Post from December, 2011

Don’t Mess with Sci-Fi Fans

Wednesday, 28. December 2011 13:42

FIRE meets FireFly – free speech on campus.

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University of Minnesota Flash Mob does “Deck the Halls”

Sunday, 25. December 2011 20:14

Very cool. H/T UCA’s Joe Horton.

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Flash Mob Sings Handel’s Hallelujah

Sunday, 25. December 2011 12:54

Still awesome!

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Occupy Christmas!

Sunday, 25. December 2011 12:47

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Kim Jung Il is Dead

Monday, 19. December 2011 16:34

The dicator of North Korea has died, according to state-run media. Power will fall to his son, though many believe his uncle will be the power behind the throne. Whether this spurs a civil crisis or a smooth transition to the next dictator-for-life is still to be seen. Until then:

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The Age of Hamilton

Wednesday, 7. December 2011 16:54

How much of our current debate echoes that of the first party system: the Jeffersonians vs. the Hamiltonians? Walter Russell Mead addressses this question in his timely article, The Age of Hamilton.

As we gear up for 2012 and beyond, American attention is increasingly returning to the oldest battle in our political history: the battle between the Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians that split George Washington’s cabinet down the middle and established our first party system.

Are Newt Gingrich & President Obama both Hamiltonians? And if so, does categorizing them as such paper over too many differences in making the connection?

That fight was essentially over three things that divide us intensely today: the role of the federal government, the nature of the credit system, and the future of the social hierarchy. Alexander Hamilton favored a strong federal government at home and abroad, a centralized credit system similar to the British one with a Bank of the United States acting as our central bank, and believed that the best educated and most widely experienced people in the United States constituted a natural aristocracy and should play the leading role in our politics.

But the center has shifted on most of these questions. The “strong federal government” envisioned by Hamilton is probably the kind of government Ron Paul goes to bet at night dreaming about. The modern economy is much more dynamic and complex than the one Hamilton contended with, and the international system and our role in it as changed dramatically.

Thomas Jefferson disagreed with virtually everything Hamilton believed. He wanted a weak federal government, detested Hamilton’s banking system, and feared that the alliance of a social elite with a powerful government and a strong central bank would turn the US into a European-style aristocratic or monarchical society.

Jefferson’s political views were rooted in an agrarian society composed mostly of individualistic farmers. How relevant is that to the current political debate. Is anyone who doesn’t want to abolish the FED, essentially zero out military spending, and restore state supremacy in the federal/state relationship a Hamiltonian? And even if they are, does that have much relevance as a political category today?

Be sure to read the whole essay to consider how well Meade makes the connection. Personally, while I would buy that much of the political ideology of today evolved from the debate between Hamilton & Jefferson, I’m not sure using those categories provides much analytical leverage in the modern world. D.GOOCH

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Death to Pennies!

Tuesday, 6. December 2011 11:41

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Don Boudreaux Lecture

Tuesday, 6. December 2011 11:33

Last night we had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Donald Boudreaux, a Professor of Economics at George Mason University, for his talk on how economic liberty has affected the middle class. Don’s talk centered on challenging the conventional wisdom that income inequality has grown as the rich have gotten richer while the middle class has stagnated over the last 30+ years. His two primary analytical rebuttals pointed out the fact that the stagnation argument looks at households, but households have gotten smaller over time (which means more income per person), and secondly that the stagnation rested on a particular kind of inflation adjustment (using the consumer price index), but that estimates using other widely accepted inflation adjusters yield radically different estimates on the growth or middle class incomes (ranging from 7% to 43%). Which means the conventional wisdom is dependent on the type of estimator you use. He also pointed out that a modest average increas can hide much more impressive increases at the categorical level (Simpson’s Paradox).

But the best visual he provided in his talk on the growth of the purchasing power of the dollar didn’t involve any complicated statistics. Rather, he took pictures for items for sale in a 1975 Sears catalog and their 1975 price and juxtaposed them with equivalent items from today. On each slide was an estimate of the # of hours a working class person would have to work to buy the product. For example, the color TV from the 75 catalog took 154 hours to earn. It took 11 to earn the flat screen TV today. And note how much more that TV can do today, and how much more reliable (remember TV repairmen?), and with more than 3 channels.

It was a powerful illustration of the argument I thought…and quite ingenious too. How lucky I was to spend a couple of hours in the car with Don one-on-one, taking him to and from Little Rock. A truly edifying experience!

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