Thursday, August 27, 2009

Public and Private

When President Clinton was caught having sex with Monica Lewinsky, Democrats defend him on the basis that what he did in his private life was irrelevant to his job as president. If two adults want to engage in consensual sex its none of our business, we were told.

Of course in Clinton's case, the sex either wasn't the end of the story (perjury) or wasn't consensual (e.g., Juanita Broderick; Paula Jones).

Setting aside the Clinton's situation, as a rule, should we evaluate politicians based, in part, on their private behavior?

I think, yes. When selecting a representative, the only relevant question is: will this person do a good job governing and enacting my policy preferences? The answer to that question is inevitably affected by the the politician's private life.

For example, a political candidate who cheats on his wife isn't keeping his word and is being secretive. With that information in hand, a voter might conclude that the politician will not be open with the public, and so will not govern appropriately. A candidate who breaks the law, may not be a good person to charge with writing or enforcing laws. At the very least, private problems may be a distraction from public responsibilities.

Thus, a politician's private life is relevant because it gives us clues about the politician's character. Character is more likely to be revealed in private behavior than in public statements, so private behavior can be particularly relevant to selecting a government leader.

Of course, character (and sometimes nondistraction) is only one factor among many that influence whether a politician will do a good job. Other factors can tip the balance in favor a candidate for office with some personal problems. I definitely would vote for a candidate that has some personal problems, depending on what the personal issue were, and how much time it will take to resolve them, and their relevance to the candidate's character.

Ultimately, though, if you're a politician, everything that bears on your fitness for office is public, and rightly so.


If this is actually true--and let me say that I do think a lot of biographical information for celebrities like Kennedy is completely fabricated--then Kennedy was shameless and evil. May he Rest in Hell.

UPDATE: I forgot to add the link so that you would know what "this" referred to.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Unoriginal Gansta

From TheMoneyIllusion:

I’m about to give you my pet theory for European supremacy after 1500. Keep in mind that whenever I think I have a clever idea, it either later turns out to be wrong, or else unbeknownst to me someone else got there first.
This is one of the reasons I find it hard to blog. Seems like someone else has said most everything that ever needed to be said, and I could just link to their post. But what's the point in that? No one reads this blog. The only reason then to blog is to post original thoughts. Original is hard.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Professor Asks

Two piers are located next to each other. One, government run, drastically undercharges for dock spots and so has to run a lottery every year to determine who has a right to dock at the pier. The other, privately run, charges approximately 5 times as much for a spot, but always has spots available for those willing to pay.

What happens to the price of a spot at the private pier if the government owned pier raises its price?

Here's my guess, assuming that the docking at one pier is as good as docking at the other:

Generally you'd think that if the price of a substitute goes up, then the item's price would go up too. So, if frozen yogurt goes up in price, people will substitute ice cream. The increased demand for ice cream will cause the price to go up.

I don't think that's the right way to think about this problem, however. Instead, raising the price at the government pier will cause some people who currently pay for a lottery spot at the pier to lose interest. Thus, demand will be lower for spots at the government pier at the higher price. But there is clearly excess demand, so they should still fill all the slots. Furthermore, some of the people at the private pier, who are now paying 5 times as much for spots are likely to get spots over at the public pier. Thus, demand for spots at the private pier will fall. Falling demand will result in the price for private pier spots to fall.

That's my answer.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Abortion and Libertarianism II

In my last post I argue that a person can believe in libertarian principles and still reach a pro-life policy position because of the factual question of whether the unborn child (or fetus) should be recognized as a person with rights to freedom.

Actually, it's not so much a factual question as ethical one. We know that the unborn are alive, we just don't know (or we don't agree) that they should be entitled to the same rights as other humans.

Writing the other post, I thought of one attractive pro-choice libertarian argument: we know that we should maximize the freedom of adult women, however, the rights of the unborn are debatable. Faced with this ambiguity, it makes sense for Libertarians to be pro-choice because restricting abortion necessarily restricts the freedom of pregnant women, but only potentially denies the rights to the unborn.

Of course, some if not most people will decide the question of whether the unborn have rights resolutely one way of the other. Once a person resolves that the unborn is human and entitled to the rights of all other people, then libertarian principles can just as easily lead ( actually I think they compel) that person to become pro-life.

Furthermore, a libertarian who cannot resolve the issue of whether or when the unborn are entitled to rights, should recognize that, the restricting a pregnant woman's right to abortion is only a slight reduction of freedom, while abortion is total denial of rights to the unborn. Thus, a fence-sitting libertarian must lean very heavily in the direction of no rights for the unborn before he can use that ambiguity as a justification to hold pro-choice views.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Libertarianism and Abortion

I find myself becoming more libertarian. Libertarians are frequently described as a hodge-podge of liberal and conservative values: they are generally thought of as liberal on social issues but conservative on economic issues. Foreign policy issues seem to split libertarians roughtly in half.

That's not a very good description of libertarianism. Instead, the fundamental principles guiding libertarianism is that individual freedom should be maxamized. libertarians are, in fact, classic liberals, in the Lockean sense of the word "liberal."

I generally agree with the premise of libertarianism and most of the policies that flow from the premise. and yet there are still some issues where libertarians and I have divergent policy preferences. As part of my new blog I thought I would explore these issues, and whether the policy preference of most libertarians follows from libertarian principles. Then, I'll comment on why or why not I agree with the libertarian policy preference. Either that, or I'll just write whatever pops into my head.

Let's start with abortion. Abortion is one issue where I part ways with most libertarians, who seem to favor abortion. Because they favor maximizing individual freedom, they believe in allowing adult women to do what they want with their bodies, including having an abortion. The premise is that what is aborted is part of a woman's body.

Of course, the maximization of freedom requires limiting some individual freedom to maximize everyones freedom. For example, I can punch the air all I want, but I am not fee to punch your nose, because that would impinge on your freedom. So we have to curtain some behaviors in order to maximize overall freedom.

While abortion then, increases a woman's freedom to do as she wishes with her body, it also decreases the freedom of the baby inside the woman to basically zero. In this case the fist of "abortion" is punching the "nose" of the unborn.

Of course, that anaylsis, assumes that the fetus growing inside the pregnant woman is a child. That's a factual premise that I'm sure pro-choice libertarians would take issue with. But whatever the factual truth, the principles of libertarianism do not require libertarians to be pro-choice.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Rep. Ryan Mopping Up

This video's been making the rounds:

It prompted a couple of thoughts:
  1. Are Katrina vander Huevel and that first guy the hosts of this show? Katrina vander Huevel is, of course, an editor at the Nation, so obviously she is liberal. The other guy seems pretty liberal too. I shouldn't be surprised, but I guess I thought the point of having two hosts of a debate show was to get two different perspectives.
  2. It's good to a see a sharp informed congressman. It's usually so very painful to listen to Congressmen speak.
  3. How is health care equal to health insurance? You can, in fact, buy health care without insurance. I know; I've done it.
  4. I really like How Ryan calls out vander Heuvel on her inconsistency. "Competition is at the heart of America," she says, but then she favors "single payer" government healthcare with no competition. Complete the sylogism: the heart of America is competition. vander Heuvel opposes competition. vander Heuvel _____________________ America.

Milton Friedman

I've probably watched this video 3 or 4 times. The product of Milton Friedman's giant brain is mesmerizing.