Thursday, February 21

Paternalists think they know what's good for you

In A Paternalist Worries About Paternalism, Jacob Sullum writes that Cass Sunstein
worries about the consequences of inviting the government to protect us from ourselves.... Sunstein agrees with Bowdoin philosopher Sarah Conly... that people are prone to cognitive biases that lead to decisions they regret....
But Conly
is "ambivalent" about preventing people from using food stamps to buy soda: "She is not convinced that the health benefits would be significant, and she emphasizes that people really do enjoy drinking soda."...

If Sarah Conly can't be trusted to decide how much to eat, whether to consume products that contain trans fats, or whether to smoke cigarettes, how can she be trusted to make such decisions for the entire population?

Thursday, February 14

Gun stuff

In “The Suicide Paradox”, Stephen J. Dubner writes:
the fact is that suicide is more than twice as common as homicide. The preliminary numbers for 2009, the most recent year for which we have data, show there were roughly 36,500 suicides in the U.S. and roughly 16,500 homicides.
Also from Freakonomics' How to Think About Guns:
Gun buybacks are one of the most ineffectual public policies that have ever been invented in the history of mankind.
...we looked at the number of child deaths that were due to swimming pools, the number of child deaths that were due to guns, and then we put it in terms of how often will a given swimming pool kill a child versus how often will a particular gun kill a child. And it turns out that the swimming pool is far more lethal than the gun, that a given swimming pool is 100 times more likely to lead to the death of a child than a particular gun is to lead to the death of a child.
...the policies that can work are ones that tie heavy punishments to uses of guns that we don’t like. So for instance, laws that say if you commit a crime and you have a gun with you, regardless of whether the gun was used, then without any sort of other consideration, we add five years, or 10 years, or 20 years, or 50 years to the sentence that you get.
I think the fact that there are all the guns around is really accidental. You know, if guns were just being invented today, the treatment of guns would be completely different than the treatment we have in this country. So you know, it’s part of the Constitution. It’s been interpreted in various ways. But I think there are all sorts of things that you’re not allowed to do.... If you think about why is it that alcohol and cigarettes are legal and marijuana is not, I think that again is mostly accident. If people had been smoking regularly for the last 300 years and alcohol had just kind of come along and been on the fringes, there’s no way we’d say, you know, alcohol should be freely consumed by everyone all the time. So I’m not after making this country into a police state, but I think that people are kind of whacked when they act like there’s something fundamental about, you know, how guns should be part of society. It’s kind of a historical accident that you live with.
The mention of Geoff Canada’s Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun led me to Wikipedia, which claims (I omit the citations):
Canada writes, "many times children as young as six and seven would bring weapons to school, or pick up bottles, bricks, or whatever was at hand." He also says, "The first rules I learned on Union Avenue stayed with me for all of my youth. They were simple and straightforward. Don't cry. Don't act afraid. Don't tell your mother. Take it like a man. Don't let no one take your manhood" (emphasis in original).

Canada asserts that the culture of violence has been compounded in the decades since he grew up. He cites increases in recreational drug use and handgun usage. He specifically refers to the about 50,000 American children killed by guns between 1979 and 1991 to support his argument. Canada concludes that inner city neighborhoods must enact measures restricting handgun manufacture and possession as well as create safe haven areas for children.

Monday, February 11

Overtly unprincipled hacks

In DOJ kill list memo forces many Dems out of the closet as overtly unprincipled hacks, Glenn Greenwald writes,
[W]hen you endorse the application of a radical state power because the specific target happens to be someone you dislike and think deserves it, you're necessarily institutionalizing that power in general. That's why political leaders, when they want to seize extremist powers or abridge core liberties, always choose in the first instance to target the most marginalized figures: because they know many people will acquiesce not because they support that power in theory but because they hate the person targeted. But if you cheer when that power is first invoked based on that mentality - I'm glad Obama assassinated Awlaki without charges because he was a Bad Man! - then you lose the ability to object when the power is used in the future in ways you dislike (or by leaders you distrust), because you've let it become institutionalized.

Monday, February 4

I hope Emanuel's right

In "We Can Be Healthy and Rich" Ezekiel J. Emanuel suggests that Obamacare will actually drive health care costs down. David Henderson (ObamaCare: Two Ominous Signs) shows signs pointing the other way.