JMPP: Bless Her Heart
I love this: JMPP's view of campus life.
Credibly promising to be irresponsible...since 2004!
I love this: JMPP's view of campus life.
NC DEMOCRATIC PARTY--Democrats Need to Find aStandard-Bearer. The state Democratic
2. DOWN: NC POLITICS—IN-STATE. We Don’t Need a Governor,We Need a Beggar in Chief. Federal funds for storms.
3. UP: NC POLITICS—NATIONAL. Say what you want about “Johnny” Edwards; he is a player on the national stage in the Democratic like no one since….well,who? Jesse Helms was able to wield influence, but was not a player.
5. UP: The original Hurricanes, the ones that involve bad weather. NC missed the bruntof the storms, but this was one heck of a hurricane season. (Worst hurricane in NChistory: Hazel, Oct 15, 1954).
6. UP AND DOWN: As the number of troops from Army and Marinebases around North Carolina goes up and stays up, the effect on local businesses pushes the economy down.
8. DOWN: Textile mill employment. One-third of the nation’s textile millemployment has disappeared since 2001. In
9. UP: Judge Howard Manning, Jr. I heard a story that God himself was seenwearing a Howard Manning mask. The wordwas that the angels sometimes humored God by letting him think he was aspowerful as a Superior Court Judge. Ofcourse, the real problem is that if Manning wants to pass laws, he might wantto run for a real office, like statesenate. There is plenty of evidence thatincreased spending does not improve education, but Judge Manning is going tohold everyone in contempt. Unfortunately, the legislature is showing its contempt for him, byignoring his imperious edicts. “Some ofyour high schools are about as sorry as I’ve ever seen,” said the good judge. That “sorry” may be because judges who haveno need to create consensus have taken over the education system. In state after state, the wealthy flee thepublic school system to avoid judge-instigated social engineering with kids asguinea pigs. Is it any surprise thatthose same wealthy people then turn around and vote down spending increases andcapital spending? Social engineering isa political loser, judge. But you are sure winning lots of admirers among the life-arranger set.
10. DOWN AND UP:
Bonus List: An Arresting Year....
Meg Scott Phipps--Who says women can't be politicians? She was so shamelessly corrupt, she could be an honorary man.
Chapel Hill Town Council--How 'bout those cameras at intersections? They put them in, they took them out, the worms play pinochle in your snout...Once again, liberals believe that traffic laws (like taxes) are for other people.
Michael Page, Chair of Durham School Board--Dude, you have to live in the district. It's like a rule, or something.
Keith Cook, Chair of Orange County School Board--Dude, you have to write your own speeches. It's like a rule, or something
Durham City Councilman John Best, Jr--It's the child support, stupid!
Happy New Year! I have been taking the heir to the Mungowitz fortune out for driving practice (he's 15 now). This driving thing...it's hard. So, watch out for a green minivan.
My older son, bless him, likes classic rock. (No, I don't mean "Nirvana." I mean from the 1960's and 1970's.)
My state-mate Coturnix does not quail* from the truth, at least as he sees it. He claims "conservatives are crazy and dangerous." All of them. I'm pretty sure he means, me, too.
The problem with “Living Wage” proposals is not that they are immoral. They are illogical! See for example, this, or this, which points to living wages that exceed $20/hour.
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What do professional political scientists do? We teach. (Sure, there's THAT aspect, darn that Woody Allen).
Scarcely anyone interests himself in social problems without being led to do so by the desire to see reforms enacted. In almost all cases, before anyone begins to study the science, he has already decided on definite reforms that he wants to put through. Only a few have the strength to accept the knowledge that these reforms are impracticable and to draw all the inferences from it. Most men endure the sacrifice of the intellect more easily than the sacrifice of their daydreams. They cannot bear that their utopias should run aground on the unalterable necessities of human existence. What they yearn for is another reality different from the one given in this world...They wish to be free of a universe of whose order they do not approve.
There is a tendency for citizens of each age to think their problems are unique, and more difficult than in times past. Still, future generations may well look back at fin de millennium America, and be glad they were born later.
Remember Dr. Pangloss? “‘Tis demonstrated that things cannot be otherwise; for, since everything is made for an end, everything is necessarily for the best end…. Those who have asserted that all is well talk nonsense; they ought to have said that all is for the best.” (Candide, p. 4).
Well, in France.
It [is impossible] to separate the democratic idea from the theory that there is a mystical merit, an esoteric and ineradicable rectitude, in the man at the bottom of the scale—that inferiority, by some strange magic, becomes superiority—nay, the superiority of superiorities. What baffles statesmen is to be solved by the people, instantly and by a sort of seraphic intuition. This notion . . . originated in the poetic fancy of gentlemen on the upper levels—sentimentalists who, observing to their distress that the ass was overladen, proposed to reform transportation by putting him in the cart. (H.L. Mencken, from Notes on Democracy, 1926)
What people mean by “democracy” is some combination of good government, protection of individual rights, extremely broad political participation, and widely shared economic prosperity. One might as well throw in an ideal body mass index and a cure for influenza. It’s all good, but meaningless. Democracy has no useful definition. The reason we say we like it is that we refuse to think about what it means.
There is a definition many people pretend to believe, unless they are pressed. It is much narrower, and goes like this: If a group is constituted to decide as one, then any numerical majority of that group can make decisions. These decisions can be binding on all (majority rules the totality), or binding just on some class or group specified in decision itself (majority rules the minority). While I have already said that all definitions are not really useful, this version seems to be the one that many people hold.
The problem with the narrower definition I stated is that no one could really believe it, at least not in isolation from lots of other assumptions. One is left to wonder whether democracy, in the sense of rule by the people, is a conceit or a fraud. As a conceit, it may be harmless enough. It may even be useful, because it celebrates the wisdom and good will of the common person. This sort of mythology has a calming, leveling effect on public discourse.
If a fraud, however, then we are in darker and more forbidding terrain. The pretense that we found rectitude in the multitude is dangerous. The public invocation of the public wisdom simply holds citizens down whilst we steal their purses, or send their children off to war.
There are two linked ideas about democracy, and it is important to keep them separate. The first is the existence of a good, of a right (best) thing for the society to do. This is a question that has both normative and positive elements. It may seem strange to question the existence of “the good” in politics, but in fact it is simply not obvious that a society can discover transcendent principles of the good through voting.
The second aspect of the democratic idea is the problem of choosing rules or institutions most likely to lead to the discovery of the good (assuming it exists). There are two very different approaches to the problem. The positive, ends-based approach emphasizes the properties of the voting or preference revelation techniques as if they were estimators. One can then apply quasi-statistical techniques, much as if an estimator were being subjected to Monte Carlo testing. That is, given a configuration of preferences in which some “good” alternative is embedded by construction, what are the relative frequencies with which different techniques discover it?
The other approach, normative and process-based, focuses on the fairness or legitimacy of rules themselves, as means. There is an obvious assumption in this approach, one that has led two generations of public choice scholars (see, for example, Riker, 1982, Liberalism Against Populism) to question it, but it persists nonetheless. That assumption is that “fair” processes necessarily lead to “good” outcomes.
Republican elections in the nineteenth century were seen as a means of exerting control over elected officials, and little more. We have to balance this against the expansive modern faith in, and practice of, democratic governance. The rules, procedures, and the basic “machinery” of democratic choice have not kept up with the faith people seem to have in the wisdom of the majority. To some extent, this is the fault of officials in the states, who have failed to give enough thought to problems involved in implementing new paperless voting technologies. (Sure, some of these folks are crackpots, and Keith Olbermann is a nutjob, but Caesar's wife has to be above reproach) (More accurately, Plutarch has Caesar say, "I wished my wife to be not so much as suspected.")
But the other problem, at least as important, is that the academic establishment in the U.S. has done a poor job making students understand the limitations and dangers of unlimited democratic choice. For both reasons, the mismatch between what we demand of democratic institutions and what they can reasonably deliver endangers the stability of our system of government.
While this danger may be most significant in the U.S., there are also dangers when we foster the secular trend toward reliance on “democracy” as a means of reconciling disagreement in other nations. What social choice theory teaches us is that we cannot expect institutions to produce consensus in the face of disagreement, unless (a) certain arguments or positions are outlawed, or (b) choice is left up to a single individual, or dictator.
People seem to believe in the value of consensus, but they do not appear believe in either domain restrictions or dictatorship. Policy makers must face the fact that the failure of voting institutions to produce consensus is really two separate problems:
I get emails asking why I am so inconsistent in my political views.
"Why does Camelot lie in ruins? Intellectual error of monumental proportion has been made, and not exclusively by the politicians. Error also lies squarely with the economists. The ‘academic scribbler’ who must bear substantial responsibility is Lord Keynes ...” Buchanan, Wagner, and Burton, 1978.
(NOTE: IF THERE IS ANY COHERENCE IN THIS ESSAY, IT COMES FROM TALKING TO KEVIN GRIER. BUT DON'T BLAME HIM...)
Can government do anything to better people's lives? Should government do anything? These questions don’t get asked very much. We all just assume that government should do SOMETHING, and then argue about what that is….
Okay, NOW I'm pissed.
The Ukelele Occasional, on news stands sometimes.
Apparently, Carolyn Parrish still lives, and sometimes speaks. During the visit of George Bush to serene and pleasant Canada, I mean.
Oh, gosh. Look at this.
Playmakers Rep in Chapel Hill is doing "Not About Heroes."