Bad Strategy
March 31, 2012, 5:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When I want to know what my views are as a conservative, the first place I turn is to leftist internet commentators. If there’s one group of people with an expertise on conservative viewpoints it’s them. That’s how I discovered that conservatives all around the globe were completely in favor of the health-insurance mandate since the 1990s (until of course – since we’re all racists – President Obama, a black person, proposed it, which he did while President following a campaign in which he opposed it).

It was very intriguing and enlightening to learn of this previously-unsuspected favorable view of the insurance mandate that apparently I had had, as a conservative. I am in leftists’ debt for explaining to me what my opinions of a mandate were prior to this whole debate, because otherwise I never would have guessed in a million years.

Now, of course, we all realize that this “conservative idea” is also a very important and wonderful idea for the country. This is why ‘liberal’ [sic] leftists are so incensed by the thought that the Supreme Court might decide to claim, against all logic and common sense, that there might exist some things that the federal government cannot do, appropriate, or dictate.

The question I have though is why didn’t the leftists just propose this wonderful idea in the 1990s, during President Clinton’s Presidency, when all conservatives such as myself were uniformly so in favor of it? It seems like it would have been a slam-dunk back then due to the near-unanimity: clearly (as has been explained to us by Ezra Klein, et al) conservatives loved it, and surely leftists would also have loved it, seeing as how much they love it now. So what am I missing? Was this just bad strategy, the biggest missed opportunity in the history of the republic? Such a tragedy, and to think, as a result we now face a situation where (god forbid) the government might actually not be able to dictate something that Smart People want it to dictate. I shudder to think, as do all good ‘liberals’.

The Left’s Purported Mental Model Of The Founding Fathers’ Thought Processes
March 30, 2012, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

They agonized over and fought intensely over how much power to give to the federal government, checks and balances, which branch does what, whether the power was too much and would be abused, and on and on.

At the same time, they also wanted to make sure the federal government could do whatever the hell it wanted to, and issue whatever diktat it felt like, on any issue remotely tangentially related to ‘interstate commerce’ – a category of issue to which (it turns out) there are, in practice, essentially no exceptions whatsoever.

That’s what the Founding Fathers wanted, and that’s the document they cooked up and signed.

You know, the guys who revolted against a king over some piddly tax on tea.

I’ll say it again: nobody sincerely believes this crap. Because no one with a brain possibly could.

Fascism By Euphemism
March 30, 2012, 7:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is the SF Chronicle’s Obamacare Sunday editorial, not really worth devoting too many brain cells on but I wanted to draw out a couple of passages as I find them pretty representative of conventional-wisdom thinking:

Congress has the right and duty to regulate national commerce, and health care, which accounts for 17 percent of the economy, certainly qualifies.


This court and past ones have upheld Congress’ right to oversee commercial affairs, a significant and essential duty of government.

Notice what is happening here: in context, dictating to individuals what and when and how much to pay for things has been editorially phrased as ‘regulat[ing] national commerce’ and ‘oversee[ing] commercial affairs’.

Now, Regulating National Commerce sounds kind of innocuous and boring. Something like, having a weights & measures board, minimum safe-handling requirements, dispute-resolution civil courts, that sort of thing. Overseeing Commercial Affairs, even more so. But you drill down into what they mean by these things and it turns out to be fucking telling every single person what to fucking buy, when to fucking buy it, and how much to fucking spend on it!

Isn’t that remarkable?

It seems like the left has been able to smuggle their entire argument under the radar of everyone’s Fascist Detectors via euphemism. ‘Oh, this is just regulating commerce’.

It turns out that by ‘this’ they mean fascism.

From The Things I Refuse To Believe Exist Dept.
March 30, 2012, 5:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Just saw my zillionth blog post / news article on “vocal fry”. Seriously? This is a thing?

Until I get more evidence that this “vocal fry” thing exists I’m tempted to put it in the same mental category as Grunge speak.

Even if it is a thing, is it a thing worth talking about? Unless I’m mistaken, Western society somehow managed to survive “Valley Girl speak”.

Does the subculture of teenage girls really need more attention and analysis?

Parsons on Volcker Critics
March 30, 2012, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

John Parsons of MIT has some thoughts on Volcker Rule criticism. Let’s see what he has to say! As you may not be aware (I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned this) I have been known to have some opinions on the Volcker Rule myself!

The Volcker Rule bans banks from proprietary trading. But the Volcker Rule does not ban anyone else from proprietary trading. The IHS report assumes that when banks stop proprietary trading, no one else will step in and do so.

That’s a ridiculous assumption. Let’s look at other industries where governments sometimes regulate which institutions may and may not operate …

Right off we have a disorienting category error. ‘Proprietary trading’, if it means anything at all (and I’m not sure I think it does), means trading by banks (‘for their own account’). Even the lowliest Reuters reporter knows how to wiki that. So when a non-bank buys things we don’t have to call it ‘proprietary trading’, we just call it trading. So what is he talking about? Does he know what ‘proprietary trading’ even is?

Parsons is certainly correct that other institutions besides banks can engage in trading. For example, hedge funds. Pensions. Insurance companies. Rich a-holes. The Fed. He’s also right that banks spin off prop desks. But that is the case today; they already do. The point is not that there’s some generic activity called ‘proprietary trading’ that could be done by anyone, and we’re just banning banks from doing it, meaning those other guys could ‘start proprietary trading’ (they already are!). The point is that we’d be banning (or at least trying to ban) banks – a large market actor that currently provides much of what little liquidity there is – from much of the trading they do. It’s fair to question how important ‘liquidity’ is, but the idea that this will have no effect on liquidity is ridiculous at best. When it stems from this disorienting notion of ‘proprietary trading’ as something that ‘others could step in and do’ I don’t even know what to call it, besides ‘unclear on the concept’. The issue is whether a specific large institution called a bank can trade (i.e. in a way that retains inventory/risk) or not and the Volcker Rule, interpreted literally, says ‘not’. Of course that will have an effect.

The only way to salvage his point is to interpret Parsons to be saying that he thinks that once the Volcker Rule is in place, someone such as (say) regional broker-dealers will ‘step in’ and suddenly decide to use balance sheet/hold significant inventory in a way that makes up for banks not doing so. In other words, become combo hedge funds/market-makers. I find this highly doubtful and he gives no reason to believe it will happen, but if that’s what he means I’d be curious to hear why.

IHS[‘s evaluation of the Volcker Rule] ignores taxpayer subsidies to banks.

Here’s one example. Unmargined OTC derivatives sold by banks entail credit risk. But, pre-Dodd-Frank, banks did not properly account for that credit risk. They could ignore or minimize that credit risk in their reports to their regulators, and, as a result, they didn’t have to hold capital against it. The capital backstopping the risk was taxpayer capital, and banks didn’t pay for it. They only profited at taxpayer expense.

Counterparty risk is a major component of Basel III capital rules now, Volcker Rule or no Volcker Rule. So if this is an argument for something, which it may be, it’s not the Volcker Rule.

Protecting hidden subsidies to banks is not a sensible economic policy. The U.S. economy is still paying mightily for that mistake.

I think I agree with this part! The problem is, and always has been, that the reason we’re paying for it has nothing to do with those banks having done ‘proprietary trading’. Again, just because something bad happened, and you think ‘proprietary trading’ is bad, doesn’t mean bad #2 caused bad #1. That’s Platonist thinking rearing its ugly head again.

The Volcker Rule is about ending hidden taxpayer subsidies to risky transactions by banks.

It is? So (1) the Volcker Rule bans making loans? Or (2) loans aren’t risky? (Anyone agreeing with the above statement has to pick one.)

That was always what it was about. From the very beginning.

I don’t know whether that’s what it ‘was about. From the very beginning’. I do know that that’s not what it actually does. What it actually does is define, and then ban, an arbitrary subset of activity it calls ‘proprietary trading’ – not ‘risky transactions’.

Banking is a risky transaction. Does Dodd-Frank ban banking, Prof. Parsons?

Can The Government Tell Each Person Where To Live?
March 30, 2012, 12:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


  • The housing market is certainly ‘interstate’
  • Hence the government can ‘regulate’ it
  • Every person obviously ‘participates in’ this market

So assume:

  • Congress passes a ‘housing reform’ law with the ‘social goal’ of, oh I don’t know, creating such-and-such demographic distribution of citizens.
  • Part of this law says that current titleholders of properties can’t deny residence to someone who lawfully asks for it. This is just ‘regulation’ of an ‘interstate market’, so (presumably?) is perfectly fine.
  • But Congress realizes this would be problematic, because everyone would just ask for the same small % of fanciest houses
  • So Congress also includes a provision allocating who can lawfully request residence in which house. The result of which is that each person is sent one (1) legitimate address to live in.
  • This provision is ‘necessary and proper’ in order to make the reform work, and doesn’t violate freedom of religion or speech so it’s fine.

The net result of such a law, of course, is: Every person is instructed where to live by Congress; housing is fully centrally allocated.

Since question for ‘liberals': Would this law be Constitutional? I have listened to you all very carefully, and I think it would. Because of the commerce clause. If you don’t think it would, why wouldn’t it?

The Comm(unist) Clause
March 30, 2012, 11:58 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Assume for the sake of argument that Obamacare apologists are framing it correctly: we all ‘participate in’ the health care market, and Obamacare ‘merely’ redirects/governs how we finance that participation.


Why does the government have the right to dictate how, when, and how much we pay for something?

Is that mere ‘regulation of interstate commerce’ or something over and above that?

Let’s go with the left’s answer, which is that ‘regulation of interstate commerce’ includes telling everyone when-and-how-and-how-much to pay for things.

The interesting thing about that is that dictating how-and-when-and-how-much people pay for things is, if taken to its logical conclusion, full-on communism. There is no socialist/communist initiative that could not be cast as dictating how-and-how-much people pay for things. ‘You will pay $X and accept this basket of goods we have chosen for you. You over there: you pay $Y for the same thing.’ Perhaps some flavor of communism would instead bypass the middleman (e.g. maybe you don’t see your paycheck in the first place, you just get the basket), but economically, communism is precisely equivalent to being told when-and-how-and-how-much to pay, for everything you (are told to, or not to) consume.

Stalin’s Five Year Plan was (in a sense) ‘merely’ dictating how and when and how much people paid for things. I guess that too was simply ‘regulation of commerce’, and therefore, would pass commerce-clause muster, according to self-anointed Constitutional experts like internet economist James Kwak. (Of course, to some extent he does have Supreme Court precedent on his side…)

If ‘liberals’ genuinely believed what they are saying about the commerce clause, they’d have to believe that the Founders included it because they wanted to empower the nascent Federal Government to implement fully-centralized command communist-economics that could, on a whim, nullify any and all voluntary decisions about disposal of property and contracts. (‘Regulating the financing of markets you already participate in…’)

Of course, I still say they believe no such thing. No one with a brain possibly could. They just don’t care what the Constitution actually says or means in the first place. They are feeding us disingenuous, unscrupulous sophistry, and are shocked when we do not break out in applause.


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