Friday, June 22, 2007
My moral midgetry
It's an eight question test in which an action is described and then you are asked to award damages.
In the scenarios I was given, I awarded an average of $129 in fines. The average response of all test takers was approximately $72,000.
So, clearly, I'm a heartless bastard. [And you also like to make fun of short people!!--ed.] Or, I'm more willing to blame fortuna than people when bad but (largely) accidental things happen.
Take the test and let me know how moral you are.
UPDATE: Well, after reading the commentary, I do feel better about my moral standing. Well, except for Mike Munger's reaction, which just makes me want to grab a baseball bat, apply it to Munger, and then see whether the tort system really works.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Name this blog phenomenon!
Apparently the Encyclopedia Brittanica now has a blog. Michael Gorman is using it to harumph at the myriad ways in which the Internet has destroyed all that is great and good in scholarship and high culture. His first post opens with "The life of the mind in our society suffers, in many ways, from an increase in credulity and an associated flight from expertise." You get the drift -- this is not the first time Gorman has done this.
Over at Inside Higher Ed, Scott McLemee critiques Gorman's critique. He closes with this point:
What really bothers the neo-Luddite quasi-Mandarin is not the rise of digitality, as such. The problem actually comes from “the diminished sacredness of authority,” as Edward Shils once put it, “the reduction in the awe it evokes and in the charisma attributed to it.”Plowing similar ground, Henry Farrell asks:
I can see why the Encyclopedia Britannica has an urgent interest in pushing this line, but I don’t understand why the intellectual standards of argument among its appointed critics is so low (and they aren’t an aberration; I understand that they’ve made somewhat of an effort to publicize these pieces and get them talked about).To answer Farrell's question, you need to recognize the phenomenon of Bigthink Online Criticism (BOC), which proceeds as follows:
1) Pre-existing cultural institution finds itself under threat of being ignored/devalued/losing cultural cachet in relation to online substitutes;I humbly request my readers to name this gambit.
UPDATE: Brittanica's Tom Panelas e-mails the following:
If nothing else you should be aware of the fact that Gorman's posts are part of a larger forum on the Web 2.0 movement generally, and that it includes people who disagree sharply with him, such as Clay Shirky, danah boyd, and Matthew Battles, as well as others who disagree with him by degree, such as Nicholas Carr. If you and Henry think Britannica is "pushing a line" by publishing Gorman's opinions under his name on our blog, it follows then that we are also pushing the lines of these other people. Since Clay Shirky's posts, among other things, have some strong criticisms of Britannica, we are therefore pushing criticism of ourselves. What our motives for this might be I’ll leave it to you to divine, but you might consider an alternative explanation: that we’re simply having a debate among people with different views.
How should I feel about Fred Thompson in 2008?
Gideon Rachman went to hear Fred Thompson give a big foreign policy speech in Lodon and came away unimpressed:
I'm afraid that what he had to say was utterly platitudinous.Click here to read Thompson's speech and judge for yourself. After reading it, I'd say two things:
1) His sense of humor is better developed than his policy recommendations for the Middle East.What do you think?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
How should I feel about Bloomberg in 2008?
Should I be interested in him? Matt Yglesias thinks so:
From a Reason magazine perspective, it seems to me that a Bloomberg Administration is likely to be substantially more libertarian than either a Democratic or a Republican one would be. Bloomberg, however, is specifically identified with a brand of trivial nanny-stating -- indoor smoking ban, trans fat ban -- that seems to be to aggravate libertarians in a manner that's out of proportion to the actual significance of the policy issues.Over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, Scott Lemieux advises libertarians to be cautious: "there is a serious reason libertarians should be skeptical of Bloomberg: the appalling string of arbitrary detentions with no serious justification during the 2004 GOP convention."
What do you think?
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
My latest bloggingheads throwdown
My latest bloggingheads diavlog was supposed to be with the lovely Megan McArdle, in which we revealed various clothing and other indiscretions from our past. Scandalous information about the both of us was revealed.
Alas, there was a technical glitch, and so that diavlog will now not be seen again until Bob Wright releases the DVD version of "Bloggingheads: The Lost Tapes."
As a substitute, go check out my diavlog with Bob Wright. Topics include:
1) Should a blogginghead be monogamous or play the field?Oh, and along the way Bob cajoles me into issuing a public challenge.
Outsourcing to Jonathan Rauch on immigration
Your humble blogger has been mute about the immigration bill that is either dead or not dead -- I can't rememberwhich iteration we are at right now.
In the interest of economy, and in improving the debate on this subject, I will simply outsource my position on this to the National Journal's Jonathan Rauch:
[T]he Senate bill was worse than it needed to be. On the legal side of the immigration equation, there are easy trade-ups to be had. In fact, even a National Journal columnist with no apparent qualifications could write a better bill.Hat tip: Virginia Postrel.
Monday, June 18, 2007
You be Newsweek's guest editor!
I find little to cavil about Newsweek's sympathetic profile of Angelina Jolie ("look, she's gone from Billy Bob Thornton's ex to being good at acting, adopting and international public diplomacy!")
Well, OK, there is this rather odd section:
Earlier this month Jolie was invited to join the Council on Foreign Relations, the elite club for the American foreign-policy establishment. It's no room for lightweights. Her fellow members include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Jimmy Carter, Diane Sawyer and Bill Clinton.To my dying day, I will be vexed by one of two possibilities:
1) Reporter Sean Smith sees Diane Sawyer as a foreign policy heavyweight;
A&W sells me on MacDonald's
While engaging in my monthly hotel workout regimen, I caught a new ad by A&W restaurant. The gist of the ad was that McDonald's was not to be trusted because... wait for it... they used beef from New Zealand. As opposed to A&W, which only uses American beef.
Having been to New Zealand,, that ad actually made me want to go out a buy a Big Mac. Because New Zealand grass-fed beef tastes much, much better than American corn-fed beef.
The rise of trans-Pacific regulatory conflict
In the past two days there have been two stories in the press suggesting that the U.S. will be butting heads with China and India over a variety of regulations.
On Sunday, the Washington Post's Marc Kaufman writes that the growth of pharmaceutical imports is triggering health and safety concerns:
India and China, countries where the Food and Drug Administration rarely conducts quality-control inspections, have become major suppliers of low-cost drugs and drug ingredients to American consumers. Analysts say their products are becoming pervasive in the generic and over-the-counter marketplace.Meanwhile, in USA Today, Jayne O'Donnell reports about another brewing regulatory problem -- lead levels in childrens' jewelry:
The Chinese government opposes a proposed U.S. standard limiting the amount of lead allowed in bracelets, necklaces and other jewelry sold for children.If you read both articles, these two cases are not identical. There appears to be a strong justification for ratcheting up the lead regulations, while problems with pharmaceutical imports remain more hypothetical than real.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether affected domestic industries will be lobbying for regulatory barriers rather than more overt forms of protectionism. The thing about regulatory barriers is that they are not always protectionist in motivation. And that's precisely what makes them more attractive for import-competitive sectors.
UPDATE: Thanks to Nicholas Weaver for sending me this New York Times story by Walt Bogdanich on Chinese resistance to regulatory investigations. Definitely worth a read.