Analysis of an argument: Some missteps to avoid

January 27, 2013

This video has been swirling around the libertarian wing of my facebook feed, specifically the Judge Andrew Napolitano page. Progressive journalist Thom Hartmann and Austin Peterson, Director of Production at FreedomWorks and editor of the Libertarian Republic have a heated discussion over the alleged right to health care on Thom’s TV program, The Big Picture. Here’s what all went down:

Of course Thom mangled the libertarian point of view. Of course I agree with Austin, but his performance disappointed me. Here are three missteps to avoid in discussion.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Libertarian World Could Be More Colorful

July 28, 2012

All the colors of the rainbow, and then some.

People often ask what a libertarian world would look like. It’s impossible to say, and speculating can be problematic. Scott Morgan at DRCNet (aka famously observed:

It’s a terrible and frequent conundrum for reformers that if we accurately describe the behavior of our opposition, we end up sounding crazy.

He was speaking in the context of drug law reform, but the principle applies in many other cases of government command and control. For example, we all know about the tens of thousands of people the FDA has left to die by delaying the release of life-saving medicines. But what if I told you that, if not for the FDA, colorblindness would be curable? What if I told you further that, if not for the FDA, we might even have a procedure that could expand the spectrum of visible light, resulting in a world that is colorful beyond our present imagination? Would that sound crazy?

I’ll let Jay Neitz, professor of Opthamology at the University of Washington, and Jad Abumrad of WNYC’s Radiolab explain. Here is a passage from their May 21st episode entitled ColorsThe relevant part begins at 0:50, and the quoted passage below appears at 3:15:

JAD ABUMRAD: Now if this worked so well with the monkeys, couldn’t you take a colorblind human and give them back the thing they’re missing?
JAY NEITZ: Absolutely. We could cure colorblindness in a human with exactly this technique.
JAD: Really?
JAY: The only thing that we’d have to do is convince the FDA that the risks are low enough and the benefit is high enough that it’s something we can do in people.
JAD: Have you ever tried it?
JAY: No, we’ve never tried it. Although, I get a lot of e-mails that say, “I don’t care what the risks are.” I’ve even had offers: “How about if I come to your laboratory, and you don’t tell anybody, late at night, and you give me the shot in the eye, and we won’t tell anyone.”
JAD: Which brings us back to our original question: If you can take a colorblind human and give them normal color vision, could you take a normal color seer and boost them … [i.e. add additional color receptive cones to their retinas, thereby expanding the spectrum of visible color for them].
JAY [chuckles]: Well, yes. Yeah. …

JAD [speaking to the listener in the third-person]: He said, “Sure. Why not?” But then there’s the whole FDA thing … .

Here is a video of Neitz’s monkeys seeing new colors:  Read the rest of this entry »

Dangerous Thoughtlessness: Why I’m Not So Excited About ACA’s Health Care Refund Checks

July 17, 2012

“This is how the world works. All energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet. What a fool I was to defy him.” ~Raoul Duke

Paul Abrams is excited about free money showing up in his mailbox. He told us all about it in this Huffington Post editorial:

I Pledge My Health Insurance Refund to President Obama’s Re-Election. Will You Join Me?

Some of his reasoning seems arbitrary to me. For example:

You see, under our new healthcare insurance system, the insurers have to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect from us on actual healthcare. Before, they would just pocket it, and provide for executive bonuses, yachts, private jets, memberships to country clubs — all of which are wonderful, it is fine for them and others to enjoy them, but not with my healthcare dollars, thank you very much.

Why is it fine for them and others to enjoy these luxuries, but not with his healthcare dollars? What about his health care dollars so different in substance for his standard issue Federal Reserve notes that the government must dictate special rules as to how they may be allocated within businesses?  Read the rest of this entry »

A Case Study in Organ Markets: District Court Judge Finds No ‘Ill Result’; Organ Broker Gets 2½ Years

July 15, 2012 reports:

Brooklyn man sentenced to 2 1/2 years for role in black-market kidney trafficking scheme

The man in question is New York Rabbi Levy Izhak Rosenbaum.

I advocated legalizing the sale of organs a couple months ago on facebook, and the objections I received have been fairly irrational and uninspiring. Perhaps if people considered a real-life case of organ trade, they’ll begin to think about organ markets more clearly. Let’s take a look at the report, which first introduces the kidney donor/vendor:  Read the rest of this entry »

Links for December 27, 2010: Four Loko and Net-Neutrality

December 26, 2010
  • You can not really understand a moral panic like this in rational terms. … You can still mix Red Bull and vodka.

  • I’m not really a computer wizard, so I can’t speak about the the accuracy and completeness, but the last 17 seconds of the video explains why the net-neutrality movement has not yet won me over.

  • Read the rest of this entry »

    Links for December 20, 2010: What Makes a Slant a Slant?

    December 19, 2010
  • Vodpod videos no longer available.

    At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News’ controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network’s journalists not to use the phrase “public option.”

    Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox’s reporters should use “government option” and similar phrases — wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats’ reform efforts.

    “Caught slanting”, eh? Why is Media Matters so uncomfortable with the word “government”? It seems to describe the policy accurately. Then again, if you want to be consistent, you’ll have to use the phrase elsewhere, as in “government library” and “government swimming pool”, which is still accurate, really.

  • We’ve had a few cases rule in favor. This will be an interesting legal battle.

  • Stopping bailouts was not a poll option. The free market was not a poll option.

  • Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Links for October 4, 2010: Police Corruption in NY, How Many Stimuli Does It Take To Revive an Economy?, others….

    October 3, 2010
    1. An absolutely chilling story of police corruption in New York City. Officers are pressured to reach arrest quotas by making illegal arrests while underreporting major crimes to make themselves look successful. They then go to disturbing lengths to intimidate an officer who does not perform. But first: what could happen to you if you make terroristic threats on facebook.

    2. You’ll hear proponents of government stimulus often say that the private sector is not creating jobs fast enough. Have any of them ever thought to ask why not? As it turns out, they’re afraid of something: the uncertain regulatory environment, of course. Read the rest of this entry »