Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

Light posting

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Sorry for the lack of new content of late. Why I feel obliged to apologize to my seven regular readers, I’ll never know. But I do. Anyway, I opened my own office recently and, owing to budget shortfalls I had to canibalize the clunky old Dell desktop that passes for my computer by moving it from my apartment to the aforementioned office. Long story short, not having a computer at home, while amazingly positive for work productivity, pretty much sucks for blogging output.

I expect this state of affairs will be temporary, and already have my eye on a shiny new laptop.

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Written by Jasper

January 23, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Posted in Blogs, Miscellania

The cat ate my blogroll

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Once upon a time I had a wicked pissah blogroll complete with links to lots of bloggers big and small. My site went through a period of benign neglect for a couple of months over the summer (Hey, can you blame me? YOU try living through countless New England winters without developing a tender, obsessive, and hyper sentimental adoration of the weeks between Memorial and Labor Days), and this was followed by some format tinkering, and, lo and behold, my blogroll got lost.

Anyway, I plan to get the damn thing back on the site within the next few days, and build it up to a proper length in short order. So, if you happen to be a blogger, and you’re willing to link to me, shoot me an email or comment, and I’ll include your blog on mine. Seriously, I will. I don’t care how badly you write or how little traffic you get. Thanks in advance.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Blogs, Miscellania

I heart Jane Galt

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Well, Megan McCardle finally rolled out her snazzy new blog today on The Atlantic’s website. Shockingly, regular visitors to the site aren’t unanimous in their joy at her arrival. One commenter (rather representative of, oh, about 80% of the reactions, I’d guess) opines:

One is not born a libertarian: one has to chose to dismiss pretty much all the hard lessens learned through generations of struggle by people striving for freedom in order to embrace libertarianism.

Pardon mon fran├žais, but the above is just bullshit.

Now, Jasper ain’t no libertarian. I likes me some big government, Nordic-style safety nettage, or at least the smaller scale Canadian/Brit variety. I’ve got a list of things I’d like the government to spend more money on that tallies out to about $500 billion (or 4 points of GDP). I’m utterly confident embracing my vision would increase national utility.

But I’m not arrogant enough to cling to such patronizing notions about people whose values are different from mine. There is a real moral core at the heart of the libertarian argument, and it’s about freedom. At the end of the day, us bigger government fans must acknowledge our proposals rely on taking other people’s property.

Thing is, everybody except the anarchist agrees that sometimes it is indeed necessary to take other people’s property. It’s pretty hard to imagine even the most minimalist government surviving sans mandatory taxation. But libertarians — quixotic though their project might be — at least have the decency to only want to take as little of the other guy’s money as is possible. They value freedom and property rights more than you or I do — let’s be honest with ourselves.

Property rights shouldn’t be absolute of course, but they also shouldn’t count for nothing. The Robust Safety Net Nirvana I would like to see enacted most assuredly does reduce some people’s freedom. I disagree with the libertarians on this issue because I deem the utilitarian calculus is in my favor. But I don’t kid myself I possess sufficient moral insight to know with absolute assurance that the right and wrong part favors me. For all I know it is the libertarians who are right, and that all the filled stomachs and free healthcare in the world doesn’t justify taking somebody else’s nth marginal buck.

Anyway, I welcome Ms. McArdle’s addition to The Atlantic’s Voices. It’s best not to get too comfortable and smug in one’s ideas.

Written by Jasper

August 20, 2007 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Blogs, Economics, Policy

In which Jasper hyperventilates about school vouchers

with one comment

Megan McArdle, in the midst of a series of posts about education reforms, goes off on her fellow libertarians:

I can’t say I’m thrilled to find that there is a statistically significant minority of my ideological quasi-brethren lining up to tell me that it’s a terrible idea to try and help poor kids with the school system. For one thing, my interlocutors say, the driving factor in the quality of a school is the quality (for which, read Socio-Economic Status) of its kids. And for another, it’s immoral to take money from people to educate someone else’s children…I’m sorry if my nom de blog fooled you, but I’m not that sort of libertarian. Children are a perennial problem for libertarians, but what it boils down to is this: children (and to my mind, the severely disabled), have positive rights. They have a right to be fed, educated, clothed, sheltered, and given medical care on someone else’s dime. And if their parents abdicate this responsibility, then it passes onto the community, including the state, even if none of us asked said parent to reproduce. So arguing that educating poor children is immoral . . . well, I hardly know what to say, except remind me not to get into a lifeboat with you.

You go, girl!

Commenter “Norm” on the thread opines thusly:

Liberals, of which I am one, desperately want to improve poorly performing schools. We just don’t think these schemes will work. It’s not that we hate markets, it’s that we have seen markets approaches fail time and time again at solving this very sort of problem.

Hey Norm, what about that “scheme” called American post secondary education? Unlike K-12, college level schooling in the US is not characterized by uniformity, centralization, lack of choice, geography-based assignment, etc. Rather, post K-12 in the US is characterized by diversity, specialization, choice, and, most importantly, competition. Universities compete fiercely with each other, and customers are free to vote with their feet. Indeed, post-secondary schools in the US are allowed to go out of business, and many do so each year. They do not, like elementary and high schools, possess a guaranteed pool of customers that insures their survival as long as babies continue to be born in their “territories.”

Moreover, American post-secondary education — in contrast to American K-12 — not only stacks up well against international competition, but is inarguably the world’s finest university system by any measurement. That’s right, the American education sector characterized by a widespread requirement to compete for customers is the world leader. The American education sector that is characterized by an utter lack of necessity to compete for customers is a world lagger. Funny, that.

Written by Jasper

March 21, 2007 at 8:44 am

Posted in Blogs, Culture, Economics, Policy

Best blogospheric one liner award

with 2 comments

From a comment thread on an Ezra Klein post about the potential for a Fred Thompson candidacy:

Have the DC hospitals seen an increase in fingernail injuries? From all the bottom-of-the-barrel scraping that the GOP is doing?

Why not just nominate the corpse of Ronald Reagan and be done with it?

Emphasis mine.

Written by Jasper

March 19, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Posted in Blogs, Election 08, Politics

Muslim immigration

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A Matt Yglesias post about conservative reaction to the D’Souza book got a nice, frothy comment thread going. Once commenter, omnipresent blogger Steve Sailer, writes:

The key point that everybody overlooks is that D’Souza is from India, where there are 140,000,000 Muslims. He brings a useful Indian perspective. Sophisticated Indians know they can’t provoke the Muslims too much on cultural issues, or the country will break up violently. In other words, India is held hostage by its huge Muslim minority. The Dutch are starting to find out the same thing, as the murders of Theo van Gogh and Pym Fortuyn by anti-anti-immigrationists show. Personally, I think there is a simpler solution for America: don’t let lots more Muslims into our country.

This, of course, elicits the inevitable:

Steve Sailer’s blanket anti-Muslim comment is shameful.

I rarely — and I mean RARELY — find myself agreeing with Sailer on just about any issue at all — never mind one involving immigration (a dedicated restrictionist, he). Still, where does Sailer make a “blanket anti-Muslim” statement? I do see a comment opposing Muslim immigration, but that’s hardly the same thing.

Again, I happen to disagree with Sailer on about 99% of the things he writes about, including immigration in general (from what I gather, he seems opposed to it, especially that which originates south of the Rio Grande; I think he’s flat out wrong on this score).

But on immigration from the Islamic world, I think he raises a valid national security concern. I’m all for letting people come here to build new lives and help the country in the process; — even lots of — gasp! — poor people from developing countries. But I fully admit to thinking that perhaps we might want to err on the side of caution when it comes to allowing the percentage of the population that is Muslim to undergo a rapid surge via immigration from the Ummah.

Support for radical Islam; honor killings; anti-semitic violence; female genital mutilation; disdain for western liberal democracy; etc — these things are no longer exotic, seldom seen phenomenon in Europe these days, much less the Islamic world.

I say let’s trade with them, conduct diplomacy with them, support their democratic movements, and help them develop their economies. But until the Islamic world goes through the Enlightenment, let’s be careful about letting them move here in huge numbers.

Cruel policy, I know, but I hardly think you can call it racist, because it’s based on legitimate national security (indeed, national self preservation) concerns.

Written by Jasper

March 16, 2007 at 10:27 pm

The Economist does blogging

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The Economist is developing a series of blogs and blog-like products. They’re quite good, in my opinion. Now the journal has even taken to posting all (or nearly) the letters to the editor it receives. Good stuff if you’re a fan of the venerable British “newspaper” — as I am.

Stephen Bainbridge questions why they insist on cloaking their bloggers in anonymity:

To be sure, the magazine has a long tradition of anonymity. As I understand the magazine’s policy, only reviews of books written by authors associated with The Economist are signed. This makes sense in the context of a heavily edited magazine. The logic, I suppose, is that the magazine speaks with one editorial voice…But The Economist.com’s blogs are different. The are expressly stated to be “lightly moderated blogs in which journalists from The Economist Newspaper, Economist.com and The Economist Intelligence Unit post their thoughts and observations.” In other words, they are not intended to be a group product nor to necessarily represent the magazine’s editorial voice. So why not identify the bloggers?…I want to know if the post was written by Megan McArdle or somebody else, because it’s relevant data to assessing the argument. I also want to know which blog post was written by which contributor, just so I can develop a sense of the poster’s personality and
ideology.

Quite so. I believe The Economist mostly “gets it” when it comes to the internet. They certainly seem to “get it” a lot more than, say, The New York Times. But it seems to me they’d be better off just “adopting” Megan’s blog — or adopting several blogs — in a manner similar to what The Atlantic Monthly has done with Sullivan, or perhaps what Time has done with various bloggers.

The anonymity really doesn’t seem to quite work when it comes to blogging.

Written by Jasper

February 15, 2007 at 9:04 pm

Posted in Blogs, Media