Category 6. Various Issues

A Right to Privacy?

In writing these posts, I generally try to present myself as being both surer of my opinions and more eloquent than I actually am. I figure that expressing my thoughts boldly and as elegantly as I can makes them more worthy of your time than they would be if I simply tossed off random ideas. I will only keep half of that implicit bargain in this post, though, because while I’ll try to write it clearly, I’ll be more open about my own uncertainty as to what the right policy or personal responses should be to the dilemmas I’ll describe.

This https://www.the-american-interest.com/2019/05/06/the-new-face-of-tyranny/ article by historian Paul Rahe raises, and gives historical context to, a set of issues that I have been thinking about for some time: how the intersection of modern technology...

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The Killer Apps

Sometimes our inventions change us.

Last night, the Beloved Spouse told me about a talk she had heard in which a neuroscientist said that she believes that gathering news and following social media on the internet, and even reading books on electronic devices, all have meaningfully different effects on our brains than reading old-fashioned newspapers and books. As we process information in new ways, our brains develop new muscles, if you will, and don’t develop other muscles.

This all sounded right to me: it is perfectly consistent with ideas about neuroplasticity that I had heard before – including the colorful example of a study of London cab drivers’ brains that showed that in the laborious and challenging act of memorizing the street map of London for their licenses, they had changed...

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Leading from Behind?

Here’s hoping that Jair Bolsonaro’s first official act as president of Brazil is to invade Venezuela.

As a result of twenty years of Chavismo (a word that, like Juche in North Korea, signifies a locally-flavored brand of militant socialism) Venezuela’s economy is in a state of total collapse. As with North Korea in bad years, starvation and disease are rampant. Venezuela has been less adept at making itself a prison than North Korea, though: over 2 million Venezuelans – roughly 8% of its former population – have fled to neighboring countries. Presently, about 3,000 malnourished people, many of whom are also diseased, are making it out each day – and straining social services in neighboring countries.

While the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela grows ever worse, senior members of...

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About Medicare

I recently had the great pleasure of spending a couple of hours with an old friend who is one of our nation’s foremost mandarins. It was no kind of official meeting, of course – I have no expertise or standing that is particularly relevant to his professional world – so most of our time was spent catching up on personal news. Even so, the policy matters that we touched on – not within his official purview, but about which he is infinitely better informed than most – were weighty, and provided much food for thought.

In the context of a brief reference to America’s budgetary problems – with trillion dollar deficits now routine and inevitable changes in our demographics making it certain that without drastic and painful changes to entitlement programs our fiscal challenges will only grow wo...

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An Expensive Win

By amending the tax code, President Trump almost certainly cost me a mid-sized fortune. I admire him for it.

Four and a half years ago, I wrote a long post on the horror show that is our tax code. In it, I made the following observation:

“Three gigantic ‘sacred cow’ federal deductions that particularly need to be reconsidered are: state and local taxes, interest on home mortgages and charitable gifts. In a sense, all three represent subsidies for high-income people (often resident in high-tax states) at the expense of people in lower tax states...

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Rethinking Credentialization

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton want to make college “free” (i.e., paid-for by taxpayers) for many, or even all, Americans. In other words, they want a college education to become an entitlement – along with medical care, food and, soon enough, housing; these people really like giving away other people’s money.

I have a different idea: for most people, we ought to make college (as we now know it, anyway: hugely expensive, four-year residential programs where many if not most students take courses that teach them few, if any, usable skills) obsolete. Before we get to my idea, though, I would like to (again – the first time was here, in 2013) quote Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit on the topic of government subsidies of higher education:

“The government decides to try to increase the middle ...

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Environmental Elitists

Today’s ecological movement is profoundly elitist. It’s not about conservation anymore, or clean air; it’s about power over you and me.

Let’s start by considering the opposition to fracking:

The hydraulic fracturing revolution has been hugely beneficial to our country (well, apart from the fact that it arguably, and if so ironically, provided the economic boost that enabled our anti-fossil-fuels – and otherwise feckless – President to be reelected), but environmentalists, crony capitalists and some of our nation’s most determined enemies are fighting it tooth and claw. Even Andy Cuomo won’t allow it; he wants to run for President someday, and he knows who gives to Democrats.

Over the last five or six years, as fracking technology has allowed lots of old wells to come back on line, US...

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Why So Many Leading Democrats Hate Charter Schools

The moral bankruptcy of much of the Democratic Party’s leadership is nowhere more obvious than in their aversion to charter schools. Democrats hold themselves out as representing the little guy, but many do lasting damage to the very people in whose interests they claim to speak by attempting to strangle the charter school movement. The reason many office-holding Democrats oppose charter schools is quite simple: such schools may be in the best interests of children who would otherwise be stuck in abysmal unionized (and effectively union-run) public  schools, but they are manifestly disadvantageous to the teachers’ unions that are the Democrats’ most important contributors and volunteers.

When Waiting for Superman was released to considerable acclaim by Davis Guggenheim, who had a...

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Minimum Wage Laws

Minimum and living wage laws are immoral, because they deprive individuals of the freedom to make their own decisions. They are also counter-productive for society as a whole because they raise unemployment and foster dependency among the poor.

Such laws hurt the poor, while – strangely – helping comfortable progressives feel better about themselves. Somehow, the latter have convinced themselves that by giving away other people’s money, they have performed a noble deed, but they have not. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Few minimum wage law advocates pause to consider the effect of such laws on those who don’t have work but would be willing to work for less than the laws require.

If I am willing to employ another for $10 an hour to perform a particular task, and he is willing to perf...

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Terrorism and Radical Islam

One of my sisters lives in the Back Bay, quite close to the marathon’s finish line. She and my mother, who still lives in the suburbs near where we grew up, were discomfited by last week’s attacks. My sister hurt her knee in a fall during the lockdown and was unable to see a doctor for several days because she wasn’t allowed to leave her home. My mother spent those days dwelling on the many times in years past that she had watched one of my brothers participate in the race, and worrying about my sister’s knee; I spoke with her two nights ago and she still sounded tired and sad. The attack on innocents at the marathon struck deep chords in my family, in Boston, and in the nation as a whole.

In a sense, the terrorists chose their target very well...

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