The Buck Rogers Test
May 31, 2010, 9:11 pm
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Here’s a thought experiment I instinctively apply when evaluating this or that public policy: If I were revived after being frozen 500 years, and the policy were still in place, how would I feel?

Call it the “Buck Rogers” test.

I don’t know about you, but if I woke up 500 years from now and discovered that “affirmative action” still existed, I’d want to freaking strangle somebody. If we still had to have ‘welfare’ in any recognizable form, I’d be pretty sad. On the flip side, if there were still a military maintained with taxation I’d be like ‘well of course’. If there were still public education of some sort (not necessarily its current form) I’d be nonplussed.

On more specific items: if I heard there were still something called the “Department of Housing And Urban Development”, I’d launch into a deep existential depression. I’d have a similar reaction to learning any of the following about 2491 America from Erin Gray upon being unfrozen: the government still regulates the size of toilet-flushes; the government still has farm subsidies; the government still taxes income by garnishing peoples’ paychecks and then once a year forcing them to do a giant intrusive questionnaire/calculation based on arcane/labyrinthine rules; the government still launders a 30-year-fixed mortgage subsidy through Fannie and Freddie; the government still dictates how many miles-per-gallon-of-gasoline land vehicles must get; the government still hands out food stamps; the government still cites and imprisons people for transferring cannabis to one another.

Whatever you may think of these policies and/or programs now, you must admit that it would be depressing as hell to learn they’ll still be in place 500 years from now. And if you don’t think so: honestly, there’s something deeply wrong with you. One of the strengths of the Buck Rogers test is that it forces one to think long-term about the policies they favor. Is it a short-term fix, just “for now” (and if so, when/under what circumstances can it end??), or is it something you’d be comfortable embedding into society permanently? Many of the above policies may have justifications now, but as permanent embedded features of society, even many of their supporters would have to agree they just stink.

But another, related, strength is that it forces one to be honest with oneself about the arguments they use for policies. For example, if you claim affirmative action is “still needed” because “we’re not there yet”, you either must admit that (a) it can and should go away eventually, or (b) you’re being a damn phony with that argument.

Staying with affirmative action, assuming the answer is (a), this naturally raises the question: Well, when can we get rid of it? The pro-AA answer is, essentially, “I dunno, but certainly not yet!!”. Ok fair enough, but when? Most AA supporters do not appear to have thought that far in advance. But they should, and the Buck Rogers test forces them to. Regardless of how much one favors AA, are its supporters willing to declare that it can and should still be around 500 years from now? To say “yes” is to essentially admit that one doesn’t even believe AA can or will achieve its supposed goal (racial equality), but to say “no” is to admit that the policy should sunset. In either case the anti-AA are far more comfortable putting their position to the Buck Rogers test than are the pro-AA.

There was a brief shining moment during the debates over the Iraq war when the left appeared to grasp the power of this sort of argument. That is, for a while at least, the Left became quite fond of asking for ‘metrics’, for tangible ‘benchmarks’, against which one could measure the progress of the Iraq occupation and thereby declare victory. This was all well and good, the only problem being the Left has never shown a propensity to apply this principle to any other aspect of public policy, before or since. What pray tell are the ‘metrics’ for affirmative action, for welfare, for progressive taxation by which one could declare the equivalent of ‘victory’ and stop agitating for their increase?

Of course, there are none. The Left’s infatuation with ‘metrics’ was short-lived and highly specific.

It should come as no surprise that most if not all of my policy preferences pass the Buck Rogers test. On most issues you can name, my position is one I’d be perfectly comfortable and happy to learn is still in place in 2491.

What about you?

What about the “progressive” left? How much of the “progress” so passionately favored by “progressives” really survives the Buck Rogers thought experiment? This really gets back to the idea of progress most aptly stated by Ronald Reagan, in a quote I’ve always heard and dug up (and didn’t find anyone claiming was bogus):

Welfare’s purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence.

That, to me, would be progress. So how do “progressives” measure progress, I wonder?

The Truth About The Oil Leak
May 31, 2010, 2:17 pm
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As we grapple with the most perplexing and frustrating news of our time, the failure of all efforts to stop the oil leak in the Gulf, I think it’s important to service truth and apprehend the causes and effects in play here accurately and honestly. Sometimes the truth hurts but this is the only way we as a nation can not only progress past this crisis but, hopefully, learn and grow from it.

It is to this end and only with the highest and noblest motives in mind that I, in direct language that may appear blunt (but which I think we all need to hear), have decided to come out and state the unspoken but obvious truth where other, lesser commentators and pundits are afraid to:

The Gulf of Mexico is racist.

My Favorite President Obama Speech
May 29, 2010, 10:02 pm
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My favorite President Obama speech was the one where he pointed out that, although the problem under consideration was challenging, and there was no quick fix, Obama was trying the best that he could, and the most important thing we must all keep in mind was that the problem didn’t begin with him, it began with his predecessor, Obama only inherited it.

Remember that one? That particular speech was awesome.

Katrina Was Not “Katrina”
May 29, 2010, 3:28 pm
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The oil spill is now being called, at least in some quarters, “Obama’s Katrina”, so let me take this rare tantalizing opportunity to ostentatiously parade my consistency and evenhandedness by declaring that oil spilling a mile deep in the ocean somewhere – like a tornado hitting a city on a gulf – is not the fault of the President of the United States, and is not really the President of the United States’s responsibility to “fix”. Sometimes bad, unfortunate things happen, and perfect solutions do not exist, no matter how Smart you are, and you just have to wait, and see, and (yes) hope.

All else equal would it be good for President Obama to coordinate/bring about some sort of solution, fix, cap, stop to the oil gushing out from underneath the ocean (albeit not necessarily in the fashion Steve Sailer suggests, with I think appropriate sarcasm)? And would it have been good for President Bush to have figured out a way, when local government failed to and many of the people themselves declined to, to evacuate residents from New Orleans sooner? Sure, I suppose. For that matter, it would have been good if I or you had done such a thing. Any help in a crisis and all that. But in neither case is solving these things the job of the President of the United States per se, not in any real sense. And so in neither case does the fact that these things did not occur constitute genuine criticism of the President of the United States.

Criticizing Presidents for failing to “solve” natural disasters and crises of this magnitude and complexity simply perpetuates the unfortunate and frankly puerile hero-worship mythology that has risen around Presidents, that they are somehow super-intelligent superhumans (or, that they are supposed to be, anyway) that we charge with Solving All Possible Problems Under The Sun. This is unhealthy and unhelpful and I have no desire to participate in the ongoing construction and nurturing of this myth. Barack Obama, like George W. Bush before him, is a dude sitting in an office in Washington, DC, a rather flat drab place up on the East Coast. He has a staff of some busy-beaver people who live nearby. As far as I can tell they walk around corridors and sit on cushioned chairs and work on laptops and talk on cell phones all day long. Yes, I’m sure they are all bright and above-average intelligent and work very hard. However, I hate to break it to those of you out there who think that law degrees and other fancy pieces of paper, and expensive ties & pant-suits, endow their holders with omnipotence and infinite powers of leadership/string-pulling, but there is very little tangible that he or they can feasibly do to stop oil from gushing from a hole 5000 feet under the ocean, other than to urge and harangue folks who do do and know about such things to find a fix – and then hope that they do. As far as I can tell, that is exactly what President Obama (like me, and like you) is doing. I know not what else he can be expected to do, and if you don’t either, which you probably don’t, not really, then to criticize him in this way is misplaced.

There are plenty of other things to criticize him over. Plenty. “Obama’s Katrina”? Please. Katrina was not “Katrina”. Shit happens. There is no Superman. Grow up.

Laws For Thee Not For Me
May 29, 2010, 1:57 am
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What follows are hopefully the only words I’m going to have to write on the thing about someone named Sestak being offered a job (or something) by Obama in exchange for (something). You see, I haven’t bothered to look into what the details are or what actual law may have been broken. This is because: although a law may have been broken, the one who it is suggested may have done so is President Obama, and he is Smart, and has a (D) after his name, so (even if he did break a law) that automatically makes it okay, and thus it would be a waste of time/energy on everyone’s part to think/do anything about.

So I shan’t.

May 27, 2010, 1:43 am
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With minimal commentary for your added pleasure.

Hitting Them Where It Hurts
May 26, 2010, 10:34 am
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Wow – the ISDA chairman comes out swinging:

Naked-Swap Ban Is Misinformed Assault on Markets

Ballsy. If there’s one thing we know politicians and regulators (and folks who cheer them on) don’t like being called, it’s misinformed (or equivalent). That’s because politicians and high-level government bureaucrats, and the lay people who like to cheer on the power grabs of the former, are very fond of their self-images as Smart People.

The Chairman of ISDA just basically called them ignorant and said they don’t know what they’re doing. He’s 100% correct of course, but that is NOT going to sit well with the egomaniacs we call our leaders and representatives. Don’t be surprised if some sort of scandal comes out surrounding this guy. Coincidentally, of course.


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