, and execution of law.

Christianity is wholly consistent with a Natural Rights understanding of the scope of law. It is also especially consistent with a Common Law process for derivation of law. Finally, Christianity is peculiarly inconsistent with a legislative process for derivation of law.

The only legitimate role of government from the Christian perspective is Judicial. The Judges were to read, interpret and, rule using the revealed law as delivered to Moses. The book of Deuteronomy consists primarily of the case law up to the time of Joshua.

The courts were to try cases, and anyone not willing to come under the ruling of the Judges was considered an outlaw, outside the protection of the law. The costs incurred in the judicial process were to be born by the individuals involved in the case.

Insomuch as anarcho-capitalism attempts to make the judicial a private function it may or may not be consistent with Christian thought.

Any other role of government beyond the judicial is wholly outside the scriptural mandate for the state.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Just a Bad Dream

Some people really are scared of militant Muslims. They think that there are tens of millions of these enemies out there whose ultimate desire is world domination under Islam. They want to build giant walls around America, but with only a fraction of the military force behind those walls, with the rest parading about the world. They want to close off whatever trade they can and regulate the rest.

They are afraid.

But what has actually happened to these individuals personally to make them so frightful?

Many of them were in NY or DC on 9-11. Many more knew people killed or directly impacted by this event. Many have lost their jobs to outsorcing. Others have been underbid by immigrant workers.

These people have legitimate concerns. They are reasonable concerns.

But I think they are wrong to be afraid, and I think their reactions to those things which frighten them merely cause more problems.

Protectionism slows trade down, increasing the likelihood that jobs in export industries or in complemental industries will be hurt. And the United States are still net exporters.

Militarism attempts to impose artificial order and rule of law upon people who do not recognize the authority of force over them. The rules put in place are arbitrary and do not make sense. They are subject to change at the whim of the rulers. The people have no ability to plan for tomorrow or next year. Work and production grinds down. The people are slaves.

Finally, there are not that many militants out there. Of the insurgents in Iraq I'd have to say that most of them are just Freedom Fighters, spiteful of foreign occupation.

And there hasn't been a united Islamic entity in over a thousand years. There is no way such divided groups of people would ever allow one or the other of them to ascend anywhere near to world dominance.

I sympathize with the fearful as much as I do one of my daughters who wakes up with a nightmare, but I must assure you, it is not a real think which you are afraid of. It's just a dream.

Of Capitalism and Christianity

Unregenerate humans are self-interested. Capitalism attempts to channel this aspect of human nature most productively by offering compelling incentives for action.

Christians can overcome self-interest by responding to the call of Christ and obeying His commands.

The response to Christ does not guarantee positive social or personal outcomes! Rather, we are promised persecution and trials, in short the cross of Christ, for our decision.

The enemy of both systems is power, or the use of force. The use of force removes the restraint on self-interest which permits individuals from realizing mutual gains from exchange. The use of force likewise corrupts the message of the cross.

Christians ought to work first to eliminate force from their own habits. Second they should work to protect the victims of the use of force. Third they ought to work to restrain the use of force.

Only Christians are capable of acting out of conscious virtue in imitation of Christ in the renunciation of, protection from, and resistance of force unselfishly. In other words, most people can take care of themselves fine so long as they allowed to defend themselves and care for themselves out of self interest. But for the defenseless and incapable God has provided the Church as a means for overcoming this world.

Capitalism works up to a point, but it neglects the least of these. It does tend to raise the welfare of all participants albeit disproportionately. Christianity has as its unique mandate to care for those who are stuck outside of the Capitalist system.

See See You

I attended Colorado Christian University from Fall of '94 to Spring of '95. Just one year. Long enough to get drunk for the first time in my life, start and break off three romantic relationships, smell my first pot, and get my first full time job. Long enough to rack up a lot of student loans and to discover I didn't belong there.

I got into a fight with then University President over tuition increases of 13% and turned my back to him in protest in front of the entire student body.

Two Presidents later, we get this story, which is not too different from a scandal while I was there involving the dismissal of an ancient languages scholar for being too liberal. I was mad about that, too.

And, if my memory is right CCU is also home to our beloved K-Love. You know: positive, encouraging, sappy-enough-to-make-you-vomit K-Love. Where they play 20 different versions of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever..."

But the new issue here is interesting to me for different reasons.

I read Jim Wallis' book. I've heard of Singer. I read a lot of atheists and liberals who I disagree with, and plenty of Conservatives I disagree with. And I think I'm smart enough to come up with my own educated opinion about these things. And I think college students are smart enough, too.

Shall we protect our children until they are in the grave, or do we expose them to all the ideas of the real world and challenge them to synthesize what they read with what they observe for themselves?

Then again, if CCU wants to let a guy with just a Master's degree and only two years experience go, there should not be a big baruhaha about it.

Finally, there is the issue of capitalism through this incident. If the Prof wants to better reconcile Jesus' mandate with the effectiveness of capitalism he needs to consider renouncing the state, and discerning between the church and society.

Nathanael Snow

Youth hate church, too. Not just men.

Acton Institute is a liberty and Catholicism thinktank that welcomes all Christians into their discussion about Religion and Liberty.

Today they quote Bonhoeffer, "Do not try to make the church relevant."

Ouch. What do these guys make of that quote?

The point is that most young adults quit church by the time they are 25.


And what about the churches and Christian organizations on campus?

Maybe they all ought to read some Bonhoeffer. Especially Grace Church (whom I support) might want to read this book, which states
"Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace."

Russia's Putin-Youth

The NY Times does something like news reporting here, with a great video about the Nashi movement in Russia: Putin-Youth.

They make some good points, these youths. Russia's economy has improved, the standard of living is better.

But some scary ideas are involved also, especially the make-babies-for-Putin and Russia thinking.

Give teenagers a free camp, with lots of coeds, tell them to make babies, and hate America, and we get what is known by every state as mere good education.

How are American schools any different?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Why Greyhound Sucks

Gareth Higgens manages to make a movie review for Once into a screed about Greyhound. He rightly identifies the problem, but fails to understand the solution. (If a government program isn't working, all we need is more government programs, right?)

The problem with Greyhound is its monopoly.

But how did they get a monopoly and what is holding it up?

A firm can only get monopoly power if they charge a low enough price that new competitors can't make a profit by entering the market. This should be good for the consumer because they are enjoying the lowest possible prices. This situation would be called a natural monopoly, but there are few instances of these, and none of them represent an economic injustice.

Greyhound is the other kind of monopoly, the kind subsidized by the state.

Some portion of every greyhound ticket is already paid for before a customer walks up to the counter. These subsidies artificially create the availability of low-ish prices. Also, they provide service to locations which otherwise would not receive service at all.

Because Greyhound does not face competition and is promised funding for routes (even if nobody rides) in these subsidized markets they have no incentive to provide good service, or even to run their busses on time. Also, they have to run their busses through every rinky-dink town along the way making the trip especially long. As a result, middle class and upper class Americans chose not to take the bus. They'll fly or drive themselves, in a rental car if they must, instead. Indeed the last time I rode Greyhound was 9 years ago, NC to California on a 2-week student pass. On and off wherever I wanted to go. But I would never take my wife and kids on such a bus. I was a shady character myself, then...

Remove the subsidy and competition will renew. Instead of the huge, wasteful, aging busses, smaller busses would serve the rinky-dinks off of spur lines, and the main lines would become more efficient, inviting use by more time-conscious individuals. As more people ride, the average cost per customer would go down and in the long run prices would become less expensive for everyone.

Where there is heavy enough traffic, competitors have risen up anyway. I have heard some interesting stories about the Chinatown bus out of NYC, and I have seen some of the migrant worker busses here in NC.

Artificially low prices that confuse incentives result in inefficiencies and almost always lower quality service. The same thing is happening in the airline industry lately (anyone lost a bag in the last few months?).

Stop trying to solve problems by manipulating coercive power, the state. Search for voluntary mechanisms which allow for free exchange and contract, the market.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What is Irrelevant?

Randal Holcombe has an essay at Cato Unbound for the Anarchists to take it easy.
I met Dr. Holcombe at the epicenter of anarcho-capitalism at the Ludwig von Mises Institute's Austrian Scholar's Conference last March, and he is at least 1/2 the reason I'm applying to FSU for grad school. (Bruce Benson is the other half.)

His most important point is,

"there are a number of libertarian anarchists who argue for the complete elimination of government. Their arguments are based on two complementary lines of reasoning. One is that anarchy would work better than government (Leeson’s essay is along those lines, although he doesn’t make claims quite that strong), and the other is that the coercion that underlies all government activity is immoral. I have no quarrel with people who make those arguments, but from a policy perspective they are irrelevant."

Now this centers down on what economics is, and reveals the importance of the discussion concerning methodology.

If economics is only relevant when it produces policy recommendation which are politically feasable, then the academy has a responsibility to produce a certain kind of research. Most importantly, it is completely the servant of the state.

If, however, economics is relevant even when it recommends policies which are politically impossible, then it acts more like a true science - such as physics, or biology. It follows the evidence and the logic to every rational conclusion.

The question seems more focussed on whether economists want to be heard, or whether they want their ideas to be purchased.

As an idealist, I can afford to throw public opinion to the wind. If I ever get tenure, I can likewise throw opinion to the wind. In order to get tenure, ah! we must appease. We must produce something useful. We are forced into a Pareto Paradigm (which might be a good name for a blog or radio show..., but not a rock band) where we are restrained from following every though to its rational conclusion, because to do so would be to accept Mankiw's judgment on Hayek: It's just a slippery slope argument, and its not true.

Most economists need to want to be heard. I may or may not be one of them.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Who's Your Daddy?

The state is not my daddy.

Who's your daddy?

Should thinking about breaking the law be illegal?
If a father disciplines for foolish rules then he is provoking his children to anger. We call that child abuse. The state has extended its sphere of influence too far. I'm angry, and I know you are too.

What does "backing it up with force" represent?

Under a rule of law all participants agree not to encroach on others' rights. If anyone violates this non-aggression principle, they step out from under the protection of the law and they are outlaws. They enjoy neither protection of their life their property or their liberty.

The criminal in this case may make an appeal to the court to come back under the protection of the law by paying restitution to the injured party. Thus they are restored.

This and the enforcement of voluntarily agreed upon contracts is the full extent of the law.

If once the law has been perverted in such a way that it allows one person, or agency, to take from another and give to whom they please, the protections of natural law are nullified and the law has done that which it was designed to prevent.

Redistribution of wealth falls into this category, as does awarding privilege to large corporations, etc.. In any way that the law goes beyond protection of rights and enforcement of contracts it is perverted, and then who can know it?

The lack of predictability in regards to the law disturbs the transactions made voluntarily amongst individuals. How can they agree upon a contract if they do not know it will be enforced? How can they agree upon a price if they do not know whether the state will impose a price control on one of the factors of their production?

Backing the law up with force actually means the restraint on force - lawful behavior - is forgone by the perpetrator, and he brings the violence upon himself. The state wields this sword for us collectively so as to prevent abuse or misunderstandings by individuals - to give the accused the benefit of the doubt and a way of being restored. It is actually a manifestation of grace.

But if the law be perverted, the grace becomes absent, and all that it represents is violence to all, on the behalf of the state itself instead of on behalf of the individuals supposedly under the protection of the law.

For a much more eloquent discussion of these principles see Bastiat's The Law, available at The Library of Economics and Liberty.

Nathanael Snow

Monday, August 06, 2007

On the Israeli - Palestinian Conflict

Okay, so the zero-state solution won't happen. Ever.

But what position should Christians take?

If we are dealing with two nation-states fighting over territory to the detriment of individuals on both sides, where should our allegiance lie?

Dispensationalists, per the previous thread, have eschatological reasons for favoring the nation-state of Israel, and for supporting nation-states in general. This perspective is ultimately manichean, and must be rejected.

While searching for historical consistency is to be highly regarded, when ethical consistency is sacrificed in order to make things work out right, we must reject these conclusions.

If we give ethics a higher priority, we must place individual sovereignty first and accept a principle of non-aggression. This disallows support for a state which imposes arbitrary standards on non-aggressive innocents. Instead we are guided by Christ’s example to minister to individuals with both the physical substances which meet their immediate needs, and with the gospel message which meets their eternal needs.

But there is no mandate for action through the state. If anyone can direct me to a passage which contradicts this point, I would be most grateful.

Instead we are called to renounce political manipulation as evil, and to operate on voluntary grounds alone.

Every perversion of the gospel involves a Gnostic adoption of pagan means for achieving monotheistic ends at some point. Let us not fall into that trap.

We must not support the state of Israel or the Palestinian state (or the United States Government for that matter.) We must support a limitation of all government for the sake of the liberty of all individuals. We must work to make our own laws more closely parallel natural law, and to eliminate privilege wherever it occurs, whether in the corporate sphere or on an individual level. We must encourage adoption of similar limitations on government among all peoples in all places. We must not allow our voices to be put to work for the purposes of those few who would have the state grow ever larger.

Nathanael Snow

Friday, August 03, 2007

Some thoughts on the state and war

Japan did thus and such to China, Germany did so and so to Russia, Russia did you know what to Japan, and China did the same to the Manchurians.

This is the way the world works under statism. All the different centralized governments fight and scrape like wolves over the sheep. Only a few nations with limited governments were able to restrain themselves from this empire-building tendency. America was one of them, for a while.

What one nation does to another is no justification for a third to intervene. Doing so requires alliance with one of the evils. Better to let the wolves fight each other than to send our labrador in to mitigate.

The innocents are the final concern. I believe we should be rescuing innocents and relocating them into our homes, as Christians. This requires extending our necks a little individually, and personal sacrifice in the the face of others who will do nothing for the innocents. Doing so is the loudest proclamation of the gospel and demonstration of our peculiarity.

We ought never to choose sides among all of the pagan states. We ought to maintain a higher ethic and steadfast monotheistic dedication to natural law.


If the allies really wanted to prevent the Axis from advancing they would have established a strong and effective assassination unit, like Switzerland did. Either that or arm the citizenry.

The Swiss were not attacked because their few assassination attempts failed, deliberately.
First of all, a Swiss sniper doesn't miss. Ever.
These attempts were warning shots to the German officers saying: we can hit you any time, any where. And we are all armed. We won't waste time shooting your infantry. We will find your officers, those issuing the orders, and shoot them. So stay out.
They did.

The reason most politicians are opposed to assassination as an effective tool is that they have a gentleman's agreement. (Remember that a gentleman was an individual who had brown-nosed the king into granting him some special privileges.) Their agreement was that they would not kill each other, but instead let their toy soldiers die instead. It was so much more fun to manipulate the lives of others like pieces on a chess board than to get bloody and dirty oneself.

And the fun is in the playing. That's why the USG got involved in WWI and WWII. Europe was throwing a war-party and America hadn't been invited. We weren't part of the Tyrants-R-Us club yet, so we crashed the gig to show that we belonged.

But we didn't belong. The strength of America was in its people and in its liberty, not in its government or military. We were on our way toward increasing wealth and liberty the world over through trade and production alone. But the Roman disease was caught by our politicians, and they decided it would be a good idea to control the money and to tax people's income. So the stage was set for the great depression 20 years later, for involvement in global wars for domination, and for greater concentration of power.

But the state will always act this way. As believers we must set ourselves apart from these methods, and find ways to relieve the suffering of innocents that don't involve violence, or that restricts violence to halting the encroachment of perpetrators.

I have said before that rescue campaigns into places like Rwanda, Darfur, and Nazi Germany to deliver innocents are likely to face less armed resistance than military action that is determined to extract absolute surrender from the opponent. We must look for options such as this one, and resist the urge to manipulate the state into doing the gospel for us. The state is a wolf which will not be tamed.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

On Building Bridges

Whilst contractors and engineers and politicians have many incentives to cut corners when producing public works which will not be consumed at any kind of margin, but "freely", private entities have the incentive to make their infrastructure double strong and of higher quality in order to produce a superior product, while meeting costs precisely at the margin.

That said, my physics professor waxed eloquent on the marvels of science, engineering, and the human mind in a way that would make Ayn Rand gush.

Bridges and buildings are a wondrous thing, and the more I travel and stare at them the more I marvel. Oh, what things man hath wrong out of rock and sand! What a reflection of the mind of the creator in man's creations.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

There are three types of people in this world:

Those who can do math and those who can't.

Hat tip to Political Calculations.

The List

I look forward to someday having my name on a list like this one.

Oh, wait, I'm already on there. Who is this Nathaniel Baum-Snow guy at Brown and why doesn't he spell his name wrong like I do?

Athlete's Incentives to Dope - Paper ideas

This is old hat. I had the thought and then looked it up and there are plenty of papers explaining why athletes would dope even given anti-doping rules. Here's one.

1. The number of individuals capable of winning an event are small.
2. If Joe wants to be competitive he either has to be one of these people, or dope.
3. If Joe does not dope he will not even be competitive, and he will not gain sponsorship (the importance of this element might be a new paper) and will not be able to afford to compete.
4. Even if Joe does not win, he still gets to compete when he dopes.
5. If Joe does not win he is less likely to be scrutinized for doping.
6. Because Joe is doping, the capable athletes face greater competition.
7. Some of these athletes may feel threatened enough to fool around with doping.
8. These are the guys who get caught. (This also might be a paper. How many of the athletes caught doping, really are the best at what they do - like Barry Bonds -and they only dope because of the artificial pressure they face from mediocre dopers.)
9. There are obvious game theory implications to these questions.