Sometimes, Politicians Need to Be Political

Robert Gates

Kevin Williamson is being quite unfair to Robert Gates in his editorial piece. Sometimes, an argument from organizational self-interest is the best argument to carry the day on a particular issue, and failing to argue from a standpoint of organizational self-interest means losing the argument on that issue. There are doubtless a significant number of people in the Boy Scouts who would prefer to keep the current ban against gay troop leaders, and no amount of moral suasion is going to change the minds of those people. Equally doubtless: Those who remain opposed to changing the rules banning gay troop leaders continue to hold a lot of sway within the Scouts organization. If moral suasion doesn’t work on this group and won’t persuade them to drop their opposition to gay troop leaders, then an argument based on organizational self-interest is about the only thing that will convince these holdouts to do the right and moral thing. Gates cannot be blamed for using an appeal to organizational self-interest to right a wrong, and Williamson is unwise and unkind to criticize Gates for using the best tool available to change the Scouts’ stance on this issue. [Read more…]

Semi-Good News on Trade Policy

Free Trade

I am pleased to see that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Act has gotten a boost from the United States Senate with the Senate’s decision to grant President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a new trade deal. I wish that I could say that the vote was unanimous, but alas, it wasn’t, thanks mainly to protectionist Democrats who want America’s trade policies to be as antediluvian as humanly possible. Protectionist Democrats may get another shot at undermining American trade policy by opposing fast-track in the House of Representatives. The question is whether House Republicans will join in this effort to sabotage the American economy. [Read more…]

Paul Krugman Is Fundamentally Dishonest (A Continuing Series)


Any just and intellectually defensible analysis of the New York Times’s decision to hire Paul Krugman as a columnist has to conclude that in making the hire, the Times severely harmed its own credibility. Krugman simply cannot be trusted to present facts and make honest arguments. Behold the latest example of Krugman’s thoroughgoing mendacity.

Comes now the part of any Krugman-related post in which I remind people of what Daniel Okrent, the onetime New York Times ombudsman wrote upon giving up his onetime post: Paul Krugman “has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults.” Krugman protested loudly and vociferously when Okrent wrote those words. But he has spent just about his entire life as a pundit justifying Okrent’s critique.

(Photo Credit.)

On Subjects Rachel Maddow Won’t Touch with a Ten-Foot Pole

sad-obama-300x300 I remember when Rachel Maddow of MSNBC wrote this opinion piece, informing us that the administration of George W. Bush did nothing to cultivate a deep bench of Republican leadership prospects. As far as Maddow was concerned . . . well . . . let’s let her words speak for themselves: [Read more…]

Éirinn go Brách, and All That

As one who believes that same-sex couples deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and that marriage equality only serves to strengthen the institution of marriage, I am pleased and delighted to see that Ireland has decided to enshrine marriage equality as a constitutional right. This is a remarkable and extraordinary achievement, given the power that the Catholic Church continues to wield in the country. The church, of course, wanted the rest of the country to vote “no” on the issue of marriage equality, but the Irish people wisely concluded that when we talk about God “abounding in steadfast love,” we ought to acknowledge that God’s love is–and ought to be–for all people.

I imagine that eventually, the Catholic Church will find a way to reconcile itself to this message. It had better, lest it be left behind by a world whose people increasingly realize that when two individuals commit to loving one another for the rest of their lives, forsaking all others in the process, that phenomenon ought to be celebrated and not condemned. In any event, congratulations to the Irish people, and to all others who work to end the destructive and intelligence-insulting stereotypes that for too long have made life miserable for too many gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

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The Boy Scouts Are Introduced to Reality

Robert Gates

I always knew that Robert Gates was and is one of the most honorable people around in public life, and he has just proven it again by bluntly telling the Boy Scouts of America that they are going to have to change with the times: [Read more…]

Quote of the Day

Civil marriage was instituted, let us concede, to safeguard the interests of children by endorsing and protecting the kind of stable, committed relationships that produce them and are suited to their upbringing. But there is no way to know in advance which couples can or will have children; we would hardly want county clerks to administer fertility tests or ask intrusive questions about people’s ability or intention to reproduce. So we made civil marriage generally available to sexually complementary couples. We did this without apparently taking notice of same-sex couples, let alone aiming to discriminate against them. Since traditional marriage laws had a legitimate purpose and were tailored to that purpose, there is no obvious reason for courts to invalidate them.

But equal treatment is both a legislative and a judicial concern. We can realize that a law that once seemed well designed could, in fact, be fairer. Reexamining marriage laws with this possibility in mind, we should register the following facts. First, civil marriage already includes a group of people — married, childless men and women — who are irrelevant to its child-centric purpose. Second, there is another group of people — committed same-sex couples who wish to marry — who have just as much reason to want the law’s recognition and protection of their relationships as married, childless men and women do. (Some same-sex couples are also raising children, much to traditionalists’ horror, but we leave this aside.) Third, couples belonging to either of these two groups have the same reasons and motivations, rooted in their love for each other, to abide by the standards of conduct that we traditionally associate with marriage, namely exclusivity and fidelity subsequent to a vow of permanent commitment. In light of all this, it is a matter of simple fairness to treat the two groups the same way, and legislators and voters should favor doing so.

Jason Lee Steorts. When National Review publishes a piece endorsing marriage equality, you know that one of the most contentious battles in the culture war is as good as over. And a good thing too; monogamous same-sex couples should have the same right to marry that monogamous opposite-sex couples have, and we have better things to do with our time and energy than to litigate the marriage equality wars.

The Latest Pie-in-the-Sky Idea in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Minimum Wage

So, Los Angeles has decided to increase its minimum wage to $15 per hour. I’m sure that there are a host of people rejoicing over this alleged act of economic justice, but remember that actions have consequences: [Read more…]

Quote of the Day

Mr Krugman thus implied that the British government—deliberately or mistakenly—had engineered measly growth at the beginning of its term, thus making it easier for the economy to roar back as the election approached. That would seem to ascribe to the coalition an unrealistic level of strategic wizardry and general deviousness, beyond even that possessed by the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne. Though interesting, it may say more about Mr Krugman than the British government.

C.W.. Of course, as many of us already know, Paul Krugman is fond of crazy conspiracy theories.

In Praise of a Carbon Tax


I have invited myself to do some writing over at Aeon Ideas. My first piece addresses the question of what I would be willing to sacrifice in order to combat climate change. An excerpt:

I am perfectly willing to sacrifice something to combat climate change. I am willing to sacrifice tax money. I invite policymakers to enact a carbon tax that will be designed to reduce carbon emissions in order to slow–and hopefully, reverse–the process of global warming. I invite pundits to advocate the enactment of such a tax, and to give our governing class the political cover necessary to implement a carbon tax. And I invite the electorate to reward politicians who call for a carbon tax by electing and re-electing them to positions of public trust, and to punish those who do not by denying them election to those positions. Back in 2007, I argued for the enactment of a carbon tax that would “be pegged to the three-year average change in global tropical temperatures.” My concern back then was to measure the degree to which human activity might be contributing to global warming, and I signed on to the economist Ross McKitrick’s plan to tie any carbon tax to the three year moving average temperature in the tropical troposphere. If it were found that human activity is contributing to global warming, then we could increase such a tax until any increase in carbon emissions could be halted and reduced.

[. . .]

But here is the thing: I don’t think that the implementation of a carbon tax should constitute a “sacrifice” of any real kind. Indeed, short of geo-engineering, a carbon tax is as close as we are ever likely to get to using a silver bullet to reverse climate change. Not all solutions to climate change need to involve pain, and just because a solution involves pain, that does not mean that the solution will be powerful or consequential.

Longtime blog readers of mine are, of course, quite familiar with my stance on the desirability of carbon taxes. But whether or not you are a longtime reader, check out the rest of the piece.

(Photo Credit.)


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