At least two states, New York and California, have introduced legislation that would ban smartphones sold in those states if those smartphones could not be searched under request from law enforcement. This would likely mean no phones would be sold with unbreakable encryption, although I suppose Apple or Samsung could manufacture two types of phones and then just sell all the encrypted ones from New Hampshire or something. These bills are still somewhat controversial, and as it has gotten press coverage, there has been a House bill introduced that would prevent state legislation like those bills introduced in New York and California. Continue reading Banning Unbreakable Smartphone Encryption is Stupid
“If you don’t feel like voting, don’t bother. It won’t matter. The statistical odds of your vote making any difference at all are infinitesimal.” These are the words of Megan McArdle in a sad, but amusing, piece telling you not to vote. And she’s right: your vote, at least in federal elections, is pretty worthless. Even in smaller House elections, over 80% of incumbents win.
But she’s not the only person that’s been talking about voting recently. The Left has been quite upset over new voter ID laws being implemented around the country. John Oliver even did a long segment on it.
I like John Oliver as a political commentator (and in Community). His sharp wit combines biting commentary with excellent humor, and the format of his show allows a deep dive on interesting issues. I try to watch as many of those segments as possible (they are available for free on YouTube) despite the vast differences in the way he and I view the world. Oliver’s analysis provides great starting points for discussion, and he helps me understand many critiques of issues that I would never have thought of.
While I don’t really disagree with him on the basic issue of voter ID laws, I feel like he’s missed the more profound problem about American democracy: voting is just a gimmick.
How can this be? Voting is a fundamental right! America was founded as a grand experiment in democracy! Yes, voting is very important to Americans, but why? In fact, what is a voting right? Continue reading Voting Rights Schmoting Rights
Marginal Revolution has a post about an event that occurred on Shark Tank. The pitch on the show was an alternative to bee honey, made from apples. Part of the pitch was that this would save the bee population by reducing the industrial demand for it (yes, really). Spoiler from Professor Tabarrok: “Reducing the demand for honey, reduces the demand for bees”.
Politico has a nice article about the potential of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, even if he doesn’t win a majority of delegates. The way the Democrats set things up, he will be in an excellent position to make demands on the party platform, possibly reshaping the Democrats’ economic policy for many years to come.
A recent Quinnipiac poll found that head-to-head, Sanders beats Trump by 10 points in a national survey (he does better than Clinton against Trump). Things could change of course, but it seems that Trump really isn’t who I should be worried about becoming president right now, as he’s still not likely to win the Republican nomination, and it seems the Democrats poll well against him.
SCOTUSblog has a nice write up on the next court nomination fight, now that Scalia is gone, what factors will be in play, and how can the Obama administration find a nominee with a spotless record that fires up the base and ensures a left-of-center court for a long time. I doubt they nominate a classical liberal.
Tyler Cowen writes about the benefits market monetary policy can bring, as well as the shortfalls of its approach when critiquing Fed policy.
Apple CEO Tim Cook posted a public letter to Apple customers detailing a demand made by the FBI. Law enforcement wants the company to create a new version of their operating system which they could then install on a criminal’s seized phone. The new OS would have a backdoor allowing the FBI to more quickly access it. I liked Apple just fine as a company, but this is pretty awesome. This week, it turns out the FBI was lying about this being a one-time request as the DoJ is already pursuing orders to force Apple to unlock about a dozen other phones, according to anonymous sources.
Nostalgia Critic on Channel Awesome on YouTube has a great video detailing the absolutely horrible copyright abuse rampant on YouTube. Claimants have no repercussions for false claims, even on self-evident fair use cases because YouTube’s system is entirely automated with no oversight. Copyright battles are not something of the past, there are still huge problems today.
An NBER study from last year found government subsidies more than account for increases in tuition. H/t Slate Star Codex.
The German government gives us another example of how you can’t have government surveillance without fundamentally breaking security. Hacker News discussion.
Second link from Alex Tabarrok, this time on drug prices and the FDA. Apparently the US has the lowest generic drug prices of any developed nation. I feel like we should switch to a prize system where drug companies are awarded $X million for successfully passing approval, and then that drug is immediately released with no patent into the market. X could be set based on the amount of patients in the previous 5 years who could have used the drug.
People like to talk about the “Uber” of some industry, trying to say a company is disrupting their space like Uber did to taxis (also in the interest of fighting monopolies, Lyft is great too). How about Uber for welfare? The left often opposes “workfare”, or ways which incentivize welfare recipients to work, since finding jobs for everyone isn’t practical “…but today the gig economy offers the solution: It can easily and quickly put millions of people back to work, allowing almost anyone to find a job with hours that are flexible with virtual locations anywhere.” There’s also some data that working is a really good on a cultural level, teaching discipline and responsibility. This sort of goes against my attraction to a basic income, but could go hand in hand: you get a basic income allowance if you can prove you engaged in the gig economy recently. Really cool idea.
From EconLog, some praise for the Free State Project. Apparently they’ve already got over a dozen people elected to the state legislature? Tried to find somewhere else this is being tracked, but I didn’t see anything. If you have info on this, tweet at me.
Also from EconLog, Bryan Caplan finished his summarized his extended discussion of ancestry and long run growth literature. In sum, we can’t say that people with more advanced culture thousands of years ago had that much better outcomes today. It’s likely other institutional decisions are more important (like having stable free markets).
In my previous blog, I used to compile lists of interesting links. I’ll start doing that here on an irregular basis.
Scott Alexander has a new post in the “Slate Star Codex critiques social justice” series. It discusses a study which looked at the effects of coder gender on Github pull request approval. It looks like the study had fairly neutral results but was widely reported by the scientific press as proving sexism in tech. As someone who works in the tech industry, all I learned was that I need to contribute more to open source projects. If you want to get fully paranoid about social justice, read Scott’s long comment on the social justice movement on the same post (reposted to reddit).
Justice Scalia passed away this weekend. He was a big deal, whether people liked him or not, and now there’s a big political fight on whether the Republican Senate will allow Obama to appoint a nominee. I’m pretty certain (90%) that Obama will nominate someone, even if congressional Republicans say they don’t want to confirm anyone. I have no idea what the chances are of a person being confirmed. Michael Cannon at Cato says the Senate has the power to deny a nomination until next year. I bet a lot of progressives would be horrified and yell about how Obama won the election in 2012, but I think the claim is pretty solid; Congress is supposed to be the most powerful branch after all. Senators were all elected as well, and court appointees are required to have input from both the President and Senate.
Robin Hanson on “Why I Lean Libertarian”. His reasoning is pretty close to mine.
Amusing post on Status 451: San Francisco has a Shameful Homeless Problem.
From Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog: First-order Libertarianism, Second-Order Public Reason Liberalism. It concerns the question of whether libertarians can allow non-libertarians to set up their own society in a libertarian world.
Great introductory crypto video for public key cryptography. It discusses the discrete logarithm problem and a Diffie Hellman key exchange. That channel actually has a lot of good videos concerning encryption, although nothing explaining exactly how elliptic curve crypto works. It’s obviously dark magic.
Scott Sumner mentions a comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky on EconLog. The post is a fairly complex way of discussing the issues the Fed is facing in trying to jumpstart the economy, but it has a cool reference to Newcomb’s Paradox.
I haven’t mentioned it before on this blog, but I really hate Daylight Savings Time. It’s just so dumb. The Washington Post has an interesting article about a proposal to get rid of all timezones. It would take a huge amount of getting used to, but it seems possible. For example, in China, the entire country is on Beijing time; people out west just wake up and go to sleep later…which I’m sure they were doing already, but now they don’t need to worry about time changes across the country. I like it, but mostly because it would end Daylight Savings Time.
Old post, but interesting: How to Change Public Opinion from the Niskanen Center.
I’ve created a big directory for lots of libertarian resources, websites, and people. The liberty movement is vast, and the directory is incomplete, but for now there is a nice catalog (and almost 4000 words!) of useful resources for anyone vaguely interested in liberty. I hope to continue to build it out over time, and if I had to put a percentage on it, I’d say it was around 33% complete.
Ted Cruz has won Iowa, and it looks like Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are essentially tied for second place. This is good news for Cruz and Rubio, and bad news for Trump. Trump was leading in most of the polls leading up to Iowa, and Trump has marketed his high polling numbers as his claim to relevance. It seems, at least in Iowa, those polling numbers aren’t as powerful as we thought. This could be due to the fact that caucuses are bad for Trump’s less educated constituency, or it could be evidence of deeper issues that his constituency will have a hard time showing up in many primaries. Rand Paul, for what it’s worth, did better than expected, but was a distant 5th.
What does this mean? Well, as I’ve referenced before, Trump’s lead may be due to disproportionate media coverage. This may fade as there is more focus on Cruz this week. Before tonight, I would have expected Trump to win in New Hampshire, but after tonight, his chances will be a bit slimmer. Referencing my own predictions, I had Trump at 20% on December 31, and I personally had him at a 30% chance of winning the nomination yesterday. I’d bump him down to at most 25% now, perhaps less. You have to also figure Rubio’s chances have increased. Iowa is not somewhere he would be expected to do very well, yet he essentially tied for second. I’m not sure where I’d put Rubio’s chances to be the Republican nominee, but perhaps around 40%. Cruz would probably be around 30%.
How do I feel about this? Well my preferences are certainly Rubio > Cruz > Trump, so I’m glad Trump lost. There’s the destructive argument that if Trump wins the nomination, it might help third parties out as conservatives voters cast about for another candidate, but even then it would be tough for libertarians to get the 5% needed for public financing or the 15% needed to get into the debates. We’ll have to see how the rest of the primaries go, but I severely hope Trump continues to do poorly.
This was very close, and though I still don’t know who officially won, an outcome this close has clear ramifications: Clinton underperformed and Sanders beat expectations. Sanders was already likely to win New Hampshire, and I’d bet that 538 will give him above an 80% chance to win for the rest of the week. He is still likely to lose South Carolina.
What does this mean? In December, I gave Hillary a 90% chance to be the Democratic nominee (and Bernie a 10% chance). Before tonight, I think I would have given Bernie a 15-20% chance. After tonight, I think I’d be closer to 20%. Maybe. The problem for Sanders is just that Iowa plays to his strengths; he’ll do well in NH as it also plays to his strengths, but in big states and in more diverse states, I predict he will lose. This will be one of Bernie’s best showings–and it was essentially a tie. In all the other areas: funding, endorsements, connections…Hillary wins very handily.
How do I feel about this? I vaguely prefer Sanders as I know exactly where he stands and what problems I have with him. Moreover, the president controls foreign policy, and I agree with Sanders much more than Clinton on foreign policy. But on his domestic agenda, Bernie has disastrous ideas. I haven’t focused on them much this cycle because I gave Bernie a very low chance of winning the nomination. It may be worth writing about his policy flaws while people are still interested in discussing his policies.
However, that’s not the whole story, because there is some strategy involved as well. Even though in my last post, isidewith.com recommended Bernie over many other candidates, I’m not nearly so excited about him in my own preferences. I think in reality, I might prefer a Rubio presidency to a Sanders one, although both would be bad. Rubio just seems less extreme, and some of his compromises might be very beneficial, such as on immigration. So here’s the point: if Sanders was the nominee, it would doubtless lead to a GOP victory. This is bad if it’s Trump, but probably good if it’s Rubio (and I’m not sure about Cruz). And so this gives me another incentive to cheer for Sanders, as long as Trump does poorly.
So overall, it’s good Trump missed expectations, good Rubio beat expectations, and probably good Bernie beat expectations as well, but I doubt it’ll last.
And as for my last prediction I’ll bring up; in December, I gave myself a 70% chance I’d vote for the libertarian candidate in November. An important reason I wouldn’t vote for the libertarian candidate would be if a situation arose where my vote would help decide the outcome of the state I live in, and if I feared for the outcome of the election. Overall, if I’m not voting for the libertarian candidate, bad things are probably happening. Luckily I’d say my prediction remains unchanged as of right now.
In November, The Economist wrote “If the Republican campaign is to return to normality, it will do so in South Carolina” due to the state’s ability to filter out the unserious candidates. We are now a month out from the South Carolina primary, and a lot could still happen, but if you’re one of the people who think the government should do less spying on citizens, less intervening in the market, and less mindless spending on the DoD procurement program, you’re in a for bad time: Trump is at 49% chance of winning, Cruz 18%, and Rubio 13%.
In 1996, Hurricane Fran hit Raleigh, knocking out power and trees. Duke Political Science Professor Michael Munger describes the response of several citizens from a neighboring town who decided to exploit the situation. These budding opportunist entrepreneurs rented some refrigerated trucks, filled them with ice and drove to Raleigh, where they sold the bags of ice for about $8 each. Raleigh police eventually arrived, arrested them for price gouging, and allowed the ice to melt with virtually none distributed to the locals.
How confident should we be? People tend to be overconfident. One way to figure out if our confidence levels are correct is to test our calibration levels by making predictions and seeing how many of them pan out. Inspired by Slate Star Codex’s predictions, here are my predictions and accompanying confidence levels. For the sake of convenience I will choose from confidence levels of 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 95% or 99%. All predictions are by December 31, 2016 unless noted otherwise.
- Postlibertarian to have >10 additional posts by July 1, 2016: 70%
- Postlibertarian Twitter to have more than 240 followers: 70%
- Postlibertarian.com to have >10k page loads in 2016: 50%
- The predictions on this page will end up being underconfident: 60%
- Liberland will be recognized by <5 UN members: 99%
- Free State Project to reach 20,000 person goal in 2016: 50%
- ISIS to still exist: 80%
- ISIS to kill < 100 Americans 2016: 80%
- US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 100 US soldiers: 80%
- No terrorist attack in the USA will kill > 100 people: 80%
- Donald Trump will not be Republican Nominee: 80%
- Hillary Clinton to be Democratic Nominee: 90%
- Republicans to hold Senate: 60%
- Republicans to hold House: 80%
- Republicans to win Presidential Election: 50%
- I will vote for the Libertarian Presidential Candidate: 70%
- S&P 500 level end of year < 2500: 70%
- Unemployment rate December 2016 < 6% : 70%
- WTI Crude Oil price < $50 : 80%
- Price of Bitcoin > $500: 60%
- Price of Bitcoin < $1000: 80%
- Sentient General AI will not be created this year: 99%
- Self-driving cars will not be available this year to purchase / legally operate for < $100k: 99%
- Customers will not be able to rent trips on self-driving cars from Uber/ Lyft: 90%
- Humans will not land on moon by end of 2016: 95%
- Edward Snowden will not be pardoned by end of Obama Administration: 80%
The point of intellectual property is to promote the creation of new content, but IP has become so cumbersome it actually thwarts creativity rather than promote it. However, restrictions do not just come in the form of laws, but also critiques of what society finds socially acceptable. Concerns about avant-garde art pushing boundaries would normally be considered the domain of traditional conservatives. Nonetheless, recent developments have made unlikely critics on the Left, concerned about new art “appropriating” the culture of minorities.
In a previous post, I made a strong argument that copyright has become too restrictive. Other forms of intellectual property, like patents, aren’t much better. Duke Law Professor James Boyle has written extensively on this issue: What Intellectual Property Should Learn From Software, A Manifesto on WIPO and the Future of Intellectual Property, and a free book, The Public Domain. Software patents are especially annoying, just ask Richard Stallman.
I had previously stated that IP is interesting because it has a utilitarian basis, not a moral one. Professor Boyle has more degrees than me and says it better:
Yet intellectual property rights are not ends in themselves. Their goal is to give us a decentralized system of innovation in science and culture: no government agency should pick which books are written or have the sole say over which technologies are developed. Instead, the creation of limited legal monopolies called intellectual property rights gives us a way of protecting and rewarding innovators in art and technology, encouraging firms to produce quality products, and allowing consumers to rely on the identity of the products they purchased.
While some academics, technology groups, and libertarian groups (like the Cato Institute) have talked about the problems with IP, mainstream politics has yet to really embrace the discussion, with one exception: the Left is not a fan of pharmaceutical patents. For example, ThinkProgress lauds the Vatican for speaking out against drug patents, and the Huffington Post bemoans the extension of drug patents in the TPP. Naturally, these articles do not have a great grasp of markets or how they work to benefit individuals, but they do bring forward some interesting points; ThinkProgress holds drug patent laws as more of a moral issue keeping lifesaving drugs away from the poor, while the Huffington Post piece (written by the founder of the CEPR) supplies alternative, more efficient ways to run the drug patent system. If you want a counterpoint, I’d recommend The Economist’s commentary on this topic.
I think this discussion is excellent, and more Republicans should start talking about the most obvious IP reforms, like reducing the amount of patents issued (especially in software), and making it easier for the FDA to approve more drugs at lower cost to companies. Unfortunately much of the discussion about cultural appropriation is decidedly less excellent. Continue reading Intellectual Property and Cultural Appropriation