Friday, July 11, 2014

Short observations

Maverick Philosopher tells us that arguments don't have testicles.  But they do have perspectives built into them. Including (in some ways especially) legal arguments. We should be wary of dismissing the importance of perspective, especially as a great deal of bigotry rests precisely on denying the legitimacy of particular perspectives.


Currently reading an excellent popularisation of social science: The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire. At the end of the first Chapter they remark:
The popular press likes to suggest that Neanderthals were simply not smart enough to compete with our more modern-looking ancestors, but that view sounds racist to us.
Maybe, but is it true? Perhaps the most destructive element in political correctness is precisely that, in the name of compassion and tolerance, it devalues truth. (The claim about relative intelligence of Neanderthals and our ancestors is in fact dubious, but that is a matter of truth and evidence.)

Not that the authors are exactly standard-bearers for PC. In the next chapter they observe that:
By the time you finish reading this page, of course, Basarwa will probably have become politically incorrect.
Status behaviour, it is such a human perennial. Including keeping up with the moral Joneses.


It would be nice to hope the dissolution of the Syrian and Iraqi states would lead to the advocates of a single-state "solution" for the Israel-Palestinian dispute reviewing their position. Of course, to the extent their views are based on hatred of Israel--or, more neutrally, on belief in the de-legitimacy of Israel--than any serious analysis of situation on the ground, it will have absolutely no effect: which is what we must expect, as it has never been a reality-based position.


Of course, Israel responded to [the blamed on] Hamas kidnapping and murder, followed by rocket attacks, with air attacks of its own. As the point of the actions of Hamas is precisely to inspire such deadly retribution (hence also hiding military installations amongst civilians), perhaps Israel should turn the other cheek? But (1) that would just mean Hamas would keep ratcheting up the violence until it did get the desired civilian-killing attacks and (2) it would cast doubt on Israel's willingness to defend itself. And so the cycle of violence continues, and will continue until the pointless and destructive hope of Israel disappearing is no longer a serious position in Palestinian politics. (Really, supporting folk whose strategy is precisely to get Israel to kill Palestinians: how screwed in the head do you have to be?)


Stephen Kirchner downplays the role of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) in Australia's recession-free path since 1992, on the grounds that it is an inflation targeting central bank like others. But there is a difference between narrow inflation targeting--which provides no anchor for income expectations--and broad inflation targeting, which does. The RBA does the latter, the BoJ, ECB, Fed etc the former. So, in 2008, income expectations, and so spending, collapsed in the US, the Eurozone, etc, where they were unanchored by central bank policy, and did not in Australia, where they were.  I agree with Stephen that the RBA was a bit lucky (spending was above trend when the crisis hit), but I also agree with Hayek that smoothing the flow of total spending in the economy does flatten the business cycle.


A commenter makes claim that pops up a fair bit about recent decades: Years of very very very easy money has created demand for debt and shares of stock.  Prosperity and easy money are not the same thing.  Low inflation and low interest rates are generally indicators that money has been tight, not easy. In the words of Milton Friedman:
Low interest rates are generally a sign that money has been tight, as in Japan; high interest rates, that money has been easy. ... After the U.S. experience during the Great Depression, and after inflation and rising interest rates in the 1970s and disinflation and falling interest rates in the 1980s, I thought the fallacy of identifying tight money with high interest rates and easy money with low interest rates was dead. Apparently, old fallacies never die.
Besides, I find the notion that the asset booms of our time are the results of "easy money" remarkably silly. It is as if no one has studied C19th economic history, when a series of dramatic asset booms and busts occurred under the gold standard, the ultimate in "hard" money. Rising capital accumulation and technological uncertainty are easily enough on their own to explain asset booms and busts. (Remembering that one person's debt is another person's asset.)

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]


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