Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

French Terror Alert

President Jacques Chirac has officially raised the French terror alert from "run" to "hide". There are only two higher alert levels in France, "surrender" and "collaborate". The rise was recipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France's white flag factory - effectively crippling their military.

Charles Murray

This guy actually seems to have some influence. It's depressing how out-there this idea is. People are concerned with disincentives to work, but I think that's wrong (I also think that rich people should also get the full basic income though). First if everybody gets it then working just means you get more. Second, it seems to be a feature of humans that they want ever increasing standards of living (or status perhaps). Millions of people can afford to have comfortable lives while working few hours but very few take that option, why would everybody suddenly quit their jobs because they will get $10,000 a year?

the onion

Funny how they sound more sane than most newspapers. They also do a great job of keeping up with current events.


Didn't take long.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

hot topic

Suddenly everybody is talking about immigration.

Waiting for Andrew Sullivan and samizdata to weigh in. Are you in favor of illegal immigration? It's a weird question, I think some laws are stupid but I don't know that I think they should be broken (though sometimes they should). The point is to change the law not to 'go easy on illegal immigration' which often seems to be the message. The number of illegal immigrants and the desperation they show should get people thinking, this is a moral issue. If people want to do something good, they should look at immigration.

Monday, March 27, 2006

uh oh

Glenn Reynolds is rethinking his stance on immigration.

If I seem a little pious about immigration I should make it clear that I'm not into multiculturalism; I think that countries should let people immigrate regardless of their culture etc, but I don't think the government should bend over backwards for them (of course immigrants will be able to vote). This is something I think England has exactly wrong. When Muslims demand that cartoons become illegal and rail against islamophobia they immediately become less sympathetic and damage the cause.

Jamie Whyte

Jamie Whyte is a redistributive market liberal. I thought he might be a little more libertarian. Here's a striking quote:
It is a great historical irony that politicians who genuinely aim to help the poor have pursued policies that exempt only the rich from being vassals of the ruling class

I saw the point somewhere else recently. In countries like England and Canada you could wait a year for a non-emergency operation, while your pet could get pretty much the same procedure within a week. The very rich don't mind essentially paying twice for the operation and can also get it quickly.

If you can spare the time, read the whole thing.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

americans are a bunch of communitarians!

I'm surprised by the communitarian attitude but not by their dim view of atheists. This bit is pretty funny;
Many of the study's respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism...

Hang on, I thought Americans were the rampant materialists! Isn't that the reason we all hate them? But Americans are all Christians; they must think that European consumerism is really something. Those capitalist pigs! Or frogs?

Of course atheists are materialists in the sense that we tend to believe that the natural world is all that exists, but a rampant materialist makes no more sense than a rampant economist. Actually, I think I might enjoy meeting a rampant economist.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

is this a good idea?

Though I tend to get hysterical very quickly when thinking about free immigration I do realise that it's politically impossible. Gary Becker has an interesting suggestion; let people pay to come in. Banks would loan immigrants the money in a similar way to system for student loans. I have to admit that I had an intuitive reaction against the idea (he suggests that the fee should be somewhat more than $50,000), but I do think it's way better than the current system and it could make immigration politically popular as it would be a massive source of revenue for a government. It's a long post but it's really interesting.

do you still have a country?

It may sound like a strange question, but it seems like Americans know the answer. I particularly like this bit:

"I already belong to a health club, a church, and the Kiwanis Club," Tammy Golden of Los Angeles wrote. "I'm a member of the Von's Grocery Super Savers, which gets me a discount on certain groceries. These are all well-managed organizations with real benefits. None of them send me a confusing bill once a year and make me work it out myself, then throw me in jail if I get it wrong."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

fighting words

Hitchens on what should have happened in Iraq. I'm still baffled by the lack of enthusiasm for getting rid of Saddam. The war has been handled terribly but it could have been different if other key players not been so indulgent of the dictator. Ah! But Iraq was the most 'secular' country in the middle east! Silly me, I forgot...

Sunday, March 19, 2006


It seems that Rawls was more anti-capitalist than he let on.

Rawls was one of the great philosophers of the 20'th century. One of the implications of his famous "veil of ignorance" was that we should chose a society that maximizes the welfare of the worst off. This is pretty radical as it would lead to a welfare state bigger than Sweden's. Obviously Rawls is a hero of the left, but if we take the veil of ignorance seriously then it seems inescapable that we should have free immigration. This is what the veil of ignorance demands:
The key point is that, in the veil of ignorance, a person does not know who they are in the real world! That is, a person does not know
*their class position or social status,
*their natural talents, abilities, intelligence or strength, and
*what their plan for a good life is.

This must include ignorance of which country one is born in, because this is as arbitrary as what class you are born into of what talents you have. So if we should want to maximize the minimum to offset things beyond our control, free immigration must be included.

This is something much more glaring than the perceived injustice due to inequalities in rich countries, why the hell don't all those "well meaning" lefties who worship Rawls demand open immigration?

what is good?

Of course I was lying when I said I wasn't going to post about immigration any more.

So here is something to think about: Which option is morally better? Should "we" treat immigrants really well by allowing them access to all the government assistance that goes with a generous welfare state but then clamp down on those trying to immigrate? Or should we allow people to immigrate but then deny them government assistance (bear in mind that those immigrants will be paying for other citizens' welfare)? I'm leaving out the option of allowing easy entry and access to government services because citizens would complain that they don't want to pay for foreigners health care (why not? They pay for other total strangers).

I bet that a large majority of people would go for the former option because it seems so much fairer, especially the bit about refusing immigrants medical treatment that their tax money is paying for. But if we are concerned for the welfare of the immigrants (which we are, if there is an objection to denying them medical care), shouldn't we consider which option potential immigrants prefer? I think that millions of Mexican?s make their preference clear when they risk death to get into the US without the chance of government assistance (but with a real chance of being found and deported).

It's seen as immoral to deny someone medical care, but essential to deny that same person entry into the country. Bear in mind that she could be coming from terrible poverty where the chance of receiving medical is small anyway.

If we care about the worlds poor we would allow the second option. We should be able to accept the fact that we will not receive government help in return for entry. This is of course politically impossible, but would actually be the more moral thing to do.

in the new york times?

I'm surprised the NYT published this article as it sings the praises of atheism. There's an interesting point here. That is that liberals are the people who favour loosening controls on immigration, but they are also keen on social freedoms like freedom of speech. So Muslims immigrate to a liberal European country (presumably because they judge it in their best interests) and then try to cut cartoonists heads off. Lax immigration restrictions and offensive cartoons are two sides of the same coin you can?t be for on and against the other if you want to be consistent. Who cares about consistency though, right? We all want to have our cake and eat it too.

Friday, March 17, 2006

cat blogging

"Piss off, I'm working!"

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dan Dennett

Right at the top of my book wish list (well it would be if I had one) is Daniel Dennett's new book Breaking the spell. It's a book on religion and it's caused a bit of a stir it seems. For some reason the New York Times took issue with it, first by asking silly questions in an interview and then publishing this awful, sneering review. Dennett sometimes seems like a lonely figure, fighting the good fight while others abandon him, so I was pleasantly surprised to come across this. Several philosophers wrote in independently to protest. I doubt that Wieseltier will be fased by this, but it's nice to know that there are people out there who wont put up with rubbish like this.

o the joy of learning!!

I just spent, well, more time than i should have, figuring out how to put stupid photos onto this blog. I'm studying to be a teacher so I should enjoy the challenge, and get pleasure from learning something new, I did not.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hitchens on the cartoons

I started blogging when the outrage over the cartoons was dying down a little and many people had already written all sorts of good things. But if you're interested here's a good article.

sense of humour failure?

you can't always expect people to agree.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Here's a nice article on externalities. I identify with the London example, I was exhausted by the place for the first month or two but after a year I didn't want to leave. People love living in cities despite all the negative externalities. Tackling them could wipe out compensating benefits.


This is from the economist and is behind a pay wall. But it sum's up so well why I'm a liberal, I just have to quote it:

The 'free-market' school of liberalism... is animated not by certainty about how to arrange the distribution of income (or about anything much, for that matter) but by regard for individual liberty and by scepticism. Liberty calls for markets because it requires, so far as possible, freedom from coercion: markets are places where people do things voluntarily. Scepticism calls for markets because a million experiments are safer than one big plan handed down by the Chief Engineer: markets weed out mistakes rather than entrenching them; their solutions to economic problems are always provisional, always adapting.

Liberty and scepticism come together in ruling out the idea that society should have any such goal as maximising GDP. The 'free-market' liberal is not so presumptuous. Some people want to maximise their incomes in the market; others want to balance that goal against different aims; still others have no interest whatever in maximising their income, and want to pursue their own idea of the good life in their own way.

I don't think i should quote so extensively, but I doubt they'll kick up much fuss.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Oliver Kamm

Oliver Kamm describes himself as a liberal but it's difficult to know what to make of that. He used his liberalism to oppose the ban of fox hunting, but he supports the blanket ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces and now he is opposing the privatisation of the BBC! Very liberal!

For a discussion of why smoking shouldn't be banned in pubs etc, Jamie Whyte has some good things to say.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

For Phil

read this fancy thing

I missed the cricket!!!!

Anybody who knows me knows that life is out to get me. There may be those of you who dispute this, but what other explanation can there be for me missing today?s cricket but sitting through the semi in 1999?

Friday, March 10, 2006


I find it a little odd that this blog is not linked to more often in the corner of the blogosphere that I inhabit. Freakonomics author and no mean economist himself Steven Levitt calls Becker the greatest living economist.

I know Richard Posner from this debate with Peter Singer. It is a good example of what I think is wrong with conservatism. It's an interesting blog.


I was intending to blog a lot on immigration, with half a mind to make an attempt to study the issue formally but the reality is just to stark. Lots of impossible things would be cool, but it probably isn't healthy to obsess about them.

anyway, if you have the time, take a look at this.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I plan to blog more on immigration but for now can anybody answer this question for me? why not open immigration? The make poverty history campaign is quite a big deal, and European countries moan about how little cash the US gives in aid. If they are concerned, why not open immigration? The effects on most locals will be small, the economy will be invigorated, and if they want to tax themselves to help the needy they can help the occasional local who is displaced from his job. I don't understand why there is not more noise in favor of loosening up immigration.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Is it really for government to decide what is a shortage area?

The tone of articles on immigration are often nasty. Getting people to do work that brits won't do then shipping them off doesn?t show much respect to those workers. Note that this is not the free market that is de-humanising workers, it is the anti-globalists.

Xenophobia is the PC racism.

Graceful exit

The soccer was exciting. If someone is clearly offside and is then brought down in the area, should it really be a penalty? Anyway, my dislike for Mourinho is now intense, he taints the club.

liberal link?

I'm quite interested in exploring the link between animal rights and liberalism. It seems to me that there is a pretty direct link and that if you count yourself a libertarian you must oppose hunting, factory farms etc (I can't say how far this would go). All that is needed is that animals have interests and that those interests can be harmed. It is a pretty minimal position and apart from the obvious intuition that they do have interests, I'd say there is ample scientific evidence too. So I think that this should be the default position for liberals and needs overturning with a specific argument that animals have barely any interests at all. It's a pretty tough ask.

I think its interesting because it looks like it just falls out of a political ideology and one doesn't need to go through all the icky philosophy and science etc. Of course people are resistant, cows are yummy...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hijacked by a muslim fundamentalist!

Sigh, my history and politics class was once again derailed by this crazed fundamentalist.

Monday, March 06, 2006


As anybody who reads my blog is bound to know, I started studying to be a teacher recently. So far I've been kept busy with lectures and optimistically assigned readings but I did get to thinking about the course today. I'm concerned that some people choose become teachers partly to impose their religion on kids. It sounds paranoid but I see some worrying signs; already one student has been quite aggressive about teaching creationalism at school. Who's to say she won't just do it anyway? I have been alarmed by the born again feel to the class, it seems way out of proportion to the general population.

I've been thinking about the role of government in education, and I've reluctantly stared thinking that religious schools should be allowed. This makes me more convinced, I can see no (effective) way of stopping teachers from pushing their religious views on kids and I assume that religious teachers will be attracted to religious schools. So we would at least know where they are and be able to take that into account.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


I'm in an animal mood today so I've been posting here.


It's terrible to see how bad my writing is. I'm not really proofing my posts but still. Sigh... I suppose this is what I'm supposed to be remedying...