Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Don't Vote

Robert P. Murphey dispenses good advice in his latest article at LewRockwell.com. For me, the punch line was at the end:
Perhaps in twenty years when they’re explaining to their own kids about the days when you could cross state lines without showing the national ID card, they might vaguely remember that cranky old man who talked to their high school class, making some anal distinction between democracy versus a republic.

How the Oakland freeway collapse was fixed in less than a month

Remember the April 29 freeway collapse in Oakland, California? Transportation officials speculated that it could take months to rebuild, but it was fixed in 25 days, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Contractor C.C. Myers got the job done using practices that remind me a lot of Goldratt's Critical Chain:
[Caltrans officials] drew up a contract offering a $200,000 bonus -- with a limit of $5 million -- for each day the work was done in less than 50 days and levying a $200,000 penalty for each day after that deadline.

The 2-inch steel plate needed to make the bottom flange of the steel girders was loaded onto trucks with two drivers in each rig so they could make the trips with fewer stops.

"Caltrans came in and put good people in our shop,'' [Stinger president Carl] Douglas said. "If there were any problems, we could go to them and get immediate answers. Usually (done by phone, fax or e-mail), it takes weeks. It was a breath of fresh air to have a government agency come in and perform like that."

The [243-ton beam] was so heavy that the truck wasn't permitted on I-580 over the Altamont Pass and had to use rural roads to get to the Tri-Valley. Still, the bent cap arrived about 15 minutes before Caltrans' scheduled 8 p.m. closure May 15 of the I-880 connector for the installation, and had to wait on the side of Interstate 80 in Berkeley.

As soon as each pair [of girders] was secured, workers swarmed the steel beams and started installing the wooden forms and steel-reinforcement bar for the concrete roadway. On a typical job, the contractor would wait until the girders were all installed before preparing for the concrete pour, Land said.

"C.C. Myers was very good at coordinating things. They eliminated the transitions, the waiting time,'' [Rick Land, Caltrans' chief engineer] said.

Instead of requiring the contractor to wait for detailed construction drawings to be approved, Caltrans agreed to let the work start while they were being reviewed.
The eponymous owner of the C.C. Myers construction company is an interesting character in his own right. When the Northridge earthquake destroyed a stretch of I-10 in 1994, Caltrans officials predicted it would take 12-18 months to fix. C.C. Myers finished it in 2 months.

I wish Massachusetts had hired C.C. Myers for the Big Dig.

(Thanks to jillsy@Reddit for bringing this story to my attention.)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Interview with Lew Rockwell

Thanks to Kenny Johnsson for this interview with Lew Rockwell. My favorite parts:
LEW ROCKWELL: What is a libertarian? It is a person who believes in the absolute right of private property ownership.

JOHNSSON: Your slogan on LewRockwell.com is Anti-War, Anti-State, Pro-Market; how do you define anti-state?

ROCKWELL: To be anti-state is to hold the intellectual position that there is nothing that society needs that the state can do better than the market. If you hold that view, you are anti-state. So in some ways, to say anti-war, anti-state, and pro-market is to propose redundancies of the same idea. I would defend the anti-state idea in every aspect of human life. The market is better in schools, energy, food, housing, charity, trade, consumer protection, justice, security, and even international relations. I know of no exceptions. The major burden of all the editorial work that I do is to make this point again and again. Does it grow weary? Not in any way. The number one, central, ubiquitous problem of our time and all time is the state. Whenever a criminal band manages to bamboozle the public that it alone should be granted the legal right to aggress on others, there is a problem that needs to be uprooted. The struggle for freedom is precisely this and no other.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Remnant

You do not know, and will never know, who the Remnant are, nor where they are, nor how many of them there are, nor what they are doing or will do. Two things you know, and no more: first, that they exist; second, that they will find you.
Albert Jay Nock. Isaiah's Job
In a speech in Austin, Texas, Ron Paul mentioned the "Remnant". I looked it up and was intrigued by its meaning, which is, as near as I can tell, "those few people who would be able to understand your message if they were to encounter it." The implication is that you should compose your message directly to the Remnant, rather than watering it down in an attempt to reach the majority.

Though the term has been in use intermittently throughout history, it was revived in the 20th century by Albert J. Nock, who gave several examples of the Remnant from the Bible and the writings of Plato and Marcus Aurelius.

It turns out that the Buddha also spoke to the Remnant. After he discovered and fully understood the Four Noble Truths, he was initially reluctant to teach others:
Now while the Blessed One was alone in retreat this thought arose in him: “This Dhamma that I have attained to is profound and hard to see, hard to discover; it is the most peaceful and superior goal of all, not attainable by mere ratiocination, subtle, for the wise to experience. [...] And if I taught the Dhamma others would not understand me, and that would be wearying and troublesome for me.”
Bhikkhu Nanamoli. The Life of the Buddha, p 37
But the Brahma Sahampati became aware of this thought in the mind of the Buddha. And, fearing that the Dhamma would not be taught, he appeared before the Buddha and said,
“Lord, let the Blessed One teach the Dhamma... There are beings with little dust on their eyes who are wasting through not hearing the Dhamma. Some of them will gain final knowledge of the Dhamma.”
Bhikkhu Nanamoli. The Life of the Buddha, p 38
Hearing this, the Buddha surveyed the world with his mind's eye, and, finding some beings who were capable of understanding the truth, indicated that he would indeed go forth and teach. These beings "with little dust on their eyes" would seem to comprise the Remnant, so far as the Buddha was concerned.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Blaming or Explaining?

You know how the waterboard brigade misinterprets Ron Paul's observations on "blowback" as "blaming America"? In Safety and Sexism, Julian Sanchez points out an example of liberals making the same mistake in their thinking about a different topic:
“In the aftermath of a few well publicized rape/murder cases in New York last year, I wrote that I found it somewhat unsettling how quick some folks were to decry as "victim blaming" or "slut shaming" any suggestion that these ought to serve as tragic reminders that, for instance, there are parts of Manhattan where it's very dangerous to be alone and extremely drunk at 3 am.”
Why do people do this? They have to act outraged, because they can't actually refute the point. I think the definitive riposte to this type of thing is to ask, "Would you accuse a detective looking for motive of saying the dead man had it coming?"

Friday, May 18, 2007

Three Questions On Liberty

In Why Libertarians Should Be Concerned with the History of Political Thought, Gene Callahan poses several questions for his readers. I'll take a stab at answering three of them here.

Is it acceptable to set aside any libertarian principles if that abeyance will help prevent the far greater loss of liberty that would follow military defeat?

No. Looking at the question from a practical standpoint, I believe the situation described (one in which setting aside libertarian principles will "help prevent far greater loss of liberty") could never arise. A society that stubbornly holds the policy of never setting aside libertarian principles will be inherently more free than one that explicitly keeps that possibility in reserve. Therefore the first society will be better able to unleash the boundless creativity of the market to provide its citizens with superior safety, which is, after all, nothing more than a (very important) good. The society that would commandeer private property for collective gain under any circumstances will be inherently less able to create market goods -- including security -- than one that refuses to consider the possibility.

This scenario is like the "ticking time bomb" argument for torture: both contain a false premise. In truth, a society that is willing to torture is much more likely to be the target of a terrorist attack than a society that never tortures. A policy of permitting torture in extreme circumstances brings our nightmares to life, because it ends up making those very circumstances much more likely to occur.

James Madison said it well:
It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much, soon to forget it.
Ought libertarians to applaud the creation of the Scottish and Welsh legislatures as representing the reduction of centralized state power, or denigrate them for providing a means for the political classes of those Labour-dominated nations to enact more interventionist legislation than they could in the UK as a whole?

If these developments lead towards decentralization, they ought to be applauded, for the path to market anarchy is the creation of ever-smaller independent city-states. The smaller the state, the more quickly and forcefully it experiences the consequences of anti-market actions. I think history bears this out, and one possible contributing factor is that citizens of a small state are more likely to have to depend on trade with citizens of neighboring states.

Are EU measures to dismantle trade barriers between member states an objectionable violation of national sovereignty or a laudable defense of an individual's right to trade with whomever he wishes?

They are an objectionable violation, because decentralization leads to market anarchy, and these central-government trade measures take their member states in the opposite direction.